Tuesday, August 29, 2006

keep it green

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived today: 3 hours
Hair Day: Was distraught to hear yesterday that my new local hairdresser of choice, Ross, he of leg-warmers and slashed-to-bits jeans, has deserted Diane James Hair and Make-Up on Roman Road for glossy pastures new. Now have to resort to ludicrous Shoreditch salon-cum-DJ bar as hair is getting bit mumsy.

Have been soaking up the summer hols lazy rays in style... this has included everything from:

1) going to one member of juice's very dream-white wedding (she has now earned herself the fantastically-suited, fairy tale princess name of Anna Snow) in Hexham, where Sarah and I performed a piece specially for them and enjoyed copious amounts of free booze before getting confused and slightly dizzy in the ceilidh.

2) going to the hen night in Cambridge the weekend before that, for fab girly time in The Orchard at Grantchester, basking under the plum trees whilst the ghosts of Rupert Brooks, Virginia Woolf, Plath, Hughes et al drifted by... excellent tapas and wine the night before that, followed by possibly the worst club I have ever been to (clues: 5 stag and hen nights, we being the only ones not wearing angel wings/pirate costumes/sombreros, £4.50 bottles of VK Energy for old times' sake, and the musical highlight being the Grease medley)

3) A week-long canal boat holiday with 13 of Andy's pals on two cumbersomely long Black Prince barges. We tackled all 97 miles of the Cheshire Ring (not for the faint-hearted apparently, though we steamed round and developed a crack team of lock-operators), cruising (or should we say crawling: the barges licked along at oooo, about 2 miles an hour and you could easily outpace them with nothing more than a gentle stroll) through gorgeous, green-rainbowed countryside, up into the Pennine hills, and through the crumbling warehouses of Manchester.

4) Creative things: currently in talks with the National Trust in West Wycombe and RSPB London about being a composer-on-residence with them (if the Arts Council agrees) and have almost finished my massive Compline Mass to be performed in York Minster in less than a month!

5) Two exhibitions: Amongst some sillier stuff, we caught a comprehensive Sam Taylor-Wood show at the Baltic in Newcastle. I was ready to loathe the glossy, celebrity-hungry work, but actually liked an awful lot of it, including the Andy Warhol/Renaissance-inspired film of David Beckham slumbering, and sped-up film of a maggot-infested rabbit and fruit being taken over by mould. The gorgeous photos of actors from Ed Harris to Forest Whitaker crying were a great take on the nature of emotion, true and false. I am slightly sceptical of her own studies of movement as they feature her wearing sexy wee pants, but then hey! If I was a successful visual artist maybe I'd do that more too, in my American Apparel undies of course....

Yesterday Andy and I fought our way through the screaming, ice-cream-covered mass of children in the Natural History Museum to get to the cool, sedate gallery featuring 'The Ship', in which artists from different media travelled to the Arctic to see the misfortunes of climate change in action and try to respond to it. There was some nice stuff in there, from Ian McEwan's writings, Siobhan Davies' projection of a dancer caught in long, ice-like spokes, lit text projections onto ice, photos of life at the northernmost inhabited part of the world in Norway.
A documentary filled in more, and made me desperate to co-habit with slightrly prententious artists on the ship or get through the Antarctica Residency next year. Dammit, I want to get a tell the world what we're doing to it! And therein lies the rub: what can art really do to change our habits? Whilst we were browsing through an exhibition which warned, beautifully, of the monster of the future, hundreds of families queued to get in to the interactive rooms full of dinosaurs and gasped at their big teeth and terrifying claws. Perhaps someone needs to develop a theme park full of brilliant rides in which icebergs melt on you, your pretend home gets flooded and the ground under your feet eroded as we all scream in enjoyable terror. Now THAT would be fun....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Proper Job

Current level of conviction in own genius: 8
Amount of creative activity acheived in last 24 hours: 3
Hair day: floppily untended.

Ah, this is my proper job. No teaching, just 3 hours composition work from 10am-1pm with a pot of gunpowder and mint tea, a spot of lunch and then lots of fiddling about, arty-based admin, and tea and The Independent on the dot of 5.00 with Radio 4's PM. Summer hols are bliss and allow the scowling Miss Andrew to dissolve into bouncy, creative, somewhat tea-high Kerry the Composer/Songwriter/Poet/Self-promoter supremo.

Composition work is currently entailing a big commission for the Ebor Singers to be performed in York Minster at the end of September. I have to work very very fast in order to thrash out a half-hour-ish Compline Mass setting but am having fun making it a bit more evocative and not prim with Norwegian/Bulgarian/Celtic-inspired bits, muttered prayers, surround-sound singing and the like. Not sure what Paul the conductor will think about my ideas for gamelan gongs and chinese cymbals but we'll see...... It's lovely to be immersed in a Proper Project, though, and will be tying myself to the laptop during all of next week's canal boat holiday in order to Sibelius it up.

But this long stretch of holiday is not just for working.... social activity has come thick and fast too. Last week included seeing the current Photographer's Gallery exhibition from the London Fire Briagde archives, going to Tooting Bec Lido for their ace 'Dive-In Movies' night of swimming-themed shorts (including my first - goosebumpy - dip in 4 years) and going to a Devising Artists' Network musician's improvisation sesh, which entailed using all the vocal techniques I cold think of alongside vocalising trumpeters and multi-percussionists. Also took in two very good gigs at The Spitz:

1) Music Orbit, a night run by composer Colin Riley, which showcases groovy new music acts. These comprised a benignly-smiling experimental gamelan ensemble, quite visceral drums/sax & electronics duo Makeshift and The North Sea Radio Orchestra, whose gentle 11-piece chamber pop setting Yeats poems was very endearing but a little too fey for me.

2) The 2nd of Polar Bear's 3-day festival, mostly featuring outfits stemming from the very incestuous experimental jazz crew, the F-IRE Collective. A great, vibrant night, although the first group, The Princess and The Pervert didn't quite live up to the potential of the eclectic line-up: 6-string electric viola & vocals, guitar, bass and sax/flute/tabla. There were just too many ideas in there, maybe reflecting the state of in frontwoman Amanda's mind, as her waffling inbetween-songs repartee got very very tiresome. Next up were our acquaintances The Elysian Quartet, looking impossibly model-like and ringlety and attacking their fairly challenging contemporary reportoire with such sexy gusto that they went down a storm. Polar Bear headlined, with their two tenor saxes and love of jerking time signature changes - meaning that I, who loves nothing more than to shout in Andy's ear at a gig, 'they're playing in four bar repeats of three bars of 7/8 with one 9/8 bar to follow!', had no clue what the hell was going on. Was amusing to see the ambitious scale of Seb Rochford's hair (he could hide several herons and most of his drum kit in there) and the sweetly serious Leafcutter John tinkering away on the electronic side.

All good stuff. Agh! I've missed the first 12 minutes of PM! Must put the kettle on...