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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A Mesostic on Kerouac

On creating a mesostic poem using a” Mesostomatic” – a mesostic poem generator.  Try it out here!

I decided to choose one of my favourite passages of writing from Jack Kerouac’s infamous novel, ‘On The Road’, as my source text for this mesostic.  Here is the original passage of writing:

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!”

I paired this passage of writing with ‘Kerouac’ as the spine word; I originally wanted two spine words – ‘Jack Kerouac’ – but this could not be achieved as there is no ‘J’, nor two ‘K’ words, in the text.  After playing around for a long time with different formulations, adjusting the sparseness of the text etc., this is the result!

I found it quite difficult to produce a poem from this generator that I was happy with; I think this was largely due to the many repeated words in the source text, such as ‘mad’, ‘ones’, ‘burn’.  Many of the poems I received on the first few attempts were so repetitive, lacked variety and were just not very interesting!  Because of this, I decided to go with this very sparse  and simple mesostic which I have come to love!

From this poem, I get a sense of being alone, perhaps in an exclusive or lonely way.  The first and last words, ‘only’ and ‘Centrelight’, are somehow connected as both words indicate a uniqueness ; a ‘Centrelight’ is one single object, by itself, and ‘only’ gives a feeling of one, of something limited, alone.  Perhaps the poem itself also reflects this idea of loneliness; many of the lines are just one single word, it is a very sparse, simple and limited poem, excluding many words from the original text and enhancing the feeling of being alone.

The first line of the mesostic is extremely interesting to interpret; ‘only the mad talk, mad’ could mean that only mad people talk in a mad way, and no one else can talk as ‘mad’ as the ‘mad’ people ‘talk’.  Note also the word ‘the’ attached to ‘mad’ – ‘the mad’ are a set of people, not just anyone but ‘THE mad’ people.  Because of the use of punctuation in this line, it could also point to the meaning that it is ‘mad’ that ‘only the mad talk’, as in, it is crazy that ‘only the mad’ people ‘talk’ and people who aren’t really ‘mad’ don’t really ‘talk’ – you have to be one of ‘the mad’ to ‘talk’.  Perhaps ‘mad’ also means angry, like ‘only the’ angry’ people ‘talk’ – this interpretation reminds me of how people generally tend to speak up and complain when they are angry, or write bad reviews because they are angry about their bad experience and the rest of the time, when people are content, it is easy to stay quiet and not ‘talk’.  One last possible meaning for this line could be that ‘mad’ refers to lunacy, and the poem is really telling us in its first line, that this is just silly, ‘mad’, non-sense writing and not to bother trying to make meaning out of it!

Punctuation may indicate that the words ‘be’ and ‘burn’ come together; this could symbolise that to ‘be’ is to ‘burn’, like to live is to ‘burn’ and if you are alive then you are burning, really living each moment, and if you are really ‘mad’ and really ‘talking’ then you are being and burning.  Could there also be a dark religious undertone here?  We live and then we die, we ‘be’ alive, living ‘mad’ and talking ‘mad’ and because of this – because we didn’t live a normal, chaste life but rather a ‘mad’ one – we ‘burn’ in hell when we die.

The burning ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’ flames could suggest that to really live and to be an extraordinary person, as Kerouac aspired to be, we must ‘burn’ not only ‘yellow’, like normal people’, but we must ‘burn blue’ hot like the ‘mad’ people.

With the words, ‘pop And goes the Centrelight’, perhaps here is an idea that the ‘Centrelight’ goes out and we arrive in darkness at the end of the poem.  This darkness, lack of ‘Centrelight’, further supports the idea of loneliness, being alone, in the dark, alone in your own thoughts and dreams.  In this way, perhaps this poem does relate to Kerouac and his original text; maybe Kerouac really did feel alone and that he couldn’t find his people, ‘the mad ones’ who ‘burn, burn, burn’.

‘Centrelight’ could also refer to a stage light; maybe at the end of the poem, this stage light goes out because we have come to the end, and all of this ‘mad talk’ has just been acting, from a script of a theatre piece, and not real life.  When the ‘Centrelight’ goes out, we are plunged into the darkness of reality, with no more ‘mad talk’, or burning ‘yellow’ and ‘blue’.

