Thursday, June 21, 2018

Oxford University versus The University of Life Janette Miller

Oriel College Oxford University - Wiki creative commons

I have always felt jealous of anyone who is clever and privileged enough to receive an Oxford/Cambridge education. Now as a 75 year woman who has had to go through life with no formal education at all, and most women of my age had to do this, Lady Di is a good example, she got just two GCEs  and had to be Princess of Wales, I envy anyone male or female who has achieved and survived this exalted education.
If I had been a boy, my father who had the very best education money could buy would have seen to it that I went to decent schools and had I been bright I should have ended up at Oxford or Cambridge but in 1947, instead of the North London Collegiate that was at the bottom of my road I was sent to the local convent to be taught by Irish 18-year-old nuns who could barely read and write themselves and had no idea how to teach. I survived the first two years where I discovered that although everyone else could see God I could not and it was not until I was 7 that I got the hang of reading.
I had heard of a university but I could no more imagine going to one than flying to the moon. I was lucky because I self-educated right from the age of 5 as in 1945 my grandfather had one of the first televisions and Lord Reith who ran the BBC went in for Educate, Entertain and Inform and so I had seen most of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Wilde plays by the age of 11 not to mention operas and ballets. I had also seen Belsen and GB Shaw in an interview in 1949. When I could read I started on my grandfather's library but this self-education meant I had absolutely no formal qualifications at all. The only thing I knew positively about Oxford was that its colour was dark blue and it always lost the boat race.
I did learn Latin which in those days was necessary for university entrance. The nuns were good at Latin. At the age of 12, my father decided that as my educational standard was so low, I could not spell and one mark was taken off GCE O levels for every incorrect spelling so my chances of passing anything was nil. He thought all my brains must be in my feet. As I was good at ballet I was removed from the convent and sent to a ballet school in London, Portman Square just behind Selfridges at the age of 12. This was a secular specialist school which gave children the opportunity to be employed in professional productions as well as providing a basic education.  Basic English, arithmetic (no algebra or geometry), French,  history, and art for three hours a day. The rest was taken up with ballet, tap, drama etc and the chance to be on the stage and get paid if you were fortunate.
You can see my chances of an Oxford education were very minimal. I so admired my clever friends or anyone who got masses of O levels and A levels and who went to universities of any kind. I had no idea of how they did it or what they did when they got there. I was told it was magical and for many the years at Oxford was the best thing in their lives. They got into jobs of which I could only dream, the BBC,  publishing and politics and I could only look on.
I was not alone. Most of my ordinary middle-class girlfriends were in the same boat. They became secretaries, nurses and teachers and the aim was to marry well. A teacher, a lawyer or a doctor, doctors who went to Oxford were the prizes as there were so few of them and strangely these clever men really had no choice but to marry us as there were so few female graduates and those that were available were generally blue stockings. Educated men had to put up with uneducated wives.
In May 2018 at the age of 75, I watched a YouTube Blog MollyatOxford of a charming, intelligent young woman who was studying Classics and English at Oriel College Oxford. She was doing the very thing that I dreamed of doing all those years ago. In 1964 I met a gorgeous Oxford educated GP, Oriel/St Mary's at Queens Ice rink in Bayswater. Doctors like ice-skating. It is splendid exercise, can be done alone and at any time. For 8 years I was just a pair of skates on legs and a useful ice dancing partner until one day he found out what I did for a living. He was amazed, took me to the opera at ENO that night and I married him a year later.
The first thing Miles did was to take me to Oxford and show me his college which was Oriel. I got a brief tour, just two quads and the staircase to his room. The delightful Oxford blogger did a much better job than my husband in this area but Miles was good on punts. My Oxford blogger has not ventured out in that area as yet. I became his Lady and overnight I had to be accepted by this privileged group of highly educated people. I still think some of them raise an eyebrow as to why a brilliant Oxford scholar should have chosen a ballet dancer as a partner and I bet none of them thought our marriage would last because I was considered uneducated.
As I said at the start until now I had no idea of what went on at Oxford or how they taught.  My husband did medicine which is taught in a different manner to say that of Classics. It is usually a big secret so unknowingly my Oxford blogger, Molly has given me the opportunity to find out what I missed all those years ago. I found it riveting to see what Molly was doing between with her life between the years of 16 to say 23 getting all her O levels and A Level qualifications and compare it to what I was doing during those same teenage years with none. For a start just being a woman would have kept me out of my husband's college as Oriel was the last bastion of misogyny to fall. Took until 1990ish for women with qualifications to be admitted.

