Film-Poem Alchemy

This afternoon was the last day of the Christmas holidays, unexpectedly sunny, crisp and breezy. After the departure of some visitors, Robert and I were about to go out for a walk and some tea and cake, when he suddenly pointed to a patch of light on the wall behind me. The reflections from the garden of waving branches and the wrought iron of a clothes post were casting flickering shadows onto the wall in an astonishing fashion, almost like a silent movie. Robert grabbed his iPhone and captured some video. “You could use that for a poem-film, “ I remarked, thinking about the beautiful short videos some friends had made recently.

When we got home from our walk, I began improvising to the footage on the piano, while Robert listened and wrote.  Within twenty minutes we both had something. Remarkably, when Robert read his poem aloud, it was exactly the right length. He recorded it, synchronized it with the video, and then I recorded my part on top onto a different track so that we could experiment with individual volume and colour.

I’m not a recording engineer, but I know what works when I hear it. In this case, I knew we needed to take the ‘edge’ off the sound on both tracks. It took a little whole to find the right effect for the piano part. It wasn’t until Robert added a little reverb that it harmonized with the imagery. It sounded as if it had been recorded many years ago in a dusty, cavernous ballet studio on a slightly tinny upright. Perfect.

We both could hear that Robert’s voice was also cutting through the texture in a way that sounded too immediate, modern and dynamic. When he equalized it, using an effect called RCA Victor 1947, it all came together.

Result: a film-poem in one evening. If only making art could be this easy and graceful every time.


How I Became 100 Artists

Recently, I watched a TED talk by the engaging visual artist Shea Hembrey, from Arkansas.  Inspired by the idea of a Biennale ( an international exhibition by a group of artists resulting from two years’ work), he went to work to create his own Biennale –with one crucial difference. The resulting talk, How I Became 100 Artists, raises as many questions as it answers.

Here are some of my questions: How did Hembrey give himself the permission to do something so audacious? How did he come up with so much high-quality work in different media and styles? Are the two related? How many voices are inside us waiting to speak, if we would only give them permission? How much have I unintentionally restricted myself in searching for my own “voice”? What would happen if I let myself expression 100 different ways? Would it be exhausting? Would I explode with energy? Would I even recognize myself by the end of the process?

And  you?


Drive – what it is and how to have more of it.

Lately, I’ve been riveted by Daniel Pink’s book, “Drive”, and have been stimulated to new ways of thinking about teaching and coaching. I’ve just written an article here about how to begin to apply Pink’s principles to music – or any kind of teaching.


No Triumph, No Tragedy

“No Triumph, No Tragedy” is the name of a program on BBC Radio 4 where a well-known blind radio presenter, Peter White, interviews various celebrities who have also had to deal with physical challenges. The program is enthralling–Peter White is an excellent interviewer and his subjects are equally fascinating. So why did that title offend me so much when I first heard it? What on earth could he mean, I thought, “No Triumph, No Tragedy”? Continue reading…