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.

About that worm…

I think today perhaps I am not the early bird, but the worm.

I made good progress on my arranging assignment yesterday, but not as much as I would have liked, so I’m still working on it. I got up early enough and worked on it. I left the house, came here, and I’m working on it.

This irks me because I really like to get some solid practising in between 8am and 10am, and today I will be unable to do that. I’ve booked a room for 11.00-13.00 but how much of that I’m able to use really depends on how much I finish first.

After that, I’m zipping up to Finchley to teach, and then I’m off to Sweden until Saturday night. Trinity is closed on Easter Monday so I’m looking at four days away from my instrument. Ugh. However, all is not lost: I have a nifty little practise horn, made for me by Peter at Starborne Works. I might try to take some pictures of if this weekend. He’s only just starting out at this business, but he does good work, so if you want something made, large or small, then it’s definitely worth talking to him.

Time to go keep working on my assignment, before the birdy eats me. I really had planned to get this one done a week early…

The Early Bird Gets the Worm

Today I woke up, inexplicably, at 5am. Ugh. I got up, washed henna out of my hair, pottered around a bit and got in to practise at my usual time.

Practising went much better this morning than yesterday.

I’ve had a look at what I need to do for my end-of-year exam. It’s a matter of lots of orchestral extracts, lots of scales, and one piece. The choice of pieces is actually rather narrow, which is good in a way: it means I’m unlikely to shoot myself in the foot and play something which I’d rather have saved for my final recital next year.

My arranging assignment continues to go smoothly but take ages; even with advanced tools it takes a long time to do data entry of music notation, because there’s just a lot of data. I’m finding myself disliking the layout aspects of Sibelius; nothing new there, and I’ve been meaning to fix this by learning Lilypond for a few years now… perhaps over the summer I’ll have the time to work on some of my transcription projects. In the meantime, the arranging assignment must be handed in as a Sibelius file, and some of the composition tools are useful.

In about a half hour I have the first rehearsal of the Reinecke trio Op. 188 for horn, oboe and piano. I’m looking forward to it; it’s a good piece, without too many technical challenges for the horn, and while I’ve not yet met the pianist in person I know I have enjoyed playing with the oboist in other ensembles.

This evening:
J.S. Bach – St John Passion
Trinity College of Music Chamber Orchestra and Chorus perform under the baton of Richard Egarr.
7.30pm, Old Royal Naval College Chapel, SE10

I’m not sure whether I’ll go, it depends how tired I am, but it would be a shame to miss. I had been planning on doing some flat-hunting tonight but have decided to leave it until next week, when my arranging assignment and the long weekend will both be far behind me.

Practising was unpleasant this morning. I’ve had three days in a row of not playing, and things never sound or feel quite right after that. It went reasonably well, though, so I think I’ll be on track again by tomorrow.

The reason for my non-practising yesterday is that I was attending a seminar presented by Open Rights Group, Creative Business in the Digital Era. The curriculum and various other useful information is all available under Creative Commons licence from the CBDE wiki, and participation is encouraged, so please do add your tuppence worth.

Last night I wrote up some of my impressions of the seminar in a fairly loose and unstructured manner, but I won’t be posting that today as I’ve left the laptop at home.

Classes are officially over until 14th April! Most of this week my focus is on getting my last Arranging assignment finished, and some chamber music rehearsals. I’m also looking at moving house again, sadly. Various things have not been going well, and I need to either move now while I don’t have classes or wait until after exams.

Long time no update…

Life has been busy.

Sorting out housing has moved along several steps but it still isn’t finished. Highlights include the old agent being verbally abusive and threatening, a small electrical fire in the bathroom (nobody hurt thank goodness), and a distinct lack of internet access. I’m not impressed. I really do like the area I live in now, but I do not think I will stay in that flat after my tenancy agreement expires in June. I dread the thought of moving again but I’d rather do it in the summer when I have more control and more time than halfway through next year!

Other than that things are going well.