The Oxford Undergraduate experience is considered the pinnacle of education and will lead on to an enhanced status for the rest of their lives so what makes it so special?
Getting to Oxford as an undergraduate seems to be the major obstacle and major achievement. It is a long hard academic slog, many are called but few are chosen, but once there it really seems to someone like me who worked my way through the teenage years a really cushy existence and about two hundred miles from reality. How can this cosy isolation arm you for life in the real world? Where is the real world?
Only short terms, 8 weeks in very pleasant surroundings and accommodation, all food found for four years of the most formative years of one's life. For Molly, her life consists of writing an assignment a week and a few exams at the end of the first year with the next set of exams three years down the track. No travelling involved, a social life provided if you care to partake, some lectures to attend, a tutor to give you hints and put you on the right track and really no responsibility at all while one lives in this enchanting atmosphere and architecture. The life of a student under these circumstances is very gem├╝tlich indeed! The only fear is not handing in the assignment on time.
It is learning for the sake of learning as most of what students has been well trodden before and the opportunity to find something original in Classical texts that are over 2,000 years old is highly unlikely.  Molly had not studied Latin at school so coming to Oxford unprepared in this area and expected to do translation in her first set of exams must have been daunting. My Latin was possibly better than hers at first and I am no Latin scholar although I do enjoy it now. I know how it feels to behind in an essential subject. Oxford ought to have warned her of this. How can you translate if you don't know the language? Takes years to really learn Latin.
Next thing that surprised me was Molly's weekly search for books. Really two days of each week were taken up in the hunt for the set texts. What a waste of time and energy. Surely Oxford should supply these books online to its students. This would give the undergraduate more time for study and less foraging around. Actually, this book weekly book search shocked me. Molly seemed to have little time left for socialising which is an important part of university life, for life after university perhaps the most important part. Molly rarely attends the lunch so possibly does not gain as much as she should in this area as she does not meet students from other disciplines on a daily basis to broaden her knowledge of real life if there is such a thing in Oxford. Does Molly get out on a punt a  la Dorothy L. Sayers?

By Molly's age, I had mixed with princes and spent time at the local Labour Exchange with the unemployed. I was often one of the unemployed.  I had travelled the length and breadth of UK on a train. I saw the poverty and hopelessness of the way many citizens lived. Bradford was an awful wasteland in 1964 and still is today. Glyndebourne, where I wined and dined, was very different. I became an Equity deputy and I admired Venessa Redgrave and Glenda Jackson with whom I worked.

The May Ball, which I had been lead to believe was the height of sophistication looked disappointing too. In a tent with earphones. Now Sandhurst  Ball was quite something in my day. Very elegant. I had expected the May Ball to be like that. First night of theatrical productions in the West End are good too with lots of champagne and flowers whether they are successes or not.
Socialising is so important and seems to be getting lost in hunting for books and essays on time. For me, rehearsals were the perfect time to meet and talk with cast members and musicians and management. You get to know them well on long train journeys too. I learned from the best this way and as I was interesting to talk to and had original ideas I was accepted. Molly doesn't seem to meet anyone above her on a daily basis. Only a tutor once a week. It seems very limited to me.
Molly's sole day trip to London was a highlight of her week but she went to a Harry Potter Exhibition! Admittedly she did go to the Ashmolean and has a student ticket for Radcliff Camera for her book search but after school, I could go anywhere. I lived at the Wallace collection and National Gallery and while working on the opera The Turn of The Screw for TV for six weeks I had the British Museum every day at lunch. She went on a family holiday to Croatia and spent one holiday as an intern for work experience.

My life was so different. 

I worked full time for a living and learned on the job. You have to be better than the best. There are no second chances in the West End and London Theatre. This started young. At 12, I got up at 7am, walked a mile to the station, took the tube from Canons Park, Changed at Wembley Park for Baker Street, then walked or took a bus to Portman Square all by myself. Ballet class was at 9.30 am followed by another vocational subject. After lunch, school till 4.30, the English was excellent. I can parse my way out of a paper bag. Then off to the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden for the ballet performances. This usually finished at 10.30 pm where my mother would come up and take me on the long journey home. Ballet dancers have to be ready for professional work at 16 and some become ballerinas at 18. Life is short in ballet. Ballet dancers are brilliant, know how to work and deferred gratification. Very different from Oxford essays. I did this for two years.
At the age of 12, I was out in the world doing voice-overs for commercials. Huntley & Palmers Biscuits relied on me on TV to sell Ginger Nuts!  At the age of 14, I was chosen to be in The Royal Ballets first performance of Petrushka in 1957 at a Gala Performance. The two children were something of a hit and I spent the next two years with the Royal Ballet where I met everyone from Margot Fonteyn, Fredrick Ashton to Sir Malcolm Sargeant.
In 1958 at 15 I was chosen by Benjamin Britten for the first performance of Noyes Fludde at Aldeburgh and then in 1959 for his opera as Flora in the "Turn of the Screw" live on British Television and at Aldeburgh. Because of my knowledge of opera and ballet, I got to know Britten well and in fact all my papers of that time and my score signed by all the cast I have left to the Bodleian Library. I deserve a PhD for my take on why Flora is so important in her own right and not as a back up for the boy! I can tell you Britten never told me all this. Britten would not have dared.  I had to work it out myself. Britten admired me for doing this.

