Tuesday, August 30, 2005

arc en ciel

Apparently there was a double rainbow bowing accross Les Cougieux and the approaching autumn lumiere is magnificent...

Here in Bremen we are basking within the arched spectrum of Mozart symphonies. That 14 year old composer of Mitridate grew into a pretty amazing guy.

Our chef started the rehearsal of the andante asking for 'yoga'. He repeated it over and over again, and indeed as I became more mindful of a minute harmonic change or a new rhythmic emphasis, the ibookless world receded and a walking meditation took it's place; a miraculous voyage through the sound of the Golden Section.

Suddenly the harmony shifts up a semitone (the original version of that old instant transposition trick now universally used to seduce us - think the end of 'I will always love you') and, like the rainbow, we rise above ourselves for an instant....

Arc en ciel.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

two little tales from bremen


Lost in the rhodedendron park I asked directions back to my hotel:

"Wie komme ich in der August Bebel Allee?"

"Hmmmm" (the nose is wriggling)" August Bebel klingt sehr Sozial Demokrat" (the mouth is turned down in disgust) " Varscheinlich in diese richtung..." (the hand waves towards the gutter).


I am going into town, contemplating buying Julian some clothes in 'Wormland Herren mode' but it is Sunday. The square upright citizen bus driveress clocks off and skips suddenly, illegally and surprisingly accross the iron bar which separates the track from the road. I think I saw her turn her head and giggle at the fun of it. I wonder if breaking this small law is her Sunday treat.

Meanwhile folks, please forgive the probable bloglessness of these coming days or weeks. No easy access, not much time and of course no beloved ibook.

Friday, August 26, 2005


It has been brought to my notice yet again that I do not play loud enough.

I am not of the bigger equals better school of string playing and have always prided myself on quality of sound above everything, but it has been pointed out once too often (and recently unbloggably) by people I respect that I am a mouse and so last night I decided to do something about it.

I had asked my section leader how much he charged for LOUD lessons and he suggested a first step would be to use his classical bow. It is much heavier than my baroque bow and has a delicious curly nose. I waved it around, fired up by my anger, making huge ugly sounds and suddenly I felt like a gruff bear with a magic wand trampling the hell out of Mitridate. It was wonderful.

There is, unfortunately, no going back for this mouse now. She has had a taste of the grizzly she was always meant to be and she has to have tools to match.

The bow in question is made by a Monsieur Latour in Bordeaux and we just happen to be going to Bordeaux in October. Trouble is it costs 1200 euros....

...about as much as it will cost to replace the ibook I left in Munich airport thismorning.

No, I am not kidding.

So if anyone has an old ibook they're abandoning - or indeed a classical bow by Monsieur Latour - it might just have found a home.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

too many


Almost twice this many rainy days in a studentenheim (didn't make breakfast every day) and one still to go:

Too many mornings woken up by the cat castration sounds of my neighbour's reed-making; too many diligent Japanese students' scales with my lunch; too much German reggae infiltrating my pillow at night and too many bloody downpours. My nerves are as frayed as they can be and I am desperate for sunflowers.

Last night our chef behaved in an unbloggable manner towards me and I shut down completely. Being asked to make music with someone after they have hurt you is like being asked to participate in Tantric flower arranging for couples after being hit over the head with a weizen beer bottle. I know some people find it it kinky but I am not one of them, so I lowered my normally baton-ward gaze to the level of our section leader's bow and got on with the opera's bass line in my own private sphere.

In the interval the chef apologised profusely. Then I ended up apologising too:

"No, I'm sorry if I'm over-reacting" - I blubbered - "I'm feeling very fragile. Very h..h...homesick..."
"Me too" he replied.

Which, I guess, is why we are all on the verge of being unbloggable towards one-another. We need to go home. Even the chef.

During the bows, the chef handed his very swish bouquet of sunflowers down to me in the pit. All is forgiven and we are off ......

....to Bremen.


Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Rhythm Is It


After my concert in New York I fell into the arms of a dear and familiar figure - Louis Langrée - under whose baton six consecutive winters in Glyndebourne were warmed in the company of Debussy, Beethoven, Janacek, Verdi, Puccini and Mozart, and who is now the head of the Mostly Mozart Festival.

