Asni: Multimedia Art & Design
DIGITAL PRINTS now available on Ebay • Greeting card selection now available on Etsy • ASNI'S GARDEN: Original Watercolour paintings available on Etsy
SHEET MUSIC: Diego Fernandez de Huete: Compendio numeroso – original music for harp from baroque Spain
TREAT YOURSELF TO SOME MUSIC: Harp sheet music store * Travels in Middle Earth CD • 700 Years of Pop CD
Asni the Harper digital downloads: CD Baby ** Amazon MP3 * iTunes
NOW AVAILABLE: New Zealand Film Locations map: A3 poster * Snowflake Christmas/seasonal card * Queen Galadriel holiday card * Easter greeting cards
Winter has now well and truly settled in, with temperatures dropping, and the usual winter rains and floods. Fortunately my house is some way up on the gentle slope toward the Rimutaka Hills which rise behind Featherston, separating us from Wellington and the Hutt Valley, so my property doesn't suffer. But a few weeks ago, the road into Wellington had to be shut down because of flooding, leaving people working in town stranded, unable to get home. Times like these, I'm especially glad I am not a commuter!
A couple of nights ago, I was sitting up late on the sofa by the fire, with one of my assignments for the Small Business Management course. I'd been struggling with this assignment, not because I didn't know how to do it, but because it seemed a blatant waste of time: a marketing survey for my as-yet-to-be-defined business, which I was supposed to put online and ask the other course participants to fill in. Meaning, a whole lot of work, for a survey which was going to be in no way useful because the sample of people who were going to answer it was far too small and far too irrelevant to deliver anything but anecdotal data.
I've done this sort of thing before, for my now all-but-defunct web design business. The main result I found was that what people answer to your questions in a survey, has not a thing to do with their actual buying behaviour, or what they are willing to spend their money on, or whom to buy from. If you want to find out if a product or service sells, you try to sell it and see if anyone buys it. That's the only reliable marketing survey there is.
For the purpose of this course, I thought it would be best to pretend I was planning to run a straightforward plant nursery. Obviously, I am aiming to make selling plants a part of my income, but it was never going to be a full time occupation, and there is now way I intend to give up my budding career as an illustrator. In fact, I am aiming to find some way by which these two activities can mutually enhance each other, and it would have been helpful if the business class had helped me get my head around how to do that.
But my tutor, like most everyone I have ever met in the business world, seemed to feel faintly threatened by the word "art". "Creativity" and "thinking out of the box" are two buzzwords that get bandied about a lot by people who make money from advising others about their businesses, but in my experience, whenever I have proposed to do exactly that, I've been not-so-subtly discouraged.
The class time, in any case, was mostly taken up with making sure that everyone knew what the "correct answers" were for the various assignments we had to do, which were prescriptive to the point of stipulating exactly how many sentences one had to write. Not what I call "creative" or "out of the box"! More like "toe the line", really. Or perhaps the assumption was that it would be overtaxing the intellectual capacity of most course members to figure out where in the course book they would find the paragraph of text they needed to copy? If this is what people get taught in a class that supposedly gives them the skills to manage their own small business, it's no wonder at all that 80% of small businesses fail in their first year.
As I was sitting there with my assignment, the evening was turning into midnight, and I still hadn't managed to motivate myself to stop browsing Trademe for peafowl or post pictures of my chickens on Facebook, and go find the page in the course book that would tell me how many sentences I needed to write in order to pass. At that point, I suddenly experienced a moment of great CLARITY.
For the benefit of your imagination, let's pretend I heard a voice booming from the skies, though in reality it was more like, a strong inward feeling. But the message was loud and clear. It said:
FUCK. THAT. SHIT.
I am not a business, I am an artist. The function of an artist is not to boost the gross national product by delivering blockbuster movies, hit songs, or paperback bestsellers. The function of an artist is to inoculate a society against fascism. This is a fundamental misunderstanding that exists here in New Zealand. There is nothing wrong with blockbuster movies and paperback bestsellers, but anyone who tries to reduce artistic success to commercial viability, really seriously misses the point.
