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The Name of the Game
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- In this newsletter:
- *** A Mother Goose Story
- *** News and Current Projects
- *** Tales from My Youth (part 3 )
A Mother Goose Story
Selma and Lucy, my two mildly disabled geese, have been hell bent on becoming mothers. When they caught on to it that I was stealing their eggs, they started taking turns sitting on them, not leaving them unguarded for even a moment. But eventually they had to come round to the fact that without a gander around, nothing was going to hatch from them. Lucy started wandering around in the garden again, but Selma would not give up: she ended up sitting on a cricket ball and a fake plastic egg, for days on end in the pouring rain, hardly ever leaving her nest.
I felt sorry for the poor old thing: she's not the youngest, and maybe she feels her biological clock ticking? Next time I spotted an ad for geese on Trademe (they don't come along all that often), I got in touch to see if I could get a male gosling to hand raise and make some chicks next year – that was the plan. Once again, I got talked into taking two, a boy and a girl: I picked them up on the Kapiti Coast, from a lovely lady who provided me with a wealth of information and advice, a crash course in goose keeping. She had about sixty of them on her farm.
When I got home, well after dark, Lucy was standing guard waiting for my return. I felt it would be unfair not to show her the chicks, so I let them out of their box. They made a beeline toward their new mom, and within a matter of minutes Lucy had adopted them: she protested loudly when I took them away again to keep them warm, and would not let them out of her sight, even following them into the house where she does not normally go.
Selma, meanwhile, was pointedly turning her cricket ball and plastic egg, as if to say that if Lucy could fabricate some chicks out of thin air, then she could damn well hatch those. I had to forcibly remove her and take her into the house with the rest of the gang. She was trying to get her head around how it could be that the cricket ball and plastic egg were still there, still unbroken – and yet undeniably, two chicks. She kept hissing and touching the chicks with her beak, as if to make sure they were real. She's an emotional goose at the best of times, but now she was completely beside herself with joy.
This was about three weeks ago, and now you wouldn't know that Lucy and Selma are not the biological parents. The two chicks are Sebastopol geese. Lucy I think is a Toulouse goose, and Selma, for all I can tell, is a Pomeranian. They are both female, but they look after the chicks together, just as they've been brooding their eggs together.
Selma, being a bit lame, often has trouble keeping up, so it usually falls to Lucy to keep a watchful eye on the chicks during the day. Selma is the one who keeps them under her wing at night. Lucy, with her angelwing, is less suited to that task, but she is very good at hissing at all and everyone who comes close. They do trust me with their chicks, which I take as a grand compliment: they'll come up and parade them in front of me, and I am even allowed to touch them and pick them up.
Next time some bigot tries to tell you there is anything "unnatural" about modern patchwork families, or same sex couples raising children, send them to my geese. They might learn something.
Selma is also in charge of human communications: she tells me, in perfectly clear language, when action on my part is required. One night when I kept them inside the house because of the foul weather, but was slow to get up in the morning, she came and knocked on my bedroom door. That requires knowing where I was even though she could not see me, knowing that I would be able to let them out, assuming that the noise would draw my attention, and assuming that I would act as required.
When she thinks it's time for food, she'll walk up to their food bowl and rattle her beak in it. That's semantics: she uses the bowl as a signifier for "feed us". Much as a human might do when around people whose language they do not speak.
Animal behaviour scientists often warn us not to ascribe human motivations and emotions to animals, and insist that their behaviours are instinctual, genetically programmed through some process of evolution – not motivated by conscious, individual choices and decisions. But please tell me what process of evolution could have primed Selma for a sequence of actions like this? I suspect anyone who has ever spent time with a pet, will know this for the nonsense it is.
Having spent only a few months in the company of animals, it seems obvious to me that they all have intentions and emotions much like or own – perhaps not on the same level of complexity, but the very fact that we can recognize them should tell us that they are not essentially different! I've seen them express joy and happiness, affection, lazy wellbeing, competition, playfulness, curiosity, aggressiveness, watchfulness, insecurity, frustration. My rabbits act guilty when I tell them off. Much as with humans, a lot of the behaviours we find "problematic" are caused by anxiety or boredom – such as getting used to a new environment, or accepting a new member of the family, or fear of abandonment, or being confined to a small space with nothing to do for extended periods of time.