On seeing him I wept. I am asking myself:

'For what'?

I am contemplating the word 'Conductor'. The French word 'Chef' (d'orchestre) implies (ironically for a country obsessed with Michelin stars) someone who mixes ingredients to perfection. However, as Anthony Bourdain is only too keen to point out, you can also be a 'chef' de train. It simply means the one who is in charge. It occurs to me again that the person that stands up on the podium is - or should be - neither a cook nor a dictator but rather a channel (and here the French word conduit is apt) through whose body, heart and spirit the composer - himself a channel - speaks. If the channel of the conductor is clear enough each member of the orchestra can plug into it, like an artery to the heart or a river to the ocean, and become their own ichannel leading back through the composer to the source.

Simon Rattle says in the profoundly moving Rhythm Is It: To make music one has to get 'beyond the ego..... but not completely'. His 'not completely' fascinates me as, of couse, without an ego, he wouldn't be up there in a position to move and shake.

I had never seen Rattle conduct and was astonished to do so in this film. It was as if his body has absorbed All Cultures - All Music, All Dance. It had nothing to do with 'beating' (what connotations that word has!). He was an African drum, a Balinese puppet, a Sacrificial Woman; he was whatever chose to come through him.

One of the many kids in the film who was learning the choreography to 'Sacre de Printemps' (possibly one of the most African-influenced pieces of Western classical music), spoke about how, coming from Nigeria, the music and the movements felt alien to him. I wondered what was alienating him. Was it the culture of the music or of the orchestra? And if this rhythmic piece about ritualistic sacrifice alienated him what would he make of Mozart? I thought about African music and dance grounded in the feet and solar plexus, and then about hands wielding batons, fingers trilling, feet in little concert shoes. The cultures of African music and the Berlin Philharmonic seemed planets apart and yet this piece, like Picasso's 'Demoiselles d'Avignon', and especially in the hands of Rattle, had the possibility to join them.

I watched Rattle conduct, as the Nigerian boy must have done, and saw that he had absorbed this kid's culture and found it in Stravinsky's music, and I knew that when the kid saw him he would see the bridge, be able to cross it and, having crossed it, see that there are no bridges except between the cages we make for ourselves.

It's not about 'crossover'. Crossover implies two separate worlds. Here nothing is diluted. Nothing is compromised. We are all simply one.

I left the theatre giving thanks for this great spirit who has come to heal, as much as it is possible in a single human lifetime, our cultural wounds.

He says, and he means it: "Music is for everyone".

So why was I weeping?

"What wonderful times we shared" Louis had said as we hugged. I was a member of a large section, and he was the conductor but we were both, along with the second trumpet, the dresser, the lady who serves the tea, the people working on the education project, every member of the audience, the trees in the Sussex countryside and the sheep peeping over from the ha ha, present when something greater than us moved.

Here is to great conductors.

Sunday, August 21, 2005



Salzburg is, of course, the city of the late and great Hungarian violinist, Sandor Vegh, from which musical spring all my influences flow. As a teenager and well into my twenties I spent Aprils and Septembers gazing out of a huge bay window at swirling pools and swelling waves in a Cornish Cove soaking up his personal tales of Brahms, Bartok and Casals and his mispronounced thoughts on the curvaceous world of sound. I played for him and even with him.

"Averysing in nature is carved" (curved)." Look ze waves, zey are carved. Look ze rocks zey are carved. Ze son it is olzo carved. Olvays circles."

"Ze son it is not cutted like macaroni...." (he mimes something long and doughy being issued from his mouth and snips it aggressively into bite-sized pieces) "Naaaa - cutted; naaaah - cutted. No. Ze son, it is a rond gest."

Thursday's Mitridate was a good show. People were listening (when they weren't looking at the dirdnled cleavage leaping up at them over the first row and above their scores). As threads wove within and tracks were trodden through the musical landscape, I had the sensation of combing the underbelly of the singers' sound with my gut and horsehair tools; nourishing the furry flip side of the shiny aria. Our chef bent his baton to express coming rage, blew kisses for tenderness, smacked his face to inspire beligerent accents....

