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Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
Click here to go to Jacob Heringman's home page

Jacob Heringman's DGM Diary Archive

May 2000

17.50

As I type, Iím playing Mattís CD, Out of the flames, a CD that finds its way to our CD player at very regular intervals, along with lots of other DGM releases. Last night, it was The Gates of Paradise. Also last night, the spoken word: Radio 4ís production of Shakespeareís Richard II had me riveted, not because of the acting or the production particularly, but because of those amazing words, so dense and rich with meaning and resonance. I find the plays incredibly powerful. And the immediacy of the language never ceases to amaze me--the degree to which it has influenced our language.

The planetary music recording is successfully completed. Iíve never had to do so much improvising on a recording before. It was an enjoyable challenge. The record, for a new company called riverrun, is based around the words of Ficino and the music of the spheres. Each planet was associated with a musical mode, and the record is organized by mode and planet. So, for example, the Moon section began with me improvising in the hypodorian mode as background music for a spoken reading from Ficinoís writings on the subject of the moon. This was followed by an ancient hymn to the Moon, set to music in--you guessed it--the hypodorian mode by us, the musicians. Then there were a series of vaguely related bits of vocal and instrumental music, and then on to the next planet. I think itís going to be an interesting record, and certainly one quite unlike any other.

On the second evening of recording all of these planetary invocations, I went to bed very tired in my hotel room, and had a dream which involved Robert Fripp. I canít unfortunately remember what he said to me in the dream, if anything, but I remember that it felt positive and encouraging. I woke thinking how wonderful it is to be associated with his record label, nearly 20 years after becoming interested in his music. Then, upon returning home last night, I checked out the DGM website and discovered that, around the time I was drifting off in a bed and breakfast in rural Hertfordshire, Robert, on the other side of the world, was submitting a Diary entry which commented on some of what Iíve been saying in my Diary. And whatís more, I felt that the things he had to say were positive and encouraging. To quote Andrew Keeling, "synchronicity or what?". Thank you Robert for your comments. The next morning, coincidentally or not, I spoke to someone about a possible future artistic collaboration which sounds exciting. More on that later.

I was particularly struck by Robertís description of the idea of "contact at a distance". Itís certainly something Iíve felt strongly in pursuing this very old music which is my passion--itís "contact at a temporal distance".

RF:

"In linear time, what we do today creates the future. In an extended, or larger, present moment it is as true to say that the future creates the present. This particular kind of creative future "resonates" and draws our actions towards it. It is this potential future with which we engage, and more powerfully, which engages us."

JH:

I think that this idea is a useful way of making sense of the fact that an artist can feel strongly drawn to a particular calling, and that this draw can be more powerful than other considerations, like money and sometimes even human companionship. Many an artist has gone hungry, and many a relationship has collapsed because of this artistic compulsion. These are some of the ways in which "the working musician pays dearly" for the privilege of making music. It is intensely comforting to read:

RF:

"But any work of quality generates repercussions which escape quantitative measure, even though this may take a pile of linear years before we see how. And then, probably, we won't ever be able to discover all the effects of our work. In the narrow moment of the musician (and sympathetic record company), where bills & interest payments have to be paid & made, we persist and endure, and do what we may. And hope. And trust."

Apropos of all of this, here's the last sentence of the most recent black cow review, which touches on the issues we've been discussing: the future, the "sympathetic record company", the path of the artist:

"DGM promise more recordings from Heringman, and if the label continues to allow him room to explore challenging and relatively neglected areas of the lute repertoire in this way, then we have a great deal to look forward to."

12.44

Itís a beautiful sunny Saturday in South London, and Iím just taking a break from practising Josquin for the upcoming US tour to write in the Diary. Ken Livingstone, Londonís new mayor, only took office yesterday, but Iím pleased to say heís already gone to work to improve our weather. This gorgeous spring weather comes after the wettest April on record!

