Deadline Day, the last lecture, and potentially too much sushi

Yesterday was deadline day! Some departments have lots of days where they have to hand essays in, but the music department just simplifies things. “everything in on the last Wednesday of term, kids” they say. “Two hard copies and submit in online and WRITE YOUR CODE ON THE COVER SHEET WITH YOUR CANDIDATE NO. THAT CHANGES EVERY YEAR. what are you talking about this is easy stop crying”

I mean, there’s also my composition techniques exercise which is due on the first day after the Easter holidays. And the philosophy essay that’s due in on the day of my first exam. Apart from that, we’re done.

Oh, and of course options selection day on Friday. For those not in the know, the options selection form must be submitted by email at 8.30. Attempts to submit the form before 8.30 will be met with your form being sent to the back of the queue. ??? Its a baffling system to me, particularly as the form itself is approximately 50 miles away from a sensible format. And of course all the lectures are on a ‘first come first serve’ basis, which doesn’t really work if everyone’s frantically submitting the damn things at 8.30 in the morning. I digress.

Oh, not to forget handing in the accompaniment for my recital! Yet another thing to have to photocopy and sellotape together, because paper & ink & sellotape are cheap.

Fortunately, today was my absolute last lecture of the year, so we celebrated afterwards with some sushi rolls and a cup of chai latte.


Week 5 Day 1: The Day of the Sun

Today the sun came back. Not in the way that the sun does every day where it just sort of casually saunters above the horizon, but in the way that the sun sometimes does when it’s in the mood to troll you; suddenly the sun will shine brightly down on you just when you thought it was cold enough to wear a coat. Yesterday, it was. Today, wearing a coat is basically signing your own death warrant.

Fortunately, the sun saw the error of its ways and by lunchtime it had gone back into hiding, lurking ominously behind a cloud and threatening bloody vengeance upon the whole of humanity. But we’re ready for it; we’ve been preparing for this all summer. Soon it will strike. Soon.



Anyway, other things happened apart from my apparently completely losing my mind. Tomorrow I have to play in my solo performance lecture. It’s not too stressful (hopefully) because it’s basically just a masterclass where the lecturer tells us what we need to do to improve our playing and we unlearn all our bad habits. My worst habit currently is pointing myself completely off to the side and showing the audience my lovely left side. It’s clearly my best angle, but sometimes they do like to see your face apparently.

This performance would be a lot less stressful if my bassoon reed weren’t on its last legs from a combination of a) old age and b) me boiling it to combat the old age. The boiling sort of worked, but again, it also shrank the end that goes on the bassoon crook. Wish me luck for tomorrow, because I have a feeling it could all go horribly wrong. I mean, there’s a pretty huge chance that everything will go wrong and I’ll just end up fleeing for my life chased by a horde of angry pedestrians.

what’s even going on today. I’m so weird.

Week 3 Day 4: So much more excitement than I really bargained for

As we all know (?) I do an orchestra in London, and it’d be something of an understatement to say I enjoy it. Our last concert, just as a completely random example, was a film music concert except for the part where I played Let it go, a whole load of Scott Joplin rags (actually, that one was more boring than exciting for me personally, but hey, I think the audience liked it), and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice from Fantasia. Don’t recognise it? Don’t worry, there’s always youtube. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

Back? OK then. So this orchestra is great fun, and this year we’re doing loads and loads so I’m really excited about it. Obviously, as always when things get exciting, a problem came up.

The problem was this: RHUL. Specifically, the Symphony Orchestra. Because this year, the RHUL orchestra rehearsal is on the same day as the other orchestra rehearsal. Yeah, I was pretty upset too. But, I thought, as long as I still do at least two of the other orchestras (the requirement to do solo performance!) and apologise to the conductor, it should be fine, right? I mean, it’s not like the orchestra is compulsory or anything. Ha, what a thought.

Only they didn’t take it as well as I’d hoped. And when I say they took it badly, that’s an understatement.

The email I got essentially blackmailing me with expulsion from the solo performance module unless I did Symphony Orchestra definitely felt like a bit of an overreaction.

