Wednesday, 28 December 2011

On London And Its Effect..

I am reading 'Londoners' by Craig Taylor at the moment. It was my little gift to myself, and I received it sooner than estimated, so I was pleasantly surprised. It is quite interesting to read about all these different accounts, people with no faces... You can walk around in London and you don't really think about the number of people you will walk past. People say Londoners are rude, but then you can either argue: "Who are Londoners?" because it's true, it's hard to define properly, everyone has their own idea. As for myself, I like to think of myself as not really being a 'true' Londoner, but a... well, a traveller, maybe. A citizen of the world. Then there's the other argument. Would it really be possible to smile and say hello to every single person you walk past? Try going to Oxford Street, and do that. Go on. I don't think this is a rude city. I once was sitting on a bench in Southbank, eating lunch, when a guy with a "Big Issue" tag on a red trolley started talking to me. We had a conversation, we were polite. I said "Have a good day" when I left, he wished me luck on finding a job.

No, London is not rude, it is busy. You will find some nice people, but it all starts with you. There is no point grumbling about people on the tube looking miserable if you look miserable yourself, and yes, it's packed, people push, they are annoying. But you have to survive, you can't be excessively polite, you'll be trampled. It's a city that moves, it's fast, and if people are slow and take up the entire pavement, yes I will get annoyed, not because I am rude but because I want to get to my destination. Other times perhaps I am the one being slow. You can't win, because everyone is in different moods at different times in different places and you will always want to be right.. I do speed a lot, but sometimes I try to remind myself to stop, breathe, be calm, and admire something. Most often I will do that by the river, on a bridge. Then I am the one in the way... I love looking at the river, feeling the breeze on my face and being lost in thought. Often I will feel a twinge of something in me.. Nostalgia, perhaps? Some sort of strange homesickness, an urge to run away.

A few people talk about having a love/hate relationship with London, and I also feel that way. I can be walking around all day in crowded tube stations and carriages (Oh, the Jubilee line is bad... perhaps I just don't know the others well enough but they seem better) I can get really frustrated at slow people and tourists, and I admit I sometimes growl at annoying people and accidentally on purpose barge into the tall people - and overtake them in the street - to show that height isn't everything... ahem.. (And feel rather silly when a nice person then apologizes sincerely, and I can tell by the tone of voice, so then I smile and say sorry too...) By the end of the day I can be a mess of shattered nerves and high blood pressure, but then something amazing can happen... The other day I was with a friend, we walked all over Lambeth for a good six hours, and had fun talking to each other too, but then we went to Southbank and it was all lit, the Eye was blue and bright and the river glittered, and suddenly everything felt so dreamy, so poetic, and that's when you turn around and tell your friend: "This city is so beautiful, though.." as you stand by the railings and look at Big Ben and the Thames, eating mini Dutch pancakes and drinking Glühwein.

See, London by night is so amazing, and the river is beautiful, too. For me, it's more than just about London and the Thames, it's about what it means, what I think of... I can be standing near it and looking at the sky, and I'll be feeling nostalgic, melancholic, I'll have strong emotional whiplashes because of all the feeling it brings back. The river is more than that to me, it's the closest I can get to the sea, it's like a little part of it, freedom flowing through the city. Night time in London isn't just about the end of a day, it's like an entirely different place, and it makes me feel different, too. And when you turn to your friend and mutter in that thoughtful voice, as if philosophizing about deeper things: "Look.. The sky is orange..." and she replies "A city sky.." in that same tone, and you sigh and listen to the water lapping against the sandy banks of the Thames, that's the part you love.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Music For The Mind

After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.

- Aldous Huxley
I have been thinking about how I could best write about my feelings on classical music, and in particular, the concert of Monday 17th October. I'd decided to go and do something I hadn't done in ages.. Listen to live classical music and forget about everything else. Not being as familiar with classical music as other things, mostly because I don't often go, I had to start off somewhere. This "somewhere" was Sergei Rachmaninov (Also known as Rachmaninoff to some). I didn't particularly know a whole lot about him, but he'd been mentioned in a book I like, (I'm happy I realized that. It shows books still influence me. That's awesome.) and I'd listened to some concert pieces on YouTube. Then I looked for upcoming concerts that would include him.

On Monday night, after having more less finished things that needed to be done, I went to St John's Smith Square, near Lambeth Bridge, and bought my ticket. The act of doing something alone and feeling good about it, along with the fact I'd only paid a small amount thanks to my student card made me quite happy. It was still early, so I went to get myself a latte, but that's not interesting, so I'll skip forward to the actual concert. (Too bad, really, I could have also told you about the really cute mouse I saw. Heh heh.)

