Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Listening quite loudly to the very moving and powerful "2000", from Robertís 1999. It feels like a grand and sombre Passacaglia. Other listening today (as I gradually get out from under the mountain of mail, messages and emails that awaited me when we returned yesterday from honeymoon): Zappaís Just another band from LA (a birthday present from my brother Noah); the Hilliard Ensembleís Perotin disc; Yes, Close to the Edge (CD acquired during our travels--hadnít listened to it for many years--still like it!); and the brand new Sacred Songs of Sorrow on Signum Records (SIGCD018), by the group Charivari Agréable featuring the wonderful Chilean singer Rodrigo del Pozo, and Zan and friends on viols. Howís that for a mixed bag? We had a fantastic honeymoon voyage--in the space of a month, we visited many people and many places around the USA and Canada. The greatest highlight, I think, was driving very slowly up the Pacific Coast Highway from San Francisco to Seattle, taking five days to do it so that we could stop and hike and enjoy the scenery wherever we felt like, and simply find a motel wherever we were when it started to get dark. Day One: SF to Fort Bragg, CA, stopping to hike at Point Reyes. Day Two: Fort Bragg to Bandon, OR, stopping to hike in the redwoods along the Avenue of the Giants. Day Three: Bandon to Seaside, OR, stopping to hike the fantastic Tahkenich trail, in the Oregon Dunes National Park. Day Four: Seaside to Port Angeles, WA, stopping to walk in the Hoh Rainforest. Day Five: Port Angeles to Seattle, stopping for a particulary intense hike near Hurricane Ridge in the Olympic National Forest, followed by a late-night bus ride to Vancouver, where we spent our final honeymooning days at the home of friends. The natural beauty we encountered was breathtaking. The long drive (we put 1400 miles on the car) was the highlight for me, because it gave us the experience of traveling from A to B without at all striving or aiming to get to B in a hurry--without, indeed, making the trip for the sake of getting to B at all. Instead, the focus was entirely on the process--on the journey itself, rather than on the destination. This freedom from having to focus on a result or a product or a destination or an end was entirely appropriate for a honeymoon, but itís also appropriate for everyday life. Engaging in a process of any sort without fixating on the end and ignoring the means is well known to Buddhists, of course (and to all others who believe in the importance of the here and the now). Itís also well-known to teachers and students of the Alexander Technique who often talk about the destructive impact of "endgaining" and of ignoring "the means whereby". "Look after the means, and the end will take care of itself" is one way to put the age old advice about mindfulness. "Be in the present moment" is another. This is something Iíve always found difficult, and the coastal drive was a great example of the freedom one can find in being in the present moment. For me, the name of the DGM "Present Moment" series, which Iím fortunate enough to be a part of, is a name rich with signifance. "The present moment is where tradition and innovation meet". The present moment is also the moment of creation; it is the only moment of decision; the moment of consciousness; the moment of responsibility. We are grateful to several people in the American "lute community" who welcomed us along our honeymoon route, and for generously sending us guidebooks to the various areas we knew weíd be passing through. Special thanks to Californians Mike Peterson and Sean Smith; we met Sean in the flesh for the first time on this trip, and he introduced us to some wonderful corners of SF. Speaking of the present moment, by the way, great excitement: a birthday present from Hugh awaited me on my return: three copies of Josquin Des Prez, which is out now and looking and sounding great.
Settling in nicely now, and gradually returning the house to a state of relative order. Iím off to DGM on Friday to pick up a lute of mine which Hugh has been making Hughographs of (see the upper left-hand corner of the Josquin record cover when it comes out), and also to pick up my first box of Josquin CDs, the contents of which Iíll unleash on friends, relatives, concert promoters, radio producers, etc. A Hughograph, by the way, is my term for an art form which Hugh has pioneered. It is rather similar to the Rayograph (Man Rayís photographic innovation of several generations ago), except that it involves a scanner rather than photographic paper.
Another nice review of black cow today, in the new issue of Gramophone. All of this critical success, though pleasing to me of course, is still rather bittersweet because it proves that one can be a critical success and still an economic failure. The realities of trying rather unsuccessfully to make a living as a lutenist are very much at the forefront of my mind at the moment, especially because Iíve just received my first DGM royalty statement which shows just how indifferent the world has been thus far to black cow, and just how unlikely it is that Iíll every earn any money at all from my solo lute releases. (Although, granted, there were distribution problems initially with this disc, and it was only officially released yesterday in the USA--so letís see what happens.) Matt Seattleís recent Diary entry on the same theme is timely, and very much meets with my sympathy. Andrew Keeling is also in the same boat. We all do what we do because we feel strongly compelled to do so. We all do it for virtually no financial reward. But we all, I think, derive great personal satisfaction from making music in various forms. I canít speak for the others, of course, but I think that, speaking for myself, playing music does for me what composing music seems to do for Andrew: it paints a picture of the unconscious; it is a pathway to the emotions; it expresses the inexpressible. When I feel myself getting depressed or bitter about the fact that the world is largely indifferent to my efforts, I remember Robert Frippís words: "making music is its own reward". The privilege of making music is the musicianís reward. And although as Andrew wrote the other day, we all have to make a living, ultimately I wouldnít trade in my lute for a well-paid job. I know that I only make music about 1 percent of the time. The others will tell you the same thing, I think. And of that 1 percent, only a further fraction consists of what Iíd call meaningful music-making. About 99 percent of the time Iím doing all those other complicated things that free-lance musicians have to do, and which most people know nothing of. But this alone makes it worthwhile. Zanís away making another CD with Fretwork, and Iím on my own for a few days. Strange after a whole month of being together night and day. Strange but good. Time alone is an essential and important thing for both of us. It helps me put lots of things in perspective, including the value of our time together.
