Today’s Interesting Reading

Subway to Studio: Paul Juba Mueller and the Art of Recording Unusual Instruments — SonicScoop

10 Rules For Students and Teachers From John Cage | Binary Heap (

Notations 21 Project: Experimental Music Scores | Binary Heap (

a closer listen | a home for instrumental and experimental music

How the hurdy-gurdy went hardcore | Financial Times (


I’d like to say a massive thank you to National Lottery players your support of the Arts through the National Lottery has enabled me to work on so many projects and with so many people over the years its truly remarkable from music, to street theatre, to digital arts and photography. You are awesome! #ThanksToYou and #NationalLottery.

Ein Gedi Nature Reserve and Enot Tsukim Nature Reserve

Trip 1: Ein Gedi Nature Reserve

Ein Gedi is an extraordinary nature reserve the animals are remarkably unperturbed by the high number of visitors as you can see from the photographs.

Trip 2: Enot Tsukim Nature Reserve

This is located on the NW shore of the Dead Sea and is a wetland oasis called ‘Ein Feshkha’, meaning split spring. Here a number of natural springs emerge from under the valley conglomerate, their varying salinities and temperatures creating a series of diverse habitats including reed-beds, shrubby salt-bush, tamarisk woodland, and lakes. Amongst the long list of notable species here are included: Striped Hyena, Caracal, Dead Sea Sparrow, Calmorous Great Reed Warbler, Marsh Frogs, Common and Jordan St Peter’s Fish and Freshwater Crab. The real stars are the insects though, the metallic green Middle Eastern Jewel Beetle and the Weaver Ant with it’s unique aphid/cicada  ‘honeydew milking business’ that keeps them nourished.

Thanks to the managers for giving the artists special permission to enter the ‘Hidden Reserve’, where they settled down to draw flora and fauna including date palms, phragmites, darters, praying mantis, Crested Lark, warblers, water snails and tilapia.

The evening: Project Event at the Dead Sea Research Institute

After supper we all travelled to the newly opened Institute to listen to lectures, hear music and witness aerial photographs all focussing upon the Dead Sea region’s landscape and wildlife:

Convener: David BenShabat – Center for Regional Thinking
Opening movie: Invitation to Think Together
Greetings: Dov Litvinoff – Mayor of the Tamar Regional Council
Matya Shick, photographer – Devious Powers (the Dead Sea in photographs)
Juan Varela, Spain – An artist’s impressions of ANF and painting

Concert: Paul Winter with excerpts from his new composition “Flyways” celebrating bird migration and the countries through which they fly along the Great Rift Valley, integrated with ethnic music from these countries and the calls of the birds that migrate along this route.

Prof. Yossi Leshem – The Great Rift Valley, an international highway for migrating birds
Amir Ben Dov – The unique Tamar Regional Council bird treasures: Desert Tawny Owl, Pallid Scops Owl, Nubian Nightjar


Sometimes you take a picture and it encapsulates a dilemma compressing several issues and thoughts into one moment. This is a picture like that. The young man stands just outside a water inlet that is syphoning water away from it’s natural flow into the Dead Sea.

The Dead Sea is drying up at an alarming speed due to the increased need for water of growing populations, industrial and the agricultural demands of the countries which surround it.

Environmental awareness is low amongst the people in this part of the world so a key step towards a resolution of the environmental challenges facing the region must be education combined with strategic planning of the water infrastructure by all the countries surrounding the Dead Sea to ensure it’s long term survival as a unique wonder of the world.


First stop Wadi Zarkee Main.

For those not yet in the know a wadi is a valley, ravine, or channel that is dry except in the rainy season. From miniature oasis to raging torrent each wadi has multiple personalities depending upon the rainfall and the season. The artists made their way up the Wadi to find great places to paint. Some were drawn to the natural and some were drawn to the man-made.


Species studied include: Fan Tailed Raven; Barbary Falcon; Tristam’s Grackle; Crack Martin and the delicate Tamarisks and Acacia trees.