The sheep and the rabbits are capable of plotting: they know what they are not supposed to do and what I will try to prevent them from doing, and will find ways to do it anyway. Yin plays a game of "catch me if you can": she knows full well that I will never be able to catch her if she does not want me to, but she lets me, sometimes, in the evening when it is time to come inside. But not before she has made me chase her three times around the garden. She'll lounge provocatively just outside my reach, darting away at the very last instant when I try to grab her. I bet she thinks this is great fun!
Tiny Tim, who is not so tiny any more, accompanies me on my evening walks: I've made a habit of walking him, and he will start baaing incessantly at some point in the evening, until we go. He seems to perceive the world mainly through his taste buds, and appears to relish tasting all the different kinds of grasses and plants that come his way. He has taken a particular fancy to a couple of ornamental plants outside one of the properties along our walk, and I've had to pull him away repeatedly. The last couple of nights, he started to run ahead when we were approaching, so he would get a bite before I could get there!
He also has a good memory, and is very attached to some of the other animals, particularly the rabbits: he'll start bouncing about happily whenever he sees them, and try to headbutt them in a friendly way – much to the rabbits' dismay! Once I tried to take him to the supermarket and tie him up outside, but he panicked and snapped his tether. I found him two thirds along the way back home, turn corner right, turn corner left: I can think of some humans who would have had trouble remembering the way, having walked it only once, and in the dark. Next time I tried to take him, he was very reluctant and seemed to remember an unpleasant experience of being very scared. He is not a dumb sheep.
This TED talk explores some of these ideas. Sometimes I think that instead of worrying if we could communicate with alien species from outer space, perhaps we should learn to better communicate with the alien minds that populate our own planet! We might learn something.
News & Current Projects
Tinderbox – the children's book writers and illustrators conference in Wellington last month – was a good experience. After attending events like AnimFX or X Media Lab, where the talk is always and almost exclusively about money, it was a most welcome change to be part of an event where people actually talked about the work. And about social relevance – rather than just creating "cool stuff".
It may have something to do with the fact that most of the attendees were women above thirty, rather than the predominantly young and male crowd that hangs out at those other events. Most of us are way past dreams of quick fame and riches (from our bedroom, without a college degree), but all too aware of the many ways in which our world needs fixing.
Or it might just be that there weren't any Grow Wellington types swarming around waiting to see when those "talented young New Zealanders" would generate a national income and "put New Zealand on the map", already. Obviously, a bunch of middle aged women interested in children's literature and social change would never achieve that. Margaret Mahy, Joy Cowley, and Gecko Press spring to mind. Thank goodness for the business world's prejudice and narrow-mindedness, sometimes. The food was good even so.
Topics at the conference ranged from legal advice about copyright and contracts, to the art of creating books that will translate well into other languages, and a survey of "spunky" girl characters over the last several decades. For once, I did not have to spell my first name: practically everyone involved with children's books worships Astrid Lindgren. I had conversations about Bezier curves, and how much the question "where are you from" sucks because it consistently leads to putting people into an entirely wrongly labeled box.
It helped that I already knew quite a few people in the room: from the life drawing sessions I used to attend for years, or through Wai Art, or through Facebook, or from generally hanging out in the arts scene in Wellington. Apparently I have now lived here long enough that people accept me as one of the crowd, and are less inclined to brush me off as an unknown entity and probably an impostor. That only took twelve years.
One reason for me to attend the conference was, of course, to find out about the children's book publishing scene here in New Zealand, and to pimp my book-in-the-making to as many people as possible. The feedback I got was overwhelmingly positive: meaning, I was quite overwhelmed at how positive it was!
