A Summer Book List

Hello again! Now that summer is in full swing, with unexpectedly good weather here in Edinburgh, I thought a change of theme to something more jolly would be fitting – hence the new theme! When there is a nice day – which for me tends to be a fresh, gentle breeze, partly cloudy sky and temperature around 14 degrees – I am drawn out to the bookshops (Waterstones and Blackwells are the two nearest to me; both are useful for different things). I always go to Blackwells first, since it is the closest to where I stay. For a few years now I’ve been obsessed by Japanese culture and the Japanese language, following my travels there a few years back. I have failed miserably at finding a teacher, despite having tried to do 50/50 language tuition over the internet with someone who has disappeared in a manner of speaking (I am too repulsive, even over the internet?!), so my Japanese is basic at best. The thing I feel quite good at though is, despite having no teacher, I’ve learnt all of the hiragana and katakana characters,  and am also building up a good knowledge of the kanji characters, of which there are considerably more.

Being a major anime and manga fan, I am naturally drawn to Japanese names. They catch my eye. I realised this as I was in Blackwells, and the works of Haruki Murakami, a previously unknown writer to me, stared at me from their throne on the third shelf down from the sign ‘Fiction’. Amongst his most known works are The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, 1Q84, and Norwegian Woods. I haven’t bought these books yet, however I’m slowly building up my Summer Book List:

  • The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Haruki Murakami (£8.99)
  • Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, Haruki Murakami (£8.99)
  • A new Japanese textbook which is much friendlier and easier to follow (£63.99)
  • The Kodansha Japanese Kanji Dictionary (£55)

Unfortunately I haven’t got £137 to spare on books. Life is tragic, especially the part about literature. Literature is tragic, especially the part about life. Dum tee-dum…



Summer’s Near: Let’s Get Down to Music

Hello everyone – apologies for being so late. This is my first post in around 57 days! I’ve been very busy with school work etc., however now that things have died down I can write a bit and share some more of my favourite music and talk about some things that I’ve been getting up to.

So this is Beethoven’s A Major Sonata for Cello and Piano, performed by no other than Jacqueline Du Pre and Daniel Barenboim. It’s a piece that I’m working on over the summer, along with the 1st movement of Prokofiev’s Cello Sonata. I hope you enjoy it – I’m not going to write anything on this piece yet until I’ve played it more and understand it more – and enjoy the calmness of the opening!

It’s June – nearly the end of term for us – and summer is tantalizingly close. My friends and I are feeling trapped in our claustrophobic society of musicians, and our even smaller friend group. What do we feel is the cure? *HOLIDAYS* Usually I feel like planning holidays kind of defeats the purpose – they’re supposed to be stress free and easy-going – however this time, I have pretty much booked out my holidays, promising myself that I will do certain things.

Thing number one is a family holiday to Paris. Family holidays, to me, have bad connotations; when I think of family holidays, I remember the many years where my mother, brother and I would travel around Europe and Scandinavia, and my brother would then act-up and make the holiday an absolute misery. Now, seven or eight years later, my mother and I can speak far more French than back then; however my brother, fifteen months my junior, I feel will act-up still. Maybe it’s just an association I make with my brother, and it’s unfair to expect that kind of childish behaviour from him, yet I cannot imagine family holidays going smoothly at all!

Number two thing to do is the second of two orchestral courses I’m doing with the National Youth Orchestras of Scotland (NYOS). I love orchestral courses – orchestral playing is invaluable, and you get to play some amazing music. That being said, these courses are a big commitment financially and physically, and a whole week of intense music-making takes its toll on your other work.

Thing number three is composition I must do over the summer for when I get back at school in September. Next year, we have to write several pieces that get recorded and sent away for examination. I set my marker high as I felt like my teacher expects me to produce increasingly good work. After conversing with my friend who studies composition more seriously than I, and who is a fellow cellist, he challenged my to writing a concerto-form piece for solo instrument and chamber orchestra, as he had done the year before. Of course, I had to take up the opportunity; however, we write in completely different styles – I write in a traditional, Romantic style and he writes in a contemporary, boundary-pushing style. As he suggested that I do this I thought that maybe I could combine the two and do a kind of Neo-Romantic concerto (abomination). I think that it will be a good exercise at the very least, and I look forward to doing it!

Number four thing to do is the general music making and practising I must do. During the holidays I hope to do some concerts with my friend, who is a flautist, up north near where she lives. Hopefully this will helped quench my thirst for travelling and freedom – it was the French composer Debussy who thought that inspiration could not come without travelling to different places regularly (I’m pretty sure I read that in an essay recently). In addition to this, I have new repertoire to learn over summer, including the Beethoven I shared, and my teacher is certainly keeping me busy.

I think that I’ve been in Edinburgh for too long – although it’s a bright, bubbly and interesting place I feel bored and restricted by it. Perhaps I need to travel a bit and spend time in a new place: it can only be good for me.

