Friday, June 18, 2004

Orange juice, freshly squeezed, with bits

The freelance life often feels like juggling oranges. You have two hands and six oranges and you have to keep them all in smooth motion, without dropping or squishing any. The great advantage of this peculiar existence is that if one of the oranges turns mouldy, you have five left that are still OK and room to bring in a fresh one, if and when you can pick it up.

Journalism, especially in such an 'elitist' field as music, is an uncertain game that involves a lot of frustrated, ambitious, egotistical people (yeah, me too...) who may behave in unpredictable ways. Sometimes they do so at the top of major decision-making corporations, which is the scariest thing of all. For instance, the announcement that BBC Music Magazine is to be shifted lock, stock but no staff to Bristol has hit us freelancers hard in the goolies. Not that the staff have been sacked. They've merely been informed that that is what's happening to the mag and they can go with it if they want to. Unfortunately, they mostly don't.

Bristol is a lovely city: trendy, attractive, nice place to raise a family etc etc. But it's not exactly the centre of the musical universe and getting to London by train takes an hour and three quarters. So far, no editor has appeared on the scene. Daniel Jaffe, author of the Phaidon biography of Prokofiev, has bravely accepted the Reviews Editor post, but as far as I'm aware, that's it. Nobody knows quite what the future will hold.

Meanwhile I am juggling frantically with the more certain oranges in life. This week I have to review a bunch of CDs, write an article about Music for Youth for an arts-in-the-community publication, play with Tom in a charity concert tomorrow afternoon, see 'Beloved Clara' at Chelsea on Sunday afternoon, interview a top music film-maker, prepare material for two substantial articles for said BBC Magazine and organise my interviewing schedule for a five-day trip to the Vilnius Festival in Lithuania next Friday. I have to fit in meetings, a haircut and a full day's training on 23rd for a new string to my bow (of which more if I get through). Definitely feeling squeezed.

But there's good news amid the stress: 'Beloved Clara' got picked up from my Independent article by BBC R4 Women's Hour - Lucy is going to be interviewed by Martha Kearney today and the broadcast will be tomorrow (Saturday) afternoon to trail Chelsea.

Also, I'm thrilled to bits about going to Vilnius. I'm going to find my roots: I'm informed that I had an ancestor in 18th century Vilna named the Vilna Gaon, a famous rabbi, Talmudic scholar and community leader. More usefully, I am going to interview the festival directors and a wonderful composer named Vytautas Barkaukas, whose new double concerto is being played in the festival by Nobuko Imai and Philippe Graffin (who I must thank profusely for suggesting that I go there and setting up the contacts for me. Listen, Philippe, if you ever get tired of playing the violin, I shall appoint you my literary agent!).

Apparently 'thank you' in Lithuanian sounds like someone sneezing. Achoo. Or something like that. More about this after I've been there.