I have three O levels which I taught myself as I had to change to a school that did not do GCE's. I had a brilliant headmistress who taught me the three English Lit books in just three weeks. I got 87% and the remark that "as my spelling was so bad we would never know your true academic value". Yet I am considered uneducated. Many of my schoolmates were in the same position. One Jackie Collins went on to have quite a career. She never passed anything.
At 17 went to the Guildhall School of Music and Drama where at 18 I won the Production Prize but could not get a job as BBC did not employ women and preferred male graduates from Oxford and Cambridge and yet I was really good. I met this obstacle constantly but eventually, I did sell a ballet series to BBC. I had to go to New Zealand to do this 16 years later.
Spent next two years working my way up in musicals, eight performances a week starting with a major tour of "Stop the World I want to get off" around 14 of the major towns in England including The Oxford Royal. Visiting these towns was a great educational eyeopener.  We travelled by British Rail on a Sunday, for 14 weeks. These journeys were again and eye-opening experience. We were paid a pittance and the work was never ending. We had no day off.
Then I had to do pantomimes as a principal girl. This is the University of Musicals and stage productions. Sometimes 12 shows a week for over two months in the  bleak provencial cities. Very hard work. I also did drama, films and TV productions.
By the age of 24 I was starring in the West End. For a year it was 8 shows a week. We had nightly audiences of over 2000. The responsibility for quality performance was enormous. You don't get a BA for doing this and yet you should.
My workload makes Molly's weekly essay and life experience look like an afternoon picnic on a sunny summer's day. It is so isolated from real life.
However,  Molly is officially recognised as educated and I am not. Her BA from Oxford for a few essays will trump my University of Life any day of the week. I am just astounded at how easy it is Oxford graduates to succeed in life. My husband was an example. He was given an MA Oxon for just completing his medical degree. Not an essay in sight!  Everything was given to him on a plate including a wonderful pension. Artists do not get pensions as Margot Fonteyn found out.
Up until yesterday, I envied Molly and her sojourn in Oxford.  Surprisingly, I think the University of Life is far richer than the Oxbridge University version. At a pinch I could do what Molly does very easily, I should have to revise my Latin and use a spell check but don't we all. There is no way that Molly could do what I do or have done with her education which seems so limited.  I was lucky not to be able to spell and sent to a ballet school but I should have liked a PhD and a pension of my own and to be recognised as educated in my own right.
I was lucky to experience Oxford second hand via my husband who always said there is only time in life or the best and he chose to marry me. I suppose that is a compliment. However, if I had been given the opportunity to go to Oxford when I was Molly's age I think I should have taken it and look what I should have missed.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Why not bring back the Temporary Employment programmes of the 1980 in NZ ?

Janette Miller in front of Fomison Fidelio Act 2 in Auckland Art Gallery
©janette miller 2014

Why not  bring back Robert Muldoon's amazing 
Temporary Employment Programmes of the 1980's?

My mother had a thing about jobs! She believed that everybody who wanted to work should have a job and that governments tampered with employment at their peril. "It is easy to close a business and sack people" she used to say as another business was closed down or sent offshore "But it is expensive and sometimes impossible to start them up again as all the skills have been lost". She was right. Peoples jobs are the most important thing they possess in their lives. Ordinary people hate losing their jobs. It is so stressful, degrading, and humiliating when one wants to work but the jobs are not there.

All performing artists and musicians need to perform. They cannot wait until they are dead. I was lucky in UK at that time in the 1960s there was a career path that could be followed.  It took me from 18 to 24 to get into a leading role in  London's West End. Six years of almost daily performances to learn my art. When I came to Auckland with my GP husband I was astonished at the standard of the local performing artists here in Auckland. If they had been in the UK they would all have been stars. Kiri Te Kanawa was not an exception, others were as good as if not better and all had little if nothing to do. They needed jobs.

The year was 1982 and Robert Muldoon the Prime Minister believed in employment and giving people a chance to get a foot in the door by offering full time employment for six months on a Temporary Employment Programme on full salary. Yes, full salary that was paid by the government. The employer had to provide everything else.