While being an artist and running a small business, no doubt have many things in common, art is a fundamentally different activity from business. I will never be able to fit what I do into the narrow confines of a business plan – certainly not one that prescribes exactly how many sentences I am allowed to write! And I am dead tired of Capitalist Brainwash. I've seen it all before: after all, I grew up surrounded by the Great Socialist Experiment that was Eastern Germany. Coercion into conformity is the same, to the point of using the exact same vocabulary, whether the system calls itself Communist or Capitalist. But not with me.
I decided there and then to drop out of the effing business class, which was costing me way to much time without adding any perceptible benefit. I wrote my tutor a terse email, stating that I had reached a point where I was no longer prepared to waste another minute of my time on some anal assignment that didn't have a thing to do with my actual experience, in order to get a completely redundant qualification.
She wasn't happy and thought she could shame me by invoking my "honour" and how I was wasting government funding, whereupon I gave her a piece of my mind about how sorry I felt to be causing this massive expense, given that the same government owes me several years of unemployment benefit I have been legally entitled to, but refrained from claiming, due to the fact that the systematic bullying by government employees at WINZ was taking a tax on my health. Not to mention substantial damages on account of destroying my career and livelihood in the first place. I haven't heard back from her since.
My time will be far better spent getting on with listing stuff on Trademe. I'll get far more reliable market research data from that, with the added benefit of actually generating sales. And as to those famous SMART goals: currently, I am trying to recover the cost of a bunch of Afghan rugs. Maybe that's all the motivation I really need, to sit down and wrap my head around the money thing. Nice and tangible, and definitely achievable.
News & Current Projects
The good news is, those antibiotics seem to be doing the trick, for I have been working on my Hare book again. The doctor, who obviously believes in a holistic doctoring approach, told me last month to show him the finished book next time I came, and I eagerly grabbed this deadline. A couple of weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours with Kay at her off-Cuba street print shop, getting two full colour draft copies printed and spiral bound. They aren't the final version yet – but I needed to see it all off the screen and in proper book form.
Now will be the time to show the book to some people and ask for feedback. I gave one copy to my holistically inclined doctor, to show to his two kids and ask for their opinion. They're a bit past picture book age (I enquired), but hey, they're kids. I also plan to call on my circle of fellow illustrators and people in the publishing industry. Then I will no doubt have to make some changes. But this book is now most definitely a THING! Two things, in fact.
I have also got the easel and brushes out again, and painted some of the lovely autumn foliage on the ornamental cherry tree in front of my house, before the winter wind blew it all away. The picture of the apple tree, which I'd started last month, alas fell victim to the weather: by the time a reasonably rain- and windless day coincided with me not having anything more pressing to do, it had lost most of the leaves and some of the apples in my unfinished picture, so unfinished it shall remain. I can always start another one next month: there are still some apples on the tree. Anyway: spring is only a couple of months away, there will be plenty of opportunity to catch up with my backlog then.
I haven't managed to take a photo of the new painting before sending out this newsletter, so I'll leave it for next month! If you can't wait until then, check my DeviantArt gallery next week.
My rug buying fundraiser on Trademe has been going quite well: I sold my two excess chairs, old ceiling lamp, a pair of shoes, and several plants, as well the the no longer needed rabbit hutch. I am still looking for a lover for my art deco drawers, several very fine Monsoon dresses, and my fancy high heels and ankle boots. And of course my plants! Currently I have elderberry, red currants (though those are selling fast), rosemary, evening primrose, Mexican hat flower, two Chinese junipers, and one young rewarewa tree. I'll see what else I can dig out from my seedlings and cuttings from last spring! You can find all my private Trademe listings here.
