Dates: 22 April-25 May 2018
I applied for the BBM Youth Award for Music in order to develop professionally in three areas; my classical flute performance practice, my research into cross-cultural music studies, and my interest in teaching Alexander technique for musicians. My month-long itinerary consisted of various music lessons, workshops, Alexander technique teacher-training days, and a music conference in Lisbon, Portugal. In this report, I hope to capture how wonderful this trip’s experiences were for me and how they have carried on to my current work.
Figure 1 Testing out various flutes, buying new music, and catching up on flute news from the locals at the Top Wind flute shop, London! Wonderful, warm and friendly shop owners and staff.
I was in and out of London quite frequently during my trip; there were many interesting discoveries that came out of the lessons, concert experiences, and conversations. I’ll try and touch on a few of these!
The concert experiences were rich and varied, and full of cheer; full audiences of all ages, much enthusiasm expressed by both hosts and the audience – London’s enduring passion for classical music was clearly evident. One of the first concerts I attended was at the Royal Albert Hall “movie music” concert, while I still had really terrible jet lag at the beginning of the trip. I vividly remember swivel seats and popcorn/ice cream/beer yielding audience members, standing ovations, much celebration and banter about the royal baby, live twitter reading of audience feedback via twitter and it was all very overwhelming for my senses that night – definitely a distinct “London” buzz. Most of the concert tickets (at student-price) cost 5-10 pounds – which was amazing! And made it very easy to get to a concert nearly every night.
The concert I remember most fondly was Mahler 9 conducted by Simon Rattle courtesy of Antonia Berg & Gareth Davies (principle flute of LSO), to whom I was so grateful for the tickets. Concerts like these don’t exactly happen overnight in Australia, so seeing Sir. Rattle conducting for the second time in the flesh felt surreal and LSO’s performance of the Symphony was full of impassioned energy.
While in London I stayed at a few places; alternating between a share-house with one of my close high school friends, Antonia Berg, also a flautist in South London; stayed a few nights at the accommodation near Charing Cross Hospital which is where my Aunt works and lives as a nurse, in the very central location of Hammersmith; and with my Uncle who lives near Wembley Park.
Figure 2 Simon Rattle and LSO @ Barbican Centre after Mahler 9
with Christopher Green @ the Opera House at Covent Garden. Christopher is principal piccolo of the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House Covent Garden and principal flute of the Orchestra of English National Ballet.
In my lesson we talked about the mind-body relationship and its relation to sound. In teaching music, we are really teaching movement – if the movement of your breathing, air, hands, arms, are well coordinated – then naturally, your imagination of the music is free to emerge! We spent some time investigating how my one tuning note A was constantly changing in relation to the way I placed my flute spatially in relation to myself – whether I collapsed in slightly before I brought the flute up, or tensed up slightly, or brought my neck back and down.
It was reaffirming to discuss this with him as it related closely to the Alexander Technique work (more on that in the next section!) I had been doing in Sydney. Chris himself related as a strong believer of Alexander technique and other mind-body practices. After half an hour of experimental tweaking, we reviewed my Mozart Concerto in D exposition – bringing out musical line through careful attention and review of my articulation, use of air, use of sound. We danced, sung and played… and I am reminded again, and again, about the connection with music, movement, storytelling and play.
Chinese Music Ensemble @ SOAS, University of London
I felt very lucky to be visiting the SOAS Chinese Music Ensemble for their weekly rehearsal. My Masters supervisor, Dr. Catherine Ingram recommended visiting SOAS as it is the largest ethnomusicologicy faculty in the world, located at the University of London. The professors I made contact with via email were Dr. Ruard Abaroka and Dr. Hwee-San Tan. They both recommended I go to visit a rehearsal with their Chinese Music Ensemble and attend the CHIME conference in Lisbon on Chinese Music & Cross Culture (discussed later in the report).
