Saturday, September 16, 2006



Someone recently commented in my blog and, very kindly, pleaded with me not to go on a writing course.

I am the girl who, now living in France with a pretty good handle on the native tongue, failed French O’level. My teacher was so surprised that I should do such a thing she insisted on having the exam remarked. It came back with a sad note that I had failed the French exam because my English was so bad.

("There was this guy - Bernard Rieux. Well he's an existentialist and I really fancy him. When the plague comes along, man....Woooah!....")

When I was eleven I went to boarding school. From there I wrote sheaves and sheaves of words to people at home describing the gruelling 6 am musical dictation class and the handsome boy from Rome. Alone in Germany aged seventeen, I found nothing more comforting than sitting down, before my cello practice, in front of a blank piece of paper to describe my flatmate Rheinhardt who, when he smiled, broke a faceful of pustules. Mostly I never did any cello practice. I just kept writing. Then I waited for the post.

On tour I carried a notebook everywhere. Whilst my collagues shopped for Italian leather shoes I sat in cafés for hours trying to make my experiences real by packing them in to sentences.

At twenty-seven I was holding fast to the idea that form was the enemy of artistic freedom. Practicing scales, thirds, sixths or studies were a sure way to lose my creative voice and I certainly wouldn't consider analyzing any of the music I was playing. Of course, with my raging war against form, I was blocking the very thing I was trying to preserve.

Just outside Bologna one day, at two in the morning, the van carrying the instruments crashed and my old English cello was smashed into a hundred pieces. As if it had been my own body torn limb from limb, I found myself suddenly unable to play. Seeing that I was having some kind of musical breakdown, a friend suggested I went to study in New York. I just went. I couldn’t think of anything else to do for a year. I stayed four years and it was there that, through form, I found my freedom.

I went to a silly school for gifted musicians. I never learned the value of scales or harmonic analysis, and I never learned about grammar. I never learned about the roots of language through Greek or Latin and I have no idea how to make a narrative arc so, though I may be nuts, in order to find some more freedom in my writing, and in order to discover my voice, I have applied to go on a writing course . This time I am hungry for form and freedom, both.

ps. anyone in Paris who wants to hear us play we are at the cité de la musique on September 30 at 20.00 and October 1st at 16.30.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why would someone not want you to learn? Fear?

8:34 PM  

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