Music to work to: BBC Radio 6 Music ❤️

grown up, Inspiration, Lifestyle, music, Ramblings, working

Diverse, eclectic and always inspirational… BBC Radio 6 has become my constant companion when I am either working or mooching about at home.  The breadth of music is really diverse, there are no repetitive playlists, and I learn about new artists all of the time and from all over the world… no hierarchy, snobbery or commercialism… just music that inspires the DJ’s.


Take today for instance, I was unpacking my shopping and gyrating to Gilles Peterson’s Saturday afternoon rare grooves, whilst later on I nodded my head in time as I typed away on a website article.  The latter article was relating to financial information, but PJ Harvey suited the typing speed, and now when I read it back I can hear 50ft Queenie in my mind – definitely not what the readers will hear as they read my FinTec news.

In a way it’s a bit of an addiction. I miss it when I am in the car and have to substitute another radio station to listen to.  I pine for Lauren Laverne, Radcliffe & Maconie and Tom Robinson’s dulcet tones.  If I have to listen to Jenni Murray on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour, I end up enraged and comparing her to Cerys Matthews, and the latter wins hands down.  If I try Radio 1 it just seems so noisy and inane in comparison.  It’s got to the point where I’ll just plug in a podcast instead, and I am loving The Leisure Society series at the moment (from, you guessed it… BBC Radio 6).

I find that I am more creative when I listen to music as I work, and this information that follows proves my point:

Scientific research has uncovered that listening to music can actually be beneficial while you work. Although, it depends on what you’re trying to achieve.

A study by Simone Ritter, at Radboud University in the Netherlands, and Sam Ferguson, at the University of Technology in Sydney, Australia, looked at how listening to various types of music affected different types of thinking  compared to working in silence.

Their study found that happy music enhanced participants creative ‘divergent thinking’. However they found it had no impact on ‘convergent thinking’, which is problem-solving.

In their study, Ritter and Ferguson split 155 volunteers into five groups, which were then given tasks to complete. Four of the groups did so while listening to classical music aimed at stimulating different moods, such as Holst’s Mars and Vivaldi’s Spring. The fifth group worked in silence.

They found that the groups working to music they considered positive generally came up with more original ideas.

Ritter and Ferguson said: “The current project aimed to shed light on the potential association of music listening for optimizing divergent and convergent creativity, and demonstrated that listening to ‘happy music’ (i.e., classical music that elicits positive mood and is high on arousal) is associated with an increase in divergent thinking, but not convergent thinking.”


The upshot being, if you need to be creative with your work, then you should stick some uplifing music to help get the cognitive juices flowing.  But if you’re trying  to solve an problem, you’re better off opting for quiet solitude.  (Telegraph, Sept 2017)


As I don’t do problematic maths problems for work, I think I’m OK to continue….



The Marriage of Figaro – Is Opera a dying art?

Inspiration, music, Opera

I am digressing from my normal posts of design and making things, due to inspirational event  activities.  Last night I attended a live stream of the Royal Opera House’s performance of The Marriage of Figaro by Mozart.  My eldest daughter is studying Voice as a Junior member of the Royal College of Music, so it seemed a very nice idea to be able to pop to the local cinema with her rather than heading to London for the evening in the middle of term time for the screening.

Mozart is a good introduction to Opera generally for a young person , and this opera is comic and with very well known and memorable refrains, so I though she would enjoy the piece.  In fact, it is sort of like the Jeremy Kyle show on speed in terms of content!  Twisting plots, confusing cross love affairs and more, and all executed beautifully in this David McVicar production.  It has been said that Opera is elitist, expensive and a dying art form, but this recently started live streaming format is proving incredibly popular worldwide and making it accessible to everyone.  Opera is just an earlier form of the Musical, and I don’t think it should be relegated to the elitist bin as such.

The set design and lighting are what really stood out for me visually in this production.  A lot of operas and theatre directors tend to reimagine the action into current day, usually some sort of civil war is popular.   I recently saw the RSC’s Othello at Stratford where the main uniform seemed to be combat gear and riot police clothing.  I was a bit disappointed honestly, as I wanted to see the pomp and splendour of Venice in which the play was originally set, not what looked like an Afghan outpost.  That said, it was an amazing production with spectacular acting, but I don’t think it necessary to always try and modernise theatre and opera to make it ‘new’.  If the plot is solid, it will sustain.

The Marriage of Figaro I watched was set in the past, in a cross between French Romanticism, Victorianism and a little bit of Baroque.   The stage design was very simple, with huge tall rooms of faded grandeur, that cleverly slid and flew into different set ups so that transitions became fascinating rather than distracting.  The predominant colours were buff, others and dreams and it all conspired to create a very elegant visual composition.  The furniture was large scale, minimal in amount and slightly shabby, furthering the impression of a faded Palazzo.  I was also furtively coveting the aged paint effects in the wall panelling and wondering how to replicate them at times…you just cannot take the decorater out of the girl….

The lighting design furthered this impression of faded grandeur, with the most realistic use of dappled daylight lighting.  There is a scene when Cherubino jumps out a window, and I could have sworn it was a real sunny day beyond the frame the way the scene was lit.  The night scene in the wood was very effective, with tree shadows simply cast across the stage.

The singers were all, of course, top notch performers.  Figaro was performed by Erwin Schrott with perfect execution, and Suzanna’s part was take that night by Sophie Bevan who did a masterly job in captivating the audience.  The character of Cherubino, the young page, was the most memorable for me.  The singer Kate Lindey managed to come across as a hormonal teenage maniac, literally itching in her pants to jump any available female.  Her comic timing was hilarious, but she also avoided pastiche and sang the pathos notes in Non Si Piu so beautifully that the hairs stood up on my neck.  The ensemble opera company played all of their roles to perfection, bustling around as servants, changing the sets,  eavesdropping on their Master and developing strong characters of their own whilst not in leading roles.

We left the cinema elated, and humming Mozart refrains, (in my case appallingly out of tune which my daughter kindly tolerated).  I so hope that these productions do not die a death whilst young people move into pure poptastic realms.  We were the only people in the cinema under 60, and the only ones who applauded, laughed, gasped and more.  These live streams could be so good at introducing younger people to Opera if they keep going, in fact I think they should be made compulsory as part of the curriculum.  Any 14 year old boy would identify with Cherubino as a starter….in a sort of Kevin and Perry/Beavis and Butthead way.