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.


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, 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:
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


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

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 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. 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


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.


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!
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:
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.
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.
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.

I gotta learn how to sing

Jon, a trombonist kid I chat with in the computer lab just played for an open mic in The Basement (the student pub) and he was singing all of these Simon and Garfunkel songs and I decided that I really need to learn to sing, because I want to be up there too. Plus, it's important for the programme and all that- but really- I want to sing in front of people and be all hip and cool like that.

Today I went to the doctor. Remember how London is an old city, and therefore never had much use for what we might term "city planning?" This means that at times it is nearly impossible to figure out A: where you are and B: where that is in relation to where you would like to go. I got very,very lost this morning and if it had not been for a kindly taxi driver and another kindly bicycle delivery man I never would have found the doctors' office- even with the help of the A-Z. It was just that confusing.

That being said- I like my doctor quite a lot. She is a young South-East-Asian woman whose name I don't remember. To no one's surprise: I have an ear infection. I'm to get ear drops and see her again in a week. There was a medical student there as well, so she got the opportunity to look into my truly weird and scarred right ear. I hope that was educational for her. The rest of my cold/virus is much better though.

The internet is a wonderful thing- I was trying to describe what a cholesteatoma was to Dave (composer, dinner club fellow) and so looked it up on and here is what they said:

"A tumorlike mass of keratinizing squamous epithelium and cholesterol, usually occurring in the middle ear and mastoid region. Also called pearl tumor."

Isn't that the grossest description you can think of? I particularly like the word 'squamous' which isn't nearly as onomatopeic as it seems like it should be.

In medicine related news; I think there are at least 2 different viruses running through GSMD right now. Meredith and I both had the same syptoms- but Jo and Heather who were also feeling poorly had quite different symptoms. We were a bit lackluster today in Percussion Skills since so many of us were feeling under the weather. I've been camping out in pajamas all day and pretending that they are real clothes. I'm not fooling anyone.

Patrick- the missing flatmate- was cooking tonight and we had a good chat about various movement philiosophies: Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais in particular. I really enjoy talking to him about the process that the acting programme is taking and how that relates to the Leadership programme and how it is different. Good chats.

I just went and took a moment to listen to some more of the open mic in the next room. Currently there is a 13 piece band including electric guitar, sax, a violin section, a cello section, a complete horn section, and an assortment of acoustic and electric basses playing Justin Timberlake and Destiny's child songs.

It's so cool how many outside projects there are at this school. At Peabody there were maybe a few bands outside of the basic curriculum- Ash and Rowan (celtic) and No Signal (experimental chamber music, jazz, and stand up comedy) being important examples of that- but mostly people did what they were in school for and not much else. In contrast just about everyone here that I have talked to has some sort of side project going. At least one, if not five or six. People are also much less likely to be tied to one single instrument-I get the feeling that this is true across the board even in the specifically instrumental programmes.

In the foyer today there was a percussion concert during the lunch hour. The toddler music class had an overwhelming amount of interest expressed in it, it may be expanded to more locations if this many teachers are really available. At the "Open Call" meeting yesterday over 40 people showed up to hear more about the programme that brings the musicians and actors together. I spent yesterday in the library reading about commedia dell'arte, and every week I have a drum circle as one of my required classes. I chat with my flat mates intelligently about movement styles, and it is cool that I think Laban is a genius. Last night my flat had an impromptu Disney sing along in three languages followed by a bunch of christmas carols.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I couldn't have made a school more perfectly suited to me if I tried.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's "Bonfire Night"

Not "Guy Fawkes Day." My bad. You have been duly informed.


I'm not feeling well right now, I think I have an ear infection and I certainly have quite a sore throat. I have an appointment with the doctor tomorrow and I have been stocking up on orange juice, echinacea, and vitamin D. So hopefully it will all be well soon.

That being said, probably sleeping on couches the past two nights has not helped.