I could feel Vegh's presence. Like a good disciple, I was following in the footsteps of the six-chinned maestro, making circles and waves with my bow, choreographing a sumptious dance of 'carved' sound...... And then I hit upon a problem. In order to turn a page for my desk partner I had to cut a gesture short, make macaroni out of it, and I couldn't do it......

The phrase ends with a question mark; an 'up'; an in-breath. The arm is suspended at the top of the arc, at the end of momentum, just before it drops and re-gathers. There is a moment of stillness which accompanies the silence as it listens for the answering phrase, and turning a page would mean I'd have to break that stillness, go back on a forbidden diagonal and ruin the dance.

What's a gal to do?

"Vy you make macaroni son? " I heard the Maestro whisper in my ear, "Olvays carved, ze son"

"Help! " I thought, as I rested in the pause of the delicious unknown.

Everyone else sensibly and considerately turned their pages whilst my desk partner was resting in the not-so-delicious unknown:

" Turn the page you prima donna" she was thinking. "I don't know what bloody note comes next"

I could hear those around me start to titter.

"What's she doing with her arm up there? Wot a poser!"

The pulsating quavers of the answering phrase started up , without cello four because she was finally turning the page and without cello three because she didn't know what the f*** came next.

Perhaps, after all, there are moments when, in consideration for one's fellow beings and in order not to look like a total plonker, the sound indeed must be cutted into macaroni and the exceptional diagonal must be allowed.

R.I.P Sandor Vegh.


Wednesday, August 17, 2005


The night was purple and the lake was black. A silver mist was carrying the message from tree to tree that tonight was the night the witches came.

Suddenly I saw the glint of a red eye on the other side of the lake. I screamed.
A peaked hood twizzled in the no- light. I screamed again.
A cobweb finger brushed my face....


Julian touched my arm.

"That's the third time you've done that, darling."

"That was the third of the three witches"

"Well tell the fourth witch to f*** off"

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

happy holidays


Plop plop plop goes the pluie.....

The three hour pelting that was last night's perf was accompanied by divas mouthing their passions, strings flailing their arms in a silent movie, our bear of a chef dancing at the ring-front and red-lit surtitles telling an incomprehensible story of two sons miming an attempt to shag their dad's chic. No-one died but most of us nearly drowned.

The planned two day trek in the mountains with my love has been abandoned in favour of J buying a lightweight Berghaus top of the range mac, me an umbrella and both of us sitting in a cramped studentenheim with fluorescent lights, making lunch on a ring watching episodes of anything.

Plop plop plop goes the pluie.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

shifting light


After a week's break it seems that many couples have been crying. Some took their tears to Italy and let them unravel in bowls of oiled linguine, others defrosted those of illusion into those of truth and separated in an Amsterdam market.

Last night we were raw. I believe Mozart received and we gave our new blood in a communion of musical home-coming.

Julian is finally with me in Salzburg. Bouncing along on a bed of quavers, I glanced over to his halo of ringlets in the sixth row, saw him beaming at the fourteen Mozarts slipping down the mirrored set into the reflected image of the pit, and was content.

No more mis-timed skyped descriptions necessary.

Then, during Mitridate's most moving aria, a member of the audience chose their moment (once more, it happens most nights) to collapse or even pass away. Chairs were scraped and temporary structures kicked in the attempt to get the body down. Doctors in the house rose up from music infused vacations into white coat mode, and family members carried a leg or held a head.....

Meanwhile, in the pit, we continued playing, mechanically at first. We were being confronted by our fears of death - thinking of father, mother, lover or child being That Man with the heart attack. Gradually our bass line became a meditation upon death and thus, eventually, a celebration of now; of life.

Today Julian and I took our weary selves to Fuschlsee where we attempted the three hour 'rundweg' around the lake. We giggled at places signposted Gnigl, ducked our naked torsos (our dry shirts squished into the back-pack) under pine trees for protection from the rain, attempted to run whilst our feet sloshed in their Birkie boats, tripped on damp roots. We were alive and wet. Slowly the lines of stress in my love's painted-out face were washed away by nature's very own tears; the creases which had seemed fixed in indelible oil becoming a moving watercolour; Shifting Light itself.

