Category Archives: Thoughts

A S**t Week

Time to be totally honest.

This week has been hard to get through, it’s been a real downer, it’s been shit.  And yet, here we are again, we’ve reached another Sunday and I am facing the (self-set) weekly challenge of writing a nice post to put up here.  Truth is, I can’t really do it today.  I don’t feel very positive or inspired, and I don’t want to write about wonderful things when I don’t feel at all wonderful myself.  So, instead of faking my way through it and not doing anyone any justice, I thought I would just talk through what’s going on, and why I am feeling so down.  Maybe, hopefully, this will be some kind of therapeutic exercise for me, or it will be relatable for anyone out there who feels the same way.  So for now, I thank you for your patience in this, and look forward to writing something a little more uplifting next week!

We all have bad days, of course, it’s totally normal.  Perhaps, then, this week has just been a series of bad days for me, and they just all happened to come in a bunch together.  But, somehow, I am not content to just leave it at that.  My feelings aren’t those of being helpless and hopeless, I don’t feel like I just can’t do anything and have to wait for this tough period to pass.  Maybe that’s why this week has felt especially difficult – I still feel absolutely motivated!  I feel the need and energy to do things and get stuff done, I’m chasing up loose ends, getting out there and fighting the world.  But mixed in with this motivation, has been an ongoing suffering in my mind, and it’s having a horrible effect on me, so I want to figure out what is causing it and why.

I think I can identify my main negative emotion as stress.  It is very much in my nature to worry and over-stress about absolutely anything, so this is clear and not anything unusual for me.  However, I am normally able to keep my stress levels somewhat under control in a way that I haven’t managed in the past week.  Why?

Not to get too psychoanalytical here (although, why not..?), answering this question is difficult; it involves asking yourself really tough questions, even asking other people with more of a perspective those questions about yourself, and it also requires being really open-minded and allowing yourself the freedom to feel things you might not particularly want to feel!  After going through all of this, I have found that I can sort my stress into three different groups, each with their own sub-groups and secret side notes, and this has made understanding my feelings much easier for me and even improved my mood.

  1. Politics.  Along with a lot of people, I have felt deeply affected with this week’s proceedings in the Kavanaugh-Ford case.  I was humbled, moved and inspired by Ford’s testimony, but felt so shocked and betrayed by the way that she has been treated by the Republicans and people who hold ‘power’ over her.  This case has highlighted just where we are at in the treatment of women in our patriarchal society, and it makes me scared to integrate myself into that society, led by a man who thinks it is OK to sexually mistreat women.  Senator Kamala Harris articulates these sentiments more eloquently and powerfully than I could possibly write down here, so I very much encourage you to watch her speech if you haven’t already seen it.
  2. The Move.  It’s not surprising that my move, which is bearing down quickly upon me, is becoming such a huge source of stress for me.  The move itself is just the umbrella title; it encompasses the packing, getting rid of and selling all of our possessions, the business with our lawyer and my paperwork, the money, the daunting thought of living in a place I don’t know, finding a new house to live in, saying goodbye to Europe, adjusting to something that is as yet unknown, and all the many surprises that are to come.  I bet reading that list even stresses you out!
  3. General life worries.  These are all of the regular worries that never really go away.  Worries about my work, my finances, my relationship, my family, the future, what to do about dinner.  These are the worries that I think I have got good (or reasonable) at tackling on a daily basis, but paired with the other stress sources mentioned above, they have all, in turn, become exaggerated and augmented in my mind.  I feel like I am on the edge of a total overwhelming freak out at all times and anything could set me off!

Going into next week, I have planned to try out some new ‘self-caring’ strategies to help myself cope better and hopefully improve my mood.  I am going to read the news less – this week I have been glued to it and that probably hasn’t helped me – and read my book more.  I am going to get back into my normal gym routine – this week I couldn’t go as normal for various reasons, so hopefully getting back to my regular work-out schedule will help take my mind off bad things and make me feel better in myself.  I have also decided to try to live more slowly and intentionally.  I normally do everything I can, as fast as possible, and I think this makes me a stressful person!  I want to take a step back, and take more time over things like making decisions, working, walking and doing.  Maybe I will write a blog post on these thoughts.  Lastly, I am going to put a lot of my time next week into doing the kind of work that I love most, and I know I am privileged to be able to do that, so I feel very grateful that I can.  I still have a lot of work to do on my album which is work that I find hugely rewarding and fulfilling.  I also have new creative projects just beginning to take shape which I am SO excited about, and I am going to dedicate my time and effort to them, instead of stupid work and people.

