Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Zan and I are at home taking it easy(ish) and preparing to launch in to 2002.
Christmas holidays were delightful. The west coast of Wales (between Barmouth and Harlech) is certainly one of the most beautiful parts of the world Iíve seen. Weíre already making plans to go back for a walking trip. Zan has slightly mixed feelings about the place, because many memories reside there, as it was the place of many childhood vacations. But we figure that a few trips there together will help to connect her adult self to the place.
(As I type this, an email comes in from Robert Fripp, agreeing to let us use Andrew Keelingís arrangement of "Trio" on Virelaiís upcoming riverrun disc of Renaissance Love Songs. Hooray! Thank you.)
It was good to spend time with Zanís folks, and to get to know them better.
We had a little New Yearís Eve party here at the house, with five good friends for dinner and silly games.
Since then, weíve been quietly at home catching up with ourselves and doing various projects. In my case, itís practice for the concert with Catherine in Cumbria next Friday, in which weíll be performing Andrew Keelingís "Black Sun" and "Seule" again, along with other old and new lute songs. Andrew is planning to be there, in fact.
Also, Iíve been getting materials together for Virelaiís May riverrrun recording entitled Renaissance Love Songs, in which we present specially commissioned modern settings (by numerous different composers) of renaissance love poems. Long-time readers of this Diary will know that this project has been a long time in the developing stage.
It hasnít been all work though. Iíve also been reading Sidís book and listening through all the KC studio albums in chronological order to get a clear picture of the developments that took place. Fascinating. This is music that is authentic and true, for the most part. Thereís nothing worse than music that is affected. This music, like it or not, is TRUE.
Speaking of which, my personal project for 2002 is to improve my ability to be. Iíve got an extremely well-developed ability to do, and an equally well-honed ability to think (though the latterís been a little rusty lately). But being, that is a quality which has been sadly neglected and undernourished. I was never, as far as I can tell, taught how to be (there was no shortage of instruction in doingand thinking), and my internal taskmaster/slave-driver (who is rather stern, by the way) positively forbids it. So when I practise being, at which Iím currently only a beginner, Iím flying in the face of instructions. ("You must do do do! You must think think think! What is this being nonsense? Did anyone ever get anywhere by being?
Having completed the first of nine twelve-week terms training to be an Alexander Technique teacher (and about to start the second term tomorrow morning), I can say that preliminary indications suggest that studying the Alexander Technique is a superb way to have lessons in being. There are many other ways, of course. I badly needed one of them in my life. This was the right one.
First day back at "school". Iíd forgotten how demanding it is. You have to be there the whole time! But how refreshing and invigorating!
Meanwhile, Iíve finally succumbed properly to the cold which Zanís brother had back in Wales, and which Zan is in a later stage of. Never mind. I was fighting it off for ages. Sometimes itís a relief when it finally arrives!
After school, lunch and a rest, followed by a couple of hours of good lute practice and about two and a half hours at my desk trying to sort out the image for the cover of the Pickeringe disc (out in March on the Avante label, as it turns out, rather than on DGM), and corresponding with various folk.
Tuesday evening. Zan and I both have awful colds. Most unpleasant. Just thinking about going up to Egremont on Thursday for Fridayís concert makes me exhausted. In the unlikely event that all the trains run smoothly (which they almost never do in this country anymore for long-distance journeys), itíll take about seven hours each way. It may well take much longer if Iím unlucky. Still, the best thing about a cold is that itís only temporary.
Amazing day at "school" today, though it was hard to focus sometimes due to this cold, and due to extreme tiredness as a result of having been awake much of the night. But I had some good work from various teachers, and in the "game", we each, one by one, had the experience of being borne aloft horizontally by the hands of the others, moved and rocked, and then tipped vertically back onto our feet. Very strange and amazing. The purpose is to get us to feel the effect of gravity on the body in new ways.
