Wednesday, October 17, 2018
During 2014 this was almost the only thing I tried to memorise, and I got it under my belt completely. But of course, as soon as I left it alone, it would disintegrate, and all my hard work seemed to be for nothing. 176 verses of two lines apiece down the drain, it seemed.
I'd tried on my first effort at learning this Psalm to link up the verse number with an image, and the image was supposed to help me remember what the verse was. It kind of worked, but I didn't put the effort in to retain what I'd learned, although for a few weeks there it was a bit of a party trick being able to recall any random verse just from the number.
When it came to my attempt in 2014, I didn't start with much of a plan, which was a bit foolish. However, I soon noticed that there was a key word in the beginning of each of the first three stanza (each stanza has eight verses) that linked up to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th letters of the alphabet: B, C, D. (Just in case you've forgotten what they are!)
But to add random names to the stanzas would be to add another complication which I could do without. So while Anne stayed for E, I chose a name beginning with F for the next one, the name of someone I knew. I did this with every subsequent stanza. Friends and relatives became signposts throughout.
Learning the eight two-line verses within each stanza was another issue again, which I'll write about another time. But using people's names as signposts, alphabetically, gave me an additional benefit. It showed me how I might keep track in my head of all the other poems and sections of Scripture I'd learned over the years. Because I'd learned them randomly, there was no order to them.
So I made a list of the memorized pieces, and linked a person's name to each one, in alphabetical order. Yes, I had to learn who belonged to what, and it took regular revision, but the list is now intact (most days). I'm now reaching the end of the fourth run through the alphabet, and have to remember people's names for 98 pieces. (It was a bit of a trick finding names beginning with X and Z and so on.) Some still catch me out at times, but overall this method is working.
By the way, on my last revision of Psalm 119, it was intact...
Tuesday, October 16, 2018
|A substantial marrow|
Friday, October 12, 2018
My 'sounding board' person stated about my idea of bringing back characters from the previous three books: 'I think it's fraught with pitfalls.' Not a bad sentence in itself, and maybe worth using somewhere.
Though that pronounced sentence sounds like a death knell in itself, the life had already gone out of this book. I'm putting it in the famous bottom drawer until one of my grandchildren discovers it and says, 'I wonder why granddad didn't pursue this extraordinarily good idea.'
Except they won't find in the bottom drawer, because there is no bottom drawer on the computer. Might have to invent a folder named that. Maybe I should just call it Atlantis, instead of 'Bottom Drawer.'
Meanwhile, on a more positive front, I've decided to pursue a nonfiction idea I've toyed with for some time. I've written about this subject on and off since I first started writing articles, and it's been a topic that's intrigued me for decades.
I'm not going to spill the beans about the idea in this blog post, but keep an eye out in future ones, where I'll start to discuss different facets of what I want to work on, and explore the ideas in short bursts.
Friday, September 14, 2018
|Courtesy Wikimedia Commons|
My last two posts have both basically been about procrastination. It's a word you'll find a lot if you search this blog.
When procrastination (a word I apparently can no longer type at the first attempt which may indicate that I'm trying to avoid it in yet another way) is the modus operandi then you go looking for all sorts of ways of overcoming it, in a kind of back door fashion.
Perhaps I should really, really try outlining. Reads books on outlining.
Perhaps I need to write and write around all sorts of ideas and see where they take me. Lots of ideas and an inability to put them in any order. (Though this is more helpful than the first approach, and does at least let the creative side of the brain do some work.)
Perhaps I need to rewrite what I've already rewritten at least once (or twice). Yup. Just forestalls any progress in the section that I haven't written at all.
I should introduce a dragon!! Wow, great idea, and the dragon takes off and takes over all the other ideas and still doesn't seem to have an actual role to play.
Wait! Here's a thought. I could just get on and write. Phew! Radical. While trying to work through the Save the Cat beats approach (and running into a huge blank spot in Act II) I noted that Jessica Brody, who has written Save the Cat! Writes a Novel says that she can't even look at sorting out the STC beats until she's actually got to know who her characters are and what they're doing. And the only way she can do this is by writing an awful first draft. (A 'shitty' first draft, as Anne Lamott always calls it.)