So that was my week.  I would love to hear from you if you have also been feeling down about current events, and would be very interested to know what your coping mechanisms are for times like these – please let me know!

 

 

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10 Things That Make Me Feel Really British

  1. TEA
    At all hours, day and night.
    Must be just the right shade of light brown.

  2. Calling “Cheers Mate” to the bus driver as you alight from the bus
    You met them once, they delivered you home, they are definitely your mate.  Also, yes, we say “alight”.

  3. Rainy Walks
    The British countryside offers some absolutely gorgeous walks.  Unfortunately, a walk that doesn’t involve some amount of rain is very rare.  It’s just part of the whole experience.

  4. A pint at the local pub
    My favourite pub in England is Dad’s local; ‘The Eddie’.  It is beautifully old-fashioned, with delicious beer on tap and good old board games on offer.

     

  5. A Sunday roast
    For some reason, Sunday’s are always incomplete without a tender piece of roast meat, little roast potatoes, veggies and, of course, a Yorkshire Pud.

  6. Hearing a wonderful melting pot of accents
    Wherever you go in the UK, you will hear a vast array of different accents and dialects of the English language, from the Geordies to the Scouse, the Welsh and Scottish, the West Country and the Cockney… And when a few of them come together in one conversation, it sounds like a marvellous, albeit slightly comical, musical symphony of language.
  7. MARMITE
    I love it.  You probably hate it.
  8. The feeling of pursing one’s lips, holding in your feelings, all to avoid an argument and keep the peace
    The British are experts at bottling up their emotions to avoid any embarrassing conflicts or public displays of emotions.  The neighbours are always watching, and what will they think?!

  9. “I’m desperate for the loo”
    Some of our shortened words and phrases are just brilliant, especially those used in connection to the bathroom: loo, bog, privy, spend a penny…

  10. Monster Munch
    My personal favourite.  These pickled onion flavoured crisps are mouth-wateringly good.

     

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Going Blonde

Something that I love about my blog, is that I have the freedom to write about absolutely anything I want.  Whether I’ve been inspired by an art exhibition or a performance that I have recently seen, have stories to tell about a place that I have visited, or if I just feel strongly about a particular topic – anything goes here in my little nook.  Just now, my life is definitely on the stressful side; I have a huge impending move, bringing with it many difficult challenges, I haven’t been home for more than a couple of weeks in a long time and, well, I am a poor musician!  (Enough said!)  So, I thought that for today’s blog post I would take a step back, write about something fun and just keep it real.  The subject of today’s post is how I dyed my hair blonde.

Going blonde was quite an experience.  It took longer and a lot more work than I ever anticipated and I am still learning how to handle it.  So I thought I would document the process here – this will be a post that I would have wished to read myself before I began this blonde journey of mine.  And please, if you have any personal experience in this matter, any tips to add, I would love to read them, so do leave them in a comment below!

I guess I should start by clarifying that my natural hair colour is a kind of darkish red – in winter it looks a little more brick-brown and in summer it tends to go a shade of strawberry blonde. I have experimented with dying my hair darker in the past; I first tried a tone just a little darker than my natural colour when I was about 16, and have since also gone a more chocolatey brown.  But I have always been curious to see what a true golden blonde would look like on me.  And the thing about hair is, it grows!  Nothing you do to it will ever require more than a short-term commitment!  To me, this just calls for creative experimentation.

So where did I begin?  Well, I decided first, being the cheap-skate that I am, that I would try to do it myself at home.  I first bought a semi-permanent box dye of a shade that was more of a dark blonde.  I would say, at this point, I was still unsure of the exact kind of blonde I wanted to be, and this is something I would suggest you really think about first if you are considering going blonde – it’s definitely a good idea to know the colour you really want to be before you start.  I also chose the 8-week wash-out dye, only because this is what I had done for going darker in the past and it had always worked really well.  Basically, this dye did nothing.  Maybe in some light it looked ever so slightly lighter… but you couldn’t really see any difference.  So I wrote this off as a fail.

Next, I decided to change two things; I would now try a permanent box dye, instead of the wash-out one, and I would pick one that looked super light blonde on the box (lighter than I had intended to go).  By the way, we have a pretty limited choice of box dyes in the shops here in Germany – I have since seen the selection of dyes in stores in North America, which is highly extensive in comparison – so both box dyes that I bought were L’Oreal, as this was pretty much the best option I had available to me.  After dying my hair with this second one, I found that it came out lighter than the first one, but it still wasn’t blonde!  My hair was now just a lighter version of red.