The ‘yellow blue pop’ also makes the poem highly sensory – we can see these colours and hear the ‘pop’ sound.  Perhaps this is a further indication that this is a play on the stage, full of colours and sounds that we are watching and hearing before it comes to an end.  Maybe we are watching the play of life!

I find this poem hugely dramatic; each single word and each line builds the tension… as we wait for some kind of culmination.. and with a pop, the words explode ‘like spiders across the stars’.

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My Reading of ‘Nantucket’, by William Carlos Williams

Nantucket

Flowers through the window
lavender and yellow

changed by white curtains –
Smell of cleanliness –

Sunshine of late afternoon –
On the glass tray

a glass pitcher, the tumbler
turned down, by which

a key is lying – And the
immaculate white bed

 

The first question I ask myself on reading this poem is: where are we?  The peaceful, small island of Nantucket immediately conjures images of summer by the sea, solitude, a place of refuge from the normal hustle and bustle of the city or everyday life.  Is this a positive image?  Nantucket could symbolise a joyful holiday spot, but equally, this could be a place of loneliness, cut off from the rest of the world.  After reading through the poem I also imagine someone to be inside a room, looking out through the window.  Who is this person?  It could be William Carlos Williams, or perhaps the reader of the poem, or maybe just an undefined person, observing this moment in this room and the view that is visible through its window.

This imagist poem, evident in its conciseness and its clear visual descriptions of the objects named in the poem, reminds me of a still life painting. The image of lavender and yellow Flowers that are framed by the window could in itself be a painting and this somehow reminds me of a colourful Cezanne.  I very much feel a sense of peace in the moment around which this poem is centred; the observer in the room is looking out through the window, the Sunshine of late afternoon beams into the room, nothing moves and the immaculate bed awaits.

William Carlos Williams plays with our senses throughout this poem; the colours of the Flowers are a spectacle for our sight, we can almost smell the smell of cleanliness ourselves, feel the warmth of the Sunshine, hear the silence and even taste the drink inside the glass pitcher.  The image that William Carlos Williams offers us in this poem evolves as he makes use of our senses.

My interpretation of this poem is that it does not emote positive feelings.  If one were to read this as a meta-poem, and assume that the observer standing in this room is William Carlos Williams, we might ascertain that he feels in some way entrapped in this room which is devoid of life; the white curtains offer a paradox next to the vivacity of the colourful Flowers outside, the tumbler turned down emphasises that it is unused and perhaps even evokes the image of death, and the immaculate bed also seems to lack any sort of life or joy.  The key, which lies On the glass tray, further supports the idea of being trapped in this room.  Does Williams feel locked in? Locked into this room as he is locked into his job as a physician when his passion really lies in writing poetry?  The key is lying, in the sense of the imagist poem, clearly points to the obvious image of the key resting On the glass tray, but the key is lying could also mean metaphorically the key is lying; keys typically represent freedom, the freedom to choose to go outside or to stay in and the freedom to privacy.  But perhaps this key is lying because Williams does not have this choice – he is locked into his life.  Perhaps this room is, in fact, a hospital room, as emphasised by the white curtains, smell of cleanliness And the immaculate bed

Outside, Williams sees colour and Sunshine, life and warmth.  But in this cold, lifeless room, he feels only a sense of entrapment.  The closest thing to the freedom of the outside world that this room can give him is the reflection of it that appears in the glass tray, glass pitcher and tumbler.

The lack of any punctuation whatsoever at the end of this poem perhaps signals some kind of hope for Williams; he is leaving the possibility there for further imagery, a ‘to be continued’ kind of ending.

 

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September: Freya Chooses…

It’s been a little while since I have written a post in this series, so I thought it was about time that I updated my current Freya Chooses… list.  This is a blog post series that I write from time to time, when the mood strikes, which is dedicated to the various things/places/media/people who have given my life some special value over the last month, given me happiness in whatever small and yet important way or that have improved my life so much that I would recommend them to my readers to try out too.  I personally love taking inspiration from the things that my friends recommend to me or tell me they have been enjoying, so I hope this blog post gives you some ideas too!

