Tuesday 31 December 2013

Dream of peace with Silent Night

I was asked to write an alternative lyric for Silent Night for a school concert this Christmas.
Here is what we used, starting with the first line traditionally sung in the Spanish version:

Noche de paz, noche de amor
Talk not fight, love not war
Guns and bombs will sound no more
Peace will reign from shore to shore
Dream, let´s share the same dream
Dream, let´s dream of peace

Saturday 2 November 2013

Lavinia Meijer plays Philip Glass in The Hague

When I asked for a ticket for the Philip Glass concert the sales assistant said there was no  Philip Glass concert listed. I said the one on 27 October and she said Oh, you mean the Lavinia Meijer concert, as if referring to Lady Gaga or Taylor Swift. One of the things that takes time when you move to another country is to get to know the cultural icons and Lavinia Meijer is certainly one of those in the Netherlands.

Her concert at the beautiful   Nieuwe Kerk  in The Hague brought together a different audience from other concerts I have heard there. Apart from the smattering of children, aspiring young harpists brought along by indulgent parents, there was a majority of chic or cool or fashion, whatever you will, which underlined the pop status harpist Lavinia Meijer has earned herself since graduating from Amsterdam Conservatoire.

Then there were people like me who were drawn by the programme: the music of Philip Glass. For most of us, the chances of hearing operas like Akhnaten and Einstein on the beach are pretty slim, so this concert was a special treat, as it included the   Attacca Ensemble   a chamber choir who specialize in contemporary music, conducted by the excellent Fokko Oldenhuis, a conductor who, as they used to say, has the score in his head not his head in the score, and who  brings a superb standard of ensemble, intonation and expression from his singers. The group was completed by pianist/ artistic director Feico Deutekom and percussionist Christian Saris.
Of the instrumental pieces, the high point for me was the moto perpetuo Music in similar motion, from 1969, arranged here for piano and harp. The simplicity of the melodic figures is gradually transformed by progressively increased rhythmic complexity, and this was a virtuoso performance. A short piece from the soundtrack for the film The Hours left me cold: here are the Glass hallmarks of unprepared changes from major to minor and endless hemiolas that just become irritating after a while. To be fair, the music was written for film rather than stage and the enthusiastic applause showed that my reaction was not shared by most of the audience.

The choral pieces were in every way satisfying and effective. This choir has a superb tone quality and tonal and dynamic range and this was heard to great effect in The Funeral and The Temple from Akhnaten .  Chilling in every sense was the 1986 Freezing on a text by Suzanne Vega, and Knee Play III gave us a hint of the humour and subtlety to be found in the mammoth, difficult to produce Einstein on the beach. Hydrogen Jukebox is a theatre piece from 1990 on texts by Allan Ginsberg. Here´s a fragment of The Green Automobile:

Childhood youth time age and eternity
Would open like sweet trees
In the nights of another spring
And dumbfound us with love
For we can see together
The beauty of souls hidden like diamonds
In the clock of the world
In contrast there is the icy satire on American politics from CIA Dope Calypso:worth finding for yourself to read the whole text, too long to quote here.
Philip Glass  is often catalogued as a minimalist composer.  In his own bio, we read, Glass himself never liked the term and preferred to speak of himself as a composer of “music with repetitive structures.”    This is a much better description of his music. It was a great privilege to hear his music played by these musicians who have the necessary skills to perform this style and who have worked with the composer on several occasions in the Netherlands.
In his 2010 biography of John Cage, Kenneth Silverman writes that Cage knew Philip Glass and liked some of his music, but criticized both Glass and Steve Reich for “arousing in their listeners a convivial feeling that turned them into a group, like a pop music following “.  There was a sense of a pop music following at Lavinia Meijer´s concert and who is complaining? As far as I can see, any musician who can get 500 people like myself to spend their cash on listening to music by a living composer played at the highest standard  deserves only admiration.

Sunday 27 October 2013

Ciconia Consort on the hunt for good tunes in The Hague

What a great start to a concert when you are welcomed by music even before you enter the concert hall. This is what happened last weekend in The Hague as the audience arrived to hear the Ciconia Consort open their 2013/14 season. The musical theme was the hunt and a local group of hunting horn players, the  Jachthoorngroep Waalsdoorp,  set the scene in the open air and continued with brief hunting calls inside between pieces.

My Dutch friend told me, approvingly, that there are numerous hunting horn groups in the Netherlands, maintaining a long tradition and, not so approvingly, they are all male. The group we heard was made up of horns of different sizes, from smaller than a bugle to larger than a modern French Horn, and this allowed for some really nice harmony which was in tune and with excellent ensemble  playing. Spoken explanations were given by Simon Fuks describing the development of the horn over time.
The concert itself kicked off with Leopold Mozart´s Sinfonia de Caccia for four horns and strings. There was some lovely playing on the natural horns and conductor Dick van Gasteren kept lively tempi throughout. Personally I could do without the balloons being pricked to represent the gunshots but others obviously found it amusing. I think if you can’t find a pistol maybe you are better just to leave this out. Why spoil such nice playing with horrible noises?
Vivaldi´s violin concerto La Caccia followed, with Quirine van Hoek as soloist. The playing throughout was excellent and the continuo part was played by Javier Ovejero Mayoral on a chitarrone. Using this instrument meant that the sections with solo violin, solo cello and continuo had a beautifully balanced ensemble and the instrument has a much more mellow sound than a harpsichord.
Dick van Gasteren introduced Mozart’s string quartet Die Jagd by reminding us that the composer lived in The Hague for several months when he was touring Europe with his parents and sister. In fact they lodged in a building almost across the road from the concert venue. I checked later and it turns out it was in 1765 when Mozart was nine. I am not sure about the point of performing a chamber music piece with an orchestra: the composer had a certain musical texture in mind and multiplying the number of players per part means that we are distorting that texture. I understand the idea of keeping to the hunt theme, but to be honest I think very few people in the audience would have walked out if one of the pieces had not been hunt-themed.
We heard a wonderful wind section in the closing piece, Haydn’s Symphony 73, La Chasse, and I think it would have been better to have played another piece using all these players rather than the string quartet. The Haydn was beautifully played. The Minuetto went at a ripping tempo and there was a frisson of risk, which fortunately did not materialize into an accident, hunt-wise or music-wise.
You can find more information about the Ciconia Consort   and see much better pictures than mine. The young players are very fortunate to perform in such a superb venue as the  Nieuwe Kerk  a multi-purpose building which has not been used as a church since the 70’s and which has wonderful acoustics.

