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!

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