January 2019: Input & Output

As I write this, it’s -15 outside. In fact, according to the weather forecast when you add wind chill and moisture it actually feels like -26. That is considerably colder than it was when I was in the Arctic in October and I’m fairly certain is the coldest temperature I’ve ever encountered. (It trumps Berlin in January which was -14 and my legs felt as if the wind was going to remove all the skin from them. I cried.)

I’m spending this month in New York – I arrived back on the 5th and leave next week, back in London on 29th.

Week one was industry week – I attended Jazz Congress and Winter Jazz Fest and most of my favourite people from the arts across the World (bar a few notable absences) were here so it felt oddly like home. With that week or so over, I’m spending the rest of the year filling up on energy and ideas, plans and strategies for 2019.

Last year was extraordinary and I got to see parts of the world I thought I never would, but it got a bit silly toward the end with the amount of work and travelling I was doing and I felt as though I crawled over the finish line depleted of life force. So now, back on form, I’m working to make sure 2019 is equally as extraordinary but with balance included this time so the plates I’m spinning don’t all end up smashed to bits on the floor.

Listening: I discovered the exceptional Val Jeanty last week at the Stone playing with Kris Davis, Tom Rainey and Tony Malaby. She blew me away and I need to hear more. Luckily she’s playing later this week with Jen Shyu and Linda Oh.

Tilman Robinson‘s Deer Heart continues to be on my frequently played list. Explorations of the psychological effects of dense sound. He’s a deep thinker. His piece for Australian Art Orchestra which sampled the audio interviews of an ANZAC soldier was profoundly moving and occupies my thoughts often.

As always my podcast consumption is vast. Endless Thread, My Favorite Murder, Athletico Mince, Reply All, Last Seen and Alan Alda’s Clear + Vivid all in my long list of favourites.

Reading: Scotland Her Story (Edited by Rosemary Goring), Symposium (by Muriel Spark), Rebus’s Scotland (by Ian Rankin), The Speechwriter (by Barton Swaim), The Choice (by Edith Eger)

 

 

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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.