At this point, I realised that I was never going to get to a real blonde colour by myself at home.  So, with the help of my kind aunt, I arranged an appointment at a salon in Stratford, Ontario (where I was headed in a couple of weeks).  Before my appointment, I finally decided to choose a shade of blonde that I really wanted and the kind of look that I was going for.  I did some research online and found a picture of a style that I really liked, and I took that picture with me to the salon.

My Aunt and I, with newly blonde hair

The result: I LOVE my new blonde hair!  I have to say, my hairdresser was fabulous, she pretty much achieved exactly the look of the picture I showed her, and I can highly recommend Dudes and Dames Hairdressing Salon in Stratford! The appointment took about 4 hours in total, and most of that time was spent applying the dye individually to very small sections of hair (I have a lot of hair).  So if you are going to go through it, bring some reading material! I actually found my hairdresser’s technique for applying the dye pretty interesting; she would apply it in a V shape to some sections of hair, to achieve a kind of ombre look, before wrapping it, and then applied it directly from the roots in other sections, which she then folded and wrapped in foil.  She even left a few strands of hair all over my head out, so they stayed red, and the overall look creates so much texture and dimension.

Now, by this point, I had achieved the blonde that I wanted, and I was so happy.  However, I still had (and have) a lot to learn, because what I have discovered is that getting to the blonde you want is only part of the journey.  Maintaining the blonde is where the real challenge lies.  I have found that since going blonde, my hair has been very dry and brittle, and extremely difficult to brush.  I have been using L’Oreal Ever Pure Colour Care System shampoo and conditioner, followed by some coconut-oil-based serum and a frizz control product from Lush.  I brush my hair out with a wide tooth comb after I shower, as this has always been my strategy for dealing with my curls.  Again, if you have any suggestions for good products to use, I am all ears!

The other thing is that, of course, I knew my hair would grow quickly, and with this my roots would also grow out.  And it is happening very, very quickly!  I still absolutely love my blonde hair, but it is changing in tone every day as it grows, so I am always learning how to style it to make it look good and fresh, and constantly trying new things with it.

As of right now, I am not sure what my next plan will be; whether I will re-dye it, just touch up my roots at some point, let it all grow out altogether, or dye it a whole new colour!  I guess I will see how it goes and what happens over the next few weeks and months.  I will say that, for right now, I am really enjoying my new look and the feelings it gives me; it’s kind of like having a new character to play when I am out and about!  It feels warm and summery, friendly and bright, and I know that my red hair is lurking there, not far away, so I really don’t miss it!

So, if you are considering changing your hair colour, to blonde or anything else, I say do it!  It will satisfy that small curious voice in your head, and even if you hate it, it’s always good to try new things!

 

To Recap

What I learned:

  • Know exactly what colour and shade you want to dye your hair
  • Blonde hair needs a professional
  • Be prepared for lots of after-care!

 

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Why I Love Live Theatre

As I write this, I’ve just spent the last week or so attending shows and events at Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.  I have to say, everything I have seen has been marvellous; from a beautiful production of Julius Caesar (cast as a woman!) to a modernised Coriolanus on a jaw-dropping set, and a Rocky Horror Picture Show that was every bit as raunchy and scandalous as it should be!

Spending so much time at the theatre this week has really got me thinking about why I love it so much, why reading the stories, watching movies or listening to music recordings at home just isn’t enough and why live theatre is SO important.   I know that we may all feel differently about it; some of the reasons that I’ve put together here may strike a chord with some and not with others, and may be just completely meaningless to those who do not enjoy live theatre at all.  Nevertheless, I hope you will enjoy reading a few of the reasons why I find live theatre so captivating and that it may motivate you to seek out some live events near you!

(These are in no particular order – each one is just as important as the last!)

 

A piece of art comes to life! 

When we see a play performed live, or musicians playing music right before our eyes, these wonderful pieces of art become real and understandable!  They are no longer words or notes on a piece of paper; they are real characters, plots and stories being put out into the world at that very moment, as they were intended by their creators, and you are a witness to it in the audience!  At home, there is always be some kind of barrier between us and the art – a book that we have to read to get to the story or a device through which we could hear the music.  But at the theatre, the art is being given to us directly, with no obstacle separating us from it, and we can therefore totally engage with it and be immersed in it.  And not just the piece of art itself, as in the play or the string quartet (for example!), but the actual art form too.  Watching talented and professional actors and musicians doing their jobs make those very art forms a real thing and this is something to behold in itself.

