Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Back from the dead, I seem to have fully recovered, with the aid of Chinese medicine and homeopathy, from the flu which plagued me all of last week and before that. As is often the case, I feel stronger than before I came down with it, having rested and taken it a little easier than usual all week.
Zan is still in Spain (returning tomorrow!!!), and Iíll be celebrating my 37th birthday (yes, Iím an April Fool) by cooking for a few friends and neighbours this evening. Iíve already celebrated it by having several telephone conversations with friends and relatives who were kind enough to remember me today.
Iím also playing with some ideas for the Jane Pickeringe cover. Fun!
Thinking of Andrew, as he deals with the difficult and painful family adjustments to his fatherís illness.
Zan returned on 2 April, and we had planned a little four-day home-based vacation. The first day was lovely: finally, the weather was good (perfect, in fact), and we worked in the garden all day, and enjoyed being together. That evening, we had friends to dinner. That night, sometime around 2 or 3 am, our bliss was rudely spoiled by a burglar forcing his way into our kitchen window and robbing us while we slept. He got quite a number of things, though we count ourselves lucky. We were not hurt, and he took nothing irreplaceable, like instruments. But he did take our wallets, with driving licences, Zanís passport, a fair amount of cash and credit cards, a computer printer, a walkman, my electronic personal organiser which contains my whole life (luckily, Iíd backed it up maybe ten days earlier). He tried to take some hi-fi equipment, but gave up as it was built into a wall, and too big a job to remove silently. In the morning, my DAT machine was dangling in midair from a wire, but is still working fine.
So weíre faced with the inconvenience of replacing everything, but much worse, weíre faced suddenly with a terrible feeling of vulnerability, and sleepless nights in which we start every time we hear a noise. Thatís no way to live. Iím sure weíll settle down again and get back to normal soon. Weíve decided to invest in a burglar alarm, and take a few other new security measures.
So much for a peaceful vacation together. But, as I say, we were lucky really, and all of this makes us appreciate each other even more.
Today, our Belgian friends will arrive to stay with us for a couple of days: Katrien, Marc, and three small boys. Weíre looking forward to their visit.
Thursday. Weíre gradually recovering from the burglary, though I still wake every night between 2 and 3, thinking Iíve heard a noise, and I go downstairs to check out all the windows. I suppose this will wear off. Meanwhile, after Easter, weíre having a burglar alarm installed. Iím sad that itís necessary. But necessary it is.
Tomorrow, weíre off to Aldeburgh for the Easter Early Music Festival. On Easter Sunday, Iíll be playing in the fabulous Snape Maltings concert hall with Fretwork. We rehearsed yesterday. I always enjoy playing with them, partly of course because my wife is a member! Weíll be doing some of the Lachrimae pieces, and various other things, including lots of music published by Petrucci, who is celebrating his five hundredth anniversary this year (thatís the five hundredth anniversary of publication of the hugely influential first Odhecaton collection. Iíll also play some lute solos. But first, tomorrow night, Fretwork has another concert in the Festival, to which Iíll travel as an audient. And on Saturday night, something Iím very much looking forward to: dinner with Peter Sinfield, with whom Iíve hitherto only communicated by phone and email.
Iíve been doing lots of thinking about music, partly sparked by Andrew Keelingís Diary entry the other day. Much of what he said struck deep resonances for me. Particularly resonant is the idea that musical compositions must have meaning beyond the intellectual or numerical, and that a performance must have something of ritual about it--something has to happen in the act of music over and above the artists simply giving a performance, and the audience hearing it. This might seem to go without saying (of course something has to Ďhappení when you hear a work or perform one), but thereís a lot of music out there and a lot of musical opportunities that simply donít strike any chords within me, and Iím getting less and less interested in bothering with them. (This is not to suggest that there isnít a hugely varied plethora of different musics from all times and places that does move me deeply.) Iím no longer interested in doing concerts in which nothing happens.
Musicians have to do a lot of scrambling. As has often been said in these pages we do it because of the reward that it brings with it: the privilege and the joy of being allowed to Make Music. But we pay a price. It is not an easy life. On the contrary, it is often a hard life. But just once in awhile, for a moment or two, I experience the joy of Making Music as opposed to simply going through the motions. This experience keeps me from giving it all up.
But when one spends a lot of time trying to sell oneís Ďproductí--trying to convince the world that they should engage me for concerts and buy my records, and trying to keep on top of all the administrative work associated with the profession (self-employed tax, research, programme planning and development, etc. etc. etc.), one spends huge amounts of time doing things that are antithetical to Making Music. I calculate that I spend probably 90 percent of my time doing all of these things. Sometimes one then finds that one is simply too tired and too hardened to be open to the Muse when she comes. And so one finds that one has gone through a month or a year as a musician without once Making Music. The baby has been thrown out with the bathwater. And then one wonders why one does it. Those moments are certainly the only reason I do it. If theyíre not happening, Iím not happy. And these moments are fundamentally about going outside oneself and hooking up with something bigger.
