I’m teaching this piece to one of my students at the moment. Too much existential dread for an 11 year old? Surely not ;)
by artist Vivian Martin.
These are her responses to my little concert series In Her Shoes - music by women composers. You know you’ve done a good thing when an artist feels compelled to respond to something creatively. I’m so touched!
I’ve been playing this piece since my teens (over twenty years now) and I never grow tired of it. Am still making discoveries about, but today that discovery came about care of a young student. It was just a music nerdy thing about a chord progression, but it totally made my day.
"Keep politics out of music," he said. "The hecklers have no interest in music just in spoiling others’ enjoyment. They should take their protests elsewhere, leaving others to perform and others to enjoy the music-making." - a reader comment on this Limelight Magazine article about people protesting Valery Gergiev’s support of Vladimir Putin’s inhumane anti gay laws.
Keep politics out of music? Really?!? We’re artists and i think we should be at least entitled if not sometime obliged to work through current issues within our chosen expressive medium.
Mine is classical music, in this case choral, and I’m pretty frickin’ proud of actually saying something through my music. It doesn’t happen very often, but I intend to do it more often in the future.
Steam trains and box kites.
I am so thrilled to be performing this weekend with Sydney Children’s Choir. The concert is the culmination of a partnership with the Powerhouse Museum involving all the kids and composer-in-residence Luke Byrne. He has composed some really wonderful works inspired by the exhibits in the museum. I’ll let him explain in his own words…
"I have a very clear memory of going to the Powerhouse Museum not long after it opened in 1988, and the image that stood out in my mind is of the two artefacts that grab your attention as soon as you walk in: the big green train (which as a seven-year-old boy meant Henry from "Thomas the Tank Engine") and the box kites hovering high above it. It probably comes as no surprise that when given the opportunity some twenty-four years later to write pieces of music for other children to sing, my imagination was once again captured by these same exhibits.
Kites and The Number One Train are the results of this abiding fascination. Kites begins with four chords falling from the top of the piano to represent Lawrence Hargrave’s innovation of stringing four box kites together to fly, followed by the children’s choir singing “from idle daydreams come soaring visions”, which is effectively a theme for all of these pieces. The Number One Train documents (in a deeply serious fashion) the first official train journey in Sydney, which if historical records are accurate shows us that some things about public transport really haven’t changed since 1855.
I wanted to write something with a more emotionally ambivalent narrative for the older choir, something that encapsulated the un-documented side of scientific innovation, namely the great graveyard of failed and superseded inventions. In the furthest corner of the Powerhouse are replicas of the Sputnik and Vanguard satellites from the Cold War Space Race, and the image of these and many other “deep sea creatures” (I always thought many satellites looked like angler-fish and similarly exotic creatures from the deep ocean) circling the Earth in a kind of suspended ballet gave rise to the core music of Travelling Companion, which is after all the meaning of the name “Sputnik”.
It gives me great pleasure that these pieces are to be performed in the very place that gave birth to them, and for those who know the excellence in children’s musical performance that the Sydney Children’s Choir embody, or even for anyone who just hasn’t been to the Powerhouse in too many years, I look forward to seeing you there.”
So I’m performing this piece again with Acacia Quartet tomorrow. Such a wonderful piece and not as famous as it should be because it’s by a woman composer. I’m attempting to redress the balance by performing works by women composers as often as I am able.
I’ve had a few choral conductor/educator type colleagues ask me recently what choral music I listen to, if I could provide a listening list of sorts. Well, admission time: for someone like me who works in choral music a lot, I don’t actually listen to very much choral music at all. But I do listen to all different kinds of vocal music, like this chick Like a Villain. She has a genuinely adventurous way of telling the stories she tells, both as narrative and in abstract form. I feel her music very deeply.
"What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you. Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic." - Carl Sagan.
This applies to music notation too. Before there were audio recordings, there were notes on staves.
“Because I have conducted my own operas and love sheep-dogs; because I generally dress in tweeds, and sometimes, at winter afternoon concerts, have even conducted in them; because I was a militant suffragette and seized a chance of beating time to The March of the Women from the window of my cell in Holloway Prison with a tooth-brush; because I have written books, spoken speeches, broadcast, and don’t always make sure that my hat is on straight; for these and other equally pertinent reasons, in a certain sense I am well known.” ― The very feisty and wonderful Dame Ethel Smyth.
Look at that. A dyke-and-her-dogs. It’s splendid. I’m practising her cello sonata for a concert next weekend. It’s a completely splendid piece. Wowsers.
I dress up a certain way because I respect the music.
How to tell if you’re a feminist.
In recent discussions on my trying to convince producers to help me make an album of my own compositions, the topic of playing the gender card came up i.e. there was a lot of hooha this year about how few female nominees there were in the various popular music categories of the ARIA Awards.
If I can, in my own small way, work to redress the gender balance in music here (i.e. More Women!!) then I have no hesitation in playing the gender card. Or the sexuality card, for that matter. It think it’s important to be proud of who you are in every aspect of your life, not separate it completely from your creative life. Maybe it’s just me? Hm.
Anyhoo, if you had any doubts about whether or not to call yourself a feminist, here’s a handy flow chart.