Last night I was at Laura's house for Lara's last day in Europe. (She had been in Europe for 8 months, so I was quite honored that they let me hang out with them on her last night.) Lara had come to my flat earlier in the day and we had traded the complicated body rhythms that I have been learning for some African dancing that she had learned along the road. It was pretty great until the security guard called up to the flat saying we were being too loud and he was going to call the police- which is utterly ridiculous because it was 6:30pm and even if our clapping was loud- we were still squarely in the "practice" hours so whatever. Someone was being irrationally fussy.

So we gave up on our super cool, but loud clapping games and instead got out the bass and Lara's fiddle. She played me an Iraqi folk tune and I played her the first movement of the Eccles sonata (I really need to memorize more music...) and then we messed around with the mode that Poucha Dass is written in and jammed with that for a while. We were supposed to meet up with Laura for dinner so that didn't go on nearly as long as I would have liked, but oh well.

We met Laura out by London Fields and then walked around far more of Hackney than we intended to trying to find a restaurant. We ended up at a charming (but very cold) Georgian restaurant. So that was nice.

Saturday night I stayed at Jill, Natasha, and Heather's house. Their party was wonderful. Lots of inter-year bonding, good costumes, and silliness. The American cello trio were dressed as Orion's belt, which I thought was terribly clever. They each had on silver dresses and a glowing star necklace and ridiculous hair. I'd post a picture, but I ended up forgetting to photograph the party even though I brought the camera along...

At about 3:30am the party changed tone from dancing about and having squat wars (two people crouch and then try to knock each other over) to everyone lounging about and listening to Kajali (not sure if that is how you spell it), a Kora player from Senegal and his girlfriend Rahana (again, not sure if that is spelled correctly) an American singer who has spent the last two or three years studying Indian raga singing. It was blissful.

11 people ended up spending the night, piled in little heaps and then in the "morning" (the sun was already rising when I finally fell asleep) we made poached eggs and toast. So that was lovely, but probably did not help my cold/ear infection/whatever.

So now the question is: do I go see fireworks tonight, or do I be a good little girl and stay in and try to get healthy?

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Guy Fawkes day is not until the 5th, people.

I have spent the last four days listening to fireworks that I can't see. It is a bit like when I was in Boston at David and Tope Charlton's house over the 4th of July- and even though fireworks are illegal in that city the loud booms and sparkles went on for a week on either side of the actual holiday.

That being said, tonight I am double booked. The Rude Mechanicals have a gig in Camden and since their guitarist is dealing with family issues this week Nick is replacing him. This means that fully 1/5th of the first year is playing at the gig which means that the rest of us have to show up and be supportive. In costume.

The costume plays in well to the second half of the double booking which is a party at Jill, Natasha, and Heather's house (the three American cellists in the Leadership Programme). It is Jill's birthday and close enough to Halloween that they have demanded that we all show up in costume there as well.

I'm going to meet Jo's train at 8:45 and then from there head to the concert and then to the party. I'm sure I'll let you know how it all goes, but in an effort to keep you posted I'm giving your forewarning.

On Friday we had another dinner club- this time it was Chicago style pizza hosted by Meredith. She made the dough from scratch and there was an overwhelming amount of food that we finished off anyway. We listened to Ben Folds and Disney songs (which Latana sang along to in French) and just generally were too American for words. So that was nice. We were going to watch Talladega Nights to round out the American-ness, but Latana dragged me along to the pub in the basement to go dancing so I'm not sure if they ended up watching the movie or not.

Re-visiting old haunts

I'm currently sitting in the Internet cafe that I spent so much time at in April. The same guy is still working here and we smiled and said hello to each other, but I feel bad because I no longer remember his name...I do remember that he is from Sri Lanka and listens to Sinhalese songs on YouTube.

The reason I'm back here at the Swiss Cottage station is because I went to visit the Alexanders today, they're lovely- and it is nice to finally meet Kirk. Aneta made Bulgarian tea with honey that her mother made and oooh, it was tasty. The honey is wonderful, though confusing because it looks like melted, congealed butter in a jar that definitely doesn't say "honey" on it.