Speaking of records, Iíve been following with interest a new programme on BBC Radio 3 which has just been voted "programme of the year" by the Broadcasting Press Guild . Itís called Late Junction, and itís an eclectic programme which plays a wonderful mixture of records by many different types of artists, from "world" to "rock" to "ambient" to "early music". To hear some interesting comments from one of the presenters, click here. I like this programme partly because itís very much after my own taste, and partly because Iíve always been fascinated by the juxtaposition of different kinds of music. I think that if you take a piece of renaissance polyphony and play it immediately after a piece of (say) west African kora music, or a Bartok string quartet immediately after a jazz piece, the two juxtaposed pieces not only sound different in the light of one another, but they also encourage us to listen to music in a different way. This is all, of course, very much in keeping with DGMís eclectic philosophy, as far as I can tell, and so itís gratifying to look at their playlist for a random couple of days, and to note that DGM releases have been included, along with performances by "relatives" of DGM, like Eno and Fretwork (the viol consort my wife Susanna plays with). The Fretwork piece, by pure chance (or was it?), was placed by the producer immediately after a piece from my Josquin CD. The Fretwork piece, by the way, was written for them by Elvis Costello, who has always been a friend of the group, and it can be heard on their fabulous but sadly hard-to-find Virgin CD of old and new music for viols, entitled Sit Fast. This is the sort of programme (and Iím sure there are US equivalents) which we DGM/Present Moment artists should be liaising with to produce possible live events and features: how about a DGM/BBC Late Junction live performance (perhaps in an unusual venue like a cathedral), recorded for the programme, or a series of interviews on the programme with DGM artists and executives. Anyway, hereís their playlist for a couple of recent days:

 

Wednesday 26 April

10.15 / VELOSO Desde que o Samba É Samba / Jočo Gilberto, voice and guitar / album: Jočo Gilberto-Jočo voz e violčo / CD: VERVE 5467132

10.19 / SHANKAR Tribute to Nippon / Ravi Shankar, sitar/ Alla Rakha, tabla / album: Unknown / CD: DG 449 599 2 /

10.33 / PHELPS Train Carried My Girl Away / Kelly Joe Phelps, voice and guitar / album: Kelly Joe Phelps-Shine Eyed Mister Zen / CD: RYKODISC RCD 10476 /

22.38 / SCARLATTI Sonate in Fa mineur L 118 / Inger Södergren, piano / album: Domenico Scarlatti-Sixteen Sonatas / CD: APPROCHE CAL 6670 /

22.44 / FRIPP A Blessing of Tears / Robert Fripp / album: Robert Fripp- / A Blessing of Tears- / 1995 Soundscapes- / Vol 2 Live in California / CD: DISCIPLINE GLOBAL MOBILE DGM 9506 /

22.53 / John Mason : Vae nobis miseris / The Magdalen Collection / Harry Christophers (conductor) / album: Music From Magdalen / CD: COLLINS CLASSICS 15112 /

23.05 / ANON arr. POWELL Beside the Grave of Lily Potter / Kermesse / album: Kermesse-Kermesse / CD: KERMESSE RECORDS KMESSCD001 / KERMESSE 5, HARMSWORTH STREET, / LONDON SE17 3TJ / TEL: 020 7735 0131 / E-MAIL: imnjim@compuserve.com /

23.10 / TRAORE Mariama Kaba / Boubacar Karkar Traoré, guitar and voice / album: Boubacar Karkar Traoré-Mariama / CD: STERNS AFRICA STCD 1032 /

23.15 / John Buckley Passacaglia / (Saxophone Quartet) / Quartz Saxophone Quartet / album: John Buckley-in lines of dazzling light / CD: BLACK BOX BBM1012

23.19 / Gordon Gano : See My Ships / Violent Femmes / album: Violent Femmes-3 / CD: SLASH/LONDON 828 130-2

23.22 / SHEPPARD Dark Blue / Philip Sheppard (Cello) / album: Philip Sheppard- / The Diver In The Crypt / CD: Blue Snow BSNCD 2 / Blue Snow/Philip Sheppard / Tel: 07767 810560

23.31 / Trad The Ships are Sailing / Brian Hughes, tin whistle / album: The Rough Guide-Irish Folk / CD: RGNET 1036

