Sunday, November 11, 2007

(I need) Time Out

Level of conviction in own genius: 5.5
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: Heavens, don’t be ridiculous.
Hair day: awright.

Have been not waving but drowning in an over-buoyant sea of teaching of late, what with the usual stuff being supplemented with teaching snub-nosed little tykes in Tower Hamlets to write songs about Henry VIII and also getting Newcastle University music students to growl/screech/do whistley harmonics with juice. Still, I’m counting down the days til Christmas when I leave my main primary school job behind to enter the head-clearing yet slightly gulp-inducing world of the Intrepid Freelancer. I’ll still be up to my ears but at least it will be in a more groovy, leap-in-for-an-hour-jump-about-madly-then-saunter-home-without-a-care-in-the-world way. And I get to wear my jeans. It will also hopefully complement our recent move up the road to a larger, much less damp 3rd floor mansion block flat with a study in Bethnal Green overlooking a kaleidoscopically-leafed park and the back of the V&A Museum of Childhood.

Had a moment of ego-massaging, career-diverting glory when I had an interview for staff music writer at the London-celebrating weekly bible, Time Out, last month. I applied on the ‘no experience, merely talent’ front, and after writing a gig and album review and snappy critique of their music pages, was one of only 4 out of 400 applicants to miraculously snare a meeting with coolly-rumpled Music Editor Eddy Lawrence. Halfway through I realised that this would be a full-time job and then some, and my music commitments raised their whimpering heads. However much going to 5 gigs a week and listening to albums all day long would be a dream, I’m still a musician at heart and 3 days of doing the listings didn’t appeal to my lofty ambitions. If I’m going to write it has to be on laptops in local Buddhist-leaning cafes whilst drinking loose leaf white tea and gazing langurously out of the window.

Still finding time to do fun London-high-art things, which have included watching Jonathan Pryce in David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ (say that rapidly 5 times without getting tongue-twisted and you win some kind of special trophy), a fabulously lean play with dialogue like streams of silver bullets in the rather rococo Apollo Theatre. Also took in a partly successful ‘inter-arts social’ night called Rational Rec at the QEH last night which included watching a man play an electric guitar with a scouring pad and a very avant-garde clown called Benny. Hhm. Best of recent gigs has been ‘Plague Songs’ at the Barbican, a follow-up of a huge project in Margate in which artists were commissioned to write 10 songs for each of Exodus’s plagues, with some more recent songs being written on ‘modern plagues’, all accompanied by players who make up most of Tom Waits’ band for his bonkers music-theatre piece ‘The Black Rider’. This produced a gloriously eclectic evening full of mad wonder, including the babbling witch doctor of vocal improvisation, Phil Minton, the previously-unheard-of, maple syrup-toned voice of Daniel Knox, the inventive gossamer funkiness of Imogen Heap in her song about locusts being alright really, a new song from Damon Albarn with kids’ choir, a sort of cheery Blitz ‘we’re all in this together’ song, and perhaps best of all, Heap duetting with Rufus Wainwright on his sandpapered-down country song about the death of the first-born; his melted-Green-and-Black’s chocolate voice warmed me into a puddle of liquid wistfulness.

PS My first CD release, a big choral work called ‘Dusk Songs’ has been released on new wee York label Boreas Music. Choir and Organ call it 'the emergence of a considerable talent'. Hurrah!