Thursday, 12 September 2013

The deafening Thames

I did a long morning's work today, which found me putting finishing touches to this draft of the Pepys Motet, and writing a couple of the linking sequences which will go between the six movements. It struck me, when I listened back to the rather frenetic fourth movement, that I needed a few moments of static contemplation in the piece; a few solo sequences which sit in a very calm, simplistic space, both musically and in terms of focussing on one single, extended passage of writing. The key to these sequences  is stripping back, something for which I'm not exactly renowned. Today I wrote an entire sequence for two singers simply singing in thirds and fourths. I added a third voice to fill out the harmonies but something was wrong and I realised that I'd said everything I needed to say with just two of the 20 voices at my disposal. I saw this as evidence of maturity in my writing! 

To celebrate achieving everything I was hoping to achieve in half the time I expected to achieve it in, I decided to find my parents who were already in London to celebrate my brother's birthday this evening. 

I found them by the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and we strolled around the market together. It's a nice place to wander, if a little expensive, but I was horrified to find that my favourite cafe had been turned into one of the now ubiquitous Jamie's Italian restaurants. We ended up drinking a pot of tea in a pub in the absence of anything which looked like a decent cafe, which felt rather criminal for a place as pretty as Greenwich. I suspect it's the trouble with being south of the river. They're a distinctly rougher bunch down there, with less interest in noble pursuits like tea drinking. 

We walked through the acoustically surreal Greenwich foot tunnel under the Thames, before wending our way up the Isle of Dogs to Canary Wharf, which is where brother Edward both works and lives.

As we walked around the shiny, plastic-coated underground shopping malls, I found myself feeling a little panicky. I've never really liked that part of town. It feels soulless and more than a little over-crowded. When I worked there making corporate films, I always felt over-looked and over-heard. If I wanted to make a call to Nathan, for example, or have a row with a fellow film maker, there was always someone within earshot; someone who felt different to my tribe, someone who somehow wouldn't understand my need to run across Hampstead Heath, or swear, or refuse to wear a tie, or behave in an un-corporate manner. 

All these feelings came back to me as I wondered how far I'd be able to skid across the over-polished floor of one of esplanades. Yes, this place was not designed for the likes of me...

Still, on arriving at Edward and Sascha's house over-looking the beautiful Thames, I realised there was a very large up side to life on the Isle of Dogs. When the traders and bankers and the insurance specialists go home, a silence descends, and the sound of the river lapping against the Thames wall becomes almost deafeningly romantic. 

Sascha cooked a three course meal of exquisite beauty; halloumi wrapped in filo pastry with figs, a Thai curry and a blueberry soufflĂ©. Decadent in the extreme! Perfect fodder. Happy Birthday Ted! 

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