23.34 / John Sheppard respond : In manus tuas II / The Magdalen Collection/Harry Christophers / album: Music From Magdalen / CD: COLLINS CLASSICS 15112

23.38 / Bruce Smith: Bruce Smith. s Set Tune / Mark Rummery (violin scordatura) / album: Unknown / CD: UNESCO D 8277

23.40 / John Sheppard : respond: In manus tuas III / The Magdalen Collection / Harry Christophers / album: Music From Magdalen / CD: COLLINS CLASSICS 15112

23.43 / Surreal Estate : Contrafactum in / the spirit of John Sheppard / Surreal Estate / album: RESONANCE vol.7 no.2 Cover CD / CD: LMC promotional CD-LMC 3.6 Lafone House, / 1-13 Leathermarket Street, London SE1 3HN

23.45 / John Sheppard: respond: In manus tuas I / The Magdalen Collection / Harry Christophers / album: Music From Magdalen / CD: COLLINS CLASSICS 15112

23.50 / Marais Tombeau pour Mr de Sainte Colombe / album: Tous les matins du monde / (Original film music) / CD: Auvidis Valois V 4640

23.55 / MARTYN One World / John Martyn / album: John Martyn-One World / CD: ISLAND CID 9492

24.00 / ENO Slow Water / Brian Eno / album: Brian Eno-Music for films / CD: EDITIONS EG EEGCD5

 

Thursday 27 April

10.15 / MAMMS/SALINAS El Hacha (Andes) / Inti-Illmani / album: Various-The Rough Guide Music Sampler / CD: RGNET 901 CD

10.22 / ANON The Legend of Qadi Shero (Kurdistan) / Temo, tanbur / album: Various-Inedit-Célébration du Cheval / (In celebration of the horse) / CD: INEDIT W 260085

22.27 / TRAORE Souba (Mali) / Rokia Traoré, voice/Andra Kouyaté, n. goni bČ / album: Rokia Traore-Wanita / CD: INDIGO LBLC 2574

22.34 / JOSQUIN arr ANON Praeter rerum seriem / Jacob Heringman, lute / album: Jacob Heringman-Josquin de Prez / Sixteenth century lute settings / CD: DISCIPLINE GLOBAL MOBILE DG M006

22.38 / COSTELLO Put Away Forbidden Playthings / Fretwork/Michael Chance, counter tenor / album: Fretwork-Sit Fast / CD: VIRGIN CLASSICS 7243 5 452172 0

22.44 / RAINER Within You, Without You / Rainer / album: Rainer-Nocturnes / CD: GLITTERHOUSE RECORDS GRCD 636

22.50 / 3-part organum : Alleluia Pascha nostrum / Bo Holten / Musica Ficta / Malene Nordtorp, soprano solo / Aino Lund Lavoipierre, soprano solo / album: Musica Ficta / Bo Holten-Medieval Music in Denmark / CD: DACAPO 8.224133

22.58 / trad. arr. Marlui Miranda : / 15 Variaćões de Hai Nai Hain (Brazil) / 15 variations on Hai Nai Hain / Nambikwara Indians of Guapore / Mato Grosso of the North + / Marlui Miranda & musicians / album: Marlui Miranda-Todos os sons / CD: ACT Music and Vision 5005-2

23.12 / Charles Dodge : Any resemblance is purely coincidental / Enrico Caruso, Alan Feinberg / album: Various-10. Naked / CD: UNKNOWN PUBLIC UP10 / Unknown Public, PO Box 354, Reading, RG2 522 / Tel: 0118 931 2580 / Fax: 0118 931 2582

23.21 / Gordon Gano : Nothing Worth Living For / Violent Femmes / album: Violent Femmes-3 / CD: LONDON 828 130-2

23.26 / Philip Glass : String Quartet No.3 (Mishima) / Kronos Quartet / album: Kronos Quartet performs Philip Glass / CD: NONESUCH 7559 79356 2

23.42 / ABELO/MAKOBI Likuta Bibi (Kenya) / Henry Makobi, voice and guitar / album: The Rough Guide Music Sampler / CD: RGNET 901 CD