Peter Sellars, when he directed us in 'Theodora', talked of the different quality of tears: The 'woe is me' tears and the tears of release.

Today nature wept upon on us and we were washed clean.

Thursday, August 11, 2005



A night à deux at home. The first in a month.

There have been twenty eight solo daily paintings and a trip to New York; a month pedalling solo up and down the Salzach; there have been dinner party invitations declined or never received; home-keeping for cats; bass line playing for anonymous dirndles, sales, good reviews, loneliness, failures, frustrations and home-sickness. There have been too many miles across and in between.

We need a break. We need each-other but now we are here we don't know how to find one-another....

In the short 'break' there has been a brother, two out of six bad shoulders; three daily paintings; forked lightening; three meals out of four en masse and alcohol-charged...

Tonight, returning fron the airport for the umpteenth time, I fall pre-tear-streaked in the broken front door, and I crave the uhr-embrace of Father/Mother/Lover/God. I am welcomed by home-made pizza, a salad of tomatoes blushier and ruder than you can imagine from the farmer's market, and anger.

There are tears: Tears that I got side-tracked taking a photograph of succulent tomatoes while I should have been making the salad; tears of he who has no idea where his wife has gone until she turns up for three days with a member of her family and with a list of people with whom we absolutely must dine; tears of she who is jet-lagged and who still has to ferry bro to and from Marseille and who wants to be taken care of on her return and not have to listen to the test match; tears of two exhausted people desperately needing support not being able to give it; tears of what should be the exception being the norm; tears of the leap from the public into the private.

And then someone we met says I am beautiful and that this is the life and we step into the rainy rainbow and the lit cornfields and outside our selves for a moment and there are more tears: Tears of silent nights, of beauty and multi-coloured stripes curving over vines...

John Martyn plays, the atypical breeze enters our kitchen and we sit at peace, at last, mac to mac. We have agreed that next time I have three days off we will see no-one but each-other and we are mostly silent. This is what we need - post row no pressure tap tap punctuated by:

"This is one of my favourites"; "I sold the peaches";"I loved meeting Mig";"Do you fancy listening to us read quartets in Salzburg?";"I feel like I've found a real girlfriend here";"They're veggie, what shall we cook tomorrow?": "I missed you"; "Is Oskie in"?;"The strings in this one make me cry"; "Has Manon had her pill?" "She was so sweet last night"; "I missed you too darling.........."

So here's to solitude, but also to my bro, and to meeting the four nicest people we have met recently who happen to be bloggers, Mig and Alpha and Gamma, and Gail and Dean, of course to Julian, and to trying to find the balance between it all in our remote corner of the universe.


Tuesday, August 09, 2005

new york


The two of us destined for New York were up at 5 am the morning after Mitridate. Three hours bus journey, a flight from Munich to Paris, three hours wait in Roissy and a flight to JFK later we arrived in New York. The sun was pinkly dimming as the skyline etched it's aborted shape against the sky through the wire mesh and between the neon signs of the butt end of Long Island. I smelt the familiar pong of bagels, trash, blueberries and stewed coffee and it was thrilling to be back.

On arrival at the Beacon Hotel at well into the evening we fell out of the bus eager to shower and hit the upper west side, albeit gently given that the rehearsal was at 9 am the next morning. My old school friends were waiting to share sesame noodles with me at Empire Sezchuan.....

Then came the news that, after we had given up 48 hours of our free time to obtain visas, were to do a rehearsal and a Lincoln Centre debut sandwiched in between travelling en 'groupe' (baaaaaa) for twenty one hours twice in the space of sixty, we were being asked to share rooms. Until that point we had all been fighting back our anger at the lunatic schedule, the visa problems and the lack of any thanks, and drawing upon our goodwill and our desire to do everything in our power to support our chef in her group's debut. Being asked to share the night with a stranger and being denied even the space to fart in private was unacceptable. Someone somewhere along the chain of admin had accepted this compromise on our behalf. My friend in the same festival had a three roomed suite all to herself so it was obviously not New York, and we were ready to kill whoever it was.

