Speaking and Listening


This evening I gave a talk at one of Birmingham Conservatoire‘s Composer Seminars. It seems the concrete eating monsters who consumed the Central Library were finally sated by Adrian Bolt Hall and have retreated to digest. The Conservatoire remains and the talk took place in ‘the old canteen’ overlooking a large flood lit hole in the ground into a portion of which the world’s largest corkscrew appeared to be drilling a hole.

This was the last talk of this season’s series and the set have been instructive, if not for the audience then certainly for me. It is helpful to reflect on what we do from different angles:
In Corby at The Cube the focus was professional sustainability for professionals.
At Roehampton University it was a more general ‘what we do’ survey for first years.
The University of Birmingham Business School wanted a focus on ‘leading extremely creative people’.
Today the focus was on our relationship with music.

One advantage of being so ridiculously long in the tooth means there are loads of stories to tell, loads of projects to reference, contrasting fortunes to explore and home grown theories to expound. Stand out moments from this autumn have been:

In Corby learning about the passion which drives other artists to do their thing with the most meager financial rewards was inspiring and heartwarming. I’d done my ‘keynote’ bit and the group then split in two, Sarah Gee spoke to some about fundraising and I got to chat with people who had more interest in doing their thing than raising funds.

In Roehampton we had a lot of fun playing the Simple Maths game at the front of a lecture theatre, it was knock about fun and topped of by a kind student saying she would take me up on my invitation to nick the idea and that she would teach it to a youth group she leads – job done.

The Business School gig was the most interesting challenge as I’ve not spent much time thinking about ‘leadership styles’ and I sat in on the lecture before mine in order to learn something myself. At the end of my talk three young students came to the front for follow up. One asked for an autograph – not for herself, for a friend; one asked if I wasn’t worried I would lose respect from the rest of the company by asking their opinions and the last asked what she should do, she’d wanted to pursue an artistic career but lost her nerve and found herself on a business studies course.

Today the composers applauded me ON as well as OFF – such are the different conventions that apply in the music world.

Afterwards the conveners of the talks always politely thank me for coming to talk and I always deflect the thanks – what kind of hardship is it spending an hour talking about yourself!.

Oh, the ‘listening’? Way more interesting than all that talking, a week ago Roisin and I were privileged to be part of The REP’s 8 Chairs project in which each month their associates share a meal and discussion about an urgent contemporary issue with a guest speaker. This month we listened while Salma Yaqoob and Aqil Chaudary spoke about Islamophobia, it was fascinating and very thought provoking.

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