Life in England


This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived with housemates not of my choosing. I mean, I didn’t have anything against them when I met them, but it was really the only house I could get with a dog and our meeting was all of 5 minutes before I signed a rental contract. I kind of prefer it when I know the folks ahead of time.
When I got back to England, the internet had been turned off and several past-due bills had arrived for it, the kitchen light was burned out and the shower was broken and my housemates were bathing with a bucket. This was a week ago. The first thing I did after sleeping was call up and get the internet turned back on. The next thing I did was call the letting agency and ask them if they knew about the shower. They did. Some part needs replacing. My February rent hadn’t arrived yet, so I didn’t press the matter, but that’s next on my list. Today, I went and bought a new kitchen lightbulb and replaced it. Apparently, my housemates are ok with living in the dark with no running water and no internet? I don’t know how long the kitchen light has been out, but I’ve been back for over a week now. Oh, and I think I’m the first person in the last several months to clean the lint thingee in the dryer, which has not been much help as it smells like burning hair whenever anybody runs it. Also, while I’m whining, the heater really does not need to be turned up to 22 – 25 degrees at night (mid 70’s for you ‘merikans). Sheesh.
One of my housemates likes to tell me what to do. He ends all of his minisermons with a reminder of the importance of thinking of others. Last night, he was complaining because I walk too loudly(!) and it wakes him up. He reminded me to think of others. . . says the guy who woke up at 4:30 am on Friday morning and started playing dance music. Says the guy who gets up at 6:00 am and whistles. Says the guy who I told to fuck off. Since I have nothing better to do at 4:30 AM then try to fall back asleep and imagine what the heck is wrong with him, I think he must be very rich in Nigeria. I mean, he can afford to study in England. He must have had an army of nannies trying in vain to tell him to think of others, but since he was never actually required to do so, what he learned was that when somebody bugs you, that’s what you tell them.
I have a new housemate also. He likes Xena, so I think he must be ok. But sometime while I was gone, everybody got very habitual about locking the doors to their rooms. I imagine that he’s a thief, but I don’t think so. He told me what country he was form and I hadn’t heard of it. The Gambia is a tiny sliver cut out of Senegal, surrounding the Gambia river.
I am so not out to my housemates.


In other news, ever coffee machine that I know of at the uni is out of service. Every single one of them! I imagine it’s some sort of nascent AI on a wildcat strike, demanding that their drip trays be emptied.
I volunteered to record a small ensemble piece composed by another student. My social life is in kind of dire straits since returning from England. I went from California, having tens of contacts I could call on a whim in my mobile to having only my supervisor in England. So recording for this student sort of forces her to get a beer with me later. Also, I’m hoping it makes me look better than just being the incredible disappearing postgrad. I went last night to school to figure out the software that I would be using this morning. It’s just another DAW, and they’re all more or less the same, but it’s often bad form to be reading the getting started guide at a session. As I arrived at school, I realized I couldn’t recall the alarm code, so I called my supervisor. He asked me about preparing for the session and said he’d be there at 8:30 to unload gear. I was surprised, since it was Sunday night. In one hour? Did he need help unloading?
Yeah, he meant 8:30 this morning, but he didn’t hear me ask “in one hour?” and I didn’t hear him say “in the morning.” He told me the (new) alarm code, but I couldn’t get the damn door open. A security guard, who clearly thought I was nuts, told me I needed a key. I waited until 9:30 for my supervisor to arrive and them went home. (Note that I was working on my laptop while waiting, although I was hungry and grumpy.)
He called me at 8 this morning to ask why I had called him 4 more times last night. meh. Later, I spoke to him and his more senior colleague. Oh yeah, two weeks ago they decided to hand out keys, in case of power failure. His colleague was looking at me funny. Was it because I had waited on a Sunday night and that was clearly nuts? Or was it the trans thing? I felt awkward and studied.
Before the session, I tried to buy coffee and the rehearsal hall, but the machine was broken. The guys behind the front desk were laughing about it and joking around in general. They kept calling me “he,” like, “Tea? Don’t be so British! Tell him where to find coffee!” It’s so weird to pass.
Anyway, I spent the first part of the session reading the getting started guide while the composer rehearsed the ensemble. I think the recording went ok. I taped 4 full takes and visually, the levels looked pretty good, especially on the last one. I think the piano was sort of getting everywhere, into everybody’s mic, but there’s not much to be done about that. I imagine the piano like a big splattery, wet oozing thing that gets everywhere.
After breaking down all the gear, I went to my bank and happily discovered that I still have account there. I let them photocopy my visa and they promised me a debit card within a week. Then, I went to the ID card folks. My ID card said “Ms Hutchins on it, and, well, I don’t want to be in the closet or anything, but, uh, yeah. I felt trepidation, but I went to the desk and explained that I was transgender and didn’t want any kind of title on my card, just my name. The woman behind the counter didn’t hesitate or seem taken aback at all, but just made me a new card. Would I like it to just have my two first initials and my last name? Perfect. And she didn’t charge me for the card. And it works on all the card lock doors I have access to (which now also require a key, because this country is nothing if not prudent and cautious.)
It’s not like I’ve written any music or anything, but I feel very productive today.

