Saturday, 5 January 2013

Advent Calendar: 36

Feeling kind of low today. I suddenly realised I’ve done basically no listening all holiday and I think that’s why I’m having so much trouble finishing Fear of Falling – I’m cannibalising my own brain. I need fresh ideas to enliven mine and push the piece home. Ansel Adams is also struggling. I’ve got a sort of a plan, but no direction. I really really like the opening but I don’t know what I think of the second bit. Sometimes I like it, sometimes I hate it. To a certain extent I feel I should push on with what I’ve got and see if I can make it work, if only because of the limited time available.

I’m also starting to feel a little burnt out, which is NOT GOOD as I’m about to dive into a new term, so I’ve been trying to be a bit gentle with myself today. I suspect this is a combination of frustration over the composing not going well, hyper-awareness that I haven’t finished everything I wanted to do these holidays (haven’t even started some of them!) and just general worry. Not to mention lingering last vestiges of cold and being generally coldy-tired all the time for the past week. I did a pomodoro’s worth of work on Fear of Falling and tidied some stuff up but didn’t really make any progress, and half a pomodoro on Ansel Adams (now nearly to 3’50”). I almost never only do a partial pomodoro, but I was feeling just mentally exhausted and it seemed better to stop, blog and head bedwards than to push myself too much.

I did do some listening – Schnittke’s Hymns and a Charlie Mingus album, both from the Orchestration – Medium listening list. I’m beginning to think that I lack the gene for jazz. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s just that mostly, unless it’s super-straightforward trad, I don’t really GET it. I know at least two people on Twitter who, should they read this, will be sitting up straight and shouting “WHAT???” at their computers about now – please don’t unfriend me! I’m trying to learn! The first few tracks of the Mingus were just way over my head but the rest of the album I quite enjoyed, even though mostly I didn’t have a clue what was going on. I get quite uncomfortable when I can’t feel the structure of a piece, and it was like that for me, in spite of appreciating the performers’ skill and the permutations that were happening. It was an interesting experience though.

I did some knitting while I listened too, because I didn’t want to get too het up about not falling asleep, or too manic about noting down every little thing I did or didn’t like. I just wanted to get some different sounds into my head (also with the aim of Fear of Falling not stopping me sleeping tonight like it did last night!)

I think the burnout-feeling is best tackled by focusing on what I *have* achieved and on how the other bits will fit in once term starts up again, so:

  • Fear of Falling is very nearly complete. As we’re only supposed to have the short score done and a start to the orchestration, I’m not far off the mark. Maybe I should start the orchestration and leave the end alone for a few days. Needs to be completed by 4 February.
  • Ansel Adams: I don’t actually know where I’m supposed to be at for the first week back, but I need to submit a form saying what doublings I want to use by Thursday, and the whole thing is due in on 1 February. I really need to complete mine a little earlier though because I don’t speak Sibelius and will need to hire someone to translate for me. This is all a bit scary. On the plus side, with the piece now at nearly 4 minutes, it’s effectively halfway through the duration it needs to be.
  • String quartet: it’s progressed a bit, but this is a long-term project, as I told Stephen at my last lesson – I’m having to learn so much that I just can’t dash this one off
  • Fourth Plinth: Still waiting to hear back from my performers, some of whom don’t seem to be checking their email over the holidays… but I have an idea. May be a graphic score of some sort to speed up the actual piece creation – due to be rehearsed 1 week after we get back, performed (I think) a couple of days after that. Need to spend some time with this tomorrow.
  • Rude Health experimental piece: Oh God *cries* This may be a graphic score too, but I wanted to create a tape part for it as well. Being performed on 25 January (come along and see what happens!)
  • Carol: not finished, but hasn’t got a set performance deadline like most of the others
  • Twombly project: Feeling pretty confident about this. Hoping to run my ideas past my supervisor sometime late next week, then I need to focus on writing up the proposal…

So there it is, some good, some panic, some stuff that can safely be deferred a little. I should probably add that I also safely negotiated Christmas, painted the bedroom floor so it feels like a real room, started fixing up my finances which had got way out of control and so on. Didn’t succeed in finishing the two client projects I’ve had on the go and really really need to get done, but it’s been difficult to find time, brainspace and getting these together at a moment when the computer isn’t chucking a wobbly and making itself unusable has proven to be very difficult. Should try to tackle these tomorrow so they don’t lurk too much into the new term.

