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Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
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Jacob Heringman's DGM Diary Archive

January 2001

12/01/01 2240

Itís been a stressful week. Sometimes I think one needs a vacation to recover from a vacation! Weíve been thrown into a number of big financial decisions rather suddenly: urgently needed home improvements which have arisen more suddenly and vehemently than they might otherwise have done, due to dreadful weather at the end of last year (heavy rain and high winds). Itís not easy working out what we can afford and balancing that with whatís necessary, while suffering from jetlag and beginning-of-the-year-itis. All that along with practising for the Jane Pickeringe record, and catching up with various bits of admin.

The Pickeringe side of things is fun. (Actually making music generally puts me in a good frame of mind and helps me to cope with the stresses.) Iím communing with the accords nouveaux pieces from the last part of the manuscript. These pieces are rarely performed because theyíre impractical to perform: they require frequent retuning, as theyíre in transitional lute tunings (scordature). They date from the period between the crystallized renaissance tuning which had lasted a long time, and the new more or less crystallized baroque tuning which was soon to come. The other exciting thing about these little pieces (besides the fact that theyíre very beautiful, and will provide a dab of lovely, darker hue in an otherwise bright record) is that the early seventeenth-century scribe very carefully notated both left and right-hand fingerings extensively. This enables us to follow closely the sorts of fingerings they used in those days, which may seem trivial, but isnít, because
(a) fingerings affect the sound and phrasing,
(b) therefore early fingerings (often different from choices a player might make today) give us a deeper insight into the heart of the music (style is at least as important as substance in early seventeenth-century music),
and therefore, in turn, a modern player following these old markings, carefully inscribed a very long time ago, can feel the thrill of communicating with a person and the culture of another time and place. Itís only a modest form of time travel, and not terribly spectacular, and yet these small moments can be thrilling and revelatory, if one is open to them. Itís another version of the thrill of connection which we all live for in one form or another: the joy of tapping into something larger than, and outside, oneself.


16/01/01 2339

A day of Pickering (To Picker: verb, meaning to play lute music from Jane Pickeringeís lute book), and frantic juggling to try to get a loan to pay for the home improvements that are underway on the outside of our house at the moment. Itís difficult to Picker when the house is surrounded by workmen, but I did my best. Itís coming together slowly but surely, and itís a joy to work on.

Went last night to Wigmore Hall to hear the London premiere of the piano quartet Reclaiming Eros, by Andrew Keeling. This was the first time Iíd heard the piece. It has special meaning to me, because it grew out of the wonderful setting of Sidneyís "With how sad steps", which Andrew wrote for Virelai last year. The piece is greatly expanded, of course (some 18 minutes of music, though it felt as if time stood still as I listened), but there are moments straight out of the song, and I could almost hear the words. This is a very beautiful piece of music, with a breathtaking ending. I hope it finds its way onto CD so that readers of this Diary can hear it and enjoy it. Congratulations, Andrew, on another superb piece.

After the concert (and a reception afterwards), Andrew came back to chilly South London for the night, where we sat up for a little while (in the middle of the night, by this time), listening to various eclectic bits and pieces (we always listen to music when we get together): Fred Frith Guitar Solos, Senor Coconut doing Kraftwerk covers Latin style, and Andrewís own string arrangement of Red, reviewed in the Reviews section of this website.

In the morning, to escape the workmen, we went to a traditional English Greasy Spoon for a traditional English Breakfast (thereís nothing like it!), and chatted about a great many things, after which the Country Mouse made his way back in a northerly direction, but not without a bit of CD shopping in central London on the way home.

Itís always a pleasure to see Andrew, and to catch up with him. Pity it doesnít happen more often.


25/01/01 2311

All is quiet again; the workmen are gone and our house is now (supposedly) much better protected from the elements. This week is a temporary distraction from Pickeringe. It started with two days of film sessions, playing the lute for the soundtrack of a new Sony film entitled The Knightís Tale. Then there were three days of rehearsals with an ensemble called Concordia, and, in the morning, we fly to Scotland for two concerts, one in Stirling and one in Edinburgh, performing music from the time of Mary Queen of Scots.

Upon my return on Sunday, Iíll have just a few more precious days to prepare, and then off to the studio to record. Iím looking forward to it, as I enjoy the recording of a solo disc, in a perverse sort of way. But Iím also somewhat anxious: I donít feel as well prepared as Iíd like to feel. But this anxiety, Iím beginning to think, is part of being an artist.

The anxiety, the stress, the constant running around, the long hours, the few financial rewards--these are all things I put up with because the alternative is worse: not making music. But these days I often think about what it would be like to make some big changes. Itís a regular topic of conversation between Zan and myself. If money were no object, Iíd certainly give up much of my work (the least rewarding gigs, mostly the free-lance ones), concentrate on the remainder, and Iíd feel more settled, I think. There hasnít been much time for leisure in the last year or so, and thereís a constant feeling of not being quite on top of things. Maybe thatís life. . . .

Virelaiís Renaissance Love Songs project is rapidly progressing towards reality. I received a new piece by Andrew Ager for voice and lute on a Shakespeare Sonnet, which fits in beautifully, as well as a Marvell setting by David Stoll, which heís recently arranged for us. Weíre rapidly assembling enough material for a CD. Watch this space.


30/01/01 2359

Just back from an enjoyable Scottish tour. I gave two concerts with the group Concordia, one at Stirling University, and one at the wonderful St. Ceciliaís Hall in Edinburgh. And I even managed a couple of hours of walking on the moors south of Glasgow.

Now Iíve got my nose to the grindstone, doing the final preparations to record Jane Pickeringe. Outside, weíve got a new fence being put up in the garden this week. We are assured that this one will last at least 25 years. Letís hope so. This is the year of the home improvements.

Todayís listening: the ProjeKcts I-IV Box Set--magnificent! Itís superb stuff. Makes me wish I had heard some of the ProjeKcts live--Iím curious to hear the raw material thatís been edited down into these discs. Each threesome or foursome is a unique entity, in which the individual members influence each othersí playing. It seems that whoever is percussing has the profoundest influence.

Great excitement: Andrew Keelingís lute piece "Black Sun" arrived today. I canít wait to get started learning it. Itís receiving its premiere in the presence of the composer at the Spitalfields Festival in London in June, along with another Keeling premiere: "Seule", for solo voice. Iím going to try to persuade the BBC to record it.

Iím still thinking very seriously about the future and ways of getting rid of some of the less rewarding activities in my life. One or two ideas regarding things to introduce in their steadÖ.