Kristen Lamb in a post called Is your story stuck? says basically the same thing. She cries "STOP!" and adds, "I am a HUGE fan of fast-drafting because then we simply don’t have time to over think every step we’ve made."
Thursday, September 06, 2018
So what happens when I strike this kind of a point? I read books on writing. Does that help? Oh, yes, it helps the writer who wrote the book on writing by providing him with a royalty, and it helps me to procrastinate, and it helps me to think about how other books are structured and why their plots work so wonderfully...
What it doesn't do is help me write my book. And the actual reason for that is laziness. I'm not under pressure to get the book done, and I've got three books under my belt already in the same genre. Why do I need to write a fourth?
Well, I don't. The world won't miss it. But having done a draft that covered possibly two-thirds of the book, and having done another shorter draft before that, and now having done another chunk of draft that takes the book from a different point of view - that's another approach to avoiding getting on with what is the problem in the book - it's time to get on and do some actual work.
Sitting down and working out the problems is too hard. Thankfully I have plenty of mentors in this, some of them very famous. I'm not going to mention names because it would only embarrass them...even the ones that are dead. But there have been any number of writers who know that they should get on and do the work and don't, or didn't...
Anyway, I've got other things on my plate at the moment and they're bound to be more important, and...
That last sentence reminds me of a tweet I've kept in my files: One of my New Year resolutions is to always finish what I
Sunday, August 12, 2018
My mode of operation, however, tends to be that I have to initially write something of the story before I can figure out who the characters are and what they're up to. I can't just take an idea and fill up Blake's 15 beats without that.
In fact, as I've no doubt mentioned before, I've been writing a fourth book in the Grimhilderness series, and it's been going very sluggishly. Procrastination is part of the problem; life getting in the way is another problem; and lack of where to go after a certain point is another. But I do have a bunch of characters who are alive in my head, and I have a number of situations, and a general sense of what the overall story is.
This is more than enough to get started on the 15 beats.
Except that I immediately began to discover that things just weren't going to work, once I started setting my story as it stood alongside Blake's beats. Not because I couldn't match certain things up, but because the hero turned out to be passive, and there was no great reason for him to go on any journey anyway. In fact, if he had any sense he'd go into hiding. Hardly the work of a hero. So back to the drawing board.
I re-watched J K Rowling's film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Rowling's world is so full of stuff by now that she can reference all sorts of things and fans will pick up on them. (I'm not quite so good at keeping such detail in my head as those sorts of fans.) I thought about her story in terms of Save the Cat.
It's interesting to ask: who is the hero? Whose journey are we going on?
Because plainly we have a quartet of lead characters, and the most important of them, Newt Scamander, doesn't go on any great journey at all: he is what he is, unlike Harry Potter, who goes on an immense journey over seven books. Is there a catalyst moment for Newt? I suppose you could find one, and you could find some of the other things that heroes are supposed to have in stories. But Newt is already fully-formed at the beginning of the movie; he doesn't need to change in any great way. Nothing much troubles him - except when there's a threat to his beasts. Otherwise he has a resource for almost every situation and doesn't really need others to help him much.
Which means that the hero who changes is someone else. Snyder mentions this in Strikes Back: the character who isn't quite the main character but who goes through the process of being stuck to having something unstick him to being thrown into a different world to being changed and finally coming back to what he loves but with a different viewpoint.
This is plainly Jacob Kowalski. He starts off on the back foot with no hopes (turned down by the most wonderfully po-faced Bank Manager you've ever seen), with the only life he can envisage being stuck in a canning factory - even though he's served his country in WWI. He is affected by a catalyst - the meeting with Newt and the accidental swapping of their bags. And even though he's the American equivalent of a Muggle, he's thrust in the magical world, and sees all kinds of things he never knew existed. He faces fearsome creatures and learns to love them, and even copes with the horrific rhinoceros-like creature that nearly stomps him to death. And in the end, even though he loses his ability to see magic at work, he gets his much-desired bakery shop and it's a roaring success. And at the very end, Queenie turns up there, and it looks as though his life may change even further.
But besides Jacob, another one of the quartet goes through a considerable journey too, and that's Tina, the kind of magical detective. She's down on her luck as well, having made some mistake in her job, and is reduced to investigating without the proper authority, being put down by her bosses (again) and generally not being able to understand Newt's nonchalant approach to life.