Coursera

This month I discovered the world of online courses through Coursera.  With participating universities from all over the world, there are online courses available in a huge variety of different subjects, including philosophy, music, creative writing, business management, science, data science etc. etc.  There are so many to choose from, aaaaaaand it’s all totally free!  From browsing through the website, I found that most courses were about 10 weeks long, with a time commitment of about 5-8 hours per week.  I decided to enroll in a course called Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, hosted by the University of Philadelphia, and I am absolutely loving it!  Each week we study new and different poems, reading them ourselves, listening to recording clips of the poets reciting them, watching video discussions about the poems between teachers and students and taking part in live webcasts, which I find particularly interesting because you get to interact live and meet (virtually) people from all over the world, all interested in the same things as you!  You may have noticed that my last blog post was a close reading on a poem by Emily Dickinson – read it here – and this was actually my first writing assignment as part of my course.  If there is something that you are interested in but never had the time or the chance to study, I really recommend checking Coursera out and seeing what they have to offer.

Check Coursera out here.

 

Moleskine Planner

All my friends know that I LOVE my planner.  For whatever reason, I have not been able to transition to Google Calendars or any form of online planner… it just doesn’t work for me.  There’s something about the physical act of writing things down, deciding where to place them, organising my weeks, months and years that helps to clear my head and put order into my brain.  In my planner I don’t just write down my commitments; I make to do lists, I take note of personal daily and weekly goals, I organise upcoming trips and things to remember and I plan exactly when I am going to get nasty jobs done.  Once it’s in my planner, it’s out of my mind and I can let it go and relax.  This month I got a new, beautiful, golden yellow Moleskine and I think it is absolutely perfect.  I recommend it because it’s big enough to write everything comfortably, but small enough to carry everywhere with you.  And because it is so gorgeous to look at, it doesn’t fill you with dread when you see it.  My Moleskine has definitely given my life value so I really had to include it in this post!

 

Shit Town

There have been so many podcasts that I have been enjoying this month – I will be doing a blog post soon about my favourite ones so keep an eye out for that if podcasts are something that you are interested in.  But Shit Town is definitely the one that has most stuck with me.  Produced by the same people as Serial and This American Life, Shit Town is basically a story about a town and its inhabitants in rural Alabama.  As we listen, the podcasts twists and turns, and the original story set out at the beginning, which focuses on a mysterious murder and possible police cover-up, ends up uncovering a different, much deeper story of one man in particular and his identity within this town.  It’s totally gripping and haunting, but at its core are issues that are extremely relevant today and people who are truly fascinating.

 

Autumnal Walks

In connection with my interest in podcasts, walking has become a real feature in my life!  I walk absolutely everywhere, everyday, and I can get totally lost in the story that I am listening to as I walk around in different parts of the city.  I wanted to include this hobby in this Freya Chooses… episode because with the approaching autumn season, walks are incredibly beautiful just now.  I know that everyone is busy and tired and we all have places that we just want to get to as fast as possible, but perhaps try to find one journey that you can make in your week where you can substitute a walk in and I am sure you will feel the benefits almost instantly.

One Extra Addition…

Slippers

Just had to slip (no pun intended) this extra item in here because… I love my slippers!! They bring me happiness and comfort and are especially nice to put on after a long walk.

 

Read my last Freya Chooses… post here!

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A Close Reading of Emily Dickinson’s ‘Love reckons by itself – alone’

Love reckons by itself — alone — [826]

by Emily Dickinson

 

Love reckons by itself — alone —

“As large as I” — relate the Sun

To One who never felt it blaze —

Itself is all the like it has —

[written c. 1864]

 

 

The first thing that struck me about this poem was its subject: Love.  But what does Love mean in this instance?  Is this poem a dedication, a love poem for a lover or friend?  The poem certainly does not resemble a sonnet, and throughout it she never adresses anyone else directly; there is no indication of there being another person, a ‘you’,  or something else besides the one singular Love.  Her use and repetitions of itself, One and I lead me to think that this poem was not about anybody else, and perhaps was a more introverted reflection on herself.

My interpretation is that Love is a metaphor that she uses for the poem itself; she writes the poem alone, she alone feels it blaze.  When she uses the word Sun, the Sun being all powerful and the giver of life to all worldly things, we can take this to mean that Love or the poem is, for her, the most powerful, the most important.  The Sun is high up in the sky as, for Emily,  poetry is the highest art form, and she emphasises this all-powerful importance, as well as it’s uniqueness, with capitalisations on LoveSun and One.

