What’s in a name?

We decided at Friday’s rehearsal of the Brahms not to compete in the Cavatina Chamber Music Competition at Trinity. There were lots of reasons, but mostly it’s just that we haven’t quite got the final movement of the trio learned well enough to be able to play it confidently and convincingly. We’d rather take the time now to learn it properly, and perform better at a later date, than skim it now, learn it superficially, and have to undo that later to make a performance we can be proud of.

I am a little disappointed, I was looking forward to giving all those string quartets a run for their money, but I know that this is the right thing to do musically.

On the not-so-musical bright side, this means we have more time to think of a name for our little ensemble. “Triceratops” has been floated as it is a horn trio, but I think that would be more appropriate for a trio of horns, rather than a chamber trio with a horn in it. And I’m leaning toward trying to put together some sort of loosely-associated chamber group, because there’s so much out there and not all of it is with the same instrumentation. It feels like all the good names have been taken, and what we’re left with will be boring (“The Greenwich Chamber Group”) or pretentious.

Ideas? Suggestions? Your answers on a postcard, please.

Another day, another rehearsal.

This morning saw me trudging up the hill to Blackheath to rehearse Schubert’s 5th Symphony.

One thing I dislike about Blackheath Halls is that the place tends, like all big old draughty buildings, to be freezing inside. Today was no exception, and though it is spring and Not That Cold out, I made sure to dress warmly in velvet and cashmere.

Keeping my body a comfortable temperature is not as difficult as keeping my horn a sensible one, however. The cold hands from touching a giant heat-sink I don’t mind too much, but the instrument does respond quite differently at different temperatures. For one thing, when it’s cold the horn goes flat, as do many other instruments; but not everyone in the orchestra will be the same amount flat, and different people compensate in different ways (and sometimes in different directions), with the result that tuning becomes slightly nightmarish. I think the worst thing is that it’s just not terribly responsive when it’s cold. Moving from one note to the next seems far more difficult, and it’s more tiring to play. Schubert’s 5th has not quite enough playing in it for the instrument to stay properly warm. I’m thinking I’ll have to blow air through it during the rests next time we rehearse at Blackheath.

Thankfully concerts at Blackheath are usually a sensible temperature. I’m not sure if it’s because they put the heating on or because having an audience full of homeotherms is enough to make a difference.

Fearful Productivity

I have managed to slay many paperwork demons in the last two days. Hooray!

Yesterday’s horn class with Roger Montgomery went well. It was a very standard sort of class, going through various extracts from the ballet and opera repertoire; the sort of thing that isn’t in Probespiel.

Next week there will be a single F piston-valve horn and a Vienna horn, and we’re going to go through various repertoire appropriate to those. I’ve said I’ll work on the Dukas Villanelle and play it on the piston horn. This may have been foolish. I played through what I could remember of it this morning; the F fingerings did trip me up, but the fact that I haven’t played the work for several years and don’t always remember what key I’m in tripped me up more.

Brahms rehearsal on Tuesday went well, we got through the third movement and started on the final movement, and rehearsed the first two. It’s several weeks since we had a chance to play together, so things were a little rusty in places, but overall I’m quite happy with how we’re playing. We did a bit of jazz improv afterward, just for laughs. I’d like to do more of that, but it’s another area where playing with people regularly is important, and it’s hard enough trying to find rehearsal time already.

I’m still trying to find a pianist for the Reinecke trio. I’ll be annoyed if we don’t get to play it for lack of a willing pianist, but reality is like that. Perhaps I will have the chance to play it this summer at Charterhouse.

Back to work

Friday was indeed a lovely rest day. I sat around and ate too much toast and read some of a rather grim book by Ayn Rand.

Classes have re-started; this is the last stretch before exams. It’s good to be back, but I’m already very busy.

Yesterday I didn’t get much practise in at all, partly because of leaving home a bit late and partly because of problems on the Docklands Light Railway. I walked from Poplar to Greenwich, which took about an hour and left me too late to really do much before my first class. I did an hour later in the day, but it’s never quite the same.

The class was quite straightforward, it’s part of a series of classes dealing with the details of our Year 4 projects. I think I know now what I’ll be doing for mine: watch this space for details!