But the things that change Jacob's life change hers too, and she's forced to accept Newt and work with him, stepping into a different kind of world as well, where she has to see that Newt is far ahead of her in the play, and even, in the end, will rescue her from her past when she's threatened with death.
I don't know whether Rowling wrote the script as we see it portrayed in the movie, or whether she wrote the outline and dialogue. However it was done, it's a considerable feat, juggling all the elements that are in it. And if you can keep up with it all, it's likely you'll find Snyder's 15 beats being worked through in their proper order and giving the film a solid underpinning.
Friday, August 03, 2018
Maybe I started it and then it got interrupted by some other book coming along the chute, such as her other title, How to Sell Books on Amazon by the Truckload, which was really good. Anyway, this 5-Minute book is helpful, and has some good ideas in it.
I was reading it at a rehearsal for Don Giovanni, last night, in a spare moment when I wasn't required to play the piano for the singers, and, because she talks in the first chapter about Goodreads, a site I've been a member on for some years now, I decided to download the Goodreads app onto my phone. (I was reading the Kindle version of the book on there.)
To my surprise, I discovered that all my Kindle highlights are available on Goodreads, something that had never registered before. It's not as though they're hard to find, either. That's very interesting. I already keep copies of them on Evernote, because it's helpful to be able to search them, but having them at hand on my phone is also useful.
The format for the highlights is better than the one on Amazon itself where there's only one page and things stretch out for miles. Here each individual book is listed, and you can access the notes and highlights more readily.
I guess this change happened when Amazon joined forces with Goodreads, but I plainly missed noticing it at the time. Well, there you go, you catch up eventually!
Incidentally, one day I'll learn how to spell Ms Sansevieri's name correctly. She has one of those names where I always get the syllables mixed up...
Thursday, July 12, 2018
I work with a Chilean man, helping him with his English pronunciation and reading. Today we came across an article in a magazine from 2015 in which the author, Jani Patokallio, wrote about introducing the word p-book (or pbook, or pBook, to use his own variation on spelling possibilities).
He had apparently used this word back in 2000 when ebooks (or e-books, or eBooks) were coming into their own. I think he had hopes that the word would take off as a means of distinguishing printed books from digital ones. He has tracked it since, through a website that I think may have gone the way of the dodo. It wasn't one I recognised.
In the early 2000s the word barely made a dent in the language, though there's been cited more in more recent years. (As in around 20 citations per annum; not really that many.) It seems that people have opted to assume that book means printed book, and e-book/ebook/eBook (does anyone use this latter version?) stands for the digital model.
English language users tend towards ease of use rather than adding things where they don't need them. And since book has stood us in good stead for several hundred years, adding a p in front of it just seems like excess. Mr Patokallio's article uses a number of words not used in everyday English - such as prognostication and neologism - so he's plainly a lover of interesting words, and possibly had high hopes that pbook would take off.
It certainly turns up in online dictionaries, though none of the ones I looked at gave any indications as to the word's origins. I'm not sure whether Mr Patokallio actually made the word up; it sounded from the article as though he may have, but my student and I were too involved in getting through the article with pronunciations intact to worry about finer detail.
You can find some references to pbook (which seems to be the way the word is being spelt) in a few places on Google. None of them are particularly recent, and I can't say I've noticed the word being used regularly anywhere.
pBooks, eBooks, & dBooks: why we are hooked on books and bookness doesn't take us very far in the why we should use pbook as opposed to book, but it's an interesting piece all the same.
Manning Publications talk about registering your pbook here. I think they're an Indian publishing house.
ebook vs pbooks: a lesson in value, like the first article, is more about the value of books in general, whereas The Buying Conundrum: pbook or ebook? talks more about format.
All of these articles are 2014 or earlier, which rather indicates to me that pbook isn't really taking off. I'd be happy to be informed otherwise!
Sunday, June 24, 2018
In the entry I copied today I was remembering an event that happened way back in 1954, when my grandfather suddenly died one Saturday. I'm guessing he had a heart attack, although I don't know this, since I was only nine at the time.
My mother and I lived with my grandparents, because she and my father had split up. He stayed behind in Australia while we came back to the family home in New Zealand.
My grandfather was a real father to me; I'd never really known my own father, as we'd left Australia when I was three, and I think he was often away playing at Chess Championships anyway.
