Friday 29 April 2011

Live Music - What's Happening?

I recently enjoyed a concert at the Colston Hall in Bristol which had just two works on the programme, Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 5 and Mahler's  Fourth Symphony, world famous Mahlerian, Lorin Maazel, conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra. The two works sat easily side by side, despite the cavernous difference in style and intent that lies between them. The elegant concerto was played effortlessly and charmingly by Akiko Suwanai on one of the most famous Stradivarius violins, called "The Dolphin", while the symphony expressed transcendent power and depth.

I mused from my seat that the audience was notably almost entirely elderly and white, despite the location of the Colston Hall in the centre of a city which is home to a wide variety of skin colours. This by no means suggests that there is a lack of interest from younger, ethnically broader generations. It means that they don't attend formal classical concerts. The seating was about two-thirds its capacity. It should have been full to overflowing for such an occasion. Why? No one knows. It has been established though that there is a clear phenomenon which I've read described as "culturally aware non-attenders". Those whose job it is to promote classical concerts are all too aware of this potential market and how immovable it seems to be.

Sunday 17 April 2011


Er... Do I need to resist starting off with "Er"?  I'm tempted to use it every time I write. I suppose it's a hint of an excuse for what is to come, perhaps expressing a sense of minor, personal embarrassment and self-consciousness. If that is the case, then it's an underrated two-letter word containing hidden depths of complex feeling and expression. Er...

Er... I just bought an electronic drum kit. Now for me this is a big deal. My first instrument was a set of drums. I learnt from it the possibilities of dexterity, hand/eye/foot coordination, syncopation and an appreciation for a thumping bass line and the subterranean ground this can place beneath a piece of music. I regret letting that first kit go.

My instinct tells me that, many years later, I haven't lost any of what I learnt from it. The rhythm machine stays in your body, simmering in the background like a constant hum that you don't notice after a while, but is there all the time. So, I'm excited about incorporating this new kit into my music making and having a ball in the process.

Friday 8 April 2011

Musical Questing

I'm midway through writing a piece of music and just wanted to stop and think a little about where I'm going with it. I'm an independent composer, disconnected from all established routes to composerdom, but I've learned that when I appear to be on my own and have discovered something personal or unique, there are always others who have been there before or who are on the same path. With that in mind, I can safely assume that it won't just be me who is interested in the quest I'm on.

The process seems to be like cooking. You can do it for others or for yourself hoping that others will enjoy the end result. You can use a recipe, a formula, but never quite know how it's going to turn out. Discovering what combinations work and what don't is a learning process. The music I'm cooking up is purely for my self; others may enjoy or dislike it but I really don't care about that.