 

Different interpretations

I always find it so interesting to watch different interpretations of any piece of art – I feel like the more interpretations of something that I see, the more I explore the art and the better I get to know it,  finding its own meanings for myself.  Whether these are different interpretations as presented by the performers, directors, choreographers, writers, or even those as experienced by other audience members during one performance – seeing a new understanding or meaning to a piece of art that I hadn’t thought of before is really exciting!  This week I was lucky enough to catch two Shakespeare plays, and they couldn’t have been more different.  Coriolanus was set to a modern backdrop, with all modern clothing and even references to modern culture, with things like mobile phones and Facebook messenger.  Julius Caesar was totally old school – the set was minimal, no frills or trills, costumes were old-fashioned and the performance really centred only around the actors and their speech.  For some, the modernisation made that play more entertaining and relatable, while for me personally, I felt much more involved with the old style one, where I really locked into the plot and the language.  At home, we are very limited in what we have available to us – just the book, or a particular recording or two.  One really has to see art live to get these different interpretations and fully understand them.

 

Each one on their own journey

Every time I watch a live performance, I like to be aware of what’s going on around me, to observe the reactions of my fellow audience members.  There is always so much happening in the audience!  Everybody is feeling something different in connection with the art that they are experiencing, each person is on their own journey with it.  In the Shakespeare plays (and in Rocky too, actually!) I found it interesting to see where some people laughed, when people were shocked (even though we all know Brutus kills Caesar, this point still got a few gasps), if some people felt bored, if others looked uncomfortable… And the artists themselves are on a journey too.  We can’t know the details of what led them to this specific performance, about the work that went into it and the mental space they had to get to in order to produce something that they had envisioned or heard in their own heads.  We don’t even know what might be going on in their personal lives which could be affecting their performance, or their relationships with each other on stage, or how they approach the art of performing.  Art makes us feel real emotions, and we all feel them differently.  Being part of that, while experiencing your own personal journey at the same time, is special.

 

Human connection

Similar to the last point but not quite the same, is the importance of watching art unfold together with other people.  At home, we read alone, listen to music in the background while doing other things, watch movies in silence.  But at the theatre, there is a sense of human connection, of experiencing our own personal emotions and journeys with the art WITH other people, audience and performers together.  In that moment, those precious hours while the performance is in progress, we are all as one group doing the same thing.  There is nobody on their phones, answering emails, working or chatting with friends.  We, as one big organism, are going through the same experiences together, and all of our attention is in one place.  In a world that often feels very lonely and hectic, this is so so so important and valuable.

 

There’s only one shot

This is something that is just as meaningful for both performer and audience!  Although it can riddle any artist with performance anxiety, the fact that they only have one chance to deliver, here and now in this exact moment, adds an electricity to the theatre.  They know this, and the audience knows it too.  Whatever happens, happens – there ain’t no do-overs.  As an audience member, knowing that the art that I am experiencing only exists now, once, in this moment, has caused me to sit up and try not to miss a single thing.  As a performer, this feeling is what has encouraged me to take risks, to just ‘go for it’, and also to feel incredibly nervous.  It is what makes every second of a performance really matter and be something that I care so truly and honestly about.  And isn’t it wonderful to sit in the audience and watch a performer who really cares, to watch them take risks and to see the sparks that fly because of it?!

 

Mistakes!

And following on from the ‘one-shot’ philosophy, are the inevitable mistakes.  I love mistakes.  I think they are brilliant.  Because you can’t get more in-the-moment than a mistake.  When an artist makes a mistake, it means they are really experiencing something real; maybe they took a risk and it didn’t work, maybe they care SO much about what they are doing that they got carried away, or maybe they are just real human beings and not computers!  To me, mistakes are life and they are wonderful.

 

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Taking A Feminist Stance

I’ll be completely honest – this wasn’t the blog post I had planned for today.  I had a post all ready to go that is well formulated and structured, looks nice and has good content!  But last night, I watched a movie and I feel that I just HAVE to comment on it.

The movie I am talking about is a silly one, it likely won’t have much of a far-reaching impact, and it probably doesn’t even deserve to be spoken about, especially in its own blog post… but maybe it does!  Maybe it is EXACTLY media like this that SHOULD be talked about and thought about!

So, last night, after a long day, my mom and I decided to check what Netflix had to offer us in the way of some light-hearted entertainment.  We ended up choosing the first thing we saw, a film called ‘Like Father’.  We watched the little preview that Netflix gives you if you hover too long at the top of the page, and it seemed perfect for us; a fun, light comedy.