The use of the word reckons is very interesting; a possible meaning could be that she is implying judgement, as in the day of reckoning or day of judgement.  Love can only judge itself, as this poem can only judge itself, alone – nobody else can judge Love or this poem from the outside, it is unique and you have to be it, itself, to judge it, to reckon it.  Another meaning of reckons could be to confront, as in to be reckoned with, to confront Love, the poem, itselfin writing this poem Emily is confronting her own poem.

In Emily’s language she may also be indicating herself as the poet; her use of alone, itself, I, One could all be alluding to her reclusiveness.  She spent all her time alone, by herself, so only she will reckon with this poem, she is alone in writing it and feeling it’s powerful blaze.  As we know, she never wanted her poems published or publicly read, so, again, she alone will read this poem  – only she will reckon with it.

Emily puts herself in the present, in the poem, with her exclamation, “As large as I”.  Perhaps, again, as she was completely alone, she felt she needed to bring the poem off the page and into the room, to say it out loud and make it present here, now.  Putting herself in the poem also introduces this meta-poetic idea; she is the poet, this powerful Sun and Love is hers and in reading this poem we must remember where it came from.  In the line relate the Sun to One who never felt it blaze, is she speaking to her younger self?  The young Emily who had not yet truly discovered the Love and meaning of poetry, and had yet to feel it’s blaze? Or is she trying to convey her feelings about her work as a poet to someone else who cannot understand this passion?  Perhaps she is even reaching out to other young and budding poets in the world.

Is blaze a positive word?  It could refer to a blazing fire, blazing heat which implies something aggressive, powerful and even hurtful or painful.  Perhaps she is saying that this poem or this Love or Sun is not always beautiful and lovely, as emotions that we might associate with a typical Love poem, but can sometimes be painful.  Blaze is also almost an action word; to blaze is to be alive, so Emily is bringing life to her poem, it is not laying still on the page but is blazing with energy.

Itself is all the like it has could mean that there is nothing else like this poem, each poem and each Love is individual and unique and only like itself.  It is interesting that like has not been capitalised; I take this to mean that she wants to differentiate between the Love as the poem, the subject, and like as in the description of the poem as being unique, aloneLike could also suggest that nobody else likes this poem except her, because nobody else will see the poem – only she can like it and appreciate it because only she will read it.

Emily has used dashes throughout this poem.  This punctuation reinforces the meta asoect, indicating the poem itself; the subject of the poem is the poem (referred to as Love or Sun) and the dashes emphsise that this is poetry as opposed to prose.  The dashes also open up her ideas to a whole range of meanings, where other punctuations would limit them.  As usual, Emily wants us, the readers, to work to find all the possibilities of meaning in her poetry and to keep looking for more, as is represented by the finishing dash, leading us further into the unknown.

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5 ‘To Read’s This Autumn

Is it just me, or are there SO MANY great looking books out right now?!  The literary world seems to be booming this Autumn and it’s totally fantastic for all of us book worms.  My Amazon basket (yes, I’m sorry, I sold my soul to the devil) is absolutely full of new titles waiting to be ordered and my pile of ‘to read’ books gets longer and longer every day.  I decided share a taster of the books that are on my list in a blog post here to help me to organise my thoughts as well as give some reading inspiration to you if you are looking around for something new to read.  There is quite a mixture here – fiction and non-fiction, old and new – so I hope you will find something that sparks your interest as it has mine!

 

Men Without Women – Haruki Murakami

I am huge fan of Murakami’s dark, twisted, fantasy style of writing so I was  really excited to read this new release of his.  Having just finished it, I can say that it definitely lived up to its expectations – it is a masterpiece.  This is a small collection of short stories, all about men who, for many different and interesting reasons, do not have women in their lives; one is a widower, another is a house-bound invalid, there’s even a character who has gone through some kind of metamorphosis and woken up completely alone and in a man’s body (could that be any more Murakami?!).  Murakami has a very unique way of storytelling; the urges and curiosity of his characters propel the narrative forward and involve us as readers.  Sometimes he even tells stories within his stories, creating this kind of wonderful meta which feels so addictive – once you begin a new story, it really is hard to stop.   It’s interesting too, how the book progresses darker and darker and how the stories connect to each other and evolve.  It’s gritty and sexual and weird and I love it.