23.46 / TRAD arr. Molloy/Cooney The Mason's Apron / Matt Molloy / album: Matt Molloy-Shadows on Stone / CD: VIRGIN RECORDS CDVE 930

23.50 / plainchant Te Deum / Schola Gregoriana of Cambridge/Mary Berry / album: Gregorian Chant-Angels from the Vatican / CD: HERALD HAVPCD 220

23.56 / FITKIN Piano Piece / Graham Fitkin, piano / album: Graham Fitkin-flak / CD: GFR/FACTORY / COMMUNICATIONS GFCD 990901

12.00 / HALSTEAD All of Us / Slowdive / album: Slowdive-Pygmalion / CD: CREATION CRECD 168

Lots of correspondence with other PM artists, and with Sid and Dan, exchanging ideas about how to promote the Present Moment. Thereís a buzz in the air.

 

Tuesday 9th. May, 2000 17.19

Another very beautiful spring day. Extremely warm and humid. You can practically see the grass growing (bad news for me, since Iím the official lawn-mowing person in this household). Zan has been industrious in the garden (in between Fretwork rehearsals)--this year, if the slugs spare us, weíll have beans, rocket (which weíve had year round anyway), beetroot, ruby chard, broccoli, courgettes (thatís zucchini to Americans), strawberries, and countless herbs. Without Zan, none of these wonderful and tasty delights would be growing in our garden, as Iím no gardener. I suppose we fulfill the stereotypical sex roles, in that she slaves in the garden, and I just swan in once in a while and cut the grass. Other than that, Iím very good at eating what she grows, and I occasionally get a guided tour from her of whatís what in the garden, and, in this weather, I take breaks from practising Josquin on the lute to go outside and sprawl in the grass in the warm sun. But without Zan, our garden would be a barren wasteland. Iím grateful to her everytime I step outside and enjoy the garden. Weíve settled into what is for us something unusual--a bit of a routine. For free-lance musicians, if you do roughly the same thing every day for more than four or five days it qualifies as routine. We get up earlyish, Zan goes off after breakfast to rehearse with Fretwork for their next record, and I spend the first part of the day (until mid-afternoon usually) practising the lute; then I go to my desk and do the many adminstrative tasks that await me. At the moment thereís a lot of liaising with Dan and the other PM artists to build up the PM presence on the DGM website. My biography has been updated, weíve added reviews of black cow, and Iíve just compiled some text about my two CDs which will be linked to the pages showing the two releases. Also ordered TCOL today, which I look forward to hearing very much. Then, around 9 PM Zan gets home and I produce a meal, and we catch up on the dayís events. Itís a great luxury for us both to be at home for an extended period. Good for the soul. Speaking of souls, Andrew Keeling and I have had a remarkable correspondence lately about inside and outside, dreaming and waking, the importance of seemingly chance encounters, and the constantly recurring symbolism of the moon. When Virelai commissioned Andrew to write us a setting of a renaissance love poem, for some reason unknown to me I asked Andrew to set Sidneyís "With how sad steps, O moon, thou climbíst the skies". (Perhaps I simply suggested it because I like the poem; I canít remember.) Andrew, equally mysteriously, said that heíd been thinking of setting that poem anyway. This is in the context of the fact that the moon also plays a central role in Andrewís Fretwork commission. Then, the other day, I dusted off a book which Andrew wanted to borrow in connection with a lute song he is writing with Peter Sinfield for Catherine and me (The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age by Frances Yates), which I had bought and read in Oxford in 1984 at a summer course on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and which I hadnít opened since. Out of the book fell a folded up and yellowed piece of paper. On that piece of paper was, amazingly enough, the same poem, "With how sad steps", copied for me by a friend (the mysterious S.) in Oxford in 1984. S., after some thought, turns out to by Sylvia, someone I met sixteen years ago on this course and havenít spoken to or seen since. Sylvia, Andrew reckons, is communicating with us and playing a central role in this current musical project. This communication comes across time and space and is connected to the moon (Sylvia Plathís most insistent image), the muse, the feminine/unconscious. Itís not yet quite clear what form this lute-song will take, but it is being shaped by alchemy, magic, astrology and unconscious influences which are as yet mysterious. Is it all a marvelous and elaborate sequence of synchronicity? Or is it simply an illustration of the remarkable way in which the human mind finds meaning and significance and narrative in an array of seemingly unconnected events, thereby creating a coherent picture, a structure, a myth which is deeply meaningful and determining in our lives? Or are the two things one and the same? Either way, inner and outer events in our lives interact in an eternal present which takes no account of their geography, chronology, or ontological status. (Two of my very favourite books address this question. Both are by H.D. One is Tribute to Freud; the other is The Gift.) And whether these events were "meant to be" or not; whether Sylvia is actually communicating with us or not (as if one could ever know the answers to these questions!), we have the strong sense that they were, and that she is. Thatís what matters. I think what Iím saying is that you donít have to be a believer or "new-agey" person to feel the mysterious touch of what Andrew calls synchronicity. All you need is a sensitivity and openness to the workings of your own unconscious.