"Kensington Symphony Orchestra under Russell Keable. Stephen Goss's 'The Shard'; Maxwell Davies's Symphony No 5; and Rachmaninov's Symphony No 2."

This was the description of the concert on the website. Now for the experience.

“Composer Stephen Goss draws on a variety of sources for his eminently listenable music. Despite the eclectic nature of his influences, which range from Beethoven’s late piano music to the films of former Python Terry Gilliam, Goss’s musical language comes across as brilliantly integrated….” - International Record Review, April 2008.

I took a look at Stephen Goss's website, where he says: "The Shard is a short orchestral piece based on the iconic skyscraper that is currently being built at London Bridge. It was commissioned by the Kensington Symphony Orchestra." This actually quite interested me, as I hadn't previously made the connection when looking up the concert, or whilst listening. However, I enjoyed the piece, and though I don't have much to say about it, it was a pleasant moment.

Maxwell Davies says, about his piece: "The Symphony is based on material from my youth orchestra piece Chat Moss (1993), but behind both pieces is a hidden source: two plainchants from the Liber Usualis - the 'Haec dies' Easter music and 'Domine audivi' from Habakkuk 3:3. The music of Sibelius, in particular its possibilities of self-generating form, was also central to my thinking, having recently studied and conducted Sibelius's Symphonies 6 and 7 with several orchestras. "

Since moving to the Orkney Islands in 1971, Davies' music often draws on Scottish themes. During his piece, I could imagine myself on hills, and though I've never been to Scotland, I could imagine the scenery, and my mind would take me back to my holidays in Cornwall and Wales, the closest I could come to Scotland. At the start, the music made me think of a ship in a storm, fighting against the waves. I could hear the wind and the gulls, then the crash of waves against the hull, and overall had a very powerful image. It then seemed to die down, and a sound like the plaintive cry of a bird could be heard, creating a sense of greatness, of vast lands and peace, not quite loneliness, but a definite sense of being alone. As described by the conductor, it often felt as if the string instruments were being drowned by the deeper, louder brass instruments, and the moments where they managed to come back to the surface very much added to the feel of nature and windy hills. Towards the end, the soft strings played on their own, and we were left with a strange sort of feeling, a mix of abandonment, isolation, but not so strong as to be sure whether it was really loneliness, or just aloneness...

Sergei Rachmaninov's Symphony No.2 in E Minor.

Composed of four parts:

I. Largo - Allegro moderato
II. Allegro molto
III. Adagio
IV. Allegro vivare

This was the piece I'd been waiting for. I wanted to feel what others had been feeling when listening, I wanted to be taken away by the music and feel only the notes. I was not disappointed, and I truly enjoyed the moment, though it is very difficult to explain exactly why. I have included links to some videos on YouTube. Of course it will not be the same exactly as what I listened to, as conductors conduct differently, but nevertheless it will give an idea of what it was like. It is interesting to note that Rachaminov suffered from depression at some point in his life. Interesting because after he recovered he wrote Piano Concerto No. 2 which was enthusiastically received at its premiere and has since become one of the most popular and frequently played concertos in the repertoire. The fact that even after being deeply saddened over the death of Tchaikovsky, and recieving brutally negative critisicm on his First Symphony he managed to overcome his depression quite impresses me. It often seems as if most geniuses, great minds or people of great talent have suffered or still suffer from this illness. I wish I could say more to do this piece justice, but all I can say is I truly enjoyed it, I felt as though the music was lifting me up, and I would recommend a night of classical music to anyone. I left feeling exhausted, with tired eyes, but emotionally... revived. I leave you now with this last quote.

“Music is enough for a lifetime, but a lifetime is not enough for music.”
Sergei Rachmaninoff


Tuesday, 31 May 2011

A Tour of Art

Disclaimer: The following is my recording of events, and uses my own opinions. I do not consider myself an art expert and by no means am against modern art. I simply am describing the event according to my tastes in art, and do not mean to cause offence. Remember this is my personal blog, not a gallery description.

I have provided links to all of the galleries, so you can forge your own opinion. Please also check out the photographer's photos, and George's blog

A Tour of Art

Last Friday I was roped into an intriguing and somewhat interesting art themed 'tour' of the Deptford area. This was partly visiting galleries, and partly asking people in the streets to name his or her friend's best quality, after which they were awarded a sticker. Mine was blue, in case you were wondering. (You probably were not.) At first, at the very start, the photographer and I met with the organizers of the event at Tank Gallery in Ladywell. It was a small, white room, with a white table in the centre, a single brown chair, a TV on a small white file cabinet. A number of books were atop the table, one of those being "A Cure For Solitude", which would be helpful in such a room. It screams isolation. The photo of a cone on the wall emphasizes this, because it's a single cone, with no cone friends, and it's lying down. The other photo was that of a tree.

