The Ultimate Reading Mix

This was always going to be a tough post to write: the one that came after the first weight loss post. I didn’t ever want to post all of those in one go so the question was “what the hell do I write next?”

I find that whenever I am doing something difficult or unpleasant (like washing up or cleaning the kitchen, because no one likes doing those things), music makes it that much easier. While blogging is not unpleasant, it can be difficult, especially the first post after quite a heavy one like my last entry so I thought why not make it a little easier and a little more chill with some music.

I am blessed with Spotify Premium (thank you, other half, once again you make my life fabby), so I have access to a hoard of really good music ad-free wherever I go. It’s great.

My playlists tend to be massive sprawling things (I really need to sort them out every so often) which works great for things like reading, or writing, or generally creating things. I can pop on one of my massive playlists and it will never run out of music. I can get engrossed in a book for hours at a time and never have to fiddle with my music, I get uninterrupted reading time with hours and hours of my personal perfect reading soundtrack. Bliss.

I’m one of those people who prefers scores while reading and creating so that I don’t get distracted by pesky lyrics. However, some of my scores do have wonderful choral parts because I am a sucker for them – especially if they’re in a language I don’t understand, it makes everything sound that little bit fantastical.

So without further tomfoolery, here are my top songs from my ultimate reading mix (the whole playlist will be at the end of this post if you find that it’s exactly your kind of thing!):

1. Dance of the Druids – Bear McCreary (Outlander)

This is an absolutely incredible piece of music, and the scene it’s from is one of the most beautiful things I have ever had the pleasure to watch. If you’ve no interest in watching Outlander, look up the Dance of the Druids scene and just watch that – it’s magical.

2. Prologue – James Newton Howard (Lady in the Water)

I think this song is what made me want to watch Lady in the Water in the first place. It’s another magical one (I am going to be using that word a lot in this blog, sorry). Generally, on soundtracks, if there is a track called ‘Prologue’ which happens to be playing while a narrator of some description is getting the viewer up to speed with the story, it will be my favourite. There’s just something about knowing that a story is being told and that the track is specifically composed to make that story sound incredible that really pulls me in.

3. The Woman in White Suite – Julian Lloyd Webber and Sarah Chang

This is a super long one and lasts for about half an hour. It’s an instrumental suite based on the musical The Woman in White (based on the book of the same name). It’s got tension, it’s got drama, it’s got sweetness and it makes my stomach feel a little bit funny at times. (I take that as a good thing.) The other track, Phantasia, which was on the same release, is also wonderful (it is a homage to all things Phantom of the Opera, which you may have guessed already).

4. The Half Killed – Dario Marianelli (Atonement)

For a little drama and sadness. Such a beautiful track. It builds and builds and builds. This has been one of my go-to tracks for a very long time. Even before I saw the film.

5. Statues – Alexandre Desplat (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two)

Alexandre Desplat was easily the best composer they used in the Harry Potter films. His work is phenomenal and this track has always been my favourite. (Possibly because McGonagall is my favourite too. Let’s face it, the two things are probably, almost definitely related.)

The Playlist

If you like these, you might like the whole playlist. There are over 1,500 songs on it, and I am hoping no random non-scores made their way on there but you never know. I periodically add more to it one album at a time, so I always recommend playing it on shuffle for the full effect.

To listen to the playlist click here, while I try to work out why the embed widget isn’t working. Booo.


Photo Diary: Cardboard Castle EP Launch and stepping out of my comfort zone

Below is an old post that I found in my drafts and thought was worth sharing. I think this is from 2014. It’s not so much of a diary as the title suggests, it’s more a ramble with some photos. I am okay with this. I mention the possibility of another post, and I might create that post. I do intend to go through my photoshoot archives and write about them, and so I will.