It has occurred to me that I haven't even been listing some of my posters on my StarstongStudio Trademe account, so I have remedied this omission! In addition to the Winter Fox, Tree of Light, Tentacle Love, Spring Comes to Town, Farewell Song, and the NZ Film Locations Map, now the following posters are also available: Hare and Moonlit Lake * Queen of Diamonds and Rust * Childhood Memories * Monster Fight * Social Butterflies On An Outing
And don't forget that I also sell music! I'm eagerly awaiting this month's payouts from iTunes and Amazon Mp3, to see if they will indeed carry me across the $ 100 line – fingers crossed! You can help me do that: tracks are available for download on CD Baby directly, or on iTunes, Amazon Mp3, and a bunch of other online music providers (just search for Asni the Harper). Of course, you can also order CDs and harp sheet music directly through my website!
On AMAZING STORIES, I've continued in the spirit of last month's Space Rabbit post: Chickens in Armour, because my mind has been on poultry this month – and Cosmic Peacock, because I almost went and bought a peahen along with all my other new fowl. Did you know there is a whole religion involving the worship of a divine peacock? Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.
Like I just said, this month my mind has been on poultry. I've been reading up on chicken breeds, and building up my small flock. Who knew that chicken lore could be so fascinating? There are breeds which, supposedly, go back all the way to the ancient Romans.
The first addition to my flock of two were two silver Campine pullets, and another silkie, a blue one this time – just because it was available, and they are so cute and fluffy! They come from a breeder up in Waipawa: when she offered to bring them down to Masterton for me, how could I resist!
Campines are a very ancient type of chicken, and to me, they look exactly like chickens are supposed to look like. They are named after the Campine region in Belgium, but for all I can see, they are exactly the same breed which in Northern Germany, is known as East Frisian gull. They do look rather a bit like big gulls with combs, in the way they squat, and in their colouring – and they also scream like gulls do, sometimes! I'm sure I've seen chickens like these in old Dutch paintings. I think they're easily the most beautiful of all the heritage breeds.
It had occurred to me that if I wanted my own eggs at some point not too far in the distant future, I might be better off buying some reasonably mature pullets, rather than starting to raise chicks from fertilized eggs. The Campines, apart from being ancient, beautiful, and East Frisian, are also a good egg laying breed. I picked them up at the poultry & pigeon fair in Masterton a couple of weeks ago. A poultry and pigeon fair! Finally I could meet some of the heritage breeds I'd been reading up on, in person.
When I introduced the new pullets to my two existing chickens, Tao the laid back silkie, and Piwo the perky Polish pullet, the perky Polish pullet acted very unladylike indeed. Within a couple of days, the little bird started to develop a brand new, entirely premature but unmistakable crowing habit – probably brought on by suddenly being in charge of a whole flock. I'd been thinking for a little while that the pullet looked queer! I took the transgender chicken back to the breeder, who was very apologetic and immediately offered to swop him over for her last Polish pullet of the season – definitely a she, this time.
Pity, because I liked perky little Piwo, and I hope he doesn't end up as fertilizer! The new bird is a very gentle hand tame creature, with a beautiful blue colouring which I actually find more attractive than the black. I've dubbed her Lody. Today, she hopped on my hand of her own free will for the first time. It wasn't hard to get fond of her quite quickly.
Meanwhile, Tao confirmed that she is indeed a female, by laying her first ever egg. I was pondering if I should frame it, blow it out and paint it as an Easter egg, or hard-hardboil it and get started with my own egg hall of fame, but in the end, I decided to prosaically fry it, and eat it for lunch. It was yummy. Now I hope for more.
Finding the right names for your chickens if of course very important. I wanted something appropriately Flemish or Plattduetsch for the two campines, so I called on the respective native speakers in my Facebook circle of friends. Thanks to Almut Heibült for all the suggestions in Platt! In the end, they picked their own names when one of them decided to spend her first night outside in the chicken run, rather than snuggling up with the other chickens in the new pen I'd set up in my shed. So now they are called Buten and Binnen.
The new silkie was, of course, Feng: though I have a feeling that this bird might also have a gender identity problem. He'd make a dapper little rooster if he turns out that way – and I plan to keep him. My neighbour, bless her heart, came over the other day to pick up a plant she'd bought from me on Trademe without realising it was me, and gave me her blessing to keep him around: She said she'd had a rooster herself, and used a neckband that prevents them from crowing too loudly. I never heard him, in any case! So now I am trying to figure out if Feng is learning to crow, or just being a very vocal little hen.