I’ve managed to get a group together to play the Brahms Horn Trio. We’ve had two rehearsals so far, and I’m really enjoying it. Working with the score available through The Mutopia Project is interesting in and of itself; it’s pretty good, but there are one or two bum notes and the page-turns are rather silly in the horn part. I’ll be making a list of errata and either e-mailing the original transcriber or correcting the lilypond files and submitting them myself.

Tentatively I also have an oboist and pianist to play the Reinecke trio, op. 188. We won’t get a chance to rehearse until 14th March, though.

Personal practise has been going well. I am still behind on my orchestral excerpts, but I’ve been in to Trinity to practise every weekday for the past two weeks, usually first thing in the morning. In truth I have not actually practised this much since June 2005. I’m not exactly sure what has shifted in my brain or my schedule to enable this but I’m very glad of it and intend to continue the habit. (And no, it isn’t the lack of internet access; the practising came first.) Right now I’m working on chamber repertoire and also Bach ‘cello suite in Eflat major. I’ve borrowed a 20GB mp3 player from a friend so that I can listen to orchestral excerpts on my commute; I still need to organise myself better and make sure I have recordings of all of them. I also really need to get my planning done for this year’s exam and next year’s final concert.

I’m taking some jazz lessons with Mark Bassey. So far this has been lots of fun. Whee! I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with it but I’ll figure that out later; for now it’s something that stretches me, mentally and physically, and this is a good thing.

I successfully applied to attend an Open Rights Group seminar, Creative Business in the Digital Era. Now I have lots of reading to do so that I will go there and be useful and learn things. I’ve printed out some of that lot to read on the train.

General Update

First of all, I have to say I’m quite pleased with the grade I received on my last Arrangement assignment: 80%! Yay!

I’ve got another one due on Thursday. In a few minutes I’ll be off to the keyboard lab to work on it and have it checked over for obvious glaring errors.

Congratulations are due to my three piano students who took exams in December. All of them worked very hard, and all of them passed confidently.

I’ve had a somewhat shaky start to this year. I returned from holiday to find that the landlord’s agent for the flat I’m renting a room in was in a car accident, and that they wanted us all to move out by the end of January. This was quite stressful for me, but thanks to friends I was able to find out that legally my position is quite strong and I can stay put until at least the first of June. It’s all been very much up in the air but I met the actual landlord today, and I think things are going to be alright. Hopefully I’ll be able to get on track now and get on with my academic tasks for this term!

I’m waiting to hear from Paxman regarding a quote for horn repairs. I suspect I’ll have to drop by with my horn tomorrow, as they’ve not answered my e-mail which was sent on Wednesday. Perhaps it got stuck in a spamtrap.

Oren Marshall breathing workshop

On Wednesday, Oren Marshall came to do a breathing workshop with the horns at Trinity.

I got a lot of good out of this session, from reminders of breathing exercises long-forgotten to a few new ones I hadn’t done before. There was very little playing but what playing we did was methodical and vastly improved by some of the breathing techniques and mouthpiece-alone playing that we did.

The best thing, though, was leaving the session feeling envigorated and energetic after all that breathing; I’d been feeling quite lethargic and unenthusiastic earlier in the day. I will definitely be adding some of the exercises to my daily (*ahem*) practise routine, but I might also try to fit in a one or two hour breathing workout at some point each week.

Some of the exercises we did:

  • Various stretches while breathing
  • Running on the spot, with intervals of sprinting
  • Breathing to a count while walking. This included holding the breath when the lungs are full and when they are empty.
  • Breathing in for a count of one and out for a count of three, with the counts getting faster and faster. Most people would hyperventilate quite quickly after doing this but as horn players we managed reasonably well.
  • Breathing in all the way, ‘topping up’ a few times, then letting all the air out, expelling a bit more a few times, then breathing normally for a few breaths before repeating
  • Breathing through the mouthpiece, with the stem end in the mouth
  • Breathing through the mouthpiece with an embouchure formed but no tone production
  • Breathing through the horn without tone production, starting on the shortest length of tubing and increasing by a semitone each measure to increase the resistance.
  • Standard ‘practise it on the mouthpiece first’ playing.