Here is the premise of the movie: we meet Rachel, a ‘workaholic’ for a big corporate advertising company, on her wedding day.  Up until the moment she walks down the aisle, she is sending emails and making work calls, and ultimately, it is for this reason that her fiance decides to leave her jilted at the altar, not being able to see a future with a woman who is this dedicated to her job.  Now for the sub-plot: Rachel’s long-lost father, who left his family to follow his own career path when Rachel was only 5 years old, has turned up to the wedding.  After things go pear-shaped at the ceremony, Rachel and her father end up reconnecting, get very drunk, and find themselves on the cruise ship honeymoon that was intended for the newlyweds.  Together with the help of a team of quirky characters on board the ship, including a gay therapist, an elderly couple, and of course, a comedic supporting African-American couple (I mean, could they have tried any harder to tick all their token boxes for this movie?!) Rachel must face the fact that it is because of her priorities, and her work-life balance, that things haven’t worked out for her, i.e. that she hasn’t been able to get married.  The question remains: can she really change all this and learn to put her phone away so that she can find happiness ( which means finding a man who will finally marry her)?

I just couldn’t really believe the movie I was watching – it felt like it belonged in the 90s, not in 2018!  Here we are presented with this character, Rachel, who is pretty much a  total bad-ass!  She works incredibly hard and has earned herself a great job (in a corporate company – never an easy task for a woman which shows tremendous strength of character on her part).  She’s ambitious, she has goals and dreams and she puts them above any man!  She is committed, she somehow manages to find the time to always look amazing and she also invested in a romantic relationship – I mean, wasn’t the fiance the idiot for not realising until his wedding day that her number one priority was her work and that he would never get her top spot?! It seemed to me that she was always clear about that!

However, this movie sought to portray her as a complete failure!  It was always deemed to be terrible when Rachel attended to work calls and emails on her phone.  The fact that her fiance left her at the altar was HER fault, because of her shortcomings.  And they made it pretty clear that if she didn’t change and realign her priorities, she would end up like her father and live a miserable and failed life.  Because marriage = success, happiness and fulfilment.  I just can’t find the sense in this.

What is perhaps even more shocking, is that the co-writer and director of the movie was a woman!!  We have to look at the movie in the context of what is happening in our world today. Women, and especially women in Hollywood, are finding their voices!  Time’s up! Do we really want to use our voices to preach this old-fashioned, out-dated message about women only finding happiness in men and not in their own personal work? I so believe in the ‘women empowering other women’ movement, and I think it is really important, even more so in 2018 and with someone like Trump in the Oval Office.  How could the woman who directed this movie be OK with putting her own heroine, Rachel, down like that?!

Maybe I’m being too hard on the movie, maybe one could say that is was just meant to be a shallow, light and funny movie and not dissected in any feminist way.  But isn’t this the whole problem?  That this is the kind of comment that our society can make about a woman and that it can just be allowed to fly because it’s not ‘serious’ or ‘real’.

Maybe I am the one to be criticised because I chose to watch it.  Alright, I accept that.  I didn’t need to engage, and I have worked really hard at disengaging from things I find toxic or that I don’t like online or within my own connections, so why would I choose to watch this movie, and watch until the very end?  Well, maybe it was some kind of outraged and morbid curiosity.  Maybe I am still a product of our society and, whether I like it or not, I simply can’t escape from being taken in by these ridiculous, glamorous, white Hollywood stories.  But it has certainly provoked me to think more about this, what I engage in, and to be more aware of what progress really is, or isn’t, being made.

 

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Update: The End of an Era and Looking Forward

Phew!! What a moment this is in my life!

This week marks the end of my life as a student and, even more significantly, the end of my ‘Salzburg Era’.  On Tuesday evening, 26th of June, I played my last and final Masters Recital, thus completing my Masters Degree.  That night, I said goodbye to being a student, to the city of Salzburg that has created itself such a special place in my heart, and to my brilliant and wonderful teacher, Klara Flieder.

I moved to Salzburg when I was 20 years old.  At that time I didn’t speak a word of German, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life or with music, and I didn’t even know much about my new teacher whom I was going to study with.  I only knew that I wanted (and needed) to get away from the boring politics and depressing life that I was living in London.  When I first arrived in Salzburg, I was completely overwhelmed by trying to figure out how everything worked and seemed to ‘fail’ at every step.  I don’t think I realised how difficult a move like that would be or what it would entail, and creating a new kind of life for myself has definitely been a slow and gradual journey.  But now I can honestly say that Salzburg, and being a student there, has enriched my life in so many ways and I can’t imagine what I would have done if I had never moved there! (I probably wouldn’t still be playing the violin, that’s how unhappy I was in London…)

 

A sneaky snap of my Beethoven ‘Kreutzer Sonata’ performance during my Masters Recital

 

I owe pretty much everything – my love of violin and music, my education, my outlook, my ideas – to my teacher.  I was so lucky to get to study with a professor who so understood me and cared about me, who inspired me and made me excited for each lesson, who made me feel the importance of our work so profoundly.  Klara deserves her own blog post so I won’t say too much more about her here, only to mention that saying goodbye to her the other night was incredibly sad.  When I finished my Bachelor degree with her and left Salzburg for the first time in 2014, it definitely didn’t feel like the end – somehow the metaphorical (and literal) door remained very much open for me to come back to do my Masters.  But this time, even though I know we will always be in contact and she will continue to be a big part of my life, it really does feel like the chapter is closed.

