Monday, March 18, 2013

Attack of the Fallen Women

Level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3
Watching / Listening: 'Boardwalk Empire' Season 3 / suggestions for my radio show
Hair Day: Floppity, moppity

Nonclassical, my label (juice have started recording their second album, woo hoo!) have just held a big festival of pioneering electronic music, so Andy and I made it along to a bit at XOYO, where the demographic was almost entirely men in their 30s with beards. I sadly missed Raymond Scott and the final set by The Orb man Alex Patterson, but did catch the bludgeoning percussion/electronic piece by Stockhausen, Kontakte, plus, much more soothingly, two Messaien pieces for ondes martenot and synth/piano. The ondes martinot is a sort of electronic theremin, and is basically a hopeless romantic of an instrument, espeically when playing the achingly meandering phrases of Messaien's 'cello and piano duo from Quartet From The End of Time. There is no more beautiful piece! And did you know that Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood is the only owner of an ondes martinot in Britain, fact fans?!
To the gods at the Royal Opera House for George Benjamin's much-lauded (a new opera! With contemporary music in't! That everyone LIKES!) Written on Skin, with George, or 'team GB', as I rather too loudly and excitedly shouted jst before he lifted his baton, conducting. The set was excellent, these contrasting rooms of clinical heaven/archeologists' lab with rough-edged medieval-ish chambers. The orchestral writing was mostly glorious, especially with the slightly sci-fi-sounding glass harmonica for the bit where everyone suddenly moved in slow motion; all lush and filigree and delightfully detailed, though I sometimes thought it burbled along in too unrelated a fashion underneath the singers. I thought it started slightly sluggishly, dramatically-speaking, but the slow-burning tension was ratcheted up from act to act to proper Greek drama/Shakespearean tragedy-style heights by the end, and complemented in a way by the scoring that I'm sure would be easy to take for granted but is in fact highly skilful. I didn't really see much need for the modern-day bit - it was all about the central ferocious love triangle for me. Barbara Hannigan was storming as Agnes, the young wife whose lust is awakened by the visiting Boy/Angel who comes to write an illuminated manuscript: rolling around, or being thrown around, usually whilst singing perfectly controlled, pure high notes. But therein lies the rub for me: here's yet another opera with a central female character who is another fallen woman - what a BORE! It made me REALLY want to write The Descent: The Opera (if you don't know the film, 5 super-cool pot-holing lasses fight terrifying monsters in caves, with nary a male in sight), or at least SOMETHING where the girls are MAD REAL, not defined simply by their sexuality, and DEFINITELY winning out in the end.
Finally, my career as a radio DJ has begun. Well, in a teeny tiny way at least! I am presenting the Strawberry Shortwave Radio Show live on Haggerston Radio on Sundays at 4-6pm and I've done two so far. The idea is to play music inspired by a weekly theme, and play a very eclectic range of tunes. Proof of pudding: this first boat-themed week featured Gavin Bryars, Guys n Dolls, Laurie Anderson, three versions of the traditional English song 'A Sailor's Life', field recordings, poetry, angry postpunk about the NHS,and Iron Maiden. YES! The shows are archived. Here's two to treat your ears to!

You're So Dane

Level of conviction in own genius: 6.5
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 3
Watching / Reading: Two excellent films: 'Lore', just beautiful and dark, and the screamingly tense and screamingly '70s 'Argo' / 'The Year of The Flood' by Margaret Atwood
Hair Day: awight

To venues both big and small as a punter recently. I went to the Rose Theatre next door to the Globe for a short, sharp shock of a 'Hamlet', there to see our friend Jonny Broadbent go all Dane, complete with 'The Killing'-style knitwear. The Rose in the site of Bankside's very first theatre, and this show had the delicious tagline of being the first 'Hamlet' there since 1594. There was a wonderful use of the space: hemmed in by the teeny cardboard box style-set for much of the play, upon a hammy version of the play with the play, the black screen I assumed had a wall behind it was pulled down to reveal, behind a balcony and to audible intakes of breath, a cavernous space with a big pool of water at its centre: the foundations of the old theatre, underneath the canopy of a massive new building! String of red lights suddenly lit it up, and it was then used for Ophelia's mad singing scene, the Yorick scene, complete with brilliant Hamlet-and-skull shadows, and more.

Then it was to the Barbican to finally see Bobby McFerrin, one of our greatest living vocalists, live. It was a very chilled set of spirituals, many recorded by his dad (the first black male opera singer at the Met), with some raspy blues and some typical Bobby-ish chest-hitting and scatting. He leapt about all over his preposterous four-and-a-bit-octave range like a gleeful springbok; commanded his louche players; and introduced his 21-year old daughter as a honey-toned backing singer. Just lovely.
I had the very touching experience of having my graphic score for recorders, Screech (which you can toy with to create your own video-composition right here!), interpreted by five groups of recorder players aged from about 8 up to 18 at St. George's, Hanover Square, in my final outing as Handel House Composer in Residence. It was so fab to see a class of 20 Year 4s avant-gardely squealing, pipping and hissing, in partly-improvised renditions led by recorder masters Consortium 5. The new music future is kids! With recorders! Here's Yerbury School giving it some:
There was a time when my ambition was to play Cargo in East London. Then I did, in 2006, with juice! Then  I wanted to play Cafe Oto. And I did! Finally, The Vortex was in my sights; and lo! now I am a regular. I sang with Metamorphic in February, and DOLLYman finally got their foot in the door, having fun playing off-the-dots for the first time as support to the Kandinsky Effect's album launch. Let's up my targets. Next: The Barbican!