'As always, it was sheer pleasure to observe Robin Hill's remarkable fluent technique: everything looks easy when he plays it.' Colin Cooper- Classical Guitar Magazine ----- 'Wonderful for their (Hill & Wiltschinsky) precision, touch and clarity of sound... refined virtuosity, the achievement of a long interpretive process.' Il Giornale D'Italia (Rome) ----- 'I loved your CD and thought your technique and performance were fabulous...' Rick Wakeman

Friday, November 09, 2012

What is the Life of a Musician?

Many people arrive at this blog after searching Google and asking, "What is it like being a musician?"
This is in fact one of the reasons I started the blog in the first place.
As I haven't posted for a while it seemed a good idea to summarise the last few months, which will in turn answer the question of life for this particular musician.

The latest album, 'Standing on Air,' which can be found on iTunes, Amazon, and hard copies from our website has been doing very well, with Robin performing some of the tracks in concert on a regular basis, particularly, 'Fantastic Mr Felix,' and 'Jacaranda'.

He is also working on a single which will be released in the very near future.
This has been an exciting project and I look forward to letting you all hear it.
However, writing, arranging and then recording a song is a time consuming process and one that has had to be fitted in between long journeys, jet lag and trying to spend some time with the family.
But, when next home for more than a few days, Robin hopes to complete the single and even film the video.
Watch this space for further news.

As I have said, musicians generally have to travel, often extensively, and this has certainly been the case for Robin.
In the last three months alone he has visited Spain, France, Italy, Gibraltar, Portugal, USA, Turkey, Russia, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Greece, Hawaii, American Samoa, Fiji, Tenerife and Morocco.
Many of these he has actually been to on more than one occasion.

Sadly Robin rarely performs in the UK, with only one concert, held on the River Thames with Soprano, Izzy Cooper, back in August.

So as you can see, musicians need to be prepared to travel, practically every time they go to work, and sometimes that travel can be long and arduous.
But, having said that, just in the last few months Robin as performed the music he loves to approximately 10,000+ people.
That in itself is an amazing figure and one that surprised me when I decided to roughly work it out.

But the audiences are also what makes it worthwhile.
Being away from home and family for extended periods of time is difficult but the reward of applause after a successful concert certainly helps.

But where is he now?
Actually he is in Chile hoping that his luggage catches up with him before his first concert....

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Life of a Musician - Robin Hill... is 6 Years Old!

I can't believe that another year has gone by and that 'Life of a Musician' is now 6 years old!

Last year, on its 5th Birthday, I reviewed the blog in general and highlighted some of the most popular post: 'Life of a Musician - 5 Years of Blogging'.

This year, as always, has been eventful.
There have been laughter, tears and the occasional tantrum, as one would expect when following the life of any musician trying to travel the globe these days.

A major highpoint was the release of, 'Standing on Air', which was accompanied by a, 'Making of Video', in which Robin talks openly about his eclectic approach to music and offers some insight into composing and the recording process.
You can read the post here: 'Standing on Air - Robin Hill arrives on iTunes, Amazon etc...'

As part of the promotion of 'Standing on Air' we were extremely proud of the video made by our eldest son Oliver, 'Chill 22', which you can watch below.

There's more about the track, 'Chill 22' here.

But it hasn't all been good.

Unfortunately the release of the new CD was hampered by Robin breaking his arm.
This is a dreadful situation for anyone, but for a musician it brings its own sort of terrors.
Read 'Psychology of the Injured Musician' for more details.

We have also launched a brand new website, packed with information, videos, pictures etc. More about that here.
From the site you can join our mailing list and keep up to date with new releases and the 'soon to be avaialable' sheet music.

One of the most popular posts this year has been, 'The Scale' from The Guitar Gymnasium', which is an extract from Robin's book, and is a must for any player wanting to improve their technique.

As always, travel has played a large part of Robin's day to day life, and as is often the case these days, there are frequently traumas to cope with.
'Fly with a Little Help from Lebrecht...' was probably one of the most frustrating situations Robin has had to face, when an airline refused to allow his guitar in the cabin, even in a paid seat....

The next year of, 'Life of a Musician', promises to be just as exciting.
There are plans for more videos and another album is already underway. So there is plenty to look out for over the coming months.

There are now 727 posts in the archives, scroll down the left hand sidebar, and feel free to have a look around.

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you all for reading and for making 6 years of blogging so enjoyable.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Fly With a Little Help from Lebrecht...