Being a similar age as many of the members of their ensemble, it was wonderful to compare our varied experiences of Chinese Music and recognize the familiar Jiangnan Sizhu (Silk and Bamboo) tunes. As one of the younger tutors teaching Chinese music at the Sydney Conservatorium Chinese Music Ensemble (dizi instrumental tutor), to be surrounded with keen and vibrant musicians learning to perform Chinese music was a total pleasure, and I would like to extend my gratitude to the tutor and director of the ensemble for inviting me and sharing their rehearsal and time.
Figure 3 With dizi player Tessa at SOAS Chinese Music ensemble rehearsal
Alexander Technique @ the Constructive Teaching school, London
Since 2015, I have been having lessons at the Sydney Alexander technique school. As a current teacher trainee, it was important for me to observe the ways other teachers in the UK were teaching AT (Alexander technique) to tertiary music students and musicians – as I believe that self-care, body mapping and coordination are aspecs often poorly misunderstood and neglected for many tertiary musicians and music students. The top music colleges in London – Royal College, Royal Academy & Guildhall School of music all have trained AT teachers who offer lessons to performance departments and/or teach AT to students as part of their curriculum.
During my time in London, I arranged to attend four teacher training days at the Constructive Teaching school, at Imperial wharf led by Ruth Murray (director) & Alan Philps (co-director). At this school, hands-on work is a vital element of re-education of the student’s conception of their spatial body. The directors and teachers were skilled in using their hands and verbal instructions to guide the student in simple tasks such as sitting, standing, walking; optionally the student could also lie down and have a “table turn” where joints could be moved through their full range on the table. There was also a variety of other activities; voice work, working at a computer, and anatomy lectures which reflected the many angles you can approach teaching Alexander Technique work – from an activity based approach, general body-mapping re-education, and also intellectually understanding the science behind why and how it works.
Their work strongly affected my physical condition and had a lasting effect for a few days where I enjoyed my other musical lessons, activities and practising, walking around London. Lightness, freedom and ease; these are some common sensations experienced after an AT lesson and I certainly received the full benefit.
Another teacher, Selma Gokcen, with whom I had a private lesson, is a cellist on faculty at the Guildhall School of Music and an AT teacher who trained with Patrick Macdonald. Selma had deep experience working with cellists and other musicians and told me how strongly she felt about helping students learn to use their torso/back in a way which avoided collapse, force, tension, and invited a holistic, integrated mapping of the whole body and the musical instrument.
I was thankful to have experienced the variety of teaching at the CTC Centre, Selma Gokcen, and other teachers who I experienced along the way during my trip; Pedro de Alcantara (Integrated Practice). The collective experience widened my perspective on the possibilities of teaching this work, and the numerous benefits I had received from it, which excites me greatly.
The Scotland Chamber Orchestra is a marvellous organism to behold. It was thrilling to see them again after my first visit to Scotland, in 2013 when I met with Alison in Edinburgh and in Dundee whilst I was supported by the Australian World Orchestra mentorship program.
Pavle (Pavle Cajic, pianist and composer) and I travelled together, and arrived in Edinburgh by train – it was a pleasant four hour ride from London Kings Cross which we spent reading and doodling in notebooks and looking out the window and the changing landscape: flat – spacious – ocean – green. Of course, we were greeted by drifting bagpipe tunes echoing through the station from outside buskers upon walking out of the station.
The series of flute lessons with SCO principle flute Alison Mitchell over the weekend was an extremely rewarding opportunity to work on my current repertoire – Bach E minor sonata, Pavle’s Ballade for flute and piano (workshopping together with Pavle) and orchestral excerpts. I enjoyed the level of detail we went into highlighting the melodic, harmonic structures, simplifying shape and form then building it back up with surrounding ornamentation, dynamics, surprises, extra magic touches. Working on Pavle’s Ballade, it was great to hear Alison’s interpretation of the piece, both her analysis of the score and closer analysis of each section which helped me to organise the larger architecture of the piece. Pavle and I have worked on the Ballade for over a year together now, and so it was great to refresh my perspective of the piece and I look forward to our next performance of it – plans which are now in the pipeline for later this year!
