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HOW TO BE A GOAT IN THE YEAR OF THE SHEEP
I’m not too fond of new beginnings. At least not at this time of year. My circadian clock was set to academic years at the age of six and, thirty-something years later, it is very difficult to change the calling of that cuckoo! Come 31st December, I raise half an eyebrow listening to friends’ resolutions while briefly mulling over my own existence. But no thanks. This is not the time for me to start afresh. Unlike the Janus-inspired zest of Pope Gregory XIII who refined our year-numbering in 1582, my own circuit of huddled deadlines, challenging hurdles and leaps of excitements commenced last September, about four months ago. No need to start over at this point just to follow the herd.
So, there I was, more intrigued than disquieted, monitoring their turnout around the kitchen bin at the ceremonial consignment of their latest source of provender. It occurred to me that I might stand amongst an abundance of familiar souls - after all, the ancient Chinese belief that the souls of the deceased come back to visit their loved ones as moths, should not be brushed under the carpet unconsidered.
Then, last week, I got an invitation to celebrate Chinese New Year at Little E’s pre-school. Apparently, on 19th February 2015 I will help jumpstart the Year of yáng - which translates as the year of the sheep, goat or ram depending on your preference - with a party to oust last year’s mighty horse and enthrone a member of the Bovidae family as the next patron-mascot of the Chinese calendar. “Blimey”, thought the 76-born-dragon within me. Do I need to ponder another new beginning? A propos, I am not the only one who appears out of sync with counting à la Gregorius. Wikipedia’s extensive list of alternative calendars suggests that most of the civilised world must be using non-Gregorian and, in some cases, nongregarious means of organising time, some of which are way more far-fetched than my adopted school calendar with its down-to-earth roots in local farming. But instead of getting too hung up on society’s Sisyphian zeal to turn the page, I simply decide not to follow the herd and keep to my own schedule. Anyway, I much rather be a goat in the year of the sheep, than a sheep in the year of the goat! So, no new year resolutions from me. Instead, just a few tips on how to surmount the year of the sheep as an accomplished goat:
CLIMB WITH NIMBLE EASE AND HOLD YOUR BALANCE
As young aspiring pretend-princesses, my grandfather would make us walk with nimble grace around the house while we balanced books on our heads. Sometimes he would join in with his granddaughters. We soon became experts in judging books, not by their covers, but by their physical bulk as thick volumes of brittle paper weighed down our pleats with their wealth of words. Our book evaluations became more refined when we actually learnt to read, but I always kept a fondness for a perfectly balanced folio.
Many years later I was interested in creating a solo violin score small enough to balance in the palm of a hand with an intimate sound world that would hush weightlessly around the room and hover like a domino game of pretend-clouds. First performed in Tokyo last March, Kartenspiel will sound again at the Spectrum Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia where Tomoko Kiba, who commissioned the piece, will perform with Ensemble Lucilin tonight, Wednesday 21st January 2015.
SPREAD ACROSS THE FIELD
My staged piano piece Like A Moth To The Light is taking flight! Armed with wings and fans, Cathy Krier will defy the bright lights of Wetzikon (Klavierissimo Festival near Zurich, 31st January), Limoges (Festival 1001 Notes, 2nd February) and Paris (Goethe Institut, 4th February). Audiences will discover untrodden fields of choreographed sounds and pianistic movements which, together with Kristina Hjelm’s lighting design and Ellan Parry’s costume design and scenography, create an unusual setting for a piano recital for this plucky papillon de nuit.
For those of you who can’t make the live shows, but are inquisitive enough, the true spirit of the moth was captured on film by director Yann Tonnar in collaboration with the CNA earlier this academic year and will be available to watch soon. Stay tuned for more details.
On 12th February, my band French For Cartridge will play the Brixton Windmill for the ultimate art pop night: Pop Composition. Needless to say, we will be in our element here! It has been a good while since we last played the eclectic Windmill, back when its sound man went by the name of Capt’n. I am curious to see how the wind blows now! Tickets and more info at http://windmillbrixton.co.uk
TEST FENCES AND ENCLOSURES FOR POSSIBLE APERTURES
After Cornwall, the Misbehaviour art show is coming to London to test behavioural fences and transgress the norm. Opening on 13th February at the Art Pavilion in Mile End, it will run until 22nd February with plenty of accompanying events and workshops.
A chest of delightful drawers will give visitors five opportunities to behave or misbehave within the context of music today. Unlike other “furniture music”, this interactive installation is a playful investigation into the subjective perception of the somewhat frayed and elusive value of music - a fun and thought-provoking experience for the whole family no matter how (mis-)behaved.
On the opening night (Friday 13th February, 7-9pm), we will perform an ever-so-slightly misbehaved version of my opera happening Twitching. If you would like to take part in the performance, please get in touch. No yodeling skills required. You can also check out previous performances from Tête-à-Tête the opera festival (foyer performance and terrace performance).
And of course you will also have an opportunity to enjoy my installation Is there music in this drawer? and the rest of the exhibition.
OBSERVE AND LEARN QUICKLY
Dinner With Daisy is back with another night of new music, wondrous art and other all-sorts at our usual haunt, the Jamboree in Cable Street Studios on Sunday 19th April. The line-up is not yet complete, but so far we can confirm the appearance of Icons of Elegance presenting their new album Lightships, Ellan Parry, Sarah Grange and their new opera-theatre posse will enchant with an ice-sculpture and other arctic treats, composer Caroline Wilkins will give us a taste of her brand of music theatre and songsmith Matt McKee will delight with his indelible voice. You will find further details a bit closer to the time on www.dinnerwithdaisy.com .
ON OCCASION, ESCAPE
Spurred to action by all-round nippiness, you might already be planning your great escape for summer! Once you are over the fence, set sail to Ouessant (Ushant), a small island in Brittany where a fabulous music festival awaits you. You will want to be there especially on 4th and 5th August when I have new pieces and arrangements performed there. Rumour has it that you have to reserve your boat well in advance to be there at the right time because the Ouessantins keep to strict numbers on their buoyant vessels. More information on this in my summer newsletter and here.
LEAVE FLOCK BEHAVIOUR TO THE SHEEP
The film I recently composed music for, Atelier Luxembourg, was shown on RTL Television this month and it is now also available to buy for 10€ on DVD from the CNA shop. It might not sell quite as much as ‘Shaun the Sheep - The Movie’, but you will reveal yourself as an intellectual hipster goat by watching this brilliant, sharp-witted documentary on art.
Also, an excerpt of my piece Iceland Spar is included on Ensemble Lucilin’s anniversary sampler CD called 15. I’m not sure the album is for sale, but if you leave your sheepskin at home and attend one of their concerts, you might just be able to blag yourself a free copy!
So there you are! Living the year as a goat amid a hoard of sheep should be a walk in the park! Still, I will attend Little E’s new New Year celebration at the nursery in February - even as a goat. No matter how out of joint my own time is, whether I function on Unix time or follow the Igbo calendar, I still think that every day is a good day to have a party with a little flock of pre-schoolers. N’est-ce pas?