Since I was spending so much time browsing Trademe, instead of engaging with my anal business assignment, I soon chanced on another irresistible offer: one of the lifestyle blockers outside Carterton was selling off his flock of Orpington chickens. This is one of the largest and heaviest breeds, which owes quite a bit to the Chinese Langshan chickens, which are quite enormous. The black variety has a magnificent beetle-shiny plumage, and now that I'd had to trade in Piwo for a grey coloured bird, I was missing some black in my flock. One of the birds on offer was a young one of not-yet-determined sex, for all of $ 10. I figured I might as well take my chances, for that price!
The new bird got on quite splendidly with my rabbits, but when I introduced the newcomer to the other chickens, Feng immediately involved him in what I took to be a proper little cockfight. So I'm guessing they're both boys – but then again, what do I know about chickens? In my frustration about finding myself probably landed with rather more cockerels than I'd bargained for, I went back and also bought one of the mature hens – another black one.
I was going to call the little bird Mary, in honour of Mary Shelley, but since it seems that he's more likely to be a Joseph, I decided to call the hen Big Mary instead – in honour of Mary Woolstonecraft. Seeing that I got the smaller bird to replace Piwo, I might as well pick a gender neutral name and call him/her/it Stout. He or she doesn't look it now, but will eventually! Big Mary, in any case, towers over the rest of the flock, and is a proper armful of bird. The other benefit of having a grown up hen around, is that the egg supply has now officially started!
Tales from my Youth (part 2)
A little while ago, a friend and classmate from my early music school days posted an article of news on her Facebook account: Phil Pickett, a well known British early music performer and teacher at the prestigious Guildhall School of Music in London, had been convicted to 11 years in prison for raping and indecently assaulting several female students – some of them in their teens – in the 1970's and 1980s. A summary of the crimes and the conviction can now be found on his Wikipedia page:
I have not met or worked with Phil Pickett personally (fortunately!) – but he was most definitely in the circle of early music performers of which I was also a part. What was most interesting, was the conversation that ensued after the posting of this news, between several of my female former fellow students and colleagues: none of us was the least bit surprised or shocked to hear of those allegations against a well known and (up to then) well respected musician.
Sexual harassment by teachers or senior musicians is an experience nearly all of us have shared at some point. Mostly, it didn't take the form of outright rape. But there are other forms of sexual abuse or exploitation, and some of them even include the consent of the victim. Neither is this a phenomenon that is limited to music schools: In every institution I have attended, there was always at least one staff member who regarded their young female students not as minds to be nurtured and educated, but as a reservoir of potentially fuckable bodies.
My friends on Facebook knew, of course, why this news would be interesting to me. They all remembered that I used to sleep with my harp teacher. He didn't rape me, but it was an exploitative relationship nonetheless.
Even though we all shared these experiences or knew someone who did, it was never really talked about. So I have decided that it is time to join the conversation and tell my story: if for no other reason than to give evidence about just how widespread this phenomenon is, and perhaps try to analyse why it is that young talented women often fall for it so easily.
Not all sexual predators harass and rape. But all sexual predators do a lot of harm, to the psyches and to the careers of the bright young women they prey on. We need to have this conversation, so that these young women are not taken at unawares, like we were.
When I first met Andrew Lawrence King, I was 19 years old, and he was in his mid twenties. It was at the first ever International Historical Harp Symposium in Basel in 1986, a determining point for my life in more than one way. Andrew appeared late, stood on a chair, and took the acclaim of the assembled musicians and academics like he was already a star. I was instantly fascinated by this character – he walked around in a pair of bright blue patent-leather shoes, and at the time he was still young enough to be somewhat good looking in a cute English choir boy sort of way.
I was too young and felt too insignificant to think I could walk up and talk to him – I had just started my first year at music conservatory, studying for an orchestra degree on modern harp, and he was acting like the star of the show, so of course I believed that I was far beneath his notice – but we did talk briefly at one point, and I was flattered by his friendly, humble manner.
