(Shropshire) A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting beautiful Lithuania for the first time. Under the auspices of the 15th Music Theory Conference sponsored jointly by the Lithuanian Composers Union and the Lithuanian Academy for Music and Theatre, the three-day event featured a small but very stimulating and congenial group of composers and academics from across Europe, with nine different countries represented. The conference has always had the subtitle “Principles of Composing”, each year focusing on a particular aspect of the art, and this year the theme centered on the phenomenon of melody. I delivered a paper which further developed the more melody-centric aspects of my recently-completed thesis commentaries for the PhD at Durham, but of course this also gave me an opportunity to explore some related issues which have arisen in the months since I submitted that work for examination. I’ll upload the paper here to the website when I’ve finished a couple of revisions and added some material that I couldn’t get into the 20 minute paper session. My thanks to all the organisers, faculty and students of the Union and the Academy; it was great to experience the warm, close-knit familial atmosphere which permeates the Vilnius new music scene!

Speaking of which: Vilnius is an realllllly interesting city for the casual tourist as well. Boxed in and around the confluence of two rivers (the Neris and the Vilnia) and surrounded by low hills on all sides, the modest skyline north of the Neris highlights some of the newer development (bank buildings, swanky blocks of flats) which has occurred in the years since independence. Just south of the Neris lies the smallish Old Town (originally a ghetto area, as my expat guide informed me), which contains the University, Presidential Palace, Art Academy, and many more cultural and government institutions of interest. On the hilltops west of the centre, the needle of the Vilnius Television Tower still provides a distant reference point for the tourist. As with other cities I’ve visited in Eastern Europe, there are still ample opportunities to encounter some intriguing echoes of the Soviet days, usually coming in the form of grim-looking blocks of flats, office buildings, or bits of public art languishing in empty piazzas, extolling popular Soviet themes (workers, industry, agriculture, political figures). As I’d seen in advance during my online research, the local beers were all really really good, and very inexpensive (500ml / €0.75). Count me in again for next year!

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