June ArtStart Reflection

Another jam-packed month, and I’m now halfway through my ArtStart year. This monthly reflection coincides with finishing up in the UK, so I’ve been both concluding activities here and planning for the next lot in the second half on the year.

With some sadness, I finished my course of lessons with Carla Rees last week. It has been great to work on some low flute fundamentals with Carla, and to hear how she has created a career for herself through performing and other musical activites. We spent quite a bit of time in the last lesson working on bass flute. I’m playing bass for a piece at the SoundSCAPE Festival next week, and was keen to get some practice time in ahead of the festival itself. I haven’t played bass in about a year now, and was finding it rather frustrating – surely I could make a fuller sound in the low register! Strong embouchure, lots of air but slow air. Hopefully some more time at SoundSCAPE will solve this.

I’m flying to Italy tomorrow morning for SoundSCAPE, and have been getting excited. I’m playing four new works by composers at the festival, along with some chamber music and solo pieces, and will be giving a presentation on new music in Australia as well. The next two weeks will certainly be busy. I’m hoping to have some time for daily blogs, but in a more creative vein than those I wrote at Trevor’s. Stay tuned!

No final exam, but I did get a certificate!

No final exam, but I did get a certificate!

On Tuesday, I finished my Practical Financial Management for Small Businesses course, rounding out with a class on taxation. While this and week nine on VAT have been rather UK-specific, I think it will be easy enough to transfer the concepts to Australia (or anywhere else for that matter!). I won’t miss the class, but it was well-taught and I feel much better equipped to deal with money and budgetary matters in a chamber ensemble or small arts organisation in the future.

Then comes organisation for my trip to the U.S. in August. I’ve booked flights to Washington D.C. for the NFA Convention, which starts on August 13th. The program came out a few days ago online, and I’m amazed at how many events are running concurrently! Each days runs from 8am to midnight, with up to seven or eight concurrent events across concerts, lectures, workshops and repertoire reading sessions. I feel like I’m going to need to allocate an afternoon to sitting down with a highlighter and working out where to go. Then I’m heading to New York for a week, where I’m having some lessons. This part of the trip is not yet fully sorted, and I need to spend some more time following up with flautists and Harvestworks, where I’m hoping to take an electronics class. I’m definitely having a lesson with Robert Dick, and will be preparing some of his Flying Lessons to work on.

Fun with Max - a tutorial on basic maths!

Fun with Max – a tutorial on basic maths

Finally, I’ve also sat myself down and made a start on Max MSP. The software has a number of segments, with Max being programming and MSP being the audio component that I’m interested in. I rather optimistically thought that I could just dive into MSP, but couldn’t many any sense whatsoever of the first tutorial! So I’ve decided to start at the very beginning with Max tutorial 1, and am now up to no. 10. The language itself is quite user-friendly, and I’m finding it easy to understand the processes and the reason behind it. However, it feels like there’s a lot to do before I can start working on programming for flute with electronics. The challenge will be starting to build my own patches and remember what all the various objects do!

At the halfway point of my ArtStart grant I feel pretty on top of things. While I haven’t yet undertaken the two major projects of the year, one is imminent and the other is feeling less daunting the more planning I do. I’m on track to tick off everything on the list, though some things like Max are definitely a long-term project. It was sad to hear this month that the Australia Council for the Arts will no longer be offering the ArtStart program due to government funding cuts. It will be sorely missed on the Australian arts scene.

May ArtStart Reflection

Time is flying by, and I am now entering the final month of my time in England. While my overall blog has been a little quiet of late, I am happy that I’ve been making good progress with the ArtStart side of things. Here is what I’ve been up to:

I am now six weeks into my Practical Financial Management for Small Businesses course. We have covered a lot of ground, including financial forecasting, income statements and analysis of account. As the course has progressed we’ve had some classes that I feel are very relevant to what I’m hoping to do as a musician, and some that aren’t at the moment. The class on ratio analysis, for example, was interesting but not terribly relevant for managing chamber ensembles. It has, however, prompted me to be a little more daring with my use of MS Excel for designing spredsheets, which will help with organisation and budgeting no end.