In cheerier news, Djelibeybi brought me home a present yesterday! We’ve been hunting high and low for my lovely Derwent Coloursoft pencils, but alas they seem to have vanished in an odd box somewhere and it’s been really frustrating me. He called me from Cass Art yesterday to say they had pencils on sale, but they didn’t have Coloursofts (I’d been thinking of getting just a set of 12 to tide me over). He said they had Inktense ones and I made a drooling noise but then pulled myself together and said that I’ve been trying to justify those for the past couple of years and continually failing, so no – and then he brought them home for me as a present! What a lovely lad! So I now have a gorgeous set which contains 22 Inktense pencils plus some Inktense colour blocks (basically, they’re like the lead part of the pencil but in a pastelly block) and bits and pieces like pencil sharpener, eraser, holders for the colour blocks and a sandpaper block for reshaping points. What joy! And the colours really are fabulous. I’ve been brightening up my mind-maps a bit with them :-)

Oh I'm a lucky girl!

Tagged with: composition, drawing, knitting, listening, mentalhealth | 1 comment

Monday, 9 May 2011


Today was the first day in weeks and weeks that I haven’t felt like I’ve been stuck at the bottom of a dark, dank well. The sun came out, after an horrendous day with the back yesterday today revealed a marked improvement, and I just felt more alert and healthier than I have in ages. Not sure if that’s a factor of the improved back, the sunshine, the fact that yesterday I embarked upon a new plan to delete cow-products from my diet, or just that I slept better than I have in ages (which could have been some of these combined), but it felt like at last I could see a little bit of daylight. It didn’t last the whole day and I felt entirely unequal to doing anything useful at all, but it’s a start.

Had another osteopath appointment this afternoon. I’m taking it as a good sign that I left his office in more pain than I went in. And that after a relatively mild (but still agonising) session. I’m hopeful that next week’s might be the last. Not sure whether it’ll be soon enough though to give me the all-clear to travel to Australia for my mother’s eye operation on 31 May, but we’ll see.

Nothing musical at all happened today. But I am about to listen to some Satie to redress the balance. Otherwise, did some knitting, listened to a webcast recording on content marketing, read some of Unstuck which continues interesting, although this chapter (on finding guides) I’m finding not quite so interesting as the previous chapter on nutrition and intolerances. I also read a bit more of Made to Stick which is also excellent. I’ve slowed down with this one recently, but very much still enjoying it and feel (or at least hope!) that my writing may be the better for reading it. At any rate, it makes me more aware of what’s going on in other people’s writing which is very interesting indeed!

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Thursday, 5 May 2011

Yes, really

Well, I thought I was coming out of the cloud last time, but well, not so much. For a while there was getting a bit more done – and especially getting a bunch of listening done, but as time went on and the teeth were still problematic and the back seemed to actually get a bit worse, the cumulus descended and I got a bit lost. Feeling like I’m on the up just a little now though (or should that be down – the cloud goes up. Hum. Think my metaphor’s a bit mixed here!) and starting to be able to think properly. Last week my dentist put in the proper filling and said that the mini-crown is optional because the tooth still has its structural integrity (thank you, o marvellous Italian-South African root canal specialist!) and that if I want it we’ll look at doing it in 6 months. I think I probably will do it – it will provide more solidity and protection – but we’ll do the x-rays then to see if the root canal’s worked to clear the infection fully and then see what else should be done. And then about 2 days after that, the back started improving again. Can you say “psychosymptomatic”? My bite’s still a bit out, and bending down’s still pretty painful, but it feels good to at least have the start of some closure on the whole hideous episode.