So, let’s just let that sink in for a minute. The department went as far as that to get me to do something which wasn’t even compulsory. I have a sinking feeling that next year the rules will be changed, but until then… I have an even more prominent suspicion that this is only because of the instrument I play and nothing to do with the actual departmental stance on people not being in Symphony Orchestra. Nobody’s sending threatening emails to the many legions of flautists dotting the campus. (seriously, they’ve started forming colonies. Whole sections of the campus are infested)

Maybe I should have expected it after I received an email from the head of performance (i.e. not the conductor) telling me I’d made it into Symphony Orchestra despite not auditioning for it. But hey, it could have been an honest mistake. Perhaps.

Anyway, I pointed out that Symphony Orchestra was in fact optional and I should be able to choose which orchestras I play in without being threatened. The response to this was such a sudden U-turn I almost couldn’t believe it. Apparently the conductor was just disappointed that I had chosen to not participate in Symphony Orchestra. …

I came very close to sending back a very rude email, but I suppressed the urge.

Of course, the matter wasn’t closed, not by a long shot. Because then the conductor herself chipped in asking me to come and talk to her so ‘we could work something out’. There is no we. If there ever had been a we, it would have been in the audition where I offered to see if I could maybe alternate rehearsals. Unfortunately this isn’t possible for one simple reason: the music they’re playing in Symphony Orchestra AND the London orchestra is really fucking hard. I cannot humanly learn to play both, and frankly I can’t understand why you’d want a substandard performance.

Hey, I’m not a conductor. Who can say what goes on in their mysterious minds?

Suffice to say that in the meeting we established several things:

  1. I respond very badly to threats
  2. The piece in Symphony Orchestra requires three bassoons. There are three bassoons at RHUL including me. Well, you should’ve checked you had three in your orchestra before you chose the piece, frankly.
  3. Apparently I’m not committed. I don’t really know how much more committed you can get from 1 chamber orchestra, 1 sinfonietta, 2 chamber ensembles at RHUL, 1 symphony orchestra, and 1 wind quintet. BUT IF YOU THINK OF A WAY DO LET ME KNOW.

I don’t think I’m friends with the conductor anymore.

Day 1 in the 0B household

Well technically day 2, but who’s going to quibble over a day? Not me, that’s for certain.

So, I’m back! In Egham!!! The town that’s so full of excitement they had to set up a museum just to tell you all about it. Truth be told I haven’t actually been to the museum just yet, but I gather it’s an experience that you won’t forget. It’s singular, that’s what it is.

Moving in was fun I guess. Carrying boxes up a flight of stairs was a lot easier than trying to get them through the porch (the outside door and the inside door were apparently installed by two different people with different artistic ideas), and then there was the added joy of trying to fit everything in on the floor. The kitchen is a wee bit cramped now.

Anyway, I kicked off the week as I meant to go on with a fabulous macaroni cheese with chorizo (chorizo improves literally everything, I’ve found… until you reach chorizo saturation point, and then it just ruins everything), and the first of many film nights. (The Princess and the Frog) I’m starting to suspect that every night might be film night though, because there are a lot of DVDs in the living room and we’ve barely even scratched the surface of what’s on various people’s computers.

Unexpected Star Trek marathons aside, it’s shaping up to be a good week. Catch you later, yo.

It was fine at first, but now it’s just getting awkward

It’s weird, how self-awareness changes so many things. well, maybe it isn’t weird if you’ve had it for a while, but I’m fairly new to the whole knowledge-of-own-identity thing, so it’s odd. Odd in a good way, usually, but also a bit odd in a bad way.

Anyway. All my flatmates now have tinder, which on it’s website describes itself as “like real life, but better”. Basically, you use tinder to find hot guys/girls/squid and then you like them, and if they like you back you’re a match and then you can find out if they’re just in it for the sex or if they want to go out or whatever. A bit like seeing someone in the street and running up to them all like “hi! Wanna go out with me?” Obviously this method does leave you open to a lot of … erm, sadness? Especially if a ‘hot guy’ turns out to be a total dick-head.

That’s not the awkward thing. The awkward thing is when they turn to me and ask ‘is this person hot?’ Yes, generally the person is a bloke, I’m not gonna lie. It’d be fairly surprising if Josh or Chi went on tinder, but hey, I wouldn’t judge them if they did.