My lessons with Carla Rees are continuing, with a double lesson extravaganza this week. We worked on Stravinsky and Boulez excerpts as well as one of the Jolivet Ascèses and a brand new piece written for me by Australian composer James Wade. I was utterly exhausted afterwards, but feel like I’m learning an awful lot. We spent a lot of time talking about differences between alto and C flute, especially in terms of colour. On C flute we aim for a homogeneity of colour across the registers, but on the alto we need to embrace the differences between high and low a little more, using the colours to our advantage. I need to remember to resonate rather than pushing the sound. Also, when I need to project the sound as in the Stravinsky excerpts, I need to think about how to achieve this with colour rather than taking the written dynamics too literally. The Boulez was a particular challenge, both technically and conceptually, and I’m looking forward to spending a lot more time on this piece.

It is now less than a month until the SoundSCAPE Festival, and I’m now knee deep in preparing repertoire for that. I’ve been allocated an interesting and highly varied selection of new commission pieces: C flute with lots of whistle tones, multiphonics and quartertones (with bassoon, percussion and piano); bass flute with quasi-theatrical indications and some interesting staging (with double bass and piano); C and alto flutes with soprano, guitar and percussion. I’m also playing duets with some friends from last year, giving a talk on contemporary music in Australia, and preparing some solo pieces. It is going to be a lot of work, but I’m already getting excited.

After SoundSCAPE, I’m flying back to Australia, and will be moving on to a few more of he ArtStart activities in the second half of the year. There is still a lot more on the cards, but looking through my breakdown of activities I feel more or less on track still.

Based on some outcomes from job applications in Australia (for better or worse), my trip to the U.S. is now very much back on the cards for mid-August. I’ll be starting off at the National Flute Association Convention in Washington D.C., then heading to New York City for about a week for some lessons. At the moment there feels like an awful lot to do in preparation for this, but I’m hoping to get that sorted in the coming weeks!

April ArtStart Reflection

A very belated ArtStart blog for April, as I have been off travelling then settling into my new place. That said, a lot has happened, and the next two months will tick a lot of things off the to-do list for this year. Here’s the digest:

I started my Practical Financial Management for Small Businesses course at City University London on April 28th, and have now completed two out of ten classes. Though not obviously the first thing I would spend arts development money on, I do think it’s probably one of the most important sets of skills I’ll be filing away from this year. A basic understanding of finance, I hope, will set me in good stead for managing chamber ensembles in the future, and presenting clear budgets for funding applications. That said, I’m definitely not the typical student in my class – most are starting out as small business entrepreneurs. So far we have covered double entry, income statements and balance sheets, The maths isn’t difficult, and I’m managing the concepts quite well. I’ve managed to get all my ‘homework’ done on the train home after class!

Now that I’m following my own plan with practice, I’ve had a bit more time to start working with the AirTurn foot pedal and my iPad. I’ve learned that I can’t just upload PDFs as they come because scrolling down a page with the foot pedal makes me loose my place. Instead, after reading this excellent blog by UK clarinetist Heather Roche on using an iPad in performance, I’ve been using MS powerpoint to do a bit of a cut and paste job. If possible, I’d still prefer to turn the page during rests, thought am finding that I’m getting used to the footpedal. Some scores are also really small, and so putting then into powerpoint allows me to blow them up a bit! The best thing I’m finding about this set-up is that I can change things quickly, and without having to worry about printing at all. However, it does mean that I need to make sure my iPad is charged before practice sessions!

This week I’m starting my lessons with UK alto and bass flautist extraordinaire Carla Rees, which I’m very excited about. Back in October I escaped up to Windsor for a day, and I’ve been revisiting the notes and advice from that lessons. We talked a lot about alto flute sound, and making sure that I was producing the biggest possible sound on the instrument. Carla suggested I play Bach, and so I’ve been playing quite a bit in the last week. Rather than return to flute music (I’m keen to play it, but with a little more distance from Trevor’s course), I found a transposed version of the 3rd violin partita for treble recorder, and have been particularly enjoying the Gavotte and Rondeau movement. The prelude is a great exercise for intervals, but not great for playing all the way through on flute – there really is nowhere to breathe!

In the coming lessons, I want to work both on alto flute fundamentals, and get my teeth into some good contemporary music. There is so much wonderful music out there that my wish list is probably already too long!