This morning I did get a good solid two hours of practising in before a rehearsal. I’d thought today would be very busy, with rehearsals morning and afternoon and then the Brahms trio rehearsal at 6pm, but it turns out I wasn’t needed for the afternoon rehearsal. This gives me a chance to catch up on some paperwork. I never seem to run out of paperwork. If I could afford a competent personal assistant I’d jump at the chance to have one, as paperwork isn’t really something that I’m terribly fond of.

Teaching on Sunday and on Monday went well, I was in a great mood and I think my rest on Friday really helped. I’ve acquired an extra two hours of teaching per week, which is good news for financial reasons. The new students seem enthusiastic and capable, so there’s nothing left for it now but to teach them and see what happens.

Day Off

Yesterday morning I was just feeling too sluggish to get going. I told myself I’d go in late, and then that turned into not-at-all. Oops. I’ve had a pretty restful morning, though, and I feel a lot better. I’m not feeling too guilty about it as yesterday and today are my last two weekdays before going back to classes and rehearsals and all the hectic scheduling that goes with them. I was planning to take today as a duvet day anyway.

There are quite a few things I could be getting on with…

But for today, I’m resting. So there.


Well, I found somewhere to live, and have spent the past few days mostly panicking and trying to move.

It’s gone far more smoothly than previous moves, although I’m not finished yet.

For perspective, in eight years in London I have lived in seven different dwellings, in four different boroughs. I probably do know people who have moved more than this, but I think most people I know have moved considerably less.

I’m still practising. I had another jazz lesson with Mark Bassey yesterday and it was wonderful. Lessons with him are always so much fun. We worked on ‘Autumn Leaves’ again and played around with ninth and eleventh extensions to dominant seventh chords.

I’m starting to feel very tired, too many late nights and early mornings. With the intention of getting some rest before classes start again on Monday, I hereby declare that this Friday shall be a Duvet Day: I will get some food in and I do not intend to stir from my bed until at least noon. I will read a book if I feel like it, maybe watch a film if I can be bothered, and be a general layabout. Saturday I have social plans and Sunday I am teaching, and then it’s nose back to the grindstone with the full gamut of classes and rehearsals returning.

I want my hour back…

I finally have a phone again, my own one, not a borrowed pay as you go one. It is purple and shiny and this makes me inordinately happy.

I haven’t found somewhere to live yet. It would be easier if I were less picky about location, but for paperwork reasons I want to stay in Tower Hamlets, and for commute convenience reasons I want to stay near the Central Line, and this pretty solidly limits me to Bethnal Green and Mile End.

Practising continues to go reasonably well. The past two days I’ve been a bit late getting in, arriving 9am yesterday and 8.30am today. I blame Daylight Savings Time. I want my hour back! But as it’s spring break there’s no problem getting a practise room and I haven’t had other committments in the morning to interfere, so in actual fact it isn’t the end of the world not getting to Trinity bang on 8am.

I’ve been continuing with orchestral extracts and technical exercises, as well as various solo repertoire. I need to choose a solo for my exam on 30th May and start learning it, and find a pianist.

Chamber music is slow right now. The violinist playing in the Brahms horn trio with me is away for spring break, and so is the oboist playing in the Reinecke trio, so we haven’t been rehearsing. Sadly the pianist for the Reinecke has pulled out, which is very disappointing as it will be quite difficult to find one at this time of year with everyone preparing for exams.

What I’d really like is a pianist with a similar interest in chamber music to work with on a regular basis. Perhaps I should start looking now to find one for next year…

Incoming: Weekend

Thinking up titles for these posts is getting difficult. On my personal journal it doesn’t matter so much, but I’m trying to keep this blog at least a little bit professional.

This week I have been practising and doing paperwork, mostly. I found a part-time job to apply for, and did so. I don’t know that I’ll get it, but I think I’m in with a chance. I also dreamed up a job here in the Trinity library that I’m quite hopeful about but it does depend very much on whether funding is available, so I’m not sure it’s going to happen either. In any case I’ve done lots of work on my both my CVs (what is the plural of ‘curriculum vitae’?) and had a bit of practise at writing cover letters, all good to do.