Back from a good visit to DGM World Central, where we had a productive meeting, and I came away with copies of the new disc, which, Iím told, will be officially released at the beginning of June. This is perfect timing, because it coincides with my little US tour. In fact, the date of the concert in Berkeley is also the official US release date, by chance.
Other than that, some administrative work and a long telephone conversation with Zan, who is still away recording. I think we talked for over an hour. And thatís after a month-long honeymoon during which we were together full time. I think weíll never run out of things to talk about out.
Todayís listening: the amazing acoustic guitar playing of Clive Carroll, on Old Bridge Music. Very very impressive. Also, Dizzy Gillespie Live in 1987 (forthcoming BBC CD), and Blue Nights.
Good telephone chat with Andrew Keeling yesterday. Lots of ideas for future collaborations.
Preparations underway for upcoming trips (Germany and France) and recordings.
A brief morning Diary entry before whizzing off to North London to rehearse for a rather extraordinary CD of renaissance music built around the planets and their associated modes.
Zan is back from her travels, after an exhausting three days of recording. Itís wonderful to have her back again!
Iíve been getting back into practising my lute, after a bit of a break. Itís great to get away from it for a short time, if only because of the powerful reminder I get, coming back to it, of how much I love it!
Tomorrow Iíll finally receive a shipment of back issues of the last issue of Early Music Today, which has me on the cover and an interview about my DGM Josquin Des Prez disc inside. Curious readers can see this cover picture by clicking here.
I very much enjoyed Andrewís description of his recent Lake District walk. For readers who havenít been to the Lake District, I can only say that itís a profoundly beautiful and magical place, and to know it so well, as Andrew does, must be a wonderful thing! The place is intimately bound up with the Romantic movement of the late 18th century, and therefore also inextricably with modern Anglo-American thought. I keep thinking Andrew and my brother Noah should get together, Noah being a professor of Romantic poetry, and also someone with an intimate knowledge of the Lakes, albeit from a literary perspective.
(Listening to the Bach gamba sonatas on my computer)
Another good practice-day--cheers me up no end. I seem to derive joy simply from sitting alone and practising my instrument, even if itís just technical exercises. I suppose the personal satisfaction comes from
a) contact with the instrument; the instrument is a beautiful thing, visually and tactilely (is that a word?) b) working on skilled use of the body to an artistic end, and perceiving progress slowly taking place (this is an important one--I need to feel Iím getting somewhere) c) the music itself, and its structure and sound and emotional content; the qualities of intervals, of tension and resolution of harmony and counterpoint; the sheer sensual quality of the sound d) the connection to the world outside myself that comes from "communing" with a piece of music and a distant culture
This is all quite apart from the joys of playing with other people. Speaking of which, Zan and I played duets today, which was a pleasure.
But lest the reader think that the day was pure joy, I had a very depressing conversation on the phone today with 22.28 a friend who is (was) employed by a major record label in a high up position , and was suddenly "downsized" yesterday. Complete shock. She was good at her job, and respected and hard-working. But the record industry is in dire straits, and ruthless and inhuman things are going on in the boardroom. My friend was a victim of the cruel cutbacks that are taking place in the industry. Meanwhile, to make matters worse, sheís an American citizen living in Britain, and if she doesnít get another job quickly, sheíll lose her work permit, and therefore her right to live in this country. This is only a year before she was due to get residency. Imagine youíve been living three years in a place; your employer brought you there in the first place. Three years down the road, they suddenly tell you to pack your bags and say "Oh, by the way--youíll probably have to give up your home of three years and leave the country". Well, sheís intelligent and hard-working. I like to think that sheíll land on her feet.
Just back from Frankfurt, with Virelai. It was an enjoyable show--our programme of Parisian chansons and dances from the 1530s and 40s. Itís basically the concert version of the programme which makes up our Virgin CD entitled chansons nouvelles (Virgin/Veritas 7243 5 45313 2 3, released 1998). We performed at the Old Opera House, to an audience of 250-ish, and they were very enthusiastic. Unfortunately nothing came of the scheduled post-concert record signing event. We felt, after the concert, that it had been the most weíd ever felt like a group, rather than like four individuals. The performance had a unity and a group-driven quality which worked well, despite the fact that there were lots of solos and duos and trios where one or more person sat out a piece. This Parisian programme consists of a great many very very short little pieces. (But theyíre gems! So finely crafted, and so perfect!) It really challenges the conventional classical concert format. You canít have people clapping every 90 seconds! It would ruin the continuity completely! Our solution was to group the pieces, and to have more or less continuous chunks of pieces stuck together. It worked very well, I think.