Lisbon, Portugal: CHIME Music Conference
The 21st CHIME international conference was held from 9-13 May 2018. The theme is “Chinese Music and musical instruments as cross-culture” and it is held at the Centro Cientifico Cultural de Macau (CCCM). CCCM is a beautifully designed building with oriental features in the garden, roof, and interiors – housing a museum documenting the history of Portugese and Macau historic relations, an art gallery, auditorium, and dining atrium on the top level.
As I recently submitted my Masters paper, a self-ethnography on processes involved in learning to perform Chinese music as a Western trained musician, the themes of cross-culture and Chinese music was a perfect opportunity to hear, meet, and discover the work of researchers working within a similar field. As I mentioned earlier, the conference was recommended to me by my thesis supervisor Catherine Ingram at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and and the professors I met with at SOAS. It was wonderful to hear researchers talk about their work in the flesh – whose papers I had read and used as sources within my own research for the past two years – and see how their work had continued to their present day investigations. In the next few days, there would be many interesting talks and performances – too many too recount here…
Performance ethnographers Li Cheong (erhu) and Helen Rees (dizi/xiao)’s talks were very interesting for me to hear two different perspectives and documentaries of their own learning processes as their musical understanding of a different culture deepened. Li is a Chinese erhu (2 stringed bowed instrument) player who began to learn Indian music and fuse it with his erhu improvisations; Helen, who like me came from a classical flute background, learned dizi (Chinese transverse bamboo flute) and xiao (Chinese vertical flute) in Shanghai. Her presentation was a premiering of her documentary
Daily performances included local as well as international artists. Some studied Chinese music in China and now practised/performed outside China, and others, like myself, began learning Chinese music outside of China, and came to learn more about Chinese and Chinese culture through field research, travel, and exploration. My favourite performances/talks played with the in-betweeness of cross-cultural interaction – which to me enlivened the process of transformation in real time, space, and sound, for example, an improvisation between pipa player Gao Hong and Arabian lute player Yau Dalal. Their improvisation was an imaginary encounter between a young Chinese woman and Arabian merchant meeting in caravans on the silk road during past times of early trade. I admired the way they took turns to lead the other to a new place musically, through a new melody, gesture, rhythmic feel which was then transformed. It was an intimate dance, meeting, learning, joining, moving together and taking the audience with them to a new place.
Lastly, I was pleased to hear the final talk by Jonathan Kramer on a new textbook on World Music published in 2016 by Arnold and Kramer. The textbook aims to organise a variety of video and audio samples from a variety of musical contexts from around the world, into categories of different musical themes, instead of organising it chronologically or by location. The digital aspects of the book and method of comparing different world musics sound very appealing to me and I’m hoping to order a copy for myself soon!
Figure 4 With Dr. Enio de Souza (CCCM) at the CHIME conference 2018
I would like to thank BBM Youth Support for their support and providing me with the financial support to carry out my plans for continued musical study and musical interests.
As a performer, I am excited by the cross-cultural learning from experiencing classical, Chinese music in London and Portugal, and hope to continue moving towards developing my career as a cross-cultural musician in Sydney and beyond. During the end of the UK trip I received exciting news that my audition tape was successful to participate in the Silk Road Global Music workshop 2018 so it was perfect timing to springboard off the cross-cultural performances I had been inspired from in the UK! As I finish writing this report now, I am currently at the University of DePauw, Indiana in between rehearsals with 67 wonderful cross-cultural musicians from 11 different countries.
Looking at music from a global perspective inspires me to create, curate, and continue to work with the diverse group of musicians that I am thrilled to work with in Sydney. As a music teacher, I am excited about how we can integrate more knowledge about body awareness into our music education so that musicians like myself (and my current and future music students) can fulfil their artistic potential sustainably, compassionately, and fully. Returning back home soon, I look forward to continuing my training at the Sydney Alexander technique school and continuing to teach flute/dizi and develop resources for my own students and other flute players to increase their knowledge of body-mapping and sustainable playing.Update Your Details