Saturday, January 31, 2009


Today the gambas showed up in a giant box. (Hi Kim!! He's Latana's brother.) I went to the Parcel Force main office in order to get that giant box, and then when they asked me if I had a car- I said, "No, but I've got this nice trolley" and proceeded to wheel it to the bus stop. It wasn't that heavy, just HUGE.

I'm holding the smaller gamba made by Michael Foulds, it has flame f holes and a carved head which is cool, but also creepy with it's carved pupils.

Ella is holding the Chinese Lu Mi viol which she hasn't actually let go of yet. She's just taken it downstairs to find out what notes she was playing so that she can go all composery with them. See? I'm not the only one who thinks tenor viols are *awesome*

Friday, January 30, 2009

I'm an idiot

I wouldn't want all these blogs to make you think that every thing I do comes up roses, that wouldn't do at all. So here is the remarkably idiotic thing that I did today:

So I got this new trolley for my bass, right? People use them to cart around their groceries, large bags attached to wheels with a tall handle. I bought one a while ago after I'd got fed up with carrying my bass everywhere. I went around to various shops that had them sitting out front and measured the depth of the platform above the wheels with my handy tape measure key chain. Eventually I bought one from a guy in a carpet shop who, when I asked for the price, said "eight pounds, but for you I'll go down to seven." I love when people haggle down with no help from me. Anyhow- this trolley has been brilliant and is very useful for hauling my bass around. It has also been handy because when my bass is set on top of it, it tends to stay there- so it has been a trolley/bass stand.


One shouldn't trust a trolley/bass stand to always perform both functions to optimum levels (raise your hand if you see where this is going!) And today, when meeting our new tutor for the "refining workshop skills" class and shaking his hand, my bass toppled forward and fell onto it's bridge....

So that sucked.

Oddly, the front of the bass seems to be totally fine- it's the back that is all shot to hell. Pretty much every seam possible is open back there and the lower left bout as well. I was thinking a week ago that probably some of the seams were open because of the weather, and this pretty much confirms it. Having a bass split along the back when it falls on the front? Weird. They all look like really clean breaks and most, if not all, have hide glue on them which means that none are new breaks. So hopefully it should be easy to repair. I'm taking it to Malcolm Healey, the luthier, this afternoon. Obviously I will keep you posted!

But you can see why I feel like an idiot....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Some Short Notes

1. I went to an English Concert concert last night and they were wonderful. They had this Italian soprano: Anna Caterina Antonacci. This is the first time I've ever considered trying to figure out a singer's discography immediately after the performance. She was amazing, magnetic, riveting. And the group looked like they were having fun as well. Very continuo heavy though, I don't know that I'd ever seen such a pared down orchestra from the English Concert: two violins, one viola, one cello, Peter, a harp, and two theorbos. Good stuff, though. Lovely concert and I ran into a number of people that I know, so that was nice.

2. Transportation with the bass today has been kind of fun- I managed to get rush hour heading to school and away but in so doing ended up having a wonderful chat with a chap carrying a guitar, a stool, and a ukulele. We talked about how much "fun" it is to carry huge musical instruments on public transportation. It turns out we know people in common too! Small world that is. Then on the way home from school I was staring out the window and a man driving a car that was stopped at a red light started having a sign language conversation with me:

"Is that your bass? Do you play?"
"Cool! I play guitar"
"bye now,"

then the light changed so the conversation was necessarily ended. Also, I'm not sure that we could have communicated much more than that through charades.

3. Composition class has begun! I'm excited to be working with Fraser again. He gave us a brief that we had to write a duet that used two specific notes, two specific rhythms, and was in two sections. Also, the title had to have "two" in some form in the title. It was kind of a geeky assignment, but also cool to have to go from conceiving the piece to writing it, rehearsing it, and performing it all within 3 hours. I think every one's came off pretty well too.

Cornwall: The composition

This trip to Cornwall was our last before the concert which will be at the end of February. Since it was our last real working session, we had to make sure that our pieces were completely written so that next time all we have to do is refresh and rehearse, but not compose anymore.

I was a little nervous about this because I felt like I hadn't done enough work or put enough thought into it on my own time, and also because I haven't written that much music (nor been the leader for many composition projects)- so: nervous.

A few days before the trip I decided that I really ought to listen to the recordings I made before Christmas break to see where we were and what needed doing- lo and behold, it turned out that we had already structured and rehearsed most of the piece and really only needed to write the ending and perhaps one more section. Turns out I was way more on the ball than I thought...