Philip remains loud and boisterous (Aneta assures me that he is not always quite so loud, we both suspect it was because there was a visitor), and Elena spent nearly the whole time I was there batting a balloon around and is much better at actually communicating than she was in April- she even said "hello" when I arrived and "bye-bye" when I left. She is also very satisfying to tickle.

Back when I was in America I was trying to figure out the most American thing I could to bring them. What I came up with was microwave popcorn from the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota- figuring that not only is it the largest corn palace in the world; it's also the only corn palace in the world.

All in all: a successful visit, I hope to see them again soon.

Thursday, November 1, 2007


Would this blog be easier to read if I broke up the super-long entries in to smaller, more topical entries instead of shoving everything I've been thinking about that day into one post? Or is it alright the way it is now? This blog is for you, so let me know what you think...


Oooh, I'm still having fun.

We had Creative Ensemble part Deux today. Nell Catchpole, the tutor for this term had asked Andreas (Accordion) to bring in some Scandinavian folk music and oh my gosh is that stuff weird- there was clearly organization and a clear rhythm and all that, but I could not for the life of me follow what on earth they were doing- so I'm going to give Andreas a blank CD so that I can listen to it. A lot. So weird. (I can't even have it going through my head yet it was so alien to what I'm used to.) (but I *liked* it.)

Nell wanted the Scandinavian folk music because she thinks the melody that we're working with is reminiscent of the style. I don't know about that, but I'm glad to have been introduced to it.

This week Tara, Heather, and I were given the task of harmonizing a new melody that we again learned by ear. (I like Nell's melodies, but she is a violinist and her melodies are anything but idiomatic to the bass. I have to play them in a middle-to-high register in order to really hear the notes that are being played, and then I end up skipping all over the fingerboard in these giant leaps. At least my thumb position is getting a good work out.) Tara and Heather are cellists so our sounds melded really nicely together. Nell made us promise not to harmonize intellectually but instead to use our ears as much as possible.

The first thing we did was have Heather play the given melody while I dropped down a 4th. We messed with it a bit so that it wasn't entirely parallel fourths (but mostly was still). It gave the harmony a nice, vaguely Gregorian sound. Then Tara took over the given melody, I played what we'd decided on for the lowest line, and Heather played around with random notes at a very slow tempo and we'd all say when we really liked what came through. We took over 40 minutes to harmonize four bars but it is super cool (except for the last note/chord. That still needs some work).

I really enjoyed working with Tara and Heather- the collaboration went much more smoothly and team-workerly than last week. (Team-workerly, it's a technical term.) We all felt like we'd really contributed which I think is an key aspect when collaborating on something. (Oh: I'm pretty sure we all felt like we'd really contributed, but I suppose I should be specific and say that *I* really felt like I'd contributed. Can't speak for Heather and Tara...)

Nell recorded each groups' contribution and she's going to send us mp3 files. I'm hoping that I can figure out some way to put those on this blog, and if I can then you'll see them soon. (Anyone have any advice on how to do that?) If not, then I might forward the files to interested parties.

Also- I've been talking to Marvin Perrot who is the musical director of a baroque band/orchestra in the area. I'm going to play The Messiah with his group (which includes my flatmate Latana, which is how I found out about it) at the end of November. He is very keen that the group be a vehicle for getting experience soloing for each of the musicians/singers so he said that if I had any renaissance to classical solos that I wanted to do that he would find a place on a future recital for that.

"Tuneful Tots" is a toddler music education class on Sundays that is looking for a new teacher to take over a class starting in January so I contacted the other person at Guildhall who does the teaching and I'm going to meet up with her on Tuesday during lunch and then hopefully set up a meeting with the founder. So that would be totally neat if it worked out (because it is paid!) (and cool). They already have the curriculum all worked out, they just need a qualified teacher. Keep your fingers crossed!