I applied and was given such a scheme for Auckland Artists. It was based in The Concert Chamber of Auckland Town Hall and the idea was to start up a small opera/ballet company from scratch using a core of artists and production staff for each production and the opportunity to give many others part-time employment as well.

To begin I had six young ballet dancers straight out of ballet school, one ex NX Ballet, two from the NZ Ballet School in Wellington, but the rest from Auckland. These six young dancers were the luckiest ever as they got paid the same as the NZ Ballet, three full time opera singers, who had to help with the administration when not in an opera, a full time ballet director, Pauline Tronson who was amazing, A manager and secretary, a box office manager, a cafe manager, two stage managers. 

Was it easy? No, as most of these had never worked in a fulltime theatre before, so I had to teach and train them as well but it gave them a start. We did some amazing productions with nothing but NZ raw talent and many went on to have remarkable careers, including me as it gave me a start too as an opera director, women no allowed here too at this time, although I was one who did not get paid.

So how did this Temporary Employment programme turn out in the long run?

Take a look at the painting above.  I commissioned it personally and paid for and employed the practically destitute Tony Fomison to do the mise-en-scene for our first opera Fidelio by Beethoven. Fomison was Hamish Keith's suggestion. Fomsion was the only artist I have ever met who was prepared to starve for his art. Admittedly he was not on the scheme but because of the scheme I was able to commission him, employ and give him work. Fomison needed it. Today the painting above Fidelio Act 2 is one of his most beloved works. It is worth a fortune. I have to fight for my copyright and ownership as one has somehow landed up in The Auckland Art Gallery and one in the BNZ who are not keen on giving them back to the First Owner. Without me and the TEP production, these would not have seen the light of day as Fidelio would never have been produced. One day it will be produced again. It was amazing and full media mix of ballet opera and mise en scene and now Fomison is famous I should get the Aotea and the NZSO. 

Artists who got employment because of this scheme, Tony Fomison, Amanda Price/Scog who for years managed the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Pauline Tronson, Ballerina, Chick Littlewood,  Lousie Malloy, Wendy Dixon, Ingrid Walberg, Moya Rae, Gillian Trot, Lyndsay Freer, David Guerin, Katie Smyth, Malcum Burn, William Dart, Rodger Craig, Marcus Craig, Patricia Swift and many others. Steven Bradshaw, who could not dance a step got his professional start with me, later he was not grateful but then that is par for the course and that is what TEP schemes are for.

For me, by accident, I discovered the world of children's shows. The council admin staff, who did not help one tiny bit, threw me out of my small 480 theatre during the school holidays but then felt guilty at what they had done for it was a disaster as although my TEP employees got paid I had to pay for everything else including the rent of the Concert Chamber. The Council offered me the Town Hall morning and afternoon for $300 a performance. I threw on The Tales of Beatrice Potter and bingo over 23,000 turned up!

When my TEP scheme finished I had enough money to carry on with highly successful children's shows that subsidised my serious opera and ballet productions as you can see in my live CV.  These ended up on NZTV and the BBC. Without this Temporary Employment Programme this would never have happened.

The productions, one or two I had videod, still look acceptable today as you can see in my live CV I made when YouTube first started.  Sadly I needed just $75,000 as a grant to continue to build this small company. It was not granted. The QE II Arts Council needed exactly $70,000 to upgrade its new offices in His Majesty's Arcade which it did. A short time later  His Majesty's Theatre and the newly decorated Arts Council Offices were pulled down. Such is life but my Fomisons live on! Think what Auckland could have had if I had been able to continue.

Was it easy to do? No. Did I enjoy it? No. Would I do it again? Yes. It was socially well worthwhile. I could never have raised the money to do this startup. These skills would have been lost, especially the dancers as they needed continual employment. To have a rich society one needs to make sure that the talents are used and that means in some cases it is the government's responsibility to fund such ventures as taxation is so high. 

Firms we have lost abroad Fisher & Paykel, Moontide, Cadbury's, all should have been saved. 

Everyone deserves a job not just the fortunate few. I applaud Robert Muldoon for doing this. Muldoon had his faults but he was right to do it.

Fidelio Act 2 Original ©janettemiller 1982

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The Amazing NZ Copyright Commissioning Rule by Janette Miller

Above is the amazing and unique New Zealand  Copyright Commissioning Rule. 

New Zealand is the only country in the world that has this very special Commissioning Rule.

As you can see in the table if you commission an object, a doll, a painting, a design for a Thing-a-me-jig, and especially a photograph it is a good idea to have a very good understanding of this extremely powerful  NZ Commissioning Rule for unless the person you asked to create your idea, known as The Author in this article, asks for a transfer of copyright in writing before starting to work on it you, as the commissioner, own everything, the copyright, first ownership, everything, 

The author/artist/ photographer/etc owns nothing. From the very beginning that the work starts the commissioned artist,  owns nothing. If you don't pay because the work is not what you commissioned, the /author/artist/photographer cannot sell it to someone else to get his money back, or copy it and sell copies or destroy it for that would be harming the commissioner's interests. The photographer who has been commissioned is stuck with it.

