American violinist Hilary Hahn is this month’s Gramophone cover star. She spoke to Andrew Mellor about her year-long sabbatical and upcoming album release on Deutsche Grammophon.
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Conductor and pianist Daniel Barenboim spoke to Ivan Hewett for today’s issue of The Telegraph. Read the full interview here.
One of my enduring memories of performing in ‘Oliver!’ last summer was the heat. When I think about my costume for ‘Consider Yourself’ (two layers of 100% pure wool, cheers JC) I think about how the heat from the stage lights made my entire body feel like it was on fire. I remember having to cut eight inches off my poor, fried hair after spending three weeks coating it in flammable hairspray, pinning it to my head and putting a wig and hat on top. By the final performance it was the texture of straw.
I have played a great many orchestral concerts in hot weather, including in Germany and New York at the height of summer. Rosin tends to get too sticky to use and you have to re-tune your instrument far more frequently than usual because everything expands and the strings slip. Since retiring from orchestral performance, my instrument is of course myself, and I’ve been thinking about how to look after it in the summer months.
Drinking plenty of water is obviously the most vital thing to protect your voice from drying out in hot weather. I suffer from seasonal allergies (aka year-round drippy nose fun) which mean that from April to September I take a daily antihistamine, which is a drug notorious for drying our your inner nasal and vocal folds. This means I also get to use Sterimar and a thing called NeilMed saline douche (?!) which was first given to me by a very lovely nurse in New York, because I couldn’t breathe through my nose in my first few weeks at camp.
Today is the hottest day of 2017 so far. Stepping outside into the garden at around 4pm felt like walking into a pizza oven. It’s now 10pm and still 26c/78f. TOO HOT.
It’s an interesting thing, growing older. I can hardly speak with much wisdom, given that I am a sprightly twenty-six (though being regularly cast as aged crones perhaps says something about my abilities as a character actor, or possibly that in theatre terms I am old AF).
I’m currently listening to a new release that the BBC are describing as sounding somewhere between ‘Daft Punk and 1980s movies’. The sounds are unfamiliar yet somehow nostalgic, but the vocals take me right back to 2001. That’s right, lads. Busted are back.
My friend Mel and I used to go and see Busted and McFly performing when we were tweenagers struggling with our own evolving identities. She had recently moved from her idyllic Manx parish home to the suburbs of Liverpool, and I was developing at an alarming rate and didn’t fit into either my clothes or my peer group. My eyebrows were non-existent and I wore a lot of sparkly face glitter to school discos. I don’t remember much from those years between 2001 and 2005. The overriding thing that influenced me was music, specifically my love of that three-member boyband with the spiky hair.
Listening to this music – which is a complete departure from their earlier records – has got me thinking about musical identity, and how sounds evolve throughout the years, even decades, in response to trends and developments in technology. It also strikes me that as we get older, our tastes in things change, from food to style and music. Why are we so quick to ridicule artists for wanting to change too, and for asking us to accept them for the adults they have become?
Even as I type this I feel hesitant about posting it on the internet for all to see. I have friends now who, for reasons quite unknown to me, think I am sort of cool and maybe I’ll be seen as highly uncool if I admit that I really, really Busted’s new sound. Hell, I liked the old sound. I know all the words to their first two albums and I’m not even sorry. I’ve still got the gig memorabilia.
Consider the Beatles. The two records below were released four years apart. Which of the two recordings would be considered the most authentic? The earlier video dates from 1964, with the four musicians in matching, uniform suits and haircuts resembling pudding bowls. They might seem to us now as being provincial, manufactured and cosseted. Look at them in their silly outfits.
The second video dates from 1967, less than four years after the monochrome ‘Twist and Shout’ release, and two years before the Beatles broke up. ‘A Day in the Life’ couldn’t be more different, in both musical and visual style. Granted, the sixties were more significant culturally than the noughties, and I wouldn’t compare Busted’s global musical influence to the Beatles’. Yet it is unhelpful to consider the Beatles as being mature and serious and dismiss the work of others. They were, after all, still a boyband. It’s interesting how a group’s musical identity is so closely linked with authenticity, and how fans of the band perceive them when their sound changes over time.
As a singer, people ask me all the time what kind of things I perform. My default vocal is a classically-trained, sort of musical theatre-ish dark mezzo sound. I can do a pretty good impression of a range of popular vocalists, and I enjoy singing in lots of different styles (particularly at karaoke). The only style I resolutely cannot sing in is folk, much to my disappointment. There’s too much vibrato and depth in there now, it won’t budge.
If musicians are to be considered professionals, they should be allowed to change their sound as their careers develop and wane. I don’t perform the same songs as I did when I was sixteen, as songs about golden birds and being ‘pretty and witty and gay’ don’t seem appropriate or relevant now. I’ve been hurt by boys and I’ve seen stuff, man. I no longer wear powder blue velour tracksuits with Paul Frank t-shirts. Musicians should be entitled to be whoever they want. AC/DC got away with wearing school uniform throughout their career, but if Busted took to the stage wearing ties and cut-off shorts instead of age-appropriate Topman, we’d be forgiven for not taking them seriously.
So I implore you to give these guys a chance. After all, they are sensible, serious and have a commendable sense of staying power, despite having broken up a million times. They’re like me, whimsical and adaptable, forever looking forward with one eye on the past. I’ve grown up with them; the age gap between us seems a lot smaller now than when I was eleven. Perhaps their evolved sound is exactly what a wilful woman in her mid-twenties needs.