The wonderful Adele Jackson, a fellow illustrator and life drawing addict, and one of the organizers, made it her business to put me in touch with some of the right people. She arranged a last minute manuscript assessment for me with Barbara Murison, one of the assessors available at the conference. She read the book out loud, told me not to change a thing except for a few commas, and to submit the text for the Joy Cowley award. And oh, she loved the illustrations. Oh, ok then. That's a bit different from the usual "tear it apart and start afresh"!
So I have dutifully submitted my text for the award, and have also taken the opportunity the conference offered, to get my work in front of some of the small handful of relevant publishers here in New Zealand. There are only about six of them, so I might as well try my luck and show it to them!
Closer to home, I have dropped off one of my two draft copies at the Featherston library, where Penny, our lovely librarian, has taken it upon herself to road-test it with several batches of children of the appropriate ages. So far, they seem to like it too. Still a bit of polishing to do on some of the illustrations though: now I have a list of feedback and suggestions to work through.
Best of all, I've had some real paid illustration work thrown my way through attending the conference! Best. Christmas. present. ever.
On AMAZING STORIES, I have wrapped up my series of posts about art inspired by modern technology with a post about the beauty of the Satellite Dish. The next post is a response to one of those social media storms in the water glass that happen on Facebook, an inane selfie posted by one George Lawlor, who claims that he does not look like a rapist. Which of course begs the question So What Does a Rapist Look Like Then. There follows Magic Goose, a detour into animal behaviour and associated myths. Sputnik brings us back into the realm of technology, a new series of posts devoted to artistic responses to actual real existing space exploration – not the far in the future science fiction kind. Visit my author page, with a list of all my blog posts on Amazing Stories.
Between the animals, the seed growing and garden planting, Tinderbox, and getting my book out into the world, I haven't had the time or energy to come up with any new cards or posters or songs or other sellable things for the holiday season.
Instead of a Christmas (Hanukkah, Kwanza, Yule, Great Spaghetti Feast, etc) promotion on my own behalf, I would like to pass on this link to a refugee aid list on Amazon, which is administered by a friend of a friend, who works on the ground in a refugee camp near Munich in Germany.
The items are very basic: warm clothing, shoes, socks, underwear and hats, baby carriers and strollers, and the like. You can help out from as little as Euro 5 – every hat keeps someone warm! Amazon doesn't charge shipping for refugee list items, and you can pay with your credit card from anywhere in the world. This is Amazon Germany, but English language descriptions are provided.
Instead of giving money to some big charity organization and having no idea how it will be used, with this system you can buy specific items and send them directly where they are most needed: and let me tell you, warm and weatherproof winter clothes and shoes will be needed very badly in the months to come! A German winter is no fun if you are used to a warmer climate.
I have sent them a bright colourful Winnie the Pooh stroller – because putting a smile on a face is also important – and some hats, from the money I had left over in my account simply because the exchange rates have been more favourable lately. I may be struggling financially myself, but I still have heaps more than these people.
If you also want to send me some warm fuzzy feeling for Christmas, please have a look at my selection of cards and posters: You can find them in my Trademe store or on Etsy, or buy them directly from my website.
After jumping ahead in leaps and bounds earlier this year, my CD Baby account is once again stalling frustratingly close to the $ 100 by which I get paid. You can make it happen for Christmas! That would be the second best Christmas present ever.
Just when I thought I would get through the month of October without acquiring any new family members, our local chicken lady had to go to hospital with a serious health issue, and was selling off her silkie breeding groups. I thought it was very sad, and would be even sadder if she has to go out of business completely, but it might be an idea to take up the slack and make sure silkies will still be available in Featherston. So I expressed an interest, and they offered me a group of five hens and one rooster – hand picked, no doubt, for breeding purposes – for all of $ 50.
They're a variety of blues and near-black, plus one white pullet. The rooster is very handsome indeed, and a quiet mellow fellow. I was tempted to call him Mr. Rochester, but in the end stuck with my Chinese naming scheme, so now he is Lord Long, the Dragon. The hens are Ye, Yun, Juju, Tian, and Yue – or Lady Night, Lady Cloud, Lady Chicory, Miss Sky, and Miss Moon. I'll be learning Chinese in no time if I carry on getting more silkies!