I should be able to pick up my new phone tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it. Of course, I’ll need to hang on to my borrowed PAYG sim for a few days because of my temporary number being the one on my CV and job application. Ugh.

Practising is going well. I had made a very tidy chart of all the excerpts I need to learn for this year’s final and the plan was to get copies of them all and put them in a big ring binder, but I was stalled at the ‘get copies of them all’ stage for ages. Since they are all in two books that I already have, I’ve just started at the beginning of the probespiel and will work my way through, and when I’m done that I’ll start on the Mel Bay anthology. Sadly I can’t find my Mel Bay at the moment but I’m sure it’s in a box or a pile of music somewhere in my room, and I’ll be at least a few weeks getting through the Probespiel anyway. Good things about starting at the front of the Probespiel: playing the Quoniam from the Bach B minor Mass, which is excellent. Bad things about starting at the front of the Probespiel: playing the Quoniam from the Bach B minor Mass, which is high and tiring. Good warm-ups are essential when working on repertoire like this.

The pianist I’ve been working with on the Brahms horn trio seems to have dropped off the face of the earth this week. I hope it’s just that he hasn’t got internet access or has gone home for a few days; getting hold of willing and capable pianists is not an easy task and it would be a shame to have to start over with someone new.

Degree-related paperwork continues slowly. Flathunting has been completely absent this week, which isn’t so good. If I’m going to move I want to do the bulk of it before classes start again in two weeks. I’ve still only barely worked on any of my personal compositions or arrangements, though I’ve been thinking about them a little more now that I have some space in my head.

Plans for tomorrow: getting my website in order, picking up my phone from the DHL depot, and some social stuff.


Sweden was wonderful! Except for losing my phone, and being delayed on the way back which cost me three and a half hours of teaching. Oops. On the whole it really was lovely, though; I spent time with a good friend, and got to play in the snow, and ate lots of good fish.

I didn’t end up using the practise horn while I was there as it was a bit loud but buzzing on the mouthpiece for a while every morning does seem to have helped; practising this morning was much better than last Tuesday, when I’d been away from any playing at all for three days. Mouthpiece buzzing is such a small thing, easy to do and just as easy to forget, but it really does make a big difference.

This week I will be mostly chasing paperwork.

Some of the things I need to do:
-find a summer job
-research various music summer schools
-student loan forms (ugh)
-sort out new phone, reconstruct contacts list from backups and people I can get hold of in other ways
-various degree-related paperwork
-non-degree compositions I’ve been putting on the back burner for far too long.

It’s not terribly thrilling or exciting, really, but it does all need to be done.

Maybe if I have time I’ll get around to some sewing. I’m going to need summer clothes sooner or later…

CBDE seminar

Creative Business in the Digital Era
Seminar by Open Rights Group

(Written offline: 2008-03-17-19:30)

I went to this seminar today. On the whole, I really enjoyed it.

I think for me the most useful part was the section on community-building, and the general emphasis on that aspect of building up a fan base. Maybe that’s because nurturing and gradually building up a community is something that I can do now, whereas the nitty-gritty “Which license should I use?” stuff is further into the future (perhaps when I have an actual product to license, for example).

I met some interesting people, as well. I will, of course, have forgotten all of their names by the time I get to FaceBook. Oops.

I’m not going to give an in-depth analysis and summary of the seminar, because Open Rights Group will put that on their wiki anyway. Instead you get a sort of thought soup of things that I managed to jot down or remember, in no particular order:

-the idea of applying a co-operative business model to producing a major work, for example a feature film. The way it would work in film would be to send out trailers, ads, viral marketing etc. and get people to bid for shares in the film based on the trailers. The highest however-many bidders would each own shares in the film; it would then be in their best interest to promote the film, as they’d profit from box office takings, DVD sales and so on. The work itself would be CC licensed in some way, and shareholders would be able to contribute ideas for business models (for merchandising etc) and possible sequel films.

-SO MANY MACBOOKS. I don’t think I saw a PC there. I left mine at home, which was silly in some ways as I could have done a touch of live-blogging but good in other ways as it forced me to talk to people instead of hiding behind my computer.

