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Archive for the ‘I See With My Eyes Closed’ Category

I See With My Eyes Closed #1

Thursday, May 20th, 2010


It was all about time in The Randle Studio at MAC today. With 12 musicians and a conductor in the room rehearsals were always going to start and end on time. If the players were not grappling with time signatures such as 10/16 or 19/16 or 15/16 then they were were watching the conductor conducting from a stopwatch. In a corner Craig, Amanda and I were huddled checking how our proposed theatrical material would mesh with what we were hearing. Generally I don’t think we were distracting, until I collapsed in uncontrollable hysterics.

Monday should be an amusing evening, I’m rather hoping the performance will prove to be a minor ‘scandal’. Although I suspect Classical Music’s ability to be scandalised is a symptom of an inherent conservatism, I do admire this trait, somehow it indicates that people really care about the form. I don’t think theatre ever has scandals in the same way there is uproar about content (nakedness / blasphemy Etc.) but not formal outrages. Maybe I’m wrong. I’d like someone to do a PhD on this and report back.


Saturday, May 1st, 2010


Well after two years mac reopened today. Apparently there were queues at the doors for the opening at 10:00. We got there at 16:00 and the place was heaving. There were an enormous number of faces there familiar from the Birmingham Arts Scene, as you would hope and expect. In this way today was an great reunion, people with each other and people with a building/institution. There was even a sense that this was a reunion between people and the park, for many people said they had missed coming to the park, because without mac there as a base the park was that much less attractive.

There were exhibitions, participatory workshops and some performances, but ultimately it felt like an ‘open house’ event people just enjoying exploring their new venue. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, the weather pretty much held out and whilst the Cafe systems are clearly still a work in progress even here the new architecture, with views on the park, high ceiling and softened surroundings, has made a huge improvement.

Our hope now has this enthusiasm translates itself into ticket sales, that the new building, new staff and new attitude build a momentum so the huge efforts of the team that have made this hugely impressive rebuild a long term success. I did my small part buying tickets for Motionhouse on Friday and I See With My Eyes Closed (I know buying a ticket for your own show doesn’t really count but it is only half our show and the ticket wasn’t for me and I did pay full price).

There is a good early sign, tickets for I See With My Eyes Closed are already becoming thin on the ground. I think it is all the classical music types getting in early. COME ON THEATRE TYPES don’t let the musos push you out by being better organised than you are, BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

I’m sorry that became a bit of an advert at the end, but I am genuinely concerned that dedicated followers of all things Stan and Cafe my miss out by assuming they can do as they usually do and rock up at the last minute and buy a ticket on the door.

Heavy Metal and Classical

Tuesday, April 27th, 2010


There was a disaster in the final Home of the Wriggler gig in Plymouth, the hand-wheel broke 20 minutes in and couldn’t be repaired, as a result all the subtle lighting in the show was knocked out. Somehow they muddled through using the lights run off the two bikes but it was a bad business.

Fortunately Mark had prepared us for this eventuality by packing us off with a spare motor and today Craig was able to perform the transplant and revive the hand-wheel. At the same time his on-going efforts to mitigate the attritional effects of touring and keep the racing bike operational had hit a major problem. An indentation needed to be drilled in a tough bit of metal and our cordless drill was making little impact. After a period of frustration boarding on despair it occurred to me that our landlords are metal fabricators. A quick chat with the boss and a visit to one of the workshops and our recess was precision drilled and the bike was back together more robust than it has been for months and ready for a tour of duty in Dartington tomorrow and Frome on Thursday.

From bike repair we zoomed directly over to the CBSO Centre to interview players from Birmingham Contemporary Music Group for our forthcoming collaboration I See WIth My Eyes Closed. We are gathering thoughts about what it is to be a professional musician and these interviews were set up to help us. It was a fascinating afternoon. The players were all very generous with their time and open in their approach to our questions, I would happily have stayed on all afternoon pumping them for information and stories. We learned a tremendous amount, not least that we are going to have to rethink how we approach Section 3 of our piece. Damn. Two steps forwards and one back.