 

Celebrating with my wonderful teacher and pianist, after my Masters Recital

 

Right now I feel quite an intense mix of emotions! I must confess, I have been looking forward to this moment for a while and NOT having to deal with the obligations of being a student any more.  I am excited to get out there and start working on my own creative ideas, to not be held back by responsibilities of things like trying to get enough orchestra credits… I do feel nervous, though, because real life is daunting and being a musician was never going to be a big money-maker, especially doing the kind of creative work which I find so fulfiling.

But more than anything, I am SO excited! My head is bursting with ideas and I am ready to dive straight in.  Firstly, I always knew I wanted to get this blog back on track.  I have lots of posts ready to go, and ideas for many more, and I have decided that my upload day will be every Sunday, so make sure to check back in each week to stay updated!  I have my whole Eckhardt-Gramatté project on the back burner, so get excited for the imminent release of my album as well as more news surrounding the project! I can’t wait to get my recordings out there and hope that you love them as much as I do!  By the way, you may have seen that I created a whole section on this website dedicated to my work on this project, including videos, photos, quotes and even my Masters Thesis, so definitely check it out if you are interested! There is also the small matter of my upcoming move to North America.  I will be documenting that whole process, as I think it will be bigger and more complicated than I can even get my head around at this point, so there are indeed many exciting times ahead.

So, for right now, I want to say Adieu to my old life, hello to the new one, and a big welcome back to my blog! I am so happy to be back here and writing again and looking forward to a new chapter of life!

 

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Shedding Light on Female Artists | Banff Diaries 2

In this video I talk about the questions that have been on my mind since being at the Banff Centre; about staying motivated to make music and art in a world full of monsters like Trump and, particularly, about all of the women artists that have been forgotten or were never known, simply because they were women. I am hoping, with my project, to shed some light on this issue, and to give at least one of these women a voice.

Check out my last video, where I arrived at the beautiful Banff Centre and began my artist residency here!

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Why The ‘You’re Too Young To Understand’ Argument Just Doesn’t Stand Up

I have recently encountered, in various different areas of my life, an argument being thrown around by the older generation towards my own age group, that says we are ‘too young’ to be getting  involved in serious political or social issues.  Perhaps it has been one of those things where, once you notice it happening once or twice, you start to see it all over the place.  Regardless, I find so much at fault with this mentality, so many important messages to be taken from it, that it sparked a blog post within me, so here we go!

To give some context, I thought I would talk about a couple of examples of when I have directly faced an argument like this.  The first happened a couple of weeks ago.  I have been planning a concert in London for a while now, with my newly formed, diverse and ‘cutting edge’ ensemble, Hauptstimmen.  The goal of this group of classical chamber musicians is to bring our music to a wider audience, to break down boundaries that we have experienced in our world of classical music and make it an all-inclusive art form, something that everyone can share in and take something away from.  We have organised a concert ourselves in London next week (see all the details here, please come!!), and the theme of our programme is ‘war, time and death’.  I know it sounds a little dark and depressing, but actually it is really fascinating; we are going to be performing unique music that is very rarely heard, including Gideon Klein’s string trio, which was the last piece he ever wrote, just two weeks before being deported to Auschwitz.  It isn’t just going to be a concert – it is going to be a real experience, with cool lighting, sound effects and stage design, where the audience will be encouraged to feel completely at ease with drinks and snacks and also totally engaged with our performance.  In short, this is an event that we have put a lot of thought and work into and one which we think will really create huge impact.

Now, in organising this concert, finding the right venue has obviously been extremely important – the space is paramount to the whole experience, and so it was something we knew we had to get right.  We were overjoyed to find The Red Hedgehog, a cool and intimate venue with easy access in London.  When our group leader met with the venue director, she seemed totally on board and supportive of all of our ideas, so everything looked bright for us.  Two weeks ago, we received an email from this same director and let’s just say that it completely contradicted everything that had been agreed on previously and everything we are striving to achieve.  Her overarching message to us was that we were far too young to be presenting a concert that placed war as its central theme.

