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Carter, Sydney: In the Present Tense, Book 2

Ref: 25075 ISBN: 9780852491966 ISMN: 9790220203947 Categories: , , , , By:


17 songs with piano or guitar accompaniment.

These songs have been performed on radio and television, but a third of them were first sung in a folk song club. One of them, Down Below, first appeared in a revue. Two or three of them have found their way to church. This does not make them into hymns, though one of them, Lord of the Dance, has been printed in a hymn book. It still continues to be sung by those who do not go to church. This reassures me, for the kind of song which is only sung in church is not the kind of song I want to write.

One song keeps on getting into trouble, Friday Morning. Some sing it in a church, others call it blasphemous; which is what it is, if you regard it as a simple statement. But what is sung or said is only half the song. The silent part is where the action really is. The statement made is a device to spring a question; but the question, and the answer, must come from the listener.

All these songs, from Mixed Up Old Man to Friday Morning, are the log book of my travelling. I write and sing to discover and to clarify. Also, because I like to weave a pattern and to leap about. I write, not only with my head and hand, but with my feet. All these songs, even the gloomy ones, are basically dances. Words are what I write down first; but the rhythm is as basic as the lyric and the melody. Harmonies I am not so sure about. Here they are provided by John Farmer, except in the case of Down Below which had been arranged by Donald Swann already. Other harmonies are possible, and other instruments besides piano or guitar. The Corries (as I write) have just recorded Lord of the Dance with a whistle and bodrhan (an Irish tambour, bigger than a dustbin lid). My pre-Christian part is happy as I listen to this pagan rumble; the Christian part is happy, too. When this occurs, you’re on the wave length of a carol, not a hymn; and that is where I’d rather be.

Sydney Carter, 1969.


All alone and all together (D – B);
Bell of creation (A – C);
Better take a book to bed (C – C)
Bitter was the night (C – E flat);
Down below (B flat – E flat);
Feeling sad and lonely (C – B)
Friday morning (C sharp – E);
Good literature (B – B);
I want to have a little bomb like you (C – C)
Lord of the Dance (D – D);
Middle-aged, middle-class, mediocre (G – C)
Mixed up old man (D – D);
My last cigarette (C – E);
Never can tell (A – D);
Present tense (B – B);
The Rat race (B – B);
Silver in the stubble (B – D)

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