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L’Histoire du Soldat

Ten days’ leave he has to spend –
Will his journey never end?


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Like many people I was at first a little horrified, and then curious, and then delighted that Roger Waters has released, this January, a narration of A Soldier’s Tale, that well-loved Stravinsky piece I play in my studio all the time. I play it once a season at least – three or four times a year – searching Spotify for the various productions, comparing the versions. People are always re-writing the narration but the music, arresting, angular, jazzy, is just so fantastic.


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I know – Sony actually released this recording last October – somehow I only heard about it in January. The holiday whirlwind has thrown the calendar off & kept me from noticing half of what’s going on.

January has already flitted past – it has been a busy few first weeks of 2019 in the studio, with Thursday workshops on clay science, glaze science, with two firings, and a number of new people joining the Tuesday evening wheel class which is great.


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Glazes are inherently alchemical & hard to pin down. Our resident potter Leslie has created an array of tests to hopefully take some of the guesswork out & create a bit of predictability – here you see her introducing it. Each piece on the array provides a demonstration of two interacting glazes, one overlapping the other, and then the other overlapping the one. As a potter you’re always balancing the known and the unknown…both are necessary. It’s really through experience, through using glazes over and over, that you come to get a feel for what might work, glaze-wise, on a given piece. This need for experience & repetition is one reason we keep to just a few basic glaze buckets in the studio rather than having a myriad of choices.


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In A Soldier’s Tale, the Devil talks a naive young soldier, returning home on leave, into hanging out with him for a little while – just three days he tells him, but within those three days, somehow, three years actually pass. When the soldier finally gets to his home town his mother thinks he’s a ghost, his girlfriend has married someone else, and he is out on his own. “Now what are you going to do?” the Devil asks, tauntingly.

This is just one of the numerous things to love about the story, this familiar fairy-tale trope, the main character being lifted out of the familiar flow of time he’s ‘supposed’ to be in – I love it because this is how the studio feels in a basic way. What potter hasn’t detoured into the studio for a few minutes, maybe just two or three minutes, just cover up those pieces and check the kiln – and then found he or she has been in there three hours?

Or you’ve been in there three weeks, during which time your friends have gone on great vacations, and great new albums have been released – you never even heard about it. Glazes may be unpredictable, sure, but time, that’s the one that’s really hard to pin down. Time is what A Soldier’s Tale is really about…and its waltzes & tangos are fabulous, crazy.


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Higher and higher over valley and hill
Faster and faster, up and up they soar
Till time stands still…
Then everything is as it was before.