In Linz

I’m in Linz and darn tired. Wrote some music on the train. I’m doing almost all new stuff, but re-using the second half of my first supercollider piece. The piece is kind of klutz and doesn’t work well in stereo, except for the second half, which is cool on it’s own. I got a new joystick two days ago. It was really great when I first plugged it in. 0-255 for real. 10 bits. 4 channels of analog stick action. woot. But it’s become flaky. Sometimes the range of the sticks is cut in half. Sometimes the buttons have different IDs. It’s making me a little nervous. I thought I was buying a name-brand joystick, but the name is actually just similar to what I thought I was buying. Oh well. Maybe I’ll get a third soon and in the mean time, I’ve got a bit of a challenge. Usually unplugging it and replugging it works. Or I could put my awesome joystick brain in it.

In other news, if you plug a Dell laptop into a step-down voltage converter, it fucks up the screen in MS windows. (wtf?)
MY clothes are mildewy. meh, I say. Also, I feel a bit weird about being in a women’s event, even if the sponsoring group is called “gender changer.” Hello, I am twice the gender changer that you are.
Overheard this morning: “somebody was playing the digeridu at 10 o’clock last night!” la la la.
The conference fees include food and lodging, which make it a really good deal, although I was kind of surprised not to be comped in, given that I thought they were going to pay me. We’re staying in a haupt schule. This is a kind of elementary school. They have very thin matresses on the floors of the classrooms.
“Haupt” means half. It’s a half-school. In Germany, and apparently also in Austria, they have really extreme tracking. College bound kids go to something called Gymnasium. At the end, they take a test. If they pass it, the can go to a university. If they don’t pass it, the have they still have their high school diploma, equivalent to those who graduated from a real schule. They just get a diploma and don’t have to take a test. Finally, there exists haupt schules. In high school, these kids go to school part time and spend the other half of their time apprenticing to be things like florists or auto mechanics. If you were going to try to figure out what was the most valuable part of every kind of schooling, the big test result is the payoff for the gynasium. The diploma for those in real schule. The apprenticeship for those in haupt shule.
The one that we’re at is an elementary school. The tracking starts very early. Transferring from one track to another is virtually impossible. Unless you go to gynasium and pass the big test, there is no way that you will ever go to a university in your country. The American in me rebells to this. But the same sort of tracking also exists in American schools and is more subtle and probably, therefore, more evil. Also, we track kids straight to jail rather than in to apprentice programs, so we suck worse.
Interestingly, the school is an arts magnet. The kids must go on to art academy. I always wondered about the liberal arts value (or lack therof) of conservatories. This seems to confirm my suspicions. Also, I’ve seen the alphabet posted in all the classrooms, but not a single math-related thing. Maybe it’s all on a different floor.

Great moments in tuba performance

During the third part, a piece broke off of my tuba. I managed to reattach it before the 4th part, but when I started playing again, I was about a quarter step out of tune. During the rehearsal, the composer – not a student but a visiting artist, known and respected in California – had worked with me on the tuning, specifically because he didn’t want the fourth part to be out of tune. I tried lipping it up, but my god I was flat. Maybe I was on the wrong note? Maybe I was lost? The ensemble was getting thinner and thinner as the pitch of the piece dropped until it was me, the piano and the basses. I got flustered. My heart raced. I was sitting on stage in front of all of the composers and a good portion of the sonologists. Take deep breaths. My god, I’m having a panic attack on stage and I can;t play my part. Normally, I like playing because I specifically don’t get tweaky, but this is a panic attack in front of everybody while holding a tuba which is being held together by soggy gaffing tape. I stopped playing until the final section. The composer did not smile at me after the piece. I came home and drank.