17.19

Another very beautiful spring day. Extremely warm and humid. You can practically see the grass growing (bad news for me, since Iím the official lawn-mowing person in this household). Zan has been industrious in the garden (in between Fretwork rehearsals)--this year, if the slugs spare us, weíll have beans, rocket (which weíve had year round anyway), beetroot, ruby chard, broccoli, courgettes (thatís zucchini to Americans), strawberries, and countless herbs. Without Zan, none of these wonderful and tasty delights would be growing in our garden, as Iím no gardener. I suppose we fulfill the stereotypical sex roles, in that she slaves in the garden, and I just swan in once in a while and cut the grass. Other than that, Iím very good at eating what she grows, and I occasionally get a guided tour from her of whatís what in the garden, and, in this weather, I take breaks from practising Josquin on the lute to go outside and sprawl in the grass in the warm sun. But without Zan, our garden would be a barren wasteland. Iím grateful to her everytime I step outside and enjoy the garden.

Weíve settled into what is for us something unusual--a bit of a routine. For free-lance musicians, if you do roughly the same thing every day for more than four or five days it qualifies as routine. We get up earlyish, Zan goes off after breakfast to rehearse with Fretwork for their next record, and I spend the first part of the day (until mid-afternoon usually) practising the lute; then I go to my desk and do the many adminstrative tasks that await me. At the moment thereís a lot of liaising with Dan and the other PM artists to build up the PM presence on the DGM website. My biography has been updated, weíve added reviews of black cow, and Iíve just compiled some text about my two CDs which will be linked to the pages showing the two releases. Also ordered TCOL today, which I look forward to hearing very much. Then, around 9 PM Zan gets home and I produce a meal, and we catch up on the dayís events. Itís a great luxury for us both to be at home for an extended period. Good for the soul.

Speaking of souls, Andrew Keeling and I have had a remarkable correspondence lately about inside and outside, dreaming and waking, the importance of seemingly chance encounters, and the constantly recurring symbolism of the moon. When Virelai commissioned Andrew to write us a setting of a renaissance love poem, for some reason unknown to me I asked Andrew to set Sidneyís "With how sad steps, O moon, thou climbíst the skies". (Perhaps I simply suggested it because I like the poem; I canít remember.) Andrew, equally mysteriously, said that heíd been thinking of setting that poem anyway. This is in the context of the fact that the moon also plays a central role in Andrewís Fretwork commission. Then, the other day, I dusted off a book which Andrew wanted to borrow in connection with a lute song he is writing with Peter Sinfield for Catherine and me (The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age by Frances Yates), which I had bought and read in Oxford in 1984 at a summer course on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and which I hadnít opened since. Out of the book fell a folded up and yellowed piece of paper. On that piece of paper was, amazingly enough, the same poem, "With how sad steps", copied for me by a friend (the mysterious S.) in Oxford in 1984. S., after some thought, turns out to by Sylvia, someone I met sixteen years ago on this course and havenít spoken to or seen since. Sylvia, Andrew reckons, is communicating with us and playing a central role in this current musical project. This communication comes across time and space and is connected to the moon (Sylvia Plathís most insistent image), the muse, the feminine/unconscious. Itís not yet quite clear what form this lute-song will take, but it is being shaped by alchemy, magic, astrology and unconscious influences which are as yet mysterious. Is it all a marvelous and elaborate sequence of synchronicity? Or is it simply an illustration of the remarkable way in which the human mind finds meaning and significance and narrative in an array of seemingly unconnected events, thereby creating a coherent picture, a structure, a myth which is deeply meaningful and determining in our lives? Or are the two things one and the same? Either way, inner and outer events in our lives interact in an eternal present which takes no account of their geography, chronology or ontological status. (Two of my very favourite books address this question. Both are by H.D. One is Tribute to Freud; the other is The Gift.) And whether these events were "meant to be" or not; whether Sylvia is actually communicating with us or not (as if one could ever know the answers to these questions!), we have the strong sense that they were, and that she is. Thatís what matters. I think what Iím saying is that you donít have to be a believer or "new-agey" person to feel the mysterious touch of what Andrew calls synchronicity. All you need is a sensitivity and openness to the workings of your own unconscious.