Schubert Sick Leave – Competition Adventures

Lo – I have returned! Apologies for the absence of posts in the last couple of weeks. I always forget how busy March is every year. My excuse for not blogging is that I have had lots of concerts and rehearsals in the last fortnight. The only reason that I am blogging today is that I am at home, off sick, exhausted. Though all the concerts to do have not been done yet, I have until Monday until rehearsals get back into full swing, so this seemed like a good opportunity to catch up on rest and cure illnesses.

Last night our Schubert Quintet competed in a Chamber Music competition. We did the 3rd movement of the Schubert String Quintet in C Major – the Scherzo -, just a few hours after a few of us had competed in a Solo recital class. The leader of our Quintet won the recital class – he certainly deserved it as his musicality is fantastic and his technique is exquisite – and we all were very proud of him as we walked to the next competition venue. We grabbed some food on the way, ate, and then started rehearsing (again) – two whole hours before the competition started!

We practised in a small chapel, did plenty of intonation exercises, and went over beginnings and endings of sections of the piece. Before long, the competition started, and we went into the main hall of the church – a grand, ornamented, wonderous place in all honesty. After the first group performed we grabbed our instruments, which we had perfectly tuned beforehand, handed the score of the Schubert to the Adjudicators, and set up.

Doing chamber music from memory is unconventional to say the least, and when we placed our stands to the sides of the stage we got some chuckles from the audience. There was only one piano stool (cellists tend to prefer sitting on an adjustible piano stool as opposed to a chair) so I had to sit on a chair which, in truth, was far too low for me to sit on. We checked our strings for tuning. We were all out of tune ever so slightly. This really took us by surprise, however we tuned fairly quickly, checked everyone was okay and calm, then played.

The performance was a bit shaky, even though everyone said it was a fantastic performance, and there were a couple of memory slips from a couple of us; however the music went on regardless and seemingly these mistakes were undetectable. We received enough applause for three bows, and then the Adjudicators came up to our group and said “We’re speechless”. It was very exciting – we really didn’t think that we were that good!

After they had asked us a few questions, such as “Where do you study?”, “How long have you been playing together?” and “Will you be doing all fifty-five minutes of the piece by memory?”, we sat down and watched the last group (there were only three groups as the other six had withdrawn!) perform. In all honesty, this trio of musicians were outstanding. They played this practically unknown “Fantasy Trio” for Clarinet, Cello and Piano. They were all post-grad music students, and their performance was very refined indeed.

In the end, the trio and our Quintet were both given an “Outstanding” mark by the Adjudicators, however the trio received the medal. We all agreed that our performance was far from perfect. In truth, little things can throw you off your game. In this case, the surprise of our instruments being out of tune after we had tuned them was probably the thing was distracted us. That being said, my advice to all musicians performing chamber music is this:

Always remember that you are playing music.

Music is expressive art at the height of its glory.

In the end, everyone has to express themselves when playing music.

Feel the connection with your fellow musicians.

There is a known phenomenon amongst musicians:

When you cut out all your visual senses,

(Which take a lot of energy from the brain),

Your other senses take over, and are heightened,

If you can feel this all the time you have entered a whole different realm of music-making,

And I assure you that you will never feel the same about music again.

Daily Prompt: Shake It Up

You’re 12 years old. It’s your birthday. Write for ten minutes on that memory. GO.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us RECKLESS.

Hello everyone! Sorry about lack of posts as I have been very busy with rehearsals and work etc. and the “craptop” situation really isn’t going anywhere soon. Hopefully I will also be posting up a bit about getting some guest bloggers in as well to help with post shortages, so stick around as that should be going up in the next few days (once I’ve figured out exactly how to add them!)!

My 12th birthday was amazing. My voice had broken the summer before so now I had gained a deep, resonant bass voice. This was the centre of all the fun I got from my friends. So on my 12th birthday I decided to throw a party – the first one since I was five years old. It was a stand-up comedy party (yes, I was cool back then) and I invited four people; three girls and a guy. Two of the girls have always been inseparable so I made them dress up as Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee (right spelling?) whilst I myself was the Mad Hatter. The other girl was Alice and the guy was the Cheshire Cat – he even dyed his afro white and pink!

The stand up was hilarious. Led by myself and Tweedle Dum, who is still an absolute comedy legend it has to be said, we had good fun – the sort of fun that was accompanied by several pizzas. I also invented a game which I still find hilarious. The goal was to eat as much chocolate as possible after doing an assault course. The faces that people made were unearthly and it’s a shame I don’t have any on camera! At the party we even knocked a projector of its fixture on the roof! Reckless, roaring and darn right out of my mind, especially when everyone was leaving…

Reckless people:

  1. Care to Dare | Rima Hassan
  2. BFF | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  3. Tinkerbell’s home | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  4. Daily Prompt: Shake It Up- Family | Journeyman
  5. Brent’s Ten Dollar Idea And The Daily Prompt | The Jittery Goat

Daily Prompt: I Did it My Way

Describe the one decision in your life where you wish you could get a “do-over.” Tell us about the decision, and why you’d choose to take a different path this time around.

Photographers, artists, poets: show us ITERATION.

Despite trying not to, I live with regrets. Life is too short for regrets but they seemingly latch onto your conscience like some parasite. But the think I regret the most in life at this precise moment in time is aligning my bed again the wall of my room the faces outside.