Sounds wonderful! The problem is that hardly anyone in New Zealand knows about the NZ Commissioning  Rule. Try asking artists, art agents, and even art directors of well-known art galleries and the answer trips of their tongues like treacle off a spoon. The commissioned copyright follows the artist.  They are all wrong for in the NZ  Commissioning Rule the copyright follows the commission NOT the Artist who is only the person asked to do the job on behalf of the commissioner.  NZ Copyright Act 1994  Sec 21,3, (b) & Sec 4 (a)(b).

So who owns the copyright work?  Who is the First Owner and who is the Author. The copyright work is the special name given in The Copyright Act 1994 under Sec 2, Definitions and Sec 14 Property for the actual physical article. Is it the Commissioner? Is it the Author? Can the Author sell it and give the First Buyer Title? This is critical for the Buyer of an artwork has to have a valid Title to sell on legally.

The confusion arises because in the rest of the world the NZ Commissioning Rule does not exist. In the rest of the world, The Commissioner gets the copyright work or a photograph but  the expression of copyright or the image and the negative follows the Artist.  This breaking of the two parts of the copyright leads to no end of confusion.

A lot of unpleasantness can follow if a commissioned  NZ Artist, not knowing the NZ Commissioning Rule, decides he is The First Owner, and sells on to an innocent third party as when the Commissioner finds out the artwork has to go back.

The NZ Commissioning Rule is easy to understand if you consult the above crib sheet above. The whole thing is as clear as crystal. There can be exceptions as there are to all rules but the basics are easy to understand. In a Commission in NZ the Commissioner comes out on top. For Employers of artists in NZ, say like a NZ Walt Disney, it is the same.

In New Zealand, if the copyright work is the artist's own idea and creation, the artist has hit the jackpot. The artist gets the lot, copyright work, copyright of image, full control, everything till 50 years after his death.

But and it is a BIG BUT - if the artist is commissioned in NZ  the commissioned artist gets nothing, absolutely nothing. Not the copyright work, that belongs to the Commissioner right from the moment the commissioned artist sets to work. The Title belongs to the Commissioner and even if the commissioner does not pay up, the commissioned artist has no right to sell it on to get his money back. The artist s not allowed to make copies to sell either or to destroy the work as it does not belong to the artist and may damge the commissioner's property.

If the artist is foolish enough to do this and sell the copyright work by pretending that it is an original work of the artist and a third party buys in Good Faith and does not do due diligence the copyright work has to go back. It still belongs to the Commissioner even though years and years may pass.

 Why? Usually, The Sale of Goods Act 1908 protects Third Party buyers. It does but only if it is the artist's original work and the artist own the copyright. Artworks are property and like cars and houses have titles. Artists ought to give Certificates of Title but in NZ they don't bother.

Copyright Acts all over the world are so powerful. If they were not people would be ripping off ideas left right and centre and nobody would ever profit from creative ideas.

As it is people rip off other peoples' ideas every day and see nothing wrong with it. Well, there is! It is theft and once discovered the copyright work be it a DVD, CD or a photograph has to go back.

You cannot buy an illegal copy of an article, say a stolen genuine Rolex watch even it is a genuine copy with papers to go with it, if it were stolen and after five years claim under a statue of limitation that you bought in Good Faith,  because the Copyright Act gives the Commissioner a right of property too. There is no time limit on stolen copyright articles. as a lady in the USA found out. Her coffee table from Roman Times bought in Good Faith 45 years ago had to go back to Rome.

An infringement of many years ago is still as fresh as a daisy today. The copyright object goes back to the commissioner and to make matters worse the Innocent Buyer can face a huge fine and imprisonment if the buyer had infringed copyright if they find out and do nothing. In the USA where similar copyright laws, but not The Commissioning Rule are in force,  people go to prison every day for using copyright articles, for example re-selling illegal copies of DVDs even if when they bought them they thought they were genuine.

This is just a short introduction to this fascinating law. If you are likely to make a commission or be commissioned it would be a good idea to hone up your skills in this area and prevent disaster for both parties.

