Perfection is the enemy of good.

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Hi everyone. Thank you so much for visiting my BRAND NEW website and for taking the time to look at my first ever blog post.

I thought I'd write a little bit about what it was that finally provoked me to build a website. Like many other musicians, I wanted to use some of my lock-down free time to build a website but it's taken me a long time to get around to it.

Why didn't I go for it in those early days of lock-down? Surely it was the first thing to do when the diary started to empty?

Well, I know I'm not alone in experiencing fluctuations in motivation and confidence over the past few months. If you are a musician you'll know exactly what I'm talking about but if you aren't let me fill you in a little bit...

The cancellation calls came thick and fast within the course of about 48 hours. As a (usually very busy) freelancer, this involved cancellations from upwards of 30 different employers, for engagements up to and including December 2020. At this point we had no idea there might be any future financial help for the self employed and only a small handful of my employers were able to offer partial or full cancellation fees (and only for work cancelled within the first month.) The emails and calls were flying at me from all directions and this was BEFORE the UK government had officially advised the closure of venues and a full 10 days before they eventually locked down the wider community. It seemed like much of the world was trying to carry on as usual but musicians... well we were already at home, drinking tea, eating Jammie Dodgers and staring out of the window in shock.

I remember finding myself in a strange sort of limbo between outrage and bewilderment as I perched tensely on the sofa, developing RSI from rubbing out my diary while simultaneously watching live major sporting events involving international visitors and huge crowds of people.

In some ways I leaped in to action, calling up friends and relatives, making sure everyone else was ok and cooking like I was making a bid for Masterchef! But it actually took me a full week before I was able to so much as take my violin out of it's case...

Playing the violin felt a bit 'small' and rather pointless in the face of such huge world events, a feeling that has increased due to the refocusing of attention on to the BLM movement and other international and national news. I know people look to music in terms of crisis but necessarily MY music.

Motivation for playing at home, alone, can be elusive at the best of times. As musicians I think a lot of us are motivated to practise FOR a specific concert or audition. It's been a long time since I've had the luxury of practise for practise's sake and I didn't even know where all of my sheet music was hiding.

Of course the best place to start with solo violin repertoire is with the set of six Sonatas and Partitas by J.S. Bach, and from week two I threw myself into these with relish. They are among the most musically rewarding pieces for solo violin and provide technical challenges big enough to occupy even the busiest of brains. However, with the finest solo violinists of our time rushing to live-stream the very same music from their home over the duration of lockdown, I quickly felt demoralised. The performances I'm lucky enough to take part in as an orchestral violinist are world class, second-to-none. My interpretation of Bach's Chaconne, having never attempted it before the age of 35? Not so much...

I don't think it helped that at least 80% of my usual work involves performing or recording in an orchestra and I missed the corporate sound of playing in a violin section like you'd never believe. I recently described it to someone as feeling like you are part of a pack of Husky dogs; the pride associated with being part of a 'team' where everyone has a distinct but somehow very corporate role, the speed at which we find synergy with our (usually new) desk partners and the ability for the section to turn on a sixpence, should the conductor throw us a questionable steer. Not to mention the addictive surge of adrenaline when, having played in a contained and very selfless way during a quiet moment you are finally given license to go for it and unleash your biggest sound and most energetic playing. Months later I still experience a visceral poke to the stomach if I turn on Radio 3 and something is playing that transports me back to a specific concert, tour or desk partner.

Bits of work have kept me going over the past few months and I'm hugely grateful (and feel very lucky) to have received a handful of pieces of paid and meaningful work. I know this hasn't been the case for everyone and let me tell you there have been times I've almost wished I hadn't been approached... the pressure of wanting to deliver a 'perfect' product when you are responsible for your own sound and video recording is something quite formidable. As time has gone on I've become better at letting the small imperfections go and trying to focus on the effect of the 'whole' recording or video but I think pressing send on a project will always feel slightly traumatic to me!

But wait... I've given you a long list of reasons why I DIDN'T leap in to action and build a website. So what changed? Why the sudden need to make a personal website when I have never really needed or wanted one before?

Last weekend I finally played my violin for some family at their home. I got dressed up, asked them to get comfortable, announced what I would play and (for the first time in public in my entire life) launched in to the four glorious movements that make up Bach's G Minor Sonata.

It wasn't perfect. It probably never will be. I was nervous (it's usually worse playing to family) and I gulped down a glass of Rosé wine with alarming efficiency at the end but I am so very much more myself again after my brief solo concert. I've had a spring in my step all week and I've been motivated in a way that I haven't been for a long time. I've had the energy to put time in to this website, I've organised some of my lockdown videos (imperfect as they may be) in to a Youtube Playlist and I've started work on another new set of Bach pieces.

I feel more open as a person and a musician and I finally feel in a position to share what I've been doing in lockdown and set out some ideas for what I might be able to do in future.

It's tricky to imagine who might look at this website. It may be that it's mostly curious colleagues, in which case hello all! Here I am, imperfections and all! Or with a bit of luck this humble site might attract the attention of one or two people who would like some recorded or live performance from me.

Wish me luck, it's taken long enough to get here!

Love and best wishes,

Jamie Xx

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