Category: Music

Hats For Headway (by )

So this is a thing, I didn't know it was a thing - I probably did but then forgot :/ But get your fancy head gear out!

knitted brain hat

Today is #HatsforHeadway to raise awareness and cash for an absolutely brilliant charity who have helped so much with people like me who have sustained head injuries. This is the hat I knitted for the Science Showoff on Neurology and brainy things special that they did. It was a wonderful evening with Dr Carina Fearnley a fellow head injury sufferer and friend from my Geology undergraduate days. She has made a fantastic video about her experience:

The event was at the Star of Kings in London but I believe was raising money for the Bristol Headway and I made a paper mache brain and got gummy brain sweets. The hat has since appeared at various British Science Week Events, Cheltenham Science Festival and BBC Country File Live show/festival. It was an amazing night were I learnt about all sorts of things including the medical skeletons etc... lurking beneath London and what their skulls can tell us!

What I didn't say at the time was that I was struggling with knitting due to the damage to my left hand side so this whole thing was create out of loom knitting (French knitting or knitting nancy/spool knitting are all mini looms). Also for me to actually make it to the gig my dad had to come and meet me at the station - which in your 30's is pretty embarrassing, but I have only recently been able to attempt travel on my own on that sort of scale and I was still unable to cook anything other than a microwave meal safely on my own (I've set fire to pans and tried to pick up boiling pots with my bare hands...).

There is currently an Art Exhibit and series of talks etc... at Kings College about head injury including a pice on Identity after the fact. I myself had to basically learn to draw again - I always drew with both hands but now... the pictures come out distorted - I have a blind spot in my left eye, and hand coordination was hard. Add in the crisis of everyone else knowing more about me than I myself did and I ended up producing Love: A Stranger Dream. It started as distinct pictures which people asked for as colouring sheets so I put them up for free download here. Then I realised there was a kind of non-linear narrative or themes running through the works and it became a book of visual poetry. I took refuge in art - something that is quiet important in developing coping mechanisms and reducing the amount of depression that head injury victims feel - it is like having everything that is you stripped away.

I even made audio.

And video of it.

Art that started as a way to just express myself when speech and writing where hard graft ended up as something that has helped friends, it explores lots of different aspects of identity and so has ended up at GLBT+ events, dis/different-ability events, music and art installations, two different events for International Women's Day, comic book conventions, poetry events, story telling and maze festivals. I've even made a dress from the art work 0.o - ok yeah I got carried away!

(can't find the photo - if I came across it I'll add it later! but it got compared to the stuff worn by the Welsh Eisteddfod singer/bardic peeps)

As I've probably bored everyone with - I have not long been discharged from the head injury unit including physio at Gloucester Royal - still under neurology but the main chunk of it is done. Charities like Headway - the brain injury association are an absolute life line and they have local branches but head injury sufferers often struggle to get the help that's needed especially as most of the time they still look "normal". I was being mistaken for being drunk and struggling with lots of things. So yeah - hats for headway 🙂

May Events 2018 (by )

Bit late to be adding this now considering I have already performed at a few including the Swindon Literature Festival's 25th anniversary extravaganza of a poetry slam (Joy-Amy won!!!) which included people like Tina Sedaholm and other previous winners. I have been to London, Bristol, and Stroud also - but that is the what has been and there is still a lot to come!

Sat 19th May 3-7 pm Food For Thoughts Heroes event in Worcester - poetry, music, spoken word, comedy and story telling - free with charity collection

Tues 22nd May 6-8 pm Gloucester's second Pecha Kucha Night - fast fun Japanese style presentations on various creative and community aspects or the creatives tales themselves - my presentations is From Rocks To Puppets and Back Again - Gloucester - free

Sun 27th May 2-4 pm - Sea Special Villanelles at Waterstones Cafe - I am co-hosting this event with poetry games and open mic, come and share your own work or poems that have inspired you - Gloucester - free and family friendly

Wed 30th May 7:30 pm start - History Showoff Women's Special at the Bishopsgate Institute - a night of comedy and cabaret - come and meet Aethelflaed the Puppet and learn about the Warrior Queen of the Mercians! (psst she's much better than her old dad who only went and burnt the cakes!) - ticketed event £9

And June isn't looking too shabby either - but more on that later!