The tempting turquoise water in this wadi arises from 3 hot springs and proves a great place for family gatherings.

In the afternoon we trekked up the mountain to almost sea level! Our destination was the Dead Sea Research Venue (DESERVE) which focuses on the unique Dead Sea environment, one of the most inspiring natural laboratories on earth.


The spectacular panoramic views over the Dead Sea and the Holy Land presented the artists with a challenge of biblical proportions.

Kibbutz Pit Stop

We stopped on our travels for a breakfast at the amazing Kibbutz Sedi Eliyahu which has a focus on organic solutions to modern agricultural problems. Yossi explained about the Barn owls’ nesting box scheme which had effectively reduced the rodent problem in the the Kibbutz and surrounding areas. This approach which has been in use for many years is seen as an exemplar and has been adopted across the border in Jordan too.

The biological pest control project using Barn Owls and Kestrels effectively reduces the use of poisons by farmers in their battle against rodents and other pests.

More than 3,000 (!) nesting boxes have been erected all over the country for the Barn Owls and the Kestrels. The professional team of the project monitors the Barn Owls and Kestrels in the nesting boxes, rings them and follows them. This helps the farmers immensely.  The project also conducts instructional programs for the farming community.

The project, which was initiated by the birding centers in cooperation with Kibbutz Sedi Eliyahu, has now become a highly successful national project. The Arab sector in Israel has also begun to work with the Barn Owls, overcoming the traditional belief that Barn Owls bring bad luck.  There has also been cooperation with Jordan and the Palestinian Authorities.

The Kibbutz’s main business however is the Bio-Bee initiative which has achieved 20 million dollars of sales per year.  Bio-Bee is one of the leading international companies in the field of Biologically based Integrated Pest Management, Natural Pollination, and Medfly Control. Bio-Bee products are sold worldwide, in over 50 countries, through our subsidiaries and numerous agents and distributors. BioBee is the world’s leading producer of Phytoseiulus persimilis, the most effective natural predator of Tetranychus urticae (red spider mite).

Artists for Nature Dead Sea Project Day 1

March 16th 2017 – Day 1

I’m working on an international project in Israel, Palestine and Jordan – looking at the ecological crisis facing the Dead Sea with 25 other international artists.

Please find a link to a downloadable catalogue of the Dead Sea project here.

The rest of the artists arrive in Ben Gurion Airport after travelling from many corners of the globe. The first stop for them in a packed schedule is the Israeli Bird Ringing Center (IBRC) which is part of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel and based in the Jerusalem Bird Observatory . A Blackcap (the commonest migrant in Israel) and a Blue throat amongst other species obliged us all with their presence in the nets. Apparently, according to IRBC manager, Dr Gideon Perlman, this little chap is a bit of a celebrity with local birders and must enjoy the attention, as he regularly flies in for a visit! You should pop and see him and the excellent gallery exhibitions and feather collections.

After a very welcome supper, next stop Jerusalem International YMCA for the launch of the project followed by a concert by Paul Winter (seven times Grammy Award recipient) and his consort. This was a sell-out evening, and deservedly so, with 620 people attending.

Greetings and speeches were given by project organisers and partners:
Opening movie:
Treasures of the Dead Sea, filmed and edited by Yuval Dax

Professor Yossi Leshem introduced the project and welcomed inspirational speeches from:
MK Tzachi Hanegbi
– Israeli Minister of Regional Cooperation and Minister of Communications General (Ret.) Mansour Abu Rashid – Chairman of the Amman Center for Peace and Development (ACPD), Jordan
Dov Litvinoff – Mayor of the Tamar Regional Council
Maj. Gen. (Res.) Doron Almog – Chairman of the Hoopoe Foundation
Iris Hahn – CEO, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI)
Ysbrand Brouwers – Director, Artists for Nature Foundation

Common threads running through the opening speeches, gained through research, conservational experience, experimentation and innovation were the need for swift, collaborative action between the Dead sea countries to find a solution or a range of solutions to the water-based threats the Dead Sea and the Jordan River face, and resultant threats to the environment, nature and people.

