Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Network is down in Sundial Court. Poo.

Dear Reader people,

The main GSMD building is shut which means that the IT people are gone which means that I am basically internetless until January 2nd. I am writing this to keep you informed so that you will know when to next expect more blogging.

It has been lovely having Andy and Nancy in London and we're all having a good time. Andy and I have both been taking bunches of pictures so they'll show up too when the internet and I get reacquainted.

Merry post Christmas and Happy New Year!
love
CASEY

Saturday, December 22, 2007

St. Paul's Cathedral

I had never been inside St. Paul's before today. I have walked by a bunch, but never actually been inside. Andy and Nancy and I went to the Family Carols and Christingle Service today at 1pm. I sat on the steps waiting for them for a while and the sheer volume of people trooping into the Cathedral was mind boggling. More mind boggling once we got inside was that they didn't even fill up all of the space.

Do you know what a Christingle is? It is an orange with a candle stuck in it and a red ribbon tied around it and four toothpicks each representing a season with raisins and candy stuck on them. They had one for every single person. Which was also pretty darn cool. Sainsbury's (my favorite grocery store, it breaks my heart that there isn't one anywhere near to Guildhall) donated the oranges and candy.

The Dean (the Right Revered Graeme Knowles) was charming and funny and got everyone to sing happy birthday to Jesus. Twice. When we lit the candles the room got perceptibly brighter and one lady in the row in front of us had taken a toothpick out of her orange and was roasting her mini marshmallow on the candle flame.

We sat in the left branch of the cross if you're looking down on the seating arrangement. I don't know if the acoustics are weird throughout the whole cathedral or just there, but it meant that it was difficult to sing as a large (giant, massive, mind bogglingly huge) group because of the time delays. I would love to get a recording with one microphone at the entrance and one at the lecterns and see what the time delay is actually like.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Andy and Nancy are fun people

We had a lovely day today. We took one of the walking tour cards that Andy and Nancy have been using in Chicago (um, the Chicago version obviously, the London version would be a bit useless there.) And walked around Old Street, which is practically (if not actually) my neighborhood.

It turns out that there are a bunch of marvelous little galleries around that I never would have noticed had it not been for the walking tour card. My favorites were The White Cube Gallery ( www.whitecube.com ) with it's 3D fluorescent tube sculpture and Morse code window blinds; and Open Studio ( www.openstudiospace.com ) which has awesome graffiti art and kind of blew my mind.

We ate lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant near the Geffrye Museum. It had a start by its name in the Time Out Cheap Eats guide, but I didn't think was all that good. The museum however is AWESOME. The Geffrye has 10 (or 12?) rooms set up to look like the main living room of London houses in various periods covering 400 years up to the 1990's. Each room was decorated for Christmas according to how it would have been during that era, which meant that mostly it wasn't terribly christmassey until the Victorian room which was then ridiculous. My favorites were the aesthetic movement room from the 1870's and the 1910 suburban living room which actually confused me quite a lot because it looked current to me. Then I remembered that I grew up in a craftsman house, so of course it looked familiar. (Actually, what it looked most like to me was Margaret Nolan's house from when Laine and Andrea and I were all little. Even the furniture and the color scheme.)

We meant to go to Troy's, a restaurant that Ruthe and Frank recommended, but found out that many London restaurants close between 3 and 6 to prepare for the dinner hours and we needed to eat fairly early- so instead we ended up at Shish, a restaurant specializing in silk road cuisine. (The word 'cuisine' irritates me, but is appropriate here.) It was quite good and the service was very friendly. We had to rush off though in order to get to Mary Poppins.

I wasn't expecting to really like Mary Poppins all that much. I didn't like the movie when I was younger (except for Dick Van Dyke because he was funny) and I hadn't heard anything about the musical. It turned out to be charming. The set was amazing with all sorts of huge moving pieces. You could only see one storey of the house at any given time, but at one point or another saw three over the course of the show, four if you count the roof. Then for the chimney sweep song the choreography was incredibly energetic and at one point what's his face the chimney sweep guy was walking not only along the walls of the stage, but also along the ceiling. I was grinning in spite of myself. There were a bunch of new songs too.

The relationship between the parents is charming and reasonable (so rarely does the entertainment industry show people actually working through their problems that it is always a pleasant surprise when they do.) And the love story between Mary Poppins and what's his face the chimney sweep guy was the most restrained you'll ever see. (which was also charming.) During the bows he kissed Mary Poppins's cheek and it was as satisfying an ending for that story line as the weddings that normally end musicals. Also, what's his face the chimney sweep guy was played by Gavin Creel from Thoroughly Modern Millie, so that was totally cool. I bought a program which normally would help me to remember what what's his face the chimney sweep guy's real name was, but I left it upstairs. Sorry.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Theatre Folks

The term ended for the Music half of Guildhall last week, but the Drama half gets to stick around for this week as well. In the basement computer room two Portuguese theatre tech guys hang out with me because we're usually there at the same time. (Their names are Philip and Fernando, but I can't say or even think "Fernando" without ABBA going through my head.)

As part of their end of term stuff the techies put together a scene in their workshop and it was on display/running today. It was about 15 minutes long. They had built a small pyramid and when you entered the room the lighting was all dark and there was a lot of fog. There weren't any actors in the scene, but there was narration about an explorer looking for buried treasure and all that. When he got to the secret tomb the lights suddenly got bright and then a moment later the blocks in the front of the tomb exploded on to the ground (Philip won't tell me how they did that) The little chamber was filled with artifacts like a golden calf's head and statues of lanky black dog creatures. Then the curse was invoked! And lots of colored lights flashed and there was treacherous music! And the back wall slid back and there was the mummy! Ah! Then the narrator talked about how he was trapped in the tomb and the wall slid back and there was some more smoke and it was pretty cool seeing what the first year techies could do.

This evening I took Andy and Nancy to the play that the third year actors were doing "The London Cuckolds." It was written during the restoration period and they did quite a good job. It's impressive how well the script holds up: it felt current and was very funny. Made all the funnier by all of the men in bouncy curly wigs. The director had fully integrated the musicians so that they were not only on the stage but set pieces and in costume and the piano was useful for hiding various characters. I'm looking forward to seeing more of the GSMD plays now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

I have left you out in the cold...

And completely forgotten to tell you that I have news about the dorm situation: I don't have to move for the rest of the school year. So I get to stay in Sundial Court until July- for which I am very grateful!

Also, I just found out that I got the job that interviewed for at the beginning of the month! So that is fantastic and I am really happy about it. I need to contact them again for a couple of questions they have and I have and then I will find out when I get to start- which will be lovely.

I am happy to announce that Andy and Nancy have both made it here and safely as well. They are settled into the Jury's Inn Islington which is where my mom and I stayed when we arrived at the end of September. They have been doing a lot of walking and I have been meeting up with them in the afternoons for lunch and even more walking! Andy has done an impressive job already of touristing around: his list of things he has done already would be impressive for a 10 day trip. Nancy and I are moving a bit more slowly- which is only sensible. We have to keep our strength up for the rest of their visit...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Last percussion skills class








Our last class with Neville was on Tuesday, which saddens me. As confusing and not terribly organized as that class was it was also super fun and I would regularly have bruises on my fingers on Wednesdays because I was thwacking things too hard on Tuesday. Also, Neville is amusing and I love the chicken song (the fastest song we did- it was ridiculous and involved as much squawking like chickens as we could get into 4 beats). But don't worry, because I brought my camera! There are a bunch more of these on my flickr site: http://flickr.com/photos/10933141@N07/


Photowise we have here Neville rocking out on some drum that isn't a conga, but should be. A room shot so that you can see that we have no windows. Emma playing the bass drum. The many boxes of hand percussion with Nick poking his head into any and all available shots. Caroline, looking a bit bored. And me, learning the bass riff for whatever it was that we were doing, a rumba? I should pay more attention...Click on the little photos and you should be able to see them in another window, but this time they'll be bigger.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cat had a birthday




So we all went to this lovely wine bar in Embankment called Gordons that is in this old cellar or tunnel or something. The ceiling is very low. Let me put it this way- Standing in the middle of the arch, I am about 1" away from scrapping my head on the ceiling.
Cat is a recorder player and super cool. So this is my early music crowd- I don't see them very often but they are all lovely people. Top picture: Mina and Adrian- GSMD early music singers, note the very low ceiling next to their heads. Cat, the birthday girl. Cat and and her boyfriend Tom.
Adrian is the best person to invite to a party: the last time we were at Gordon's Cat was raving about the olives- Adrian and I thought they were rather bland and overly oily, so this time Adrian brought tasty tasty olives with him- nice big green ones with basil and kalamatas. He also made an apple cake, which was wonderful. Adrian is apparently a legendary baker (though not as legendary as his wife, Helen.)

