Ingenuity, invention and change.

Last night I caught up with something on BBC4 about the Scrap Heap Orchestra. If you are in the UK and you have access to the BBC iplayer take a look its glorious.. And if you are not in the UK hunt Youtube and torment the BBC to make it available.

And now I am going to tell you all about it, because after about 10 mins in ( I caught it unplanned by accident, takes me a while to catch on sometimes!) I sat there watching enthralled and smiling with enthusiasm for everyone participating. It spoke to my soul in so many ways. I won’t ruin it though because ..

It was glorious

The premise was this. The BBC Concert Orchestra players were to play Tchaikovski’s 1812 Overture at a Prom Concert in the Royal Albert Hall.

So here is the system change

The instruments they played them on were all made out of scrap in the preceding  11 few weeks.  For this task the conductor had asked some the the UK’s TOP classical instrument makers to make them.

Just Some of things I loved about it:

Violinists, being reminded of being 5 again as the first iteration of violin made out of plastic sewage pipe  … not so good

Flautist: amazed that all the notes were there.

Bassoonist who got excited at the presence of a particular note

Trombones that looked like something out of TopCat

An old landlady’s bedstead used in the percussion– Brilliantly

The conductor and the violin maker circling eachother over essential improvements to the violins and the Violin maker playing “Properly” by sticking to the brief of using scrap and not merely mimicking what happens already. Both seriously risk taking here  to achieve their objective and in the end having to put their trust in one another

The Drum maker and the Drummer ( oops Timps naughty me!) having a range of words that described the actual noise, the intended noise and the deficiencies in the noise from a big drum.

The SOUND POST turned out to be essential. ( see former blog post labelled Dowel!)

How the Players characterised themselves as Artists and the Makers as Artisans and the Artists recognised and respected their dependency on the Artisans. There was no silly snobbery here.

The conductor and the arranger working with Tchaikowsky’s orchestration and making it work

All of them risked ridicule. All of them put themselves out there for each other.  All of them had to use what they knew, ditch a lot of things that had been second nature, revisit some assumptions and be creative in a desperate and magical way.

At the end I got the impression that the self styled Artisans, the amazing people who created the instruments had learned the most about their art.  But if they did it was a close run thing as people took home bath tubs and plastic pipes to make a sound that had originally been dictated over a 150 years ago.

And the Audience.. The saw, they heard, the understood and they

Stood up to cheer.

Artistry comes in so many guises.

Recognition, respect, intent, trust and play all essential to make this change work


Change doesn’t happen over night

Sometimes it takes some planning, some thinking and some action.

There is no fixed order to this,  you can start anywhere in that trio  nor is there a magic bullet.

Its iterative, scary, funny.

Decisions can be made in the blink of an eye, sometimes they can be undone if there is a will.

Nothing happens without motivation.  Motivation is just another grand word for movement. You can’t sustain forced motivation. It doesnt happen on the outside. Some people try to “motivate others” but ultimately its not sustainable. Its not a question of using your own heat to move others – this is short lived and personally costly.

You have to generate your own heat and move yourself

But today I’ve been still

Been thinking and planning

More tomorrow

And now the territory war

So there is a silent adjustment. No actual fighting but lines have been drawn. Certain spots are treasured.

He is learning which ones.

And he is deciding how much fuss he makes. There are actually 3 special spots and now 3 cats. However the green eyed monster is present in 2 of the cats. So there is a certain consternation where ever they camp out.

There is adjustment and slow realisation, but so far not acceptance.  There is tension in the system

The change agent cat

I have a new cat living with us. I don’t know if it is permanent yet, that depends if the owners come forward. I have a new cat and this has upset the equilibrium in the house.

All the other animals are reacting in different ways to this change.

One of the cats who has lived her whole life with cats appearing in her home for visits, then losing her owner and coming to me is the most sanguine about it.  She is calm, doing what she does and has decided not to be put out. She isn’t overjoyed but is making the most of the extra food.

Another, a spitfire character on her most jolly days, could honestly be described in an understated way as “pissed off” She swears at the interloper every time she is confronted with him. But its words not action.

The dog, who was with me when we found him starving and begging for help,  is bemused. In once sense he helped bring the creature here.  He half wants to play, he can sense the other cat’s diffidence and he isn’t pleased with the attention that had formerly been lavished on him being diverted to this cat. He is getting over it though and as his routines are not upset by the new arrival that much, he will come to terms soon.

The new cat is surprisingly serene. Starving and horribly matted and now partially shaved perhaps he has better things to worry about now than pet politics.  He takes a dogs nose right in his face,or up his bottom or pressing down on his back for a reaction  to play with a  quiet dignity. His reaction at the moment is one of a survivor, making the best he can. He appears to have a sweet temperament. Time will tell if this first impression is who he is.

Then there is me and the visiting bipeds. If this cat is to stay, things are going to have to change. Feeding arrangements for one, how that happens and when. Toileting arrangements too. This cat can’t go out for a while  he is far too thin and will not have enough fur for a while. Also if he is to stay he needs to  know this place well.  The other cats have freedom of movement, I am going to have to control that for a while. Things that just worked in the house, happened by accident will have to be consciously thought out. It won’t be easy and seamless.

Everyone is affected.

One small change, an addition to the system and everything else in the system has to adjust. Whether they want to or not.

If the visit is short lived it is a temporary adjustment. If it is permanent, a new set of rhythms shall emerge and later it will feel normal and permanent.

Which of course it will be, it will feel like stasis. That will be an illusion of course but one we all like to live with.

Until the next change.