What with all the hunting horn pieces, the full programme and long explanations by the speaker, the concert turned into a marathon two and a half hours. Nobody seemed to mind too much, and nobody minded either when a man wandered in during the Haydn, tried out a few seats and finally settled on the front row. Nobody challenged him or told him to get out, we all just sat listening to the music. How can anyone not love living in Holland!  

Sunday 6 October 2013

Big Band Koninklijk Conservatorium in The Hague

Sunday morning, free coffee and a top class big band in a plush venue for 6 euros. What more can anyone ask for? That was obviously what the other 350 or so concert goers thought this morning at the Dr. Anton Philipszaal concert hall in The Hague as we enjoyed the hour long set by the big band of the Royal Conservatoire directed by John Ruocco.

The set was introduced by a radio announcer who had prepared his notes very well, but it meant we missed out on John Ruocco´s own commentaries  and he was restricted to directing, which he does superbly. The music can be cool but his control is total: his long, clear count-ins  give every number a confident, sure start and his directing ensures excellent ensemble playing even on the syncopated stabs and in  backing phrases.

As far as I could tell the band decided to take advantage of the excellent acoustics of the concert hall, more used to symphony concerts by the city´s Residentie Orchestra, and not use amplification. Only the string bass and electric guitar were amplified, with a mic for the singer. This had its undoubtedly positive side as we heard the players’ own personal instrumental sound and their lovely playing without a sound engineer´s distortions, especially in the lyrical trumpet solo on Thad Jones’s Mean what you say, the beautiful piano solo on Barry Harris’s I love you so, and the trombone chorales which opened and closed Cole Porter’s Every time we say goodbye. The downside was that the sax section was not always clearly heard in the tutti moments, and even the solos played in situ lacked definition: In the closing number, Gus Arnheim’s Sweet & lovely, the alto soloist was clearly heard because he played at the singer’s mic.

I spent a few moments wondering how the balance would have worked if the string bass had played unplugged and if the guitarist had used an acoustic guitar: in this concert hall I think it would have worked well.

This is a great band with a long and admirable history. The ensemble and solo playing is all superb and the technical accomplishment is impeccable. According to the programme, the band was already active before the jazz department was set up at the conservatoire in 1979 by Frans Elsen, whose arrangement of the Barry Harris tune I love you so was included in the set. John Ruocco  has directed the band since the early 1990’s and has led the band in performances at top venues including the North Sea Jazz Festival on numerous occasions, including the most recent one. Ruocco’s own playing experience at the highest level means that all the details of style and quality are present in every number.

The line up for  today’s concert includes players from 11 nations. Here are the names according to the programme notes:
Trumpet – Floris Windey, Daniel Clason, Sascha van Loenen, Paul Instance
Trombone – Juanga Lakunza, Christopher Rennebach, Sten Valdmaa, Mattia Petrogalli
Alto sax – Manvydas Pratkelis, Marija Medvedeva
Tenor sax – Rokas Jaunius, Allessandro Bianchi
Baritone – Emilio Tritto
Guitar – Tamas Zador
Piano – S’Yo Fang
String bass – Bernardo Sacconi
Drums – Thomas de Visser
Singer – Katharina Ritzel

Without any desire to criticize, three questions buzzed around my mind while I enjoyed this excellent set, which was just as good, though not as relaxed, as the show I saw at an open day at the conservatoire in the spring. Yes there are Dutch names listed as arrangers on several of the numbers, but why are there no works by Dutch composers on the programme?  Yes, the credits on the set list are like reading a jazz hall of fame, including composers I have already mentioned  plus Gerry Mulligan, Charlie Parker and Benny Carter, but why are there no works by living composers on the show? Yes, this is a great band in the most open and fair European city I know of, so why is there only one woman in the band, apart from the singer?

Thank you to the  Royal Conservatoire  of The Hague for starting my weekend with a concert of electronic music (see a later post), and for this lovely Sunday morning big band show.

Monday 26 August 2013

Gillian Howell: Music in a conflicted world

Gillian Howell, Australian Musician, Facilitator & Educator recently wrote about her experiences in 1998 in the post- conflict environment of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

 She was struck then at how important it was for people to make music even in the most challenging circumstances. We might think that just the effort of finding enough to eat and drink in a war-torn country would overwhelm people and leave them without energy for such a frivolous and unproductive activity as making music. She details her experiences at the Pavarotti Music Centre and compares them with accounts written by David Wilson, who was the director of the centre at the time.  She goes on to explore what making music really is and why we “do music ”, and summarises some important recent research on the subject.

I will not rewrite her work here, better you go to her blog  

I mention it because my holiday reading treat has been  The Rest Is Noise  by Alex Ross and in his harrowing chapter on Music in Hitler´s Germany: Death Fugue he describes how music provided a lifeline, a faint reminder of normality for prisoners when orchestras were formed in Auschwitz. In 1941 and 1942 men´s orchestras were established to entertain their captors and in 1943 a women’s orchestra was formed. 

Alma Rosé, Mahler’s niece, was one of the prisoners, and when she took over the direction of the women’s orchestra she raised the standard by applying her perfectionism even in these extreme circumstances. Ross tells of a Polish cellist who recalled that Rosé had violently criticised her for missing an accidental. “At the time the young musician was furious; in retrospect, she thought that this seemingly futile resistance on perfection had saved her from insanity.”

This excerpt chimed with Gillian Howell’s observations about Bosnia-Herzegovina: that there is something about practical, active music making that is basic to our existence and that can offer healing even in the most appalling situations. Music takes us beyond the here and now.  

Here is one of her quotes:

Christopher Small, in ‘Musicking’ (1998) suggests that when people “music”, they are engaging in a kind of ritual, and human rituals are a way for us to experience our world as we wish it to be

I just re-read some of Gillian´s earlier writing on her time in Timor L’Este, which moved me so much as I followed her diary over the weeks on my safe and easy journey to my safe and privileged school. Here is what she and her partner were working on with local children one day in 2011: 

Yesterday we focused on the idea that from the moment a person is born they have the same human rights as every other person.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Midwest Young Artists in The Hague, Netherlands

It was a great pleasure last June to welcome to school nearly one hundred young musicians from the Chicago area music school, the Midwest Young Artists    

The music school is very well established with a long history of high quality music making and now has its own premises in a converted former army base. They have a wonderful series of music programmes for all ages from little children to young adults including choirs, symphony and chamber music ensembles and jazz combos in different formats.  Students from the school have won major awards in prestigious national competitions.