Awkward

I'm borrowing an electric bass from Guildhall over Christmas break so that I can mess around with it and try to figure out how to play it. I figure it's kind of inexcusable that I don't know how to play electric bass, and it will help me to be much louder and more portable- both of which are peachy peachy things.

That being said: trying to carry a backpack, a double bass, and an electric bass all at once is an awful experience wherein everything keeps falling off your shoulders and you nearly drop various expensive, highly breakable, and borrowed instruments.

At least I wasn't trying to carry the amp too. (I'll pick up the amp tomorrow)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

createarts.org.uk

Each of us have a mentor assigned to us from the list of tutors on the Leadership programme. Mine is Nathan Thomson who is a fantastic jazz bass player and was our first tutor for the improvisation module. When we were talking last I told him that I was interested in having more experience with different types of workshops. So far the only ones I have been involved with have been in secondary schools and have ended with the creation of a piece of music and the creation process has always involved riffs and breakout groups and blah blah. Its fine, but it is only one way and I know that there are limitless ways of doing workshops- so I was/am hoping to see a number of other ways of doing things.


Nathan is in a super cool band called the Antonio Forcione Quartet, they're on MySpace, you should check them out. Anyhow- they were involved in a workshop this weekend at Conway hall in Holborn. The workshop was organized by a group called "Create" who do all sorts of projects involving various art forms and all sorts of disenfranchised groups. There were two concerts this Saturday that the Antonio Forcione Quartet did for Create that were for developmentally disabled children and their families- so kids on the autism spectrum, kids with downs syndrome, etc. Nathan invited me to come and observe, but Nicky- the founder of "Create" wanted me to help out instead of just observing and I'm really glad that I was asked to because it was amazing and wonderful.


The room was a largish hall with a stage at one end. In the main body of the hall there were sixteen paper covered tables set up with chairs all around and art supplies for making animal masks on the tables. At the front, near the stage- there was an open area for dancing and tumbling around. The quartet is just extraordinary, and it was so cool to have a fabulous concert with really good and quality music where these families and their children were not only tolerated, but welcomed and catered to in anyway that we could manage.

At the beginning of the first concert there were two children, both about 5 years old who were screaming their heads off. One family would finally get their child calmed down when the other kid would start screaming again and set the first one off again. Through it all Derek Paravicini (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2006/09/17/nderek17.xml) started playing and eventually everyone quieted down.

There were a bunch of different elements to the concert: some of it was interactive so everyone waved their arms in the air to be trees in a jungle, clapping to make the sound of rain, conga lines, and just plain dancing around. At one point everyone was given a small percussion instrument that was either a wooden sound, a metal sound, or a shaker sound and then they were made into a percussion orchestra, repeating patterns that the band were doing in various configurations of instrumentation. There was a welcoming song called "Ka le le" that involved singing along and shouting "hey!" a bunch with your hand in the air. And then some of the concert was just for listening as well.

During the first concert I felt very self conscious. The only person I knew in the room was Nathan and he was up on stage. Also, I really haven't been around that many disabled people so I was shy and not sure how to act-pretty much I just smiled at everyone and manned my spot by the stairway leading up to the stage while gently pushing away the kids who kept trying to climb it. While I wasn't participating overly much, I was observing a lot. The families at the concert were just extraordinary. It was a very diverse crowd with just about every ethnic group you can think of represented; and they were all not only looking out for their own kids who were running around the room, but also keeping an eye on everyone else's kids as well. There was so much good interaction between the families and their kids- so much patience and love clearly written on their faces. I was blown away.

We quickly cleaned up between the concerts and ate lunch before opening the doors for concert number two. The second concert I vowed to be more active than I was during the first. I was the front door greeter and then manned the back door towards the toilets. One family came in late and sat on the benches at the back, they had five children. The eldest boy came into the room with his eyes screwed shut and both hands firmly shoved in each of his ears, he curled up into a ball and sat there for a while before starting to circle the room. The second eldest boy was clearly full of energy and dying to participate, so I bopped around with him and at one point when he ran over to his father heard him say excitedly "she's copying me!" (I had been imitating whatever dance move he had come up with.)

The second crowd was much more of a dancing crowd and most of the audience was crowded into the front of the hall on the dance floor. Conga lines went through multiple songs and people had to be careful not to step on the various children sprawled out on the floor. By the end of the show everyone was grooving along and I danced with a young boy who was in a wheel chair. With his mother's permission I picked him up and twirled around while he clutched at my neck and vocalized along with the music. It was pretty extraordinary. His face was glowing.

The eldest boy from the family of 5, by the end of the concert was down to only one finger in one ear and he too was smiling.

I'm hoping to work with Create some more over the course of the year. I'm excited about the sheer breadth of workshops that they do and also the people are all lovely. For some sort of funding reason they need volunteers between the ages of 18-25, and I'm totally down for helping them out with that.

Post Script:
Saturday evening there was a composition concert in the basement. One of the pieces involved both a string quartet and a quartet of actors. Since we never see the actors outside of their wing of the building I went and talked to two of them after their performance. I was still bursting from earlier in the day and ended up telling them all about create and concerts that day. They were totally interested and really wanted to get involved with outreach projects since I guess that isn't something that really happens within the acting department- so I have contact information for the two of them now and how totally cool would that be? Collaboration and outreach at the same time? I'm game.

MAPmaking project

The meeting for this project was on, Monday? I think? I don't know, some time fairly recently. Days sort of run together for me and I left my planner upstairs, so let's claim it was Monday.

The fun thing about the end of this term is that all of the super cool cross-arts collaborations are starting up and having their various planning meetings for the rest of the year. I already told you about the one with the LCDS, the MAPmaking project is with the communications students of the Royal College of Art (Not to be confused with the Royal Academy of Art. I don't understand why there are two Royal schools for each art form, but whatever.) Royal College is all post grad, which I thought was interesting. The project has been going on annually for a number of years now and each year a theme is chosen and the two schools get together and meet and show a little bit of what we can do. From there I gather that groups get together to collaborate some in pairs and others with larger groups.

This first meeting was at the Royal College of Art which is nearby the Royal College of Music and practically next door to the Royal Albert Hall, but down a little alleyway that looks like it doesn't go anywhere. The building itself was quite possibly more confusing than the Barbican. In order to get to the meeting room we had to walk through an empty gallery where people were filming, up a half set of stairs, through a hallway, up another staircase (but which staircase? There were three to choose from), etc. I'm not really sure how we found the actual room. I think it was luck and an innate homing instinct.

The theme for this year is actually a combination of things: equator countries, and global warming. The meeting started out with a presentation by a graduate of the communications department who had a slide show and talk about environmental stuff and global warming. It was very well done, and also very intense. He had an interesting perspective though, because part of what he was talking about was the role of the arts in helping the public to conceptualize the various problems facing the environment. The photograph that he showed us that has really stuck with me was of a piece that some artist did (I really need to start taking notes so I stop being all like "this guy did this thing and it was really cool, but that is all I can tell you about it...) to illustrate how much power is lost in the transmission of electricity. What they did was stand up a whole host of fluorescent tube light bulbs in rows underneath an electricity pylon and there is so much energy coursing through the air there that this entire field of lights is glowing even though none of them are plugged in, they are just shoved into the ground. It was a fantastic piece. It looked like a glowing orchard.

So that was intense and left all of us wondering how on earth we were going to deal with the topics, but the leaders of the project say that everyone always feels that way at this point and then at the end of the project come up with incredible work.

You would think that since we were at the art school that the visual artist would show off, but no: the musicians did instead. There were about 11 of us from Guildhall. Dave from dinner club, Ed from my dance collaboration, Jane from New Zealand, and another Ed all of whom are composers. There was also a classical guitarist whose name I forget and 5 of us music leadership kids. The composers each had an opportunity to play about 2 minutes of their works on a CD player, the guitarist played a lovely song, and then we did a group improvisation that was led my Nell Catchpole whom we originally worked with in the creative ensemble at the beginning of the year.

Those of us who were involved in the improvisation felt like we were kind of messing it up and that it wasn't working very well- but the artists were entranced... it was amazing. The back row stood up on their chairs and took photos and little videos on their mobile phones. They were so engaged that when we were done with the first one they demanded that we do a second one- and that time Nell got them involved with singing too. This was an entire room full of people we had never met- like forty people- so it was intimidating to get up there with a plan that we had formulated during the 10 minute break. And to be so intimidated and then to have it go over so well was incredible- and a bit surreal.

We were invited to go to the pub with everyone afterwards which would have been really cool, but we had to pack up our instruments and then when we were ready to go down the one person who was left to guide us there didn't have her ID card to get into the building and then disappeared...so that was weird and a little disappointing, but the visual artist folks will be coming to Guildhall soon enough, so maybe we can hang out then.