When he performed, I was completely smitten: mostly by the fact that despite having a countertenor voice which really was nothing to write home about – his original ambition had been to be a professional singer – he not only played one of those crazy double strung harps, but sang and accompanied himself. I hadn't seen anything like it up to that point. Hell, I was a 19 year old sheltered offshoot of the German Bildungsbürgertum, and he was the the height of cool in my eyes.
The next time I met Andrew was at the first ever Lutes & Harps summer school in Bremen in 1989 – in September, just a few months before the Berlin Wall was to come down. By then, I had bought a small gothic harp and started teaching myself on it, and I had been attending the only seminar on early music available at my school, led by Holger Eichhorn. When I spotted a poster at the music library announcing that a certain Andrew Lawrence King would be teaching a historical harp workshop in Bremen, I called up and registered myself – on the Monday the course was to start – and my dad, recently returned from a work stint in Mexico, offered to give me a short notice lift to Bremen.
I hadn't had time to organize a place to stay – I barely had had time to pack! – but a group of students was sleeping over on the floor of the caretaker's apartment at the recently established Akademie für Alte Musik Bremen, and somehow I got invited to join that group. What ensued, was one of the most formative weeks of my life. And I was hooked – there was no doubt in my mind that I would go and study full time with Andrew as soon as I finished my degree in Berlin, in fact I started taking part time lessons with him during my last year of conservatory
By the time I came to study with him, Andrew was already divorced from his first wife, a German musician. The marriage had, if I recall correctly, lasted less than a year, and broke up because his wife found out that he also had a girlfriend in the UK. I knew this, and I had also met his current live-in girlfriend (yet another musician), when I came to Guernsey to attend the informal group harp workshop-slash-holidays Andrew used to organize for his students. I'd been there twice.
So why was I basically throwing myself at this man? Because, to be brutally honest, that was what I did. There was plenty of opportunity for me to do so: we often socialized with our teachers outside lesson times, going out for lunch or dinner, meeting up after concerts, and Andrew was one of the teachers who would turn up at student's parties. After all, the age difference between us was less than 10 years.
In those days, the early music movement was just gaining momentum, and we were all a bunch of outlaws revolting against the strictures of the conservatory: the way we interacted with our teachers seemed like a part of that revolt. At the time, I thought of it as a privilege to have a teacher who could also be a friend – or a lover. It made me feel grown up and special, I suppose.
The groupie mentality does exist among students, and at the time, I subscribed to it. It was a logical consequence of two ideas I had absorbed throughout my Bildungsbürgertum education: that talented artists and musicians are somehow superior, and that they have a certain amount of license to flaunt the rules of decent behaviour that apply to the rest of humanity, because it is somehow part of how they create their "masterworks" or unique performances. And that women derive status and value from the men they choose as partners: that sleeping with someone who has that kind of talent, is a badge of honour in some way. Or perhaps that by having that sort of intimate relationship, some of the talent would magically rub off on me. I remember thinking at the time, that it was an advantage we women students had over our male peers! Talk about twisted thinking.
Still – it is an attitude I continue to witness in several of the fan communities I have at one time or another frequented. Nowadays, it is movie stars and celebrities that are being imbued with this kind of super-humanness – and super-human sex appeal. Some fans are prepared to spend vast amounts of time and money for a chance to meet them in person, in an attempt to establish some kind of mutualness or intimacy in their relationship with them. Gaining a celebrity's signature, or taking a photo with them, or shaking their hand, for some people has become a veritable trophy hunt. So it does go both ways.
In my case, perhaps it was also over-compensation: I had never had a boyfriend, and was, at age 24, still a virgin. If it took me so long to find a lover, it had better be a real special person! Unfortunately, my idea of what constitutes a "real special person" wasn't particularly mature at the time.
For much of my time at high school, I had been a social outsider. I'd had a couple of high school crushes, but I wonder if the boys in question were even aware of it: I was painfully shy, and when I was in my last years in high school I was struggling through what I now know was an episode of severe depression. A pattern that seems to be not uncommon for bright and gifted girls, who around that age suddenly realize that no one cares all that much about their academic achievements, and that they have turned into sexual prey.