My initial response to the email was anger, of course, followed by a real sense of sadness.  I felt so sad because, here is a group of young musicians who are trying to do something different and creative and combine their art with important world issues, only to be shot down by someone older and with more ‘power’.  Today, after having dwelled on it for a while, I feel so strongly the error in her way of thinking!  The fact is that war and death are very much part of our world, and unfortunately this is something that is becoming  more of a scary reality everyday.  To think that only people of a certain age should be talking about it is naive; I am in my twenties and part of a generation that will have to deal with the remnants of what is left post-Trump, or with whatever the future holds for North Korea, Syria, ISIS etc.  We are exactly the ones who need to be talking about it and understanding what is happening and why – we are the ones who can help the future.  As musicians, we have such a special way of sharing these ideas.  Through music, we can reach out to people and bring people together, we can talk about fears of war and death through our playing and use music to make it relevant to everyone, no matter their age.

The second example I wanted to mention was something that I saw on a social platform a few days ago.  A friend of mine had posted an article about veganism – a topic sure to fire anyone up, I know, and of course it did.  But the most offensive response to the article, in my opinion, was from someone from a slightly older generation who advised my friend that she was too young and shouldn’t be concerned with issues like veganism, rather she should just live her life and spend her time ‘dreaming’.  I am just so confused how anyone could suggest that talking about veganism is only for people of a certain age!  What is this age, exactly? Because I am definitely not looking forward to turning this mysterious age when suddenly the weight of the world will be on my shoulders.  And, as my friend pointed out in her reply, isn’t bringing up issues such as veganism on social media exactly what ‘dreaming’ is? Dreaming of a better world, dreaming of what the future could be.  I am not purporting to be an advocate of veganism or not – that is not the point here – only that I certainly think that anyone who wants to talk about veganism, or war, or death or any other huge political or social issue absolutely can and even that we, as young people, should!

And this ‘young’ thing… I mean, I’m 26! I am not exactly a spring chicken.  I have been old enough to vote for a long time, and I have definitely held strong political views for pretty much my whole life.  I am lucky enough to live in a society where I can freely express my views, so who is to tell me, or anyone else in my generation, that I shouldn’t because I am too young?!  In fact, in recent elections, basically all the ones where shit really started to go down, it has been shown that young people really do have a voice and really do know what they are voting for and the consequences of what they are voting for – it’s the older generations that have really screwed things up for us all.

Basically, I want to make it clear that, yes, I am young and yes, that absolutely means I will continue to use my voice and my art to share ideas and fears and issues that I believe in or that I believe are important.  I hope that if young people like me are also facing this ridiculous argument from our elders – that we are too young to be concerned with these important topics – that we can feel inspired to rise above and speak even more loudly.  Age doesn’t equal power, and with our youth comes a responsibility for the future, so let’s engage with each other NOW and make the world a better place.

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Questions on How To Use Privilege

A few days ago I had a conversation with a friend which raised many striking and, I believe, important questions.  These were questions that I really don’t have answers to, and they concern a topic which I find can often be very confusing and scary.  However, as this conversation has since stayed at the foreground of my thoughts, I felt that it could be a good idea, for me as well as for anyone else who is interested in reading this, to formulate my questions here into a blog post, in the hope of gaining some clarity and perspective.

I should probably start by stating the obvious (or what I think is obvious anyway!); I am an educated white person, I grew up in a (relatively!) financially stable household, with a supportive family who have always taken an interest in politics, current/social affairs and international news, and who uphold liberal left-wing views.  I grew up with an open outlook on the world and was taught the value of equality and acceptance.  In short, I am in a position of privilege, and I feel incredibly lucky, outrageously lucky in fact, to have had the opportunities and quality of life that I have had so far.

When I look around the world today, I find it very easy to get completely baffled by social injustice.  It is hard to understand how some can have so much, have won the golden ticket of life, while others have nothing.  But it is even more difficult to understand how the few lucky ones can be so discriminatory against those who already suffer because of their social standing.   I see racism, sexism, homophobia, prejudice against people with disabilities, prejudice against particular sexual orientations and others on a daily basis, and I can’t understand what misguided, ‘fake’ information or simple lack of humanity led those people to act in those ways.

My comfy bubble of privilege is overwhelming, I don’t know what to do with it or how I should use it.  Going about my own daily life can sometimes feel incredibly trivial… practising Paganini Caprices seems pointless when I could be using my voice to fight those bigots.  My question to all you folk out there who are in the same boat as me is: how do we use our privilege to fight social injustice for a better future for our world?