I'm really excited about this project too- though I am less clear about how it all ends up working than I am about the LCDS project.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

LCDS

London Contemporary Dance School. Super cool place out by Kings Cross. The third year (?) dancers are collaborating with post grad composers from Guildhall to create new pieces. It's a project that is going on for the whole year and for the last week they have been getting together and doing initial getting-to-know-you exercises and learning about how each other work. So basically it is their project- five choreographers and five composers. But what would a dance performance be without musicians, eh?



So on Friday the five (of six) musicians who have volunteered for the project and were available showed up at the London School of Contemporary Dance School which is in a building called "The Place" (which I find mildly irritating.) The five of us were: Andreas, Jorge, and Me from the Leadership programme, and then a pianist and a saxophonist. I remember neither of their names, but I talked to the sax player a bit and she seems really cool so I'm looking forward to working with her. Since it is still the beginning stages of the project and they don't even know yet which composers are working with which dancers there wasn't any music to read and everything was improvised.



We started (in a circle! I am forever in circles!) with a name game or two and then passed around a clap and switched directions and threw it across the room (these games are really hard to describe- if I could show you it would take one second, but in written form it just gets confusing.)



It was interesting to do improvisations with an extra element. Everyone was given the direction to think of 'suspension', 'drop', and 'gesture' and then (with the composers acting as dancers for this exercise) there could only be 3 dancers and 3 musicians dancing/playing at any one time.



After we tried that out for a while we were told to think about leading v. following, allowing space for either just dance or just music, and whether you were going with everything else that was happening or against it.



The second improvisation was the most fun for me. Jorge and I have worked together a lot, so he came and used the bass as a percussion instrument while I did a walking bass line which was an opposite sound to most of what we were doing which was more like musical representations of what the dancing rather than a riff or chord progression. Towards the end of that improvisation one of the dancers and one of the composers lied down on the ground and pushed off from the wall to slide across the floor, so I chose them to follow. I need to get better at describing these things...



Lets try again: we broke up in to small groups- mine had two dancers: Lizzie and Lucy. One composer: Ed. And me. We were supposed to think about dynamics (which means very different things for dancers and musicians), space, and time. Dynamics for dancers gets to be very complicated but as I understand it, in a nutshell it refers to the character (weight, speed, direction) of every movement. For musicians it just means loud or soft, with gradations obviously, but nothing more complicated then that.



So here is what we came up with- I stood in the middle of the audience on the far wall. There was a mirrored wall on my right covered in curtains, and at the far end of the room- directly across from me- Lizzie was standing and Ed was sitting in a chair off to the right. Our dance opened with Lizzie very slightly hunched forward (sideways so that you could see her profile), a high and sustained note on the bass, Ed sitting with a blank expression on his face, and Lucy walking along the mirrored wall underneath the curtain batting her hands back and forth quickly so that she was moving fairly slowly, but the rhythm of her hands was fairly quick and the curtain moved a lot. As Lucy walked the length of the wall Lizzie was very slowly (almost imperceptibly) bending backwards while at the same time I was very slowly (almost imperceptibly) glissandoing down in pitch. When Lucy reached the end of the curtain and stepped out behind Ed, he screamed. Then the only sound left was my sustained note- at which point attention shifted to Lizzie who was at this point clearly in a different position from when she started and still slowly bending backwards. Her descent and mine continued until she had to fall down at which point I sped up my glissando so that I hit an open string (loudly) at the same time that she hit the floor. Then Ed, who still had a blank expression on his face got up out of his chair, walked over to Lizzie who was lying prone on the floor, and said "huh."

After everyones' performance we sat down and talked about each and also about the scheduling for the rest of the project and what else could be involved. Because the instrumentation will be some variation on accordion, piano, percussion, bass, flute, and saxophone I'm hoping that someone will write a Tango. We're perfectly set up for one.

It was really really great. But maybe you had to be there...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jan Hendrickse

I don't know if you have figured this out about my class schedule yet, but it is set up more in terms of 'times you should be available' rather than as specific classes at specific times. For the past three weeks-ish we have been working with Jan Hendrickse on Tuesday mornings. These classes/seminars/lectures have been the first ones that we have had that are not experience based, but are instead more theoretical. So we sit in desks as opposed to standing in a circle. (We're still in a circle though, circles are very big in the professional development department.) I don't think I've talked about the classes much yet, and if I have it certainly hasn't been in a whole lot of depth because each one we have blows my mind a bit and then I am reeling for a couple of days -full of all sorts of information and new ways of thinking about what it is that we are/I am doing here.

So here is my slight attempt to get a little bit of this into words:

Guildhall and the professional development department in particular are big on 'reflective practice' which basically means thinking about what you are doing so that you can explain why it is that you do what you do. Nice, right? It isn't something that I have had before- for pretty much my entire education so far I have done (basically) what my teachers have told me to do (okay, so I've always been stubborn and this is a gross oversimplification, but deal.) Practice scales, play this piece, this is how you play in an orchestra, the orchestra music is already chosen, follow what the conductor tells you to do, this is the proper way to play this particular excerpt, etc.

I have always had the feeling that if I were a *real* musician, I would not only have a mystical relationship to what I was playing, but I would practice all the time and then talk about how what I was doing I was doing for the love of it all and because I could express myself through music. I'm not saying it wasn't an actual feeling for other people, but it was never true for me, and certainly not in the structure of training to be an orchestral bass player, which is what I was doing. So instead of feeling devoted to music and like I was on a clear and well lit path I would seriously question why I was trying to be a musician. (I would roll off of beds I was sitting on and crouch in the corner trying to get away from family members who were trying to get me to say that I was a musician. Remember that? Not pleasant.)

This is a totally unfair portrayal of my education. I had a lovely time at Interlochen and Peabody and learned quite a lot, but these niggling feelings were always there and during bad periods the above is accurate. The definition of a 'musician' as I understood it (and rigidly defined it) really didn't fit me. It never had.

So Jan, who can be found at http://www.janhendrickse.com/, had us listen to questions and then write down our answers. Questions like: 'what activities currently constitute your work?' Work being everything that makes me a musician or an artist (I get to be an artist? what?), what my practice is (not what I practice, but what I consider to be the totality of what I do.) See how these are already big questions? And that was just the first one. I think it will be helpful for my explanation if I just write all of the questions down- so here you go:

What activities currently constitute your work?
Are these activities changing?
Is there a big difference between your practice up to now and your practice in the future?
Is your creative practice very diverse?
What idea, theme, or activity is common to all the things you do?
What are the materials you use in your work?
Where do people interact with, participate, observe your work?
What sorts of things inspire you to work?
How would you like others to respond to your work?
What effect would you like your work to have in the larger world?
Why do you want it to be received in that way?
Did you at some stage make a positive choice to work in the way you do?
If so, why?
When do you feel the most creative?
When have you done your best work?
And why was it so good?
What factors have shaped your work?
If you are a performer in a particular style, genre, tradition- do you try to subvert it, add to it, develop it, fuse it to new traditions?
Do you have a good healthy relationship to that music or not? (Do you hate it? Resent it?)
What do you do differently from the way you were taught?
Do you like to collaborate or do you prefer to work alone? Why?
Do you care what other people think about what you do?
How much does it influence the way you do what you do?
Do you feel you are mainly inwardly directed or predominately reacting to outward stimuli?

So the point of all of this is to eventually get an artist's statement so that you can explain to people (funders, your very confused friends and family, yourself, etc.) what it is that you do and why you do what you do. Which is impressively powerful stuff, because then it means that rather than becoming an interchangeable instrumentalist (this is also unfair, but still) you can be hired because of what you uniquely do. Which is pretty awesome.

Here is where my mind has been blown: if I get to describe myself as an artist and that description can encompass the totality of what I do and what I consider my work then that means that I am not tied to the bass or any particular instrument (or even an instrument at all if it comes to that) and I can focus on everything I think is cool and interesting because there will be a thread that goes through it and the whole point is to be developing as an artist and I get a little incoherent at this point because I am so excited and overwhelmed by the implications of all this. A definition tailored to me? And I don't have to always feel mildly upset because I'm not living up to some sort of ideal that I didn't mean to sign up for? Nice.

A little about Jan for those of you who didn't head over to his website: (I've lifted this straight from his biography on his site)

"Jan Hendrickse is a composer and multi-instrumentalist specializing in traditional wind instruments. Recordings and performances have included work with Howard Shore, Ornette Coleman, Nitin Sawhney and Tunde Jegede amongst others. He has featured as a soloist in recordings and performances with The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Ulster Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, BBC Concert Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Sinfonia Viva and musicians from the London Sinfonietta.