As an established flock, I keep them separate from my other chickens – they make a very welcome addition to my front yard. Silkies aren't only fun to watch – earnest little fluffballs that they are – but also a joy to listen to. They make delighted little sounds while they scratch for food, more like cooing than your usual chicken cackle. They're great chickens for a town or city backyard really: they're quiet and don't take up much space, and they don't scratch as much as larger birds. Mine lay reasonably sized eggs with fair regularity, and they don't eat a lot of feed.
Sadly Feng, my other little blue silkie hen, gave up on the batch of eggs she'd been sitting on just a day or two before they would have hatched: when I opened them, I found that two had nearly fully formed chicks inside. Even more sadly, Feng has been missing these last three weeks and has likely fallen victim to a prowling cat, or some such predator. Unless she drowned herself in the pond in desperation, after her failed attempt to hatch those eggs? But she was weak after being broody, and would have been an easy prey. I should have watched her better.
Poor Noodle, my Indian runner duck, was left at loose ends when the geese got busy with their chicks, and was looking a bit lonely. I found her a very handsome Welsh harlequin drake on Trademe: he looks like a mallard enhanced in Photoshop, with much brighter colours, and is also somewhat bigger in size. Since he's Welsh, I was planning to call him The Doctor. When I picked him up, I asked if he already had a name, and it turned out he was already called Doctor Drake! So that obviously is the right name then. I also got a little Blue Swedish duck called Muffin. Just because.
I didn't have it in me to sell Te Po. Someone was going to come and look at her, at which point I changed my mind. I've been giving her some special loving attention instead, and for a while, she was much better behaved and even made it up with Yin. Lately, they have been fighting each other again, resulting in open wounds, and I think Yin had a miscarriage as a consequence of it. So I will have to do something, and maybe Te Po really needs to go. Meanwhile, I keep them strictly separated. I think that rabbit is bipolar, or something like that! Mumrik, the little boy rabbit, gets along fine with both of them, though he prefers to hang with Yin, and I have seen him take her side when Te Po acted up.
One thing I really need to do is to get some quantities of chicken wire and fence posts, and organize my garden into sections, so I can keep animals who don't get along separated. And protect my vegetables, flower beds and young trees! Combining my efforts at animal husbandry with my gardening pursuits has been a bit of a challenge.
I have been fencing in the plants, rather than trying to fence in the animals – at least they are less prone to sneak their way under or over the fence! – and that works well so far, but I need lots more wire.
The sheep developed a particular predilection for my roses and my honeysuckle, so they had to grow themselves a second flush of spring leaves after the first one got eaten. The rabbits have been nibbling the tops off several of my young trees, before I got some plastic tree sleeves to protect them. Even the geese can't be trusted with my roses or my vegetables.
The peahen has been daintily picking at the gourmet selection of seedlings I have been trying to grow. There goes hours of work thinning them out! I need a dedicated nursery space with lots of space for all those pots and planter bags, where animals can't go. I think I've got my work set up for the next several months at least!
On the upside, my egg sales have started to kick in – I now have a regular supply arrangement with one of the neighbours, and one weekend I managed to sell a full two dozen eggs, plus some of my seedlings. Next weekend, some moron jerk made away with another two dozen eggs and some walnuts without paying, so I will have to come up with a different system – maybe a blackboard, and a neighbourhood mailbox drop. One thing I love about this place: you get a good thing going, and some greedy, shortthinking idiot spoils it for everyone.
A few days ago, I hatched my first batch of homegrown chicks! After Feng's failed attempt at brooding, I got impatient and bought a cheap second hand Chinese made incubator of dubitable repute, but it managed to hatch six of the seven fertile eggs I put in – not at all a bad score. Those were eggs from Big Mary and Binnen, but I just ordered a new batch of Campine and Ancona eggs to add to my flock of hens, and kick the egg production to the next level: if I time this right, I can watch them hatch on Christmas eve.
Tales from my Youth (part 3)
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.
