Songs without words

I was interested to read an article by Frank J. Oteri in New Music Box today that resonated with me. He complains that increasingly all music is being described as ‘songs’. I’m grateful to know that I’m not the only one who calls a song a song, and an instrumental piece, a piece or composition. It’s only since coming to the US in fact, that this has been an issue at all. When I began to teach piano, I was astonished when some of my students referred to their pieces as songs. I’d love to know how this started- any ideas?

Barbican Resurrected

I was so pleased to read an article by Norman Lebrecht reporting the new look Barbican Centre, which apparently has a much improved concert hall and theatre, as well as a more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing environment.

Thanks to a Wikipedia article, I’ve discovered that the original architectural style is known as Brutalist (very apt)! There were also rumours while I was at Guildhall that the architect committed suicide after completing the Centre, but I have so far discovered no proof of that. Bottom line: the place needed help desperately!

From the first time as a teenager that I tried to find the Guildhall School of Music and Drama for a masterclass and arrived over thirty minutes late due to getting hopelessly lost, through my many years as a student and on staff there, I always felt sad that the Centre had such a down-trodden and functionalist air, despite the energy and talent of so many incredible artists.

The reports of the new-look Centre (and the resulting increase in attendance) are so encouraging that I’m actually looking forward to seeing it next time I’m back in England.

World's Largest Coconut Orchestra

It’s been a long time since I added a blog entry- the main reason is that I’m experiencing a lot of inflammation in my arms which makes it hard to type (recurrence of an old condition). We’re also on the edge of an enormous fire in the Sespe wilderness (see my husband’s blog for details). All in all, it’s been a very challenging year so far.
So I was delighted to see a fabulous video clip
this morning which I think you will enjoy. It certainly made me smile!

The Creative Explosion

I heard a fascinating feature on National Public Radio this afternoon about the discovery of some jewelry made from shells, which dates back some 90,000 years. This led to a discussion on what is apparently known as “The Creative Explosion”- the period when humans first began to produce art in abundance. This art has mainly been discovered in Europe, and dates back around 40,000 years. No-one is sure what caused this “creative explosion”- a time of immense creative fertility which occurred simultaneously in many locations.

One hypothesis is that this may have something to do with the weather being colder than in Africa, where the first human remains- dating back 100,000 years- were found. It had never occurred to me that cultures from colder climates might produce more art than those in warm climates. According to the report, Eskimo art is a prime example of this. To read more about Cro-Magnon man and the creative explosion, click here.

I’ve decided do further research in this fascinating area- so watch this space!

Makes me want to scream

I’m getting more and more of my news online these days and really enjoying the stimulation of being able to read the New York Times, L.A. Times, London Times, BBC headlines and Arts Journal daily. I just signed up last week to receive the London Times (known simply as The Times where I’m from) with a particular view to comparing their arts coverage with the NYT… and discovered something surprising.
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Controversy Over the Role of the Piano Accompanist

This week I came across several very passionate discussions of the same topic- and one which rarely hits the headlines- the role of the piano accompanist.
In a programme on BBC Radio 4 last week (sadly not archived) entitled “Am I too Soft?”, Susan Tomes, a highly successful British ensemble pianist, bemoaned the standard treatment of and attitude towards “the accompanist” in chamber music and art song recitals. As she explained, the repertoire is often as demanding for the pianist as it is for the violin, cello or voice. However the pianist often gets little attention or appreciation, even being described as ‘at the piano’, “as if it were a piece of furniture”, as she exclaimed!

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What it means to be Free to Create II

This evening I experienced a different aspect of what it means to be free to create. My husband and I have recently decided to put one evening a week aside for creative pursuits- whether individual or joint- and tonight was the night. I always look forward to these evenings, as I feel I have permission to be creative in a way which feels different to other times of the week. However, tonight I found myself experiencing a certain amount of anxiety and tension at the idea of spending time in this way. As I have previously mentioned, we recently experienced a bereavement, and I found myself envisaging doing some kind of cathartic piece of art- this felt simultaneously as if it would be satisfying and it also felt heavy inside of me, as if it were some kind of obligation.

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James Valentine Peake

On January 24th, our first child, James, was born. He only lived three days. It’s hard to put into words what this has meant to me. For a beautiful tribute to him, please visit my husband’s site if you are so inclined.

What It Means To Be Free To Create

A professor from one of London’s top music colleges contacted me the other day. This person had been considerably affected by Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) and was wondering how to get in touch with other musicians similarly affected. I often receive emails from musicians with RSI as I wrote a dissertation on the subject. What this person was experiencing was such an atmosphere of secrecy that she felt isolated. And this really resonated with me.
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