A bit about me – and the book
Sounds and Sweet Airs has been out for over six months – if you want to see some review soundbites, take a look at my Amazon page. The most exciting aspect of writing a book like this is getting to hear the music performed, so thank you to all the musicians and festivals with whom I have already collaborated, and those with whom I am going to collaborate (even if you don’t know it yet!)
And then there’s the PAPERBACK EDITION…coming out in April 2017. Apparently, the cover is being re-designed – so enjoy the gorgeous Jacquet de la Guerre while you can.
What I wrote about writing the book…when I was writing the book…
Sounds has brought together a whole bunch of long-standing activities and passions – music, obviously; writing, even more obviously; thinking about women’s lives in the past (which was the impetus for my book on Bess Throckmorton, wife to Sir Walter Ralegh); thinking about the material conditions necessary for the creation of ‘great art’ (which was one of the ideas behind my biography of John Milton). If you read the blog, you’ll realise that the research and writing allowed me to enjoy some of my other passions – my bicycle, long train journeys, good food, really good wine, and wandering around dirty, beautiful cities.
I started writing Sounds in Palermo (a dirty, beautiful city if ever there was one), then spent the summer of 2014 in Oxford, working as Director of Oxford University’s Master’s programme in Creative Writing. For more information about me and the University, take a look at my work at Oxford.
In the autumn of 2014, I spent an intense month in Paris, writing about the two French composers (Jacquet de la Guerre – who graces the cover of the book – and Boulanger), and then started working on one of the true greats of British twentieth-century music, Elizabeth Maconchy. As one of her friends and colleagues said of Maconchy (the friend was sweating blood trying to get a series of concerts off the ground in 1930s Notting Hill) – ‘she makes it all worthwhile’. I share the sentiment. The plan in January 2015 had been to head to a rooftop studio in Cadiz (not just a dirty and beautiful city, but the oldest ‘dirty-and-beautiful’ city in Europe) in order to complete the book, but a serious illness in the family meant that instead I began to pull it all together in the new, clean and beautiful John Radcliffe Hospital here in Oxford.
Fortunately, the patient made a good recovery which allowed me the opportunity, while the book was being printed, to spend some time volunteering in a school in Cambodia. I’m now back in the UK, living for a couple of months in London, the city where I grew up, but no less exciting to (re)discover – on my trusty bicycle – than Paris or Palermo. Alongside a whole bunch of media events for Sounds, I’m also thinking about my next steps…
Westbourne Park, London, April 2016