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Home > About Us > Guest of the Month > Guest of the Month February 2017: Evelyn Glennie

Guest of the Month February 2017: Evelyn Glennie

Evelyn Glennie is the Musician in Residence, King’s Cross for 2017. We caught up with her in January 2017 to find out more about her plans for the residency and more!

Q: I want to start by saying congratulations on becoming our Kings Cross Musician in Residence! We’re all really looking forward to seeing what you have in store. What can you tell us about what you have planned and what we can expect from your residency?

Well we have planned five main events. The first one will be on February 8th and that will be our public launch. There’s a team that consists of myself and a world historian Christopher Lloyd. He’s going to deal with the history of the locations that we’re allowed to be in. Then we have the composer Jill Jarman and the outreach expert Tim Steiner, so basically the core team of four people. We will spend the day going in different areas of N1, perhaps both the stations, outdoors just different locations, I’ll play a piece on the snare drum, we’re basically enticing people and asking people what is their soundscape? What’s the soundscape of Kings Cross? We’ll be finding sounds at the locations that we’re at and for the whole residency these sounds will be collected. We’ll be encouraging people to go onto the website and upload their sounds and these sounds will all influence the final piece of music in the final performance. So the public launch is about getting people excited and getting them to know about the residency.

The next event will be in March and that will be for businesses. We want to bring businesses together in this area so we’ll set up interactive activities for them to really think about what listening means to them in their environment, when they walk to work or go to work, how does that affect what they do once they’re in their work environment? Communication and things like that, really getting businesses to meet and come together and share ideas. Then the next event will be in the summertime and that is what we’re calling a pop up walk about. Again this will be about really enticing people to find the sounds that’s right there in front of them and making the ordinary extraordinary in a way. We’ll also be creating little performances that will be much easier to do outdoors at that time of year.

The next event will be specifically to schools, teachers and the families of the pupils, and this is really about questioning what listening is. Here we’re dealing with a very young generation obviously and we’re asking them to just take a good old look and really think about that word listening and really physically explore what that means, and then of course the final event will be the final performance. We’ll have a group of musicians whereby we’ll be composing a piece of music with Jill Jarman, being influenced by all of the sounds even using some of them and we’ll explain why we’ve used those sounds. We’ll get the audience being interactive during the event and of course we’ll perform the piece of music.

Q: Other than the residency what else have you got lined up for 2017? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to/excited about?

We still travel around the world and we give a lot of concerto performances with the orchestras and with the solo percussion. We have a mammoth concert in Calgary in Canada in May whereby I’ll be giving the world premiere of five pieces in one concert. I also have a collaboration with a Russian artist called Maria Rud. We’ll be using the exterior of buildings whereby she paints and as she’s painting I’m playing music. Everything is live and once the piece of music has ended she wipes the painting away. At the beginning of February I collaborate with Trilok Gurtu an Indian percussion player for the Celtic Connections. We will have a recording out with naxos which is a new project called the Core-Tet project. This is with a jazz group and myself so we have an American pianist, a Danish guitarist, a fantastic Hungarian viola player and myself on percussion, so that’s interesting. I’m also taking part in the recording sessions for the film music for Wonderstruck. So it’s really diverse and that’s what I enjoy, and then of course one of the other projects I’m involved with with Chris and Jill is a project called the Sounds of Science. This is something that we premiered last year at the Edinburgh Science Festival and we have it next in Cambridge, because I’m just finishing my residency off in Cambridge now, and then in Oxford, so lots of things really where listening and sound is at the absolute core of what we do. Probably the most long term aim is that for the past year we’ve had a couple of volunteers work on our archives archiving everything to do with Evelyn Glennie, so where that is going is really interesting because it allows us to give the opportunity to create exhibitions on specific things and build that story up, so that’s what we’re doing.

Q: Who are your biggest influences and how have they influenced your work

I don’t really work like that I’ve never been that kind of person. It may be because my whole upbringing was on a farm. I went to a two-teacher primary school and they had only about 37 pupils. Then I went to a secondary school and even when I was a student at the Academy here in London those were in the days where percussion didn’t have people coming in giving master classes and workshops and lectures and things like that. So you know you’re very much independent there was no internet, so my influences were what was around me; the farm my parents my teachers my friends, everything like that and I had a very good pool of friends, really good teachers, everything would’ve influenced me one way or another and that’s really how I’ve remained actually. I can come here and I can see – wherever you look you’re seeing really interesting things, I mean that is such an interesting view it really is, so that might trigger something, not right now, but it could do. So that’s how it works.