But that’s not what’s important right now. The really important thing is that my female flatmates will occasionally turn to me and ask “what about this one?” That’s the key thing. And I’m beginning to see that when I say “oh, that person looks ok” I geenerally mean they look fairly clean and somewhat symmetrical. I don’t think those are the key features of hotness. Sometimes I even think, “that person’s eyes are pretty” but I don’t know if that’s why you’re even on tinder.

I don’t really want to make the whole of this about being aroace, but I am and in this case (haha rhyme) it happens to be relevant. And I have no idea if I should maybe mention it to them. It does seem a bit odd just to tell people so they’ll stop talking to me about tinder. I dunno, what do you think?

Procrastination strikes back!

Except it kind of doesn’t. My defining personality trait for myself is probably ‘lazy’. Like if my choice is ‘eat meatballs for the next three days for lunch and dinner’ or ‘go to supermarket and buy food’… well, bring on the meatballs!

(seriously, never again. I didn’t know you could get so tired of meatballs.)

If there’s a marathon of Stargate Atlantis going up against an assignment, I guess I’ll be up til midnight! ‘Working’! And don’t even get me started on the lie-ins. Except, weirdly, I sometimes can’t sleep until 2 in the bloody morning and then I wake up at 9am weirdly not tired? What? Normally if I don’t get my 9 hours I’m just grumpy beyond belief. But today, it’s like “I am going to kick the arse of reality. with energy.”

So that’s why this weekend has been so weird for me. I set myself a list of tasks this weekend:

  1. MU1110 Exercise
  2. MU1112 Exercise 1
  3. MU1112 Exercise 3
  4. MU1119 Arrangement 1
  5. MU1119 Arrangement 2
  6. MU1117 Write up from debate
  7. MU1115 Reading
  8. Buy brownie ingredients

And I’m proud to say, I’ve done quite a few of those things. The brownie ingredients.. haven’t done that one. Given it requires leaving the flat, I’m not entirely surprised.

  1. MU1110 Exercise
  2. MU1112 Exercise 1
  3. MU1112 Exercise 3
  4. MU1119 Arrangement 1
  5. MU1119 Arrangement 2
  6. MU1117 Write up from debate
  7. MU1115 Reading
  8. Buy brownie ingredients

Are you proud? I’m proud. That’s…. 5/8 things. That is much better than my usual record of 0, or sometimes 1 if the task is ‘print this thing’. I guess when I just buckle down and do things I get a lot done. It definitely helps that the deadline for most of those things is next week. I know. I apparently work a lot better with a terrifying looming deadline.

now I will resume drinking buckets of tea

ah dammit I can’t. I’ve run out of sugar and tesco is 20 minutes away. #shit

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?

Uni is a very strange place

Sometimes when I’m reading stories I like to genderflip the characters to see if it still seems balanced. It generally doesn’t. A few examples off the top of my head include: The Avengers (4 F, 1 M), Harry Potter power trio (2 F, 1 F), LOTR (9 F, no M), the Hobbit (assuming we mean just the main cast, 15 F, 2M). What’s the moral of that little story? Partly that I can never just watch films/read books, but also partly that apparently there is way more M in the world than F, or that F is less inclined to adventure than M, and that it’s perfectly normal. #wtf

And then I started doing it in real life. In orchestra, in lectures, on my own in the kitchen, the results came back the same: more F than M. So… RL =/= fiction, that’s one conclusion we can draw from that data.

I even started breaking it down by section in orchestra:

Woodwind: 2M 6F

Brass: 1M 1F (Brass wins! yeah, go brass)

Cellos: 3M 1F

Violas: 2M 1F

Violins: 2M 7F

so overall that’s: 10M 16F

It’s a chamber orchestra, in case you were worried about the terrible attendance record at RHUL. “But Charli, there’s no-one there!” you might cry, anxiously. And I would reply reassuringly, “It’s ok, it’s a chamber orchestra.”

I even have a lecture where out of about 50 people only 4/5 are male. It’s kind of hard to say, because the rest just might not be turning up. I can’t imagine why, MU1115 is the best lecture we have. But it’s very odd, or seems odd to me, that music is so imbalanced when it comes to gender.


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.