The Mystery of Nerves

I think it’s safe to say that I’m a very anxious person; I get anxious when I have to talk to people about things, I get anxious when I have to send emails to people, ringing people about things is something I have to literally practice beforehand. So I think it’s interesting that when I’m performing as part of a group I don’t really get nervous at all. Oh, I might get a bit tense if I happen to have a solo, but on the whole I’m calm as a cucumber.

The other day I was recording for an orchestra that I play in. We were essentially recording for about four or five hours followed by a concert in the evening. Weirdly, I was more worried about the recording than I was about the live performance in the evening. At least we could go back and redo the recording if I made some enormous destructive mistake, whereas in the concert if it’s not perfect then there’s nothing you can do about it.

I don’t really know for sure why some concerts make me more anxious than others. Maybe there isn’t really a reason.


Day 4: First Rehearsal

Today was the day I went back to the uni campus for the first time. Obviously that’s the first time since last term, not the first time in my life ever. (although apparently I look like a fresher. This makes a change from last year when people were wondering how they’d missed me in their lectures) This was somewhat unwilling; my reason for going back was a rehearsal for the Welcome Week (“because they’re welcoming everyone, not just Freshers!”) concert. As the concerts are basically every day this week for about 6 hours a day, I wasn’t massively keen on the idea. So I thought, you know, I’ll just go to the ones maybe on Friday and Saturday – oh wait, the concert’s on Sunday? – and Sunday, and I’ll miss the rest. It’ll be great!

Things I forgot to consider:

1) I am one of two bassoons at Royal Holloway

2) The person making everyone go to the rehearsals is a second-year like me

3) Guilt is a powerful motivator

These three things combined to mean that I had to go to the rehearsal at 1pm today instead of 10am in three days time. This rehearsal was set to go on until 5pm. Unfortunately, I had already booked a tutor meeting for 3pm. THIS IS BASICALLY LIKE SOMETHING OUT OF A VERY STRESSFUL TIME TRAVEL NOVEL. So not only did I have to a) locate the conductor (she’s new) b) apologise for my absence to the conductor c) make my excuses d) somehow extricate myself from the room? e) somehow get back? f) walk to the music department.

For those who’d like to understand points d) and e):

super picture

In essence, think of the people as immovable objects. They basically are.

My exciting adventures were only slightly held back by the steep hill and multiple staircases that dot the campus, but I persevered nevertheless. wow exercise is fun! !!!!

Anyway, as it turned out none of my worrying was justified because the woodwind were released finished at 3 anyway. So without further ado, I managed the most productive ten minutes of my life: I signed my options form, established I don’t have a Geordie accent, confirmed I was still on the list for Philosophy and the Arts, and organised an audition. Wow, go me. I am super productive.

oh flip oh flip what will I PLAY flippity flip

Debates, apples, and too much soup


This morning I had to do a debate. Not just any debate, mind, but a marked debate. I had to say things. In front of poeple. This, in case you didn’t know, is something of a phobia of mine. Talking in front of people is basically, to me, what being punched in the face with a brick is to someone with a phobia of bricks. 

It’s that bad.

My problem is this: when I have to ad lib in a stressful situation, I repeat myself a lot. I mess up words (it’s amazing how many words you can mispronounce through being stressed. ALL OF THEM HAVE ALTRENERT PRORNUNTIONS). So, I basically have to write out exactly what I’m going to say on a piece of paper. And I have to make it good, be cause in times of stress I second-guess myself like nobodies business.

Which leads me nicely to the second problem. We aren’t supposed to read from a script. Even reading from notes is discouraged.

I can sort of see where that’s coming from. I mean, a room full of people reading from scripts and not looking at the audience is fairly boring to look at. But to be perfectly honest, I’m sure we all have much better things to be doing with our time than memorising four reasons why digital media is bad for musicians. And if I had to memorise it as well as say it I think I probably would just run screaming from the room. Literally, screaming. That’s just… nope

But in the end, it wasn’t actually that bad. Because it turns out nobody was listening. They were all on facebook, basically. Laptops, eh?