Here are a couple of articles by Clendons Law Firm that give a quick overview.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

To all those who struggle to speak French the way the French do it. Janette Miller

I have been trying to speak French all my life with no success as nobody in France will speak to me in French when they hear my English except at railway stations where nobody speaks English. I started to think. Why is learning speaking French so difficult?
Yesterday it hit me. Bit late, I am over 70 but it hit me. The French way of saying things is completely different and unless we  English, learn to think the French way we shall never do it.
I never had this problem with Latin, Yes at school I learned Latin. In Latin, the verb goes at the end of the sentence. That is so odd that it is fun to speak in this manner. Children went around speaking English as though it was Latin. "Oh George, on the chair, sit", "Steven to the gym, go" we carried on conversations like this for days, and teachers too and we all became very good at it. After a bit, it did not sound strange and we gave it up. But after that, the verb at the end of the sentence did not feel odd and made life so easy. Why didn't we do this for French?
By coincidence, yesterday I translated a few pages of "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" for educational purposes into English the way the French say it and it sounds very strange indeed but it does not sound strange to the French and this is the way we have to think if our French is to be beyond the well I learned this phrase, now how the hell can I adapt it to this situation.
I won't bore you but here are a few examples spoken in English the way the French say it.

I choose an easy children's book by Beatrix Potter which most of us know by heart. 
To begin The Tale of Peter Rabbit becomes Pierre Lapin, The Tale is untranslatable. French don't do Tales as we do. History, stories, fables, yes, Tales? No. Of course, it is a pun too, but the French, on the whole, do not do puns.
Read carefully each word as you will skip the best bits:

He there had a time four little rabbits who themselves called, Flopsy, something, Tail of cotton and Peter. They remained with their mother in a burrow, sandy, dig under the roots of a very large fir.
"Today my darlings," said Mother Rabbit "I you will allow of to go in the fields, or of to descend the path, but not enter not in the garden of Mr. Mac Gregor.
 An accident frightful arrived at your poor father in this damn garden. He was caught and placed in pie by Mrs. Mac Gregor.

Now, know you; and not make not of mistakes. 

Me! I go to the provisions" 

Mother Rabbit takes his basket and his umbrella. She crosses the wood and then herself there goes home the baker to buy a loaf of bread, twice and five buns.

Now if you translate this word by word into French it will be perfect. See the problem?

This is how the French say it and why it is so hard for us to translate off the cuff. This is the way the French think and this has to be taught if we are to succeed.
Thank goodness God speaks English! (Irony)

To finish here is just one of the three occasions when  I could not find anyone to speak English at a time I really needed to be understood. All three disasters have happened at railway stations.

I was in Karlsruhe Station in 1990, the second-largest city in the state of Baden-W├╝rttemberg, in southwest Germany, near the French-German border. I wanted to go to Venice! It was 6 pm and a long queue behind me.
I speak English beautifully ( I do)  and a little German badly. I asked for two tickets to Venice. Absolute consternation. Not one person in this large station had heard of Venice! The whole station came to a full stop.
"Venice, Venice, Venice!" I repeated over and over again. The crowd muttered and after a minute someone tried. Wein? I didn't think that sounded right. I had no idea where or what Wein was that night. (Vienna is the translation).
Everyone became more and more frustrated as I tried to buy two tickets to Venice. I thought everybody in the world had heard of Venice. Not it Karlsruhe station.
Eventually, after a good three to four minutes of impasse with tempers rising to fever pitch, somebody way down the queue suggested Venezia. That sounded promising, everyone heaved a sigh of relief and I got my two tickets to Venezia keeping my fingers crossed that I had the correct translation.
Usually when I travel and I travel a lot I am not allowed to try to use my foreign language skills as tout le monde likes practising their English on me, which is understandable, but in stations I have found nobody speaks English, Brussels, Paris, Karlsruhe, not a word of English is understood especially when one is in a hurry.
So if you don't speak German and French fluently stay away from Railway stations!

Below this French Folk song really should be sung in French. I have never dared to do this!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Music Education for those who cannot read Music -

Music Education is now only for the wealthy 

To enable more children to learn we must stop teaching in such an academic way 
So says Charlotte C Gill in an article in today's UK Guardian.  I wanted to comment but by the time the Guardian hits NZ the comments had closed so I had to write on her blog and comment here.Sadly this will only be seen by a few so here it is although I have written on this subject once before so here is what I wrote.

I read the above with much interest. I know exactly where you are coming from because I am in the same position as you. Although I have spent a lifetime trying to read and learn the conventional musical notation I have never mastered  it. I have been called unmusical and looked down upon just because dots mean nothing to me.

I am a professional singer. I am now 74.  In my youth girls were not taught to sing. No choir schools for them where they could learn the language of sight singing but fortunately I lived with an aunt who played the piano and music teacher at my convent school, a Miss Carmen! who encouraged me to sing. I learnt everything by ear although she did try to teach us to sight sing. I was OK on theory but playing the piano was a disaster. I have since learned when I was 60 that I have a problem with my hypocanthus which prevents me from retaining sequences which means every time I face a piano or a typewriter it is like meeting it for the first time. Practising does not help and I did practise. I had to translate each dot every time and I was just too slow.

