Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
The emails are flying thick and fast between Andrew and myself as we discuss and debate the various possible orders in which the pieces on his CD might go. The order is a matter of great importance, given the way the start of something is partly shaped by the end of whatever precedes it; the mental resonances of an end are still sounding as a new track begins. Whatís more, on repeated listenings, the memory of past listenings takes effect, causing the end of a piece to be associated irrevocably with the beginning of the next. This makes me think of Sgt. Pepper. Or, as Andrew wrote to me yesterday, "Nick Drake's albums work because of the careful ordering, so do KCs.í I have to confess, though, I feel like someone groping in the dark in working with Andrew on his album. When I plan the sequence of one of my solo records, Iím on home ground. Iím familiar with the idiom, and can order things in what feels to me like a coherent and meaningful sequence. I feel I know what Iím doing when Iím working with renaissance music. On the other hand, though, Iíve learned that the unconscious is the best decider of these things, if one can find a way to let it speak. Iím a great believer in first impressions and first reactions, because they come from the unconscious, before the faculty of reason has a chance to say "wait a minute! Consider this! or consider that!í. Although Andrewís music is in an idiom far removed from what Iím used to, it speaks very much to this unconscious part of the self. Itís full of moments of intensity which stir the emotions profoundly. This is presumably because Andrew tries to let his unconscious do the composing for him as much as possible, mediated, of course, by the considerable technical skill he has amassed. But the big difficulty for me in listening to his eight-to-thirteen-minute pieces is that I have a hard time grasping the structure. Renaissance music is in some ways more bound by rules, and I can more readily understand the architecture of a sixteenth-century composition. This has been an interesting, enjoyable and slightly unsettling exercise. Andrew sent me a list of the "home keysí or modes of each piece, because this large-scale key scheme is partly what governs his idea of what the sequence should be. Strangely enough, I have a hard time hearing these pieces that way (probably because of unfamiliarity with the idiom)--what I hear is the mood and character, and my ideas about sequencing the pieces are mostly governed by this, coupled with the odd wonderful transition, like the magic of going from the end of "O ignisí into the beginning of "Off the beaten trackí--stunning!
Otherwise, Iíve been practicing contemporary music for voice and lute which Catherine and I will be performing in London on 18 January, and making my own intabulations (lute arrangements) of two beautiful sixteenth-century Spanish songs, as my contribution to a forthcoming book of lute intabulations to be published in the States by the indefatigable Dick Hoban.
Susanna is away on tour with Fretwork, playing in Bermuda at the moment with the choir of Kingís College, Cambridge. She told me on the phone this morning that she doesnít much like the place, but that choirs donít get any better than this. She says that itís an exceptionally nice bunch of people, and that the conductor, Stephen Cleobury, is a fantastic conductor to work with, and a very nice man. Sheís back tomorrow night. Hooray!
Back at my desk, after a rejuvenating time away, Iím engaged in a New Year campaign to sell myself to the world. Iíve been writing enthusiastic letters to the early music press, telling them that they should publish interviews with me in the spring, to coincide with the release and the touring of the new DGM CD: Josquin Desprez: sixteenth-century lute settings. This is a world premiere recording of some fantastic music (Iíve been playing a copy of the final CD master to people, and everyoneís enthusiastic), and Iím very eager to make sure that this disc is noticed. Diane is working hard on trying to find the most suitable distributor for my discs, the previous disc not having succeeded very well on the distibution front. In fact, only yesterday, the Big Three discussed my records and what to do with them. According to Diane, whom I spoke to today, they all agreed that this distribution thing needs to be straightened out, because this is quality stuff and deserves to be heard. Naturally, I was very pleased to hear her say that! So I have high hopes. The release date is going to be in June, to coincide with some performances in the USA that Gail (my kind and helpful US agent) is trying to fix up.
Iíve also been practising for a recording day tomorrow. Iím contributing some solo tracks to a CD currently being recorded by Musica Antiqua of London (for Signum Records). Iíll also join in some of the ensemble pieces. Itís a programme that we first toured about 8 years ago, so itís nice to come back to it. Weíre recording on location in a quiet church in a Berkshire (UK) village.
Also in progress, the final editing of our performance of Andrew Keelingís "One Fleshí, for Andrewís forthcoming DGM release. Andrew has asked me to have a hand (or, more precisely, an ear) in the final mastering of his disc. Since it was recorded in lots of different places, itís quite important to pay a lot of attention to the final order, to create a feeling of continuity rather than disparity. Itís also important to pay attention to the silences between tracks--the digital void is too dead and impersonal to stick between these disparate recordings. Better to fade out of the track into some nice ambience, and than back into the next track. I might take some ambience along to the mastering sessions. This sort of thing can make a huge difference to the quality of a CD. Having heard a cassette of Andrewís proposed running order, I can only say that I think it works really well, and is very cohesive. Thereís some very beautiful music there. I love "One Fleshí, of course, but I also love the unaccompanied flute piece and the Hilliard Ensemble piece, especially. This is a release to look forward to.
