Friday, February 27, 2009

Composition Class

We just spent a grueling yet fun morning playing through all of the compositions that we brought in. Usually, as a group, we don't actually write down what we're composing. It tends to be more along the lines of "So, keep that going until the flute comes in and then drop it a third, yeah?" So making a proper written score is a bit of a change. Also then reading the score...

My brief was to write for 6 members of the group using all extended techniques or sounds that the instruments don't usually make. I ended up also creating my own instrument using a metal goblet, a metal bowl, a chopstick, and a pitcher of water. Water sloshing around in ringing metal? Best. Sound. Ever.

I was up until an embarrassing time last night getting the score all in order and handwriting everything because most computer composition programs don't let you invent new shapes for note heads, which is one of the things that I needed to do in order to make my score work. It should have been tedious writing everything down- but I got the biggest kick out of it.

Ella, my composer flatmate, let me use a couple of pieces of her HUGE manuscript paper, so I was sitting there taking up the ENTIRE kitchen table with my paper and my notes and sketches and my pencils and pencil sharpeners and multiple erasers. Moises and Latana came in and had supper while I was working which was really lovely- to have comfortable conversation going on around you that you can join or not while you're working.

I think my score is beautiful and will probably post pictures of it later. We had 9 scores to get through so we extended class time a half hour earlier and half an hour later. We all have recordings of our pieces now which is really exciting too. Would have been even more exciting for mine if there hadn't been a wind quartet rehearsal next door that was drowning out some of the sounds even through the wall. Oh well, still wonderful. It was fun watching people's faces as their music came to life. Emma at one point even said, with a huge grin on her face, " I wrote in and they're playing it!" Which seems kind of obvious, but is a tremendous feeling.

Off to Cornwall now! We're performing at the Tate St. Ives on Sunday! And I'll tell you all about it on Monday.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I teach tykes

I survived my first day of work! And it was lovely! Here are some things I learned:

1. I need to work on how I use my voice, because talking for 3 hours straight is throat scratchingly difficult
2. It is best when the teachers are involved in the music class instead of off in the corner
3. Big slobbery kisses are charming the first time, and then just a little bit slimy
4. ohmygosh these kids are cute
5. 1/2 of them don't speak English...if only I spoke French!
6. Nursery teachers swear an unexpected amount when in the staff room

I taught *6* classes today. I arrived at 8:30 in the morning to meet the head of Early Years again and also to meet the upper school music teacher. I was so afraid I was going to be late- I was so wired that I couldn't fall asleep until 3am last night and then waking up was tough so I didn't leave the house until 20 minutes after I planned to- but instead of taking the estimated hour and a quarter to get there that TFL said it would, it only took 45 minutes- so I was early!) I didn't actually start teaching class until 10 though, so I had a chance to wander in to the classes, meet the teachers, and give a little spiel about what I was going to do. The nursery classes were in the morning, back to back. So I had three classes of 3-4 year olds from 10-11:30.

Here is what we did: First I said hello and introduced myself (that's Miss Casey to you!) and explained that I was the new music teacher. (There isn't really a music room, so I was traveling from room to room with my glockenspiel in a plastic case) Then I said "now that you know my name, can you help me learn yours? Okay, everybody keep this lovely circle and stand up!" So we'd stand up and I'd ask them to make shapes with their bodies for me- a big circle over their heads, lots of superhero poses, a bunch of sort of rocking back and forth nervously, etc. I pointed out nice shapes that kids were doing and got the rest of the group to do them. Then we went around the circle and said our names with a shape.

The idea was to have the group say the name back and also do the shape- in practice this only worked about 40% of the time. The kids would do the shape- but pretty much it was just me saying the name. Or rather, butchering the crap out of their names and needing to be corrected four times before completely forgetting anyway. Six classes, people. SIX CLASSES! And they're all foreign with fancy weird names that I can't pronounce. Little kids speak with lisps anyway, but now imagine a classroom full of accented lisps.

Right, so- now we've gone around the circle and more or less (less) know people's names. Then I ask them to sit down again and bring out the glockenspiel- from here on out referred to as the "xylophone." Does anyone know what this instrument is? No, it's not a piano- close but a piano is played with your fingers and this is played with...? Yes! Mallets. No? No one knows? Oh that is lovely that you have one at home! This is a xylophone. Can we all say xylophone?