Itís also strange and amazing and new and different to spend so much time in a totally supportive atmosphere, where there seems to be little in the way of psychological unpleasantness or obfuscation--just a group of people working well together in the service of a common aim: learning to be.
This afternoon, a rest followed by various phone calls, emails, two hours of practice, and dinner with Zan. And now, an early night.
Couldnít face dragging myself into "school" today. Cold/flu thing too much. Decided it was better to conserve my strength for the trip tomorrow. Stayed in bed most of the morning, and prepared for the trip in the afternoon and evening.
Slightly delirious and pretty sleepless last night. Hoping for a better one tonight. Zanís on the mend though, thank goodness, and I probably wonít be far behind. This is one of the nastier bugs weíve encountered in recent years.
I feel awful when I have to miss a day of the course, whether itís because of illness or because of being away gigging. Each day is an extraordinary experience, and I donít want to miss anything!
Cold more or less recovered from. Concert in Cumbria a success. Great to see Andrew there (thanks for the kind report on our concert in your Diary, Andrew), and also Lizzie Liddle.
Going back to northwest England has reminded me just how much I love that part of the world. Iíve been inspired to plan a walking trip up there. Itís been too long. The train journey, though long, is very interesting and lovely. Particularly Preston to Barrow (via Lancaster and Carnforth), and Barrow to Whitehaven (via Bootle and Seascale). So much beautiful scenery, and relatively unspoilt.
I was sorry to miss three days of "school" last week, though. Iíve felt a bit disconnected there this week, perhaps as a result. So much happens in a short time.
This week Iím focussing on the course, and on catching up and dealing with various jobs that await.
The end of a good week at school. Last week, having only attended on Monday and Tuesday, and then having disappeared for five days, I didnít really get immersed in the work. This week, Iíve become well and truly immersed. Things are continuing to develop and change, as the dedicated team of teachers works hard to help me undo some of the effects of years of misusing myself in various ways.
As Iíve written before, itís a marvellous atmosphere we work in, with a real sense of co-operation and support coming from my colleagues on the course. Where else can you go and try stuff out, risking humiliation and derision, without fear of being judged? Having said that, I tend not to take as many risks as Iíd really like to, in the context of the course. Perhaps this will change as I grow more confident. Even in this wonderful group, Iím still afraid of revealing vulnerability and imperfection. Itís nothing to do with them, and everything to do with me. Iíve grown up thinking I have to do everything perfectly from the start, and anything less is not good enough. Which means, of course, that Iím never good enough. Part of the purpose of this training course, for me, is to help me get out of this way of thinking.
Today, I made 159 photocopies after school, mopped the kitchen floor, answered emails, and now Iím about to cook dinner for Zan and her friend Jane and myself. My working day has ended.
Iím back in touch with a few college friends (via an e-group) for the first time in about sixteen or seventeen years. Itís a very nice thing! I hope to meet up with some of them in Chicago before 2002 is out.
Sunday afternoon. All quiet, except for the occasional howls of wind and rattles of windows. Itís blowing a gale here in London (as it is up north as well, judging from Andrewís Diary).
Zan and Jane are down in Brighton having a day out together, and Iím at home practising (after a week off playing) and doing bits and pieces at my desk: correspondence, music arranging, some listening and reading, etc.
Last night, I went to hear Zan give a concert with four colleagues: French baroque music. Itís stunning music (Rameau, Couperin, Boismortier, Marais), and there was some lovely playing, especially Zanís solo and the Nick Parleís harpsichord solos.
Choice: I have one past, which I have helped to shape. I have one present, which I am continuously shaping. I perceive many possible futures. How do I choose the right one? How do I know when it's the right one? Is there a right one? If so, how can I find a way to have faith that it's the right one and work within it rather than fighting against it? If not, how do I live in harmony with all the possible futures, and with the many might-have-beens contained in them? Iíve never really been plagued by doubts about the choices Iíve made or the futures Iíve chosen, although they have been quite unusual and extraordinary ones. In fact, Iíve generally thrown myself fairly whole-heartedly into my choices, even when it was probably unwise to do so. One or two people close to me are currently in situations in which they must make big decisions, and they are finding it difficult. Itís difficult to give advice. Impossible, in fact. One can only wish for them the ability to see clearly. . . .