Sexual harassment by teachers or senior musicians is an experience nearly all of my female friends from music school 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.
But 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.
My friends from my music school days knew, of course, why this news would be interesting to me. They all remembered that I used to sleep with my harp teacher. When I first met Andrew Lawrence King, I was 19 years old, and he was in his mid twenties. I was a sheltered offshoot of the German Bildungsbürgertum, and he was the the height of cool in my eyes.
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 girlfriend (yet another musician), who was living with him in Guernsey. So why was I basically throwing myself at this man? Because, to be brutally honest, that was what I did.
I am not aware that Andrew ever dragged anyone into a practice room and raped them: that was not his style. With him, it was always innuendo, an invitation: never anything that one could have pinpointed as inappropriate. 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.
Now I know that I never was in love with that man. When I think about it now, I have to admit to myself that I have not the faintest clue who that person whom I framed as the "love of my life", really was. 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. What I do know for sure, is that he quite systematically undermined my self esteem as a musician, and as a person. What puzzles me most, when I look back on it, is why did I ever allow anyone to treat me in the way that Andrew treated me? What lack of self-respect or ability to set healthy boundaries was there involved in that – and why??
Some years ago, when I was fresh out of Natcoll and keen to get involved in New Zealand's film making scene, I took part in a documentary shoot about the Pick-up Artist (PUA) community. We interviewed one member of this "Seduction club" here in Wellington, and trawled him through various night clubs one Saturday night. He prided himself on being able to walk up to a random stranger on Courtenay Place and get her to sleep with him simply by acting as if it was the most natural thing for him to suggest. He explained that his success hinged on his ability to "draw the other person into his reality".
Andrew also possessed that ability to a high degree – in fact, in writing this, I have to wonder if he belonged to that community and licked up the teachings of Ross Jeffries, author of "How to Get the Women You Desire into Bed"? One of Jeffries's tactics is called "negging": deliberately undermine a woman's self esteem, which according to the theory, will make her seek validation, and be more vulnerable to seduction. Well, it works with some: as far as I can see, it is the whole appeal of phenomena like Fifty Shades of Grey, which has been soaked up by women who have internalized misogyny to such an extend that they confuse it with sex appeal.
Andrew was definitely interested in mind games – in how our own attitudes and thought processes can shape or stand in the way of our success. He put me on to the Inner Game series of books written by Timothy Gallwey, which have been very helpful for me to overcome the crippling stage fright I was suffering from at the time.
Gallway's writings have spawned a plethora of business, executive, and life coaching books and programmes, which purportedly teach aspiring CEO's how to "realize their full potential" and "overcome their fear, self-doubt, lapses in focus, and limiting concepts or assumptions" – phrases that I have heard repeated at nauseam in the business community here in New Zealand and elsewhere. Is it an accident that the best-selling book which brought the Pick Up Artist community to the attention of a wider public, is called The Game – published in 2005 by journalist Neill Strauss? Probably not – a quick Google search will establish the connection.
Gallway's original book The Inner Game of Tennis is strictly about how to deal with what goes on in one's own mind – not how to impose one's reality on someone else. It focuses on techniques familiar from meditation: listening to one's breath, being in the moment, focused observation, detachment from the outcome. But the advice he has spawned, be it for business or sexual success, is very goal oriented, and centers on the ability to manipulate others – to make the most amount of money, or to score the most amount of hot girls.
It's an interesting connection, and one that I should perhaps follow up on. But as far as Andrew is concerned, I never had the impression that he boasted with his "conquests" or did what he did in order to "score". There was undoubtedly an element of misogyny to it: funny to think that I used to believe his occasional chauvinist and borderline racist remarks were ironic, because I could not imagine that someone I admired so much could mean them in earnest, but of course I have since come to realize that he really believed these things.
Still, his behaviour has always struck me as something pathological, something that was perhaps out of his control, like any addiction one gives in to – I think he genuinely lived in the hope of finding that perfect lover. I don't know what experiences he may have had in his life that made him act that way, or what demons of self doubt and inferiority complex he was fighting. Fortunately, it was and is not my problem or responsibility to fix or do something about.