Apples and soup

Today I made some more soup. Vegetable soup is, as we all know, super-duper good for you and it’ll make you grow magic hair or something. But I’m pretty sure I’ve reached my upper limit on the soup front. I am now experiencing soup fatigue. Just eat the same soup ever day for about a month, and you too can experience Soup Fatigue! It’s great, you get halfway through the bowl and then you seriously start to contemplate throwing it at someone just to be rid of it.

Damn those vegetables.

AND I don’t even like pears. Like, I spent money on them, the least they could do is be as delicious as their appley cousins. Well, I’ll just make them into a smoothie. That’ll learn ’em.

Musicology is hard

Or is it just me?

The problem here may not be the musicology itself. I think it might just be the essays. (yeah yeah, I may be good at essays but I don’t enjoy them. so sue me) My specific problem, apart from the obvious can’t-sit-at-the-computer-for-ten-minutes-without-going-on-tumblr-/blogging-damnit, is this: perspective. I can’t use first-person perspective. And that’s fairly standard for essays, I know that much. I mean, I’ve only been writing them for… ooh, 8 years? maybe more?

This essay is a little different. Not only am I commenting on three very very subjective articles, I’m commenting on feminist texts, some of which are a little misogynistic and heteronormative, and it would probably be a good thing if I could announce my privileges at the door, so to speak. You know, “the views expressed herein are informed by my being female, white, ace, and I also went to a grammar school”. That way, anyone who hates the 11+ can just stop reading.

I jest.

Really though, how am I supposed to express my subjective opinion without use of the word ‘I’? ‘”This author believes that”? “The conclusion come to by this author is that”? It’s not really practical. And of course, it eats into my precious word count. For once I think an essay I write might be in danger of going over the word-limit, rather than being in danger of having too few words. Beige-prose. What can you do?

Heteroprivilege is a heavy burden indeed

Music is one of those courses where everyone basically just expects you to be doing constant musicology. As in, the study of musical scores, analytically. It turns out that that’s only a tiny little part of it. There’s ethnomusicology (the study of music within culture), theory and analysis (sort of self-explanatory), performance, creative performance, history of music, contemporary debates in music, and then my usual favourite, historical musicology.

I generally really enjoy the musicology module because it touches on difficult issues. Things like: where are all the women in music history? What’s up with the letter ‘B’? Why are all the famous composers dead? Why is it that even though there are only four guys in this lecture hall, they seem to be doing all the talking?

We tend to cover topics roughly by week. (not… roughly. Roughly on a weekly basis. We’re not rugby-tackling feminism, although that might be fun) Last week was feminism, this week was music and race, and next week is queer music.

On the face of it, that’s fine. And it probably will be fine. I obviously can’t comment on the lecture itself until I get to the lecture itself. And it could be pretty awkward, because the lecturer is my personal tutor.

It’s just this reading that we have to do. It started with her trying to avoid separating gender and sexuality, i.e. not discussing one without the other. And that’s the first place the Charlotte-train-of-utter-fury stops. Because … this.

What’s sexuality got to do with gender, exactly? Because what she’s actually saying is, I won’t not talk about these people’s sexuality without mentioning that they’re female. Just to emphasise that they’re lesbians. Well, first of all, how do you know they aren’t trans/genderqueer/agender/literally any other gender apart from the traditional gender binary? And therefore how do you know they aren’t bicurious/bisexual/heteroromantic and homosexual/other? You’d literally have to say “what gender are you?” and “what sexuality are you?”

So.. good start, I suppose.

Next, many of the ‘female’ jazz musicians were unwilling to come out to a random interviewer they’d only just met as lesbians and the author got huffy.


No seriously WHAT?