17.30

Prolonged absence from Diary indicates extreme busyness. Working backwards, concert last night in Wendover (Buckinghamshire) with Musicians of the Globe. Very nice music society audience; concert well received. I enjoyed it, unlike the previous evening (Friday), when we did the same programme in the Purcell Room in London. Itís partly because I feel slightly more at ease when Iím doing a new programme for the second time; also partly because the Purcell Room is rather clinical and lacking in atmosphere, whereas the church in Wendover, right on the famous Ridgeway (a beautiful and much-loved long-distance footpath) is beautiful, visually and acoustically, and full of atmosphere; and partly, Iím sure, because of internal events--for some inexplicable reason probably due to a cocktail of many different factors, I felt very ill-at-ease on Friday evening.

The day before that (Thursday) was taken up with rehearsing in the afternoon and evening, and a visit to the offices of the MCPS (the mechanical-copyright protection society) in the morning.

Wednesday was a day of practice and of my weekly pilgrimage to Karen, my wonderful Alexander Technique teacher.

Iím very pleased to say I received and have enjoyed very much the new KC studio album. I also read with great interest what RF and AK have to say in their diaries about the current KC. I sense too in this release a fusion of many elements--elements of the past (the early 70s KC, the early 80s KC, the ProjeKcts, and the 90s KC all crop up, and in newly-integrated ways). But I feel strongly the need to hear ProjeKct X, to balance these thoughts. Speaking very personally, my favourite KC is the KC of the live albums; my second favourite KC is the KC of the ProjeKcts; and my third favourite KC is the KC of the studio albums. I think for me this simply means that KC excites me the most when they are improvising, and especially when they are improvising in front of an audience. But of course, no single one of these three elements could exist without the others. Hereís a thought: KC has been around for between 31 and 32 years, I believe. But it has managed to make its mark on five decades! --the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, the 90s and now the 00s. Thatís a remarkable feat.

Today, a day of catching up and catching my breath before a busy week of preparing for the US tour, performing in Brighton, attending a DGM-related meeting, teaching, etc. ÖÖ

18.49

Time has flown since the last entry. On Monday, I spent the day at West Dean College, where Iíve been teaching the lute- and viol-making students regularly for about eight or nine years now. I gave them a short lecture recital on the renaissance lute, playing pieces by the "big two", John Dowland and Francesco da Milano, and of course pieces from my new Josquin Des Prez release (which, by the way, will soon be available for online ordering).

Tuesday, a wonderful Alexander Technique lesson, and a fruitful meeting on DGM-related matters. All the while, Iíve been enjoying the fabulous warm weather, which has now unfortunately been supplanted by cold, windy and wet weather again.

On Wednesday, Zan and I spent the day in Brighton, as we were both involved in a concert with the wonderful ensemble rather colourfully called Charivari Agréable. Should readers ever have the chance to hear their recordings on the Signum label, I recommend them very highly--and thatís not just because Zan is on several of them.