Still Life – Louise Penny

I spent a lot of time in Canada this summer where everyone was talking about Louise Penny.  I’m not sure why, but I avoided her work for a long time… it was probably due to the very fact that she seemed to be so popular and I usually don’t tend to get on with fashionable trends.  However, I finally decided to hop on board of this hot new Canadian author’s train, and I’m glad I did because I’ve just finished the first novel in her Inspector Gamache series and loved it! This is a story about the lovable and endearing Chief Inspector Gamache, always to be found in his tweed coat and hat and with a fondness for brioche, and his investigative team from Montreal, who find themselves in the tiny Quebecois village of Three Pines, inhabited by the likes of artists and poets, after a mysterious murder has occurred.  If you like crime fiction, you will love this book, but even if, like me, you don’t normally go for this genre, I highly recommend this novel for its adorable characters, heartwarming sentimentality and cosy feeling.  It’s a real page turner, perfect for Autumn, and I’m looking forward to reading the rest of the series!

Indivisible By Four – Arnold Steinhardt

Although, as I am a musician (and particularly a violinist with a passion for string quartet playing), this book has a true relevance to me, I think it could be an interesting read for anyone who likes auto-biographical accounts of special historical lives.  Written by the first violinist of the infamous Guarneri Quartet, it tells the story of these four players, their backgrounds, how they came to be together and what playing in this hugely successful string quartet for so many years was really like.  Reading this book is like getting the scoop from the inside, and it gives such a wonderful insight into these characters and what they got up to.  Steinhardt really was an incredibly gifted writer, as well as an amazing musician, and the humour and joy with which he recounts his stories of his quartet life bring such charm to his book; it doesn’t feel at all stale or heavy-going, as these kinds of books often do.  I’m only a chapter or two into this book but I highly recommend it.

The Heart’s Invisible Furies – John Boyne

This is the new release from this author, probably most famous for his book, ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’, and it promises to be just as heart-wrenching and emotional.  What I know about it so far is that it is set in post-war Ireland, where homosexuality is still illegal and is about a man who struggles with his identity in this society.  What I also know about this book is that people have called it life-changing, the BEST book they have EVER read, the most deeply meaningful read of their lives and the best book of 2017.  I don’t know if it’s because of my Irish connection that I felt drawn to this book, or the fact that it has been compared to Angela’s Ashes, which is a book that I absolutely loved, but I feel totally compelled to read this book this Autumn.  I’m ready for some powerful writing, tears of laughter and joy and that adrenaline that a great book gives you.

No Is Not Enough – Naomi Klein

In my last blog post, I asked lots of important questions about what we should be doing in the world of today, full of social discrimination and fake facts, with the privilege that we were given at birth – you can read it here.  These were questions that I really don’t have any answers to – I just don’t know what to do in the face of social austerity and it’s frightening.  But my lovely aunt recommended to me that I try reading Naomi Klein, and immediately I thought, if anyone has answers to these kinds of questions, it must be her!  I haven’t read any of Klein’s work before but I have heard her speak in interviews and I think she offers some great insights into what is going on in politics, the terrible social problems of today and how we can treat them and act in ways that could improve the state of current affairs.  Klein is all about putting ideas into action and this is exactly what I want to get on board with, and I think the first step to this is educating ourselves which is why I believe it is extremely important to read as much as possible by people who really get it.

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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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6 Reasons Why I Loved ‘Atomic Blonde’, And Why I think You Should See It

It’s not often that I recommend new movie releases, either here on my blog or to people in real life, because, well, to be completely honest, I find most of what I see at the cinema to be pretty mediocre at best.  I absolutely love seeing movies in theatres – I probably go to the cinema about once a week – but I have to admit that it’s never really because of a movie itself that I enjoy this hobby; like many other people, the reasons that I love going to the movies so much are because of the fun experience, the social aspect of watching films with other people and, my huge weakness, the buttery salty popcorn 🙂  It is extremely rare that a movie ever makes a real impact on me or truly captures my attention.  BUT, just every now and then, I am totally caught off-guard by something fantastic.

The other day, I saw one such movie, ‘Atomic Blonde’, and… I LOVED IT.  After thinking it over, I decided that when such a movie comes into my life, one that I think about long after the showing, that I want to go back and see again immediately, that I play the soundtrack to over and over again at home, then I really have a personal duty to inform others about it!  I have ordered my thoughts about Atomic Blonde into 6 concise points or reasons why I particularly loved it and why I think you should go and see it right now.  Enjoy!

