While shopping with a friend yesterday I came across the first two records, and a few days before that I stumbled across the Scott Joplin record while killing time. I’m gonna consider this an early record store day haul because I’m probably gonna stay home tomorrow.
Pictured above is a book that has been rattling around in my bag, cluttering my desks and, most importantly, absorbing my attention for the last two months. My sixth form music teacher leant me several books at the start of the year, and so far this is the first one I’ve read. It’s an amazingly interesting insight showing the entire history of western classical music paralleled with socioeconomics and compared with various other musical developments (eg. Ancient Greek, Chinese, popular music etc.). Michael Chanan is a well informed musicologist who references plenty of diverse sources to create a vividly unbiased spectrum. I’m so glad I decided to read this!
I met with my original piano teach from back when I was around 10-13 (my really bad teenage years). Surprisingly, as a stubborn youngster who hated practising, I really learnt a lot from him, and it was nice to reconnect after my recent achievments. A lot of the basics I learnt from him I now teach my own students!
1930s chanson is my new favourite.
Last year’s single has received some promotion from SNYA radio.
Last night I went to see the Elias Quartet perform at the John Innes Centre in Norwich. This concert was the last of this year’s season at that venue, which means my season ticket has now run out. It was a gift to me by the organisers, to whom I am incredibly grateful!
Before the concert was a talk about the program from Misha Donat who had a lot of really interesting things to say about Beethoven’s technique and style. The quartet performed Op.18 No.6, Op.59 No.2 and Op.135, highlighting all three stages of Beethoven’s quartet writing career. I found myself, once again, taken back by just how powerful the emotions are in Beethoven’s quartets; he truly never held back! I’d forgotten just how good the Op.59 No.2 was. When it came to Op.59 I’d focused my appreciation towards No.1, somewhat forgetting the other two. I now realise how much of a mistake I was making because the entirety of Op.59 is beyond admirable.
The Elias Quartet perform with the highest level of finesse and tone control of any quartet I’ve seen in concert. They really manage to display all of Beethoven’s nuances with such ease, and having seen them perform a few times now I can confirm that their abilities are not just a one off affair!
Last Wednesday, before the Indian concert I mention in my previous post, I was playing some guitar to accompany a presentation at the Money For Life english national finals. i was there with SNYA Student Kitchen, who’s project was based around creating tutorials and teaching students to cook while they were at university. They hosted a series of youtube videos which featured some music from my 2012 EP ‘I Believe In Ghosts’. This was how I got involved in the project, and you can check it all out at studentkitchen.org.uk
Since getting back from Cyprus I’ve been unimaginably busy, although It’s not all that bad since a part of the reason I’m so busy is I’ve been spending all my free time at concerts.
I went to another one of those live streams at my local cinema and saw the Royal Ballet perform Tchaikovsky’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Most ballets I had watched in the past had never really been easy to follow, so I was a bit skeptical about going, but I wanted to find out what the Tchaikovsky hype was all about. By the end of the show pretty much every aspect of the performance had impressed me, and I found the whole thing most enjoyable. The only complaint I had about the whole thing was that the storyline was a bit rushed, and left all of act 3 to just be a celebration that’s only function was for everyone to show off. I think I expected too much seriousness.
The following weekend I went to see the Norfolk Symphony Orchestra perform works by Schumann and Mendelssohn. Schumann’s Konzertstück for 4 horns was one of the pieces they performed, meaning 4 horn soloists joined the orchestra. They also performed a premier of one of their own works; a piece based on a famous jazz theme which made use of the horns multiphonics technique to create a vivid texture.
I had plans to spend a day in London last week, so a day or two before going I checked the Southbank Centre website to see if there were any good concerts on, because if I’m in London anyway, why not! I ended up going to see a trio of Indian musicians, Rakesh Cahurasia, Anil Srinivasan and Kousic Sen, who performed a selection of interestingly arranged rags/ragas. What made it interesting was that accompanying the bansuri and tabla was a piano. The outcome of this instrumentation was mesmerising, and I was surprised how effortlessly and effectively they complemented each other. While I was there I chatted with a gentleman who taught me a lot about the Indian traditions relating to the music, and I really gained a lot more from the whole experience than I expected!
I’m finally getting round to talking about Cyprus.
As already mentioned I recently spent a month there, as part of Flevares Project, and I just can’t put into words how great my experience was! All the people, all the productivity, all the food and all the things I learnt.
The inn was in the middle of this beautiful valley, and was somewhat cut off from the nearby villages and towns. It was extremely peaceful, and the hills around me were great for hiking and exploring. The semi-seclusion gave me a lot of space to focus, as I usually didn’t stray too far from the inn. My days were structured by meal times, and the rest of my day was used for either composing or practicing piano. I really managed to find a productive stride while I was there; sorting out a lot of music projects for when I was home, composing two full pieces, and starting several more.
One of my main aims while I was there was to take in as much culture as possible. I sifted through just about all the scores and books in the inn study, although it was the poetic works of Rilke and Poe mainly captured my attention. I went to see the mosaics in Paphos, which were just mind blowing and I also did my best to attend all the local festivities going on, which was quite a few seeing as it was carnival season.
I heard a lot of Cypriot traditional music, which is something that I hope to keep exploring even though I’m home. Not only was the actual fluidity of temperament interesting, but also so was the rhythmic quality that was highlighted by the accompanying dances.
I was lucky to catch a couple concerts by the Cyprus Symphony Orchestra. The first I’ve already spoken about in a previous post (it was on my very first night) but the second I think was my favourite. The program was just so interesting, with a really diverse list of composers that tied in with the carnival, so everything was really upbeat and lively. The weirdest part for me was the two soloists, who were both playing the accordion. Although I knew it was a thing, I’d never actually seen an accordion soloist, let alone two! The other noteworthy concert I went to during my stay was when all the composers’ who were part of the project had their works performed in Nicosia. There were singers from the Scottish Voices who flew in to perform especially for the occasion, so this is also when the inn was it’s busiest. Amongst our program of contemporary works was a performance of two John Cage pieces for voice and closed piano that were performed just before my piece. I found this all very humbling.
I really could ramble on about how great everything was for hours, so I’m going to try reach a conclusion. Everyone I seemed to come into contact with had something to teach me, even if it was something small like exposing me to music I’d never heard. Everyone who was part of the project had a different point of view based on his or her own experiences, and it was the greatest privilege for me to hear about them. From exploring medieval chants, to thinking in terms of other artistic mediums, to just exploring music in new lights; the entire trip just exceeded any expectations I had.
I had my first pupil pass his ABRSM grade 5 theory the other day. I can now tell everyone I have a 100% success rate!
A recording of my piece that was premiered during my stay in Cyprus. The piece was performed by Maria Avraam (flute) and Vasiliki Siafaka (Alto Saxophone) at the European University Cyprus in Nicosia.