For goodness sake, later in the article YOU YOURSELF acknowledge that being recognised as a lesbian at that time would basically signal career suicide! If someone chooses to associate their sexuality with their music, ok, great! If they choose not to, also great! And if someone chooses to inform you of their sexuality, be honoured! And if they don’t, FOR GODS SAKE IT IS NOT YOUR OVERWHELMING RIGHT TO KNOW THIS.

And that’s when I stopped reading. Because I just couldn’t keep going anymore.

Attention span? What attention span

It turns out, unsurprisingly, that if you accidentally lock yourself out of your room and have to wait half an hour for the security guy to come and let you in, you won’t get to bed as early as if you hadn’t done that. (No way, I hear you cry. Yes way) And this has unfortunate implications for getting up the next day.

Especially if it’s a) obligatory and b) going to happen at 7:30. I know, I know, I used to get up at 6:30 every day for school, although it damn near killed me. Twice a week at 7:40 should be fine, right? (it tends to creep towards 8:00. Try as I might, I can’t not use the snooze function on my phone. Even though my alarm does freak me out whenever I hear it)

So, contemporary debates in music at 9am is going to be JUST FINE.

Actually, it started well. Ish. I was making notes like a pro. A PRO I tell you. Even if sometimes the tails on my ‘y’s began to encroach on the whole rest of the page.



And then came the pointless highlighting.



And then the putting things in boxes and highlighting the box.



And then… I just got kind of grumpy. I’m so hipster.



And I can’t really explain these last two. Someone said ‘social beans’ instead of social beings, so I … penalised them. I didn’t say I’d done it though. That would just be rude. And the music spaceship thing? The seminar-person-lady-tutor apparently said something that inspired a composers in space drawing, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was.



Don’t be embarrassed to have an opinion

Today was my first Contemporary Debates in Music lecture. Apart from the pure 100% unadulterated joy I felt in finally getting a tutor with the same sense of humour as me, I also took some time to perfectly solemnly reflect on the different cultural expectations placed on different types of music. Fortunately, this was the topic we were discussing in the lecture.

The interactive task the lecturer set for us was as follows:

  1. Zie would play for us a sample of music
  2. We rated the music on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is ‘meh’ and 5 is ‘great’
  3. We also wrote down a few reasons or explanations for our rating

Some of the samples were less obvious than others, but the first one we heard was pretty obvious to everyone in the room. (Not just because it was on youtube and had the name on the screen right in front of us) One Direction’s ‘The Best Song Ever’. Ok, it’s not the greatest song in the world, but it’s not a pile of shite either, right? I gave it a fairly sturdy 3. 3 for average, good to listen to but not amazing. 

(1: meh. 2: fairly shabby. 3: averagely good. 4: not bad. 5: great. You might notice that I tend to be fairly unenthusiastic about my ratings.)

The funniest part of the tutorial/seminar aspect was this: we had to discuss why we gave the music the rating we did. Most people gave ‘Best Song Ever’ a 1 or a 2, with the reasoning that it was bland, average, very generic. However, some other people also gave it a 3, and the best part of it was them trying to justify it. a) you don’t have to justify your taste in music, idiots. b) “I like it, but I mean, I know it’s not good music, but it’s catchy and fun to dance to, I mean, the lyrics are rubbish, but I enjoyed it” (It’s weird how the phrase ‘I mean’ sprang up so often, but hey, I’m no expert on linguistics) I don’t know why they were so angsty about admitting they liked it. It’s not like it says anything about them as a person. Ok, so you like fairly generic average pop music? Ok, me too! I’m pretty sure everyone in the room secretly liked it and just didn’t want to admit it.

The trouble with trying to compare ‘Best Song Ever’ with the 1812 Overture, for example, is that they’re not doing the same job. The function of those two songs is completely different. I mean, when was the last time you were dancing around the kitchen and put on Handel’s Water Music? Or Les Mis? And you don’t go to concert halls to listen to Bastille perform with the intention of sitting in rapt silence as they play. They’re just not really comparable in that sense.