He is in demand for film, TV and theatre work, and film credits include ‘The Lord of the Rings’, ‘The Passion of the Christ’, ‘Apocalypto’, ‘Troy’, ‘Two Brothers’, ‘Beloved’, ‘The Cell’, ‘Chocolat’, ‘The Truth about Charlie’, ‘Four Feathers’ and ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ amongst many others."

So Jan has already defined himself as something quite unique and is getting work because of it. Though the TV stuff, while cool and attention grabbing is by no means the totality of what he does. (For instance, he teaches us!) And your artist's statement can be constantly changing depending on how you are growing and what your focus is at that point in time. Jan is going back to school next year.

Job interview

I had an interview with Finsbury Healthcare this morning. They are located across the street from London's only public bowling green which is in Finsbury Circus. (The bowling green had *4* information points, but I only bothered to read one because it was raining. The sign seemed overly impressed with the fact that there were *4* information points. Which I guess is a lot for a public bowling green.)

The two women I talked with were totally cheery and fun and I think I would enjoy the office atmosphere at least, even if the actual work (Filing! Woo hoo!) might be less than stimulating. So cross your fingers everyone- lets hope my ridiculous and constantly changing schedule doesn't screw this one up for me.

Ooo, they wanted to know if I would be willing to come in to work at 7am....
(I said yes. I may regret that.)

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Jazz Singers Concert

Was on Tuesday at eight. We had an extra little rehearsal at 1:00 which was my lunch break and then a dress from 6:00-7:30 which meant I didn't really have dinner because percussion skills didn't end until 5:30 and oh. Tuesday was maybe a little bit hectic.

But the concert was good and I know that Jill recorded it so there should be a CD floating around of it eventually.

It was really cool actually- all night long I had people I didn't necessarily know or had only met once say "Hey, great job with jazz singers" which is incredibly heartening even if it feels rather undeserved.

The concert was full of gospel tunes complete with modulations up a tone for that special clouds-opening-sunshiny feeling. We also did a couple of rearrangements of Christmas carols with a decent sized orchestra which sounded lovely but meant that the choir were shoved into a corner on the side of the stage and we kept bumping into each other. I was on the far right side of the front row and because we are meant to be stepping side to side with the beat (which means inevitably the whole group moves a fair distance) meant that I ended up banging into the oboists stand. They were very nice about it though and the stand didn't fall over. So alls well that ends well.

We did a version of "O little town of Bethlehem" that Pete arranged with a thought to what Bethlehem is like today i.e, not terribly peaceful. He added a bridge to the song that took lyrics from a Palestinian poet and an Israeli poet. These are the lyrics that have been going through my head for the past three days nonstop:

"We must have faith, that cool waters will flow, peace will (??), and the flowers grow. We must have faith, to face the journey ahead, and not forget- what the poets said: The well shall not dry out, the river shall not stop running, as long as we are clouds, and our hopes are drops of rain."

Um. It's cooler with the tune. I need to figure out how to post audio files...

Anyhow- yay concert! My first performance at Guildhall, and it was totally fun.

Monday, December 3, 2007

I have an NHS number!

And that means I'm practically British...! (It showed up in the mail today)

Right. Anyhow- I also finished my all important paper. Thanks to everyone who took my "I'm avoiding writing my paper" phone calls. You are appreciated.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

100th post!

Last night I was using the GSMD library as a Blockbuster (you can check DVD's out over the weekend) when I ran into Dave who was on his way to Sarah's because she had had a bad day. He invited me along and we proceeded to have a very serious conversations about the trouble that our superpowers have been causing us while riding the tube to Sarah's house. Once we got there we discovered that she had no food so we went on an adventure to the grocery store where we decided that we would have fajitas with (by Dave's insistence) parsnips.

Then we went back to Sarah's, made an obscene amount of food, ate all of the food, and watched Black Adder until 1am when I got my first night bus experience riding at the front of the second level of a double decker bus during a *very* rainy and windy night. It was pretty awesome.

I'm not doing a good job of keeping you up to date

Sorry about that. I will tell you that yesterday was a lovely day and filled with rainy goodness.

We worked on processes for writing songs with Paul and Sig on Friday. The Globetown project involves four primary schools and one secondary school and culminates in a giant 300+ person performance in February. We have been divided into teams for each primary school and will work with two classes of 6th years (6th grade? I think) to write a 6 minute long song. All of this starts up in earnest next term- but we're getting started with ideas now.

So anyhow- we talked a bunch about what types of songs there were- not so much about the forms of songs- but what they lyrics could be doing. This involved a lot of breaking in to song randomly- so that was pretty great. Then we found out who we were working with for the project and worked with them to write a song that involved a list (like "Once in a lifetime" by the Talking Heads or "50 ways to leave your lover" by Paul Simon or any song involving listing all 50 states.)

Nick and I are the pair being sent to Bonner primary school, so we worked on the song together. Paul and Sig played some chords on the guitar and piano while we were working on lyrics so that we could have an idea of a tempo and something to base the melody over.

What was amazing was how totally different all of the songs were even though we had the same chords and tempo and general guidelines. And each of the songs were *good* like, we should really follow up on them good. Tara recorded them all, so I'll get a file of them soon hopefully.

The chords were sad-and they never really resolved, they just kept circling and circling. Our song was about when armadillos learn to talk- and I will post the lyrics when I get them from Nick because they are in his notebook and I am really a little more proud of them then perhaps I should be.

After lunch we were instructed to compose a basis for a song as well as how we would get the kids involved in writing the song and how we would teach the basis. We again did this in our Globetown groups and were given a song idea by Paul and Sig. My favorite was "the devil's regret" but ours was "a narrative with some sort of message for future generations."

I don't know if I've written about this already- but Nick has a tendency towards cheese. (Last week when we first started working with lyrics the line that he wrote was "life is full of feelings, fun and happiness" which unfortunately for me was put together with a very catchy tune that has been stuck in my head for over a week now. It's been awful.) So the fact that our song had to have a message for future generations was a dangerous thing. However- we decided to just embrace the cheese and in so doing ended up with quite a good idea I think. (This idea isn't actually going to be used for the globetown project, it was more an exercise so that we know what going through the process is like.)

So here is what we've got:
The basic message is going to be 'follow your dreams' because everyone needs that message.

The narrative is going to be based on your basic fairy tale structure: A parent has three children. The eldest two follow in the parent's professional footsteps but the youngest wants to do something completely different. The youngest is cast out or runs off or whatever in order to do what it is that they want to be doing. Something threatens the kingdom! And the youngest saves the day by doing exactly what they followed their heart to do, so all is forgiven happily ever after blah blah blah.

So, in order to keep a similar rhythmic structure and in order to not get bogged down in complete sentences: everything will be written in haiku. So a group of kids will write a haiku to describe the parent, each child, the setting, the various professions, the kingdom, the threat to the kingdom, the climax wherein the hero saves the day, etc. Anything that needs to be written.

When we were talking about various types of songs Nick told us about (and I don't remember the name, sorry) but a type of Mexican song that gives the news that newspapers were/are unwilling to print. One of the typical things that this type of song has is a repeating introduction so that you know who the song is about. Sort of like the lead to a news story as the chorus of a song.

So our chorus is: once upon a time, in a far distant country, our story begins. Did you notice that it's a haiku? 'Cause it totally is. This is all set to a melody and chords and (this is the part that I think is really neat) a backing harmony of the word "dream" in all of the native languages of the kids. (For our example we went around the lobby of the practice room annex and asked for any languages that people knew. We got English, Spanish, French, Icelandic, and Welsh.)

Pretty neat, huh?

Caroline said that between our armadillo song and our fairy tale idea that she could totally see Nick and I as children's' TV presenters...I think that was a compliment?

Monday, November 26, 2007

Stuff, I'd make up an interesting title, but I'm not feeling well.

Last night I suddenly came down with a cold- so I spent all night waking up because I couldn't breath and generally not sleeping well. Now that I am up today things are going a bit better- I've taken a bunch of vitamins, am keeping my liquids up, have completely run through my entire stash of kleenex and a roll of toilet paper, and for lunch went to the lunch market I was introduced to on Friday for some Thai curry with extra red pepper flakes.

Have I told you about this market? It is in between Sundial Court and the school and somehow I never noticed it. It is up around lunch time during the work week and everything costs about 3.50GBP and both stands I've been to so far have been quite tasty. (On Friday about half of the 1st year leadership class went to one of the stands that has an assortment of middle eastern salads- mmm.) The downside is that the lines are long and it is currently quite cold outside. Since I have a cold though, I was careful to bundle up.

There were some more things I was going to tell you, but I've now forgotten. I think I may go try taking a nap again...Oh, this was meant to be more coherent than it is... ah well.