So I’ve not been doing much lately. I have started a new knitting project to teach myself short-row bust darts, which is coming along well – the first actual garment (as opposed to accessories) I’ve knitted since I was about 13! Feels like a big step. I’m pleased with it so far but trying to maintain an experimental approach and accept that things may go wrong (I may have picked the wrong size – it’s hard to tell when you’re as big in front as I am what size you should be making to fit across the bust as well as on the shoulders – or the short-rows may go horribly wrong) and the whole thing may need to be unravelled, but for now it’s a nice gentle knit which is coming along well and is helping to restore some calm to my frazzled brain.

I’ve also been studying for the Life in the UK test which we’re taking next Friday. Gosh it’s dull. And I am absolutely no good at remembering either statistics or random dates or numbers (and why does it even matter that I should know how many constituencies there are??). Anyway, just going to revise and cram and do practice tests now ad nauseum for the next week.

Today I made crumpets.

Well, it LOOKS like a crumpet

And the great news is that this time they’ve actually come out properly crumpetty. Unlike the last two times when they lacked holes and ended up heavy and a bit blech. These are light and tasty. And the butter pools correctly. They have the Djelibeybi seal of approval. I also made them in the shape of space shuttles and Gromit.

Creative crumpet-making

Tagged with: baking, cooking, experimenting, health, knitting, listening, mentalhealth, study | Add a comment

Monday, 18 April 2011

Coming out of the cloud

I feel like I’m coming out of a cloud a bit. Back’s still messed up and with the osteopath having told me I can’t go to Scotland for Easter, sounds like it’s still got a little way to go. But I’m gradually starting to get things done again and that feels pretty good. I’ve been getting a lot of listening done. Today a friend on Twitter recommended a couple of albums that were a little outside my usual comfort zone – Mono/Poly ‘Manifestations’ and Grouper’s ‘A I A’ – both of which I very much enjoyed.

I also tweaked and posted a blog post on, The wrong teacher, or just the wrong time?. I’m glad I wrote this post. Not only does it seem to be getting a rapid and enthusiastic response, but I think it’s been important for me to realise just how far I’ve come since my first year studying composition, and to acknowledge that I was at fault at least in some measure. I doubt I could have known that back then – I was timid and ignorant and there was no internet to ask questions of even if I’d thought to do so – but I think it’s good to reconsider the situation and what I could have done to improve it. And maybe it’ll be helpful for other new students who feel they’re not doing so well as they hoped they would.

And finally I finished the iPad case! OK, not 100% – I still need to make a loop to hold the stylus securely, but the case itself is finished and ready to travel. YAY! SO glad to be done with the handsewing. Never again…

This isn’t the finished case (still need to take proper photos of it) but it shows pretty much how it’s ended up. I’m rather pleased with it :-)

Done up - trial

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Wednesday, 13 April 2011


So I know I need to pull myself together, but somehow it’s not happening. And I suspect things will stay kind of erratic for the next few weeks still – back pain + intense dentistry does not for regular happy blogging make. But rest assured I’m still doing stuff. Just being kind to myself and taking a break. The past week’s activities have included a bunch of listening (including Bax’s Symphony No. 3 and the BBC’s Hear and Now broadcast of the Unsuk Chin Total Immersion concert), knitting and sewing (I’m making a case for the new iPad and then diverged and made a cowl out of the leftover yarn) and yesterday I went to the Trinity Laban Open Day to find out about Masters degrees, which was inspiring and frustrating probably in equal measure (as well as painful – I don’t recommend trekking across London with a messed-up lower back. And probably especially not if you’re still bruised from seeing the osteopath the night before).

Anyway, I’ll be back soon. And then the whole adventure will start all over again :-)

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Sunday, 5 December 2010


SO excited. Today I managed to buy new walking boots! Now, this may seem like a small thing to you, but after a full six months of being able to wear nothing but 1 pair of extremely ugly, ‘breathable’ running shoes (and let me tell you, ‘breathable’ not only lets the air in – it also lets rain, snow, slush and other things one doesn’t want on one’s feet in), I can’t wait to be able to put them on and go for a walk.

I did a little more work on the piece. It’s limping, but at least it’s moving forwards again. Hoping the meagre momentum continues. I also worked my way through a pile more of the Lisbon photos, some of which I’m rather pleased with.