Yesterday, returned from Brighton and launched into the final days and hours of practising Josquin and catching up with urgent tasks (of which there seem to be hundreds) before my departure for the USA next week.

Today, more of the same, and a very nice email from Steve Hancoff wanting to know whether Iíll be anywhere near his neck of the woods. Unfortunately not, but weíve resolved to meet up next time I am. Also, interesting correspondence with Andrew Keeling on our various projects, and Peter Sinfield and I have been chatting to each othersí answering machines, though we havenít managed to speak to each other yet. Just now, a very long telephone conversation with Michael Lowe in Oxfordshire, the finest and most knowledgeable lute maker Iíve ever come across. Actually, itís not just I who say so--he has a waiting list that is (astoundingly) in excess of ten years, and is called upon to lecture on the lute in all corners of the globe. Iím the proud owner of two Lowe lutes, one a ten-course lute (19 strings), and the other a six-course lute which can be heard on the Josquin CD, and is pictured on the cover.

17.56

Countdown to US trip. Iíve reached that interesting stage in my practising of the solo pieces which Iíve come to recognize and accept now, after experiencing it again and again. Shortly before a tour or an important concert, I notice that my playing of the pieces gets worse. Itís connected with tension and apprehension about the trip. Pieces of music which seemed to flow almost by themselves last week suddenly start to feel like hard work, and I play them less accurately and less musically. I can feel in my muscles that Iím tightening up unnecessarily when I play. This affects physical coordination, and the accuracy of the performance declines. The tension also affects mental balance and confidence levels, and the direction of the performance founders. This used to induce extreme anxiety and fear about whether the performance would be good enough when the day comes. Now, from experience, I know that itís a psychological game. Close to the time of the performance, barriers to success are put up. The only way to get past this stage is to accept, welcome, and work within this situation, not to fight it. Take a deep breath, stand back from it all, and let the tension dissipate. How to achieve this? There are various approaches: Alexander Technique lessons help me to release the tension; positive thinking also helps--as in: the audience will be there to enjoy the music; Iím there to share this music, which I love, with them; there will be a communion of sorts between myself and the audience if I let it happen; this is what music is all about; I know that I can play this music well--Iíve done it before; etc. etc.

These are the mental exercises that performers go through. I think most of us are insecure--itís partly this that drives us to excel. But itís also this that throws up barriers to success. Iíve had wonderful moments in concert of feeling at one with the audience and the music and the instrument and myself. They are fleeting moments. But they are the moments that make me put myself in this situation again and again. This is perhaps partly what Robert means when he says that the musician pays a high price for the privilege of making music.

I was finally spurred on today to apply for British citizenship. After thirteen years in England, during which time Iíve made a home and a career here, and now married a British woman, Iíve finally decided to get a British passport alongside my U.S. one. Iíd been putting it off for ages, but the thing that made me do it finally was a conversation with someone at the Inland Revenue National Insurance Contributions Office (International Services Department) who told me that Iím not entitled to exemption from having to make French social security contributions when performing in France this September, despite the fact that I make national insurance contributions here and I have been doing so for many years. This means that I will unfairly be required to pay double social security for the period Iím in France. If I were a British national, under the health care agreement between European countries, I would not have to donate a chunk of my concert fee in September to the French social security system--the law should of course be changed to include non-EU nationals with residency in an EU country who pay national insurance in that EU country. Thereís no logical reason to deny this privilege to anyone who pays social security in the UK.

So, being a poor musician for whom every little bit counts, I got fed up and sent for a UK citizenship application form. Now, if all goes well, Iíll have a UK passport in about two years, after jumping through lots of hoops, paying a fee, and getting a couple of reputable English people to sign a form saying that I too am reputable and worthy. (Letís see, whom can I bribe?) Exciting stuff!

Continued correspondence with Andrew Keeling and Peter Sinfield re the lute song project. Also nice email from Steve Hancoff, who lives in my motherís neck of the woods in the U.S. Weíve resolved to meet next time Iím there.

 

~