So we rehearsed and reviewed and tried to remember how we had played the piece the last time. We were handicapped in this process as our principal violinist was gone and I only had one pair of headphones for the recording. John came in just before suppertime and said that it sounded a bit disjointed and maybe we wanted to cut out a section or perhaps make it a set of miniatures? So that made me nervous again, but I shouldn't have worried! Because the kids are fabulous and the piece was sound and coherent and really all we needed to do was make the ending I had already planned, rehearse a bunch, and play a few games wherein we wiggled a lot in order to wake up.

I was so proud of them because they really pulled it together and because the principal violinist was gone a lot of them had to take on more leader-y roles than they had in the past and they all TOTALLY stepped up to the plate.

I was particularly impressed with my youngest violinist who was struggling with our melody that opens and closes the piece. Everyone else has it down, and while I knew she still wasn't solid- I wasn't sure how to help her out without making the rest of the group stop and re-learn the melody as well. She, however, was brave and stubborn enough to make it clear that she needed individual help- so the two of us went to the hallway to work on learning it by ear and I left the rest of the group to figure out which kind of entrances for the final cannon they preferred (one whole iteration before the next entrance, or just one bar?). In 3 minutes she had it down pat and the rest of the group had not only decided which entrances they liked better (whole iteration) they had also added a chord to end the piece. How clever are my kids?!

Suffice to say the final piece was awesome, the students all liked it, and it is going to sound totally cool in the atrium of the gallery in St. Ives. I have an mp3 of it on my computer if anyone would like to listen to it- email me and I'll forward it to you.

Also- somewhat unrelated- we each have a composer who is working on pieces that will be played at the end of the year by the CYO that are supposed to be inspired by the pieces that we write with the students. Mine is named Eseld, and she is wonderful. The first time we went to Cornwall she was very pregnant, the second time she was gone, and this time she brought her two month old baby boy with her. He is totally adorable and I held him a bunch because baby time is almost always good.

Monday, January 26, 2009

St. Ives

St. Ives is ridiculously pretty, and I will tell you more shortly about how the most recent Cornwall expedition went (in a word: Good!). But for now I would just like you to know that I have put up a BUNCH of new photos over on flickr and nearly all of them have notes on them as well- so it's pretty much like a blog entry. So please do go check it out:

The new photos are in the sets "MapMaking" and "UK Adventures"

Baroque Basseybye

Recently I have been having trouble tuning up my E string because the gear on the tuning mechanism had sort of, um, popped out? Like, you could force the gear to turn, but when it got to a certain point it would pop out of the grooves of the gear and you'd be back down a third or something like that. Basically it totally didn't work.

So I called Peter, and he thought that it was probably because there was too much string in the gear box and since the string is SO thick, it was probably pushing the peg out of place. So I had to take off the string, cut of the top of it, and then re-string it.

Not so bad, right? And it wasn't really-except do you know how difficult it is to try and convince a half centimeter thick piece of dried out intestine that it wants to be straight instead of curled like it has been for who knows how long? It's tough!

Anyhow, here is a picture so you can get a feeling for how thick this string is. Long story short- I totally fixed it and am awesome.

Gamba Goodness

When I was home in Seattle for Christmas break I had the good fortune to get to play around with a tenor gamba that was lent to me. It was terrific fun and I've been looking in to buying one in this country. So, to that end, when Peter went up to the Early Music Shop's main shop near Leeds he checked out what they had and narrowed it down to two. These two are now on their way to my house where I get to play with both of them for a period of 10 days in order to make a decision. So many riches! Two tenors at once!

I'm a little excited.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


I'm not terribly techno-savvy, so I'm not going to be able to make this look all cool, I'm only going to be able to give you the link:

but know that I went there, and it looks like it is doing so well (so many fancy new buildings!) and I'm so very pleased for Interlochen.

That being said, for those of you who are tracking my sleep patterns, today I woke up at 5am.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Contact Improvisation

I've been interested in contact improvisation for a while, and while in Seattle looked up classes in London. I was delighted to find that there was a regular Saturday class and jam session in Dalston, immediately down the road from the house I stayed at over the summer. I'm going to be away the next two weekends (MapMaking part II and Cornwall) and figured I would lose momentum if I didn't go this Saturday.

Contact improvisation is (according to Wikipedia) "a dance technique in which points of physical contact provide the starting point for exploration through movement improvisation. Contact Improvisation is a form of dance improvisation and is one of the best-known and most characteristic forms of postmodern dance"

I had done a bit before in a dance class I took for a while last year that my friend Claudio led. Lots of rolling over your partner's back and weight management issues, balancing against the other dancer. The class itself on Saturday was fairly straight forward (well, if figuring out how to do headstands starting from being draped across your partners back is straight forward) it was the jam session after the class that really got interesting.