By the time the group made it to The Hague they had already performed several concerts in France and Belgium and they were in the city as guests of the VHJO youth orchestra of The Hague which is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year.

You can see full reports and photos on the tour blog 

The concert they performed for us included the Symphony Orchestra and the Jazz Ensemble, directed by Dr Allan Dennis and Mr Chris Madsen. We wanted this music to be shared and enjoyed by as many of our students as possible and we did this by fitting it in during a mentor hour. This worked out well in that about 350 students and teachers were able to attend, but it meant that we had to limit the timing to 45 minutes. It was clear that the visitors had much more music than could fit in that time, and that our students would have listened for longer as they were admiring the musicians and enjoying their music so much.

Dr Dennis led his students in a varied programme: for many students the highlight was the finale, the theme from Star Wars. For me the highlight was a movement from a longer work by Massachusetts born composer Alan Hovhaness  (1911 – 2000). It is always a great moment to hear someone conduct music  which they not only know about thoroughly, but also care about deeply, and even in this simple, informal setting we were treated to a performance of this nature-inspired music which moved many of us to search for more of this composer´s work.  

Mr Masden led his jazz group from the piano. Many of my younger students commented to me how they noticed how carefully the players were following him even though he “did not seem to be directing”. In a group as good as this it is unfair to single out any players, but I think the drummer was expertly sensitive and controlled and we heard lovely solos from three trumpet players. Some of our Year 8 (7th Grade) sax players were sitting on the second row and were knocked out by the ultra cool alto sax playing. I am sorry I cannot name the players as I don´t have the list, but you know who you are! When we were making arrangements we agreed not to use amplification, and it was the right decision as the band adjusted instantly to the hall's acoustic and every instrument was beautifully balanced. 

Thanks to our friends at the VHJO for letting us be part of this tour, and especially to Dr Dennis, Mr Masden and all the wonderful students who shared their music with us with such great skill and enthusiasm: please come back soon and we will try to arrange for you to play for longer next time.

Saturday 24 August 2013

Frances & Larootcrowd

You can find Frances & Larootcrowd on Soundcloud in the organic rock category.
If organic means authentic rather than fake, original rather than imitation, and quality rather than dross, then organic is certainly the right category for this band.

Crystalline is a word that comes to mind when listening to Frances in a song like  Morning.
I don´t mean this in a sugar sweet sense, but crystalline in the sense of clear, direct and strong and with the power to go straight to the heart.

This band have built their career over time, and they do the same with their songs. They are not in a rush to wrap up a tune in 3 minutes and they let the music breathe, take time to build up interesting solos and use clever arrangements to deliver maximum emotional power.

On the Festimad band page their music is described as psychedelic so I did start linking up their songs with sounds from years ago: there´s a nice easy shuffle groove on Lemon Tree      which took me back to America´s 1971 song A horse with no name and there are some vintage Pink Floyd inspired guitar solos on  River , which opens with a very Rubber Soul sound. 

Frances uses the higher register of her voice in most of her songs but on Travel  she shows off a powerful lower register which opens up more expressive possibilities.  I wonder if among her psychedelic virtual collection she´s followed Marianne Faithful, not a bad role model by any standards.

Frances Ribes Renshaw is the songwriter and the voice that fronts this outfit, and Larootcrowd are smooth and laid back. This band have done their time in their native Madrid and on the Spain circuit and they are clearly ready for their big moment. 

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Ana Palacios & Anar Ibrahimov & Kammer Philharmonie in Denia

What could really go wrong in a concert presided over by beautiful  images, resplendent in blue robes and ringed in gold and accompanied by large scale paintings and dominated by a formidable dome? This was the setting at the grandiose Asunción church in Denia, Alicante for a recent concert by musicians of the Chamber  Philharmonia from Cologne.

“Classical music the world over” is the motto of the Chamber Philharmonia of Cologne  . As far as I can see, this is a flexible ensemble dedicated to exploring performance  formats beyond the standard concert hall and its members are drawn from many countries, with the city of Cologne as their meeting point. Tours regularly take the ensemble to New Zealand, Australia, Spain, Great Britain, Ireland and many other countries and in Germany there is a regular partnership with the Mercedes Benz Centre.
When I saw a poster advertising  Ana Palacios  as solo flautist  I assumed she was from the local region of Alicante, one of the many leading woodwind players to grow up through the thriving Spanish  village band tradition. Anyway, it turns out that Ana Palacios was born and trained in Zaragoza before making her way to Germany for post graduate study. Her performance in this concert showed a technical brilliance and musical sensitivity which are beautifully rounded.
Anar Ibrahimov was born in Azerbaijan and studied in his home country and in France en route to Cologne. His violin playing is of such virtuosity that this evening´s repertoire fell comfortably under his fingers and for his encore he chose to play a piece from his own country which was beautiful in its simplicity: I am sorry I could not hear the composer´s name when Ibrahimov made his impromptu announcement.  He had already lit the fireworks so there was no need to show off technique, instead he gave the evening an original and moving finale. 
The two soloists were joined by a quintet whose names did not appear in the simple printed programme and this is a pity as they certainly deserve their share of recognition for the success of this lovely evening. Not only did they all play with excellent intonation and balance, but they overcame the challenges of ensemble posed by the formidable dome, which gives the church a very special acoustic.   
The programme was made up of a series of short, light pieces suitable for a summer evening which were tuneful and entertaining yet which gave scope for all the players, and especially the soloists, to show their mettle. In the first half, concerti by Vivaldi and Bach and in the second half a Mozart Serenade, Sarasate´s Romanza Andaluza and variations on themes from Carmen by Borne.
The chamber size ensemble worked especially well in the Mozart as one voice per part gave a clarity that we don´t appreciate when parts are doubled. For me this gave an original freshness to this very familiar work. Was I the only one who missed a harpshichord for the continuo in the Baroque pieces? The orchestration of the Sarasate  was not quite complete but this music is mainly about strong melodies and brilliant solo playing and on this occasion the soloists´ flair was enough to faithfully convey the music´s character.

If the exquisite setting of the Asunción church and the otherworldly playing by  Chamber Philharmonia Cologne tempted us to think we were momentarily living on a higher plane, the interjections of a samba troupe intruding from the street to advertise Denia´s summer shopping night brought us all back to earth.  For a couple of hours at least, the spiritual and the material worlds were intertwined by music.   