Young girls who could sing were rare in the 1950's. Benjamin Britten auditioned 40 little girls for "Flora" for "The Turn of the Screw" and gave up and used a small adult. Finding a boy soprano was no problem. Ten a penny. Britten put "The Screw" back on the shelf until he found one. I was in the original "Noyes Fludde" with Michael Crawford who I don't think sight sings and I feel sure David Hemming's could not sight sing either. I made an impact and Britten found his first young "Flora". Britten knew that many children who have talent are no academic training can still be the best choice. We were all trained by rote. I had the honour of being accompanied at an Aldeburgh  Wagner recital by Britten, possibly the only girl who has ever done this.

All my career in opera and musicals I learned roles by rote. I taught myself "The Screw" by records and picking it out slowly on the piano and it worked well. 

When I retired I was lucky enough to marry an Oxford educated GP  Miles Heffernan who played the piano and loved Schubert and every morning for 30 years we would make music together for our own enjoyment. Then he died. I had lost not only my husband but my accompanist! I knew I could never afford to sing like this again and for 6 years I didn't.

Then came the computer revolution and I discovered Garageband. I just played about with the loops for a couple of years and then one day I discovered 'The Piano Roll' and this application changed my life. I had to change a couple of notes and I thought if I can write out a couple of bars maybe I could write out the accompaniments for my Schubert Songs. The first song "Hark Hark the Lark" took a week but I could sing again. I could change the key, I could choose my own time, No wrong notes. It was like being born again. It felt like the day spell check arrived for people who cannot spell. I went on to learn how to orchestrate and have become very efficient at it, orchestrating Richard Strauss and The Songs of the Auvergne which you can see on YouTube

Garageband piano roll was the musical notation I needed. I can see an orchestration in  the way traditional musicians can see it in the dots. 'September' Strauss which is one of the most dense orchestrations ever written was a revelation . I could see the structure with the bees humming and the rain softly falling and  as winter approached all life faded away until down to a single French horn.

So why isn't this type of notation taught to people like you and me? Because the Boards of Music are too set in their ways. Britten hated his music college and I thought mine was pretty hopeless too. I was fine on theory but would never have passed the sight singing. Fortunately I had many strings to my bow.

I now can orchestrate anything I wish and I do but I am like a prophet crying in the wilderness. Traditional musicians don't need it but singers who cannot read music do. 

I suppose I should put this up on my blog. I think I wrote a similar piece a few years ago. So congratulations on behalf of all of us who have this problem and let people know there is still hope left. Learn to notate in Garageband. It is easy and free if you have a Mac or a midi programme.

You can see my efforts on my YouTube Channel - Janette Miller. All orchestrations are done in Garageband even the Mahler and Schoenberg and you can see me when I was 16 in the UK TV 'Turn of the Screw' and yet a traditional musician will still say I am unmusical because I do not read music.


Janette Miller/Heffernan

Friday, March 10, 2017

The Jackdaw of Rheims from Ingoldsby Legends - Janette Miller

The Jackdaw of Rheims from The Ingoldsby Legends by Thomas Ingoldsby/Richard Barham

The Jackdaw of Rheims is about a cheeky jackdaw who steals a cardinal's ring and is made a saint.

The Ingoldsby Legends is a collection of myths, legends, ghost stories and poetry written supposedly by Thomas Ingoldsby of Tappington Manor, actually a pen-name of an English clergyman named Richard Harris Barham. The legends were first printed during 1837 as a regular series in the magazine Bentley's Miscellany and later in New Monthly Magazine. The legends were illustrated by John Leech, George Cruikshank, and Sir John Tenniel. They proved immensely popular and were compiled into books published in  1842 . They remained popular during the 19th century but have since become little known.

This poem was very popular in my youth around 1950 and all little girls and boys learnt it but sadly now seems to have slipped off the table so on impulse I decided to make  a simple version using images of a bygone age, all nicely out of copyright, so that at least there is one example on YouTube.

 I thought this would take  a couple of hours at the most. All I needed was to quickly record the 9 minute poem, add a few out of copyright images and an out of copy right piece of music. I chose the Intermezzo  2 from the opera Jewels of the Madonna by Wolf Ferarri, all nicely out of copyright.  I had a very old 45rpm  1959 record that would do. I checked to see if I could find the owner but after all these years the company and orchestra had vanished. I added a clause to the notes to say I was willing to remove this music if required. Of course video editing took longer than expected but for me simple does not mean sloppy  and the audio editing took a bit to make it fit so a couple of hours became a couple of days and so I decided to put it up only to find that the YouTube algorithms had posted a Copyright Dispute notice!

