Thursday, February 14, 2013

Over the edge

So, what have I been doing since the last time I declared I was reactivating this place and then didn't?

Well, teetering on the edge of a nervous breakdown for one, but that's another story.

I wrote a fucking amazing piece for orchestra.  The conductor was scared of it though, so I had to write a less scary one. In two days. TWO DAYS! I'm brilliant, I am.

I went to some gigs and listened to some music. Maybe I'll tell you about that sometime, maybe I won't.

I mucked about with some other people's music.

I did a bit of my own.

I started recording versions of songs from Beck's Song Reader.

I entered a competition for amateur musicians.


Yes, I am going to perform my cello all on my own-some (OK with a pianist).  The last time I did this was in 1989 and it was a disaster.  I have suffered crippling anxiety about it ever since.

But in the last few years, I've been doing a lot of recording of my own stuff - mostly drones with cello, processed cello sounds, that sort of thing.  I realised what I should have realised about 20 years ago really, that it's fundamentally a waste of time and energy trying to foist your music on other performers who are on the whole at best indifferent and at worst condescending or actively hostile.  You know - classical musicians.  (There are of course one or two noble exceptions to this.)

So I was making this music all by myself, without any need to rely on pothers, and it felt good.  I played some of it to my friend Rhodri, and his reaction was, "this is really good.  You should get yourself a gig at Cafe Oto or something."

Well, he's right of course.  It's all very well sitting in your front room recording stuff and fiddling about with it, but music's a performing thing, yes?  It's intriguing to think how this stuff might be done live - it would have to be executed in a different way to the way I go about constructing a recording of course, but having to adapt to that could spark off some new and interesting avenues.  But the thought of getting up in front of people and performing as the centre of their attention was just terrifying.  This was something I needed to address.  It's closed off all sorts of opportunities for my for two decades.

I'd heard of Music in Offices before, and in fact I know a couple of people who've entered their Office Musician of the Year competition. One even won it! And the other reached the final. No pressure there, then.  So when some people turned up at a rehearsal of my orchestra before Christmas touting it, it planted a seed in my mind.  Perhaps this was what I needed? Something to force me to stand up and play in front of other people.  I spoke to one of my friends who'd done it before.  She told me she'd entered it for pretty much the same reasons I was thinking about it, and it had done her a huge amount of good; boosted her confidence in her own abilities and opened up all sorts of opportunities to play that she'd never even conceived before. I um-ed and ah-ed about it for a few weeks, then bit the bullet and sent in the application form jut before the deadline at the end of November.

The heats stage is at the end of February. But on Monday night my accompanist and I went along to a masterclass that MiO had organised for the participants.  It seemed a good idea to have a dry run where it didn't matter too much if I fucked up.   The two musicians taking the class, Joel Garthwaite and Maite Aguirre were both lovely and positive and had plenty of wise advice.

And you know what? I didn't fuck up. In fact I was OK. Not perfect, but OK.  It's a couple of weeks to the heats, so there's time to sort out the rough edges. Suddenly it occurs to me I might have to start practising the stuff I planned for the final, because there's a possibility I might get there and actually have to play it.