Oh! On Sunday I went back to St. Columbas and helped out with the Young Adults lunch team. We made sausages with baked potatoes and mixed vegetables with meringues and peaches covered in cream for the pudding. Everyone was very nice and I had a long conversation with John (the husband of the team leader, Fiona) who is from Scotland and quite difficult to understand, about accents. I was part of the serving team, and we were maybe a little overly keen. Or maybe there were too many of us, but man were we efficient! There were two helpers named Jo and next week we're doing a book swap. Also, apparently there is such a thing as vegetarian haggis, and next Saturday is the Grand Church Ceilidh, so I'm totally there for that.

Furthermore: apparently 'Casey' is a very American name. I didn't know that. I mean, in the US it isn't the most common name ever (Sarah is) but pretty much everyone has heard of Casey as a name. Here, pretty much everyone remarks upon the fact that it is an uncommon name. Weird.

Thanksgiving





I'm not sure how many people we ended up feeding over the course of this Saturday, but it was over 16. Which I think is pretty darn impressive for a dorm kitchen. We made everything on one stove and with one oven. The maintenance people are replacing a lot of the kitchen furniture in various flats, and currently have it stored under the stairs, which was handy for us because it meant that we had access to a bunch of extra tables and chairs which we liberated for the day.


The pies and cranberry sauce had all been made the previous day, and I got up at 8am to start the turkey cooking. To be fair, I promptly went back to sleep- but still! 8am! Meredith and Tim made all the mashed potatoes and stuffing and sweet potato casserole and cornbread. When Sarah arrived she brought marshmallows and cans of Campbell's cream of mushroom soup from America for the sweet potato casserole and green bean casserole. We had to be authentic you know. (The French kids asked if all the food was authentic: yes- very. Impressively so.) Anyhow, enough with the self congratulations. (But it was pretty awesome. Gotta say.)


The other thing we did was resurrect a tradition from elementary school- namely tracing your hand and making a turkey out of it. We made everyone do it and then write their name and what they were thankful for before blue tacing it to the wall. The non-Americans kept asking if this was something we did with our families...no, not really. But everything else is totally like a normal Thanksgiving! We swear!


Before dessert we realized that there were eight countries represented, so I passed around a piece of paper to have people draw their flags on it. It was interesting to realize how much of a cult around the flag America has. Regardless of how patriotic you are, all Americans just know what the flag looks like. This is *really* not true for the rest of the world. Lawrence, who is from South Africa had to look his flag up online and even so forgot what it looked like. Dorothy, who is from Germany kept holding up the red, yellow, and black markers in different orders to see if she could remember what her flag looked like.


Someone asked Komsun to sing Thailand's national anthem so he did and then the French kids sang theirs. It was about 20 seconds in to a very loud rendition of the French anthem that I realized that all three of them were voice majors at Guildhall. The Americans tried to sing our anthem but Dave kept butting in and saying we were singing "God Save the Queen" which of course we were because none of us really remembered the words and were mostly just humming. Plus, after the rousing French we really couldn't compete.


I put up all the photos I took on flickr: http://flickr.com/photos/10933141@N07/
The pictures that are here are of Dave immediately understanding the whole point of Thanksgiving, a spelling war played out in hand turkeys, the turkey (that I didn't realize was upside down until I started trying to carve it, oops), and my hand turkey.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

We had meetings with Sig today to find out how we're doing with the programme. She brought the Americans chocolate- and it was tasty, if not terribly idiomatic.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

I am the samba queen!

Or at least, I was at approximately 3:30 this afternoon. I no longer remember how to do the steps...

We had a Brazilian couple take over our classes today and it was a nice change of pace. This morning we worked on some fairly complicated body rhythms and did some games, one of which involved walking while doing the complicated body rhythm and ended up being quite a lot like musical twister. It didn't need to be, but we were purposefully walking into one another. (Ooh, I wonder how you could do an *actual* musical version of twister...)

Then this afternoon the Brazilian couple joined us with Neville for percussion class which is where we learned how to samba dance and did all sorts of super fast and loud drum circle-ness. It was like a "Best of" class and we sang some of the songs we hadn't done since the first week. As a class, we are much improved in our drum circle drumming. Like, maybe we have half a clue now, which is serious improvement. Whenever it is that I finally get home, remind me to sing the chicken song and the months song for you, okay?

I'm writing this in the Basement which is the student pub, and sort of adorably for a student pub- the music tonight has been veering towards Frank Sinatra and Cole Porter. There have even been a couple of people swing dancing. Sweet, huh?

Thanksgiving-wise Meredith and I have begun planning for our Saturday bash (Thursday was far too full for both of us, so we're putting it off) Unfortunately we have somehow managed to invite nearly 30 people and most of the people I would like to have show up I don't feel comfortable inviting because as it is we're hoping at least 50% don't show up. Nevertheless, we are determined to decorate the entire kitchen with hand-turkey's reminiscent of elementary school. It should be a good time. I'm making cranberry sauce tomorrow since that is the most important part for me. Sarah gets back from America tonight and she sent a text message today saying that she had gone a bit nuts shopping in Target for the festivities. I'm hoping that means we have a tacky turkey centerpiece coming.

Friday, November 16, 2007

"Fridays are Tough" or "Yay for Lunch!"

This morning was a struggle to get out of bed. I don't know if you've noticed this, but I've been quite busy recently and tired to the point of titling posts "tired." Also, I had lost my notebook, which was a great concern as it is full of important information, yet doesn't have my name on it. So I was worried, and tired, and *maybe* a bit cranky.

Then our tutor didn't show up. Which was terrible because it was supposed to be Pete Churchill who in addition to being one of the most amazing musicians in the world to work with, is also leaving the school after this term- so we were all really eager for his lesson. Alas, we suspect that he was never told that he had a lesson with us.

So this morning was crap. We sat like lumps in a windowless room and discussed an in house performance that we are going to do on Dec. 13th. I volunteered to play Poucha Dass because it is a great piece, and it will force me to actually practice (which is a good thing indeed.)

We thought that since we are supposed to be doing a performance, we might as well write something to perform rather than getting on stage and sitting like lumps the way we were doing. Nick and Jorge started up some samba rhythms and we practiced improvising over the chords that Nick was playing.

Man-oh-man was I not feeling it. Eventually I gave up and put the bass down and started doing some samba based body percussion with Jorge, but then my chest got all painful where I was slapping it so I tried singing along Kate and Caroline's little melody and yeah, still wasn't feeling it. Also, I was really worried about my notebook.

Lunch was a welcome, welcome break- since we had no tutor and were being good productive students anyway, we decided to take an hour and a half, which was perfect. (Okay, by the time we got back to work it was like two hours, but still.) A break and food and a bunch of emailing had made me feel much better so after lunch I bounded in to the room and played some riffs from Poucha Dass which spontaneously spouted a marvelous free improvisation that lasted over half an hour. It was totally clicking and grooving along and there is nothing better than that.

Emma had done some really neat electronics stuff during the free improv so we decided to record each of us to do some extended techniques on our instruments for her to sample. It was handy to hear what everyone else was coming up with too- since we had absolutely no guidance nor supervision we went a little nuts: playing the oboe into the tuba? Why not, it might sound cool! (It did, it was also LOUD)

When it was my turn I was thinking about doing some tapping on the side of the bass, but since we had a real live percussionist in the room I made Jorge come over and use the bass as a drum, and that sounded great so I tried to do a bass line at the same time.

I think we're on to something here. Kate got up and started dancing and that then was the starting point of our next free improvisation. (Um, the bass/drum- not the dancing. Though now that I think of it we could use her dancing....) Jorge and I need to work a bit more on it because as it is the bass is moving a bit too much for me to be able to be terribly in tune or accurate about what I'm doing- but I think with a little practice it could end up being kind of awesome. We could get Tara or Heather to do something with the bow as well...

So now we're all excited about our ideas for the Dec. 13 piece and hopefully we'll be able to convince Nathan to let us work on them and flesh them out into an actual structure during our creative ensemble classes on Thursdays.

I've been researching how to put audio files on to the blog, so if this all works out- I'll put the performance up online...nice, huh?

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Tired.

Just so you know, I am exempt from any "Casey, you should write more!" comments for the rest of the month. Kay?

Today I woke up early in the morning and got on the tube to High Street Kensington where I then walked to the Royal College of Music where I then went to a three hour long Viola da Gamba masterclass. So that was cool. It was nice to be surrounded by a bunch of gambists and I chatted with people a bit but the really cool part came after the masterclass when we went down to the library where there was an exhibit of autograph editions of various consort pieces. I would be more specific, but I wasn't paying that much attention. But the hand writing! Some of these handwritten parts were clearer and easier to read than a lot of printed music today. Also, the parts were tiny- like maybe 3"x5" tiny.

