Sunday, September 30, 2012

Me Do New Things

Level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Hours of creative activity achieved today: 0

Reading / Listening / Watching:  Just started Rob Young's wondrous 'Electric Eden' and hence have been listening to early The Incredible String Band and Vashti Bunyan and dreaming of English pastures... / Brill documentary series, The Clintons
Hair Day: too long to quiff up properly. Emergency haircut required!

Phew, it's been a long time since I wrote in here. I've been signing off old projects and looking forward to embarking on new ones.

I wrote a 13-minute piece for (mostly) early music consort Alamire over the summer, which premieres in my endz in Bucks next week. Report to follow! I finally finished my set of 'open source' pieces for recorder quintet Consortium 5, which has being gently rolling along in stages this year, with various incarnations as a webgame (soon to be launched), 'control the players'-style live versions, and improvising graphic scores, including for school recorder groups to have a go. The live versions are being premiered as part of my curated concert series at Handel House, which also includes one of my folk heroes, Alasdair Roberts, with whom I hope to sing a teeny bit, woo hoo! I saw Alasdair play a lovely set at the Nest Collective's monthly folk session upstairs in the bunting-festooned, steamily packed Old Queen's Head; they were supported by rebranded, but still reliably joyous, Firefly Burning. It was great to hear some new tunes from them, which combined complex rhythmic workouts alongside gorgeous Fleet Foxy harmonies sung with a near religious fervour. Bliss!
Soon I'll be passing over the relay baton at Handel House, with perfect timing and little fumbling, to the next composer-in-residence, Cevanne Horrocks-Hopayian, I've a few loose ends to tie up, chiefly a set of miniature folk/improv songs based on London's lost rivers, which I'll hopefully be doing with Leeds' fab classical/folk/improv trio, 7 Hertz. Elsewhere, the Big Project for me over the next nine months is a super-exciting community chamber opera for Wigmore Hall, a 45-minute piece that I'm writing the text and music for, with a bumper cast of 90 kids, a 40-strong community choir, an elderly group, a professional sextet and a tenor. Cripes! I'll be channeling Britten (whose centenary it is next year) by incorporating some folk theme/music element, as is my wont.

It's always scary doing new things, the webgame being one of them, but therein lies the fun and the learning too:  I recently read a lovely interview with rising star violinist Thomas Gould, leader of the Aurora Orchestra and the Britten Sinfonia amongst other things, in which he said it was important to always say yes to everything (within reason), and to never think yourself above certain projects. A good philosophy. Thomas was part of another musical whippersnapper, Trish Clowes' second album launch at Kings Place this weekend, in which she showcased her knack of combining a traditional jazz quintet with a string quartet, and jazz conventions with a classical sensibility. I stood in for Trish's usual singer with a couple of numbers, which was great for me - with nothing other than a sound check as a rehearsal, I was kept on my toes with some fiendish lines! But it was lovely to get lots of compliments about my voice, which is apparently like 'silk', and not, as it felt with a head-pummeling cold, like a rub on a jagged, stripped fence. 

This week I joined juice in donning bespoke cloche hats, slinky dresses and pearl-laden wrists to sing in composer/electronicist Mira Calix's new live score to Alfred Hitchcock's little-known (and to be fair, he was not a fan of it either!) silent film, Champagne. This was part of the BFI Southbank's mammoth The Genius of Hitchcock series, and the film was a biggie too, rolling in at 1 hour 50 minutes. We had a large chunk of live vocals to sing, sometimes scored, and sometimes improvised; Mira decided to grab loads of texts from girls' power pop songs, meaning we played around with Kelis' 'Milkshake' to scenes of 1920s flappers... great fun. Juice are looking forward to cooking up some more love song arrangements over the winter and recording our second album with Nonclassical early next year. Bring it on!