Anglo-Saxon Music and Poetry (by )

Bryd One Brere - Anglo-Saxon are and Voice

So I have been investigating the oral traditions of the Anglo-Saxons, this includes song, poetry and story telling and really how the three were once one thing - no ones really quiet sure what the music sounded like or how much of the stories where sung or spoken - there were probably variations like we have today - after all they were people just like us.

Replicas of the instruments much such beautiful haunting sounds that I have fallen in love with them and found myself falling down a rabbit whole of music history and theory. I am now reading up on the general history of the lyre or harp which has taken me back into the old testament of the bible and also into listening to Pirate Thrash Metal!

Stories where not just entertainment they were the history and identity of people but they were also the media of the time. You wanted to be remembered then you needed the bards to sing of you! Aethelflaed, her father Alfred the Great and her brother all knew how important stories could be.

We are lucky in that some of these stories still exist today - some even got written down in contemporary times ie more than a millennium ago! But even written stories struggle at being static and alter with the copying and in some cases purging of the words. Aethelflaed herself appears to have been purposefully written out of the Wessex or primary version of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle - by her brother for fear that the stories of her would encourage her Kingdom of Mercia to see itself as always distinct from Wessex. But she appears in later stories - romanticised and even turned into a virgin - though potentially that is due to exact meanings of words changing through time.

It is thought that the poem Judith is based on her - and maybe even commissioned by her - it casts parallels of the virtuous biblical female and the Lady of Mercia. I need to investigate it more - here's the [Wikipedia page](Anglo-Saxon poem Judith). I am struggling to find copies or it but I have found this 7 hr etc... video of another poem called The Wanderer - this is the one I have been quoting (in translation) at my poetry afternoons in Waterstones in Gloucester.

Of course the fact that I am having to read out translations is another fascinating warren of knowledge for me to investigate - I was taught in school about Old and Middle English but I kind of forgot about it all except when Alaric starts quoting Chuarcer at me. Due to character develop for my puppet of Aethelflaed I am also investigating the language - I love how languages split and merge and change and how you can trace human interactions along the lines of dialects and word exchange. But that shall be another blog post or two - back to Anglo-Saxon Music.

Youtube is filled with some brilliant pieces.

Anglo-Saxon poem "Deor" with Lyre

One of the reasons I have got myself a lyre is because they appear in the art works of Anglo-Saxon England and remnants have been found both in Britain on in Europe, culturally the Anglo-Saxons where from northern Europe including what is now Germany and those pesky Vikings they were fighting, they had once been themselves. So you can through Danes into the mix not to mention the "Celtic" and Britons who were lurking around since before Roman times, we always tend to think of history in simple A to B narratives but it very much isn't and there are influences from all over the place. The lyre itself is a very ancient instrument and may well have come to Europe from the Middle East - as in the harp that David plays in the bible.

But the lyre is not the only instrument that the Anglo-Saxons used - drums and flutes are featured in their artworks - I simply do not have the budget to explore these other instruments at the moment but it is on the to-do list. It is thought that they would often have been played in conjunction with each other - here is an example.

Anglo-Saxon Folk Music - "Wælheall"