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Magistrum at Summerjazz in Denia

Introducing The Impossible Dream as his encore number, the presenter noted how appropriate the song is to Spain´s desperate situation. We seemed a long way from the political and economic crisis, cosseted in the Torrecremada gardens  on a balmy August evening, listening to the well oiled Magistrum quartet going through their numbers in the second event of the Summerjazz    series.

The concert started well with a jazz trio interpretation of La Tarara. This is one of the Spanish folk songs collected and arranged by Federico García Lorca and it followed a style of Flamenco jazz  that´s now pretty familiar thanks to artists like Chano Dominguez   Guillermo McGill  and  Miguel Angel Chastang  in Spain and Michel Camilo   further afield, to mention but a few. The trio played the opening of Bach´s first Prelude in C and I thought we were settled into an evening of professional and predictable fare, but tenor J.L.Luri soon made it clear we were going to hear a varied and, at times, completely original set.
J.L.Luri is an operatic tenor and the programme was built around his beautiful voice. It wasn´t a surprise to read later on the  Magistrum   web site that he has sung in more than 100 opera productions and has played leading roles in grand opera repertoire such as La Traviata.  The Bach prelude turned into Ave Maria and was followed by standards like As  time goes by, Over the rainbow, Moon River and Maria and opera favourites such as Nessum Dorma, which he sang as if it was all so easy.
There were lovely performances of Napolitan songs including O sole mio and then, to me, the most interesting part, Spanish songs. In almost all the songs the trio broke into swing interludes between the verses, and sometimes the whole accompaniment was in jazz style.
The concert began with La Tarara as an instrumental, as I have said, but as it went on we heard great tunes like Granada and a couple of arias from the Spanish operetta genre called zarzuela. Granada is intriguing to start with when we remember that Augustin Lara had never traveled from his native Mexico before writing this song, which seems to perfectly embody the Spanish style. It´s a bit like Puccini´s achievement in evoking Madame Butterfly´s Japan without having left Europe. Musically it is interesting because the harmonies and chord changes are very busy and give rise to some nifty playing and effective dynamic control.
The zarzuela items really worked well in that there was no lowering of the standard of execution in the tenor part, yet the trio breathed new life into the accompaniments, which, let´s be honest, are at times limited, especially in a trio reduction.
I really enjoyed the very detailed and discreet drumming by Fernando Cherro  and the nice loose, free bass playing on bass guitar an electric upright bass by J.A. Bornay. The jazz soloing fell almost entirely to pianist V.J. Ruíz and he maintained an exceptionally high level of interest throughout a long programme. If I had to choose  the most effective solos I would go for O sole mio and What a wonderful world, which were both totally assured and yet fresh.

Is it an Impossible Dream to think that Spain can dig its way out of this crisis? If there is a future for the country it will come from  the creativity and originality of  its citizens and artistes, the kind of creativity we were privileged to share thanks to Magistrum in the gardens in Denia.

Thursday 7 February 2013

Preparing music for a Tedx event: a music teacher´s diary, Part nine

Update on 2 February: step by step
The Content Group has been meeting and we seem to have a more or less fixed programme for our mid March event. I signed off in December with a proposal to initiate 3 actions: a video link up/web jam, an audio installation and a large scale musical piece to be created for the event.
Now that plans have been finalized I am glad to say that my original proposal has survived almost intact from germ idea to the outline programme.
To take them one at a time: the web jam is going ahead, thanks to a great response from friends and colleagues in London, as I noted in the last update. Year 10 students will feature in a leadership role. Now that we have the organizational aspects confirmed we can get down to the business of setting out our musical framework. The key feature is a live interaction between students in different countries with music as the common language.
The interactive audio installation is becoming a reality too. My colleague Dan Horwood has started trying out light sensors and he will work with students to start selecting the sounds to be included in the installation. We expect there to be a selection of samples ranging from vocal sounds to street noise to dub step and other dj beats. The question of the physical location of the sensors remains to be decided, but we are looking at mounting them between plexi-glass sheets to be laid on the floor, thanks to an inspired suggestion from colleague J.
Dan is uniquely prepared to lead the interactive audio installation because he is both a musician and a tec expert. Not only that, but in his native Australia Dan worked on interactive installations. I can’t wait to see the result in March.
The large scale composition is being subsumed into another item: there was a group of very enthusiastic students keen to perform a dance. Instead of them performing to a pop song playback we have convinced them to be part of a dance & music piece which they will help to create, working with other students who will play the music. As the dancers have already prepared most of the choreography, the tempo and structure of the new piece will be based on those of the pop song they were using, but the rest will be original, and should involve dancers and instrumentalists with each other and with the dance and music, both as creators and performers.
More details to follow. Six weeks to go….

Preparing music for a Tedx event: a music teacher´s diary, Part eight

Web jam is on: London Calling!
If you want something done, ask a busy person; if you want something really important done, ask a very busy person. Yet again I have seen this maxim work out in practice.
When I last wrote about the TedxYouth event I had not been able to find a partner school to link up for a web jam. Thanks to the incredible Pete Romhany, inspirational Head of Music at Morpeth School in Bethnal Green, London, I now have a partner. Pete has taken several  groups to my school in Madrid over the years and we were involved in the Comenius project Music is our language, which culminated in a concert at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in 2007. In January he put me in touch with a colleague at another London school and we are good to go: more details to follow, but in principle there will be Year 10 students taking the lead.
At the same time we have the possibility of setting up a kind of web jam pen letter scheme between my students in The Hague and their peers in Australia: again, more details to follow but this initiative is thanks to Gillian Howell, community music leader and teacher.
Thanks to these colleagues and others, our Tedx event will include high levels of creative interaction not just between students face to face, but also across the world thanks to an innovative use of technology.
London calling: The Hague is listening! Australia writing: The Hague is reading you!

