Apparently a Composer…

In a month when I’ve been out of action, it’s gratifying to have a flute composition premiered at London College of Music by Asley Westmacott yesterday – and today one of my songs goes live via Soundcloud performed by Ruth Carlyle & David Barton – Blueberry Enchantment

Pan and Syrinx programme note

The legend of Pan and Syrinx is an object lesson for any modern philanderer, since Pan’s attempts to win the beautiful but chaste Syrinx got him absolutely nowhere!  In her attempts to evade him, Syrinx begged the river god to save her.  She was changed into a bunch of sighing reeds, with Pan ultimately creating his pan-pipes to remind him of the nymph he had failed to win.  How to turn this into a piece of music, though?  The music begins with the idea of a dialogue between Pan (the low phrases) and Syrinx (the higher-pitched answers). It becomes harder to distinguish between the two as the chase intensifies, with Syrinx’s desperation reflected in the highest, fastest passage in the middle of the piece.  Some calm is restored as she is turned into reeds, signalled by four slow ascending minims.  Pan attempts to embrace her – now a bunch of reeds – reprising the beginning of the piece.  The slower coda represents the pan-pipes that he makes as a substitute for Syrinx herself.

NHS November

I haven’t posted this month due to medical procedures affecting my family. (“How was your week?”, asked the anaesthetist. “Oh, I got the grant application in …. zzzzzz”, I said breezily.  Well, that had been the primary focus of my efforts up to that point!)

I hope to be back in circulation next week – appropriately for someone who’s a librarian more than half the time – providing the other recipient of NHS care is okay to be left in the house.  I haven’t had a whole month off since our youngest was born 21 years ago, and it has been a strange experience.  Even then, I wasn’t forbidden to drive for six weeks!

But more crucially, I may have kept an eye on my emails, but I’ve done absolutely no research for a month, and that feels quite odd.  I’ve read a couple of books – so far so good – and made a “note to self” about something to follow up.  But that’s it.  I didn’t follow it up.

The morning before my procedure, I wrote an Epiphany carol for a friend – she had translated the words from Latin in the hope that our choir might sing it early next year, so I really had to get something written if I wanted any hope of rehearsing it with them in December.  It proved not only to be a great distraction but – surprisingly, when I got round to revisiting it – I was rather pleased with it.  So, watch this space.  It was quite a high price to pay for inspiration, but on this occasion, at least something good came out of it!

More surprisingly, I spotted a request for a solo instrumental piece, on Facebook, and discovered I already had a composition which I was able to share with only two minutes’ tweaking effort, so that too will be getting a public airing in 2020.  Not bad for someone who is NOT “a composer” to trade.

Other than that – I have nothing to report right now.  But I look forward to getting back into things very soon.

Done and Dusted

Facing a rather demanding month, I decided I had to grab my deadlines by the scruff of the neck, shake them firmly and get them all neatly sorted.  By the 1st November, no less.  By dint of a bit of tactical rescheduling, I’ve got things just about organised to my liking.

This week, therefore, the research component of my work entailed:-

  • Submitting a grant application (it had gone from idea to submission in eight days flat); and
  • Editing a lecture and powerpoint, recording them for use in a month’s time, and updating a bibliography.

Additionally, the extended, dedicated special issue of Brio went off to the printer’s today.  Although I’ve been the guest co-editor for this issue, I can’t take any of the credit for the editing or proofing of anything except the bits I authored – I had more to do with commissioning the articles and chasing them up in time for the printing date!  Nonetheless, since it’s a major output for last year’s networking project, it is a great relief to know that it is on its way!

Meanwhile, I still had the larger part of my week to fulfil as a librarian, including some more user education – mercifully not quite as much as I’d done last week!  And the lecture, although I worked on it in research time, is actually one of those occasions where Librarian-meets-Researcher slap bang in the middle.  It concerns historical Scottish sources in the library.  They’re all there, and the students need to know about them – but I wouldn’t know any of the books’ history if they hadn’t been the subjects of my own doctoral research.

Moreover, I needed to play my own musical examples and get them recorded, too.  Now, I try to avoid EVER playing an instrument at work, because the students and their teachers are so blooming brilliant that I feel worse than overshadowed.  However, it was clearly unacceptable to contemplate playing CDs, on a recorded lecture that might end up online, so the only way to be sure there were no copyright issues was to record the examples myself.  Oh, the horror!  I tried singing to my own accompaniment last night, but I didn’t like the sound I made, so I resorted to playing what I could, and hoping it won’t sound too ragged for the student audience!  (At least I won’t be there to hear it!)

It’s a rather strange feeling, on the 1st  of the month, to know that – if I’m not actually ahead of myself – then I am, certainly, up to date with everything that should be done.

Now, about that list of church choir contributions that I promised to finalise this weekend …