Bowie was is my icon. He represents the possibilities of creation and curiosity. Growing up and feeling like a very awkward person on this planet, it was Bowie that showed me that normal was boring and actually I could be anything I wanted, anything I could imagine. A shy Australian girl raised in a religious community, I imagined myself a life making music in Europe - he was my beacon for that journey. He continues to be that beacon of inspiration, a role model for the kind of musician and person I aspire to be: not a chameleon, the world reconfigured around him; post-modern without contempt or cynicsm for his sources; enthusiastic, curious and gleeful in his creativities, no matter what they were; dancing over genre boundaries like they don’t exist (which of course they don’t). The man had class. Even his death was a masterpiece. I will miss having him there on the planet with me.
Placing personal tributes at the mural in Brixton with my great friends Liz and Jake
Bluebird/Marlene themed hair by Sarah Dunn for the Bowie tribute concert at Surya in London
A few weeks later and I was in NYC, enjoying a week mooching around the NYU music department. I even got some time to work on some cues for the upcoming film Notes on Blindness, which will be playing at Sundance later this month.
Just got back from a trip to Australia where I got to see my much-missed family in QLD, complete my PhD thesis review milestone at UQ, enjoy the warmth of the sun, see some friends and celebrate my 34th birthday in Sydney. While in Sydney I got to meet up with Peter Hollo (online friend, fellow musician and radio presenter) to chat about music, ideas and things for his programme 'Utility Fog' for Sydney FBi 94.5FM. You can listen to a replay/podcast that conversation, and the whole show online here.
Bigo & Twigetti has been asking artists on the label to remix each other's tracks, with a compilation of the results being released later in the year. My remix effort was a chopped up version of 'Fighters' by Alice & Michi, a small clip of which you can listen to here on Bigo & Twigetti's soundcloud.
Meanwhile excitement builds (in my mind most of all) for the concert featuring the world premiere of 'Kick', performed by the all-Australian London-based chamber orchestra Ruthless Jabiru, hosted by the Government of Western Australia. The concert will be held at Australia House in London on the 9th of May - information about tickets/RSVP and the rest of the programme can be found here. The concert has been written about in the Australian Times, too.
It's not that I want people to tell me I'm great all the time, don't get me wrong. It's just that working in a vacuum can breed some serious insecurity. I was speaking to a colleague about this earlier today and he told me the story of his friend who was such a perfectionist that he would never show his creative work to anyone - so wary of people's judgements made on his unfinished work - and he never finished anything. I can relate to that logic a little bit, but in my context those ideas throw a slightly more existential curve: just like the tree falling in the forest when no-one's around, am I still a composer if no-one ever hears the stuff I write?
It's all a bit sad to admit, really. The romantic ideal composer version of me would not be bothered so much. She would be sure of the quality of her own ideas and sod the rest. Everything she wrote would be formed with a clarity of purpose; it would say exactly what she intended it to say and it wouldn't matter so much what people think because she would have prioritised her own artistic satisfaction above all else. If only I was that confident; if only I was so convinced what I was doing wasn't rubbish... but the subjectivity of my experience leads me to question myself all too often. A few times I have been caught up in a project that at the time I thought had potential to be great, but with a bit of hindsight could clearly see was flawed and weak. A horrible feeling.
But despite appearances, I am not writing this to moan or complain. I'm writing this to help myself get a grip and stop being such a wuss. Dealing with feedback and handling criticism is obviously a big part of the job description and I should use this opportunity to get my priorities straight. Am I writing music to make people like me? Is it just about the money and commercial projects? Am I doing it solely to please and impress a client or commissioner?... or do I actually want to say something that reflects my own feelings and perspectives on shit? Honestly, I want it to be the latter more than anything else.