The mother and father in Grimhilda! have become remote and have little time for their one and only child, Toby. (In the original opera version of Grimhilda! the mother was much the same sort of character, but the father barely appeared at all. He made a shadowy entrance for literally a few seconds, said one brief line, and was never seen again.)
There's no sign of the mother in The Mumbersons and the Blood Secret until right at the end, though she's talked about early in the piece. Billy, the hero of the story, lives at home with his Dad.
In The Disenchanted Wizard Della also lives alone with her father. (There was to have been a mother, but she got cut out in an early draft.)
Now I don't have anything against mothers: my own mother was great, and in a kind of reversal, lived with us and our children for around 21 years, until she died. So I'm not sure why the mothers are missing for the most part in these stories.
The two very different fathers are perhaps fictional attempts to present the sort of father who might have been useful to me if he'd stuck around, though neither of them is the heroic type.
But what's more interesting is the older male character who appears in two of the three books. In the first he actually is Billy's grandfather, and though he's a nothing like my own grandfather, he does seem more outgoing than Billy's own dad, and plays a bigger part in the story.
Della, on the other hand, doesn't have any actual grandfather, but she has an older man who becomes a kind of grandfather to her. This is Mr Crinch, who when he first appears seems to have lost his marbles. This isn't entirely the case, but without him, Della and her cousin, Harold, would never make it back home again.
We all draw on real people to put into our stories, sometimes consciously, but more often unconsciously. While I don't necessarily think of members of my family when I'm writing my books (or even when I read them after they're completed), it seems that these people make their way into the stories anyway, without my noticing it. Certainly some of the emotions I experienced as a result of having known them have forced their way into the books. Hopefully they resonate with my readers.
Friday, June 22, 2018
|Geraldine McCaughrean, courtesy of Oxford English Dictionary|
She warned that a new focus on “accessible” prose for younger readers will lead to “an underclass of citizens with a small but functional vocabulary: easy to manipulate and lacking in the means to reason their way out of subjugation”.
A US publisher said, for instance you use the word gallimaufry. No child is going to know what it means’. Of course they’re not. Most people don’t know what gallimaufry means, but you get it from the gist, from the context. That’s how you learn language … and who doesn’t want to come across gallimaufry?”
Classic children's writers and more modern ones, including J K Rowling, Diane Wynne Jones and Susan Creech, all offer words that are out of the experience of the children reading the books. But that's the point: they offer them these words so that the children's minds will grow.
And if they don't understand the word, then they can look it up if they can't guess its meaning from the context. Even better, with Kindle readers, you can do that as you read, something I do myself frequently, even though I'm several decades older than middle grade readers. I do it with thrillers, and classic novels, with theology and philosophy and more. None of us has every word in the language in our heads, which is why dictionaries were invented.
When it comes to writing my own books, I've shied away from soft-soaping the language, both because I agree with what McCaughrean says, and because there are words that are apt for the moment, for the sentence, for the rhythm, for the character, for the humour. Often these won't be words a child will necessarily know, but if an easier, less suitable word, is substituted, then the child will never know them.
It's as if children's publishers want to deny children the treasures of their own language.
And why cockamamie in the title? It doesn't appear in any of my books, but I recently decided to use it in the advertising of Grimhilda! the first of my children's fantasies. It's not an everyday word, but has been around a fair time, and moreover, was used for a period by children in the US as a fun word. I may not use it again, but it has a distinctness about it that makes it stand out. And that's what writing is about: using the best word for the occasion.
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
I have some 36 of his titles on my shelves, in paperback and hardcover, and a few more on Kindle.
The book was written by Chesterton's brother, Cecil, although when it was first published his name didn't appear on the cover. It's entitled, G K Chesterton: a Criticism, and looks at the early period of GKC's writing life, when he was still establishing himself, and then suddenly becoming well-known everywhere.
I began to read it a few days ago, and it's good, but the Kindle edition has more errors in it than all the other hundreds of ebooks I've read put together. It's been scanned from an old library copy - the library details have been scanned into the book, in fact, along with the due dates! But no one has bothered to check it whether the scan was accurate. Apart from typos, there are innumerable formatting problems.