I have seen the fight, I have watched people engage in debates in real life and on social media but it doesn’t seem to be working.  From my personal experience, when you try to argue with someone on Facebook or Twitter, someone who is a devout Trump supporter and in favour of the immigration ban, the transgender military ban etc. etc. it only makes them dig their heels into their beliefs more!  Sometimes it seems to me that the more criticism and backlash Trump himself gets, the harder he goes in for whatever new disastrous event he has planned next.  So, how can we, with our positions of white educated privilege, talk to these kinds of people?  How can we discuss these important issues and show them, without insulting them or angering them, that they are so wrong?  Perhaps it doesn’t have to be an argument, but rather a patient and firm education of its own?  After all, isn’t the goal in the end to break down all this social division and bring people together?

I am connected to certain people on social media which mean that I see any amount of bullshit that fits into those categories of prejudice that I mentioned above and I want to know what to do; should I just ignore it, let it slide and un-follow them – I know those people aren’t going to change their beliefs because of what I have to say to them and it most likely won’t make any difference at all – or should I try to intervene, engage in discussion/argument?  Even if it means those people want nothing more to do with me because I am a disgusting liberal to them, I have stayed true to my own beliefs and integrity so I could at least feel better within myself, right?  Do we have a duty to act when we see such nonsense? And if so, how do we even begin, what do we say?

If I am being completely honest, I think I have even felt too scared to ask these questions until now.  Somehow, in the political and social climate of today, alienation and polarisation of people feels like the biggest battle and I think this often makes us too scared to say anything at all, even if it is just to ask questions which could make us vulnerable or susceptible to criticism.

If you have any thoughts or ideas about any of the questions I have asked here, I would love to read them in the comments below.  This is a safe place where discussion is most appreciated and valued!

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The Responsibility Of Playing Very Old Music

Sometimes, when I think about what I do, it can seem a little absurd!  My fellow classical musicians and I have spent thousands and thousands of hours and dedicated our WHOLE LIVES to working on, practising and performing music that is so old it has already been played millions of times before us and, if you want to look at in a dark way as I do, probably much better than us too.  So why do we persist?! What’s the point?

 

Perhaps some of my colleagues would say that being a classical musician was a career they fell into, a childhood hobby that went too far, and they have invested far too much to give up now so may as well keep plugging away at it.  Others might passionately remark that it does not matter if this Beethoven Sonata is probably at this very moment being played by five thousand other violinists across the world and millions more before them; the music is too wonderful, we must have our chance to express it too and to keep it alive.  The more egotistical musicians out there might even disregard the countless performances given before them – surely their’s is going to be the BEST one so far, and so they have every right to give it!

 

I reckon there is a place for each of these arguments.  Somehow or other, whether by choice or because we absolutely had to, we ARE classical musicians.  We have a wonderful skill and something to say and I believe that there is a duty and room for us all in this world to say it – I have to believe that!  And even those egos may have a point; if we are going to play a piece of Bach that is over 350 years old, we have to be confident that our version will be a little different from anyone else’s, that we have a new idea to put out there and really sell it.  I remember when my teacher gave me the Tchaikovsky violin concerto to learn, I was less than thrilled.  It was so hard for me to feel excited about all the work that I was about to put into learning this piece that every other violinist in the world has already done, to hear it with fresh ears without automatically thinking of the numerous performances of it I already hear each year.  When I talked to my friend about my feelings, she told me that the point of playing the Tchaikovsky, though, was not just to learn it as everybody else has before me, to reenact the same ideas and the same music as they all have.  The point of playing it was to come up with something new and different, an interpretation that would be completely unique to me.  I absolutely loved this idea!  Playing this old ‘warhorse’ of a piece now felt like an exciting challenge to create something new out of it!  What an opportunity I had been given!

 

Sometimes I look at painters or composers or choreographers with envy; these are people who’s art will always be new and theirs alone.  They get to go to work every day and create something from nothing that nobody else could call theirs.  This always seemed so luxurious to me.  But I am realising more and more that being a classical musician is not so far away for this.  We also have to create; every day we create new ideas and find new ways of playing things, new techniques to make new sounds which are all the more exciting because we can apply them to old pieces of music in this amazing kind of new-old fusion!

 

The fact is, the music that we play may be old in it’s age, but it is not old at all in it’s relevance to us and our lives or it’s ideas or even in it’s progressiveness.  That is what is SO unbelievable about it.  You can listen to a choral movement by Bach today and still feel affected and touched, that what he was saying and writing all those years ago still matters to humanity and the world right now.  Classical music is an old art form, but it is our job as musicians to show everyone how current it really is and that is why we MUST persist in our practice and work and performances of these old giants.

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