So I play them a little tune and ask them what it sounds like. My *favorite* class came up with this gem: "it sounds like butterflies dancing" Awww. That class was full of beautiful, wonderful imagery- we ended up walking around as princesses and tigers and fairies and leaves.

So then they walked to the music when I said "walk" and froze into a shape when I said "shape" I was playing in quarter notes and periodic phrases to get them used to phrase length and listening. I was hoping that some of them would figure out that there was a pattern to when I would say "shape." I think a couple of kids did in the older, reception (kindergarten) classes because I missed one once and extended it a second phrase and they kept saying "shape? shape?" So that was cool.

For some of the classes we paired up and then tried to do the same exercise but with pair shapes instead of solo shapes. I hadn't considered how troublesome it is to get small children to work in pairs. There were always a few tears when choosing the favorite was a little boy and girl who were just bawling at being stuck with each other but then as we played the game they were totally entwined and had the both the best shapes (many involving pulling their mouths out with their fingers to make silly faces) and were absolutely together- the same angles with their bodies and everything. It was incredible how in sync they were- especially considering their mutual crying fits at the beginning of the game. (or maybe their mutual crying fits explain everything?)

So that was all we had time for with the nursery kids. I told them that I would be back next week and we'd do some singing, because we did a lot of dancing this week- didn't we? Then the head teachers would ask them to thank me- sometimes they would and sometimes they would stare at the ceiling. Bye Miss Casey!

Lunch was then at 11:30. 11:30 isn't so early in American time- but Brits rarely eat lunch before 1pm so it was sort of like "oh! Okay. Lunch it is." So I went to the staff room and had a wonderful time talking to some of the other Early years teachers. They're a very welcoming and chatty bunch. There were several whom I felt very comfortable with. I wasn't meant to start teaching again until 12:45 so I took the opportunity to take a stroll through the park. I *love* that the parks are across the street. How lucky am I?!

Afternoon was the reception (kindergarten) classes. They all desperately wanted to play the xylophone as well so we did a bit of passing it around the circle:

"Wow, that was some lovely playing- can someone tell me what animal it sounded like to them?"
"I really liked how smooth that was! Can someone play for me the opposite of that?"
"Wow! That was REALLY LOUD! Can someone else play really quietly for me?"
"Good job! That was REALLY LOUD TOO! Now can someone play quietly?!"

giggle giggle squirm

So whew. Then SIX CLASSES and a meeting with the headmaster later it was all over. Unfortunately my boss had stepped out for the afternoon so I was like do I stay? Do I go? Do I need to talk to someone else? I found the upper school music teacher, spoke quickly about ordering instruments (I started today and already I got to order supplies. Sweet.) and then left to go wander in the V&A before having supper with my favorite RCA artist. Nice.

Oh, and I gave my phone number to a frazzled American mom (3 kids and pregnant with the 4th) for babysitting purposes.

Monday, February 16, 2009

February 28, 1996

February must have been poetry month in sixth grade, or something like that. This one isn't the complete poem- I only wrote down what I thought was the funniest, most overly dramatic stanza from a much longer poem about our first cat. His name was Kitya, and what you have to know is that a: he was black, and b: he left us for a family across the alleyway. I wasn't really that bothered, but you might not be able to tell that from this poem...

His eyes were the mists as sea,
rolling, rolling waves of amber, blue, and green.
His fur was soft, silken cloth in mourning.
His paws walked silently by, that's why no one awoke when
he purred his last purr and went out the door.

February 26, 1996

I found this poem that I wrote in 6th grade while I was in Seattle this Christmas. I've added one line at the end of the second stanza in order to keep the rhythm the same throughout, but other than that this is what I wrote when I was 12.

Rose is Going Romping
Rose is going romping
through the thorough field of daisies.
Her feet are a flight with feathers just right,
and the daisies are as yellow as the sun.

Rose is going romping
to the West end of the field.
The town lays there, with two small shops,
and her feet are a flight with feathers just right
(and the daisies are as yellow as the sun.)

Rose was going romping, and reaching the small town:
she bought two eggs and an elephant ear,
but her feet were a flight with feathers just right
and so she went home with a tear.


Did you know that in England valentine hearts are called "love hearts?"

I think that is charming.