  1. Strong Female Lead.
    A while ago I started to notice a trend in my decisions when it came to choosing books/TV shows/movies etc.  I discovered that I am highly partial to anything with a strong female lead, and this is totally fine by me!  I love a girl boss, a top-notch heroine, a fierce femme, and I’m not ashamed to admit that such a character as this can either make or break a storyline for me.   The lead role in Atomic Blonde, played by the goddess that is Charlize Theron, embodies all of the above.  She is a bad-ass spy, she’s dangerous, smart, intense, sexy and generally all-round awesome.
  2. Set in Berlin.
    When a movie is set in one of my favourite cities in the world, how could I help but love it!  Maybe I felt a personal connection to the movie because I have been to so many of the places that were featured in it, or maybe it’s just because I KNOW how cool and hip Berlin is and this gave the film an extra depth for me.   The city of Berlin would be, in my opinion, a brilliant backdrop to any movie, but gave particular significance to this one because of the era in which it was set.  This brings be to my next point…
  3. Berlin in the late 80s.
    So, the plot of the movie is centered around the rise of the people in Berlin in the late 1980s , which led to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989.  In Atomic Blonde, we got such a feel for the atmosphere in this city at that time, and it was incredible!  It was an era of punk/grunge/rock, underground parties, drugs, living for the NOW because you didn’t know if you would be alive tomorrow, power to the people…  Seeing this story unfold in the movie made me WISH I could have been there to experience it all.  One line in the film really stuck with me; ‘What a time to be in Berlin’.
  4. Music.
    I absolutely had to feature the movie soundtrack in this list because it is a complete winner.  The lineup includes music by David Bowie, REM, Eurythmics and German/Austrian Artists Falco and Nena among others.  The music captures the energy of the 80s, it drives the storyline of the movie, it brings the characters to life.  I wasn’t such a fan of 80s music before seeing Atomic Blonde, but it’s pretty much been on it our house every day since and it just makes me want to DANCE all the time!
  5. Fashion.
    Atomic Blonde is dripping with sex and sensuality, and I am pretty convinced that the sizzling, smoking, fashion in the movie plays a large role in that.  Long trench coats with sunglasses, racey metallic dresses, lace stockings and hold-ups and patent black high-heeled boots star throughout and I love it all!
  6. Twisty-turny plot.
    OK, so, I wouldn’t put the plot itself at the top of my list of reasons to go and see this movie.  We have all heard of the undercover spy agent completing a complex mission in a foreign country before.  However, I will say that there are a few surprises in this movie and, without spoiling anything, the twists and turns that we are taken on make for quite a ride – don’t write the movie off as just another average spy thriller.

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My Podule Hotel Experience

Podule hotels seem to have taken the commuter and international travel world by storm. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, a podule hotel is a hotel, often located inside an airport terminal, with tiny podules or cabins instead of big, fancy hotel rooms. The idea is that travellers who might have a few hours to kill between connecting flights, or even an overnight stay in an airport, can rent pods by the hour so that they can catch a few zzz’s or have some quiet and private relax time before their onward travel.  The pods are simple, just what you would need for a few hours kip (i.e. a bed) and are much more hassle-free than a hotel.

My podule bed…

I have always thought that the idea of podule hotels was so futuristic – like staying in tiny space cabin that looks like something out of star trek! But it wasn’t until I recently got the chance to finally stay in one myself that I realised how great they are and what a genius idea it really is. I wanted to write a blog post about my really positive experience staying at a podule hotel in case, like me, you have considered it but weren’t sure about it or preferred to choose a normal hotel option because it was the one that you know.  This is just my personal experience, I’m sure there are some that would disagree with me, but I always find real, personal recommendations written by real people to be the most helpful!

So how small are we talking? Well, of course pods come in different sizes according to the number of people in your party.  I stayed at ‘Yotel’, in London Gatwick’s South Terminal and I rented a single ‘standard cabin’, intended for 1 person comfortably or 2 at a tight squeeze, that was 7 sqm. But this particular hotel also offers a ‘premium cabin’, for two people sharing a bed (10sqm), or a ‘premium twin cabin’, for 2 bunk beds (10 sqm).  All cabins come with an ensuite shower/toilet.