After a long absence from this Diary, here I am again after a very busy week of work and colds.
Susanna is back from Bermuda. Or should I say, was back, since sheís now in Valencia with the Dufay Collective for a few days.
The concert with Catherine on 18 January in London went very well. It was great to return to the pieces that were written for us (voice and lute) in 1995. Each time we do them, we discover new things in them.
After the concert, Catherine and I spent a couple of days putting together our next record for Linn (more lute songs).
Yesterday, Andrew arrived from the country, and had dinner with us (along with Bill and Julia of Fretwork). Today, Andrew and I spent seven good hours in Katzís Kitchen, mastering his new CD for DGM--itís a wonderful anthology of some of his best pieces. It was a great session, and great fun putting this record together.
This evening, Andrew and I listened back to the new master; we still think itís good, which is encouraging. Weíll see how we feel at breakfast time.
Just now, we had a late-night session discussing The Residents. (Iím a big fan.) I handed Andrew a stack of Residents LPís which will be fodder for his lecture on prog rock.
And now, a word from the Country Mouse, who is this evening guesting (nesting) in my Diary page.
"Hello! An exciting, but very tiring day. To Highgate, and to Dillís to edit the CD, which was completed sooner than we thought (thanks to Jacobís "earsí and Dillís great expertise), and then back to Streatham by mid-evening. Listened to Jacobís DGM Josquin des Prez CD, a clean, well-executed work which I look forward to hearing completely when itís released in June. There is great spirituality residing in this music. I return tomorrow to continue with the piece and the teaching. Liverpool University commences on Wednesday of next week (Ravel and Debussy orchestrations), and Iíve also been offered some teaching at Liverpool Hope University (Composition and Analysis). Problem: a decision has to be reached how to split my time between all these activities. These things are usually decided for me....í
Today was a quiet day. Andrew and I spent the morning listening again to his forthcoming DGM CD master, and deciding to commit it to posterity in its present form, i.e., in its present order, and with the present selections included and at the present levels. This CD feels right for the Present Moment. Itís a fine selection of music, which will, I believe, appeal to many different kinds of people. This is music that speaks to the heart and the mind.
Andrew and I also talked about the ways in which we invest our external world with significance. This was sparked by the fact that, early yesterday morning at breakfast, just before we left this house for Dillís studio in North London to master the CD, a fox came to the kitchen window and put in a leisurely appearance before going away again. Andrew said this morning that he felt that the fox was a good omen, and that it helped us to achieve a good result yesterday. (Maybe he should call the CD "Music for the Foxí, as a sort of thank you.) Andrew also said that the fox is traditionally an animal connected with spirituality. All of this sparked a discussion of the ways in which we project ourselves onto our environment and find significance in it. There are those who would say that this significance is already there, for our benefit, as it were. This is, it seems to me, a slightly arrogant assumption: it seems to include the thought that humans are somehow either at the centre of, or separate from, the rest of the universe (as if it were put there for our use) rather than existing (peacefully or otherwise) as part of the great Wholeness. I prefer to look at it as projection: we project our psychological state onto our surroundings, and choose to see omens and portents in the everyday events of nature which would, of course, go on even if we were not here. But donít misunderstand me: Iím not thereby suggesting that events such as the vulpine visitation are any less marvellous. I respect this ability we have to find significance in our surroundings. I do it myself often. Just because I see it as being projected from within rather than existing out there in itself doesnít detract at all from its power or its capacity to have meaning. In fact, this projection, among other things, is a way of connecting or plugging into the Universe. Itís the same impulse that creates dreams, art, music, dance, stories and poems, myths and legends. I have a feeling that making music is for me a process of connecting with something much larger than myself.
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Otherwise, Iíve taken it pretty easy today; Iím trying to shake off a cold. I had excellent and encouraging chats on the phone with three different people at DGM, and did some necessary admin at my desk. Still much to do. Always much to do. Didnít play a note! Tomorrow. . . .
Susanna still in Valencia. Virelaiís Dowland record is playing on the computer. I like to listen occasionally to music Iíve put together to see what I can learn from it, to see whether I still like it, and to see whether Iíd do it differently another time. Itís pretty good, I think. There are some wonderful moments. And itís a unique approach to Dowland.
Itís been a varied day. The day began with my going back to bed for awhile, trying to get rid of this strange cold. Finished The Untouched Key, by Alice Miller. Wonderful book. Highly recommended. Iím going to try her The Drama of Being a Child next. Then I had the idea of doing some work in bed, which was great. It seemed to combine work with rest. I surrounded myself with books and music, pens and paper, and my lute. The task: to choose the lute solos for the Linn CD that Catherine King and Charles Daniels and I will be recording soon. Thereís a very small choice of music for the solos (intabulations of Verdelot madrigals, as it happens), and I want to find ones that integrate well with the other music on the record. ["In darkness let me dwellí is playing now--itís the most powerful song I know.]