After one of the organizers shows off her raccoon/ red panda costume, I head back to the photographer's van and we zoom off to Deptford via small, twisting side roads, causing me slight motion sickness. Our meeting point is by Deptford rail station, in front of the Train Cafe. A couple of friends join us, causing me great happiness and an uncharacteristic display of affection, unlike my usually reserved self. The photographer recieves a yellow star for his "bizarre sense of humour".

We head to Bearspace, a lovely little gallery displaying interesting art, consisting of metal sheets on brightly coloured backgrounds. A group is filming there, so I may or may not be in someone's documentary/ art film thing. We make a stop at a nearby cafe, and whilst the organizers interview customers about qualities, my two friends and I enjoy a drink, kindly provided by Sunglasses Man. I have a latte, as per usual. The cafe itself is pretty cool, nice interior, and, even more interesting, they have a book exchange system. You can take any book you find interesting, as long as you replace it on your next visit with a book of yours. That is how I acquired The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. (How is that NOT synchronicity!?) Then again, I may be slightly too obsessed about that. ;)

Next step: Core Gallery. Plenty of Refreshments, including wine, which I could have had, but don't care much for the taste. Ah, I may be an adult but I sure don't have the tastes of one! This gallery has some interesting pieces, such as a bowl of pretzels I munch on throughout the visit. But seriously, some lovely artwork, and a funny demonstration of Sunglasses Man doing his art lecturer type act. ;)

My friends run off, leaving me to wonder if we are ever going to get a move on and visit other galleries. I vent out some frustration by eating pretzels and asking the photographer What are we doing now??? as if he would know. I text Sunglasses Man, something to the effect of How did he dare leave? Just kidding. I simply ask him if they ran off, then phone George, who answers her phone with an evil laugh, rather than the customary Hello? I give her a reproachful How could you leave without me, how could you? The guilt trip doesn't work, as she just laughs, and tells me to meet her and Sunglasses Man at APT Gallery. My first thought is that it stands for A Pile of Trash. That is of course, my opinion, but when the prize winner artwork consists of a jumble of yellow lines, it makes you wonder if the competition was for five-year-olds.

What is this??? Time Machine

Sunglasses Man and George leave, much to my dismay. Art is more fun with friends. The rest of us (we acquired a few more people I forgot to mention, partly because I don't know them and partly because they weren't quite interesting enough) head to Hatch Gallery. Intriguing. It seems the game is to find the hidden artwork amongst the bizarre displays. Good if you like a challenge. Explores the complexity of human minds. Or it just sucks, you decide. If you have imagination, you could write a good essay about those, just make it up. The pièce de résistance features a blue egg stealing another egg's yolk. Not appropriate for vegans.

We make our way through Deptford Market, and I spot a lovely cloud in the shape of a feather. It is golden hour and the buildings are illuminated. The group has separated, it is back to the four of us. The two organizers decide to get Vietnamese food whilst the photographer and I head to our next destination...

Our final stop: The Old Police Station, right next to the new one. Come here to bust your ears and listen to noise. The cells, however, are pretty cool and display photographs which look digitally altered, but they are not, according to the artist. Exciting stuff when you know you won't spend the night inside. Whilst the others are still eating in Deptford Market, the photographer and I go and buy burgers. I haven't eaten all day (practically) and am famished. We then faff around in the police cells (well, I do, mostly. Just me, actually) and politely inform the organizers that it's late and are they gonna finish up already? A few more photos are snapped, and we announce our departure. Before anyone can waste more time, the photographer and I make a run for it in his getaway van. Two seconds later one of the organizers calls, but that just makes us feel even more like getaways. An interesting night indeed.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Art is not what you see...

As an artistic person in general, I couldn't go to the Tate Britain (and on a lovely sunny day, too, as you can see!) and not write about it. Now, you may or may not like London, and if you don't, you may not enjoy this blog... (unless I can convert you to loving, or at least liking, London.) You may also like or dislike art. If you dislike both London and art... errrr... sorry!!
If you like at least one variable, yay you! And if you enjoy both... you truly have taste.
Now, if you do go to the Tate Britain anytime soon, be sure to check the Romatics Exhibition. Especially the Turner paintings, they will make you dream and wonder, they will strike you with awe, and you will most probably be even more amazed at the talent he showed at a young age. And wow, does his style change. It is fantastic to see pieces develop like that. If you enjoy, get postcards. Or posters. Or both!! And take many photos. Just turn off the flash and be discreet. I managed! ;) Art isn't just about copying what you see, but interpreting it and painting with feeling.