This is one of those notices one does not want to see as they are time consuming. It is also annoying when you find out that it is not the music that is in dispute but the arrangement. It seems as the algorithm was confusing 4 secs of my voice with an arrangement by someone else!  I do not do monetization on my videos. I come from the school that finds this vulgar. I sometimes get huge views for my videos, 20,300 for The Daffodils by Wordsworth, and this dispute would mean that this company would take all my royalties so I had to file a dispute and this can take up to a month to settle. In the meantime I had to take down my Jackdaw Video.

This copyright algorithm theft is a problem and the only way to stop it is to make sure you own every second of your video and that meant writing out the entire score of the Intermezzo! I do not mind doing this but first I had to find the sheet music and the score and actually write it out as a Midi. I enjoy this as it is so fascinating but I am in the middle of another big project and this was not what I had in mind. Still it had to be done for peace of mind.

In the meantime I put up a version with no background music and today if you want views the musical accompaniment is essential. I got just 21 views from this version which I have now taken down. Below shows how I did it using Garageband which has a wonderful Midi application. This took about three nights to do as it is quite long.

I was not happy with the way I spoke the first few stanzas so I re-recorded and set about mixing. I used a modern arrangement and I think it sounds fun. My new fully owned Jackdaw was ready for YouTube. This actually takes quite a long time to put up and render because I use Premier Pro for editing and the first export to QuickTime Movie at full quality can take a couple of hours and so can the render down to MP4 that YouTube requires. The upload to YouTube takes a few moments.

I just thought I should check on the outcome of my dispute which was still a few weeks away only to find YouTube had caved in. The dispute label was off and I could have used the old symphonic version but I prefer my new one! See below - no dispute.

This is a really good story for children to act out so I have made a sound only file that anybody can use  and here it is via tumbler The Jackdaw of Rheims - soundtrack Janette Miller

To make my job even longer I have a 1843 copy of The Ingoldsby Legends that I used as a script and for images and blow me if the old leather cover fell off in my hands. I am a skilled bookbinder but today I have no equipment. To repair the book in the correct traditional manner which I can do  was no longer an option but I was lucky. The break was one I could repair if the book is just meant to be looked at. This took another couple of hours.

So there you are! Hopefully this will help to keep this attractive piece of literature alive for a few more years and children can again enjoy this charming fairy tale.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Takapuna's Future Auckland Council Survey 2017

Takapuna's Future  Auckland Council Survey 2017

Took part in an Auckland City Survey about the future of Takapuna yesterday. Don't do surveys usually but felt it was a civic responsibility. It was about the future of Takapuna and what the Council could do better.
Takapuna's attraction was that is was a fresh 'seasidy' small town with a relaxed holiday atmosphere rather like the small 'seasidy' towns one encounters in LA. The clean unspoiled beach and the attractive main street with palms and small restaurants adding to the ambiance. Parking then was easy. This has all gone.
Where does one start? All councils to date have worked on the premise that if it is green open space then cover it with concrete. Tennis club will possibly go same way and croquet and golf clubs too. Also the trees in Hurstmere Road appear to be under threat. Population Growth was the answer and population growth is what the area has got. The snag is that access to the area has not been provided. If you live there and do not need to park you are OK but the open spaces are now few and getting fewer! Soon none will be left. All this is progress.
What all councils seem to forget is that if you force people into cramped living conditions small flats, no gardens then they have to live on the streets and go out to public spaces for recreation so it is vitally important to protect all open public spaces. I was asked what cities did I think worked and I replied London, Paris , New York all of which have huge public parks in the centre of their cities. Can you imagine Central Park, or Hyde Park and Regents Park built over?
Strangely Christchurch today is an example of good city planning. The earthquake has demolished vast areas of unfortunate buildings and because of liquefaction cannot be built upon again so vast areas of Christchurch have been opened up. One cannot do this now in Takapuna which is an over built mess.
I find parking in Takapuna impossible so now I rarely go there. Dogs on beach make life unpleasant too. It is sad I used to shop and walk regularly in Takapuna now I take the ferry to Auckland and shop in Queen St which will be nice too one day! Car parking in Takapuna is impossible and a journey by Public Transport from my house would be one hour there and one hour back plus a long walk. By car it takes 10 minutes but the bus would go via Sydney to get there!The powers that be have made a mess of Takapuna. Too many people crammed in and not enough space to serve them let alone attract outside visitors.
I was asked for suggestions and I replied very good architects and a courageous council who was not in the hands of greedy property developers. Growth in population is not possible until social infrastructure is up to the task of serving those who are already here.