Plus I made some more progress on my mother’s chunky chenille scarf – it’s looking pretty good!

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Thursday, 2 December 2010


I’ve been in Lisbon, in Portugal for the past week, hence the quietness over here. I’ve not had a holiday like that in a very, very long time. In fact, I think I could go so far as to say that I’ve not relaxed that much in over a decade. But now I’m back. Away from the gentle Portuguese winter sun, back to snow on the ground and sub-zero temperatures. That was a bit of a shock to the system!

I took yesterday off, just a sort of recovery moment. I went and had a massage, did quite a lot of sleeping, finished knitting a hot water bottle cover I started before I left, and started on a new scarf (in crazy-coloured cotton chenille yarn) for my mama.

And today I’m working on getting my brain back into composition mode. I’ve read a little more of The Rest Is Noise and just wrote a blog post, A new approach for composers, on about a new site I’ve found called Meet The Composer Studio – there’s some great content over there – have a wander round the videos provided by each of the six composers, and don’t miss Glenn Kotche’s Monkey Chant – brilliant! For comparison you can also creep off and listen to the original Ramayana Monkey Chant over on Ubuweb. Now I guess I should go and actually look at the quintet and see if I can do anything with it!

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Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Veg day

With parents gone to the Isle of Wight and Djeli home with man-flu, I decided to take a mental duvet-day myself. Watched TV (finally saw An American Werewolf in London), tended to Djeli’s needs for lemonade and Lemsip, went to my physio appointment and knitted a bit. The hat’s nearly complete now but, alas, I have run out of yarn with a mere 5 very short rows to go, so it’s on hold now till I can go out and buy a little more.

Oh! And I also made the Buttermilk Oaten Bread out of my new Teatime Baking cookbook. Verdict: Excellent flavour, but oven is totally mad. Before it burnt everything. This time it never even reached the temperature on the dial so the loaves didn’t cook through properly and ended up a little doughy. Flavour really good though, so they’re definitely worth another try.

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Saturday, 23 October 2010

Started knitting a hat

Having finished my great-aunt’s scarf, today I embarked upon a new knitting project – a quick blue beanie to go with my blue or purple scarf.

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Friday, 22 October 2010

Another reading day

But also a knitting day, a baking day, a piano-and-flute-playing day, a listening day and a composing day. Quite a productive day, I guess! My great-aunt’s scarf is about 6 rows off being finished. I am determined to complete it tonight – it looks lovely but I’m SO BORED of it. Really just excruciatingly dull. I have a re-moralising hat at the ready as my next knitting project. I baked a new recipe – oat biscuits from Tessa Kiros’s Apples for Jam – very easy, very tasty and while not strictly healthy, there’s a much more sensible fibre/sugar/fat ratio than other biscuits. Or at least that’s what I’m telling myself.

For most of the day though, I’ve been reading and listening. I started out while the mother was practicing in my study by occupying the loungeroom, putting on the Bax Symphony No. 4 and indulging in more of The Rest Is Noise. Then I got a little distracted after which I moved into the study and put on Janacek’s Glagolitic Mass while alternately doing a little knitting and reading some more of the Morton Feldman writings. I was going to dive in to John Cage’s Silence while listening to Strauss’s Salome, but I started taking notes on the Feldman and that ended up taking the whole of the chunk of the opera I was able to listen to before Spotify went mad and then my iPod decided it had had enough and it was time for a nap. I was most delightfully surprised by the Strauss. My mother so dislikes him that I’ve sort of grown up with this ingrained “Strauss bad – Debussy good” approach, but I really liked it – really meaty harmonies. Would be pretty impressive live, I’d imagine. I’d settle for a recording without buffering gaps though…

In the late afternoon I emerged from my burrow to find that parents had vanished, so I took advantage of the silence and did some composing. Nothing fabulous, and nothing string-quintetty, but the notes I had from earlier were so determined to be a piano piece that I figured it would be a good thing to at least start seeing what sort of piano piece they wanted to be. Any composing is definitely better than no composing!

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