Performance Withdrawal

Did you read the one about the government guinea pigs? You know, all those breathless articles about the jubilant return to the dance floor. Each lucky punter got a golden ticket, a temporary licence to sweat, dance, socialise and act like a normal human being for just one night. 

Maybe this is how a recovering alcoholic feels peering into a bar. We’ve all been in a state of acute performance withdrawal for months. Instead of the shakes the symptoms are poverty, acute stress, a bruised ego and a total loss of identity. 

This state is sadly very familiar to me. When I was diagnosed with music triggered epilepsy, I didn’t play a note for several years. As in, I didn’t lift an instrument. I didn’t even touch one. Something I had done every day since the age of four was lost to me. I had to adapt to a world without music, overnight, completely on my own. It did feel at that time that no-one else understood quite how awful that was. People understood the medical stuff, sure, but not the scale of total devastation or the depth of the existential crisis. 

I wanted people to understand, but I definitely didn’t want anyone else to experience it. It’s been incredibly hard seeing so many of my friends and colleagues going through that same experience over this past year. Saying that, lockdown has been hard, but music hasn’t left us completely. We’ve been able to find solace in playing and in creative work. I have been lucky to be able to spend time in my studio creating the Spiral Dial serial and exploring new virtual ways of connecting and making music. 

As part of that process, I had the chance to audition virtually- and happily, successfully! –  for Paraorchestra.  Some of you may have heard them kicking off the London Paralympics nearly ten years ago now. Since then they have produced endless exciting genre crossing musical projects and recently formed an ongoing partnership with Sky Arts. I’m excited to be joining them both as a composer and a robo-recorder player- not your standard orchestral instrument!

Having grown up playing classical music, I never thought I’d be able to play in an orchestra again so to have this opportunity is something very special for me. It’s even more of a privilege to be working with such a diverse group of amazing artists as part of an organisation which puts inclusivity front and centre. I’ve really never experienced the level of care and thought in any professional context anywhere that I have during their induction process. You can read more about Paraorchestra and the other new members here.

Photo: Paraorchestra

On our Zoom catchup this evening we discussed how everyone was feeling about getting back to live performance. There is a real sense of anticipation in the air! It was really beautiful to hear about all of the upcoming projects people have planned both within and without the organisation. I feel there is a real sense of hope now that we can come out of this together stronger than before, and felt the need to share it!

I’m very much looking forward to sharing new projects with you too moving forward as we emerge! In the meantime you can check out the results of my creative lockdown project here