Thursday, March 29, 2012

Gigs in Boats (Power to the Ladies)

Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 4
Listening/Reading: BBC Radio 4 Nature programmes / Finished one of the best books ever, the blissfully immersive Waterlog by Roger Deakin
Hair Day: for the chop tomorrow
What I can hear from my window no. 23: blue tits and great tits in the big pine tree in Ruskin Park House gardens, mingled with ambulance sirens

It's been a mad month of workshopping, from helping Wigmore Hall's Young Producers put on a gig of industrial percussion, visuals and folk/soul vocals with Joby Burgess and ESKA, to a research project in which I freaked out Year 10 girls by trying to get them to improvise, from working with kids and an artist in creating wax resist painting graphic scores to getting Year 5 kids to put on a mini-opera featuring a fight with swordfish swords. Phew! I'm also trying to occasionally work on developing my You Are Wolf birdlore songs and write a recorder quintet, and there have been Metamorphic gigs, a podcast for Sound Notion, a brilliant American new music show, and a You Are Wolf gig on a swellsome boat at Victoria Embankment which made me scrabble around for my sea legs pretty sharpish. The latter was curated by the wondrous Roshi, and got me a support slot at Leigh Folk Festival with Martin Carthy, which I am MOST excited about.

Roshi was one of three powerhouse musical ladies (all big creative faves of mine) who featured in Bird's Eye View Film Festival's annual Sound and Silents series, all live-scoring Mary Pickford films; I was chuffed to get a public thanks from outgoing director Rachel Millward for 'keeping her finger on the cultural pulse' by recommending both Roshi and Tanya Auclair to her. Before them, Anna Meredith produced a throbbing, swelling electronic score of a short film about a hat; Tanya and mini-band performed a funky, riffy tribal-pop soundtrack to a melodrama; but best of all were Roshi and electronica cohort Pars Radio with a sensational, dreamy and cheeky score, peppered with Iranian songs which somehow worked in comedy about the Irish working class. Genius!

It was good to fit in a party, for once: Andy's most successful author (thanks in no small part to Andy, recent winner of the Independent Book Publisher's Young Publisher of the Year Award, woo hoo!) Mark Forsyth held a celebration for The Etymologicon's runaway sales at his Clerkenwell pad. It was peopled with a potent mix of right-wingers who write for The Spectator or advise David Cameron, agents, publishers, cultural programmers and jazz guitarists. The main thing is I hopefully got a gig out of it! Ha ha.

It has been a time for legendary, something-to-aspire-to senior artladies too. We checked out the Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the Tate, which was a mixture of lovely early paintings, terrifying sculpture (though I seemed to be the only one truly freaked out by the super-phallic protuberances festering out of chairs and boats; NO IDEA what that says about me, obviously...) and something like the best sort of fairground show you could get: a room walled with mirrors, and hung with little gently-glowing lights on strings. The mirrored walls multiplied the lights to infinity and beyond: a magical wonderworld that drew gasps from all visitors, as if we had a glimpse of the depths of the universe. 

Rather more intimate in scale was Laurie Anderson beaming in from the Southbank Centre's stranded boat, A Room For London. She was ensconsed in the little barque overlooking the Thames, while we watched her on a screen whilst sitting on a carpet in the Royal Festival Hall. It was a slightly strange affair, with low-grade technical standards, and I'm not entirely sure Laurie knew what she was doing (her interview of a pirate radio station DJ was sweetly incongruous), but it was nice to get hints of her working life, such as her advice never to write an opera of a loved book, as she did with Moby Dick, and to see how goddamn funky she continues to be. In my older age and dotage, I hope I'm a mix of these women: crooning in Japanese whilst wearing a bright red bobbed wig, and telling offbeat stories in the lowest voice imaginable in a boat marooned on a building...