Getting to Norway was always going to be difficult.
Not because of the distances involved, after all Robin travels all around the world, Norway is pretty much on our doorstep.
But time was the issue.

Last Friday, the 8th of June, Robin was playing for the High Sheriff of Lancashire at lunchtime in Lancaster Town Hall.

This went very well and he then dashed off to catch the first of three flights.
That isn't exactly true, he couldn't really 'dash' to the airport as a murder had been committed on the motorway.

Honestly, you couldn't make it up....

Consequently the motorway was closed and we had to make a detour to a train station which duly delivered Robin to the airport just in time for his first flight.

Not the best of starts.
However, the journey was to get a whole lot worse.

A quick change of planes in Copenhagen and then he spent a night, or what was left of it, in a hotel in Oslo.

Early next morning he duly arrived to catch his Norwegian Air flight to Alesund.
He was met by the usual barrage of questions regarding the guitar, he was informed that under no circumstances would the instrument be allowed in the cabin but, on payment of an extra £20, could be consigned to the hold, even though we had already paid for extra hand luggage.

Robin then 'phoned his contact in America who advised that they would purchase another seat for the guitar.
He then went to the Norwegain Air desk and was informed that they did have a seat available but when he explained this was for his instrument they refused point blank.

After a Twitter exchange, Norman Lebrecht, very succinctly summed up the situation, on his blog, 'Slipped Disc'.
As Kenneth Woods highlighted during this discussion, 'Norman Lebrecht has been a real champion for musicians with airlines.'

Travelling with an instrument has been difficult for some time but the situation is getting worse, and more stressful, with every journey.
Airlines all seem to have different, ever changing policies regarding musical instruments but even then, it really depends who happens to be at the check in desk.
Some people are fine others make problems where none exist.

The fact is that a classical guitar case fits neatly into the overhead locker, still allowing space for other passengers to stow their belonings, or, within one of the wardrobes available on the aircraft.
It really isn't a problem.

But on this occasion the check in assistant wouldn't budge.
No guitar was getting on his plane.

So Robin informed them he wouldn't be getting on the plane either, and his agents booked another flight for much later in the day leaving Robin to spend the entire day back at the hotel.
The pressure was unrelenting as he didn't know if he would actually make his connection after all these delays.

Back at the airport later that evening, Scandinavian Airlines welcomed Robin, and guitar, on board without any hesitation.

Thankfully their were no further delays and Robin arrived with only 30 minutes to spare.

Travel is meant to be the easy part, it's playing the notes that is difficult.
Airlines should remember who the customer is...

The next day he was able to put all the stress behind him and deliver a great concert.
Which incidentally was filmed by a Dutch TV film crew, but that's another story....

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dance of the Jaguar - Robin Hill 'Standing on Air'

'Dance of the Jaguar' is the 5th track on 'Standing on Air' and was initially inspired by many visits to Mexico and Costa Rica and by a beautiful wooden Jaguar head that Robin found in Mexico.

Here it is:

The piece itself contains an eclectic mix of ideas ranging from flamenco to Indian influences.
The dramatic opening certainly conveys a musical impression of high tension, I should add that Robin has always been fascinated by the Mel Gibson film, 'Apocalypto', and this whole piece seems to follow Jaguar Paw as he struggles with pursuit and then enjoys fleeting moments of respite.
The use of music within a filmic context can make or break a sequence, and sometimes a film itself can inspire new music.

Very soon tabla drums enter the piece to give a driving rhythm for the guitar riff to adhere too. This is then joined by the sitar.
Robin has had both the tabla and sitar for some time and had been waiting for the right opportunity to use them.
I feel they work very well in the context of this piece.

This piece is in ABA form, representing Yin and Yang. The second section being a release of the tension before an intermediary connecting section with improvised guitar solo. This leads into the final triumphant conclusion.

For those interested in the recording side of things, quite a few takes were required to get the bass unison with guitar in the rapid triplet section. But I feel the overall effect was worth the effort and it is used a couple of times.

The sitar has long been an instrument that we both love. We have spent many hours listening to Ravi Shankar, Anoushka Shankar and of course followed George Harrison's love of the instrument.
Although I should say that initially I was reluctant to add sitar to the piece.
I am so pleased that I was overruled as the snatches of sitar add perfect spice with its distinctive sound.

As you can imagine we have both listened to this piece many times during the recording, editing, mixing and mastering process.
From the whole album this is the one piece that Robin has mentioned that he may develop the idea into a concerto movement...