Things are also starting to look exciting for the SoundSCAPE Festival in July. As well as the commission pieces for ensembles that we work on there, I’m also working with some composers on solo flute pieces that I’m hoping to perform. Last year at the festival, I did some work on the method book The Vocalization of the Flute by US flautist Jane Rigler. It’s a good step-by-step guide to singing and playing, which gives lots of exercises and studies. Ordering it has been on my to-do list for the last nine months, and I’ve finally got round to that. I should have done it much earlier – in PDF form the book is only US$10! I’m hoping to prepare some of the trickier studies to work on at the festival.

As for my US trip…it’s still at the same stage it was last month, waiting on the results of things back in Australia. I’m trying not to get too frustrated by this, and rather to enjoy what I’m up to at the moment and get everything I can out of the experience!

March ArtStart Reflection

A slightly belated ArtStart post for March, what with everything finishing up at the Flute Studio course and now being on holiday for a few weeks. The last month of ArtStart-related activities has been something of a step backwards and a reconsidering of options, but I now feel more or less on track again. Here is what I’ve been up to:

The AirTurn PED for my iPad arrived, which is exciting. I waited a little longer to get the PED rather than the older BT-105, as the PED was both cheaper and lighter, and am really happy with it. I’ve been using it in the practice room with scores that are on my iPad, but haven’t had the chance to test it beyond that as Trevor wasn’t terribly into technology. I have the ForScore app on my iPad, and need to play around a bit with sorting out page turns still. At the moment, I loose my spot when the page scrolls down…

In the first week of March, I heard  back from Bang on a Can, and wasn’t accepted to the program this year. It was a bit of a disappointment, but I have no idea who else applied so shouldn’t be too hard on myself. The question then became how to redirect my ArtStart funds in a way that gives me a similar musical/education experience but coincides with other plans. Various friends and mentors suggested summer programs in both the U.S. and Europe, and I’ve spent quite a few hours looking through them all (and my diary) trying to work out the best options.

In the end, I’ve decided to return to SoundSCAPE for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I want to go to a festival where I can play chamber music with a broader range of instruments than just flutes. Much as I love the flute, I’m yearning for greater diversity in the music I play, and think that I would find a flute summer course a bit frustrating. I’ve had my six months at the Flute Studio – bring on something a bit different! And then, while there are some other courses on in June in the U.S., I’m still committed in England. Going back to SoundSCAPE will give me another opportunity to work closely with Lisa Cella, and I know the ropes so will be able to prepare some challenging pieces. I’m also going to be giving a talk on contemporary Australian music as part of the festival!

So where does that leave my U.S. trip? I’m still planning on going, at least for the NFA convention, but am also awaiting the results of some job applications in Australia. I hope to be able to fit in some lessons in NYC as well, but also need to look into the possibility of them happening during (or maybe directly following?) the NFA convention.

The end of March means I’m already a quarter of the way through my ArtStart year. While some things have been ticked of my list, and others are well on the way, I’m also learning that making a career in the arts is never a straight road. Things change, and where one door closes another hopefully opens. At the moment, it feels like I’ve thrown lots of juggling balls up in the air, and need to wait for some of them to land to decide exactly what happens next. Which order they fall in will be the difference in choosing one path or another, which at once feels like an exciting and terrifying way of deciding things! I now know I’m coming back to Australia in mid-July, but still need to plan out much of the path once I’m there.

Day 177 – March 26th – Tim Tams

Another short one, as I’m getting a bit fed up with things to write long posts. Mum came bearing Tim Tams, which I shared with the class over lunch.

DSCN6274Otherwise, we got our projects back, rather earlier than expected. Surprise, surprise, Trevor was critical of mine, this time because it was “written for children”. Considering that for part one I wasn’t writing with children in mind, I would have thought this might be a compliment, but apparently not. Otherwise, information was good and the pictures were fine, so I wonder whether he was just finding something to say?

I finished the book of Altès studies in class, but felt like I rather limped over the line. I got through it, but with no finesse or enjoyment, and dropped notes because I was nervous. Despite really liking the Muthel sonata, I also played that nervously and with little enjoyment. I’m quite happy for today to have (hopefully) been the last day of playing classes, and am ready for the next step of my musical life.

On the up side, it’s now confirmed that I’m going back to the SoundSCAPE Festival in Italy this summer, which is very exciting. Bring on awesome contemporary chamber music!