I Am Happy When I Bask In Their Light (and some things I’ve been doing recently…)

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Karine Polwart’s song The Good Years contains this line –

I am happy when I bask in your light…

What an absolutely beautiful statement. (Karine is a true artist, a gorgeous soul. I strongly recommend listening to any and all of her work. It’s what my heart sounds like.)

If I had one piece of advice for how to lead a fulfilling life it would be this –

Surround yourself with brilliant people. Seek out people that magnify your spirit and bask in their light. 

You do this and good things will happen, I promise. I listened to Sofie Hagen’s Made of Human podcast recently and she spoke with her guest about definitions of introvert and extrovert. One explanation was that extroverts find energy and life-force by being around others and introverts generate that energy within themselves. I like this a lot. It’s far more pleasing than the old ‘extroverts are loud, introverts are quiet’ description. (Also, don’t worry – you can be an ambivert as well as an extro- or intro-; it’s a spectrum and everybody loves a spectrum.)

With this definition in mind, I’d class myself as an extrovert. I find good company so exhilarating, so life-affirming and it really does feed into my creativity. I love to listen and I love to talk.

These past four weeks have been busy and varied; I feel alive and brimming with creativity.

Visualising Music

I’m having a wonderful time creating graphic scores for the Visualising Music gig at London Jazz festival on November 10th. I’ve jumped down a brilliant rabbit-hole of Jasper johns, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg and Merce Cunningham; listening to them discuss life and the creative process, experiencing their art both as collaborators and separately. The warmth and serenity that emanates from Cage and Cunningham when they speak is a complete joy.

I don’t want to reveal too much about the works before they premiere in November, but here are a few sketches I made while developing a piece entitled Heap and Fiddle.

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More information about the performance here – https://www.royalacademy.org.uk/event/visualising-music-the-art-of-the

EJN in Ljubljana

I was fortunate to spend a few days in Slovenia last month, attending the European Jazz Conference held by Europe Jazz Network, in my capacity as Chair of Jazz From Scotland. I’ve written a report which will be published on the Jazz From Scotland soon so I won’t go into detail here but the two main things I took from the experience were –

  • The joys of exploring a new city alone, as I spent a day by myself in the city before flying back to the UK. Ljubljana is beautiful and I’d like to return.
  • The utter glory of spending time in the company of so many extraordinary women involved in jazz. Amy Pearce, Jill Rodger, Martel Ollerenshaw, Emily Jones, Eve Risser, Kaja Draksler…I basked and I basked and I basked in their light like a little cat in the sunshine.

Here are a few shots from the trip…

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Last week, we took a trip up North and spent two days in Malham to fill up with space (another Polwart turn of phrase that I love). Walking, seeing a lot of brilliant dogs and soothing our souls with the views before spending some time in Leeds, spending time with more fantastic humans.

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(The feature image at the top of this piece was also taken while in Malham, at Janet’s Foss.)

Thank you to everyone who enriches my life, simply by being.

More soon.

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EFG London Jazz Festival: Visualising Music, November 10th

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This week, the full programme of the EFG London Jazz Festival was launched and I’m incredibly excited to be invited to take part in a collaboration between EFG LJF and the Royal Academy of Arts.

Something Resembling Truth is a major retrospective of the work of Jasper Johns which will feature over 150 paintings, drawings and sculptures that spans six decades.

Visualising Music is an event that will explore the graphic score, and the relationship Johns had with composer John Cage. I’m one of two improviser/composers taking part, the other being the gloriously talented Raymond MacDonald. We’ll be joined by a group of musicians from Club Inegales. There will be live music as well as discussion.

Next week is the private opening of the exhibition and it’s the first chance I’ll have to see all of the works. Then, I’ll start work on developing some new graphic scores in response to the works as well as footage, interviews and literature about Johns and Cage.

When something is new to us, we treat it as an experience. We feel that our senses are awake and clear. We are alive.

In addition to this, I’m also part of the 25 for 25 commissioning project, generating 25 new works in celebration of 25 years of the jazz festival.

I’ll be using this site to document the progress of the project so stay tuned…

EFG London Jazz Festival 2017

Something Resembling Truth: Jasper Johns at Royal Academy of Arts

 

 

Inside A Tune: Arundel

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See One, Do One, Teach One – the debut album from Deep Tide Quartet – comes out on Discus on August 1st and we’re playing at the Verdict in Brighton tonight. I absolutely love being part of this band and Arundel is one of the pieces I wrote for the album…

Arundel is a piece of music based on the idea of gaps. It was the result of a kind of triangle of inspiration; Phillipe Sands’ book East West Street, the work of Anne Truitt & a discussion I had during psychotherapy about the reason for nightmares & dreaming.

The title of the piece comes from a series of Anne Truitt paintings of the same name. A major theme in her work, both on canvas and through sculpture, is the use of straight lines and blocks of solid colour. I was drawn to her work because I find it soothing; there’s something settling and calming that makes me want to be in their presence. In her journal, Daybook, Truitt recounts a conversation she had about conveying meaning and intent in art forms without words. She asked – what if someone who spoke no English and knew nothing about you came to view one of your exhibitions. The descriptions hung next to the works would be of no use; what would you expect that person to get out of work?

I replied that I did not expect, I hope. What I hoped was that something in their experience would, in some unpredictable way, rise to meet the work. We then agreed that, faced with the fascinating problem of translating what we know with the just accessible parts of ourselves into the available physical terms, we simply do our best, leaving all result aside.

 That phrase, ‘rise to meet the work’ struck me. It felt as if I was reading someone far more eloquent than I put words to my thoughts about composing music for improvising musicians – with the music I write, I hope that something within the musicians rise to meet the work and create something far beyond the written (or drawn) material.

Around the time of the recording session (which took place at the beautiful Chairworks Studios back in May), I was reading Philippe Sands’ East West Street. This non-fiction book recounts the events that led to the inclusion of the terms ‘crimes against humanity’ and ‘genocide’ in the Nuremberg Trials and the stories of the two lawyers who created them – Hersch Lauterpacht and Rafael Lemkin. Sands references a Nicolas Abrahams quote –

What haunts are not the dead, but the gaps left within us by the secrets of others.

My therapist had a really good way to describe the function of dreams, especially when related to PTSD. When a trauma occurs, she said, it is so different from all your other experiences and memories up until that point that your brain doesn’t know where to file it. Furthermore, the details of the traumatic experience are too difficult to process so it remains an incomplete file as it were. It can’t be stored until it’s complete so the brain attempts to fill in the gaps with guesses and imaginings and dreams are the result.

Here is a little extract from my journal on 3rd May 2017.

I have come to realise that to ignore a gap simply increases it power. The darkness grows and seeps into other parts of the mind. So, one must acknowledge the gap and endeavour to fill it, which can often be done, or accept that it cannot be filled, which is sometimes inevitable. By filling it or accepting it, you remove its power. Either shine a light in the hole to confirm that no monster lurks there, or else build a bridge so you can walk safely across.

SO.

Arundel is the product of all of these thoughts. The score is contains 11 blocks, made up of black and white sections. Players read down from the 1st to the 11th in order. They are provided with the score, the Nicolas Abrahams quote and the instruction that each block is a combination of gaps and non-gaps. How that is interpreted is up to them.

LINK DUMP

Phillipe Sands – East West Street

Anne Truitt’s sculptures & paintings

Chairworks Studios, Castleford

See One, Do One, Teach One – Deep Tide Quartet (Discus Music Website)

The Verdict, Brighton