This was followed by lunch with Matthew Wadsworth, another lute player who lives within walking distance of our South London home. After lunch, he asked to do some work with me on aspects of lute technique. It was very interesting to teach a blind musician--he learns by listening very carefully and emulating the sound he hears. That plus a combination of hands on hands seemed to help.
Then, a distressed emergency call from Gail in Chicago: a publicity package she sent to a concert promoter in Canada went awol. That is, the contents did; the USPS managed to retain the outer packaging, but the tapes and publicity information seem to have fallen out or been removed. The deadline is in a few days, so I quickly ran off two more tapes, and Iíll have to send them to Gail by overnight mail on Monday morning.
Then an hour on the miscellaneous urgent admin that musicians spend a lot of time doing. And now, back to bed to do some more work on the CD programme.
Zan is back from Valencia, and brought a wonderful assortment local wines and a fantastic local goatís cheese. And by a strange conjunction of events, the brother of a friend of mine was unexpectedly passing through London from Paris, where he lives, and he stayed with me last night, leaving us the most astonishing array of French cheeses and a fine bottle of Julinas. So Zanís welcome home was a supper of wine and cheese.
Otherwise, a productive day in which I finalised the running order of the Linn record, and put together one or two other new programmes for concerts in the coming months. One of them was a concert in Dorchester, not a million miles away from DGM World Central. Perhaps Iíll be able to persuade a contingent from DGM to come along to the Dorchester concert on 16 February.
More communications with Gail: it appears that some of these US and Canada solo recital dates may come through. So I hope to be launching the Josquin Desprez disc in the States during a summer concert tour. Watch this space.
Another long and eventful day. It began with a trip into central London to the professional photo place where I have publicity pictures printed, followed by a visit to my "financial advisorí, who is trying to tell me I should pay more toward my pension; Iím trying to tell him that I canít afford to.
Then, to DGM World Central on the train, to throw around ideas for the Josquin Desprez cover and booklet with Hugh. Actually, thereís little need to throw around ideas with Hugh: give him some good artwork to use as his starting point, and this ingenious and imaginative fellow has more than enough ideas of his own. We had some great pictures to work with, because Adrian Hunter (multi-talented recording wizard) took some pictures himself at the recording sessions back in September, using his wonderful old-fashioned dual lens camera. Theyíve turned out beautifully, and one of them will be on the cover, and others in the booklet. On the back of the CD, the inlay may show another of my own lute-pix, as in Black Cow.
Good news from the early music press: theyíre very interested in the Josquin, because itís a "world premiereí recording. Early Music Today is putting me on the cover of their April/May issue, and doing an interview with me about the project. Goldberg Magazine also promises to write about it in an upcoming issue.
Itís very cold and frosty in southern England, with wonderful crisp sunshine. Itís a welcome break from the chilly wetness that is usually our January. With a little time to spare before the train back to London, I accompanied Hugh on his weekly shopping trip to Waitrose, where we perused critically the organic wine department.
Then back to London, and a late-night emailing session.
Now to bed. . . .
Susanna has gone to Estonia (imagine that! Bermuda, Valencia and Talinn, all in one month!!!), where sheíll be giving a concert with her group, the Dufay Collective, tomorrow. My mother, who was visiting from the USA, left this morning; sheís gone off to Germany to see friends and relatives there. Meanwhile, Mary Springfels from Chicago has arrived. Mary is a viol player and directs her own ensemble (the Newberry Consort) based at the Newberry Library in Chicago. She and two other members of the group will be staying with us here in south London and rehearsing with us this week, for a concert in the Purcell Room at the South Bank Centre on Friday (4 Feb). So we have a house full. Itís interesting the way our house has become a stopping point for people who are passing through. There really seems to be something about this place that attracts people. We are continually having people passing through on their way somewhere. I like that; itís a way to connect with friends.
Otherwise, Iíve been working on the recording project for Linn that Iíll be doing in the middle of February. Itís interesting to note the differences between (say) a Crim recording project and a Heringman one. A Heringman project is usually completed in three days! (At least the actual recording process is. ) A Crim one takes much longer. Why? What are the differences? A Heringman project takes years to prepare. Take the Josquin project which Iím about to release on DGM--Iíve been rehearsing and preparing that for years. I do research. I choose music. I live with it for a long time. I practise it. I learn it. I record it in three days. Itís music that was always there, and Iíve simply found it and chosen to do some work on it. Itís certainly a creative process, but Iím basically working with pre-existing material. A Crim project, on the other hand, involves a much greater element of the unknown. The members of the group plan to collaborate. No one really knows in advance (as far as I can tell) whatís going to come of their time together. They spend a number of weeks together, and the end result is a new studio recording. Superficially the two are totally different. More fundamentally, I think they are very much more similar: we both draw on our history, we both use our creativitiy in various ways, we both end up with a final product which is a mixture of our past and our present.