Roller Trio: Jazz at King’s Place, London

In London for the weekend and the choice of live music is dazzling. I am looking for high quality contemporary British jazz in a central venue with excellent sound.  I find it all at   King's Place  a superb arts centre next to The Guardian building 5 minutes up the road from King’s Cross station. There are 2 halls in this building and I saw Hall 2, a black box which offers a flexible space for multi media events. On 2 February the stage was taken by  Roller Trio  recently recognized in the UK’s Mercury Prize: James Mainwaring, sax & effects, Luke Wynter, guitar & effects and Luke Reddin-Williams on drums. This trio without a bass have a guitarist who doubles with bass lines, using effects to give a convincing bass sound. The drummer is a power house with a brain, loads of energy with lots of sensitivity to match the brawn. The sax player is tough and aggressive, pushing the music on in irregular time signatures and uneven phrases, he plays virtuoso solos with power even in the highest registers and a breadth of imagination to match.
I did not catch the titles of the tunes in this set but several numbers stayed in my mind even the next day. Among them one which starts with a 5 finger exercise pattern in sax which is passed over to guitar before going into solos. Another number starts with a riff which repeats so many times the joke is you think maybe the fx has got stuck in the works. Funky grooves are a signature of this band and their energy level is able to maintain the interest through ample repetition of few-note motifs.
So much action makes the appearance of the occasional lyrical passages very poignant and left me wanting to hear more from this band who formed at Leeds College of Music.
This gig is one of a series at The Base at King´s Place, great music and best value in town, at 9.50 if booked on-line.
Thanks Roller Trio for a rollercoaster of emotions, a great set.

The Eroica Project Orchestra: Beethoven in The Hague

A friend said, when I told her I was off to a concert:  imagine how all the prayer going on in that church right in the heart of the city infuses the area with spirituality. These were profound thoughts and I sat in the magnificent Kloosterkerk church expectant for a deep revelation of Beethoven´s first and second symphonies as The Eroica Project prepared to perform.
The first disadvantage of performing in the magnificent Kloosterkerk was apparent before the music even started: just as the conductor was about to raise his baton, not one but several of The Hague´s trams rumbled past the building, and the conductor and players all had to wait. It turned out to be a sign that this venue and this music were not to be a marriage made in heaven.
Once the music started, the generous resonance meant that it was very difficult to hear any kind of detail and much of the following 50 minutes passed over in an acoustic blur.
This was a pity, because  The Eroica Project orchestra is made up of an excellent band of players using period instruments and the quality of their playing deserves to be heard and enjoyed.
The programme note tells us that the group have returned to original sources for the scores, and this has led the conductor to follow “extreme dynamics and radical tempi”. The sources are not identified so we are left wondering exactly what the conductor has looked at that other conductors have not already taken into account in their performances of these works.  I did not perceive much of extreme dynamics, certainly not in the piano/pianissimo range, but the tempi did influence the performance. It seemed to me that the faster movements  were energetic and pushed the orchestra to the edge in the challenge of ensemble playing.  Given the resonance I mentioned before, unfortunately the gain in energy and a frisson of risk was not enough to offset the loss of detail.
The second movements are marked Andante cantabile con moto and Larghetto and in this performance there was plenty of moto in both. I do not know what indications in original sources have encouraged the conductor to use faster tempi for these movements but the result diminished my enjoyment of the music. On the one hand, the music in each of these movements needs to breathe and there simply was not time enough to let the melodies sing as one phrase hurried on to the next. On the other hand, the contrast between these two movements and the other movements was absent, so we lost a sense of large scale structure in each symphony. There was a sameness about all the movements which I am sure no version of Beethoven´s scores, Urtext or revised, ever meant to convey.
The programme note explains that the orchestra is made up of current or recent students at the Royal Conservatoire of The Hague and that the conductor teaches there.  I wish this concert had taken place in the conservatoire´s concert hall just a few streets away from the Kloosterkerk so that we could have enjoyed the excellent playing with all the detail which these fine musicians are capable of.
What was added to our understanding and enjoyment of this music by the use of historically appropriate instruments?  In this acoustic the gains were uncertain. Maybe we need to match the effort made to re/construct the instruments with the effort made to find the performing venues for which they were intended.
I hope I was not the only one inspired by the spirituality of the Kloosterkerk to offer up a prayer for the orchestra for their performance the following night. If the acoustic in this church is difficult, the sound in the following day´s venue, a historic sailors´ church in nearby Scheveningen, is an acoustic black hole by comparison.
The Erocia Project has been founded recently by the conductor Isaac Alonso de Molina. There is a beautifully designed web site which will undoubtedly build up its content as this excellent group continues to explore Classical and Romantic repertoire.

Friday 25 January 2013

Apple, RDFZ Beijing and Madrid

The RDFZ middle school was featured by   Apple   in its world wide review of innovation in technology and education as:
the first school in China to participate in a Mac one-to-one program, which provides each student with a MacBook Pro and has transformed learning into a collaborative and engaging experience

I recognised the red logos on white track suits immediately when I clicked on the link to the video, and even saw the sports field which I have walked on in person.
RDFZ XISHAN is the middle school section of the school in Beijing with which I have been privileged to be associated over the years.

The RDFZ High School Affiliated to Renmin University is an amazing school in many ways. For a start, the inspirational Principal, Madame Liu is a powerhouse of ideas and passion for education. She travels the world making connections with the educational institutions to share the best current practice and to open opportunities for her students.

I have been delighted to welcome   visiting groups  from RDFZ to my former school in Madrid. During their visits, which took place in January each year for 4 years I arranged home stays for them with my students. Their visits to Madrid included sharing Spanish language and culture with the host students and visits to key sites in the city such as the Royal Palace, the Prado art gallery and, of course, the Bernabeu stadium, home of Real Madrid football club. Each group was treated to a talk on Spanish music by one of my expert and generous piano teacher colleagues.

One of the visits included a tour of the   IE University   in Segovia, a memorable occasion and an opportunity for the visiting students from an innovative school in Asia to have a taste of a truly world class university  in Europe.

In 2010 I was delighted to be invited to speak at a  conference  in Beijing organized by the RDFZ High School to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Speakers included education luminaries such as Anthony Seldon  . It was a fascinating event and I am grateful to the school for their generous hospitality.

For me the highlight of my links with the RDFZ school was to accompany 8 students from Madrid to Beijing in November 2008. My students had the unforgettable experience of living with Chinese families in their homes for one week.  Of course, the intensive plan of visits to major historic and cultural sites such as the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Olympic Stadium were all striking and enjoyable experiences, but the most important aspect of the visit
 was the personal relationship established with the host students and their families. Even years later I know that some of the students were still in contact with their hosts by email. The Madrid students’ families later expressed their gratitude to the RDFZ High School for their kindness and generosity and repeated over and over what a profound effect the visit had on their young sons and daughters.

Thank you again, RDFZ High School Affiliated to Renmin University for your generosity, kindness and inspiration, and thanks to Apple for bringing back happy memories.