Normally when you find a typo or formatting issue, or some other error in a Kindle edition, you have the option to inform the publisher. You can see how to do that here, if you're not sure. I began to do it as I was reading this book, but because of the sheer number of problems, I gave up.
Here are some of the errors I found:
1. Letters that were in a different font at the beginning of a chapter, or section, in the original edition, not only appear as garbage in the Kindle version, but the original capitalized letter may turn up several Kindle pages further on. (It took me a while to cotton onto this.)
2. Whenever poetry is quoted, there are additional lines between the original lines, and in one case towards the end, the rest of the ordinary text has turned itself into 'verse.'
3. Quotation marks are random, sometimes appearing, sometimes not. Sometimes they're replaced by asterisks, or some other punctuation sign.
4. There are large chunks of white space where you'd just expect the next line in the paragraph. In one case there's almost a whole blank Kindle page between sentences.
5. Sometimes after a break in the lines, the next section becomes incomprehensible, as though there were actually some words missing from the text.
That may not be everything. As I said, it became impossible to keep on informing the publisher - Amazon Digital Services LLC, apparently - about each and every mistake. There would be at least one per page, if not several.
The only surprise is that I managed to read the book completely, in spite of all the errors! The Kindle version isn't expensive to buy at $3.30 US, but since I'm expected, as an Indie Author on Kindle, to provide a quality typo-free, well-formatted copy for Amazon to work with, it seems only fair that Amazon themselves should provide something much better than this.
Friday, May 18, 2018
|Courtesy of Sabah Songs blog|
I remember feeling somewhat disappointed in the movie, which also stars Hugh Grant as her husband, and Simon Helberg as Cosmé McMoon, the pianist who accompanied her in her later years.
Not only do we discover that her husband, adoring of her, and deeply in love with her, also had an apartment (paid for by Jenkins) where he kept his 'girlfriend.' In fact, he and Jenkins were never officially married: Jenkins may not have been divorced from her first husband, the one who gave her syphilis.
A number of things in the movie are based on fact, but equally there are curious distortions. Hugh Grant's character, St Clair Bayfield, is seen as a failed and fairly amateur actor. In fact, he had a long career in the theatre, and was plainly able to act much better than is shown in the movie.
It's hinted fairly strongly in the movie that McMoon is gay, though this may not have been the case. Helberg camps the character up with constant simpers, quirky looks, and a generally effeminate air. I much preferred the down-to-earth version of Cosmé that appeared in the theatre production.
Meryl Streep, as always, is brilliant, performing the awful singing with ease (presuming it is her voice, as Helberg seems to indicate in an interview), and she creates a character who is seemingly unaware of her awfulness while being wonderfully generous to those around her - and plainly needing all the love that she can get.
In the last week we also watched The Imitation Game, supposedly a story about Alan Turing and the breaking of the Enigma Code at Bletchley Park, and supposedly based on true events. Yes, there are a few true things scattered about, some actual persons portrayed, but for the most part this is a script based on the idea that it's good to wrap propaganda up in dramatic form, using fine actors to play the main parts and then forget about whether it actually connects with substantiated history.
Thus Turing's difference (both his homosexuality and his genius) is made a basis for a theme about not bullying people who are different (though Turing is portrayed as even more of an arrogant bully in some scenes, as a man with no regard for the concerns of others). The feminist angle comes in by warping the history of highly skilled person, Joan Clarke, proving, for the feminists, that women can be just as clever as men. In fact more clever, because she solves the crossword in six minutes instead of the required eight. The fact that she was already at Bletchley before Turing arrived is ignored.
(The same sort of approach was taken with Hidden Figures in which the black women were treated in the movie as astonishing the male characters - all white, of course. This doesn't align with the facts that appear in the book the movie was made from. But it pleased the female audiences, who cheered at the men being 'put in their place' when we saw it at the movies.)
Cumberbatch adds another of his people-don't-understand-me performances to his CV (it's frequently on a par with his arrogant Sherlock Holmes) and while it's been highly regarded in some circles, he presents a character who isn't any easier to warm to than Holmes was. Quite honestly, when Keira Knightly slaps him, you think, About time.
Monday, May 07, 2018
|The Mornington Brass Band which became the|
St Kilda Brass Band in 1912.
