I’ve been doing one of my occasional teaching weeks at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. A pleasure of my outsider/insider relationship with the college is that I don’t know anything in advance about the composers who come in through my door. These days we see much greater stylistic variety in the new music world, but the RCS department led by Gordon McPherson is truly ‘freestyle’ and I always think it has an art school vibe, with students chipping away at whatever projects they choose, at their own pace.
It’s become the norm, in all the UK’s music colleges, to welcome students from all over the world, and visitors at my door came from California, Australia, Greece, Ireland and China – as well as, more expectably, from England and Scotland. An interesting feature of my RCS visits is that I meet all the first year composer undergrads (do other colleges prefer to keep them hidden from visitors like me ?) What with things being the way they are nowadays, it seems particularly optimistic for a young person to decide on this rather unsteady activity as a future career, and I get a lot from these interactions with adventurous people.
My stay in the west of the city, formerly its most gracious quarter, left me a little less optimistic about Scotland’s economic future. I know things are going this way in many UK cities, but I was constantly taken aback by the amount of empty and derelict properties on very major sites in the Blythswood Square/Sauchiehall area. My daily walk took me over the M8 footbridge (pictured) and I recalled that when I first moved to the city forty years ago, this massive motorway, cutting Glasgow’s main streets into completely unconnected halves, had only recently been excavated. Checking the fabulous Glasgow Motorway Archive site for a few details, I realised that it was optimism too which had once powered this rather huge solution to central Glasgow’s traffic problems.