Saturday, October 08, 2005

Rites of publishing...

UPDATE 3.35pm: OH MY GOD, it's already up on! You can pre-order RITES OF SPRING here right now!

The bound proofs of RITES OF SPRING arrived yesterday. Bound proofs, in case you've never met any, look like normal paperback books but are actually a kind of mock-up, less polished and requiring correction, but useful for advance promotion, book fairs, sales of foreign rights etc. It's the nearest thing I've seen yet, though, to My Novel In Print. Publication date for the hardback is scheduled for 13 March (they promise me it's not a Friday) and paperback should, I hope, be sometime in May. My agent will be taking her bundle of these to the Frankfurt Book Fair in a couple of weeks' time.

For the moment, I'm staring at the spine of this almost-book that bears my name, the title and the immortal words HODDER & STOUGHTON, trying to get my head around the fact that I've 'done it' . I have to try, however, not to look inside at the text because every time I do, I find something I want to change. And now I can't.

"Artistic fulfillment", for want of a better expression, is very different in writing from that of music. A musician works for weeks, months, sometimes years towards a performance: then, on the day, you're on the spot, producing the goods and feeling the energy coming back to you from people listening. In writing, however long you work on something, when you finally release it to its audience, all you can do is sneak an occasional glance at them while they're reading and say daft things like, "Where are you up to?", "Do you still like it?" or "You know that bit where....well, do you think it's believable?" The immediacy of emotion that you feel in performance is missing; on the other hand, if you've written well enough, the impression you convey has a much better chance of being what you set out to convey in the first place. And unlike a concert, the book on the shelf will be there forever. It's a tad scarey to reflect that RITES OF SPRING will be gathering dust in a library somewhere long after I'm pushing up the daisies........

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Read this one aloud

A chicken goes into a library, goes up to the librarian and says: "Book."

"Ah?" thinks the librarian. "A chicken wants a book?" She pushes a book over the counter to the chicken, who tucks it under one wing and goes out.

An hour later the chicken is back, pushes the book over the counter with its beak and says to the librarian: "Book book." The librarian gives it two books. It tucks one under each wing and heads off again.

Two hours later the chicken comes back, gives her back the two books and says: "Bookbookbookbookbookbookbook...bookbookbookbookbook" So the librarian gives it a whole pile of books. The chicken balances the books on its back between its wings and goes away.

At the end of the afternoon, the chicken comes back with all the books and returns them to the librarian. She's very surprised. "Hey," she says, "for a chicken you certainly get through a lot of books."

"Oh," says the chicken, "they're not for me. I've been getting them for my friend, the frog. But every time I give him a book he says: 'Read it. Read it. Read it. Read it."

Monday, October 03, 2005

hanging in there

Combination of lifting suitcases, sitting in cars for too long and worrying about the new book seems to have done in my back, yet again. Hence lack of recent posts, and, no doubt, of current coherence. I made it to half an hour of the LPO's rehearsal at the Royal Albert Hall yesterday but couldn't face sitting through a three-hour concert, so went home and MISSED WYNTON MARSALIS, about which I'm none too happy.

The LPO is touring Britain with Marsalis & his New York jazz band & a gospel choir in a big piece for big forces that he's written called ALL RISE. The orchestra is seriously excited about it - Tom says it's one of the best things he's ever done. I love big band jazz and was looking forward to hearing them in action - but the chairs in the Albert Hall eventually sent me and my lower back home for a hot bath instead. Watching the rehearsal - during which the unlikely combination of Kurt Masur and Marsalis proved quite an original team - was better than nothing, though.

Personally, however, I do have issues with the question of mingling jazz and classical playing in this way. I kept wishing the choir would shut up so we could hear the jazzers. It's a perennial question in the music magazines: do such joint-force efforts, whether with world music or jazz or pop, create something new and stimulating and inspiring, or do they water down their originals into some kind of three-legged hybrid that doesn't quite work? I always try to take the first view, but do sometimes find myself landing with the second despite myself. What do people think about this?

You can see the show in Manchester tomorrow (Tuesday) and Glasgow on Wednesday.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

j'adore la France...

Hi folks, back to business as usual after long-awaited week on summer hols in the south of France. Coming back to London after basking on the Cote d'Azur is a bit like Dorothy going back into Kansas from Munchkinland - in many respects! - but mainly in terms of the weather. There is something very, very GREY about England. All the colours are pastel, muted, mild, and just that little bit nondescript. Mediterranean colours are truly colourful...We saw Nice, St Tropez, the Ile de Porquerolles, Aix-en-Provence, Grasse (where they make all the perfumes) and several adorable little towns with markets to die for. What is better, in life, than feasting on freshly baked olive bread, a selection of French cheese, locally grown tomatoes, marinated olives a la provencal, fresh melon and white nectarines and a delicious bottle of local plonk that would probably sell for 12 quid in Waitrose??!? Even arguments in the car couldn't dampen things (I belong to the "I think it was that one" school of navigation...).

Will pick up the musical pieces very soon. In Provence we listened to Ravel, Canteloube, Poulenc, Faure, Berlioz and, um, Brahms. (Who wasn't French. But imagine if he had been..........)

Meanwhile I have October issue cover features in not only BBC Music Mag and About the House, but also The Strad - interview with the truly gorgeous Nikolaj Znaider.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Listening & reading

My friends are busy and so am I! Some news, some things to listen to, some to watch out for, some to read...

Leon McCawley has a new CD out: actually, three new CDs. It's the complete piano music of Hans Gal, a much-neglected figure who fled the Nazis and settled in the UK. He is also neglected, of course, because he insisted on writing beautiful music during the wrong part of the 20th century. He also wrote some excellent books on Schubert and Brahms, inspired by the fact that so few books on music were being written by authors who were musicians themselves. I sense a kindred spirit. Unfortunately he proved too obscure for most of my editors, but I urge you to hear the music. Avie Records has a special offer on this release at the moment.

If you're in northern France, Philippe Graffin's festival Consonances de St Nazaire is now underway and runs the length of this week. Philippe is an expert at creative programming, but this year he's really pulled out all the stops. I wonder whether any British festival could get away with what he's cooked up? Have a look...

Speaking of festivals, pianist Lucy Parham is putting together a Schumann Festival to celebrate the anniversary year about to hit us. It will be held in the Cadogan Hall in Chelsea in February and as well as an orchestral concert with the Royal Philharmonic, a Lieder recital and a coffee concert on Sunday morning, it will include my 'Beloved Clara', with Lucy joined by actors Joanna David and Timothy West. Lucy's website includes a designated Schumann Festival page, but this is currently still in development.

Also at Cadogan, Tasmin Little will be playing Nicholas Maw's fantastic violin concerto on 10 November, in a concert celebrating the compser's 70th birthday.

And on 25 September Roxanna Panufnik's new work for singers and orchestra, The Hare and the Tortoise - her third setting from Vikram Seth's Beastly Tales - will be premiered at the Windsor Festival by the City of London Sinfonia - more details here.

Stuff of mine coming up soon (no online links yet, sadly): all those singers are beginning to appear in print! The interview with Placido Domingo about Alfano's Cyrano de Bergerac, and much more, is out now in ABOUT THE HOUSE, the Royal Opera House's magazine (free to friends but also available in the ROH shop). Interview with Jose Cura should be out in the Indy this week sometime. Interview with Barbara Bonney (remember that Salzburg trip?!) should be out any minute, the cover feature for BBC MUSIC MAGAZINE's October edition.