My singe podule was just able to fit my violin width-ways!

The really great thing about podule hotels is that there are no check in/check out times.  When you make your reservation, you simply book the number of hours you need, and this is so perfect for matching the needs and requirements of each individual guest.  You don’t have to worry about meeting standard hotel times – you just book your pod and go!  I also wanted to mention, in case you were worried that you wouldn’t know exactly what time you would be arriving, as I was, that when I arrived half an hour early (and very late at night) to my podule reservation, it was absolutely no problem – there is someone on reception 24 hours a day and they were extremely friendly, helpful and kind.

The cabin itself really is tiny – hopefully you can get a feel for it’s size from my little video below! It was just wide enough for my violin case and once I had opened up my suitcase there wasn’t much floor room to be seen!  But, the bed was really comfortable, and it was nice to have a private toilet and shower too. If you choose to share a cabin with another person, it might be helpful to know that there really isn’t room for any privacy in the pod, and there is only a glass divider between the toilet and the bed space, so make sure it’s someone you know well!  There is, however, a blind on the door window, so you can feel very private from the outside corridor and other hotel guests.  On that note, it may also help to know that, although I slept very well, at about 5am it became very busy outside with people getting up to catch their early flights.  If you are a light sleeper, definitely wear some earplugs!

 

Some other useful things to know about Yotel:

  • Towels are provided.
  • Free tea/coffee and bottled water from reception 24/7.
  • Free WiFi.
  • Yotel has an interesting blog,  featuring tips for travellers, interviews and recommended apps for meditation amongst other things.
  • Food menu including breakfast, sandwiches, hot meals and snack options, all very affordably priced (around €5).
  • TV in cabin.
  • There are Yotel hotels in London Heathrow, Amsterdam and New York airports.

A podule hotel is really the perfect solution for weary travellers and anyone who just needs to sleep. I will definitely be staying in them again in the future and really recommend you check them out of you need a few hours of down time while en route.

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Summer at The Banff Centre

If there is one place in the world that could remind you about ‘the bigger picture’ in life, it’s the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity.  And if there was ever a moment when this reminder was especially important, I think right now is it!  In this era of Trump, Brexit, racism, sexism, prejudice, social division and everything else, I find it all too easy to get lost, to forget what’s really meaningful and why it is that I do what I do.  However, having just spent a couple of weeks with some of the most interesting, creative and intelligent minds on the planet, in one of the most breathtaking-ly beautiful places on earth, I feel completely inspired and reinvigorated.  I have come away from my experience with bucket-loads of new ideas and a renewed drive to bring them forward into my work, and I can’t WAIT to start sharing them here on my blog!!

In case you didn’t know, the Banff Centre is an artists’ hub, a platform for creativity and imagination, a space to work and put your ideas and projects into action, and I think it must be the closest thing to paradise that there is!  It is like a campus where anyone who is interested in ‘creating’ can go – whether you are a musician, a dancer, a writer, a poet, a literary journalist, a photo journalist… And it provides all the facilities and resources that you could possibly imagine and more!  Something that I really loved about my experience there this summer was the connections and friendships made between the different disciplines; dancers became involved in contemporary music performances, journalists sat in on rehearsals and interviewed other artists, I got to work directly with composers and perform their music.  Sharing different perspectives in this way was so inspiring, and I feel like this is something that can be very difficult, if not absolutely impossible, to do in ‘normal’ day-to-day life.

Banff is full of wildlife!

It is said that your experience of something, however good or bad, is made by the people with whom you share it, and the people whom I got to meet and work with at Banff definitely made my time there incredibly special, in so many ways.   These are musicians who have all taken the paths and led their lives in directions that I dream of.  They are the risk-takers, the ones who take a chance on an idea, are never satisfied with something that isn’t great or isn’t what they believe in.  I have increasingly felt over the past few years, as I have come to the end of my ‘student’ days, that there is an expected or normal route that I should be taking, and that all of my colleagues around me are following.  And it has given me so much angst and grief because it is NOT what I want, which in turn has made me question my whole career choice and even my life decisions.  But being able to spend time with musicians who feel the same way I do has shown me that there is more out there, there are so many options and if you have a fire and if you believe in what you do, then you can make them happen.