But for now, you can find the CD 'Standing on Air' and the track, 'Dance of the Jaguar' in many places, these are just a few: Robin Hill site, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby etc....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fantastic Mr Felix - Standing on Air by Robin Hill

Fantastic Mr Felix is the third track on the album, 'Standing on Air' and we have been delighted with the feedback.
I've received many emails, comments and messages, all saying that they simply can't get the tune out of their heads!

The inspiration behind the piece was our youngest son, Felix. It reflects his ebullient and good-natured character and his boundless energy.
Before I hear cries of favouritism, I'd like to remind readers that our eldest son had an entire concerto composed for him, 'Concerto Primavera', performed by members of the Liverpool Philharmonic, you can read the review and more about it here.

'Fantastic Mr Felix' is a highly coloured and energetic piece with a South American feel. This is partly due to the huge array of percussion instruments which include the guiro, cajon bongos, cuica, shakers etc. but also the Andean charango.
When Robin composed the piece he always wanted the distinctive sound of the charango to be a prominent feature, however, it was actually added towards the end of the recording process.
At the time Robin didn't own a charango, but luckily, he found one whilst on his frequent travels, in New York, promptly purchased it and after a few days familiarizing himself with the unusual tuning, he added it too the track.

There are two guitar cadenzas within the piece, the second of which, an extended run of descending semiquaver triplet slurs, seems never ending and sounds like Robin will run out of fingerboard before he finishes!
To inject a little humour the flexotone can be heard at the end of this perilous descent. The entire sequence was recorded in one take.

The lead guitar is a rapid and rhythmic series of question and answer phrases with some effective glissandi up to the top notes. These were all played as one part, not on two guitars as it may initially appear. Very rapid and accurate change in hand position is required.

At various points throughout the track a highly rhythmic, funky triangle can be heard. To prove that not all instruments have to be highly expensive, this triangle was actually taken from the children's toy box...

The cuica drum is an unusual instrument which adds a touch of exoticism with its jungle sounds. Robin's frequent travels to South America and his love of Brazilian music in particular, have surely influenced his choice of this instrument.

It's quite remarkable that every sound you hear on this track has been produced by Robin. His eclectic musical background has certainly served him well.
Whilst the guitar is heavily featured the final comment for the whole piece is left to the bongos, with a subtle and atmospheric sound achieved by guitarist's nails!

To listen to some of the track (it's the first one in the player at the top of the page), or to buy 'Standing on Air', you can visit Robin Hill's website, or one of the many digital download sites, ie, iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Psychology of the Injured Musician

A few days ago Robin broke his right wrist.
Treacherous ice was the culprit, and I'm sure there have been many casualties across Europe in the last few weeks.
Whilst there is no good time for such an incident, this couldn't have happened at a worse time for us.
A new album out, (you can see Robin's site for details), and a 2 week trip with concerts promoting 'Standing on Air', had to be cancelled.

But how does all this effect a musician?
After all, they dedicate their life to making music and suddenly the very essence of their being is removed.
This might sound dramatic, but read on...

I have written before about the pressure that soloists are under.
This post, 'Alicia de Larrocha, the Ritual Fire Dance and a Maths Exam,' springs to mind.
The fabulous pianist once admitted in an interview that prior to a concert she was so scared she hoped for an earthquake so the performance couldn't go ahead. Yet an audience watching her play with such confidence would have found this hard to imagine.
The fact remains that the need for the best possible performance at all times is a weighty responsibility.

So what happens when a concert performer suddenly finds they can't play?
The amazing Paco de Lucia once sustained a horrific hand injury with a fishing harpoon.
It has been reported that for the first 48 hours he simply had a sense of relief. The pressure had been removed as there was no way he could play.
However, after 48 hours fear and frustration started to creep in as he wondered if he would ever play again.
Thankfully for us all, he made a full recovery and continues to perform and record.

The guitarist and lutenist Julian Bream also suffered a badly fractured elbow in a car accident many years ago which required several months of rehabilitation but he went on to make a full recovery.

Gypsy guitarist, Django Reinhardt, famously damaged two of his left hand fingers (third & fourth) in a fire.
He then went on to play with fingers one and two with greater facility than many other guitarists ever achieve.
Thus turning the tables on adversity.