Andrew's ability to make people do things for him was not limited to getting women into bed: most of his students seemed to take it for granted that we would help his sometimes complicated performance logistics by lending him our instruments, or drive harps over considerable distances as a favour. I'm sure we felt flattered that he would ask us! But it did at times amount to considerable investments of time, not to mention fuel expenses. He counted on it that we would do these things just because he was so cool – and he was right.
Then of course, there is the Ribayaz sheet music edition. For the non harpists among you: one of the places where the harp was really popular at one time was 16th and 17th century Spain (and by extension, Latin America – the modern Latin American harps are direct descendants of the Spanish baroque harp). There is a considerably body of repertory written in Spanish keyboard/harp tablature. One of those books is a late 17th century collection of dance tunes compiled by the Spanish cleric Lucas Ruiz de Ribayaz. I had learned to read the tablature from Mara Galassi at a weekend class she gave in Berlin (it's not a very complicated notation!) – and transcribed a few of the pieces in the Ribayaz collection for myself.
Andrew, when he got wind of it during lesson time, encouraged me to transcribe the whole thing: he suggested that he could put it into printable notation with the fancy new computer programme he had just acquired (this was back in the early 1990's – I was not yet computer literate myself at that time, so this sounded seriously impressive) – and that he could organize to get it printed with King's Music in the UK, a specialist publisher of early music performance editions. To the young ambitious music student I was, it sounded like a fantastic offer!
I did the entire work of transcribing the tablature independently and on my own. I hunted down a copy of the original book which is, conveniently, held in Berlin – a discovery I made completely by accident because that copy isn't even listed in RILM. I painstakingly compared it with the two available facsimile editions. I read up on Spanish dance music, trying to figure out if the pieces I was transcribing fitted with any standard harmonic formulae or rhythmic patterns.
Rhythm was the biggest challenge: it had to be largely deduced, because the rhythm notation in the original is basically absent. Being fluent in Portuguese, I didn't find it too hard to read Ribayaz's 17th century Spanish, and I found his very interesting note that he makes about how the chord density on the harp corresponds to the rhythmic patterns of upstroke and downstroke on the guitar, which corresponds with which beats have more or less weight. That helped a lot, because the 17th century repertory for guitar was much more well known and accessible.
I didn't yet have my musicology degree at the time, so to me this was largely uncharted territory. I did have the support of several people in the early music community in Berlin, most notably Holger Eichhorn, Judy Kadar, and my dear modern harp teacher at the Hochschule in Berlin, Mariana Schmidt-Krickeberg.
Andrew made some suggestions regarding the rhythms of one or two pieces. That was the extend of his involvement in the actual transcription and editing work. He also added a mistake to another piece, which I have since corrected in my self-published edition of my transcription. But he did, eventually, put the whole thing in the computer: and so his name is on the King's Music edition, which continues to be available for sale through a number of music distributors.
I received a few free copies from the publisher at one point, for me to sell and keep the money. I have not received a penny in cash from Andrew or from King's Music. When I met and talked to the publisher, he claimed he didn't know of my involvement and thought this was Andrew's edition (my name is also on the book, but I am "just the student", right?). I don't know if Andrew has received any payments, but if so, he hasn't offered to share them with me. Judging from the amount of copies I have managed to sell through my own website, the sum of money King's Music owes me is probably not entirely inconsiderable, and would have come in very handy with my permanently tense financial situation.
I am also not mentioned or credited in any way, manner or fashion on Andrew's recording of Luz y Norte musical, which remains to date his best selling and most successful record, and a major milestone in his own career.
The blurb on his website is a fine example of Andrew's approach to musicological research, which is quite in line with his general approach to truth: the underlying principle is to pick or bend the facts to justify his own interpretative choices. Not to mention that he liberally helps himself, without a credit of course, to the results of my own research, as well as that of another musicologist colleague who has done extensive research into baroque Spanish dance and theatrical music.
