Jacob Heringman, lutenist - Diary
A lull in the storm. The mad patch of continuous activity is over now for both of us. Zan has a short respite before a very busy autumn. I have a longer period at home now, in which to get caught up with everything before my Alexander Technique teacher training course begins on the 17th. Thereís a quite a pile of catching up, as well as putting together and sending off programmes for some upcoming autumn and winter concerts.
My visit to the Laus Polyphoniae festival in Antwerp was enjoyable, challenging and successful. It was my solo debut in the Flanders Festival, although Iíve played in various ensembles there countless times. The theme of this yearís festival was Josquin Des Prez, so it was the ideal time and place to present that programme. The audience had been listening all week to concerts which included many of the vocal originals, so when I gave a concert of intabulations of Josquin on Friday, they were primed and ready, and my programme struck a responsive chord. I was quite pleased with the way it went on the whole, although there is always lots of room for improvement. The day before, I gave a little warm-up concert at the home of my Belgian friends Katrien and Marc, which was useful preparation. Iíd also done the Josquin programme on the 5th of August in Storrs, Connecticut, so it was relatively freshly under the fingers. This concert programme, a little like an athletic event, requires very good stamina and concentration, quite a lot of preparation, and a fair amount of psyching oneself up for it. So it takes a lot out of me. But it was a great couple of days, because I was able to see some friends over there, and to hear the marvellous Binchois Consort performing Josquin vocal music in the fabulous Sint-Augustinuskerk (where I played with Catherine Bott and Friends just a year ago). This is one of the very finest vocal ensembles around, and their brand new Josquin CD is definitely one Iíd take with me to a desert island. It is a very beautiful recording, and Iíd unhesitatingly recommend it. Here are the details: Hyperion CDA67183.
I returned very late on Friday, and went to a wedding Saturday, then straight on to the early sixteenth-century Hengrave Hall in Suffolk, where thirty-odd lute players were gathered for a weekend course. I joined them to teach all day Sunday, and ended up giving, in the space of one day, eight short individual lute lessons, a mini-recital, and an hour-and-a-half-long lecture-demonstration/master class/question-and-answer-session. I was very tired when I started, and quite exhausted by the end. But somehow when good things are happening, one is charged and energized by the hard work, not drained. Returned home late, and Zan and Wendy got back from their even more insane Fretwork travels, and we all sat up until who knows when drinking wine and unwinding. Very early start the next morning, due to Wendy going off to the airport to return to the USA. Then an afternoon of my dragging myself around at home getting little done, and poor Zan having to go off and rehearse all day. In the evening, we had a friend over for dinner. Today, though, Zan and I are resting and not doing too much. Hooray! Once you stop, you suddenly collapseÖ.
12/09/01 12 September 2001 1829
Just back from two and a half days of walking and re-energizing on the beautiful South Downs.
Itís noisy here in South London. The planes are flying lower than usual over our house today, an effect of all air traffic around London having been rerouted to avoid central London in the aftermath of yesterdayís catastrophe.
Iím not going to try to put into words what Iím feeling about yesterdayís events. Sometimes words donít suffice.
I would like to say one thing though: please let us not allow these events to destroy the years of bridge-building that has been going on between East and West, Muslim and Christian/secular cultures. The actions of these suicide terrorists do not reflect mainstream Islam anymore than the actions of fundamentalist Christians who murder abortion doctors reflect mainstream Christian views.
Dropping bombs in retaliation will not make the world a more peaceful place.
My wish is that western leaders might respond with wisdom to these events. My hope is that they can find this wisdom within themselves.
16 September 2001 1434
Our friends Hannah and Adrian and their three lovely kids have just left us after a rare visit to London. Wonderful to have the house filled with the positivity, innocence and honesty of children. And it was nice to catch up with the adults too. Yesterday evening, we went to a party at our neighbourís down the road. Socialising with the neighbours is wonderful because it makes London feel more like a civilised place of habitation, like a town or a village.
Iíve been practising quite hard for a performance next Saturday, and preparing myself mentally for tomorrow morning, which is the first day of the next three years of my life, in a sense: tomorrow I start my three-year Alexander Technique teacher training course. To say Iím excited would be an understatement.