I was glad I stuck around after the masterclass because then they took us to the museum too, which was superfly. They've got an upright harpsichord instrument from 1480, a bunch of totally neat spinnets, a piano with a 'bassoon' pedal (a metal bar that was lowered on to the strings), and a couple of important gambas that I am now well enough informed of to have been in awe of.

There were about 30 people in the gamba group in the museum and they started getting into quite a heated debate over whether the instrument was a division viol or a lyra viol. I talked to the curator later and she was telling me about a thread on their website regarding what is thought to be the first guitar. Apparently the comments have been getting downright violent over whether the instrument is actually the first guitar or just a vihuella, the museum has had to point out that they are merely taking care of the instrument and not taking part in the debate.

At that point it was nearly two and I hadn't eaten. Fortunately, even though I was severely sleep deprived after having stayed up late cleaning my room (I know, weird. But I've really become almost tidy here in London), I had managed to pack myself a lunch. Unfortunately, this ended up being half of a quiche shoved in a zip-loc bag shoved in my backpack. It was barely recognizable as food by the time I ate it, walking along the Royal Albert Hall. Tasty, though.

I decided I should go to the V&A and finally see that fashion exhibit I've been meaning to see for forever and ever. And you know what? It wasn't worth waiting three years to see... ah well. There were a bunch of fashion students making sketches so that was fun to watch and I wandered through all of the iron works (feeding my secret desire to become a blacksmith) which is how I found the plaster works. Dude....Four storey tall plaster casts of elaborately carved towers and rows upon rows of royal tomb effigies. I turned around the corner and suddenly there was this giant room filled with amazing, wondrous things. Highlight of the museum today.

I rushed back to school in time for jazz singers, went to a lecture that degenerated in to a silly rather pointless debate about nothing, and then hung out with the early music kids in the basement. So now I'm tired, but happy.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

This is getting ridiculous, I know.

Okay, so four posts in one day might be a little over the top. However you get one more because I wanted to share with you a letter that I sent to the president of GSMD as a thank you for my scholarship. I'm not actually thoughtful enough to have come up with the idea of a thank you note on my own (it is a requirement of receiving the scholarship), but I spent quite a lot of time on the letter and I thought you might enjoy reading it:

Dear Mr. Ife,
My name is Casey Middaugh. I am originally from Seattle in the US, but have spent the last six years in Michigan and Maryland going to music school. I’ve been trained as an orchestral double bass player and in undergrad I discovered early music as well. I had a friend who was at Guildhall last year for Transverse flute. I wasn’t sure what to do following my undergraduate degree. I was certain by that point that the road to being an orchestral bass player was not for me and since I had enjoyed my early music experiences so much I thought I might follow my friend and look at Guildhall for that. While poking about the GSMD website I noticed a side bar that said ‘music leadership.’ I wondered what that could be, so I clicked on it.

I understood very little about what the MMus in Leadership was really about, but what I could gather was both intriguing and incredibly exciting. Based on that one page of information I proceeded to apply for a Fulbright scholarship. I did not get to the final level of the Fulbright process, but I bring this up because it is not an easy fellowship to apply for. It involves a number of essays, three separate references and letters from each, as well as an individual interview with a panel from the University where you defend your application. I willingly did all of that based on one page of your website.

When I got to the audition in April my interest only grew. The professional development office was gracious in inviting those auditioning from overseas to come to the creative development workshop the weekend before the auditions. That workshop was my first experience with anything of its kind. I had never improvised before. I had never been involved in a group composition. I had never had the opportunity for my ideas to affect the course of an entire piece. The workshop blew my mind and I think I was grinning the entire weekend.

Thank you for helping to make it possible for me to attend GSMD this year. I mean this sincerely: I could not have imagined a school more suited to me.

I keep a blog to both track my progress at GSMD and to keep in touch with my friends and family. Please feel free to check it out if you have a free moment. The blog can be found at londoncasey.blogspot.com

Thank you again,
Casey Middaugh
Supported by the Guildhall School Trust

Tuesday lessons

I'm just on a blogwriting roll today, aren't I? For some reason spellcheck is refusing to work and I really don't feel like combing this to find typos, so please forgive them for now? Thanks.

Tuesday was our first lecture type class, which was a welcome change for me. I really enjoy the experiential practical things that we have been doing, but it was also so nice to be sitting there taking notes, reading things in academic jargon, and then debating what they really meant. Okay, so I was sitting on the floor with my legs crossed and at one point we spent a lot of time drawing cakes, but still- it was more academic than anything else we have done to this point.

The seminar was taught by Jan Hendrickse www.janhendrickse.com who conducted most of it with a handy dandy powerpoint presentation. He started out with three questions: what is creativity? what is music? and what is a workshop? I found this mildly obnoxious because they are the sort of questions that you can't actually answer and if you do give a definitive answer someone will come up with an example that expands the definition just to be contrary, and you know, all inclusive.

The rest of the presentation was much more fun. He talked about some of his research in to types of rolls that workshop leaders use. They were teacher, which is very didactic - here is a song, you learn it; facilitator, here is a beginning riff I want you to do a very specific task with it (harmonize, compose a counter melody, etc.) and bring it back to the group; and participant where the leader is just part of the group and allows the group to create in a democratic way.

Andreas thought that was all pretty self evident, but it was really helpful for me to have those roles verbalized. Now that they've been indentified I can pay attention to when our tutors (or the rest of us) are using the various roles.

Jan then moved on to a bunch of different theories on the origin of creativity as well as research done on the characteristics of creative people. The theories on origins that I thought were interesting/relevant enough to actually write down were transaction theory which holds that creativity is a natural human state and that the real question should be 'what is the origin of noncreativity?' and convergent/divergent thinking model, which actually I now notice I didn't write enough down to know what I meant by that.

Cake time! He gave us a task (we're big on tasks here in the leadership department): We had a cake and 3 cuts we could make to get 8 equal pieces. I love questions/exercises like that so I was totally thrilled and figured out an answer within 30 seconds and then snottily blurted out that I had done so.

After a couple of minutes Jan asked us not what answers we had come up with, but rather how we felt about it. I was the only one to have totally positive reactions which included "whee!" and "I won!" Oh, except that Jo had really enjoyed drawing circles.

The rest of the reactions were more along the lines of feeling pressure, like they wanted to cheat, feeling stupid, competitive, annoyed, or that they hated questions like this.

So then I felt embarrassed because I *love* those questions and also have done enough to know that you have to think a little differently so I immediately made the cake 3D. Anyhow- what suddenly dawned on me was that those are all reactions that people have in workshops especially with improvising. I've certainly felt all of the negative reactions with regard to improvising (okay, and the positive ones but less frequently and more recently).

So then we got to try again, but this time in a team and with the direction to question our assumptions. My favorite results from that included a cake that had 8 physically unequal pieces but that were still equal because they all tasted the same, and a cake that was made up of 8 cupcakes that all came from the same batter- the cuts were to open the flour, the sugar, and the frosting packet.

Then it got even more fun because I was raised by my mother. We started talking about models of creative processes and types of brainstorming. All of this is pretty hard to describe without diagrams but just for you I'm going to try.

We started with a western model from Russell and Evans from 1989 which was a cycle that went from preparation, to frustration, to incubation, to insight, to making it work, and back to preparation.

Then we looked at a Japanese model from Sheridan Tatsuno, also from 1989. This was also a cycle, but it had "core values" in the middle that had arrows to each portion of the cycle which was: recycling, search (have v. need), nurturing (playing/tinkering), breakthrough, refinement, and back to recycling.

I love the japanese model with the component of recycling- because you never have an idea that didn't come from something else you had already thought of or experienced. Also, isn't it interesting that the culture that has "frustration" in the model also has the figure of the tortured artist? Actually, I don't know that Japan doesn't have the figure of the tortured artist, but it would be handy for my argument if they didn't.

Anyhow, because I spent this summer with Mommy reading her little books about brainstoming activities, I'm much more used to thinking of creativity and brainstorming in the context of coming up with a new object or idea or concept as opposed to something musical. Now I get to figure out how all of this applies, because I'm sure it does.

Though maybe not- so much of the work that we've been doing has been very much on the spot and in the moment- 'think up a riff now', or 'make up a rhythm now' as opposed to 'Thanksgiving and the Holidays are coming up soon write down on cards what the things are that you want to make sure you don't miss' or 'write down all the activities that we do, group them together and name the catagory but move the activites around until everyone agrees and condense or expand definitions as necessary.'

So now I'm thinking and thinking, there's got to be a way to bring this all together. We talked about some other stuff too, but now I'm back to thinking about how all of this goes together so that means this is the end of this blog entry, bye now.

