Wulf's Webden

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Thursday 20 October 2016
by Wulf

Lighting Up East Oxford

The String Project will be lighting up East Oxford on Saturday night. Or, less melodramatically, we will be lit up while gigging at the East Oxford Community Centre. Our projectionist-in-chief, Marc, has organised the event and we will be opening up for a trio consisting of Penny Rimbaud & Eve Libertine (formerly members of seminal punk band Crass) and jazz saxophonist Louise Elliot.

I don’t know exactly what that will sound like; I’m expecting ‘fascinating with challenging moments’ more than ‘soft and syrupy’. However, I also expect Marc will be throwing some of his moving visuals up on the walls – we’ve missed that for our last few gigs so can’t wait to see what he picks.

There is a Facebook page set up for the event, tickets are £8.50 on the door and and doors open at 7:30pm.

Wednesday 19 October 2016
by Wulf

The 10,000 Hour Myth

Malcolm Gladwell writes fascinating books that offer fresh ways of looking at things and can lead to valuable insights. However, just because you found it in one of his books doesn’t mean you should accept it uncritically. I read an article on Business Insider UK tonight on Anders Ericsson’s theories about how practice can lead to success (Lebowitz S. ‘Anders Ericsson: How to become an expert at anything‘ Business Insider. 12 June 2016). Ericsson suggests that, when Gladwell talked about his research and framed the ‘rule’ that 10,000 hours of practice is what you need to become an expert at something, it was a misinterpretation.

The truth is that just plugging away at something will get you above the level of most novices and you might even become fairly skilled over time but you won’t be reaching true mastery. If I took up the trumpet and spent four hours a day practising for about seven years (just over 10,000 hours) it wouldn’t be enough to learn some one-octave scales, a few simple tunes and go round and round them. I’d have to constantly challenge myself and work on things that stretched me. I suspect that, given I’ve already got a lot of hours of being a musician under my belt (although probably still not 10,000) and a fair proportion of that hasn’t been coasting along on the E string, I’d probably get to a decent standard much more quickly.

Practice makes perfect is still a good adage but it turns out that you have to choose to move forward rather than just going in circles.


Tuesday 18 October 2016
by Wulf

Looking Down on the Garden in October

View of the garden from an upstairs window

Looking Down on the Back Garden

In October, you can see the garden beginning to settle down for the winter; fewer flowers but more variety of colour appearing in the leaves. I missed taking a shot in September this year but the view isn’t too different to August. I think it will be quite different by November though, certainly if my photo from last year is anything to go by.

Monday 17 October 2016
by Wulf

Out the Doghouse

My double bass got a good reception at last night’s jazz jam. It is the first time I have taken it there for a long while. As a bassist, I prefer the clarity and control I have on the electric bass; I can freshly appreciate why Leo Fender called his first solid body bass the Precision. However, I got quite a lot of appreciative comments on the upright’s sound from the other players. Either they hear it more clearly by being in front of the soundboard and not having the amp pointing directly at their ankles or they aren’t listening as closely to the basslines as I am so thumping away in the foundation is enough for them. I think I might have to take it again but better out the doghouse than in the doghouse.

I did achieve my primary aim, which was to check that my fingers can cope with playing a couple of hours in a live jazz situation. I’ve got a gig coming up in early November where I need to play for three hours (some breaks but also only DB and piano as the group) so I wanted to check that my endurance is still in the ballpark.

Practising at home is one thing but the live setting has its own lessons. Turn up louder was the key one I was reminded of after the first song. Without that, I’m less sure that my fingers would have held out!

Sunday 16 October 2016
by Wulf

Lullaby of the Leaves

If you take a glance at my recent listening charts on Last.fm, you will see I’ve been hammering away on one song this afternoon – Lullaby of the Leaves. It is a jazz standard and I have been listening to versions by all sorts of artists and with all sorts of feels: fast, slow, with and without vox.

Why? I’m heading off to another jazz jam at the Red Lion in Brightwell cum Sotwell this evening (7-9pm) and that’s the tune I requested we try after it caught my ear on the radio a couple of weeks ago. I think I’ve probably finished off my homework on that one for now!

Saturday 15 October 2016
by Wulf

Far More Can Be Mended Than You Know

Earring on green background

Earring with wire wrapping

Once upon a time, choosing an earring was an important part of my sartorial routines. For many years now, I have been content to mainly stick with a single earring that gets changed very infrequently. I have lost track of when I started wearing the simple silver ring shown above but, for a few weeks, I have been aware that it has been breaking. The main tube is hollow and this week it began to tear.

Did that mean it was time for a new earring? Not yet! Instead, I decided to wrap it with some wire in the hope that this will take some of the strain and preserve it a while longer. In the cruel detail of the photograph (the earring itself is about 1cm across) my work looks very scrappy but to the naked eye it looks quite acceptable; no longer quite as simple but still effective.

By the way, the title of this post comes from a book I recently read by Francis Spufford, called Unapologetic. There were some points at which I found myself unimpressed – for example, he misremembers an argument presented by CS Lewis (Jesus – mad, bad or Son of God) and then claims that what it is missing is the very point he has forgotten. He also indulges in more vulgar language than most who write positively about Christian faith although I recall that Martin Luther had his moments so Spufford has some company! However, I did fully concur with his conclusion. Christian hope is well summed up by the axiom that far more can be mended than you know.

Friday 14 October 2016
by Wulf

Checked and Ready

We had an engineer in today to give our boiler its annual service. Everything is in good order although I think we’ll still hang on a little longer before we start regularly putting the heating on. Mind you, I will soon be getting back to wood chopping as we have now started to clear the log jam by having some fires and there’s now room to start moving the cycle of seasoning wood round the garden and into the woodstove again!