Archive for April, 2007

more pot pics

Saturday, April 21st, 2007


My brother Matthew at the ceremony in Athens to return Martin’s pots.


my family in the news

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

When my father Professor Martin Robertson passed away in 2004, his will reflected that he wanted some classical Greek pots that had been in his possession for many years returned to Greece. They are from around the 5th century BC and may have come from the Acropolis surrounds. Martin worked at the British Museum at the time of the Elgin Marbles scandal, though he inherited these pieces from an archaeologist friend, and always expressed regret that Greece was taken advantage of by many other countries that at the time were richer and perhaps better informed. Greece is still campaigning for the return of the Elgin Marbles from the British Museum. My brother Matthew has completed the handover. Here’s a news piece about it (they wrongly reported that it was Stephen who attended.)


Martin was very against any looting or illicit trading of ancient artefacts. When he helped catalog the Getty Museum’s collection in LA during the 1980′s, many pieces turned out to be illicit and Martin helped reinstate them to the Greek government. As a young man he was approached on more than one occasion by shady types who needed help excavating sites that were definitely ‘under the radar.’ Often the original pots and fragments dug up were smuggled out of the country, where they were copied by craftsmen and returned to Greece to be sold to unknowing tourists. There was even a story that some of these faked fragments were buried in the ground, and busloads of tourists or collectors taken to the site under cover of darkness, given spades, and invited to excavate their own pots, at a cost of thousands of Drachma! But Martin was no Indiana Jones, and always politely declined these approaches.

Some collaborations online at TED

Wednesday, April 18th, 2007

The TED Conference web site has been updated, and along with downloadable videos of some fantastic talks from all sorts of brilliant people, there are a number of my musical collaborations with guest musicians at past TEDs. Here’s a brief guide:

Caroline Lavelle: the lovely singer-songwriter often seen playing live with The Chieftains and The Indigo Girls. She is a mesmerizing performer who embellishes heart-wrenching songs with fine cello playing, as seen here on ‘Farther Than The Sun.’ She’s an erstwhile WIlliam Orbit collaborator, and nowadays breeds greyounds and lives in the West Country.

Rachelle Garniez: I met her when we played on the same bill at a CDBaby showcase. She has Cajun roots and is an Edith Piaf-style chanteuse who plays a fantastic accordian. She joined me and the TED house band for a few songs including this rendition of ‘La Vie En Rose.’ She’s one of the most intuitive musicians I’ve ever met.

Eddi Reader: you may know here as the other voice on my song ‘Cruel’, or you may know her as the leader of Fariground Attraction—or you may just know her as Eddi Reader, a Scottish national treasure. She came to TED a few years ago and melted hearts with ‘What You Do With What You’ve Got‘ and ‘Kite Flyer’s Hill‘.

When I played behind Eddi on ‘WHYDWWYG‘ I wondered why it felt so natural—admittedly I had mixed it for her album, so I knew the song intimately, but it felt so comfortable to my fingers. Then I realised why: it’s the exact chord sequence from ‘Screen Kiss’: Bm/Em/A7 verse, then D major chorus. Even the verse melody matches the ‘thousand miles of real estate’ section. I think this is more than a coincidence—perhaps an ‘homage’? But it’s funny that all those years I never saw the similarity.

Eddi asked me up on stage at TED and told a story that I’d completely forgotten. In about 1983 she auditioned to be a backup singer in my touring band for ‘The Flat Earth’! And I asked her to prepare Adele Bertei’s part in ‘Hyperactive’ which is ridiculously high. So she practised for days, annoying the heck out of her London neighbors. She didn’t really nail the audition and I didn’t give her the gig. Then years later she read somewhere that Adele’s voice was ‘varisped’ meaning I slowed down the tape so she could sing it in a lower register. Eddi must have been waiting all these years for a convenient moment to humiliate me with that story, and TED was definitely it.

Anyway this is not to take away from Eddi’s wonderful performance and songs; and I simply adore her voice. How I wish I could do more work with her. One day!

The Phoenix Rises

Monday, April 9th, 2007

© Harper Robertson 2007

My eldest daughter Harper (aka Lily) has been an ardent Harry Potter fan since the first book. Given her interest in architecture, which she’s hoping to study at Cambridge University, she’s spent the last couple of years creating floor plans and a model of Hogwarts castle, based entirely on data from J.K.Rowling’s text. She’s now been invited to give a presentation at The Phoenix Rises conference in New Orleans in May, a worldwide meeting of several thousand HP enthusiasts that also features a Harvard professor of childrens’ literature, technical staff from the Warner Bros movies, fan fiction site founders, a real life Quidditch contest, etc. She’s saved money from tutoring younger kids in Japanese, and is flying herself and her mum to New Orleans where they’ll stay with friends and attend the whole conference. The picture above is one of a series she made of her model; you can view the entire project at her website!

This is Harper jamming with me on ‘Europa’ at the Canal Room in NY last December.