Catch up number whatever.

I nicked this picture off of facebook- it is Jon, Me, Rupert, Kate, and Tara jamming in the great hall of Kinnersley the day we left. Look at all that sunshine! In England!

I carry a lot of notebooks around with me. I realized this when I switched from my backpack to a smaller bag in order to go to a show this Saturday. My "pared down" bunch of notebooks included my green Artist's Way notebook, a book of manuscript paper, my calendar, my research project note book where I write down what I'm thinking about/looking up for my IPE, a small black moleskin, and two spiral bound class notebooks- a black one that is full but that I refer to frequently, and a hot pink one that is ready for more notes. So- real quick, that is 7 notebooks.


And that isn't even including the books that I carry around with me in case I might need to look something up/have a second to read and learn new stuff, and the scores for the LCDS project (one of which is 50 pages long! Why?!) Whew. It's a lot of paper.

This week I went to two performances- Complicite and Resolution! 2009.

Complicite is a theatre group that I am very interested in- they devise most of their plays as a company and use lots of mime and multimedia stuff. It is interesting- sometimes they get a bit too clever with what they are doing and it takes away from the story- but most of the time they manage to have incredibly powerful productions. This one, Shun-kin, had a main character that was a puppet.

I just meant to go find out when there were student tickets available but then it turned out that there were 6 pound tickets for that night and it seemed a foolish thing to miss. I was also pleased because I managed to get to Waitrose right as they were marking down all the sandwiches so I had dinner for 70p, and was patting myself on the back for doing something fun so frugally- but then I bought an audio CD of a past performance and a book of plays that they had written so that sort of shot that all to hell.

On Saturday I went to Contact Improv again. So much fun! I think one of my favorite parts is finding out where I am going to injure myself each time. The first time I threw out my left shoulder, the second time I scraped the skin off my right big toe, and this time I overextended my right hip. I'm not being facetious, I get a big kick out it. Remember Laine counting her bruises after ice skating? Same thing. It's also fun to find out where I'm going to hurt for the next three days- each session a different set of muscles I didn't know I had make themselves known. This time it is a band around my ribs, right under my shoulder blades.

At dance class I picked up a flier for a performance at the LCDS that night that involved 6 improvising dancers and 1 musician. So I pretty much had to go, right?

It turns out that Resolution! (as far as I can tell) is an annual festival of new choreographers work from the London Contemporary Dance School. There were three pieces on that night and a HUGE crowd. The improvised one was by far the best and was also a hoot. It was interesting/strange that the most comfortable, relaxed, confident performance was improvised rather than strictly rehearsed and choreographed.

New Job!

I'm going to be the Early Years music teacher at a primary school in Kensington! I start on the 25th and will go in to the school on Wednesdays to teach 6 half hour classes to the preschool classes. 3-5 years old, do you even *know* how tiny that is?!

I'm super duper excited and am combing through all of my Dalcroze notes this week. They're learning about Spring and growing and plants and life cycles and stuff- so raise your hand if you think I'm going to make them pretend to grow in to trees! (I totally am.)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Programme Notes

These are the programme notes for the CYO concert next month. I couldn't remember what all of the links were between the music we wrote and the painting- so I made the kids brainstorm and remind me and we came up with a whole slew of reasons- many of which are contained in these here programme notes. (The concert is in Cornwall- therefore I am using their spelling of Program. Just so you don't think I've gone totally British on you here.) Some of the more esoteric ones I left off, these are plenty esoteric enough:

"In 'Six Circles' we are using the painting as a graphic score. Every section of the piece is based directly on one of the circles or sections of the painting. We looked at a number of ways of representing the idea of circularity in a musical context and included ternary beats and staggered entrances to sound like the music is rolling, repetitions as loops, literally passing the material around the circle, and phasing tempi and dynamics so that the sound is moving around the space. Every element of the piece is tied to the painting, from the minor tonality representing the colour palate to the Major key ending representing the largest and brightest of the six circles."

A long day

Class started at 10 and is going until 8 tonight. Currently I'm on dinner break.