Wednesday 23 January 2013

Fall over Friday is not better news than a music festival

Accounts of a wasted generation, of lost youth and of innumerable souls falling into an alcohol fuelled hell. This is what I saw, no, not what I saw last weekend but what I saw in one of the UK papers online in December. It turns out Fall over Friday is the start of a binge weekend before Christmas and the paper in question was there to cover it in all its sordid details. Were there millions, hundreds of thousands, or many thousands of young people involved in unseemly behavior in the streets of Britain that day? The paper chose some pretty close-up photos to prove its point. In the end, the numbers were nearer the hundreds than the thousands.
On the other hand, last weekend in Holland I saw 550 young people from six countries spend a day making music, performing repertoire which had been painstakingly prepared and which was warmly received by those who listened in. I watched in admiration as expert judges coached and encouraged the young musicians and I enjoyed a final concert involving a saxophone quartet whose senior member was almost 80 years old.
So what did the paper have to say about this music festival held last weekend? Nothing, of course. Okay, fairdos, it took place across the North Sea, way off the UK press´s radar unless there is European football against Ajax.
Even so, we all know the press would not have covered this story. There is no story.  No drunks, no pills, no abuse, so it’s not worth the space.
Why are fine, outstanding events such as this no-go areas for the media? A few years ago I took some students to take part in the final concert of a European project we were partners of. On a snowy February morning in the City children from 6  local primary schools and one local secondary school were joined by a group from Iceland as well as my group from Madrid. The final product was the result of nearly 2 years of work. When I asked one of the organizers if she had notified the press she laughed and said she wouldn’t even waste her time writing an email. There was no story.
A couple of years before that I was part of a group of teachers who arranged for nearly 100 teenagers to travel half way across Spain to rehearse and perform, among other things, Dvorak’s New World Symphony. As in the UK, so in Spain: there was no story.
I wish I could say the Dutch press were different, but you will hunt in vain for any mention of last weekend´s festival there either. No story.
It´s not fair to pick on any particular paper, but when all is said and done, coverage of Fall over Friday gives some clues as to what makes a story. Without going into lurid details, suffice to say that the worse for wear partygoing teenagers paid less attention than they might have done to their hemlines, and wardrobe malfunctions gave photo editors plenty of scope. By contrast, as at all well organized music festivals, concert dress last weekend was dignified and all the young people involved spent the entire day showing and being shown the respect they deserved.
Very sorry that music can’t beat mayhem as a story, but I do look forward to the day when the press will recognize that Fall over Friday is not better news than a music festival.

Saturday 19 January 2013

AMIS Solo & Ensemble Festival in The Hague

Several children slept in the row in front of me during the closing ceremony and in the row behind an 11 year old boy explained to his friend that as the bow he ended up with did not fit in his violin case, obviously he had picked up someone else’s bow by mistake. I shudder to think how that could be resolved as the violin cases concerned were about to take wing for many distant cities.

550 young musicians took over the American School of The Hague on Saturday 19 January, filling the building with music from 9 till 5 for the   AMIS  International Solo & Ensemble Festival.   AMIS is the Association of Music in International Schools.

I was happy to accompany a group of my students who took part in several categories, including vocal ensemble, instrumental solo and piano and string duet. They joined more than 550 students from international schools in Belgium, Germany, Luxemburg,  Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands at the 20th edition of this musical marathon.
After their performance each student or group received personalized feedback from one of the  19 expert judges, and in most cases these comments included very practical suggestions as to how to improve and provided much food for thought.

The Solo & Ensemble Festival also provides students with the opportunity to listen to their peers and to attend a master-class in their own speciality before the closing ceremony where certificates and medals are awarded.

I sat in on the sax and clarinet master class at the end of the day. This session had the added magic of a local prize winning saxophone quartet, Met Marteen, described later by  Jim Yarnell as the best sax quartet in Benelux. They played on their own and then invited all the students present to play along. In the closing ceremony they performed a lively, witty, jazzy contemporary piece.

I very much enjoyed some of the comments and coaching given by the judges, especially those of Anne Nissinen, piano, and Anne Laberge, flute and Darren Hain, violin. It was significant to me that all three had their instrument readily to hand and used it to demonstrate technique, illustrate their remarks and even play along with the students.

Anne Nissinen coached one student on the Turkish March sonata movement by Mozart, encouraging him to be more daring in his expressive range and to explore the use of the sustain pedal to give an added percussive tone where appropriate. This session worked out especially well as he had been in the room during the previous  student’s  performance and coaching session, and she then stayed during his performance, so the wise words were doubly worthwhile: both students seemed to appreciate the judge’s positive energy and musical inspiration.

 Anne Laberge asked two young flautists  to count the subdivisions of beats out loud in order to help them grasp a secure hold on a rhythm that sounded a bit dubious in a Telemann piece, “Like we used to do in the old fashioned way”. She demonstrated perfectly that whatever you call it, old fashioned or not, her method works and the students went home with a much clearer idea of the piece than they arrived with.

I watched with admiration as Darren Hain coached two different groups. This Australian born musician, now based in the Netherlands,  was really exceptional in his approach to the music, and caught the attention and fired the imagination of the 15 to 17 year old musicians. He asked the violinists to experiment with different ways of holding the bow, with bowing at different points on the string, and encouraged them to communicate more closely with each other, among other things. It was clear that some of the approaches he was suggesting were completely new to the students, and it was a delight to see how the young players blossomed at his expert guidance which he offered with such an encouraging manner.

Thanks to Jim Yarnell, host organizer, and his team for a great day at the American School of The Hague, with Michelle Yarnell deserving a special mention. Hope to be back next year, with more students.

Monday 14 January 2013

Camerata Delft kick up a storm in Scheveningen

The Camerata Delft  is a superb ensemble of ten professional musicians based in the Netherlands. I heard them yesterday in a concert celebrating their fifth year of playing together: on this form they should be giving concerts for many more years to come.

