Saturday, April 11, 2009


I'm sorry if this blog does languish from time to time; but, like standing quietly for a period of time, things around you begin to emerge. If, for instance, you were to practice Three Circle Stance at dawn by the stream you'd become aware of a deer walking quietly behind you, rabbits emerging from the brush and going about their business as if you weren't there, small birds pecking around the ground near your feet and a sparrow hawk alighting in the branches in the oak above you. Or you'd start to wobble around like the poor sod in the video. But, to be honest, it has been anything but quiet for the last month: college stuff rises to a crescendo of mild hysteria towards the end of term...exams, marking, recitals...not too mention trying to remember how to play saxophone again, catch up to some looming compositional deadlines. There's a series of Ruth Padel settings to finish and rehearse in the next few weeks. I've got about four sketches on the go, and I'll post up some clips soon

Apart from all that, I've been poring over the score of Ades' Asyla every afternoon for the last week.... damn. Superb handling of orchestral color, which makes me realize that I didn't grow up performing, conducting or just being immersed in the 19th century canon. The beginning, with two pianos tuned a quarter step apart, chromatic cowbells and high string harmonics make for a unique gesture in the opening. The whole thing seems quite humbling and reinforces the fact that I'm arriving at this quite late having started out as a jazzer... it keeps sending me back to the drawing board with Holy Goof. It's the adroit use of color and gesture that I envy. The people who I admire for this seem to come from a French brilliante kind of effortless use of texture, which I know is always much harder than it sounds; folks like Takemitsu or Dutilleux.

Life goes on here - Spring has arrived with a vengeance - there's a pair of buzzards nesting in the next field, I hear them mewing at dawn when I'm out emptying the wonderdog (who is limping badly these days - best not to think about it yet). The daffs, cowslips and primroses are up and the snowdrops are finished. The hawthorne is beginning to blossom, and the tawny owls nesting next to the house have finally shut up in the mornings. I've been able to practice in the meadow for the last couple of days in the evening, which is always a special thing - I love to hear the sound bouncing off the hill opposite.

So...trying to re-learn sax again for upcoming gigs, recording and such in the summer.. ..depressing; I used to be a contender. Things feel more and more like a one-way ticket to Palookaville lately. It seems that my tenor concept is particularly crap at the moment; I've been making myself listen to recordings of my gigs, which I always avoid as it is sooo depressing. The fact that I now don't have the time to spend hours on my horn seems to be the most evident on tenor; most days for the last few years I come home and put in as hour or so just trying to keep my fingers and embouchure intact. This now shows up in an improvising concept that seems to consist primarily of tired stock phrases I've been calling on for years and fluid scales which are ok, but nothing to do with music. Time for a re-think, or at least a Glenlivet.

The header photo is one of the latest distraction here at the Lazy K, a Guzzi Le Mans - someone gave this to me as it needed a good home and some fettling. The poor guy didn't have the time to work on it, and I think after 5 years in the garden shed it was precipitating a major domestic in a small-ish terrace with two young kids.