While I was at conservatory in Berlin, there weren't that many chances to socialize with other students: it was mostly about sitting by myself in a room and practising, trying to catch up and get on a level with people who had often played an instrument since before they were in their teens. As a harpist, there were limited opportunities to play in the student orchestra, and my attempts at participating in chamber music ensembles often failed because it took me so damn long to learn a part.
Coming to Bremen, for me, was a revelation: suddenly there was a close-knit group of fellow students all sharing the same geeky passion for those old instruments, and suddenly my conservatory education gave me the edge when it came to musical competence. Besides, the style of music suited me: I found it much easier to improvise – a concept that a lot of classically trained musicians find really scary! – than to have to exactly reproduce a lot of notes on a page.
For the first time since my early teens, I felt part of a social group, and had friends to hang out with on a regular basis. Being the object of attention from a teacher and already established musician, made me feel good about myself – which was a nice change from feeling pretty bad about myself throughout most of high school and all of conservatory.
I am not aware that Andrew ever dragged anyone into a practice room and raped them: that was not his style. He would use the lesson time to seek physical contact, or ask his students to do things that were embarrassing and borderline kinky, under the pretext that it was part of the lesson – but he wasn't as blunt and obvious as to ask us to do anything on the level of taking our clothes off.
Neither did he touch us in ways that were obviously sexual. It was always innuendo, an invitation: never anything that one could have pinpointed as inappropriate. At least, he didn't do that with me, and as far as I have talked about these things with his other students – which we didn't do nearly as much as we should have – he didn't do it with other students either.
He knew full well that he did not need to use force, because certain women would come to him full willingly. He had a knack for targeting women who were professional high achievers but insecure in their sexuality, and I believe he very deliberately played on our low self esteem.
He would talk quite often about his ex wife, in a way that made me think he was really sore about the breakup of the marriage. He was always very good at playing the romantic downtrodden knight, unhappy in love, and I reckon he appealed to women's mothering instincts more than anything else. He played me a fable of high romantic love which appealed to my German-romanticism-schooled ideas of what love might be – Tristan and Isolde and all that.
Now I know that I never was in love with that man: call it adulation and hero worship instead, combined with a physical attraction which I found often overwhelming – but I was in love with my own romantic ideal, and I was in love with music, not with another person. When I think about it now, I have to admit to myself that to this day, I have not the faintest clue who that person whom I framed as the "love of my life", really is. I'm not sure that Andrew was capable of genuine love, or of the kind of intimacy that would allow someone to see the real him. He always hid himself behind what he so skillfully projected. He'd seem to be very approachable and easy to get to know at first sight, but it was all part of his camouflage. I think what made him such a convincing liar, was that at the time he told them, he did believe his own lies himself.
Andrew also had a knack for making people do things for him. Often quite complex, time-consuming and costly things, such as driving harps from place to place to help with his concert schedule logistics. It astonishes me that we – not just me, but several of his devoted students – were so ready to jump at his bidding, and saw it as an honour.
It extended to the women he was with: several of his more serious relationships were with women who could also be useful in some way to advance his career. I know of a few of his other relationships, and have in fact been contacted by a couple of women in response to what I have been writing on this newsletter, but I cannot and would not want to speak on their behalf, so I'll leave it at that.
Andrew and I started having an affair shortly before I took my final exam in Berlin – and I partly blame the emotional upheaval I was in at the time, for doing rather worse than people had expected me to.
At first it was all highly romantic: For a while – maybe a couple of months or so – Andrew wrote me long letters every other day, professing how deeply in love and desire he was, and how conflicted about it, since I was his student. Yeah right – as I later found out, I was far from the only student he was mucking around with. We also talked on the phone: at one point, I wound up with a 50 DM phone bill for one call to Finland when he was gigging there. Needless to say, this was booked from my phone account, not his. We'd see each other every couple of weeks or so in Bremen, and it took a while for the relationship to progress from making out to actually having sex.