Some are not so lucky.
The Austrian concert pianist Paul Wittgenstein lost his right arm during World War 1. Such was his desire to still perform, Wittgenstein commissioned Ravel to compose a, 'Piano Concerto for the Left Hand'.
This piece continues to be performed to this day, by two handed pianists.

Robin's injury is not as severe as any of these mentioned.
He has a fracture of the Radius and requires a few weeks in a brace.
But, the temporary consequences are that he cannot play his guitar.

So, how did he feel about this?
Initially the fear was intense.
He was very quickly seen by an orthopaedic specialist and taken to hospital for an x-ray and MRI scan.
Luckily for us, the specialist, Professor Funk, is a friend of ours.
Even luckier for us, he is well used to dealing with musicians and athletes who perform at the highest level.
Consequently, although Robin's initial x-ray didn't show a fracture, the Professor wasn't satisfied with this and requested an MRI scan.
After 20 minutes in an extremely noisy machine, forced to lie on his front with arm outstretched in a Superman position, the fracture was located.
So many thanks to Prof. Funk for his diligence and also the Bridgewater Hospital for finding a slot in their very busy schedule.

But where are we up to now, a few days down the line?
Well, like Paco de Lucia, Robin did have pretty much 48 hours where he seemed relieved.
The constant pull of the guitar had simply been removed.
Since the age of 10 he has never not played the guitar.
He was also jovial, positive about the long term and optimistic about the length of time without playing.

But now...72 hours later, I see a change.
He has started saying he is missing playing.
He is talking about supporting the guitar with his right elbow so he can at least maintain his left hand exercises.

This is not a bad idea.
To play any instrument at concert level requires many hours of practice each day.
Often people don't realise this and I usually liken it to an Olympic athlete. Nobody would expect them to turn up on the day without months and years of preparation.
It's the same for musicians.

Then there is practicing in his head.
This is actually something Robin does anyway, usually to help pass long haul flights, and to help cement new pieces to memory.
Now this has taken on a different sense of urgency as he 'hears' the music in his head and 'feels' the notes under his currently redundant fingers.

This may all sound rather dramatic but one has to remember that for Robin, and all other concert performers, music is not only their life but also their living.

It is however a good time to take stock and get on with projects that are usually left unattended due to constant travel.
So, watch this space for further developments...

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Robin Hill's new website...

We have now launched a new 'Robin Hill' website which I hope you will all enjoy.
It has a crisp, clean appearance to make navigation an easy and enjoyable experience.

The Homepage features one of the photographs taken at the recent photo shoot for the album cover of, 'Standing on Air', by photographer Jonathan Keenan, and required several hours on a trampoline and, after a long haul flight only a matter of hours later, three days on anti inflammatory medication....(I know how you blog readers like a little inside information.)

Some of the features can be seen throughout the site.
For example, the red music player at the top contains 4 tracks which you can listen too uninterrupted as you browse the other pages.
Also, currently there are two videos to watch, 'The Making of Standing on Air', and 'Chill 22'.

You will also notice a convenient box where you can join our mailing list. This will be of particular interest to anyone wanting details of any new recordings, or for the players amongst you, sheet music, which will soon become available.

To move between pages you simply select from the left hand sidebar.
The 'Bio' page tells you a little bit about Robin and his music.
'Blog' brings you directly here...
If you select 'Store' you will find there are currently 7 items available, 6 CDs and The Guitar Gymnasium.
There are many payment options and all you need to do is click the title of the item you are interested in and choose one that suits you.
For some items you can buy directly from us using the 'Add to Cart' button.
Other items are available through iTunes, Amazon and CD Baby. Simply click the button which appeals the most.

We had great fun compiling the 'Photo Gallery'. There are 42 pictures spanning Robin's life from childhood to current day, and even a very fleeting glimpse of me... Click on the first photo to enjoy a slide show.

'Press/Reviews' contains many whole reviews, quotes and even samples from letters which we hope will give you a little insight into other peoples' views of Robin's work.

Finally, the 'Contact' page is where you can leave me a message and I will respond as soon as I can.

We hope you enjoy the new site and keep checking in for the latest news and information.

Friday, January 20, 2012

'Standing on Air' - Robin Hill arrives on iTunes, Amazon etc...

'Standing on Air' is now available digitally on iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby and many more digital outlets, plus of course, also in CD form.

To listen to extracts from all 14 tracks, read about and purchase, click here for iTunes, here for Amazon, and for CD Baby, here.

For a little extra insight into the making of the album, interviews with Robin and a look behind the scenes at the recording process you can watch this video.