There were about 20 people for the class and a slightly different 20 people for the jam session after the class (This whole endeavor went from 11:30 in the morning to around 4 or 4:30.) I decided to stay around for the jam session because we had had a quick free dance with the class and I had ended up with a partner that I failed to communicated well with. It reminded me of the first totally free improvisation I did with actors at Open Call; it was so incredibly painful and self indulgent that it led to fantastic discussions of how improvisation can/could/should work. This was sort of the same thing- my partner and I weren't working well together, but also could NOT figure out how to break apart. Then the class ended, and I wanted to make sure that that wasn't my parting feeling of the class and the whole experience.

So a few things that I learned from watching and then dancing during the jam session:

1.The contact with your partner/partners can be incredibly slight- one fingertip even. Just so that there *is* contact and a clear intention of dancing with your partner.

2. People are as individual in their dancing styles as they are in everything else. For those who have taken Peggy Zhering's classes, you know how she talks about an individuals mark? The same sort of thing happens in dance. There was this one Brazilian woman who was great fun to dance with, all circles and tumbling about. I watched her later with other partners (after I had been completely worn out and left the mats for my water bottle) and the same sort of circular tumbles were happening with all of her partners. There was also this bouncy bouncy guy who was so energetic that you couldn't be calm while with him. I found myself flying through the air at one point while dancing with him... but watching him dance with super calm guy (the one fingertip guy) was sort of surreal, they were just on such completely different energy levels.

3. As with all improvisation (I am finding) it is easiest to do what your partner wants you to do when they/you make your/their intentions very clear. To the point of saying them out loud if that is necessary. I think it is like leading in swing dancing, you know what to do if your partner is leading. If you're both just waiting for something to happen, then it is going to be a frustrating dance. Also, if someone is bold and makes some sort of statement (if you will) then there is a much clearer trajectory. There is space for the dance to come to an end easily and sensically.

4. It is weird trying to ask someone to dance with you in a jam session. Sometimes it was easy: making eye contact and then moving towards the other person. (This got more difficult after I took my glasses off. It was a fairly large room and I just couldn't see!) But sometimes also it was having someone make contact with you or making contact yourself. Which is a bit of a tricky thing to balance. (Sometimes it was accidentally colliding with someone...)

5. Even if it doesn't seem like exercise necessarily, it is. I'm still quite sore two days later...

The Jet lag: it has caught up with me.

I'm having difficulty figuring out what time zone I'm in. I have been reading this lovely book- a workbook for The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. One of the activities that this book is having me do is write 'morning pages' which are 3 pages of longhand writing as soon as you wake up. The idea is just to get as much mental clutter on to a page as possible and then pay attention to those things that crop up again and again. I've been doing it for four days now and so far I have mostly just been having trouble keeping it to 3 pages. We'll see how long that lasts. The book/course lasts for 12 weeks.

That's just a set up though- the real reason I'm telling you this is to illustrate my sleeping patterns for the last few days. I've been very good at writing as soon as I am conscious enough to reach for a pen, which is actually pretty cool. It means I haven't been sleeping in (sort of, more on that later) because I have a reason to do something as soon as I wake up as opposed to drifting off to sleep again.

So yesterday I woke up at 7:30 in the morning after having fallen asleep around 2:30 in the morning. I wrote for an hour and had great plans about what I was going to do with my day when I passed out again until 3pm. Having slept all day, (I stayed in bed literally all day) I didn't fall asleep again until nearly 5am only to wake up and start writing at 9am. This weekend I wqas so pleased with myself, thinking that I had managed to get on a normal sleep schedule with nearly no jet lag. Clearly it was just delayed.

With this in mind, I am determined to fall asleep at a reasonable hour today.

In other news, I walked through a different portion of Abney Cemetery park today and found the BEST NAME EVER. She unfortunately died at 19 months, which is very sad, but this was in the early 1800's so it was a while ago: Loveday Prettiprose. Daughter of Charity and Samuel Prettiprose.


Thursday, January 8, 2009

Back in London

I made it back to the Stamford hill flat, and look: Internet! 

The flight went well and was also surprising as I found myself seated next to my friend Brian from GHS and Peabody, it's a teeny tiny little bitty world. 

Also, Fresh and Fruity has 10 avocados for £1 today. Just thought I'd share.