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!

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 ( ) with it's 3D fluorescent tube sculpture and Morse code window blinds; and Open Studio ( ) 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:

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.)


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

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 ( 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 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


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, 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?