On October 11th, I had the pleasure of attending the launch of Cardboard Castle’s debut EP Inspired by Bunnies, which I was lucky enough to design (the design diary for the EP can be found here). While I went there as a very proud friend, I also went in ‘official photographer’ capacity, which was a thought which both thrilled and terrified me; I am not a live music photographer. I am a whimsical, fine art photographer, oneirographer, cloud-walker, storyteller but I don’t identify myself as a live music photographer. It was a challenge and one which I was happy to take on but also left me with wriggly tummy feelings and worry that none of the photos would be good.

The reason you are only seeing this blog entry now is because it took me a while to buck up the courage to look at and edit the photos. I didn’t know how I wanted to edit them at first, or whether I would even be able to. I mostly work with natural light or warm-hued lights (not proper lights by any means but rather desk lamps and similar things) so whenever I’m confronted with colourful strobe lights I can feel my brain trying to creep down my neck and away so it doesn’t have to work out what to do with them. I have done live music before but I don’t tend to be entirely happy with the results, or I do it as a favour and only edit photos I am asked to edit. This time I wanted it to be different, I wanted to take these photos and wasn’t asked or expected to, which definitely helped, I think. I offered to take them because I’d already created their album artwork and some other random press images.

Now, these aren’t my best photos by any means but I did end up shooting another gig for them as well, which probably turned out better than this one (I may write a post about it, watch this space). I am still unsure how best to edit multicoloured lights but I think I did well with what I had, and I think they capture the story of the night quite well. See for yourself.

Pentatonix at the O2 Academy, Oxford

Last Thursday yielded the culmination of many months of excitement: Pentatonix, live and wonderful. If you follow me on Twitter, you have probably inferred by my gushy tweets that I enjoyed it. Allow me to gush some more here.

I do not exaggerate when I say that this experience was probably the highlight of my 2014 so far. It started with my discovering that, if you’re on O2, you can skip the queue. Thanks, O2. Awesome. If we hadn’t skipped the queue thanks to my shiny, shiny contract we probably wouldn’t have been as near to the front as we were and I would probably not have been able to see a thing, being somewhat vertically challenged and having to wear glasses (amazing glasses, which I would never ever trade for contacts). As it was, I had a pretty great view and we were close enough to see Mitch’s fantastically sassy facial expressions, a sight which would have been sorely missed (and those high notes – whoa!).

If you’ve watched their videos (two of which can be found below), you know how incredible they are but seeing them perform live takes their music to another level. Even if you’ weren’t looking, you could feel how much they were enjoying themselves and it was impossible not to enjoy it with them. Their enthusiasm is like electricity and the energy… – Pentatonix have an incredible amount of energy, not only were they all singing almost all of the time but often songs were choreographed. I can’t imagine how hard it is to do that for just one show, let alone a whole tour with both an American and European leg.

The vocals were powerful and en pointe – Avi’s bass notes were not only heard but felt – and I definitely got goosebumps at more than one point during the show.  Run to You, an original song, elicited silence from the crowd and there were moments when you could have heard a pin drop (excuse the cliché); it was beautiful to listen to and to watch. It was clear from each of their faces how much that song means to them and was possibly my favourite part of the concert (if I absolutely had to pick one). Pentatonix were made to sing together.

As well as the music, I also really enjoyed how they interacted with the crowd (everyone wanted to be Jessica, the girl they called on stage for Let’s Get It On) – when people shouted about how awesome they were, they thanked them. It was clear that they appreciated us as much as we appreciated them, which makes for a great experience all round. Kirstie’s face when Scott enlisted the audience in singing Happy Birthday to her was beautiful, she seemed so, incredibly happy.

I can’t finish this blog without mentioning three things: Scott’s ‘FLAWLESS’ shirt, which is perhaps the most perfect shirt he could have worn; Kevin’s celloboxing, I need some of that on my ipod right now – it was amazing, totally amazing; and finally, Avi’s overtone singing, I can’t even describe it other than to say that the man is clearly some kind of mystical being who has jumped out of a fantasy novel – that is the only explanation.

It was a fantastic gig and I know I will be seeing them again when they’re next in Oxford/the UK.