I am overwhelmed, heartened and strengthened by the remarkable DGM diarists and their thoughtful and responsible musings on the subject of last weekís appalling events. Sid, Ian, Andrew, Tony, Evan, Vicar et al: you give me hope, and you make me glad to be a human being! THANK YOU!
Itís impossible to know what to do, but one thing is clear as day. "Punishment", "Retribution", "Acts of Vengeance" -- these do not further the cause of peace. We must be absolutely clear about this: there is no evidence that punishing people deters them. What is our aim? Is it to inflict pain in return for the pain that has been caused to us? Would that make us feel better? Not me, I can tell you. Or is our aim to try to create a world where such atrocities no longer happen? Surely, surely it must be the latter. It might be argued that "wiping out" terrorism wherever it is found contributes to the latter aim. But terrorism does not spring from nothing. It is a symptom of deeper problems. It is a symptom of a diseased society.
One of the recurring themes of the last few days has been the statement that Tuesdayís events have changed our thinking forever, that they have changed the way we see the world. Yet it seems to me that the American government has learned nothing and changed nothing, if their talk is of "war", and of "making them feel our presence", and so on. Can these politicians not draw on the wisdom of the great many thoughtful and peace-loving people in America, Europe, the Middle East, and elsewhere who are everywhere echoing the words of DGMís own diarists? As Tony put it in his Diary, "Where are the other voices?"
Can we not for once use our innate wisdom and our innate love for humanity to examine our own society honestly and fairly? Perhaps we should examine what it is about us that makes THEM hate US. (Of course I am not for a moment condoning what happened. Iíd better be explicit and say it.) Perhaps we should draw on the measured wisdom of spiritual leaders from all traditions to try to diagnose the malaise of this sick world. Perhaps we should recognise the obvious truth that everyone in the world, from whatever country, whatever religion, whatever economic class, is interdependent, and that, ultimately, acting in the worldís best interest means loving and not hating your enemy. Itís hard to work for a just world. Itís easy to act with blind self-interest, at least in the short term, although, if you do, it comes back to haunt you, because ultimately my interest is your interest, and yours is mine. (By the way, Christianity does not have a monopoly on these tenets. They are common to many religions, and furthermore I would argue that they are a natural consequence of thinking things through. Tony Geballe put it so well when he wrote that the braver choice is "to live and act wisely and justly. To deepen our understanding of what wisdom and justice may be. And to honestly, fearlessly examine the consequences of our beliefs and actions."
So letís do it: letís change the way we look at the world; letís change our thinking. Letís deploy positive energy to create harmony, not negative energy to wreak destruction.
Itís a very quiet Sunday morning here in South London. Iím expecting Zan back from France this afternoon. Iím trying to take it easy today after an exhausting week and a busy Saturday.
I have completed my first week of training to be a teacher of the Alexander Technique. It is only the beginning--the course takes three years--but I feel changes happening already. Iíve had Alexander lessons for six years now, probably averaging about 3 lessons a month. But doing it every day for three hours, surrounded by others working on the same things, and with a teacher-to-student ratio of 6 or 7 to 12, is amazing. Itís very much more intense, and a cumulative effect starts to happen, which is not possible when one is having only occasional lessons. Iíve been well prepared by the lessons, but have been surprised not only by how much change is continuing to take place in me, but also by how quickly this is seeming to happen. I wonít try to describe at length what happens in the sessions, but would urge interested readers to pursue the link above.
I can only say that Iím sure Iíve made the right decision. It was a big decision. It has entailed getting rid of some of my free-lance playing (though Iím keeping the work thatís most important to me) to make room for my course. Iím no longer anxious that this path is going to get in the way of my music. On the contrary, Iím sure now that this is going to be good for my music, and that my music will be enhanced and enlivened by this parallel course of study. I had hoped that this would be the case, but it was a gamble. I needed something like this in my life--something that in a sense serves to integrate my music-making with the rest of my life.
The Alexander Technique, for me, serves the very important function of keeping me much more in the Present Moment. It grounds me and makes me feel more alive.
Listening: Phaedra (I never get tired of it) and Pet Sounds. Iíd never heard the latter before, but Iíd so often heard about its importance and influence. Someone lent me the CD the other day, and Iíve been listening to it. Itís not "my cup of tea" at all, but I find it strangely compelling and imaginative, and I must admit thereís some fine songwriting on that album.