(I've played for its soloists on a number of occasions)
Thursday, May 03, 2018
The first mention of writing comes on the 18th of April, 1989, the day after that initial typewritten diary began. It's interesting that it also discusses ideas. Whereas in yesterday's post, the extract was lamenting a lack of ideas, at this point - when I was still doing the Writing Course - I seemed to have an abundance of them!
As I mentioned in a previous post, there's money available in writing for small magazines - and less competition from more established writers. I usually profiled some person with a disability (I was actually warned off calling them 'disabled people' at one point, though not by the editor) and met a number of interesting people as a result. It wasn't hard to find candidates for the profiles, and almost every interview I did turned into an article.
In fact, there are still a number of magazines relating to disability being published in New Zealand, which means, presumably, there are plenty being published elsewhere. This online page gives a list of them. It may be out of date - NZ Disabled had changed its name to Without Limits by the time this page appeared, and the link shows that under that title it didn't last long. But careful research through your local library will enable you to find a number of smaller magazines that can be approached with articles.
If you're just starting out, this is a great way to get experience.
Wednesday, May 02, 2018
|Courtesy of Danny Steaven|
Tuesday, May 01, 2018
Much of the stuff, of course, is private family material, but in 1989 I'd been unemployed for six months, and had started doing a writing course by correspondence. (My father, Frank Crowl, used to play chess by correspondence.)
By 1990 I was well through the writing course and between being father of a family with five children and working as a manager of a bookshop, I found time to write articles and the occasional short story. Most of the articles got published, because I'd been advised to aim not only for the major New Zealand magazines but for the small ones: trade mags and special interest magazines. The latter proved to be the place that was happy to publish my work. More on that in later posts.
Anyway, scattered with varying degrees of frequency throughout the diary are references to my writing joys and woes. I thought these would be of interest on this blog, and have decided to include posts with extracts from the diary as and when I can. I'll keep an index of these on the blog for reference.
Here's a brief opener from the 6th of January, 1990.
I'm not sure that I took my advice about doing writing exercises as seriously as I should have, subsequently, but I do recommend this all the same. There are other ways to do exercises, of course. Blog posts are a great writing exercise, as are typing notes galore for the children's book I'm currently writing. In fact, anything that gets you putting down words on the page/computer is worth doing, even if those particular words aren't ever used as part of something publishable.
I have an interesting book called The Exercise Book which lays out dozens of ideas for exercises, some of which various people have turned into poems, stories, books. The book is by Bill Manhire and others. Manhire is one of New Zealand's literati, and a creative writing teacher. Don't let that put you off. The exercises are the thing, along with the stimulation of approaching writing in a different way.
See also an earlier blog post from 2014, in which I mention Peter Elbow and Anne Lamott, both of whom saw first drafts and writing even without any aim in mind as of great value.
Monday, April 23, 2018
Here it is:
A group of heroes work in our city show conditions would make most wharfies pale. I'm talking about music teachers.
And I speak from experience - for a few years I taught piano from three till whenever, after spending a frenetic morning as a postie. I must have been mad.
Utter dedication is required of anyone who decides to take on this job as a permanent career. (I didn't.) The frustrations from pupils who don't work combined with the frustrations from those who do work but will never play anything with the slightest hint of musicality, have to be experienced to be believed.
One in a hundred pupils may have the spark of musical life in them; the sort of spark that makes you think they may achieve something. The other 99, however earnest they may be, will fall by the wayside, and during their mid-life crises will gloomily say, 'I wish I'd carried on playing the piano.'
Or worse, 'Why didn't Mummy and Daddy make me practise?' Have you ever tried to make a child practise? Their attention manages to be focused on everything but the keyboard.
I recommend the 1953 fantasy movie, The 5000 Fingers of Dr T, to anyone who doesn't know what I mean.
Music teachers sit for hours in the same room, often seeing only an endless stream of children. It's like being a solo parent. The occasional adult pupil may or may not be a bonus, depending on their reason for learning.
When everybody else is out socialising in the evening, music teachers are teaching. When other people are having a leisurely meal at home with their family (something we still haven't achieved - the leisurely part, I mean), music teachers are teaching.
When other teachers are enjoying up to eight weeks' paid holiday per annum, music teachers are forced to spend those same weeks unemployed, eking out the income they've earned during the rest of the year.
