Travel Update &misc. / by petergregson

Having just been reminded that it's been a good few months since my last blogpost, I think it's time for a pre-Christmas roundup. Since my last post, I've been to Helsinki, Belgium, Avignon, Paris, Berlin, New York and Zurich - in each city, I've started writing a new post, but every time I've fallen at the final hurdle.. so here goes.

I spent the most incredible week working with Pekka Kuusisto ahead of our collaboration for Aldeburgh's 'Faster than Sound' situation next May. It was my first time in Finland, and it was wonderful. First of all, concert halls in Finland are awesome. Second, Finnish people are delightful and third, I like cold rainy places, so it was ideal.

Other than thinking and developing ideas for our concerts next year, I've been working on some sketches for my next album, and now have a workflow which makes working in hotels actually preferable to home, which is just as well I suppose. I'm developing a new-ish sound for me, it's really stripped back and really clean... I remember, years ago, reading a Phaidon book. I don't remember which one. It had two pages, side by side, with two images of glasses of water. On the left, the photo had all this clever depth of focus and lush filtering on it, and was captioned "this is a photograph of a glass of water". On the right, it was (if memory serves) a polaroid. It was titled "This is a glass of water". I loved the simplicity of that then, and I love it now. I'm trying to make that sound, which is in stark contrast to the ballet score I've just finished.

It's been really tricky, but incredibly rewarding, working with a new creative team; to listen to your own music come to life before your very eyes is like nothing I've ever seen or heard before. Between dance studios, recording studios, hotel room studios and the venue, it's been a comination of goosebumps and sweat (dance studios aren't ventilated), but oh me, oh my has it been worth it. It opens on February 4th, and it'd be awesome if you were there.

Because there are also 107 different things going on at precisely this time (which is great because I hate being bored), I'm currently faced with really specific problem: how to apply excitement to the correct place.

I'm in a very fortunate position to (currently) be excited by all of the work on my plate. Lucky me! However, it's really hard to segment it all... especially if variety is a desirable facet, and for me, it is. For a few projects next year, I'm finding that simply putting myself in a different space is enough; be that a studio, my living room or a different city, it really makes a difference. The influence of place on composition has fascinated me for a while, and it's something I'm really keen to revisit sometime...

One thing did haunt me this year, though. A campaign to place classical music in unexpected places.

I don’t want to sound like a petulant child, but I really don’t want to hear or perform music on a street corner, in a vintage clothes shop or in the corner of a disused coffee bean roasters near a busy underground station. I don’t think the works we spend our lives practicing and refining should be snuck into a shop so people don’t notice, then when they do, assume them to be a customer/fan/devotee for life.

The best coffee comes from places where they specialise in coffee. The most convenient coffee comes from McDonalds. Convenience and quality are not the same.

I want to present music somewhere where the it fits, where it sounds at its best, and where we both, audiences and performers alike, can feel inspired. Showing the elasticity of music does very little for this at this expositional stage of the 'customer acquisition journey' , except for screaming that we’re desperate for attention and have decided, somehow, that diluting quality of delivery is the answer to increasing popularity.

Here's one for you: maybe the role of music isn't to be popular. Maybe success (in our 'classical-ish' world) is a by-product of exquisite attention to detail and exceptional delivery.

I have no issue with the reaching out - my issue is that we feel the need to put all our eggs in the point of sale, not the product. This wouldn't represent an issue to me if we were consistent with this, but actually, the after-sale message is “thanks for listening, now come to the real thing”. Again, place is a thing. Relaxing music in a stressful environment doesn't magically de-stress the environment. Bach on a commuter train is not going to eleviate commuter hell; it turns it into muzak, and that is of very little benefit to anyone.


2013 is going to be a lot of quite big announcements, but I'll leave that for my January post. I'm just back up in Edinburgh now for Christmas and looking forward to a bit of a breather... see you in the New Year!