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Guest of the Month March 2010: Clarissa Carlyon

Clarissa Carlyon worked at PRS for MUsic Foundation for four years, starting as part-time Administrator and developing her role to become full time Communications and Projects Officer as well as Company Secretary. She is leaving in April to take up the newly created role of full time Site Manager for the Vortex Jazz Club and Gillett Square in Dalston, East London.

An active musician from an early age, Clarissa performs on cello, piano, melodica, percussion and voice, and enjoys improvising and collaborating with other musicians. Clarissa studied at Dartington College of Arts where she explored the use of the cello in non-classical contexts, playing other genres such as jazz, folk & trip-hop, and collaborating with dancers and visual artists. Since moving to London she has continued to play with bands and ensembles and is currently a member of two gigging groups – Bleeding Heart Narrative and Ruth Theodore & the Guest Visitors. 

Here’s what Clarissa has been listening to:

Ruth Theodore – ‘White Holes of Mole Hills’ (River Rat)
One of the things I love about this album, apart from the songwriting (superb, honest storytelling), the music (sensitive, angular), the people on it, and the covershot (no photoshop here, baby) is the production: it sounds exactly as it does when we all sit down and play together. For the rest of my life it will be a perfect sonic snapshot of a small workshop in Stoke Newington. I’ve not said much about the music here so will leave it to some professionals at the Guardian etc to convince you to have a listen (link). I am very much looking forward to a summer of playing at festivals with this lot.

Bleeding Heart Narrative – ‘Tongue Tangled Hair’ (Tartaruga)
I’m really glad that reluctant front man Oliver Barrett has given himself more vocal prominence both on this beautiful second album and in subsequent live shows. Organ, electronics, a fabulously out of tune piano, something that always reminds me of an old printer, and of course cellos all feature in this spacious harmony & noise adventure. This record really is of the lie-back-and-listen-with-your-eyes-closed variety, and if you can manage to dance at the same time – welcome to the club!

Ruby Colley – ‘Mumurations
Gorgeous looped violin. Belfast-based Colley performs her material live as a solo set but brings in extra percussion and other instruments for this recording. I really dig the way she brings out the different characters of the instrument – rhythmic and percussive as well as melodic and harmonic – and brings her musical influences to bear whilst retaining a unique musical voice. One to watch.

Setsubun Bean Unit (Accidental)
A chance birthday outing choice at The Spitz (R.I.P.) a few years ago led to discovering this tender, fun and surprising collaboration. Japanese song and dance mixes with reggae guitar, jazz saxophone, tuba and some of the best percussion playing I’ve ever seen. Join me in some traditional demon-bashing bean-throwing: “Oni wa soto! Fuku wa uchi!” – “Goodbye winter! Hello Spring! Demons out! Happiness in!”

Vaughan Williams – Symphony No.5 in D (Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, Vernon Hadley) (EMI)
Luckily for me a friend of mine is enough of a bully to have reminded me of the importance of just sitting and listening to whole symphony – and this was the one. Neither Vaughan Williams nor the Royal Liverpool Phil are particularly in need of my critical approval; however for me this piece, with its vast open spaces and underlying sense of unease, taps into that essence of music and humanity that can never be described or replaced by words.

Katharine Hibbert – Free: Adventures on the margins of a wasteful society(Ebury Press)
I have just raced my way through this book which details how Hibbert went from the usual trappings of London living – job, flat, pubs, possessions – to living comfortably despite spending only 54p in two months. How? By living off the food, clothes and accommodation that would otherwise go to waste – and the scale of the waste is incredible, despite the recession. You cannot help but be infected by her eloquent anger at the behaviour and attitudes of councils, businesses and landlords, which result in there being 800,000 empty houses in England while 400,000 people live in temporary accommodation, with many more on waiting lists or homeless. Thanks  to my colleague Zoe for alerting me to this one. Read it!