Q: Where are you from and what is your local scene like? Has it played a big role on your development or your creativity?

Well I was brought up about 25 miles northwest of Aberdeen on a farm and so really the influences there were – you were given responsibilities very early on and you were trusted. You were around machinery, animals, livestock that kind of thing, so you could run around you could get on your bike go somewhere and your parents wouldn’t worry, so that was the kind of upbringing. To have that upbringing to then go to London at the age of 16 was a massive contrast, but London was exciting. You trusted everybody because that’s how you were so you learnt pretty quickly that not everywhere is like where you were brought up, but it made me really focus. I’ve always been a hard worker. I’ve never had to be told to do something and I think that has been quite handy a handy ingredient to have. I’ve never been distracted so I’ve been quite good at really keeping the aims simple and going for it. So for me to have spent 10 years in London as a student and then as a young professional, to then move to somewhere that I had no acquaintances no friends there no idea, but with the vision of creating a space where I could move forward and work, have a space for the instruments really, that was essential so I think it’s just knowing what you want and having that vision as to what you really want to happen.

Q: How easy was it to make that transition coming from Aberdeen to London?

It was fine you know and I think if I was asked to do that now, I probably wouldn’t find it nearly as easy. I think when you’re so young everything is possible and it’s a can do sort of feeling and I think for me because I knew exactly where I wanted to go in my head, that was the aim, you know so it wasn’t as though you were being distracted by this or distracted by that and you know everybody’s going to clubs or going to the pub or whatever, they do what they do I do what I do, and that’s kind of what I do.

17th January 2017 Photograph by Elliott Franks for the PRS For Music Foundation Photograph by Elliott Franks Image licensed to Elliott Franks Photography Services

Q: If you could work for PRS Foundation for a day, who would you support and why? (apart from yourself!)

For me acknowledging diversity is really important and I would want to be sure that opportunity, quality and diversity are key things that I’d at least touch on within that one day. One thing can influence another. You never know what’s going to be sparked off by that and I think this country does well in supporting such diversity and not really thinking, oh well we support this more than that, and so on. Composers for example are always going to need support of course they are, and if I didn’t have composers I probably would not be sitting here today. I’ve been utterly reliant in order to sustain a career as a solo percussionist, to have the composers write music for me, and not just for my career but for those coming through. So although in my situation I may have had to wait a year or two years or three years for a piece of music, now that piece of music is there, so for another player coming through they can get going more quickly in a way than I could. So for me that day would have to be acknowledging our composers and supporting them.

Q: What has been the best moment of your career so far?

I’m not sure if I can just fully pick one event but I think whereby we saw the power of music, the power of teamwork, and truly the long-lasting benefits, was taking part in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. I think that – you could see what that meant to the man on the street. There were absolutely no boundaries as regards to whether you could play drums or not play drums. Everybody was beating and had a pulse and was breathing that day, and so I think really…seeing that and feeling that, to get a nation working together, was something that I don’t really think I’ve experienced before.

Q: Do you have any advice for music creators applying for funding and hoping to make a career out of music?

Really it’s being aware right from the beginning that you are in a business it’s as simple as that. You know there are wonderful moments in the journey and there are frustrating moments in the journey. There are moments when you feel elated and there are moments when you think oh crumbs you know I’m not sure about this. So the highs and lows are definitely there, and literally they are all lessons that’s it. When you see them as that journey of growth then that’s really important. It’s also important to know that any kind of journey or results of that journey doesn’t happen in isolation. So really connect with people. Sometimes it’s the most unlikely of people that sparks something, so don’t just think that it’s musicians you have to connect with if you’re a musician, really think outside of the box, and you know you can’t be good at everything. It’s knowing who your core team need to be because you’re just simply not going to have enough time to do everything it’s just going to drag you down. So always try to keep that buoyancy and that time to be creative. It can be a challenge and when that is the case just stop, take a bit of a breath and think right, what’s happening at this moment in time? But yes, really embrace everything that comes your way.