Monday, April 15, 2013

Terror-Rave, Soundwalking and Leek Tartlets

Level of conviction in own genius: 6.9
Hours of creative activity achieved in last 24: 5, if making instrumental parts from a score counts, urgh
Reading: Sped through the wonderful 'Londoners' by Craig Taylor, a birthday book from Andy; now weeping hopelessly at every other page of Vera Brittain's amazing 'Testament of Youth', 80 years old this year.
Hair Day: Needs Serious Cutting Soon

As is my wont, I packed in a few cultural things into my birthday last week. I was in Cambridge the night before to collect my joint winnings (along with fellow Yorkie and all-round fab lass Stef Conner) from the Incorporated Society of Musicians' inaugural choral prize, hurrah! The Queens' College Chapel Choir sang my SATB version of the trad. song (which I do as a You Are Wolf number) 'All Things Are Quite Silent' in a very pure, super-perfect version, as well as singing Stef's and other winner, talented whippersnapper composer Toby Young. We were then ushered into the ostentatiously Arts and Crafts-y Queens' College Hall for a posh meal, complete with slightly weird, archaic graces in Latin and toasts to the Queen and that sort of thing. The Oxbridge ways seem pretty damned sniggersome to the likes of progressive -'60s-university-going husband and I, and even more so as I'm reading about Vera Brittain's (see above) breathless recounting of her debut at Oxford in 1914, complete with through-the-night cocoa parties with equally lofty, serious fellow studentettes. Still, it was nice to chat to Toby and also to meet gregarious, uber-gifted clarinettist/composer and voracious reader Mark Simpson over tenderised beef and leek tartlets...

It was back to Queens' for a lunchtime concert from Mark, Melvyn Tan, Guy Johnston and Jack Liebeck; there was no better day than my birthday for my first live performance (shocker!) of one of my favourite pieces of classical music, Messaien's 'Quartet For The End of Time'. It's so masterfully and transparently constructed and with such craft: chamber music as filigree jewellery. The final movement - though the 'cello and piano is my favourite - with its ever-soaring violin line, was enough to make me fall apart. After a brief schlepp about Cambridge, it was back to the safe heartlands of Dalston for a hang-out in a new tea shop, dinner at Mangal II with friends (and Gilbert and George, naturally), and we mopped it all up with some punishing terror-rave at Cafe Oto from the likes of Birthday: BAM!

It's been a packed concert-going schedule: the next night we went to Wigmore Hall to support Team GB, otherwise known as seeing some of the George Benjamin celebrations, with a concert version of his first, chamber, opera, 'Into the Little Hill', which was pretty marvellous, though even seated right at the front below the bellowing/shrieking soloists I still thought that the words could have had more space. The highlight for me though was David Sawer's 'Rumpelstiltskin' suite, which whilst not exactly ground-breaking in soundworld, was a brilliantly-orchestrated, deeply delightful affair.

This week, juice were busy in Sussex, recording and filming a new music-film piece for composer Paul Robinson, and we were filmed by a chap who is usually to be found shooting the likes of 'Frankenweenie' and 'Fantastic Mr Fox'. We also did initial workshops for four composers as part of the Sound and Music 'Embedded' scheme, trying out loops, hockets, vocal white noise and medieval erotic letter-settings, and discussing being wheeled around in shopping trolleys to represent Jupiter's orbiting moons. This is quite, quite normal for juice...
Juicette Anna was also part of Brit composer and hair arch-rival Tansy Davies' UBS Eclectica series retrospective at LSO St Luke's, singing her song cycle 'Troubaritz' with our percussionist/composer buddy Damien Harron. The night was packed full of halting riffs and broad genre references - the highlights being violinist Aisha Orazbeyeva's solo scratchy, glitchy piece, influenced by the Bach partita that preceded it, and the closer, 'Neon', complete with Tansy standing up to piledrive in a bit of electric guitar. It was quite a sceney night, and good to mingle with new musicky types in the pub afterwards.

Thank god for the sun today! I was not so lucky at The School of Life recently, when running my first workshop, in the art of listening and soundwalking. We'd planned for it to be April so that the birds would be tweeting merrily, the zephyrs balmy, etc; instead we got air so cold it practically scalped you, and a sound-palate of cars and people shivering. STILL, a successful night was had by all, and I got the class of clever adults thinking about their sonic environment and composing soundwalks, inspired by the likes of my walk-art hero Richard Long, John Cage, Chris Watson and many more. The next one will be in sunnier climes!

Lots of radio recently! I went into the Resonance FM offices in Borough to record a little session for Sam Lee's Nest Collective Hour (also to be found on Folk Radio); it's a very marvellous, old/new/no-folk show, and a pleasure to be on, though frankly my performance was a mitigated disaster of loop station confusion and general calamity, urgh! STILL, even James Blake accidentally left a sliver of yelpy loud loop in his recent 6Music session, so the loop station gremlins get about a bit. Curses upon them! It was also rather lovely to turn on Jazz on 3 and find myself singing on it - a second album track from Metamorphic opened the show, yay!

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