Day 6

July 12th 1817
Henry David Thoreau’s Birthday

It’s not what you look at that mat­ters, it’s what you see.”
– Hen­ry David Thoreau

Gnos­tic artists inter­face direct­ly with their infor­ma­tion. The mate­ri­als they bring forth are through their own research and from their own expe­ri­ences. Hearsay is taboo. The SydArthur Fes­ti­val cher­ish­es the kind of pio­neers who not only dared to embark on bold quests, but who returned from their jour­neys and made good account of them­selves and their expe­ri­ences. What makes Hen­ry David Thore­au a prophet for the mod­ern age is that he not only went to the woods to live delib­er­ate­ly but, upon his return, he deliv­ered such a remark­able tes­ta­ment that Walden has become a holy text. Essen­tial. Only time has shown us the long-term truth of Thoreau’s words. But one thing is cer­tain: with this accom­pa­ny­ing text to sup­port Thoreau’s advo­ca­cy of life in the woods, he became Author­i­ty. The Author­i­ty is the one who cre­ates it and claims it with­in themselves.

Thore­au was our first hip­pie. Preach­ing self-reliance and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty, here was an intel­lec­tu­al who dared to roll up his sleeves and try it all out: a Nature Boy stand­ing fast against the onslaught of the Indus­tri­al Age. He saw the whole world through the micro­scop­ic lens of his local pond where he set out to “front only the essen­tial facts of life”. Such a deep jour­ney with­in, he main­tained, was “essen­tial­ly rev­o­lu­tion­ary”, a way to change the world. His con­clu­sions were pre­scrip­tive and, to the future coun­ter­cul­ture, offered a viable alter­na­tive to the enslave­ment of the con­vey­or belt of life through a new path of self-deter­mi­na­tion and sim­pli­fi­ca­tion. As the mod­ern Anti-Capitalist’s foun­tain­head, Thore­au not only chal­lenged the moral­i­ty of over-con­sump­tion, but fur­ther he believed that it was only when we sim­pli­fy that we begin to reach our high­er poten­tial. While his way to per­son­al ele­va­tion might not be the only way, it is most cer­tain­ly a way avail­able to all. What a beau­ti­ful gift! Hen­ry David Thore­au has obtained in our minds the sta­tus of a folk hero, his words and mes­sage hav­ing long been appro­pri­at­ed by every right­eous-think­ing con­ser­va­tion­ist, anti-cap­i­tal­ist and by every believ­er in non-vio­lent resis­tance. To the woods!

Today on Day 6 of the SydArthur Fes­ti­val, let us salute the elo­quence and robust­ness of Hen­ry David Thoreau’s still-mod­ern vision with as grand a musi­cal hymn to the fron­tiers­man spir­it as the rock’n’roll era, sure­ly, has yet pro­duced: David Ack­les’ incred­i­ble 1972 epic ‘The Mon­tana Song’.

Telling the tale of a vis­it to his grand­par­ents’ now-derelict home, Ack­les used his big Elek­tra Records record­ing bud­get to hire London’s enor­mous IBC Stu­dios and a huge orches­tra with which to sub­due and entrance his lis­ten­ers. One-time pro­duc­er of The Teardrop Explodes, Hugh Jones tells of how, as a young IBC tape-oper­a­tor assist­ing in the record­ing of this track, he was entranced by the back­woods­man demeanour of David Ack­les him­self, who would every day arrive with his hand­writ­ten musi­cal charts for the orches­tra care­ful­ly piled into the back of a knap­sack. None of the Elek­tra exec­u­tives had a clue where Ack­les went at night. A sin­gle lis­ten to ‘The Mon­tana Song’ will allow us to imag­ine him orches­trat­ing by the glow of his Thames embank­ment campfire.

Sat Saturday
Sun Sunday
Mon Monday
Tue Tuesday
Wed Wednesday
Thu Thursday
Fri Friday
Day 1: Saturday Jul 7th
Day 2: Sunday Jul 8th
Day 3: Monday Jul 9th
Day 4: Tuesday Jul 10th
Day 5: Wednesday Jul 11th
Day 6: Thursday Jul 12th
Day 7: Friday Jul 13th
Day 8: Saturday Jul 14th
Day 9: Sunday Jul 15th
Day 10: Monday Jul 16th
Day 11: Tuesday Jul 17th
Day 12: Wednesday Jul 18th
Day 13: Thursday Jul 19th
Day 14: Friday Jul 20th
Day 15: Saturday Jul 21st
Day 16: Sunday Jul 22nd
Day 17: Monday Jul 23rd
Day 18: Tuesday Jul 24th
Day 19: Wednesday Jul 25th
Day 20: Thursday Jul 26th
Day 21: Friday Jul 27th
Day 22: Saturday Jul 28th
Day 23: Sunday Jul 29th
Day 24: Monday Jul 30th
Day 25: Tuesday Jul 31st
Day 27: Thursday Aug 2nd
Day 28: Friday Aug 3rd