We have been doing workshop skills today and are finishing up this evening with a little more planning for the Cornwall performance next month. And I've been thinking- we're learning so many amazing, interesting things these days. We've been having composition lessons and these workshop skillz refresher classes and we just went to Kinnersley Castle for MapMaking and I'm so full of new and exciting information. We've been working with new tutors that I haven't necessarily spent that much time with and the thing is that while I'm totally excited and happy to be working with them- I am also very cognizant of the fact that this is, in a lot of ways, the home stretch of this programme. I haven't learned enough yet! I want to sit at their feet for a while longer and soak up all the knowledge they have and are sharing with us. I've been taking embarrassing amounts of notes and even so know that I am just scratching the surface.

I feel like I'm finally at a good place for learning all of these things- in terms of my confidence and my skill set and it's all going to end! Soon! No fair!

So much cool stuff in the world.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ways in which I am becoming British

1. I think sweetcorn goes in *anything* - Lasagne? Yup. Tuna fish sandwiches? Yes! Cereal? Maybe not.
2. I seriously considered using an umbrella in the snow.
3. I paid a pound fifty for ONE bookend. Why are stationery supplies so expensive in this country?!
(3a. I just wrote "stationery" instead of "office")
4. When people ask me how something is pronounced in America- I'm not entirely sure....

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Getting ya'll up to speed

Sometimes I get really behind and think "Oh! There are so many things I need to blog about!" and then that gets overwhelming so I don't write about any of them...which is doing you guys a disservice. So in an effort to catch up- here is what's been happening in short, easily digestible list form:

1. The bass is at the luthiers. We'll know more by the end of this week. Cross your fingers that he won't have to take the top and/or back off!

2. There was a lot of snow! ("lot" being a relative term here...) and I made it home just fine. School was canceled the next day, which was nice as it meant I had time to do other things that hadn't been possible to schedule beforehand.

3. Did I tell you we had a leak? On Monday morning I woke up incredibly irritated because there was some sort of rhythmic noise that I couldn't identify and it was driving me up the wall. Driving me so crazy that I woke up at a quarter after 5! It turned out that there was water dripping from my ceiling, which was concerning as I am on the ground floor of a three storey building...We think a pipe burst upstairs- or they left a faucet on or something. We're not sure- but currently there is water damage to the upstairs bathroom wall, the kitchen ceiling, and we have no electricity in the downstairs bathroom because water was coming through the light switch. (Which isn't good.) We can't use the upstairs toilet because it flushes onto the floor and floods, and the basement has no's been a fun couple of days.

Hey landlords, come fix our flat!

4. The gambas! They are fun! I need to play them a little bit more before I make a decision, but I've really enjoyed having them around and in fact took one to a jam session yesterday at a new friend's house. So that was cool.

5. I'm going to a piano recital tonight- Mitra is a pianist who stayed at our Baltimore apartment for a week two summers ago while she was auditioning at Peabody. She is from London and is now going to school in New York. I haven't seen her since she stayed with us and am very much looking forward to the recital.

6. I'm taking an optional class on "action research" which is all about research in artistic contexts and practice based research. The woman leading it, Helena, is amazing. She really knows what she is talking about which is simultaneously wonderful and terrifying. For instance, you'll state what you're looking in to and then she'll ask you a question that is about five levels deeper than what you have been thinking about- which is incredibly helpful and like "Ooo, good question!" but also "Ahh! I have no idea!!! Ahh!" I'm enjoying it, but in a lets be brave sort of way.

7. Life is good and I spent yesterday evening cleaning the entire kitchen. I even cleaned out the microwave. It was necessary. I may have been prompted to do all of this as a way of staying in the kitchen as it is by far the warmest and most comfortable room in the flat.

Monday, February 2, 2009


Check out they've got a great picture of the underground symbol COVERED in snow. You can also check out there how much of the transport system is down: pretty much everything! The buses, most of the train system, nearly all of the underground (Except, oddly, the Victoria line- maybe it is the only entirely covered line?) and taxis aren't really running either.

I'm at work- the only people who made it in are the management, nearly all the people who work hourly, and the only self employed physio...

I'm really hoping I don't have to walk home all the way home, but if I do I've got my clogs that got me through Michigan winters, two pairs of woolly socks, some food, my snazzy new gloves that *actually* keep my hands warm, the warmest sweater I own, etc., etc.

13:00 Update: The weather continues to be silly, but the two underground lines I need to get home are currently operating "good service" and "minor delays" which is pretty much the best of the bunch. Whew.