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THE RASPY YODEL OF THE ISLAND SWANS KEEPS YOU LIGHT ON YOUR FEET
Think. Choose five things to take in your suitcase and two more for your pockets! We’re off to the remote Finnish isles of Näsijärvi! Undaunted, Little E selects a congeries of dollhouse paraphernalia and playmobil princesses while I make a quick note about my own desert island items. My parents-in-law are still astounded by the volume of stuff we schlepp with us to survive a week on the treasured family saari, but I can honestly say that I try to keep it to a minimum. If you must, blame my city-life mentality and enthusiasm for the potential that only a blank page in my diary can harness. A whole week with an island to ourselves! Unlike other people’s holiday dreams featuring endless beaches adorned by straw huts and Bond girls, I like to populate the island with characters from the books I intend to read, ideas of the music I’m hoping to write, general plans for the future and to-do lists. My understanding of dolce farniente means having the freedom to bathe in my own world of cultural references without being disturbed by any phone calls or emails. Wonderful!
Alas, one geographical position is not like another and islands in particular offer a different vantage point compared to mainland metropoles. Unexpectedly, from across the water, my usual way of life resembles an anthill viewed from the moon. Time is of no importance here and the heap of books I brought sit unopened for the most part. The silence is broken only by the raspy yodel of the swans across the lake and the occasional princess-doll being chased by imaginary island monsters. A few thoughts are still spinning in the back of my mind, but otherwise I have succumbed to the dreaded notion of doing absolutely nothing. I have become isolated in the original sense of the word.
So, here’s a bit of advice on how to make most of your summer peregrination and where best to estivate this year:
Travel to outer space
I have the pleasure to invite you to An Evening with the Planets at The Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck on Wednesday 24th June from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM. You will be treated to a few short talks on planets, missions into space and the weather system outside Earth by specialist scientists. This will be followed by the premiere performance of a new piano duet Pluto and Charon - A Planetary Waltzwhich I have co-composed with Minna Orvokki Nygren to mark New Horizons, NASA’s current mission to Pluto.
After a journey of 3462 days, the unmanned spacecraft will finally approach Pluto on 14th July. Taking as a starting point the original plates which allowed the discovery of this dwarf planet by Clyde W. Tombaugh in 1930, we have created a piece about Pluto and its moon Charon that follows their interlocked dance at the outskirts of our solar system. We used the distance they travel and their relation to other celestial bodies around them to generate the musical material.
On this occasion, Valentina Pravodelov and Kerry Yong will give the premiere performance of this planetary waltz and refresh your interest in this recently discredited planet, which is after all the largest object in the Kuiper belt and worthy of this commission by the Centre of Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck. Tickets are free and include free drinks, but snap them up fast before they are gone! You can find all the details here.
Travel like an insect
Be a fly “on the wall” at the Philharmonie Luxembourg on Friday 26th June at 19.00 and see if you can recognise the wood for the trees! I was kindly invited to stage pianist Cathy Krier’s concert starring Barbara Buntrock (viola), Eva Boesch (cello) and Nils Kohler (clarinet) who will present a fabulous program of Janacek, Berg, Kurtag and Kontz. I have extended the concept of my staged piano work Like a Moth to the Light, originally developed in collaboration with Ellan Parry and Kristina Hjelm, which is part of the program. The additional theatrical aspects of the concert will allow the audience to dive into an imaginary landscape of stridulatory greenery and insectile acoustics, a fun approach for new audiences as well as the classical ‘sea of grey’.
The event is part of the celebrations for the Philharmonie’s 10 year anniversary and the tickets are free but must be reserved in advance! Here is a little glimpse of what to expect with the film of Like A Moth to the Light as recently featured on I CARE IF YOU LISTEN TV. More information and tickets here.
Travel to the most westerly point of France
Ever thought of spending your summer island hopping in Brittany? Here is your chance! The isle of Ouessant (Ushant) awaits with its extraordinary festival Musiciennes à Ouessant and its inconspicuous euphony of birds of passage! While rushing around the Breton or English ports, you might be shushed for muttering the word “Ushant” around seamen, as the name of this island has struck fear in sailors for centuries for its treacherous seafaring. But where better to land shipwrecked than on ‘The Women’s Island’ as it is also known.
You will find me there first week of August, amongst the brown-black sheep and the six lighthouses, looking out onto the Atlantic. The work of the celebrated Luxembourgish composer Lou Koster (1889-1973) takes centre stage this year at the festival and I have rearranged two of her large orchestral works for smaller forces: Moselträume for accordion, marimba and violin as well as her famous oratorio Der Geiger von Echternach’, reduced here to its essence, for violin and (imaginary) dancer. We will also hear the première of my own Traum, which is inspired by Moselträume and commissioned by CID-Fraen a Gender.
Travel to and from King’s Cross
Take part in the new happening I am devising for this year’s Tête-à-Tête The Opera Festival Kings Cross on Sunday 9th August! Bon Voyage! promises an opera flash mob that will make you enjoy the sound of wheels on tarmac like you never have before, and make you smile at tourists for the rest of the summer. Sign up here, tell all your friends and bring your wheely Samsonite,Victorinox or Trunki along on the day.
There will be a short practice run to grease the wheels at 11.00 on the day, then you will have the joy of a whole afternoon of brand-new opera and music theatre, before Bon Voyage! starts its rumbling journey around 18.10 and sends us all in a good mood to the closing party of the festival. Suitcases will be stored in a safe place throughout day, in case you are worried about the size of your 4-Wheeler fitting on your lap during the other shows.
Accompanied children are most welcome and, in fact, the participatory performance is suitable for all ages, no matter what age you think you are! Come along and help set wheels in motion to push the boundaries of new opera!
Don’t travel at all
There is something to be said for staying put. Let the world travel to you! My new online music shop Noutefabrik is officially open! It means that you can easily convince my musical scores to travel to you by post at the click of a button. Hold them, own them, play them, colour them, study them, share them or decorate your walls with them. The scores come in all sorts of formats and sizes, a supposed tribulation for commercial publishers who like printable A4-sized scores and PDFs…
At Noutefabrik, we delight in finding solutions for unusual formats and produce all scores with great care and a bit of love. I consider the musical score an important and often underrated tool which can become part of the theatre of a musical performance. This is why the look and format of my scores always go with the concept of the pieces. So far, the most sought after products have been the brand-new Kartenspiel, a miniature score in the format of customised playing cards for violin solo that fit every performer’s bermuda pocket, as well as the ever-popular poster-score Tea Ceremony for solo harp. Do visit Noutefabrik and check back as I will continue to add products.
You can also wander through my thoughts on composing and leadership in an article by H. E. Rybol. Finally, I am delighted that my happening for singing birdwatchers Twitching recently travelled all the way across the Atlantic for special performances at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY, thanks to Rosanna Moore and the Eastman School of Music’s OSSIA group. I would have loved to witness their raspy yodels, chirps and squeaks!
Wherever your wanderlust may take you this summer, stay light on your feet and befriend the birds of passage you encounter, seeing as “no man is an island, entire of itself”. Bon voyage!