Iím at my desk, carving a path through the mail (paper and electronic), and listening to Heavy Construction, which is taking me near the end of my survey of KCís music in conjunction with reading Sidís book. Itís been great fun. Of course Iíve listened to most of it numerous times before, but to hear a large percentage of their output in chronological order over the space of about three weeks while reading Sidís book has given me a new and more thorough appreciation of this extraordinary music. Heavy Construction is a wonderful collection, and a pleasant memory of the concert I heard on Halloween night 2000 in Chicago.
If I had to name the discs that move me the most from the recorded output, Iíd have to name the studio albums ITCOTCK, Red, Discipline, and (increasingly) TCOL; and the live albums Epitaph (which to me shows Ian McDonald off brilliantly -- better than ITCOCK), Absent Lovers, The Night Watch, and Heavy Constr. Yes, the live albums amaze me the most. You can do a lot in a studio, and the listener doesnít really have a sense of what you can do in real time. The live albums give that sense, and not only do they not disappoint -- they positively astonish.
Zan is in Leicester visiting her parental units. Iím expecting her back tomorrow.
Vic the builder has been putting up splendid shelves for us and doing other wonderful things. Vic was recommended by a student-friend of Zanís and he is very good and a very nice man. But having someone working on our house again does bring back painful memories of our friend Harry who died on New Yearís Eve, 2000.
Time at "school" this week has been hard work (changing physically and mentally is tiring -- my back is feeling the effects today), but itís a huge pleasure as well. Lots of good work today with some wonderful people. Iím walking 3 Ĺ miles most days to school and back. (I always walk the 1 ĺ miles to get there, and these days Iím usually walking home as well.) The walking and the Alexander work are giving me energy. Iíve got lots more than I did before I started the course. Sleep has been restless, though, oddly enough. But Karen says that this happened to her too when she trained 30 years ago.
Weíre in the midst of a steady stream of home improvements, most of them urgently necessary, being carried out. In the last few days, weíve had some new shelves installed, a light and a floor put in our loft (now weíve got a place to store things), a leaky roof fixed (we hope), and a couple of quotes for damp proofing. This last is urgently necessary, as we have some pretty major damp problems. These are the joys of living in a Victorian house (1875). We love the place, but itís not cheap to maintain.
Besides the usual adventures at "school", Iíve been teaching a little, and working quite hard putting together three upcoming projects. The first is my next solo lute record (my fifth! hard to believe). The one before hasnít even come out yet (though it was recorded a year ago), but it will in a few weeks! Jane Pickeringeís Lute Book. As usual, Iím very excited about the release, and I have high hopes for its success. The second project is Virelaiís Renaissance Love Songs CD, which is a lot of work, since itís all new music written specially for us, and Iím liaising with the composers as well as fixing up rehearsals and learning the lute parts as well. And thirdly, Iíve been putting together Virelaiís York Early Music Festival programme for the 7th of July. It seems far away, but they want the programme before the end of January, and itís an all-new programme for us: mainly songs from the songbook entitled Villancicos de diversos autores (1556), with some instrumental music interspersed. Should be very nice.
A sleepy diary entry before I retire (early, due to having just had two nights of not sleeping well).
Itís all happing around here, as liaisons with various companies and workmen take place: roof repairs, a fireplace being installed, a course of damp-proofing, etc.
In between all that, Iím practising for Saturdayís concert, and gradually working my way through the choosing of music for the next solo disc.
My training course, as always, is extremely challenging and rewarding. Actually, at the moment, itís also damned hard work.
