November’s feature musician is Alison Blunt who learned the violin in Cumbria before going on to study at the Birmingham Conservatoire and Guildhall School of Music and Drama. She describes herself as a Music Artist.
What instruments do you play? I’m a violinist but I also try to get music out of other instruments and objects that I lay my hands on.
How and when did you first become interested in music? I’m sure I’ve been interested in sound and music since before I can remember being interested. I used to run my toy cars on my mum’s guitar and really enjoyed the stringy woody wheel sounds and a few years later my mum taught me how to play the recorder – which I loved, learning first the descant and then the treble…at family gatherings some of us would play mediaeval and renaissance music, very badly, but we all got a lot from the social aspect of music making. When I was 7 I saw a televised concert, probably a Prom, and when I heard the violin solo sound I knew that I had to play that instrument. It went straight to my heart.
How did you get to work in music? I performed classical music before I went to music college and during college years but in terms of most of the different kinds of music I make and play today, that started after, at around the time that I was getting interested in the writings and music of John Cage and when I began getting excited about composing and improvising. I was listening to a lot of new music both live and recorded, and it was blowing my mind. I started to realise that the only limitations are those we place upon ourselves – easier to realise than to change of course! Finding like-minded artists, musicians and others (dancers, poets, actors…) who wanted to actually PLAY and experiment with different ways of creating performance, that was and has always been inspiring for me in both collaborative work and also in projects ‘tout seul.’
What’s the best thing about your job? I take my ‘job’ very seriously. My job is to play, really play, not just to perform or work. Whether it’s in a recording studio or a residential care centre, in a nursery, a conservatoire class or on stage, playing is at the heart of it all for me. If that gets lost, all is lost.
What’s your most memorable musical experience? Hmmm, there are so many, memorable for different reasons. Some as an audience member and some as a performer – memories formative, funny, moving, serious, disastrous and brilliant…hanging upside down from a trapeze swing whilst playing the violin is something I won’t forget in a while…hearing the Art Ensemble of Chicago live in Camden, that will stay with me forever…performing with Barcode Quartet in Sao Paolo to a full concert hall and getting a standing ovation…that’s up there as a high…and yet recalling being 14 and rehearsing Mahler’s 2nd symphony with Cumbria Philharmonic Orchestra for a week leading up to the performance – that was a transcendent experience – the memory of which still triggers goose bumps.
What are your other interests? Apart from playing, I love traveling, which I get to do quite a bit of with the playing, listening to music, reading, dancing, Qigong, walking and also hanging out (particularly eating) with good friends.
What are your top tips for young musicians? Be really serous about playing. I mean it. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Do it for love or don’t do it at all. Those are also my top tips for myself ; )