It may not look like it, judging by the action on this blog/site, but for the last 4 to 5 months I have been working my little bum off: a feature length film score that, when delivered, felt like 40 lbs of my own flesh (I enjoyed it immensely don't get me wrong, but maaan that was a lot of music). In addition, and after almost a year of faffing about, I finished and delivered demos and scores of the string quartet to the players. I also drafted a suite of 3 lyric pieces for saxophone trio, scored and sent. So far I've not heard anything from anyone about any of it - for various understandable and good reasons (people moving house, people becoming seriously ill, assorted technical dramas, etc), but still... nothing.
And I'm doing ok, I think. Im learning to trust my own good taste. It's a work in progress.
Sometimes, when someone tells me they make art, I might expect the stuff they make will be "Ok...". Maybe it's just me and my pessimistic outlook on life, but I often have low expectations when it comes to these things (it's a good way to be, since most of the time I'm pleasantly surprised, which is a nice reaction, right?). These arty people show you their latest thing and you're all "Oh wow, that's great!" but in your head you're not really thinking it's truly great art, only that its great that they are pursuing creative endeavours in general. I've been in bands and struggling to have my music heard for years - some of it not very good at all - so I know what it feels like to be humoured by your mates. And of course you're grateful for it, that's what your mates are there for. We all need encouragement.
But then there are people that come into your life who are so good that they knock you on your arse, and you can't believe they are working day-jobs in Bedford and not being shown at the Tate. A person who forces you to recalibrate your scale of superlatives (that handmade coffee cup you liked on Facebook is suddenly not so literally "awesome", for example). Kristian Purcell is such a person. A proper artist. I also have the honour of calling him my friend.
I met Kristian rather unglamourously, as a result of trolling Myspace for potential musical collaborators. This was back in 2007 when Myspace was still sort of happening, but also sort of starting to shrivel and die. He lived in Bedford, he liked Bowie, he could sing and play guitar. That was enough for us (well, enough for me - I'm sure Matt would prefer the Bowie connection didn't exist, since he has had to endure both of us drunkenly screeching our way through "Teenage Wildlife" at least a dozen times to date. I don't think he finds it amusing, which is a shame since I'll probably be inclined to do this as often as I'm drunk on red wine for the rest of my life). He joined the band, we gigged a little bit, wrote some music together and made a record in the spare room of my house. He worked various day jobs, teaching contracts and working at the Cecil Higgins Art Gallery & Bedford Museum; he wasn't famous or critically lauded or making any money from his wonderful art and it didn't seem right.
I remember when he transformed the Wellington Street house he was living in at the time into a makeshift gallery and invited the town to see (and possibly buy) his work. It was a genius bit of initiative, and Matt and I both felt like arseholes for trying to haggle down the prices of the two small pieces we ended up buying that night. Mates rates? C'mon we're all struggling artists here... I also remember sitting with Kristian in the Gordon Arms a few days after Xmas 2008, having a deep discussion about music and art and what the hell we were doing with our lives. We're both the same age, and we share the same frustrations that stem from being unknown, from dealing with universal apathy on a daily basis, the fears that we might have missed our opportunity to be successful. During the course of that conversation we discussed studying our disciplines again and maybe I should take the plunge with the PhD. Within months that wishful drunken chatter had become a reality for me, a decision that (I feel) has put me on the right track with my career.
Kristian deserves success because his art is great. And it's getting better. If you're reading this and you're not familiar with his work, you need to check it out immediately. If you have the means to, invest in one of his pieces now - they're bound to be worth stupid amounts of money one day (chat to him, he might be able to do "mate's rates"). Comment on his blog, because god knows we all need a bit of encouragement.
And the musical collaboration continues, sort of. There are wishy-washy plans to record new material with the band in the new year, but a far more concrete prospect is a gig we'll be playing together at Bedford Esquires on the 20th of November (this Saturday night). It's more a Kristian Purcell solo gig with me accompanying on piano. I think we're even doing a couple of Helzuki songs from that record we made in my spare room in 2008. Should be fun to bust out the furry red stage piano once again, it's been too long.
