Monday, 27 February 2012

Ten thousand

I made a start on the music side of my commission for the fleet singers today. It's always a bit weird when you sit down at a piano and realise you're starting from scratch. There are always a number of false starts; myriad things you can do to put off the inevitable. The room looks messy, so you tidy up a bit, make the bed, make a cup of tea... You stare at the piano for a few moments, run your finger through some dust and then play a chord or two. You realise with horror that they're from the last piece you wrote and that muscle memory has taken your fingers there. You play a few more chords. They're too avant garde. You're writing for amateur singers, not computers. More chords. Too cheesy. Didn't you use that progression before? More still. These ones are hackneyed, but surely the beating heart of a popular song is often the use of a recognisable chord progression. Perhaps this one's been done to death, you think... Mostly by you! And so the thoughts continue. A splurge of activity. An ostinato. A rush of adrenaline as you scribble things down before forgetting what it was that sounded so good. It won't do, but it's a start. The key is to make a start... 

There are now marks on a piece of manuscript paper. Until I start the next composition, I will never have to sit in front of an empty manuscript again!

I received an email this morning which informed me that the fundraising for the requiem has now reached £10,000, which feels like a very important milestone. Another five and we can begin the process of recording. 

I went into Shoreditch today to meet the good folk at Rich Mix, who are the partners for our live Requiem project. All sorts of exciting things are going to be happening throughout the ten-week period leading up to the live performance: from debates to dance events inspired by the music. It's almost bewildering to think how much creativity the work will generate. 

En route to Rich Mix, I went to see Philippa and Deia at the Childhood Museum in Bethnal Green. What a fabulous place! The first display cabinet I looked at was filled with Fisher Price toys; a hospital, a farm and the Fisher Price High Street, which made me want to scream with excitement. There were Weebles too, in their original boxes and all manner of exciting toys that I'd longed for as a child, including Mr Potato Head and a Girl's World! How I longed for a Girl's World! How the writing was on the wall!

The visit ended at the craft tables, which are covered with pots of pens and scissors and glue and vats of ripped up pieces of crepe paper. It was like being at junior school again, when Helen Dent and I used to closely guard the one unusual-coloured pencil in the class room. It was a shade of maroon, and no one else was to learn of its existence. At the end of each day we'd take it out of the pencil tray and hide it behind the radiator! 

350 years ago, Pepys had the mother of all rows with his composition tutor, which ended with Birchensha storming out of Pepys' chamber... It's so much better in Pepys' own words;

"I, finding that he cries up his rules for most perfect (though I do grant them to be very good, and the best I believe that ever yet were made), and that I could not persuade him to grant wherein they were somewhat lame, we fell to angry words, so that in a pet he flung out of my chamber and I never stopped him, having intended to put him off today, whether this had happened or no, because I think I have all the rules that he hath to give."

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