Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Sunny. Hot. Humid. We keep thinking thereís definitely going to be a thunderstorm and then it blows over. Apparently to the north and west of us, rain is happening; but not here in the southeast.
Weíre very busy preparing for lots of upcoming things, including the York Festival, which starts this weekend, in which Zan has a concert and I have two. Iíve also just finished putting together a Christmas programme which Virelai is giving for the BBC in December. Hard to think about Christmas in this heat! When will promoters learn to give people advance notice when they need a programme? They only got around to telling me yesterday what sort of programme they needed, and that they need it by tomorrow! So itís a case of drop everything and do it now, and tough if youíve got other things to do.
Weíve also had some very nice social times. Last night we had friends for dinner, with kids, and we had a riotous evening around the picnic table outside (nine people). It ended with the kids drawing beards and moustaches on everyoneís faces using burnt cork from the wine bottles. I took some picturesÖ.
Iíve just read Angela Vossís excellent and highly thought-provoking essay on Melancholy and Dowlandís Lachrimae. It rings a lot of great big bells with me! Some of my earliest experiences of music were of the profound sort that Angela describes. The closest I get to it nowadays is when Iím playing intabulations of sacred Josquin motets.
Todayís listening: Shakti.
The music: divine frenzy! Inspired and inspiring. ĎJoyí takes my breath away. There is technical perfection. But the technical perfection is always subservient to something much greater: the fervour in this music is astonishing and sweeps me up when I hear it. This is what music is about, for me. In the repertoire Iím directly involved with, this nearing of the divine is usually achieved through melancholy rather than through dance and movement and ecstasy, as in the case of Shakti. But somehow, the two are one and the same.
Here is an extract from an email I sent off this morning. Itís on a familiar theme: Performance.
The composer is skilled; the performer is skilled; but both are inspired; and the listener is inspired.† There are all kinds of names for this inspiration, but when you feel it you don't forget it.† I feel it when I'm performing, perhaps 1 percent of the time.† That's enough to keep me performing. (That plus the feeling that things are getting better--i.e., as I get older and more experienced, I'm gradually becoming a more effective musical communicator, though I still have many miles to travel.)† The sensation, from my point of view performing in front of an audience, is that blockages and obstacles have suddenly fallen away, and there is nothing between myself and the music, between myself and the audience, between the audience and the music.† This is the place where inward/outward, mind/body, then/now, here/there -- lose their meaning.† This is not meant to be far out stuff--this is a working gigging musician writing, one who is simply describing what he sometimes feels onstage. What are those blockages and obstacles, then, which prevent the flow 99 percent of the time?† For me, they are psychological.† The technique is there.† If I'm not conveying the music eloquently, it's not because I physically can't.† It's because I'm throwing up barriers which block the channels of communication.† It's sometimes lack of self-belief; it's sometimes a self-destructive inbuilt tyrannical introjection of that voice which says "you can't do it!"; it's sometimes a wandering mind which fails to focus fully enough on the here and now, being rather too full of the "stuff" of everyday life. (Funnily enough, Robert Fripp wrote in his diary yesterday, I believe, that he spends a very small percentage of his time actually on music itself. I know what he means. It's sometimes very hard to have anything left for music when you have to expend so much energy on the business of being a musician. And so, too often, the baby gets thrown out with the bathwater.) I think that it's also sometimes a fear of what I'm going to find if I engage fully, so I stop myself from achieving it most of the time, at the same time that I profess to be seeking to achieve it, and I retreat back into the self.† In fact, if I had to sum up in one word what it is that blocks the flow, it is Fear.† So there's Love as the driving force, and Fear seeking to block it.† And such is the rather complicated psychology of performance, as it presents itself to me. I've no idea to what extent other musicians would concur.
Saturday, and just off to Dartington for a couple of days, to play at the Dartington International Summer School. Itís a beautiful place, and I always enjoy going there. The best thing is that Zan will be there too--sheís got two concerts, one of them with me. After that concert, weíll escape for a day to Janeís place for a brief break before the final countdown to my US trip.
Last night, I attended the graduation party at Karenís Alexander Technique teacher training school (where Iíll be training from September). It was a lovely occasion, and the two graduating members were glowing with excitement. At the party, various friends performed a bit of music. With Gaby, one of the teachers (and one of the first graduates of the school), I had the privilege of performing six Portuguese villancicos. Gaby is a Brazilian singer, and it was marvellous to hear these songs sung so delicately and beautifully by a native speaker of the Portuguese language. Iíve done these songs with English singers (in fact, recorded them--itís one of the CDs Iím most proud of), and that can be great too, of course. But itís very interesting and revealing to hear the songs sung by someone who is totally at home in the language. Itís completely different! On the 19th of August, Iíll go and hear Gaby with her Brazilian band performing at the Jazz Cafť.
Itís Saturday night, and Iím expecting Zan back within the hour from her third concert in three days. Itís been a very demanding week for her, and tonight sheís inaugurating her lovely new seven-string viol.
Since returning from Dartington, Iíve worked solidly on preparing for my week of teaching in Storrs, CT, for Amherst Early Music. Iíll be giving a class on intabulations, and another on improvising on the lute, and Iíve prepared a lot of material for the students. I think it will be interesting. And Iíve also been practising Josquin, of course; thatís the programme for my recital at Storrs on the 5th of August.
Iím also taking the opportunity to catch up with various people by phone, including my too-much-neglected brother and sister. Also lots of emailing.
Dartington was lovely, as always. Itís a very special place. I enjoyed meeting and talking to Keith and Julie Tippett. Unfortunately, I missed their concerts. But I did buy the now 30-year-old album Septober Energy by Centipede, led by Keith and also starring a huge array of other people, and produced by Robert Fripp. Some of it sounds just a little dated to me, but for the most part, I find it strong and compelling music. Our concert at Dartington went down very well. The audience is always enthusiastic and friendly, though I was rather nervous in the first half. Not sure why.
Tomorrow, some last minute stuff, and dinner and one more Alexander lesson at Karenís. Then, on Monday, off to New York!