My favourite metaphor that I made up was a clothes metaphor. Think of pop music as being hats and classical music as coats. You might walk home with a brand new hat and be all “guys, check out this cool hat!”, only to have them respond “yeah, but it’s never going to keep you warm. Not like this coat.” “Well, of course not, it’s a hat.

Hats and coats, people. It’s the next thing in the musical community.

Back again

I’m back at uni now (and have been for a few days), and I was surprised by how great it felt to be back. Not in the sense that I thought I hated it here, but in the sense that I assumed I preferred to be at ‘home’ rather than ‘away from home’. Interestingly, I’m not really sure which is ‘home’ now, a topic made all the more complex by the fact that I sort of live in three places. It confuses me too.

It’s been brilliant seeing everyone again, especially seeing as people I didn’t think liked me last term struck up unsought conversation with me. I was both pleased and proud that I managed to reply in comprehensible ways, for the most part.

Of course, because Music at RHUL is weird, all my lecturers are different this term. And my modules are all different, so that’ll be interesting. Today I had my first Theory and Analysis lecture (the excitement!). It was interesting enough, but I’m not really a morning person. I forgot how much I’m not a morning person when I went home/away/whatever, because I just slept in til late and went to bed late. The 9am start killed me. I’m still tired, and I had a nap earlier. A nap. What am I, middle aged?!

Things I like about Theory and Analysis

  1. the lecturer’s Irish accent.
  2. the use of triangles to demonstrate the difference between specific and general

Things I don’t like about Theory and Analysis

  1. 9am
  2. it’s boring

So far things are looking pretty equal on those two fronts. Which will win?!

I’m actually going to do tasks the day they’re set this term, which will be exciting for all of us, and hopefully they’ll be good. oh god I’m getting my essays back soon I may actually scream (but not really my flatmates wouldn’t like that)

As this post is being posted, I will be attempting to force a bowl of porridge down my throat and sprint to my lecture. I really hate mornings.

Essaying on essay writing

It’s the end of term, and we all know what that means…

It’s essay time!

That’s right, the bit where you have to do essays on the things you’ve learnt over the course of the term. In my case it’s essays, because I have to do an essay for history of music, an essay for world music, an essay(ish) for creative ensemble performance, and some exercises for my composition module.

(As you may have guessed, this is me PROCRASTINATING. As I am writing this post, I am not a) composing, b) essay planning, or c) researching for my essay) Fortunately, I have now done all but two of the above things. And I’ve done all but one of my composition exercises, so that cool.

I mean the deadline is next Wednesday, NO PRESSURE RIGHT omg I might actually just die or something.

P.S. I have now finished all my assignments with one day to spare. They will know that I only had one day to spare because I had to say in one of my references when I accessed it HOSHIZZ


How to: All the things you need to know to get through uni life

How to get lost in 7 easy steps

  1. Choose route.
    For bonus points, make it a route you’ve walked so many times you basically know it off by heart. For more bonus points check the route on google maps before you start
  2. Get stuck behind a really slow walker
  3. Continue to be stuck behind the slow walker
    Bonus points if the slow walker notices you.
    More bonus points if other people notice.
  4. Turn right before you meant to to get out of the awkward situation with the slow walker
  5. Realise you’ve never been down this road before
  6. Realise you don’t recognise any of the other roads
  7. Pick a road at random and pray

Congratulations, you are now lost

How to be awkward on the underground

  1. Take up the bassoon or other huge instrument
  2. Become proficient at the bassoon and get lessons at the RAM
  3. Go to RHUL to study music
  4. Get on appropriate tube with bassoon on back. Make sure the tube is packed
  5. Hit someone in the face with the bassoon
  6. Accidentally stroke someone’s hair as you grab one of the poles

Congratulations, you are now awkward beyond belief.