Musical Inspiration

Thursday, March 25th, 2010

It’s possible to draw inspiration from all quarters and when in the midst of making a new show you are particularly open to being inspired. With these high hopes Craig and I headed to the Adrian Boult Hall.

The headliner was Louis Andriessen, the fantastic Dutch composer whose piece The Republic ‘influenced’ The Hearing Of Susan Tuesday a show we made with Students years ago. We were also lured in by Michael Wolters who we are collaborating with on I See With My Eyes Closed.

It was a great evening with a host of short pieces creating in effect a sampler of contemporary composition. We enjoyed Michael’s piece Pop which performs an outrageous edit of Debussey’s La Mere and made us laugh. We loved Mumiko Miyachi’s C-12, which despite its austere program notes proved delightful. Andriessen’s Hout and Bells For Haarlem were great but the real inspiration came from his extraordinary Workers Union.

The there were interesting formal dimensions to the piece which we may be able to apply cross art form, in the same way that the phasing patterns deployed by Steve Reich once influenced us, an influence most nakedly apparent in Bleak Heart Driver, but subtly embodied in much work elsewhere. In Workers Union our understanding is that the score determines with great precision how the ensemble should mesh rhythmically whist leaving the choice of pitch much more with the players. Craig has subsequently found recordings of the piece with wildly varying instrumentation. The upshot was an extraordinarily powerful piece. We also draw inspiration from the directness and confidence of Andriessen’s compositions, their boldness and luck of fuss– he doesn’t mess around.

Whilst on the subject of musical inspiration, I’m just finishing off Julian Cope’s Japrocksampler and find myself desperate to have Tuning Out With Radio Z powered entirely by the Japanese psychadelic hard-rock bands described in that book and which I’ve never heard (though we did all troop down to an Acid Mothers Temple gig a number of years ago and that doesn’t sound far off). Don’t worry, this won’t happen, but we do currently have custody of Graeme’s CD collection and yesterday good and righteous stuff happened with a monumental slab of Popol-Vuh playing. Maybe I need to get stuck into Krautrocksampler.

New MAC: 1

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

We had cause to go to the newly rebuilt MAC for a couple of marketing meetings last week. The place is looking quite spectacular and, for those who knew the old building, quite disorientating.

To start with you cross a footbridge that never existed before and enter behind the area that used to be the box office. Initially the building is single storey then opens out to double height. The new cafe/bar area is on a single level extended backed by a massive wall of windows. The theatre is exciting, having been gutted back to the bare walls, it now has a flat floor and retractable seating bank.

mac Jan10 1

On the roof above what used to be the dance studio there’s a very attractive small performance space.

mac Jan10 5

The administration, which used to be hidden throughout the building in small offices is now housed in a single open-plan room, which should lead to a more cohesive organisation (the staff also have their own mini-dining area for the first time).

What was the old out door courtyard has been landscaped, there’s a new central staircase and a lift. Most spectacular is a large double height gallery space on the first floor, which appears to have been created by the architect opening up some fourth dimension, but is actually the old marketing office plus some other bits of space with the roof raised.

If this all gets you excited, here is an opportunity to work in the new building.

Artist Opportunity: mac-lab
Monday 5th April until Saturday 10th April 2010

mac invites applications from artists in all disciplines to apply for an intensive lab based residency at our new facilities in Birmingham. We want to hear from artists that are interested in working outside of their normal practice or ‘safe’ area. Open to any form of practice – we want applications from musicians, film-makers, visual artists, performers, live artists, photographers, digital media practitioners and anyone working across media.

There will be eight places available to artists resident or working in the West Midlands region and two places for artists located in other UK regions. Successful applicants will have a supported opportunity to make new work within mac’s new studios. They will have access to digital media equipment, space and first rate artist facilitators, providing a challenging and supportive environment.

Details of how to apply can be found here. The closing date for proposals is 5pm on Monday 15 February 2010.

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