Yeah! Not a Good Day, but Also a Very Good day
Yes, Tuesdays aren’t, generally, good days and there is a reason why, and the reason is something that would take a few mind-numbing chapters to tell again – not the 500-weeks I lived at the orchestra which keep coming back to me – occurring over a period of 18 hours.
When people lose something, they suffer grief. When I lost my job with the orchestra, I experienced grief. Although it’s now seven months since it happened, I still feel grief most days.
It’s not unusual and it’s not wrong. I was only two-four when my mother died and she was only fifty-six. I grieved deeply for her for eighteen months. Every day.
Yesterday I saw an old friend (which is why it was also a very good day), who was equally my best friend, along with Simon Walker. We can talk about anything. He knows the things that have been tough for me. He knows the challenge of picking myself up, dusting myself off, and, in 2008, starting all over again. Such visits bring up the memory of things that are still painful. They can bring me bad days.
Let’s say, for today, that I’m a basket case of re-living ten years joy and ten-years pain, divided by 365-days, which leaves you and me about here. Thank you, Raff Wilson, you complete and utter hole, for bringing me to this point. From 2008 – 2010 I gave you three years of opportunities to produce recording sessions and work on audio post-production on CDs for the SSO Live label; I recommended you (as a reference) for other jobs and then after six years away, you came back and within three weeks of getting the Director of Artistic Planning job at the SSO in 2017, which I also recommended you for even though you didn’t know it, you sacked me. You broke my three-year contract, even though it had seventeen-months to run, three days after I finished directing and filming an eight-camera shoot of two of the concerts for Foxtel Arts in Australia of Copland’s Third Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s Fourth Piano Concerto.
I worked from July – December 31 in 2007, on contracts which ended, every year, on 31 December. Those contracts went year-by-year for seven years. When the 2014 contract ended on 31 December, I refused to sign another contract for just 2015. Each year’s contract was always late anyway, so it wasn’t unusual to be working in the third week of January without a contract. This time it dragged on and on, but I kept working and producing recordings and CDs for the SSO, without a contract, for eight months, hoping for a longer-term contract rather than having my family live year-by-year without any security.
In 2015 I was given a new title to reflect the fact that I was now producing and directing web streams and video productions, as well as music producing the sessions/concerts. It was Philip Powers – Technical Media Producer. I didn’t like the title because it didn’t indicate what I do. I accepted it because the HR officer wanted to give me a title which embraced the music and the vision of the work I did: the visuals, the camera angles, the marking up of every live cut for every bar of music, was now what I did for the orchestra, as well as producing CDs.
Then along came Toby ‘Raff’ Wilson. He was overwhelmed by all the new responsibilities and told me we would get together soon to talk about things. I wanted to tell him how my role had changed and evolved in the six years he was working in Hong Kong, so that he could know exactly what I do now. I never got that opportunity.
He never gave me that chance.
It’s an ignorant person who takes on a position and has a conversation with most of his staff but doesn’t have a conversation with one of his staff. Particularly, someone, who is now directing multi-camera shoots for Foxtel based on his successful Audra McDonald film and the Tristan und Isolde concert which I produced and for which I directed all of post-production.
Then, amongst the things he doesn’t know – and can’t know because we never sat down and had a conversation about my role – is the unacknowledged Josh Pyke album I produced.
This is particularly important, since I took the idea of recording two concerts, from a dead dog – after months of unsuccessful discussions with Wonderlick and Sony – to a live dog.
I conceived this Josh Pyke album. It was a $58,000 project to start, when SONY was involved; then I found ways to cut it down to a $25,000 project. His record label and his management turned it down in the last few weeks before the concerts, claiming that taking in account the studio album they were working on then, they couldn’t justify another costly project, even though the orchestra was throwing in their fee for free. This was an amazing project and I didn’t want it to die.
I went to my boss and asked him, “If I could make this happen for $4,000, would you agree to give me the go-ahead? He looked at me with his usual degree of superiority, like I was insane, and he laughingly said, “I’ll give you $4,000 if you swear you can do it for four thousand,”
“I think I can. Give me 24-hours. I’ll make the phone calls and make sure I can achieve that and get everyone to sign off on it, before I go ahead.”.
The biggest question was whether my favoured engineer, Bob Scott, would accept it.
It was basically me asking him to edit and mix and master an album, in thirty-hours at a rate of $100 p/h. It was a flat fee.
I said to him, “You can spend thirty hours on it but I know you like to have two days just for mastering.
I said, “I can pay for thirty hours, but you can spend two hundred hours on it, if you want. But it’s about the music. Even thirty hours of your time is going to result in a good album.
Bob Scott said yes, and that’s how it happened.
[And then there is the next side to the story which is that Bob and I put in another year working on the album. Bob was always working for $3,000 and I was always working for nothing. My work with the SSO was paid on the basis of me having targets, projects to undertake and complete, achieving certain goals and anything I did above and beyond that, was me working for free, just because I was interested in making the projects happen. I worked on more than a dozen projects for free in those nine-and-a-half years.]
The next day I authorised Des to hire some extra microphones and it began.
We talked about positioning the microphones and he wanted to have a microphone behind the horns, to capture the sound as it came out of the bell and some additional microphones for woodwinds (more money).
So, I got Des to do it for $800, Bob to do it for $3,000 and Phil (me) to do it for $0,000.
I said to Bob, “You’ve got to do it, it’s goin’ to win the ARIA next year.”
I was at my desk the afternoon the nominations were announced, it was just after 6pm, and Rory was leaving. He waved and said, “Goodbye” to me, the only other person in the office. He said, “Congratulations on the nomination for the Josh Pyke album.”
I said, “Rory, this is the one. We’re going to win.”
He said, “You’re sure? That’s your prediction?”
I said, “No, that’s my knowledge.” He laughed with the derision that comes from knowing someone said something completely stupid. and left the building.
Then it did and there were great celebrations at the SSO on that wonderful day in late 2016.
Then six-months later you sack your ARIA-Award-winning producer, who also directed Audra McDonald with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, because his position is supposedly redundant.
Sometimes, the dismissal, that just comes up and rankles me, like today.