Unfortunately the nearest person was the lovely girl on work experience, and my room-mate. Having worked unpaid for weeks trying to sort out the tangles with the embassy, having obtained a letter from Hilary Clinton's office in support of our visit, she was now the innocent target of our justified fury.

She came in late after having to attend the chamber music concert and woke me up. I spent much of the night wanting to have a pee and, to the accompaniment of the pre-historic air-con, wondering what she was doing in the bathroom for so long. My night crazed fantasies ranged from bulimia to wrist-slitting. Of course she was simply reading a magazine. Having established this I managed to sleep at 4, but was woken at 5 as she closed the squeaky door, abandoning the night in favour of wandering in to the NYC dawn. It, combined with the travel and jet lag, was perfect preparation for one of the most important concerts of my life.

Things did not improve at the rehearsal. We knew we had been squeezed in to a tight budget and people wanted to know who had chosen where to make the cuts.

Questions - "Can you look me in the eye and tell me you didn't know until today that we had to share rooms?" and defensive reactions - "Let's just cancel this rehearsal and the concert and you just go and walk around New York." were being hurled in to the sumptuous waiting acoustic of Alice Tully Hall. Then our chef walked out and we were alone on stage with our scores and instruments, and this was when the magic thing happened. We simply started to play. We started without our chef because we were there to do this concert and we were there to play Rameau. After a while the music seemed to transform our feelings and carry us to peaceful shores. Eventually our chef crept back and started to move with us, slowly riding on our enthusiasm back to hers and we commenced our together.

In between rehearsal and concert I had two hours to get a slice of the Big Apple whilst trying not to tire myself out. After a brunch of lobster eggs benedict and a mimosa at the Ocean Grill on Columbus with friends, I was taken on a whirlwind tour of Barnes and Noble by Morgan and gifted his recent publications and other books read on his honeymoon or which were rocking the New York literary and music scenes. I even managed to cram in a trip to Kheil's next door where I stocked up on their infamous moisturiser. The girl who served me, charmed naturally by my accent, took the time, aswell as filling a paper bag to overflowing with samples for a never ending plane journey, to give me a bit of 78th street savvy advice:

"I am just going to close your bag for you, honey. I can see all your tampons."

It was time for the gig. Given the tension of the previous weeks and the absolute lack of rest, I am proud to say we rose above ourselves and our woes and we socked it to our packed house. However, there was something floaty about it all. We had literally not landed and you could hear it. By the time the audience rose to it's feet we were too burned out to let in their enthusiasm.

The New York Times Review was very good, but more importantly here's what our fortune cookies had to say:

'Beware the dishonest man in the workplace'
'The joyfulness of man prolongs his days'

That, to me, says it all.


Monday, August 08, 2005


slideshow - 11

"So do you just come right out with it" asks Lucy, " like a scene from 'Husbands and Wives', as soon as you hand them the first drink?

-Can we have your sperm please?

Or do you make them a dope-laced sachertorte and get them quickly to the small room ?

Or do you do it formally with the dessert wine and lavender creme brulee?

-Actually we invited you here this evening for a special favour....

...I simply don't know how to get around it and at this rate it'll be years and then my eggs will be buggered."

Lucy is explaining to us over dinner that she and her partner are in need of a sperm donor.

Julian says:

"I'll do it!"

and I know, in a moment which could see our lives veer on to a completely different emotional track, that he means it.

Lucy spits our her champagne, blushes and then weeps. For the rest of the evening she has a sub-cutaneous glow of hope I know only too well.

When we return home Julian says:

"I could have a baby!"

I remind him that it will not be his baby at all and he adds, sheepishly but with the same glow:

"Well, perhaps later when it is grown up I could have some contact?"

The next day in the plane to New York I am waiting for the toilet. Sharing the wait are a mother and child in a playful embrace. The mother pinches her child's nose whilst making a farting noise and then pulls on her ears making the sound o a pig's oink. The little girl giggles at their shared ritual, repeatedly chanting "Mama!". Then she throws her ringletted head back and points a finger at me, saying the word again. She does it so many times she lulls me into thinking she truly sees my nurturing self shine forth. Eventually her mama becomes embarrassed by the pointing and asks me:

"Are you a mother?"