Doron Almog summed up with a thought that: “As human beings we need to be humble in front of nature, we do not rule it. We need to be inspired by it and protect it through finding this balance.” General Mansour added that the project’s “artists are here to remind our people, our authorities and the world of the great resources and beauty of the region. They are also here to pass this on to school children … our futures.”

‘The Music of the Birds’ concert followed, (with music written by Paul Winter) in a new program inspired by beautiful bird songs from the extensive archives of bird recordings gathered since beginning to work on Paul’s new composition “Flyways” in 2005, celebrating bird migration and music of the countries along the Great Rift Valley.

Paul talked about his experience of being invited by Yossi Leshem to take an unforgettable soaring flight in a plane amidst the migrating birds of the Great Rift Valley.

The music in a series of movements, was a response to recorded and birds’ calls. These calls from the ‘avian vocalists’ took the lead in each movement almost as a dawn chorus to the rising theatre lights which faded as the movement/daily cycle ended and returned to darkness. The musicians then entered the conversation with rejoinders from varying instruments bearing sonic relationships to the ongoing avian repertoire – arguing with, complementing or cajoling each other. The sometimes plaintive, melodious, chirruping, cackling or plaintive score was beautifully delivered by:

Paul Winter, USA (on the soprano saxophone), and his consort:
David Haughey, USA (cello)
Paul McCandless, USA (oboe)
Eren Bas ¸burg ˇ , Turkey (keyboards)
Zohar Fresco, Israel (percussion

Quality Metrics for the arts looking out for the Emperor’s new clothes…

In 2017 Hull will be awash with publicly funded and commercial art, here are some ways to look at the quality of the work on offer – straight from the Arts Council.

The core quality metrics

Self, peer and public:

  • Concept: it was an interesting idea
  • Presentation: it was well produced and presented
  • Distinctiveness: it was different from things I’ve experienced before
  • Challenge: it was thought-provoking
  • Captivation: it was absorbing and held my attention
  • Enthusiasm: I would come to something like this again
  • Local impact: it is important that it’s happening here
  • Relevance: it has something to say about the world in which we live
  • Rigour: it was well thought through and put together

Self and peer only:

  • Originality: it was ground-breaking
  • Risk: the artists/curators really challenged themselves
  • Excellence: it is one of the best examples of its type that I have seen

For more info click on the link

Q. What is Quality Metrics?

A. Quality Metrics is a sector-led metrics framework that uses self, peer and public assessment to capture the quality of arts and cultural work.

Q. How does it work?

A. The Quality Metrics are a core set of statements developed by arts and culture organisations that describe the components of quality artistic and cultural work. They are publically available and free for anyone to use. To date, the metrics have been administered through a digital platform called Culture Counts which allows organisations to collect, analyse and share self, peer and public feedback on their events, exhibitions or performances in real time and using the same scale across the sector.

Q. To what extent has the work been sector led?

A. The project has been entirely sector led; with funding support from Arts Council England linked directly to our strategy and Goal 1 in particular- excellence; with the ambition to support a sector-led project that could positively impact on the wider arts and cultural sector in England.

Q. How do Quality Metrics fit alongside the Arts Council’s existing self assessment framework and peer review practices?

A. The Quality Metrics sit alongside other ways of assessing quality, for example the Self Evaluation Framework and our Artistic & Quality Assessment programme, providing artists and organisations with another tool to help them understand and talk about the quality of their work.

Q. Where has it come from?

A. The work takes its inspiration from a project initiated in 2010 by the Department of Culture and the Arts in Western Australia, which commissioned consultants John 2 Knell of Intelligence Agency and Michael Chappell of Pracsys Economics to work with arts organisations to develop a system that would help them understand the public value of arts and culture.