Okay, so the thing about a lot of the brainstoming ideas and 'thinking outside the box' aids is that they are trying to get you away from your internal critic/editor so that you can let everything come on out- particularly in a group evironment where collaborative ideas that are larger than the sum of their parts can show up because everything is being put on the table and you can more easily see where new connections can be made. So if the goal of all of this is to get yourself away from the internal critic- then speed, which is what we've been using in the programme a lot works, as does Peggy Zhering's technique of drawing behind your back with you eyes closed and with a tool. Handicapping yourself in some way so that what you're doing is alien enough that your mind doesn't immediately recognize what you're doing as something to criticize...

Friday lessons

On Friday Sig's son Rhys was sick, so she didn't show up in the morning. Instead she sent instructions via email for us to divide ourselves in to two groups, create the necessary material for a workshop, and then present the mini-shop for the other group. It was a really helpful exercise.

We all decided to try and work with people that we hadn't before, but since that is nearly impossible for all of us to do, we ended up in our groups from Aldeburgh but with one person swapped.

My group started with composing a bass line riff to base everything else off of. I don't remember what the order of the rest of the tasks were, but we also spent a lot of time figuring out how to teach the mode and do voice warm ups at the same time, how to introduce the rhythm of the bass groove, and setting the bass groove to a body rhythm.

I led the physical warm up which was when we all learned that "jumping jack" in American English is "star jump" in British English.

The voice warm up was the most interesting part, I think. We ended up structuring it so that Nick, who was leading that portion, would half the group and have one half sing a drone on the tonic while Nick led the other half up and down the mode and then swapping. The droning people were meant to change the vowel they were droning on so as to keep from being totally bored. Then once everyone had the mode in their ears, Nick started pairs of us on a two note groove that harmonized with the other pairs. Then he started improvising in the mode before handing it off to someone else.

It was a big change from how we have usually done vocal warm ups which so far has been exhaling on a random pitch and then trying to do so in a way that relates to the pitches that everyone else is exhaling on. It ends up sounding like a massive tone cluster- which it is actually. From there we have been used to starting to improvise vocally thereby introducing the element of improvisation. Either that or we have used the vocal warm up section to introduce the melody of the written material.

In this instance though, because we had so little material and didn't want to give it away too early, we used the time to introduce improvisation as an element, but really to solidify working in the mode. (I think it was a blues scale, but I don't remember which is why I keep referring to it as 'the mode' as opposed to something more specific.)

For those of you who haven't gone to music school for the last six years- a mode is a scale; a specific set of pitches that a song or a portion of a song is written in. If you played/sang a note outside of the mode it would sound off- which is sometimes the sound you are going for, but in this case wasn't.

Dictionary.com is my current favorite thing, so here we've got for 'Mode'-
Music: Any of various arrangements of the diatonic tones of an octave, differing from one another in the order of the whole steps and half steps; scale.

And also for Petrography:the actual mineral composition of a rock, expressed in percentages by weight. Which has absolutely nothing to do with what I was talking about earlier, but amuses me anyway.

Getting back to the original point- having to create a workshop and give it as well as participate in someone else's workshop all within the space of 3 hours was pretty intense and really useful.

This may seem like a tangent, but really isn't: When I was here in April I got really in to the British version of 'The Apprentice' which in the UK is headed by Sir Alan Sugar as opposed to Donald Trump. I found it fascinatingly watchable. What is pertinent here is when the contestants in this reality show were divided into two groups and given 200GBP and a day in which to make as much money as they could.

One group spent the day walking around a neighborhood with rented gardening equipment trying to find yard work to do. They ended up getting very sweaty with a wall of ivy. The other group bought face paints and tried to find children to face paint. Neither idea worked terribly well- the neighborhood was a well to do one and if they needed gardeners they probably already had one and it was a dreary weathered school day so there were very few children out and about.

They were allowed to change what their business did in the evening and both groups went for some type of "gram." The gardening group did sing-a-grams in a restaurant and they got all giggly and had a good time and the other group did kiss-a-grams which didn't go over very well with Sir Alan.

Eventually they all came home and one of them got fired because that is what happens on that show. But what was key was the woman who got fired that day was pleased to have been reminded that you could make money anywhere, under practically any circumstances. That you don't have to have some genius, earth shattering, brand new idea to start a business. See: lemonade stands.

So here is where it all comes back to our mini-shops- we didn't have enough time to be brilliant with what we did- we had 60 minutes to create and plan and 40 minutes to present. So we were reminded that we could actually do a fantastic workshop even if we had only one night to prepare for it. Even if we are only in our second month of the programme.

We were all so enthused by the process and the result that we didn't take any breaks and ended up going 15 minutes in to our lunch break talking about how we're going to try to find another time during the week to have a lab sort of session and each week one or two of us can use the group to try out ideas or practice leading something that we aren't yet feeling comfortable with or maybe having Jorge teach us some of his arsenal of rhythm/percussion games or have someone else teach something that they know a lot about that could be really helpful.

We haven't actually gotten around to scheduling any of this- but it was a pretty great high of energy for a wholly unexpected morning of work. Also, it means that I have finally led something- which is great.

Actually I led two things that day because Kate and I finally got the chance to present our body rhythm that we were supposed to have taught two weeks ago. It was actually really nice to have that time though, because it meant that we had learned so much in the mean time that it flowed really well. I taught the rhythm and did so completely non-verbally. Kate then led it in an exercise/game thing that she invented on the spot. The rhythm was in 4/4 and had four separate kinds of noises (stomp, thigh slap, clap, and snap/click depending on what country you're from). Kate went around the circle and had each pair of us drop one part of the body rhythm (the stomp or the clap etc.) and replace it with some noise. Once each of us had dropped some part of the body rhythm and each part had a vocal noise she had us all drop the body rhythm so that the new vocal rhythm traveled around the circle. It was pretty cool.

Tuesday evening

I went to the Trevor Pinnock concert last night. It was at Cadogan Hall near Sloane Square. As it turns out, much closer to Sloane Square than I had totally realized. If I had just looked up and read the glowing blue sign I could have saved myself a good 10 minutes of wandering around with my A-Z getting increasingly more confused and panicky because the concert starts NOW. Ah well, I’ll know for next time.

The hall is a converted Christian Science Church and it is *lovely.* The lower seats are steeply raked and the gallery is low so it has a very intimate feeling even though it seats 900 people. The walls are cream with metallic painted accents and the lighting was very warm. It reminded me of our living room at home in the winter when it has been dark out since 4pm and Laine has turned on all of the lights in the living room and everyone is warm and cozy and sitting around reading. Which is, I think, a fairly impressive thing for a concert venue to remind me of.

I sat on the stage left gallery in the second row practically hanging over the stage. I couldn't see the violins hardly at all, but it did mean that I had a nice view of Peter’s playing and also of Trevor’s face or hands when he conducted depending on which was the harpsichord was turned. He fairly glowed.

I most enjoyed the Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048 and No. 2 in F Major, BWV 1047. Do you get the feeling I have the program right next to me? You bet I do. No. 3 was great because the energy level was through the roof. No. 2 was great because the soloists were flying. And, of course playing very nicely as well.

Okay, I'm pretty sure I should never try to get a job as a music critic. Let's talk about me some more! I couldn't stop chatting to people. I met a nice lady in the stairwell, the man sitting next to me who had been given the ticket by a friend of his (quite enjoyed the concert, thanks), the Italian woman behind me, the entire class of Canadian exchange students who were at the concert as part of their music course (they said to tell Peter that he had done a very good job that night), and Katie- an acquaintance of mine who is in the Music Therapy course.

Katie invited me out to the pub with her crowd of friends after the concert. I can't remember any one's name, but they are all amateur or semi-professional baroque string players and they need a bass player for a concert on Dec. 8th. Handy, huh? I don't know yet if it will work because I only have a modern bass, but I'm going to talk to Peter about that when he gets back from Hamburg. Anyhow, pub time with them was wonderful. They're a large group of friends who are all interconnected in a variety of different ways who have known each other for years. I felt quite honored to have been included.

Then I came home and fell in to bed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Saturday


Patrick the missing roommate (who now has a picture) and Isabel (1st year acting, Colorado) and I walked to the British Museum on Saturday. It was a lovely day and a great walk. I made us pop into the London Review Bookshop which is actually heaven. I ended up buying a book called "Necropolis" which is a history of London's dead and looks totally fascinating. We had lunch at a mediocre french sandwich shop and then braved the museum.

Patrick wanted to see Egypt, but on the way to Egypt I got distracted by the Great Death Pit of Ur. Needless to say, my fascination with the great death pit as well as my recent purchase of the Necropolis book made Patrick and Isabel look at me oddly, but whatever- it was totally cool.