One of the things that happens in this work, as we all develop a much increased sensitivity to our bodiesí signals, is that we get to know ourselves better and better. This is of course a great thing. But itís also a painful thing, because we encounter some of those aspects of ourselves that weíre ashamed of, would rather not talk about, would rather not admit to (even to ourselves), etc. Accepting and acknowledging this stuff is an important part of learning to be at peace with oneself. Perfectionists and workaholics beware: if you embark on this particular journey, youíll come face to face with your perfectionism and your workaholism, and dealing with it will not be easy. By our very nature, we perfectionists have a particularly hard time dealing with the darker sides of ourselves.
First, I catch myself being angry or ashamed when I canít perfectly perform a task set us on the course at first attempt (or even second attempt). Second, I catch myself feeling anxious (jealous? frustrated?) when I see a colleague perform it better than I did. Third, I become impatient with myself for the perfectionism in the first example and the secret competitive streak in the second. This is a perfectionistís response to being caught being a perfectionist. (A typical musicianís story, actually.) I know Iíve already travelled a very long way. I know that itís important to accept the negative as well as the positive sides of myself, which means acknowledging these qualities, but not judging myself harshly for them. Without a dark side, there can be no light side. I know these things with my head. But try telling them to my heart. It doesnít believe them yet.
Sound convoluted? It is. Itís me. You will find that a great many people who are driven to excel are like me in these respects: perfectionist and self-punishing, competitive (secretly or openly), unable to accept and love all aspects of themselves. We are our own worst taskmasters and our own harshest judges, always driving ourselves to do. I come back to the idea that the central focus of this work for me at the moment is learning how to be.
Itís simultaneously frightening and exciting and positive to be encountering all this in a more powerful way than usual. It canít be ignored. It has to be dealt with. Iím convinced that this is a marvellous opportunity to make "spiritual progress".
The other frightening and scary thing if youíre deep down shy (possibly even somewhat anti-social) and afraid of getting too close to people (as I am) is the intensity of the way we work together on this course. Because of the nature of the work, our exchanges and interactions are uncommonly intense and concentrated. Iím often frightened by it, wonderful though it can be. Again, I recognize a marvellous opportunity to grow.
To change the subject (well, only partially), Iím excited to learn that a couple of very dear friends are coming to see us from Canada in May. These are DGM friends -- we met through the website. Iím grateful to DGM and RF for this connection, as well as for several others, including the fruitful friendship and working relationship with Andrew Keeling. From Andrew Keelingís diary the next day, 01.02.02 I've just read Jacob Heringman Diary for 31-01-02. It's a very interesting account of Jacob's encounters with Alexander Technique and the training involved with becoming an Alexander teacher. He speaks of meeting the 'dark side' of the personality in this discipline. His description of it partly resonates with my own encounters with the 'shadow' as part of my own Jungian analysis. I once asked Dr. Mc what we can do about our 'shadow' side as it is always encroaching on what we do, professionally and otherwise. She responded by saying that there's very little that can be done, but as as long as we're conscious of it then we can at least try not to fall into some of the traps we'd found ourselves in previously. I also share something of Jacob's perfectionist ideals and all that goes along with this. I've also found as I get older that there's a softening of the personality and an awareness, probably aquired from knowledge of the 'shadow', of the fact we are who we are. There is also gold to be had from the 'shadow'. from the Jestbook Nat Fly (firstname.lastname@example.org) hmmm .... 01-Feb-2002 04:11 GMT † Jacob Heringman has a very thoughtful post, in which he mentions those " ... who are driven to excel ..." I believe that way of stating it reveals a lot: when excellence is but a concept, then what can one do? What fun is it to be driven? The one being driven is the vehicle of ... what? On the other hand, it seems to me that when one truly holds excellence as a possibility (even), then excellence draws one to itself, as the moth to the flame. For sure one thing: she/he who tries to be excellent just isn't. The hard question is then: what do you really profit from in perfectionism? (Ah, a question after my own heart) Whatever the answer be, don't confuse it with excellence.