Music isn't as clear cut a thing as I was initially taught at school with 8 notes and nothing in-between, musical tuning and what counts as a note has changed quiet drastically. I see this as an amazing diversity and am happy because having grown up with folk and gospel singing I also struggled with the classical definition of music. Rock and pop tend to mix it all up which I think is also fab! But this can mean that people perceive older types of music or say those from India etc... as being out of tune. This isn't the case but it is due to how the instruments are tuned. They are in tune with themselves and not necessarily with other surrounding instruments, you have to work at finding what fits together and as a vocalist adapt to the instruments you are singing along with. In choir I did a lot of singing without instrument backing - sometime the song sound fab - we were all in tune with each other and the music was full and vibrating the rafters but when the piano was dinged at the end to see if we had maintained our tuning - we... hadn't. We were off doing our own thing. I think that this is kind of how older music would have worked - you had natural materials which would affect what sounds the finished instrument would be suited too ie the grain of the wood and the shape in which it carved, the diet of the animal the sinue came from to string it... so many little factors. The classical music that we are taught as Music in schools has very specific parameters and if and instrument can't meet those it is considered defective - I think there is no coincidence that the emergence of such strict musicality came about as technology and science began to be a thing throughout Europe.

This is complete guess work on my part I can't even read music (well not with out looking the notes up and then pinging them on my guitar! I've always worked things out by watching or just playing around with the instrument), I am certainly no music theorist and I'm not even a historian! If I am wrong - tell me how I am wrong - I am investigating this stuff - searching and learning and others input is always appreciated!

What's that? I digressed? Yeah ok you have a point....

I will finish off with this video I found of The Classic - the first piece of European Literature (if you take the Mediterranean as not being Europe) - the Epic Poem of BeoWulf sung and played on the hardy-gurdy (now there's an instrument I would like to get my hands on! But I believe it was a later dated instrument - more high medieval than the low medieval of Saxon England - I could be wrong as I have a hell of a lot more reading to do!).

I think this is this guy - anyway I better get back to trying to work out how to play my lyre - twinkle twinkle little star.... ok so they are the tunes I knew the best ok!

Lyra the Lyre (by )

Lyra and the Lyre

Lyra the Lyre would by lying if she said she was Anglo-Saxon but she knows how she is different and is very similar - so she will do.

Basically she is 10 strings and modern built "Celtic" style and the Saxon era ones were 5-8 strings. However culturally the music and things would be close to the Danes/viking stuff were they range from 2 strings (or t least this is my understanding form all the readingI've been doing). The style of harp/lyre used is basically the same as that used in Israel and the Middle East - stretching way back in time. Anglo-Saxon harps are rare finds though and we are lucky to have found the fragments at Sutton Hoo. Gaps in our knowledge are filled in from other parts of Europe - ie places in and around Germany where the Angles and other associated tribes came from.

Finding myself falling down a lovely rabbit whole of music history - and finding myself trying to understand music theory when I can't read music!

So... pentatonic scales are kinds of an ancient thing hidden in British music especially the folk stuff - this is not the 8 note thingy we are taught at school and kind of explains why folk stuff from other places sounds so hauntingly familiar to me. I struggle a bit with the restrictions of conventional music that tries to tell me sounds I can hear don't exist or can't sound good. These I've found are called Demi-tones - but that is another tale and arches back to the end of the nineties and my choir master being awesome in explaining stuff and encouraging people to experiment with music.

Anyway obv. Lyra has the wrong number and type of strings and has a key for turning the pegs for tuning but she is still really really similar to the harps the anglo-saxons used.

I have a book on Lyre history, making and tuning coming - for now I just sort of tightened the strings until they sounded ok to me. At some point I will be making a Sutton Hoo replica but not before the summer festival for Queen Aethelflaed!

Here are some fun links!

Viking Guitar

Guide To Playing a Six String Lyre

This one is an absolutely beautiful blog on The Saxon Hearpe - here is the lady in a vid about it too 🙂

International Mens Day (by )

Alaric and sick kitten snuggles

It is International Mens Day today - this popped up in my memories on Facebook - Alaric curled up with kitten Lithium after her op. Alaric as he says is not shy about his emotions like most male people but he does still have extreme self reliance which causes him much misery and is part of the bundle that makes men more likely to commit suicide - my friends that have killed themselves to escape the dark places have so far all been men - here is the tribute song/poem that I made for them:

And also Al's write up of the miscarriage from the father point of view. Something which often gets over looked.

And guys - if you are in that dark place please please seek help - I know it's the hardest thing to do.

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