Soldiering On

It’s been a while since I updated my blog. The reason for this is very simple. I have been mainly now slogging away at my PhD, trying to get it finished by October. I have been writing my PhD since October 2006 which now seems (and is) a long time ago. I consider myself a terrible writer. However it’s more truthful to say I am a bad self-editor. I rarely can face going back through my text re-wording things. I have now thankfully got beyond the stage where I make large-scale generalisations about things I don’t really know about so content is not often the problem but I find the process of looking at each individual sentence, reading it through and making changes tiresome and depressing, and trying to remember interesting things about pieces I wrote 5 years ago is difficult.

There have been some non-PhD related updates though and here they are:

Daffodils, a new piece for baritone and piano (poetry by Alan Gillott) was premiered by Paul Carey Jones and Ian Ryan in the Late Music Concert Series. The piece was fairly sight-read and there was one egregious wrong note in the performance but it went down really well and I was approached by a potential commissioner afterwards. My piece was being premiered next to a wonderful set of two folk songs written by one of my heroes, composer Sadie Harrison. For the pre-concert talk I was asked to interview Sadie and she was a delightful person to get to know. Here is the recording of my piece if you’re interested:

I had met piano duo DuoDORT at a university seminar late last year and subsequently they had asked me to send them a copy of Transcriptions, an old set of piano duet transcriptions (inspired by Kurtág’s Transcriptions from Machaut to Bach) I had written for a friend, so that we could play them together. I thought it wouldn’t be their kind of thing but sent it off anyway and thought no more about it. I was then surprised to receive an email weeks later saying that they liked them and would be playing them at a concert in Marlborough the very next week. It was a lovely surprise and although it was too far to travel to watch I hear that it went down well. It was a world premiere of the set.

One of my poems was published in an arts/crafts magazine that was started by one of my friends. Cassiopeia Magazine is a great wee publication. I have no say in the editorial process but I did design and program the website. I’m not too proud of the poem but am grateful for being included.

Think that’s just because I’m friends with the publisher? Guess again! I won bronze in the Grist 100 metre sprint poetry competition on Facebook recently. The brief was to write a poem about your home town that would make someone want to visit it. I wrote “400 pubs” on the spot and am reasonably proud of it. I was the first entrant (I’m not sure how many people submitted). I’m very flattered that my punt worked and despite it not being in that other discipline I have been studying for years, it was nice to get some recognition. I should point out that I have never entered a musical competition. Here is the poem that won me a whole £10 and a copy of the Grist anthology:

Four Hundred Pubs

Are there any better reasons
to visit York: “The Death of Ambitions”,
Conversations bubble, a fluent
flowing and overflowing,
the thresholds of medieval stone
lapping a lick of trend painted bars
breaking a damn in the balmy hours
what safer, soundlier, pedestrian place
to rock up and get slowly
and quietly shitfaced,
hear the fingerpicking punts
of Mawk and Indie?

Go away for a while
and coming back home.
You’ll realise just how
middle class you’ve become
and the hundreds of little
shop windows attract the
hitherto public house custom.
A broiling, bubbling Breugel ensues.
Here tourists gawp, here kids amuse,
here pounds are exchanged
for a purple face.
There, ignored, are the musicians
with straight As.

And so the whole bloody thing goes on.
The shops and ale houses
passing another to one
and when, of an eve,
you finally get up to leave
perceiving long years when
other people have made
progress, money, work
under a bigger dome
You tend to think “sod it”;
Landlord, another one!

– Edd Caine

Yes – a cheesy end. Maybe one day I shall revise it.

The other big thing that is happening is that as my time at university is coming to an end I’ve had to decide what to do with my life post-completion. For the minute I’ve decided to have a break from academia and will be looking either for permanent employment or for more projects to apply for and create. In the meantime I will be moving to the French Alps where my parents have a place at least until I’ve finished my PhD. This is a temporary move for mainly financial reasons but it will be a nice place to rest up and plan the next step. If you follow my website you’ll see that for the first time since I started it there are no upcoming events. This is largely because until I’ve finished I’ve decided to lay off the application forms and avoid other commitments for a while. By the end of last term I was completely exhausted and because I’ve decided I absolutely want to finish this degree this year and not take a writeup I’ve had to soldier on. This has proved difficult and draining but I’m confident I will finish if not on time, then within a couple of weeks.

Additionally! I’ve been listening to a lot of comedian Richard Herring recently and have been interested in how he goes about doing things. As an experiment I’ve created an audio version of this blog a la his “Warming Up” audio blog. Each blog from now on will be accompanied by an audio version. Here is this week’s:

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