Tuesday, October 16, 2012

New Old Music

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 2
Watching: 'Fresh Meat', yay!/ Andrew Bird on The Space, singing from A Room For London
Hair Day: Thankfully settling down into a more blondey-blonde. Phew.

A busy week! First up, I rocked up at my endz in Bucks for the Little Missenden Festival, and my commission from the Festival for the early music consort Alamire. I'd written a 13-minute 8-part vocal piece setting texts by Nicholas Culpeper, barmy Tudor herbalist/physicist/astrologist, which I very much enjoyed composing: a lovely time was had honing his meticulous prose into quirky little poems about marsh plants (Missenden means 'where the marsh plants grow', don't you know...). I did my usual thing of mixing pretty folky stuff and open 5thy stuff with extra-vocal yelps, whispery bits, swoons and swoops, etc. I think Alamire are rather more used to the glowing richness of Byrd and Tallis, which they did marvellously well in the teeny old Norman church, than having to stutter little hi-hats but they did a good job; I was a little nervous about what the audience might think, but I had some lovely feedback, and was compared to both Lachenmann and Richard Strauss, which can only be a winner, if entirely incorrect. Ha ha.

I took my Dad to see Sam Lee open the Festival the night before, and what with him being the rangy, tousle-haired Crown Prince of New/Old Music and notching up his Mercury nomination, the place was packed full of old ladies hoping to get his autograph. I loved it: he'd brought along Irish traveller singer/storyteller Thomas McCarthy, who I've seen before, and just brewed up a gorgeous atmosphere of tales, songs and a love of the land, all cooked up with a shimmery melting pot of strings, Japanese koto, ukelele, tabla and shruti box. PLUS he was wearing the most excellent (bespoke, hand-drawn country scenes, obviously) shirt.

It was back to London the next day for a discussion of my music and some You Are Wolfy songs as part of Culture Kitchen, the London Review of Books' new occasional series of supper clubs. The last one was with a fashion designer favoured by Lady Gaga! I nattered amongst a delicious North African spread of beetroot humous and pomegranate molasses, rose tea and figgy scrumptiousness, and felt highly self-important. Hur.

This week has been made hugely excited by the arrival of my first nephew, Holden, who freefalled in six weeks early and is still in hospital. Obviously, he is the cutest thing that ever lived (though he does look QUITE like a frog, feet and hands-wise...)

My bro Richie, had he not been in a new-fatherly daze, would have been mad jealous of my next gig, as an ad hoc singer in Aphex Twin's night of theatrical experimentation at the Barbican. I was part of the Heritage Orchestra/Choir, who were Aphex Twin's human synth for the night: we were fed nasty sine tones in headphones, and had to sing/play what we heard, responding to a dynamic gage on a big projection screen. I was on the end, so was lucky enough to have a cameraman practically IN MY MOUTH half the time, beaming my wan, un-make-upped face to a sold-out Barbi crowd. Erk. It was a fun half day, but in truth, the piece itself was 40 minutes of bafflingness. Quite why Richard D. didn't introduce more textural variation, rather than just having long, whiny glisses for 40 minutes, I'm not sure. It was a supremely excellent toy, and would be amazing in the hands of an array of musicians/composers, which is clearly where it should go next. Apparently the second half was a blast: here's a review.

FINALLY, I had the second in my series of gigs at Handel House, trying out lots of new stuff with recorder whizzmistresses Consortium 5. My second commission, badluck birds, which has an open source flavour (the pieces are in layers, or fragments, which can be arranged by either the performers or audiences), went very well; I had to bully adults into coming up and directing the players, but they were great. The webgame version of one movement, Screech, is still to come!
Had a cracking time in Amsterdam over the weekend. It can be summed up thus: canals, rain, coffee, art, rain, mint tea, lostriversongs research, photography, rain, warehouse bar/clubs, rain, boutiques, rain, canals.

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