Toward the end of our relationship, Andrew became increasingly careless about hiding the fact that he was seeing other women besides his steady girlfriend, and me. One incident has particularly stayed in my mind: we were both in Utrecht to attend the Harp Symposium in 1992, and Tragicomedia – which was at the time Stephen Stubbs, Andrew, and Erin Headley – was booked to do a concert of Spanish music at the Early Music Festival, of which the symposium was a part. I was staying at the Youth Hostel, while Andrew was staying at a hotel with the rest of the band.
For some reason or another, Andrew had brow-beaten me into bringing my Spanish cross strung harp to Utrecht, and letting him use it for the concert. I went to their rehearsal, and there was another woman who, as someone told me, was going to share his hotel room that night. I still wonder why I didn't simply grab my harp and walk out of there? I suppose it was respect for Stephen and Erin, more than anything – but also an abject feeling that I didn't have the right to spoil a concert, just because I felt exploited and utterly hurt. A power game – I suppose Andrew knew full well by then, just how far he could push me with impunity. For as it turned out, even that wasn't enough for me to kick him out, next time he came and wanted to stay at my place, pretty please.
In the end, it was Andrew who told me he wasn't going to stay at my place any more. I didn't know the reason until quite some time later: he was going to get married. Not to the girlfriend who had lived with him in Guernsey these last couple of years, but to someone else entirely. And apparently he was serious enough in his intentions to pull himself together, lose some weight, and kick out a couple of girlfriends. The fiancee, he told me himself, was a professional head hunter. She soon became his manager – handy, no doubt, as he had just broken off his ensemble collaboration with Erin and Stephen as well, and put himself in charge of his own ensemble The Harp Consort. The Luz y Norte recording was their debut album.
No one told me about this: everyone at the Akademie in Bremen seemed to know about it, except me – until one of my fellow students let it slip. Then the palace of lies I had been living in for the last couple of years came crashing down with a vengeance. I went home that night and got very drunk indeed. The next morning, the fellow student called me up to beg me not to tell Andrew that it was he who had let the cat out of the bag. I still find it hard to forgive him his cowardice – or some of the other friends who now suddenly started to tell me stories about how Andrew had tried it on with them.
What I did terminate, at that point, was my relationship with Andrew as his student. Every interaction I had ever had with him now seemed dishonest, and it was inconceivable to me to even have another lesson with him. How could I believe anything he was trying to teach me? And the idea that he would touch me again filled me with revulsion. I asked Stephen Stubbs, who was teaching lute and chitarrone in Bremen, if he would take me on as his student. He agreed. I'm not sure if he knows how grateful I have always been for this: he saved my prospects for a musical career, and I think he quite literally saved my life.
Stephen also saw to it that I passed my final exam: Andrew, predictably, tried to boycott it by simply not showing up. From what I have heard, the rest of the exam committee was ready to fail me, a distinction I would have shared with just one other Akademie student up to that time – a baroque violinist who has gone on to a very successful professional career and now teaches in Bremen. The irony.
I've said that Andrew didn't rape me, and technically, that is true. But it felt like that in retrospect. I had put up with Andrew's double dealings, and with being the "other" girlfriend, because somehow he managed to make me believe that he genuinely cared about me, that I was special to him. It was new to me that someone could fake their emotions on this level, and be so completely dishonest about their own feelings.
Andrew was a big fan of Mervyn Peake's twisted fantasy novel Gormenghast – Peake had lived on Sark, one of the Channel Islands, for a time – and once gave me a set of copies as a present. He also told me that he identified strongly with the character Steerpike – a coldly ambitious young man of humble origins, with no capacity for genuine emotion, who manipulates his way into a position of power, killing several characters in the process – including Lady Fuchsia, a romantic young woman whom he pretends to love, and eventually drives to commit suicide. I should have listened to what he was telling me. It was probably the most honest thing he has ever said to me.
