Monday, July 19, 2010

Devon, I'm in Devon, And My Hearts Beats So (From Walking) That I Can Hardly Speak*

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 2
Reading: Hari Kunzru's 'My Revolutions' & a week's worth of emails
Hair day: unsure of motivation

Have had a lovely, get-away-from-valiant-flat-buying-attempts time in North Devon, in Tarka the Otter Land (we stayed in Henry Williamson's house, with his secret writing hut ensconced amongst the trees; everything was called Tarka Trail, Tarka Beer, Tarka Surfing, Tarka Roadworks, that sort of thing; amusingly the local pub's chalkboard out said: 'Probably the pub Henry Williamson drank in' and a Carlsberg sign).

Highlights were:
  • The wondrous Putsborough-Woolacombe Sands, so smooth and vast that at low tide you felt like John Cleese's knight forever running at the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail upon taking courage and dashing seawards to swim in the wonderfully sudsy sea. Putsborough is the more sedate end, with the usual chintzy charms taking hold at Woolacombe, an impressive cornucopia of pop-up tents, sandcastles, chip vans, rounders matches, metal detector-wielders, parasailors and watersporters, all going strong even when the burly clouds lumbered over and did their worst. Best sights were the elderly surfers, all wobbly-pastry torsos and craggy faces, and parents ingeniously drawing spirally lines on the beach and then racing their offspring around them like kiddie-scaletrix.
  • Body-boarding! We did this at both ends of the above beach, looking probably double-takingly like Keanu Reeves and Lori Petty in Point Break and not at all like two waddling seals on My First Gnarly Wave. Most fun though sometimes a little terrifying trying to judge the crest and break of some looming waves, and often getting totally bitch-slapped.
  • In Ilfracombe, the Victorians were not ones to let a great hulking cliff stand in the way of their constitutional improvements, so drilled right through it to create some tunnels and a bathing pool from a naturally-formed lagoon. On a coldish, drizzly day, the little beach was a spookily lunar oasis of charcoal-dark shingle and massive rock-shards thunked into the surf, with a wonderfully icy empty pool, later swallowed back up by the tide. So in we went! The bravado was well worth it, a brain-bracingly chilly experience in which I tried to remember that the unknown things brushing my legs were seaweed fronds and not the tongues of terrifying seapool critters. Ha.
  • Getting enough freckles to make it look like the sun had just sneezed violently all over me.
  • The Best Cream Tea Ever at a National Trust cafe on Baggy Point, following a rain-lacquered walk, with warm scones as pleasurable as putting your face into a kitten: clotted cream good enough to lay bricks with, peppy jam and strawberries, little red explosions of joy.
* Sung to tune of Cheek to Cheek, obviously...

Friday, July 02, 2010

Summertime, And The Livin' Is Busy

Level of conviction in own genius: 7.5
Hours of creative activity achieved today: 2
Reading/Watching: The Crimson Petal and The White by Michel Faber; Andy Murray bow out
Hair Day: Post-swimming haystack

Cor, another whirlwind couple of months has corkscrewed frantically, taking in lots of gigs and educational work. I caused some politely middle-class frissons of controversy at the (deep breath) South Bank's Chorus Festival London Contemporary Church Musical Festival preview (phew) by saying I wasn't religious whilst talking about my sacred choral writing, followed by a disappointing lack of outrage on the Radio 3 message boards after my Choral Evensong-broadcast magnificat premiere.

juice have been continuing to take their 'squeal!-pop!-grunt!' mantra to the masses, first taking the sedately-swaying marshes of Aldeburgh by storm with their week of teaching Aldeburgh Young Musicians; these are the cleverest young musicians in Britain, the sort of kids who think nothing of creating a Beckett-esque avant-garde recorder/voice/theatre work setting their own haiku in five minutes flat, or combining contemporary dance, chair-scattering, monologues and tuba-deconstruction in a hommage to Pina Bausch. Ha ha. We also toured special needs schools in South Yorkshire for Live Music Now, finding the time to zoom around various country parks sampling regional cakes (my first Bakewell pudding! Mmm...) or walking around our sublimely remote farm accommodation, surrounded by hundreds of sheep, fields of madly bleating vuvuzelas. We've also gigged at the Whitstable Biennale (getting down there early to dip in the blissfully tepid sea, yelping at the single large fish that kept belly-flopping near Andy's head), at King's Place to a great audience for our silent film soundtrack, and a few others besides. THIS week, juice have finally started work recording their debut album on nonclassical, our resolve and ability to only glow like ladies should being severely tested by the obscene heat of the studio once the air con is turned off.

In jazz news, the DOLLYman massive had a day of recording their rockiest numbers in an extremely non-rock 'n' roll private school in leafy Surrey, so look out for an EP soon... Elsewhere, Metamorphic had a nice gig at Leytonstone's Luna Lounge (a retro venue below an all-you-can-eat curry joint, with a lunar landscape badly painted on the walls). I sadly missed the High Art Drama when the last band played: the drummer apparently abruptly stopped mid-stick to accuse remaining members of the Metamorphic crew of talking through his set, culminating in near fisticuffs between the jazzers! Brilliant! Had I been there, I would have, of course, kung-fu'ed wildly in defence of my homies. Hiii-YAH!

I've managed to see a gig or two, including a stimulating OperaShots night which you'll find on my other blog given the high football content. It's nice to meet some like-minded musos in the field: You Are Wolf played a sweet gig at Green Note in Camden this week, and got chatting to a lovely American experimental guitarist who'd dropped by to watch before flying off to Berlin. Here's his shizzle! And at last night's nonclassical gig at newish venue the Horse and Groom in Shoreditch (probably the only place that evening showing a Brooklyn-based banjo player doing electroglitch remixes of Madonna's Like A Prayer), I met the very charming Tansy Davies - I have always imagined steeling myself for a girl-composer-hair-battle upon our first encounter, but thankfully, though she does have a right good barnet, we look sufficiently different at the moment not to have to enter that ring. Hee hee.