And in spite of using new material as it appears, the basic details of what they teach hasn't changed much in decades: there is no New Music to go alongside New Maths. Scales are scales are scales. They have to be learned. However much most pupils may dislike them, (I used to enjoy them actually, but then I'm a bit unusual), no musician worth his salt can afford not to learn them.
I write with a sense of awe to think that one of my former music teachers has been teaching for nearly 60 years.
Originally she lived and taught in Sawyers Bay. She commuted to Port Chalmers to teach as well, but being without a car (of course), she had to walk. Usually it only took half an hour. It took somewhat longer in the Big Snow.
Later she rented rooms in town, and still later, during the war, had a room in the Glenpark Presbyterian Hall. When she calls it the 'dug-out' or 'dungeon', you have a pretty good idea of what it was like.
Mice were frequent visitors. Boy pupils had to empty the mousetraps, to their disgust. (I'm pleased to say I was still a twinkle in my father's eye when the war was on.)
By the time I was her pupil, she lived in a pleasant house in Mornington. The comfortable music room was built over the garage; moving the two pianos up there must have been a nightmare.
Sounds like music teaching pays after all, I hear you say. Well, maybe it does, if you're prepared to put in endless hours of dedicated and concentrated work, you only contact with the outside world being your pupils.
So all hail to music teachers - they never go on strike. Many workers who do hardly know they're born.
A few notes: The teacher's name was Olive Perry. She never married, and her mother lived with her until she died. Olive herself has been dead for a number of years. Her house was actually in Maryhill, only two minutes walk away from where I now live.
The Glenpark Presbyterian Hall was replaced at good while ago, perhaps fifty years. The new one has no dungeon, and probably fewer mice.
At least one of the two pianos in that upstairs room was a grand.
A short letter to the Editor was attached to the clipping. Unfortunately there's no indication as to who wrote it.
In his column today, Mike Crowl has some nice things to say about music teachers and some less kind things to say about the job itself. Perhaps it's not really so bad. The one thing I've noticed over the years is how many music teachers keep on going to a ripe old age, many well into their 80s. Is it a 'soft' lifestyle that allows this, or is it the daily challenge of taking each of their pupils just one stage further that keeps them alert and active?
The pianist who gave me these two clippings commented that she has been teaching for nearly 70 years. Another teacher in the city, a man, has only recently retired: he's in his early 90s. Miss Perry herself certainly taught for a long time.
I wrote Column 8 for around five years in the early nineties.
Wednesday, March 07, 2018
I happened to hear an interview (more like a friendly discussion) with him on the Concert programme today. Apparently he turned 50 recently - except that his birthday is on the 29th February, so he's strictly speaking only twelve and a half. He made the comment that in a couple of years (I think it was) he'll be thirteen. 'Gareth Farr the teenager!' he cried.
Farr's relatively new Cello Concerto (from May 2017) was mentioned, and I was pleased - and surprised - to see a video of the piece's premiere performance online at the Publisher's website. I'm listening to it as I write, and after its wonderful, slow, eerie opening - repeated three times - it moves into Farr's usual energetic approach, as well as more lyrical sections. And of course there's lots of percussion.
Sébastien Hurtaud is the soloist. His facial expressions while playing remind of those of Stjepan Hauser, who's one half of 2Cellos. Hurtaud isn't quite so manic though...which is probably a good thing!
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
The theatre should have been full: this is a wonderful movie about Vincent van Gogh. It's not the greatest movie of all time - the script is a little undercooked. It's probably not even the greatest animated movie of all time, but it has a certain unique quality that sets it apart.
If you don't already know, the movie was shot with live actors in front of a green screen. There are a number of well-known faces in the cast, such as Douglas Booth, Jerome Flynn, Saoirse Ronan, Helen McCrory and Chris O'Dowd. Intriguingly they all speak with British accents rather than French or European ones, so that we hear Irish and Cockney amongst others. This takes a little getting used to, but it works.
Once the live action was shot, paintings by van Gogh were 'composited' into the background and the film was edited as normal. Then each frame was projected onto a blank canvas, and one of some 125 hundred artists painted - in oils - over the projection, using the techniques Van Gogh himself would have used.
The result is a movie rich in colour, with real depth and texture. None of the artists had worked on an animated movie before, so they brought a different sense of colour and animation to the screen.
