'Daily Life' Blog Post Archive
Best reads of the year

Best reads of the year

A reader has asked me to specify my favourite books of the year. I keep a note in my diary of the books I read, and this year I read 42 books in their entirety, plus a few more I didn't finish. Here are my top five favourites: 1. The Radetzky March by Joseph Roth....

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Playing the piano to elephants

Playing the piano to elephants

On Saturday there was a lovely article in The Guardian about Paul Barton, a man who plays the piano to elephants at an elephant sanctuary in Thailand. The elephants have often been overworked or mistreated before they come to the sanctuary, but it seems that they...

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Disappearing piano tuners

Disappearing piano tuners

There was an article in The Guardian this week about the dwindling number of highly-trained piano tuners in Australia. Not only is the pool of piano tuners getting smaller, it is in danger of not being replenished because there aren't enough training courses in this...

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Musicians fighting for their jobs in an age of recorded music

At last there is more commentary about the challenges facing freelance artists. Yesterday there was a strongly-worded cry for help in The Observer from several leading musicians, warning that if the UK's musicians are not supported, we could lose them for ever. I have...

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Fatima, and an excerpt from ‘J is for Job (not a proper)’

In response to yesterday's outrage about an HM Government ad showing 'Fatima', a young ballet dancer as an example of someone who might switch to 'working in cyber', I'm posting an excerpt from 'J is for Job (not a proper)', from my book A Musician's Alphabet (Faber,...

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‘Adapting to the new reality’

So the UK Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, has suggested that musicians and other creative artists may need to re-train and look for other opportunities as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. “I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at...

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Re-classifying music as ‘hospitality’

Like many other musicians and freelancers in the arts world I have been shocked this week by further evidence that we are being treated less well than employees on furlough. Our workplaces remain closed by government order. Many freelance musicians have earned nothing...

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Edinburgh without its festivals

Edinburgh without its festivals

At this time in Edinburgh we're usually starting to experience the surge of visitors arriving for the city's festivals - the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe and the Book Festival (plus a host of minor festivalettes). But all have been cancelled, or at...

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Remembering an old college friend

Today is a melancholy day, the funeral of one of my first college friends. He had battled for years with depression, anxiety and a cascade of associated health problems. His passing led to a burst of correspondence between those of us in his circle in those university...

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Identity

Identity

It's been eight weeks in lockdown now. (Photo: Edinburgh Castle with no visitors.) On the whole, I have been coping fine. Long experience of working at home had prepared me for #stayhome. However, it turns out that my peace of mind during solitary periods of...

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Scotsman Sessions #30: a bit of lockdown music-making

Scotsman Sessions #30: a bit of lockdown music-making

The Scotsman newspaper is offering readers some lockdown entertainment, or solace, in the form of contributions from various artists who've recorded themselves playing, reading poetry, singing, or whatever in their own homes. There's an accompanying article written by...

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Exploring the shelves, 10: Felix Arndt’s ‘Nola’ of 1915

Exploring the shelves, 10: Felix Arndt’s ‘Nola’ of 1915

A sad one today! In the course of reading about the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918, I came across the fact that American composer Felix Arndt had died at the age of only 29 during the second wave of the pandemic in New York.  I couldn't help being struck by this,...

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What does the future for concerts look like …?

A music-loving friend and I were discussing the prospect of concerts resuming after lockdown. It might be months away, but most musicians are eagerly, indeed desperately looking forward to this point. 'Trouble is', said my friend, 'I might not feel all that confident...

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Richard Morrison’s Times article on musicians in lockdown

Richard Morrison’s Times article on musicians in lockdown

A friend has sent me (in the post!) Richard Morrison's excellent Times article from April 3: 'Note to artists: it's not a sign of weakness to be unable to work now.'  This is the link, but The Times is behind a paywall so you can only read it if you're a subscriber....

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Exploring the shelves

Exploring the shelves

... No, not the supermarket shelves! That's become well-nigh impossible in the coronavirus outbreak. As we're stuck at home, I've decided to explore some of the piano music I've had on my shelves for ages but never got around to learning. I have quite a few volumes of...

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