I do not know any of the musicians personally but it is quite clear just from one concert that their individual technical facility is prodigious and they communicate with each other with or without a conductor with a deep and shared understanding of the music. I heard the Camerata Delft at the    Muzee Museum in Scheveningen   in The Hague, a museum which makes use of a 100 seat hall for classical concerts on Sunday mornings. The acoustic in the hall is ideal for chamber music and on this occasion the ensemble made the most of the intimate setting by placing their two singers and occasionally instrumentalists around the room.
The programme was billed as Music Old & New, with Baroque high on the list. When I turn up to a concert of Baroque music I fear I am going to have to listen to The Four Seasons or other such chestnuts yet again. Fortunately that was certainly not the case as the programme was  a really intelligent sequence around the theme of the Western wind, the sea and storms  of, on the one hand, 17 & 18 century composers, Telemann (Watermusic), Purcell (Tempest suite), Vivaldi (La Temepsta di mare), Rameau (Zephire suite) and Monteverdi (Zifiro Torna), and works by two living composers, van Deurzen (Uit de Brief) and Clark (Westron Wynde).
The playing throughout was excellent, and so was the ensemble, as I have said, and I should not forget to mention also the beautiful singing by Leonore Engelbrecht, soprano, and Hans van Dijk, tenor. The string players are Quirine van der Hoek, Machteld van Delft, Siebe Visser and Lotte Beukman, Elly van Munster, thorbo; Andrew Clark was conductor and harpsichordist, and the wind players are Douwe van der Meulen, oboe and Imre Rolleman, flute.
The voices featured in the two contemporary pieces. Patrick van Deurzan, b 1964, uses the theorbo  to accompany the soprano in his Uit de Brief. I enjoyed this piece for its use of 20th century harmonies on a 17 century instrument.  I asked myself whether he wrote the piece for this ensemble and also my mind wandered slightly into imagining the same music played on a guitar: would there have been a touch more warmth in the sound?
Westron Wynde, conducted by the composer Andrew Clark, b 1956, stole my heart. The writing, for string quartet, oboe, flute and yes, theorbo and soprano and tenor, was exquisite and I was deeply moved, and I was not the only one in the hall I am sure. The text is taken from the 16 century, as far as I can understand, and the use of vocal sounds to conjure the whoosh of the wind to top and tail the piece, and the beautiful  use of the two voices, placed around the room to create an echo effect, was powerful. Those of us who attended Sunday’s concert were especially privileged: I understand this was the third concert by the ensemble in the same weekend, after performances in Delft and Rotterdam. So we were witnesses of that precious and unique point in a work's history where it is still absolutely fresh and new, yet is well enough known and performed to be a fully realized performance.
I will now search out more music by Andrew Clark: I want to hear more, and if I can hear his music played by Camerata Delft , so much the better.

Friday 4 January 2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part seven

A song worth singing/ Lend a hand

x=independently organised TED event
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

December 2012: Lend a hand
I have made it a routine to open lessons with whole class starters, usually standing in a circle. One has been especially popular and with the Y9 classes it has developed almost a life of its own. With some tightening up it can work as a part of the large scale piece. A colleague´s absence means that I can borrow time from his lesson and put two classes together, moving out to the school’s beautiful open plan indoor plaza. We rehearse a clapping sequence with 40 students, starting with 4 players at the points of the compass, adding 4 more in between each time we go around the circle until everyone is taking part. We discuss how this could sound in the auditorium with double the number of students standing up and down the aisles and on the stairs. The idea seems to catch the students´ imagination. Yes, keep working on this.

December 2012: A song worth singing
The school Talent Show introduced me to some wonderful singers in the senior years. Their voices give rise to the idea for the 2 section of the extended piece. I meet them to describe my ideas for a bluesy, soulful vocal section which will start small and build to include a call & response section with the audience, singing in 2 parts.  

31 December 2012
New Year’s Eve: what progress have I made?
No partner yet for video link after contacting various possible partner schools. What to do? 

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part six

Interactive audio installation: music at the speed of light

x=independently organised TED event.
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

December 2012: Let´s interact

My colleague D spends a day researching prices and availability of hardware we need for the 200 hands piece and tells me of his former life in Melbourne where he worked on, among other things, an interactive video installation. Now we are really moving. I get onto google and find examples of audio installations: some are plain boring, some are interesting but do not involve the audience actively, and the best involve technology in an original way to enable the audience to become active participants in the art making process. My favourite is from an event in  Lima in 2010. This is my favourite example because it gives the member of the public a chance to interact with light and sound and create their own work of art in real time. For me, the use of coloured lights is especially effective.
The drawback is that each person seems to have only one go at the controls. I hope we will be able to mount an installation  where partcipants can try their hand several times so that they gain some expertise at the technique and can truly make their own art work, invloving intent, choice of sound sources and control of the medium.

Here is a really useful summary of 15 interactive audio installations from around the world.

This post was edited on 6 Jan2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part five

200 Hands: music from the past & the future

x=independently organised TED event
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

November 2012: the world comes to The Hague
Early November, my school hosts its annual Model United Nations bash. More than 700 students from schools in many countries present arguments for and against many proposals on the great issues of these days. 
My students perform Charpentier´s Te Deum at the Opening Ceremony. I am struck by their serenity and coolness under pressure and this convinces me to involve them in Tedx music in a significant way. I am also struck by the power of my school to draw delegates from far and wide. If this is how the school  hosts Model United Nations, the Tedx is going to be fantastic. Got to get my ideas clear. 

December 2012: Cards on the table
The big day: the Content planning meeting where I have to put forward detailed proposals to the organizing committee. I am glad to say all goes well and we seem to have a common understanding of the priorities for March: originality, creativity, communication and a purposeful use of technology. I am going to put my cards on the table and lay out what I hope to present in 3 months. How much of the detail of these ideas will make it through to see the light of day at Tedx?    

Here is a draft of three ideas. As I publish them in Jan 2013 I already know we have made changes, but the interest is in seeing how far the original ideas are finally brought to fruition. so here goes:

1. Live video link with a school at a remote location.
A prepared improvisation involving music students in The Hague and city x.
Previous experience of a similar activity between Madrid and London in 2004.
Status: awaiting reply from colleagues.

2. 200 hands
Audience participation and use of technology to create a unique and one off sound scape. Joint action between Music and Technology departments.
Mount light sensors on boards on the stage, connected to sound sources which will produce instrument or vocal sounds, dj beats or sound effects.
Lights are shone from behind the audience and as people raise and move their arms they activate the light sources causing sounds to be produced.
The audience will interact with the lights to create the sound scape. All audience members can participate and no previous experience is required.

3. New improvised composition for Tedx: 1,9,3,2 zero13
This composition is in 5 sections, each one taking elements of the date of the Tedx as a starting point.
Approximately  70 students can be involved including  curriculum classes and instrumental groups.
Each section involves different groups of performers until the last section where all join in. 
Rehearsals can be as straightforward as possible, starting from a clear lead sheet.
The starting point and outline is fixed for each section, and the choice of notes is left to the performers.

