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Those who can, sing; those who can’t, write…

 

Gardening is all very well, but it has its limits. It’s almost been worth being locked down to have grown Padron peppers…

…but not quite,

so when I’ve shut the greenhouse for the day I open the laptop. The Observer re-published part of a Guardian comment of mine about Covid revealing fissures that already existed in the music profession, and CUP have told us that A History of Singing is being translated into Polish (the first time any of my stuff has had a formal translation).  This time last year (remember that?) I wrote the liner notes for Arve Henriksen’s fantastic Timeless Nowhere vinyl box set and I’ve now finished  a note for Jacob Heringman’s forthcoming Josquin album. It’s been a huge pleasure to write for such friends who are also amazing musicians. There is no trumpet player like Arve (he SINGS!) and Jake’s first CD of Josquin intabulations is one of my favourite renaissance recordings.

Lockdown and the constraints of Coronavirus have forced me into a proper writing routine. I’m in the process of finishing the book that began as an update to Vocal Authority eons ago and has at last morphed into its final (and much more readable) form.  My decade or so in  academia began to acquire a slightly more rosy glow as it faded into obscurity; my thoughts on the frustrations and missed opportunities mellowed to such an extent that my old day job  doesn’t really feature in the new book at all. I’ve abandoned the Gramscian theory that underpinned VA (it started life as a PhD thesis…) and replaced it with real life.  It’s called From Leonin to Led Zeppelin: Adventures in Old and New Music, and  it’s basically a fairly upbeat account of how performance has worked for me, with three interludes salvaged from a lost Hilliard travel diary. The final chapter touches on performance in a post-Covid world and will obviously be out of date as soon as the ink is dry, but if the old mainstream is coming to an end I hope my experience (which has been mostly outside it) might be reassuring to those who now find themselves having to survive on their wits.

So…I’ve written the book and grown the veg, so what’s next? Well there’s still no singing yet, even though singing quietly (which is what I do) is now thought to be less dangerous than going to the pub.  Alternative History is still hoping to reconvene for a concert and recording in Madrid in November, so we’ve got our fingers crossed for that one. All of my gigs that were in the dairy before lockdown have been re-scheduled for next year, which is very gratifying (and still a long way off, which is good). I still can’t face the thought of Zoom performances as the whole point for me is sharing the physical, acoustic, musical creative space with my fellow musicians. Friends have done some streaming and I speculate a bit about this in the book; I’d hoped to be able to give advice about streaming licences and so on, but I met with a very curt and unhelpful response the PRS.

I may be running out of things to do. I could re-visit one of my shelved novel attempts, but I guess everyone’s doing that. It may come down to re-doing the double-glazing.

 

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