In our flat, there was a problem. The outside walls of the flat building needs fixed, and there are multiple problems within the wall, including water getting in. The result was mould and disgusting – urgh! – things that first came in small amounts. Large supplies of bleach-saturated cleaning spray were purchased and the mould was killed off until the next “round”. The problem is that the warm air of the flat makes the perfect opportunity for mould to grow on the wall nearest the outside. My bed was aligned against the wall at the time, and there were two spare mattresses underneath the bed as well. This amplified the effect, and mould could be found under the – urgh! – bed!!

It’s gone, thank <many deities>, but not after it had kept the air of the room moist and had ruined all loose papers in my bedroom! They all got slightly damp if left out. It was horrible. My books, also, were ‘moistened’ and the pages, although devoid of mould, are slightly ‘warped’. I like to keep books as perfect as possible, something I’ve just always liked to do (mind you, who doesn’t?). It still gets to me. So the problem was the bed alignment, because the largest amount of mould was under there (no mould anywhere now, and the bed is in a different place). I would certainly think again about doing that because it’s ruined a lot of things. Take heed – if you think there is a problem with any of your walls, especially on the nearest side to outdoors, keep objects of furniture away or loose your books!

Other iterations:

    1. Thawing inch by inch | Never Stationary











Daily Prompt: Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves (Unfortunately)

What’s the household task you most dislike doing? Why do you think that is — is it the task itself, or something more?

Photographers, artists, poets: show us HOME.

By household task, I hope one means ‘a task which is done within a household’. At home people put up with me playing on the piano (it’s crazy having a baby grand in a tiny flat, I know). It drives them up the wall sometimes. Shouting. The slamming of doors. All because I need to practise. Music feels like it’s the whole world around me. For example, I was walking through Princes St. Gardens today at around 8am, and I saw the first squirrels and rabbits I had seen since Autumn last year. There were noticeably more bird calls – some very elaborate ones could be heard.

This is what I mean by music being the world. Even though I’m not a massive fan of extremely contemporary music, contemporary composers use sounds and noises in their music. I find that bird-call can be surprisingly tuneful as well as noisy. Similarly, pitches of the whines of vehicle engines as they speed past you can also be tuneful. It breaks my heart sometimes when I have to be silent to let others work, I guess, because of how much it means to me. When there is silence I feel trapped in my own head. It’s true that there is music in silence – you can very easily hear music in your imagination. However, for someone like me who uses music as a means of communicating to people, it can feel restricting.

That’s the household task I hate the most. The silence of a working home.

Other homes:

    1. Daily Prompt: Those Dishes Won’t Do Themselves (Unfortunately) | Basically Beyond Basic

    1. Pipework | Perspectives on life, universe and everything

  1. The Travels of Zack | The Jittery Goat

The Blessing of a Cuppa and a Cookie

CookieSometimes the evening can be boring. Sometimes the evening requires a cookie…and possibly a cuppa. Cuppa tea, cuppa joe – whatever you fancy. My personal favourite beverage to accompany a cookie is coffee – good, strong, black coffee – however this particular evening we have run out of the delicious, nutty drink and I am having yet another cup of tea made from water boiled in a saucepan.

It’s quite funny actually, since we are on the subject of recent household disasters, our kitchen sink overflowed this evening due to a blockage, and the washing machine was on. The entire kitchen area (which is not the biggest in the world, let’s face it) flooded. We had to halt the washing and lay down all the dirty towels we had to soak up the liquid. The ordeal afterwards to rummage through cupboards to find a plunger was both exhausting and frustrating, as we realised there was no plunger to be found – we had put it in the rubbish a while back!

So after that we were all definitely ready for the cookies! Cookies are, for me at least, one of the symbols of childhood homes and family – you’d make cookies together as a family, watch them bake and eat the delicious project of the whole family’s (mostly parent’s) efforts and methods. Tonight, as you can see, we were not eating home-made cookies – at the very least the kitchen area was off-limits in our heads! One of our number ran over to the shop to get a small packet to share instead.

I think there’s an element, for those of us who enjoy and eat cookies, of nostalgia and reminiscing about the past years when you eat cookies. Isn’t there a Pixar-animated character, a raccoon, who adores and goes on about cookies? Yup – that would certainly be me! Although probably to a lesser extent; I really don’t go on about cookies that often. Maybe then I would be more of a ‘mad cookie lady’, like the cat-woman from the Simpsons (is that a Copyright breach?).

Anyhow, I think you can agree with me that there is at least a large cookie-loving community amongst the Peoples of the World. Just look at the picture – there’s a beautiful, rounded simplicity to a cookie. It wants to be eaten! Many a time have I tried to keep some cookies for a later date, however several if not all of us have the temptation just to reach into a cupboard and get even more out to eat! I laugh – maybe then is this a moral question?

Or is it the chemicals put inside shop-bought cookies? Maybe is that a moral question? Is it wrong to effectively drug the children eating the cookies?

There is a major confession needing to be made then – everyone is a child, and I most certainly am at the best of times.