-Beware the T&C for websites with user-generated content. Some of them are quite mercenary in their claiming of your copyright.

-It’s very difficult to tell in any individual case whether pay-what-you-will models work ‘better’ than ordinary ones. Taking Radiohead’s recent release, In Rainbows, how can one tell whether the album would have sold as much had it not been available online for free? Comparing to past albums doesn’t work, because no two albums are going to be alike.

-technobrava, I’ve just jotted this down on the corner of a page. I think it’s a group or movement in Brasil where the musicians basically encourage the street-corner pirate CD sellers to burn and sell their CDs. I need to look this up.

-James Lyndsay seems an interesting character. He’s busy compiling a manual of skills over at http://www.the-manual.org. On the back of his business card are Seven Principles (Completeness, Community, Resilience, Quality, Diversity not Dogma, Ideas not Instructions, Values not Morals) and Eight classes (Health, Technology, Sustenance, Organisation, The World, Man, Art, Moving on). I’m not entirely sure what to make of that.

-Building community is about tapping into communication between people who are passionate about a subject or project. To do that you need to give them a way to talk to one another, and you have to present yourself with passion, authenticity and transparency. Talking about yourself is as a human being is the most powerful way to communicate with people. Talking about the creative process will fascinate those not in your industry. Talk to people as peers and equals. Who is your community? Who are the people who are your target audience, which social tools/networks are they in? Twitter and other microblogging = “ambient intimacy”, can be good for building a sort of light-touch presence, giving people a feel for what’s going on without them having to read 39 pages. Insight and presence lead to loyal communities. Loyal communities eventually lead to sales but are rewarding in and of themselves. Balance is important; too much blogging becomes spam, too little leaves you forgotten or irrelevant. Concept of ‘attention economy’; competition is for attention (vs. attention going to other activities), not against similar artists in same genre. Community nurture and flaming: author involvement in comments sets tone for discussion. The more care you take the better people will behave.

-Podcasting? I know what this is but still not really much of how to do it. I should look into it; not everyone relates to words on a screen the way I do. There’s no reason I couldn’t do a tune a day/week/whatever.

-Magnatune: Successful musicians on Magnatune are self-marketing and unusual. It is not going to be enough to sign up/send in work/whatever and then just forget about it.

-small businesses do business with other small businesses.

-Where Are The Joneses? Used existing media services as much as possible: Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Wikidot, WordPress and so on. Made 5 minutes of video per day for 90 days. 5 minutes isn’t actually all that much. I could do something similar with sound recordings… this project was very much about trying to spread a message rather than trying to make profit, as it was sponsored already, so it was Creative Commons with commercial copying allowed.

-5 next steps. Useful prompt to get us thinking about what to do while it’s still in our heads! I’ve decided I’d like to become more involved with Open Rights Group, though I’m not sure in what capacity. I also really ought to be updating this blog at least twice a week, so I’m going to start aiming for that. There’s plenty for me to say, I just don’t always take the time to say it.

Other things to look into:
-is there some website a bit like a cross between pledgebank.com and eBay? What I’m thinking of is something where you could say, “When X number of people have contributed funds/When funds reach Y amount, I will do thing foo,” where foo could be making some sort of creative work and releasing it to the public under CC license. The money thing would be along the lines of “it costs this much to produce an album and I want to get paid this amount for my labour”; when the total is reached the sponsoree gets a first bit of the money, and when the work is complete and released the sponsoree gets the rest. People could pay more into the fund such that if you asked for, say, £400 up front and £200 on completion and that was reached, people could keep putting money into the fund until it reached quite a bit more than that amount, so that as you get more popular your financial pay-off for completion gets higher. The site would make money by basically taking a cut of the interest while the money piles up. I guess you could also use it for personal goals like quitting smoking or whatever. It would probably work best with some sort of community or ratings system, because you need to verify that a) the sponsoree is not just a crook and b) the work is finished (or the quitting smoking has happened, or whatever), but a certain amount of that will happen fairly naturally; people are more likely to give money to someone with a credible and well-known blog than to someone who just walked in out of the blue, so we’re back to community-building by artists again. But, yeah. If this website doesn’t exist, someone should write it, because I want one.