Once that was achieved, the flood of letters dried up quite soon and suddenly. And when I tried to call him at his home in Guernsey, his girlfriend would hang up on me. Fair enough – though at the time I didn't see it that way, and it was a bit of a problem when I needed to contact Andrew in his capacity as my teacher. I hated the girlfriend with a passion. It was obvious to me that Andrew's feelings for her did not run very deep – but then it should have been equally obvious to me that his feelings for me didn't run anywhere at all. The desperate jealousy I experienced at that time was perhaps the main reason why I have stayed away from intimate relationships ever since – it was not something I ever wished or wish to feel again.
It is difficult for me to remember the details of what happened, as it is all so long ago, and those are not memories I particularly like to revisit. I now believe that Andrew deliberately made me jealous. He flirted quite openly with one of my close friends and fellow students while I was watching: an experience that must have been doubly uncomfortable for her, because I let her feel my jealousy, which she certainly did not deserve. On another occasion, he invited another close friend on a sailing trip across the English Channel – just the two of them alone. While I was quite sure that this particular friend had absolutely no interest in Andrew and agreed because it was a sailing opportunity too good to miss, it still seems, in retrospect, an action designed to compromise our friendship.
Andrew usually stayed at my place when he was teaching in Bremen, though "officially" he was still booked into a hotel. He would never commit to coming to stay at my place next time, but he nearly always ended up in my bed, and not in his hotel room. It was just a way to keep the drama high. We didn't particularly attempt to keep the relationship a secret at the Akademie – it would have been a fairly hopeless undertaking anyway – but Andrew was still reluctant to be seen with me in situations where it would have been obvious that we weren't just teacher and student.
He once invited me to come sailing with him in Hamburg – a trip that turned out underwhelming because there was absolutely no wind! – but other than that, we saw each other during lesson times, we went out for food, we sometimes were at the same parties, I came to his concerts (he never came to any of mine, that I can remember) – and we had sex whenever he was in Bremen, and sometimes when I came to see him elsewhere. That was all there was to the relationship.
He was still living with his girlfriend in Guernsey, and if I brought the topic up, he spun me some yarn why he could not leave her – the absolute oldest and thinnest lie in the world, but at the time I really didn't have a clue. My ideas of love were highly romantic: nurtured by opera and classical literature, I had ideas about it that had nothing to do with the reality of two people interacting with each other, and I simply did not know that there were people who could lie about their feelings – or who would want to exploit another person whom they professed to care about.
What puzzles me most, when I look back on it, is why did I ever allow anyone to treat me that way? What lack of self-respect, what inability to set healthy boundaries was there involved in it – and why??
What I do know for sure, is that Andrew quite systematically undermined my self esteem, as a person and as a musician. And not just mine: while his workshops and short courses were always full of fun and inspiration, and people came away from them beaming with the sense of having had some musical revelation, I don't think Andrew really knew about building up a student in the long term. Or that he was very interested in doing so. He would on occasion make remarks about some of my fellow students, which made it clear to me that to him, they were a valuable source of steady income and professional status in a very insecure profession, and that he had neither belief in their capability to become professional musicians, nor any interest in getting them to that stage.
I think he also saw us as potential competition. Andrew picked up the harp at a time when hardly anyone else was doing it, and much of his quick rise in the ranks of early music happened because he was the go-to person whenever anyone needed a harp. He was a quick sight-reader due to his training in an English boy's choir, and he played the organ, but he went to university to study mathematics. I think he always felt that as a lack – impostor syndrome, perhaps? – and I am certain that he perceived my formal qualification as somehow threatening.
There is some truth to it that in those days early music was, to some extent, a field of music for people to go into, who didn't make the standard of technical proficiency required to study a modern instrument at a conservatory. Andrew used to spend quite a lot of time insisting that my modern harp technique was actually a disadvantage, which I needed to unlearn. And while there is some truth to that as well, it is also true that having a solid instrumental technique was not something that could be taken for granted in early music performance in those days!
--- to be continued
Arohanui, from Asni