SPRING/SUMMER 2020

Aren’t viruses impolite? Unannounced, they sprawl on the periphery of our minds, shifting inconspicuously into an unsurprise with a sprightly ETA on our own personal turf! Mille Millions de Mille Sabords! Even before the current elephant moved into the room, recurring bouts of tonsillitis have left the kids wondering about this sort of animal. In Tiny E’s mind, germs and bugs are small flying creatures which, when caught between your teeth, attach themselves to the back of your throat and grow into oystery tonsils. Out come the scratching “throat-lo(m)bsters” and the pinching “stomach-cra(mp)bs”, together with other pain-inducing crustaceans that have melted into one big heffalump wreaking havoc inside your bellies and bones. A child’s imagination… Perhaps.   

While governments grapple with the size of this new animal, we continue to etiolate, basked in the digital glow of our isolated worlds. Yet,   

we clap –  as a sign of appreciation and encouragement for the health service, the key workers, the kids at home, and whoever can use a little godspeed. We probably all deserve a pat on the back at this point! Different from the clapping I was expecting this month, which was to do with the Arzu & Gamze Kirtil’s piano prowess and the ludic nature of my new piece for four hands: KÜÇÜK EV – THE LITTLE HOUSE. I am glad I was able to capture their sisterly complicity at a concert in Brussels earlier this year. Enjoy it as a little pick-me-up in the comfort of your own küçük ev.

we sing  –  for the birds, as the wind carries the chorus of the quarantined through deserted streets. The confinement is being felt by most as a real test of endurance, especially if the sky is only accessible through your windows. Over the last year, I have been doing a lot of research into the concept of endurance and the various ways to deal with it for the marathon-work12HOURS, for voice and electronics, commissioned by Rosie Middleton. Some advice we came across included having short-term goals, breaking the duration up into shorter, more manageable parts, and, regarding these smaller increments of a mammoth task, reminding yourself to think: I have managed this before, I can do it again. A residency at King’s Cultural Quarters/Somerset House in February culminated with a “short” 4-hour trial of this theatrical sound bath. I hope we will be able to share a day-long performance with you before long, but for now I leave you with a little write-up and some of Olga Ivanitskaya’s photos.   

we resist – and show resilience. We reach out. Composer Claudia Molitor has started collecting scores which keep the performer/tinkerer alive in us and connect us while socially distancing. These exciting A4 scores can be performed by anyone, alone or with others through video conferencing. I have contributed KNIT ONE – PURL ONE, instructions for single or double musical rib to be played using knitting needles (or chopsticks). You can find the collection here.  

we stare  –  through windows, expecting a change of scenery. We find pleasure in small things that went unnoticed before – a squirrel jumping, the sound of an empty bus as a beacon from the past, a neighbour waving hello. It’s good to stick your neck out occasionally and feel the wind on your face. I have recently been working with SHOAL on the topic of air and winds. Together we have devised a new piece which was going to premier in Manchester at the end of this month. We’ll of course have to wait until the winds change before we further explore the characteristics of five mighty currents of air, which inspired the strategies and theatrical elements in this work. For now, you can get a first whiff of it from my Instagram @ffcat account.  

we scream –  for ice cream and, in my case, because I’m on the cover of the new Icons of Elegance single, blasting from your radio and soon streaming from your favourite platform. Officially out on 24th April, Sliver of Hope is the first of a lovely batch of new songs by the Växby brothers. Save the link here and you will have it at your fingertips on release day!      

we draw tally marks –  like barlines on manuscript paper. Even if the world is on hold, time isn’t standing still, and there is lots to do. I am just getting started on a new orchestral score for the Solistes Européens Luxembourg. I began my research for this with a visit to Bishopsgate Institute’s fabulous Suffragette/Suffragist archives as well as enjoying Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. This commission is supported by the Luxembourg Ministry of Culture and will eat into my isolation time, together with a new ensemble piece for Ars Nova Luxembourg, a reimagining of Vivaldi for Nadine Kauffmann (soprano saxophone) & Anik Schwall (cello), in addition to ongoing collaborations with flautist Jenni Hogan and writer/theatre-maker Roswitha Gerlitz. There is more in the pipeline, but that’s for another time. I really can’t wait to see all these projects come to life when concerts will eventually resume.    

And while we wait –  the lockdown requires a new focus on the quality of things: how durable a material, how perishable a food, how strong our immune systems, how important superglue, how precious a kiss, how French Captain Haddock’s swear words?! When the ordinary becomes extraordinary, we recalibrate and adapt our values to the new situation. For sure, it is important to ask yourself the right questions! In our house, we seem to have developed a simple test for objects and, on occasion, for people too: can it or can it not go in the bath? A fundamental question which triages the contents of your life with some Kondo-ish clarity. Do try it for yourself!   

I hope you have soap aplenty for all the baths and unbirthday washes ‘n’ wishes needed for the foreseeable future. May your own lo(m)bsters be kind to you!   

‘til next time,  Catherine