This explains, I think, why Iíve decided to train as an Alexander Technique teacher. Not because I want to give up music. On the contrary; itís because I love music, and I have rarely allowed myself to experience it of late. I actually believe that this training, regardless of whether I become a teacher or not, will help me to be more open to the experience of Music when it offers itself, and will help me see what is important, to prioritise, to get rid of what doesnít matter. If I end up as a teacher of the Alexander Technique, Iíll be in a position to work with other people (including, of course, performers), and perhaps Iíll be able to help them get more in touch with themselves and to be able to choose consciously for themselves what is important to them. And I will be free to be more selective about what music I decided to get involved with myself.
We shall see.
Quotation of the day, from Sophocles:
The ideal condition would be, I admit, that man should be right by instinct; but since we are all too likely to go astray, the reasonable thing is to learn from those who can teach.
Somehow, Iíve let ten days pass since the last Diary entry.
As I write, Iím listening to Robert Frippís That which passes, which has been playing a lot lately. Itís a very beautiful thing.
On Good Friday, the day after the last Diary entry, we drove up to Aldeburgh for the Easter Early Music Festival. Zan performed there that evening with Fretwork and The Sixteen. It turned out to be my friend Daiís birthday, as well as Good Friday and Friday the Thirteenth, so we went for a drink after the concert. Dai was playing the theorbo in the concert. (My spellchecker just informed me that I canít possibly mean Theorbo, and that Dai must be a player of the Thermos or the Throb, or perhaps the Thereof.)
On Saturday, we rehearsed for Sunday and checked out a recording venue (a converted barn in the middle of nowhere in Suffolk) for possible future recordings. Iíd seriously consider doing a lute record there. It may be the quietest recording place Iíve ever seen or heard (or not heard). Then, in the evening, Zan and I had dinner with Peter Sinfield (spellchecker: infield?), which was a great pleasure. It was delightful to talk with him about all manner of things, and I look forward to more of the same.
On Easter Sunday, we (Fretwork and I) gave a fairly intense programme of English and Italian music, which, though somewhat sparsely attended, was a successful concert, I think. It had some good moments, and the audience appreciated it. Also, it was nice to see some people I hadnít seen for years. The concert hall at Snape Maltings (SC: melting) is simply superb. Nowhere else would the sound of a solo lute fill an 800-seat hall so thoroughly. Itís a marvellous place -- a treat for player and listener alike.
On Monday, we returned, and spent the week doing I know not what. Just lots of miscellaneous stuff that needs doing, I guess. Actually, Zan has had a very busy time, with one concert after another, on a whole battery of different instruments. I attended her Wigmore Hall concert on Thursday evening. Itís nice to be able to be there and to cheer her on.
I spent Friday being prodded and poked at the allergy clinic where I go when my inhalant allergies catch up with me, and the weekend doing more of the old various and sundry, including dealing with endless headaches associated with my email, which is playing up terribly. Itís not, I admit, a terribly exciting sort of week to report about.
Next week involves rehearsals with the Dufay Collective (SC says ĎDecay Collectiveí -- itís true, they are all getting on in years) for our upcoming trip to Spain, as well as a new venture for me: Iím composing/improvising/arranging the music for a radio play, and we rehearse Wednesday and record Friday.
Tuesday morning. Another house concert is planned for this evening, this time of Zan and me playing duets for viol and lute. Lots of people have said theyíll come. These house concerts are becoming more and more important to me. I first started doing them as a way of trying out programmes before either taking them on the road or recording them. And it is very useful from that point of view, besides being a great opportunity to see some supportive friends and socialise a bit afterwards. But I see now that these concerts are much more than this: they are a vital part of the process of learning to be comfortable and at ease with myself, the instrument and the audience in a performance situation. They are a halfway house between playing for myself and playing for an audience of strangers, and they present a useful and safe ground in which to try out things and to learn.
Iíve been performing for many years, and Iíve always been relatively comfortable in front of an audience. Iím not talking here about getting over level one performance anxiety. Iím talking about moving to a higher plane on which a deeper and more meaningful event takes place in performance -- a synergistic combination of audience, performer, music and instrument which leaves one feeling that Something has Happened. See more on this in a previous Diary entry in which I talked about no longer being satisfied with the numerous performances which seem simply to go through the motions. Am I asking too much? I donít think so. Iím asking to reconnect with my reasons for making music in the first place.
By the way, sometimes Something Happens even when Iím just playing for myself. Itís usually a feeling of complete harmony between myself, the instrument and the music (which, of course, in the case of lute music, is a distant culture). I think Robert Fripp called this "contact at a distance" when I referred to it in my Diary on a previous occasion. If this can happen, and feel very powerful, how much more powerful it must be when it happens (as it rarely does for me) when the audience is plugged into this equation!
I have some sense of having formed close bonds with people who otherwise would have been strangers through my teaching and performing already, particularly, interestingly, in North America. I know how much one personís music can potentially affect another personís life.