I edited this post on 6Jan2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part four

Kiss the sky to link across the world

x=independently organised TED event.
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

October 2012: Kiss the Comenius Sky

Half term and a short trip home. Searching through all those discs of concerts, music exchanges and workshops from more than 20 years of intercultural educational work in Madrid.  I watched the dvd of the final product of a 2007 Comenius Project    Music is our language   which brought together my students from Madrid with their contemporaries in Reykjavík, Iceland and Tower Hamlets in London. A moving final concert at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama in London takes the theme of Kiss the Sky. Children from local primary schools and the Comenius groups perform an extended piece in differentiated sections with Jimi Henrix’s rock guitar music as the central theme directed by Sigrun Saevarsdottir-Griffiths and Paul Griffiths.

An extended piece with a common thread is a great way to structure a large scale piece for Tedx. But what can we use as the central theme? 

October 2012: You in London & us in Madrid

In 2004 Sean Gregory, Director then of  Connect  at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, accepted an invitation to come to Madrid to lead a project combining creativity, communication and technology, three great themes of our age. With the help of my school’s IT team we set up a live video link to create and perform a musical improvisation piece involving students in Madrid and students with Rob Thomas at the University of East  London at the same time thanks to a live video link. 
Watching it again I am struck by the sense of wonder and sheer joy we all experienced as we enjoyed, as performers or as audience, the sight and sound of young people making music together in spite of being more than 1,000 kilometres  apart. In 2004 the technology was expensive and clunky: in 2013 we can almost do this via a couple of iphones. Who can we link up with to do a live improvisation via video link at Tedx?   

I start to contact colleagues in Italy, China, Prague, Australia and UK. 
Who will accept the invitation? 
How will we manage a long distance link up?
How will we cope with 8 hour or more time differences?

I edited this post on 6Jan2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part three

Big numbers make big noises ... and good ones

x=independently organised TED event.
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

October 2012: 140 young musicians playing Pirates

A Year 11 student who plays in a local youth orchestra is going through the hoops to arrange for my school to host a joint concert of her youth orchestra and a visiting school orchestra from   Germany    Yes I would very much like to spend my Saturday evening at school and is there anything I can do to help, say I when invited to attend. It´s a great concert and the highlight is a performance of both groups, some 140 players, performing an excellent arrangement of Zimmer´s music for Pirates of the Carribbean.
Two things strike me: the amount of space available when the school stage is opened to its full extent: usually I see it in reduced form. The space is really decent and offers a myriad of possibilities. The second thing is the sheer exhilaration of seeing/hearing 140 performers playing together.

This concert takes me back to my own experiences as a young player. Some of the most memorable concerts were the ones where large numbers were involved. There was a concert at the Cheltenham Festival where a new work commissioned for the occasion involved several orchestras, I think four.
Then there were annual Christmas concerts, organised by the Liverpool Music Service, at the Central Hall. These concerts involved children from numerous schools and also several youth ensembles and the highlight for me was always the combined grand finale which raised the roof.

Yes, the excitement of taking part in a large scale group is very special.
Must see if we can find a way of including a mass performance at Tedx.

I edited this post on 6Jan2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher's diary part two

Old music can be a new language: Spanish folk songs

x=independently organised TED event
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

September 2012: An open canvas or a blank page

True to her word, my colleague introduced me to L and Y who are the inspiration behind the Tedx event at my school and yes it turns out they are very interested in original ideas for the big day.

The theme is Spark Your Talent, and the date 19 March 2013. No turning back now!

October 2012: Students to count on

An invitation from the Spanish Centre in The Hague to perform Spanish music at their Open Day takes up time and energy. I get to know some senior students and find them to be excellent musicians, serious about rehearsing and performing to a high standard and ready to take on new musical experiences which challenge them. Perfect candidates for the core group for Tedx music.

A fascinating insight while rehearsing the music for this concert. It’s Spanish music from the Renaissance, no problem, and a handful of Spanish folks as arranged by the poet Federico García Lorca, yes problem. I have become so accustomed to my Spanish students playing these intoxicating rhythms without any problem. Suddenly, when I say to my students here in The Hague: just play as if you were dancing with Miss Lola I am met with blank stares and I realize these rhythms are not so simple after all. The lesson learnt is that musical figures which are natural and easy in one setting are not so easy in another one.

Anyway, between us we managed it all very well and it was a very happy, multicultural occasion. Students from 5 nations played traditional Spanish music for the first time in their lives and listened as fellow students read Spanish poetry.

I edited this post on 6Jan2013

Planning a Tedx event, a music teacher´s diary: part one

GPS creates a GPx?

x=independently organised TED event
January 2013: a reflection on progress so far
How did my involvement in a Tedx event start?
How did I structure my first ideas?
How much of those first ideas will see the light of Tedx day?
Read on......

September 2012: GPx?

Driving through the countryside in Holland on a Sunday afternoon shortly after joining the faculty at my new school. Several Arts colleagues together on our way to a birthday party. When I say driving I should say being a passenger as I am car-less in The Hague and enjoying the wonders of safe cycling.
Turn left after 50 metres says my friend’s GPS; approach the roundabout with care; turn right after the third tree.
After listening to this for a while I thought out  how it would be fun to use a GPS style set of instructions as a live arts piece, directing member of the audience to make this or that response depending on whether they chose to turn in one direction or another: aleatory art with audience participation.
The late afternoon party started worryingly with cake and coffee: had we got here late and missed the meal we were expecting?
I had the good fortune to sit and talk to a colleague´s partner, an artist who works in and through video installations, among other art forms. We talked about the issues arising from working in new media: the difficulty in of building up a body of work, the momentary nature of the art form and the matters of property, ownership and copyright of works which are by nature collaborative products and about the importance of the audience interacting with the artist.
Thankfully it turned out the Dutch way is to feed you with coffee and cake as a welcoming act and to follow this shortly with a full scale meal. On this occasion it was delicious and plentiful so we were in no hurry to go and in the mood to carry on talking.
 My colleague joined us and I half jokingly put into words the idea I had in the car of GPS-ing an audience into participation. She said that was exactly the kind of thing that would fit into the school’s forthcoming Tedx event.

Ted who? I asked. No not really, of course I know of Ted Talks and have admired and enjoyed Ken Robinson’s entertaining musings, among others. So I said fine, count me in.  

I edited this post on 6Jan2013