Initially, the eye is almost overwhelmed with the movement - clouds never stay still, trees continually reform their leaves, even people's hair moves from frame to frame. It's a little disorientating. And it's wonderful seeing so many of Van Gogh's paintings coming to life during the course of the movie.
The story is more straightforward, almost a detective story. Armand Roulin, the son of the postmaster who was a friend of van Gogh (both of them appear in well-known van Gogh portraits), has been charged with delivering a one-year-old letter that Vincent had sent to his brother, Theo. It had gone astray. During the course of trying to get the letter to its rightful home, Armand discovers that things were not entirely as they seemed in relation to Vincent's death. Being impetuous, he often jumps to conclusions, and he's led astray by the variances in the stories people tell him about Vincent's last hours.
The audience is also led astray: one minute feeling that new revelations about Vincent's death have come to light, the next finding that another character contradicts what we've heard. It leaves the viewer with a kind of emotional confusion, and an increasing sadness at the shortness of Vincent's life, and the reasons behind his death.
I found the movie very moving for reasons I couldn't put my finger on. The reason for that doesn't matter. Both my wife and I were overwhelmed with the sheer beauty of it.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
There's a theory that when there's lot of action you should take your time over it, writing more rather than less. And I think this is useful. Most readers will have noted how, when the climax of a story is coming, the author gives more and more detail, expanding the big moment, even though it may in real terms all be over in a couple of seconds.
I'm in the middle of the draft of my fourth children's fantasy. It doesn't have a name at this point, so it's just book four. It picks up some leading characters from the other three books and throws them together in a new story, but one that hopefully connects back to the earlier books.
I've got a note to myself that in the climax of one chapter, where a villain is (probably temporarily) dealt with, that I need to fill this out more. Everything is over for the villain in a couple of sentences.
But today I've been trying to write a small fight scene, where the three main characters overcome three people on the opposite team, as it were. They can do it, but getting it all down on paper has required considerable writing and rewriting - even though this is still only the first real draft of the book. I don't want to skimp at this point because it's likely that what happens here will affect later scenes.
Who does what to who at which point, and who gets in first, and how do the baddies retaliate, and so on, all have to be taken into account. If I'm not careful the baddies could easily end up winning the scene!
|Grimhilda intends to shoot Toby, |
but his father stands in the way.
Photo by Ian Thomson
When I'm writing a book I'm not only the scriptwriter, but the director as well. This has its advantages, but it means you've got to careful to keep things tight as well as clear. You can't give one of your characters the upper hand by extending out how long they have to win when the rest of the characters have much less time. (Though you do see this done in the movies all the time.)
While your readers may be so excited at the fight itself they'll allow you as the author to get away with certain inconsistencies, I think it's valuable to know that if they fight was staged for real, it would work. Just one of those little disciplines we writers have to live with!
Child, to my surprise, writes with a real 'seat of the pants' approach. He starts writing with an idea in his head, and stops when he doesn't know what to do next. He never writes a second draft. The first draft is it. With Make Me he wrote 500 words and stopped for several days. But the thing was, within those first 500 words were the seeds of the rest of the book, only he didn't know at the beginning how all those seeds would come to fruition. He didn't even understand what his characters were actually doing, or who the person was that had just been killed.
There are plenty of seat of the pants writers around; most of them write a quick first draft and then go back and revise and revise, often producing several more drafts, usually with substantial changes in them. I've never heard of any other writers who work to Child's method - unless of course you count 19th writers like Dickens and Trollope, who seemed to start at the beginning and write until they were finished. (Trollope supposedly could write 'The End' to one book, and then go straight on into chapter one of the next.) But Child's refusal to rewrite anything is more unusual for modern writers, I suspect.
The other difference in his approach is his refusal to hurry. If he doesn't know what happens next, he waits, waits until he can see how things will develop. So in a sense a lot of his writing obviously goes on inside his head while he's doing other things - and this book gives the impression that he does quite a lot of other things.
I need to put things down in order to be able to think. What I put down may seem dislocated and shapeless, especially when it's in note form. I don't regard these notes as planning the novel structurally, by the way, and anyway, they often arise after I've started to write the first draft, especially when I've got stuck. But those notes usually spark off the next stage of writing.
Unlike Child, I'm not good at 'writing' in my head.
Thursday, January 11, 2018