There were a lot of cuneiform receipts and tax records and such. A few thousand years later (and the room next door) there were these cylinders filled with writing that were placed at the edge of a plot of land. They said who owned the land, the dimensions of said land, the circumstances under which the land changed hands, etc. Basic legal stuff. But then they also had buckets of curses on them so that people wouldn't scratch out the name of the landowner and render the legal document useless.

I suggested to Angela when I spoke to her than night that it might be a good idea to use this technique when her housemates are stealing food: take that milk carton, cover it with curses to turn the milk stealers bright orange, and then sit back and see if it lasts longer. She wasn't terribly impressed.

On our walk back to Sundial we were stopped by a man who had heard us talking and asked if we were American. It turned out that he was a bass player with the LA Philharmonic who were playing at the Barbican that night. We walked with him to the Barbican and he brought the three of us back stage to take a look at their instrument flight cases. Each of the bass cases were custom made for the bass they carry. All of the cases are large rectangles with lots of padding and compartments so that a: they fit in freight carriers, and b: the bass players don't really need a suitcase. So that was neat.

Sunday




I didn't go to the fun Scottish Presbyterian church this Sunday, instead I went to The 2007 Greenwich International Early Music Festival and Exhibition. Which was pretty darn cool if I do say so myself. I tried out a bunch of gambas and bows and some bodhrans. My favorite part though was walking by the tables filled with bagpipes and listening to 7 people at once playing very discordantly.


The exhibition was in two main halls with a bunch of little nooks and crannies filled with instruments as well. I only went to the last day, so I missed a lot of the concerts and competitions, but I did get to see Fretwork playing on new gambas made by Jane Julier. It was a pretty cute performance/demonstration. That particular configuration of 5 viol players had never played as a consort before and all of the instruments were brand new (one hadn't even been varnished yet and I think the scroll was unfinished as well). So it was quite a relaxed and informal performance type thing. At one point they train wrecked and had to stop.


"Where you want to start again? Should we go to the beginning?"

"Eh, how about 15?"

"All right."


Also they had to tune constantly because the room was so warm and it was so cold outside. It was very consort-y and made me miss the Peabody consort terribly. I ended up spending a decent amount of time chatting with a baroque cellist next to me who then introduced me to Alison Crum who is the viol teacher at Trinity College and, as it turns out, Peter's new viol teacher as well. There is going to be a Gamba Festival on Wednesday at the Royal College of Music so hopefully I'll be able to make some consort contacts there.


The pictures are of:

*The outside of the Old Royal Naval College because it was a beautiful crisp and clear day.

*The painted room exhibition area- I walked in and was completely overwhelmed by the whole thing. Instruments everywhere, people playing recorders and just walking around, fake candle lamps, and then the ceiling! and the walls! The piles of sheet music!

*harpsichords in the stairwell, people would just sit down and play Bach for 10-15 minutes.


On the way back from the festival I stopped in the Greenwich market, which was either a brilliant idea or a terrible one. I love markets, but I can't really buy anything at them. By "anything" I mean more than .5% of what I want. I did end up buying some giant golden raisins, three pieces of sushi, and a spinach and feta tasty thing all of which I ate on the Docklands Light Railway which is a bit like a commuter roller coaster.


Peter had called me that afternoon because he remembered that he had a gig that night near GSMD, so I met up with him at 5:30 and grabbed some hot chocolate (for me) and decaff espresso (seems a contradiction in terms, doesn't it? for him) before going to the St. Anne and St. Agnes church and listening to the Requiem Mass For Remembrance Sunday which was Heinrich Sch├╝tz’s Musicalisches Exequien. Peter was playing the bass to back up a viol and organ continuo section. I ended up sitting next to a man who had written the English translation of Musicalisches Exequien, so he knew the piece very well and had a copy of his score with him that he graciously shared with me. He sang along under his breath a bit and would conduct subtly from his seat when he felt like they weren't articulating correctly or were dragging. It was pretty neat.


All in all, what a lovely day. On Tuesday I'm going to Peter's performance of some Brandenburg Concertos with Trevor Pinnock, I'm pretty excited.

cherry trees are silly.


Cherry trees have got to be the most gullible plants ever. It is November you silly tree! November!


Not that I'm not grateful, mind you. I mean the cherry trees are always lovely, but it's a bit disconcerting to see them at the same time as vibrantly red leaves. You know?


For context's sake, this picture was taken in the courtyard behind the GSMD main building. Behind the photographer (me) is the waterside cafe where we ate the day that we saw Philly play at the Barbican (Grammy, Grandpa, Laine, Andy) or the day when I was having a cranky fit because we hadn't eaten all day and we got soup (Mommy). The rounded concrete things are some of the flats in the Barbican.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

On to today's classes

I'm waiting for my laundry to dry. This translates in to more posts for you, woo hoo!

We didn't have improvisation class today which is sad because it is my favorite class, but good because half of us were sick and barely aware during percussion skills. In percussion skills we are working on Cuban rhythms and different claves. Neville talks so fast that I'm not really sure what any of the terms are. I tried to wikipedia and then YouTube "clave" but what I found was still over my head- maybe the library will have something useful.

In any case I rock the triangle and really enjoyed smacking the back of a plastic chair with drum sticks today. We had been using a 3-2 clave rhythm, but today moved on to a rumba clave. I don't know if I'm talking about any of this correctly- but suffice to say: it was really cool and I have a bunch of research to do.

In order to actually get a Master's degree we are required to go to these seminar lectures and then write responses to them. Today Sean Gregory was talking about "The business of being a musician." It was not terribly new information because basically he was talking about the Leadership programme- but what was really cool was at the end of the lecture we were broken up in to smaller groups and given about 5 minutes to come up with a hypothetical project. We were to dream up some sort of project, think of a place, a population, and what the outcomes will/should be with some sort of event outcome at the end. It was supposed to be a 'pie-in-the-sky' sort of brainstorming session. Funfunfunfun.

I had my computer with me to take notes and since I am, after all, my mother's daughter, I ended up leading our little brainstorming session. Here- in a direct lift from my notes- is what we came up with:

Educational drama/music workshop in a prison- involve young offenders- topic improvised from participants, film it and put it on YouTube and work on viral marketing scheme

Need: prison, offenders, facilitators for both music and drama side of things, film team (use offenders?), teach technology – use phones!
Music
Drama
Production values (cameras, technology)
Perform in community space- perform in local community to break down barriers (Security)
Film live performance
Use as community service- include arts portion (Education and rehabilitation)
Sponsorship to loan instruments- percussion and technology based (simple music mixing programme) Electronic key boards/ recording devices/ etc.

(can you put their photographs online? Think about that…)

Sean was the one who pointed out that maybe sticking the identities of juvenile offenders online was not the best idea- but I'm still totally in to the idea of using YouTube as a performance venue.

It was fascinating how incredibly different each of the group's ideas were. Some were fairly main stream including going in to a pediatric oncology ward to sing child friendly classical songs; but others were totally creative including an opera performance that derails half-way through and ends up with a whole bunch of audience participation to finish writing/composing the piece and then performing it.

Okay, more notes from Sean's lecture: this time they are about 4 key elements for modern musicians, though "leader" and "teacher" have been combined so really it is just 3 key elements-

Professional practitioner, portfolio practitioner:
Performer
Concert, jazz venue, events, WWW, prisons, shopping centre, hospital, schools, etc. Different responses- audiences may never have heard those instruments in a live setting before. Funding partners are keen on this sort of thing currently in the UK. Explore different contexts.
Composer
Lesson plans/examples, new piece, break repertoire up, segue from one genre to another, new audiences don’t have preconceptions about how things should go together (overture, concerto, symphony), improvisation (jazz, folk music, early music, etc.), group improvisation: finding something appropriate for that particular moment), finding something that will work with a dancer, curating, shaping, programming, playing with stuff. Goes back to different contexts.
Leader/Teacher
Facilitator, guide, facilitating and involving people, like a director or choreographer: group based, Specialist teacher, non-specialist teacher, (private teacher), tend to think of music teaching as more didactic than other art forms, could instead start playing with things from the start.

expectations rising in all of these areas. Will be demands in all four key areas, set yourself up to inspire in each area…

This is such a cheating blog entry- I'm just posting my notes... guilt aside, I'm going to leave you with one more note quote before signing out- this one is just a straight list of various venues that could be used for performances and/or outreach opportunities. This is just a partial list mind you, one to get the creative juices flowing...

Primary and secondary schools, music services (formal education centres), colleges, community based activities (informal education), health care (hospitals, homes, hospices, special needs centres), prisons, young offenders, social exclusion, homeless, drop-in centres, musicians, arts organizations, concert halls, cross arts, theatre, outdoor spaces, public spaces, stations, shopping centres, etc.