"Unfortunately not" I say, plastering my BRAVE FACE on to hide my shock. I've given too much away.

It is my turn for the loo and, as I sit there performing the mile high nappy-changing rituals of my 36oth bloody useless cycle, I choke on my old grief. I go with it, through it as I have learned to do, clean up my face and return to my seat and, though red-eyed, I am once more content knowing that life is beautiful if we go with the flow, and that there are simply scars which need acknowledging once in a while.

If Lucy and Julian agree to this it would be a bungy jump in to the unknown, but who knows how it could enrich four lives?

I feel ready.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

lincoln center for performing gnomes

I sit in Charles de Gaulle - or is it Zurich or JFK, I don't know any more - a fresh visa burning it's patriotic colours into my passport.


...and I realise that, after this draining run out from Salzburg to Paris which has cost the orchestra a thousand euros for a concert for which I am to be paid one hundred and fifty, I actually do not want to go to new York for twenty four hours. I want to go home.

I think of brunch in Zabars, margueritas in an old Mexican dive in the village where I used to hang, Fairway coffee, bagels and lox and cream cheese up near 94th and broadway; I think of my Mercury Cougar cruising like an aeroplane along the LIE, frozen last trains back to Stony Brook on the LIRR; I think of my SUNY friends all absent from the city, playing in festivals in Santa Fe or Melbourne, teaching in Meadowmount or Greenwood, or having moved to LA or Paris; I think of my teacher and my surrogate brother who led me to him, both quartetting in a far away state; I remember that my two oldest friends from the UK - one Irish Portuguese living in San Francisco and one English living in Adelaide - are playing in the Mostly Mozart Festival the day after me and wonder if I might get to touch base with them; and, rather than get excited about revisiting the Big Apple, I merely feel like a performing gnome spinning in space.

Sade is singing:

"You're the rock that I cling to
You're the one I swim to in a storm
Like a lover's rock"

I am on the ground but profoundly travel sick. I can't call Julian as our phone line is down. I can't go to an internet cafe and see today's painting as he hasn't been able to put a new one up with no connection. I can't call him on the mobile as he doesn't have a 'reseau' at the house. I can't hear him humming, Oscar moving his bowl around or Manon's hungry-for-love rumble.....

I glance down at the new treasure in my lap and I see that the American Embassy have spelled my name wrong.

In the space of a few seconds my new visa is drenched.


Monday, August 01, 2005

the lake

When I started writing I read somewhere that if you are not ready for your mother to read what you write then you are not ready to write. The same goes, I thought, for one's boss, one's friends and one's colleagues, and ultimately for all beings. According to some, and I edge towards rather than away from them, the bat of a butterfly wing can move mountains, the beat of a heart stop a war, or the ripples from a word make peace and thus, in the etheric mandala of the world wide web, we have the chance to create harmony or disharmony; to generate love or hatred, peace or war. For me it's not even about karma (turning up in the next life as a manky cockroach) or catholic guilt (burning in hell for one's sins), it's just about an aspiration to mindfulness.

On Friday two of my fellow Graces and I took the bus to Fuschlsee. There, about a quarter of the way round the lake, we found paradise. From a rock we slipped naked into the water. Centimetre by delicious centimetre we let the cool nibble at our bodies and wrap us in the comforting tingle of it's wetness. Then we swam into the profound blue silence and drank the sky.

As my arms dipped in a slow chaconne in and out of the water, I felt I could indeed move mountains if I could stay with this sense of peace in the place where woman and nature meet.........

Then the world came back to challenge us:

The man in the next cove stood watching us and masturbating for two hours. Eventually I threw a rock to scare him off.

On my return I put the pictures of the three of us, beautiful in our nakedness, on to Flickr. In the three minutes between downloading them and setting them as private I received up to twenty-one pervy comments on each. I have no idea who has used them for what, how many copies have been made or where the pornographic ring - if there is one -will end.

I am trying not to engage with feelings of anger. I am trying instead to hold beloved a moment no-one should be able to take away from us.