Oddly enough, we found ourselves traveling back to London this morning on the same plane with Uriah Heep, who had been performing in Germany. It was surreal. In the terminal at Frankfurt Airport, I saw a familiar face (Iím quite good at remembering faces), and I thought "how peculiar; this guy looks just like Trevor Boulder" (who of course played on Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust, and in Mick Ronsonís band (I forget what it was called). Then I saw another familiar face, and I thought "Holy Cow! thatís Mick Box! so it WAS Trevor B. I saw before! Itís the Heepsters!". The world is a peculiar place. In the late 70s, I was fond of their early records. I guess their music appealed to my teenage sensibilities. For 20 years or more, Iíve given them virtually no thought and certainly not listened to them at all. And then suddenly Iím sitting next to them in the terminal and very near them on the plane, and Iím thinking "gosh! If the Jacob of 1979 at the age of 15 were here heíd be jumping up and down with excitement!" But was I? Not at all. There they all were, looking remarkably well-preserved, and it caused me to reflect on the nature of the music business, and on the fact that theyíve gone from early 70s stardom to circling the smaller more modest venues in the year 2000, but here they still are, minus one or two casualties, and plus one or two new faces. I wonder if they still do the same old songs.... I thought of saying hello to them, but what would I have said? "I used to be a fan, but Iím not anymore!"?
Returned home to lots of correspondence from Andrew Keeling, regarding various rather exciting future collaborations. Watch this space.
Also some correspondence with Matt Seattle. I mentioned to him that I think it would be fabulous if he made a solo pipes record. Heís an expressive musician, and I think that his playing moves the heart.
And correspondence with Gail in the USA about the upcoming States tour Iím doing, and also some Canada concerts which may or may not happen in November. (One of them certainly will: itís Toronto in the first week of November.) If they do happen, itíll be partly thanks to two Canadian contributors to the DGM Guestbook!
A long day of intensive rehearsals with the Dufay Collective for our concert in Boulogne this Friday. Itís a great programme of English and French music of the early sixteenth century designed by Bill of the Dufay Collective (and Virelai). Very demanding, though: Iím playing both the viol and the lute in it. I very much enjoy playing the viol, but it feels unfamiliar. (Imagine taking a lute, holding it like a cello and playing it with a bow--something like that.) Lute players go to great lengths to make a sustained sound on an instrument that has a very quick delay time after the pluck. Playing a sustaining, bowed instrument is a wonderful liberating feeling. And part of the joy is playing with others in consort. But Iíve returned quite exhausted. Itís a busy time.
Lots of emailing between here and the US, planning various trips, and lots of correspondence. Sending out copies of the new Josquin disc to various radio people and concert promoters and reviewers, and, of course, to my nearest and dearest. So far the response has been encouraging.
And now, out of energy, early to bed.
A very rainy evening in South London. Zan is on the phone to her friend Jane, and Iím catching up with my emailing and correspondence. Weíve been on the go quite a lot lately, what with our concert in Frankfurt last week, followed by the concert in Boulogne just the other day. Boulogne was a success, and an enjoyable concert. Now itís time to get geared up for the recording of "planetary music", which happens this week.
It was nice to have a call from David Singleton today (long time since he and I have spoken)--he was briefly back in the country in between his various trips and we had a nice chat about the intricacies of "mechanical copyright protection". We also talked about ways to sell lute records. . . .
Speaking of which, I read Sid Smithís recent Diary entry on the subject of the Present Moment series with interest, and I shall be dropping him a line later this evening. Any thoughts on how to reach a wider audience with our music, and on how to achieve credible sales, are welcome.
Tomorrow we start recording the planetary music. Angela has arranged it so that weíll be recording the music for each planet at astrologically propitious moments. Iíve never been much of a believer, but there is nevertheless a great feeling of magical intensity about this project.
Jane is up here from Devon, to show Zan a splendid seven-string viol that sheís currently making--nearly finished. It sounds and looks stunning. In fact, Zan is playing some Marais on it about four feet away from me, and its rich sound is filling the room with music.
Interesting email exchange with Sid Smith. I will send him an extended reply on Monday (when I get a moment)--Iím very pleased that he takes such an interest in myself and Andrew and the other Present Moment artists.
Another good review of black cow turned up yesterday. That brings the total good reviews Iíve seen to about 8--there may be others. That seems to me to be pretty good press coverage. But surprisingly, all these good reviews donít seem to be having much effect on sales. Weíll see what happens in the USA now that black cow is officially available over there. And Josquin is on its way.
As soon as this recording project is finished, Iíll go back to practising the Josquin programme, as Iíll be touring it in the States in May/June. Iím very excited about coming back to this wonderful music again.