But I don’t want to get all airy-fairy here!  It’s not all about ‘chasing your dreams’ and believing that good things will come if you just wait for them.  The artists that I met at Banff talked about how to be savvy, how to have a business mind, what exactly needs to be done in order to realise your goals, and these were some of the most important lessons I took away from Banff.  Even being coached on things like how to speak to my colleagues, how to have meetings, what exactly the important points of discussion are – these are all hugely important in life but when have we ever been taught these things?!

I attended the Banff Centre once before, five years ago, when I had the opportunity to spend a month at the masterclasses there.  This was a whole other amazing experience in itself, but since then the music programme at Banff has been completely redesigned, offering a totally new style of residency for all different musicians, and this year was the first in its new format.  Led by new co-artistic directors, the fantastically inspiring Claire Chase and Steven Schick, this summer I attended the brand new ARC Chamber Music Residency. From day one, Claire told us that she was looking to design a programme that would be completely separate from typical masterclass-style festivals, something that was very far away from a ‘school’ structured curriculum.  Her idea of the new programme at Banff was to give total artistic freedom to the participants, and to give us the space to play whatever music we wanted in whatever form we wanted.   It was up to us to create our own timetable, plan our own repertoire and rehearsals, decide what we wanted to perform and when.  I have never been put in such a liberating setting as this, and I can honestly say that during the programme, I felt so artistically fulfilled and had a real sense of purpose.

I thought I might write a (somewhat) brief account of what a typical day for me in the ARC Chamber Music Residency at the Banff Centre looked like, although each day was totally different so I will just give a general overview as an example!  I would wake up at about 8am and grab some AMAZING breakfast in one of the restaurants that overlooks the mountains.  At around 8:30 a few people would meet for the daily morning hike up Tunnel Mountain, whose trail leaves directly from campus.  The hike takes about 30 mins to go up and 20 to come down, with an inevitable few minutes at the top to just sit and take in what you are seeing.  I remember one time sitting up there and saying to a friend how difficult I found it to be really present, in that moment, looking at those awesome mountains – it felt overwhelmingly unreal – so this was something that I was continually striving to achieve; total awareness of the present.  Rehearsals started as soon as we got back, and for me these varied between Haydn Quartets, Beethoven Quartets, Boulez ‘Livre’ for string quartet and quartets that I was working on with composers themselves – I got to work with Marcos Balter on his quartet called ‘Chambers’ and with Camila Agosto on her piece, ‘Blemish’.  At 11am everybody would gather for the ‘Daily Meeting’, which would be taken by a different faculty member each day; we heard from the musicians of ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble from New York), the Concert Master of the Handel and Haydn Society – Aisslinn Nosky, the Miro and JACK quartets, Imani Winds, Suzannah Clark (one of the world’s leading musicologists), Maros Balter (composer) and many more besides.  I loved these meetings, as each one was totally unique and each artist had something so interesting and different to say; I really learnt a lot here.  After the meeting I would head down to the cafe for lunch and then straight back to more rehearsing.  During the afternoons I would usually find time to visit the simply incredible library, or to practise by myself in one of the little practice huts (frequently visited by deer or elk) until dinner, which I would eat in either the main restaurant or at the chilled ‘Maclab’ bar.  After-dinner time would normally consist of concerts, more rehearsals, hang-out ‘beer’ time and fantastic conversations with colleagues and new friends, or making use of the free and unlimited access to the gym or swimming pool/hot tub facilities.

Enjoying a local beer at Maclab with a spectacular view!

Practice hut with elk visitor

I want to write separate and much more detailed accounts of each of these experiences, as they were all so fascinating and important in themselves and there is SO much more to say about all of them! I simply can’t fit it all into one blog post though, so I have decided that this will do for the first ‘overview’ of Banff and I’m looking forward to writing several more posts, each focusing on a different aspect of Banff, in the next few weeks.

The lasting impression that the Banff Centre and the artists that I met there made on me is how important art is in today’s world.  Art makes connections, brings people together, highlights profound issues in very pure, human and accessible ways.  Art can be found anywhere and there will always be space for people to create it, one just has to find it and remember the value that it has.  Banff has nestled itself right into my heart; it has given me inspiration and courage, it has refilled my life with colour!

The JACK Quartet, performing John Luther Adams on top of Tunnel Mountain at sunset. This was a moment I won’t ever forget and sums up my whole Banff experience!

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