UPDATE: GIg has been and gone, and here's a review
2009 is rolling along inevitably towards a bleak winter and new year; mid-November already and I can barely remember October at all beyond a general dark cloud of bullshit college stress, being tired and fighting off a cold. Oh, I did go and see "This is it" with Matt on Halloween night - a great film no doubt, so tragic and bittersweet. Left me feeling slightly raw, though. I guess this is our generation's Lennon or Elvis "is gone" moment. Surreal.
|Dudley gets bigger by the day, and he's totally integrated into our lives now, it's hard to imagine what we did without him. Such a sweet pup, Matt and I had a minor scare when he ate a pig's ear a few days ago.... one minute he was happily chewing on it, next thing we knew he had gulped it down and let out a big burp. We freaked out for a bit, not knowing what to do. We looked online - which is probably the one thing a slightly paranoid puppy owner should NEVER do - and scared ourselves silly reading stories of dogs that died because of intestinal blockages, etc. We made such a fuss, but he wasn't bothered. He's a little toughian. Who will never get to nom on a pig's ear again.|
|Finally, I recently dug out some old Rostropovich recordings to compile into a mix tape for a friend - Lady MacBeth of Mtesnk District, the Shosta Cello Concerto and his wonderful recording of Britten's Cello Suites. Too good for words, honestly... I can't even begin to blog about how special these recordings are. I encourage anyone who likes their soviet era music to be bleak, tragicomic, intelligent, powerful and bleeding with raw downcast emotion to seek them out. Particularly the Lady Macbeth double disc from 1979. Perfection.|
Yes - another boring garden blog, which is really just pics of my early June garden, the strange local cat that has moved in with us and a family of hedgehogs that have built a home under the forsythia.
Fat bums hanging out of feeding bowls.
They all look the same, but there’s definitely at least 2 of them. We call them all “Bunk”.
This is the back door to Bunk’s house. You can kinda see them sleeping inside (well I could at the time, didn’t come out too good in the photo)
Marigolds are out :)
This is our part-time cat, we call him/her “McNulty”
Pansy-town is looking better populated these days.
Pumpkin update: I now realise that I totally planted these guys too close to each-other. oops.
Front door to Bunk’s house. He’s the one who messes up my mulch every night, as you can see here...
Pansy-town and pumpkin village.
View from the house.
This is the wicked BBQ Matt got for free from Gumtree. FREE!! :-o Apparently someone didn’t want to bother restoring it. It’s HUGE! 4 gas burners. Took us one day to sort it out - some people are too damn lazy.
Going through some old photos I found these little mysteries from 2007. This is me sealing some kind of deal with the legendary producer Tony Visconti (Bowie/Bolan), the particulars of which I can’t exactly recall since I was massively inebriated at the time. I think it was something to do with him coming to do a talk at my uni campus next time he was in the UK, though I’m sure he just thinks I’m some crazy drunk chick harassing him and didn’t take it seriously.
As I don’t happen to recall (but am told), the night concluded with me being kicked out of this establishment.
You see... in America everything is big, you order a shot of neat whiskey is receive a half-pint, more if you tip them nicely. This is the reason why I can never live in America.
Happy and busy with a handful of quite enjoyable projects right now. It is strange to be working on so many different things at once, and it’s weird how the same melodies and textures are coming out in all of these various projects, as if I’m really only writing one piece in many forms. As a break from the relentless music making, I’ve been busy sewing up some snarky crosstitch samplers to hang around my home (just finished the ‘irony’ one).
Here are a few that I still have lying around (I tend to give the best ones away to my friends)...
In other news, here’s a random list of things that are currently knocking about in my brain: excitement over the upcoming Morrissey tour; wishing the warmer weather would stay; wondering if I should finally go part-time at work; wanting a puppy for my 30th birthday; wondering if it is the right time to plant my vegetable patch; should I dye my hair red; should I continue resisting twitter; wouldn’t a nice hot bath right about now be so lovely. I wish the answer to all of these things is yes.