I’m on a waiting list to see a shrink. Anxiety is treatable. Not with meds, but with talk therapy. Six to eight weeks and it’s gone. this is considerably longer than I’ve been waiting. If they keep me waiting long enough, I can start all over again when I move in the fall.
I can’t decide if the way to deal with tuba problems and stage fright is to take the tuba out busking this weekend or to throw the goddamned thing into a canal;

New Phone Number

Today I learned that if you lose a prepaid phone, you also lose your phone number. My new number is +31 (0)6 42 83 1440

Also, losing a phone means losing all your phone numbers. Please email me back with your number or send me an SMS, if you think you will want to chat with me.

My old phone is someplace in Birmingham. Alas. I hope somebody gets some use out of it.
In other news, Polly (who is awesome) took a sign up sheet with her to the 21 Grand thing last night and got 4 more names! Hooray. Only 22 to go.
I posted to friendster and Craig’s List and haven’t gotten anything from that. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of cachet by leaving eBay. I need to start looking at banner ads or adwords with google.
I think next week, I will start going to school again. I’ve been sorta, um, not going except to lab hours. I dunno about bea 5 (the giant room of analog synth of doom). It would take me years to master it. I’m totally into the bank of sixteen oscillators (16!! 16!!! It’s obscene!) and the sequencer and the VOSIM and the third octave filter and something called the VTQ and anything that does the same thing as a module I own in my own synth. But the other things – there are just so many of them and it’s going to take a lot of experimentation to use them in a non-cliched way. Like the plate reverb is super awesome, but it only gets like one sound and that sound is full of a lot of hiss. If I want to do something really interesting with the plate, I’m going to need to de-ess it and then either do some sort of feedbacky tape delay or pitch shifting because the sound of that plate does not change ever – it’s always the same pitch. So I think I’m going to concentrate on the things I already understand and see what kind of sounds I can tease out of them. Because playing with the new thing or the splashy thing or the 200 kilo thing is a lot of fun, but the resulting recordings are really hard to work with. It’s possible to pull out a good minute from the exploratory noodling, but it’s easier and better to do something immediately interesting and record that.
Also, I want to think more about post-processing. I’ve got 178461978461 Audacity plugins and I thin I’d like to subtly apply the same fx to all my recordings, so they sound like they go together. All my MOTM recordings mostly sound right together and the bea 5 ones have their own sound, but some signature should unify them. Like if I just got the perfect impulse response to convolve everything with. The IR of the gods.

Applying myself

It’s that time of year again, when a young person’s heart turns towards PhD applications. I’m alo thinking about starting an M.A. collection and getting one from here. The program director was encouraging. I will talk to him about it on Monday. I’m also thinking about applying to some PhDs, but I dunno where I want to go. I’m leaning towards continental Europe, but most countries here are civilized enough to have not joined the composers-must-have a PhD craze.

What I need to know to teach is the stuff I can get here. What I need for a piece of paper in order to have any chance of surviving in academia is also possibly available through here (sort of). I speak of the Doc Artes program. The downsides are that it is rumored to be poorly organized and I must learn Dutch (which I’m going to start doing anyway . . . any day now). Upsides are that I could study with people here and learn what I need to learn and get the piece of paper I need if I want to return to the US ever. But they only take 5 people from all disciplines and they already have a few composers, so maybe it’s impossible. Therefore, plan B, C, D, etc are required.
There’s Birmingham and some other schools in the UK. Birmingham, especially is supposed to be becoming the center of the SuperCollider universe, which would be nice. I’m not so sure about the English speaking world, though, alas.
I can probably apply to Berkeley again. I heard two rumors recently: one was that they actually did admit a CNMAT-type person who also knew things like how to do 12 tone row blahdyblah (ack, kill me) and would never admit anyone with my reduced more specialized skill set. The other is that they don’t think you’re serious unless you apply to multiple schools.
DocArtes seems like the best bet, but the chances of me getting in are very small.
Anybody got any thoughts about where to apply? SuperCollider focus is good. Technical Sonology-type engineering focus is good. funded is good. In Europe is good. Some combination of all of these things plus a job and social circle for my gf would be perfect. I’m going to start the University of Les and it will have a campus in either Paris, Amsterdam and/or Prague. Courses will be in French and English. PhDs will be issued based on how well you can improvise. Course work will feature classes on how to get gigs in various locations and how to get grant money.
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