When I write this now, I can see the standard pattern of an abusive relationship. The manipulation, the deliberately hurtful behaviour followed by assertions that he cared about me and wanted to be with me, the undermining of my self esteem, the attempts to alienate me from my friends, the possessiveness – Andrew could, and did on a couple of occasions, act furiously jealous toward those unfortunate young men whom he perceived as rivals. And of course, the attempts to sabotage my career. I don't know how far this went, other than stealing the fruits of my work, and trying to compromise my final exam, but from things I have heard bounced back to me, I have the impression that when people asked him his opinion as my teacher, he would respond with a lukewarm appraisal, giving people the idea that he was trying to say something good about me, but there wasn't much good to say. Which is much more effective than obviously tearing someone down.
Some people have assumed that being Andrew's lover would mean that he'd give my budding career a helping hand by getting me some nice gigs – or in fact, that this was the reason I was sleeping with him. Nothing could be further from the truth. As far as I can remember, Andrew recommended me for a gig exactly once – with the Monteverdi-Chor Hamburg, which wasn't exactly the flashed or most pleasant gig I have ever played. Given that it is perfectly normal and expected for teachers to recommend their advanced students – an important part of career development – this really isn't an impressive score. The recommendations I did get – the chance to record Monteverdi's Orfeo with Artek in New York, or the three month touring season of the same opera I played in the Netherlands, before I had even finished school – came from other people.
I do believe that I learnt more from Andrew by hanging out with him, than I did in our official lesson time. He taught me to listen: he was constantly attuned to the music going on around him, be it sitting in a restaurant, or listening to some tape or record he had dug up somewhere. He'd swing along, commenting on the bits he liked and disliked. I also had the opportunity to listen in with professional rehearsals and recording sessions, which was an invaluable introduction to what the job is really like. And he did wonders for improving my fluency in English – although he spoke German fluently, we generally spoke English both in my lessons, and privately.
But what I also learned, was never to trust my own judgement of people – or to trust people, fullstop. Especially people who I felt attracted to, or who somehow threatened to come too close emotionally. It's the price many people have paid, who have experienced any form of abusive relationship. It wasn't the only experience I have had which has undermined this ability to trust. Things were already out of kilter by the time I met Andrew, otherwise I would never have entered such a relationship. It takes a pretty low self esteem to feel one does not deserve to have a lover for one's own, but should be happy with whatever time and attention they can spare from another relationship. I'd seen myself as unlovable and unattractive throughout my teenage years, perhaps even earlier. It was a message I was being told frequently.
The question I was asking myself at the outset of this essay was, why did I do it? Why did I fall so hopelessly for this man? Why did I think that all the very obvious warning flags that this wasn't an appropriate or healthy relationship, didn't apply? Why did I not listen to the several people who warned me about Andrew's sexual habits, which weren't exactly a secret?
I guess up to that point, I had never even considered falling in love, and wanting to share my life with another person, as an option that would apply to me. I was ambitious, and I knew I was smart, so I focused on having a career, and on doing something unusual and worthwhile with my life. I had been brought up to believe that being the kind of woman who uses her head and does something with her life, was incompatible with being the kind of woman who falls in love and wants to have sex. That sort of behaviour was for bimbos. But for a time, my relationship with Andrew seemed the most important thing in the world.
I still don't have an answer to my question. It happened. It's a choice I made when I was very young and very naive, and it has shaped my life in a myriad ways, both negative and positive. Was it necessary? Would I do it again? Well one thing I know for sure, I would not hang in there for so long.
Perhaps the most valuable thing I learned is that there is no point in sticking it out with a lost cause. If another person consistently makes you feel bad, don't wait around and hope for it to get better. Leave. And that also goes for other things: jobs, professional relationships, cities, countries, styles of life.
Another thing I learned was that I would not pay the price of my soul for professional success. If being successful as an artist required being manipulative, exploitative, and dishonest like Andrew was, I wanted no part of it. That was a very valuable lesson.
The third thing I learned was not to be blinded by someone's fame, talent, intelligence, or success. That attitude has stood me in good stead on more than one occasion: I've ceased to define my value by associating myself with people who have some degree of celebrity. And I have been learning, am still learning, who are the people that it is really worth associating with. And with this learning, I think I am recovering my ability to trust.
Arohanui, from Asni