In the Company of Goldsmiths

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Last week I was invited to a scholarship reception attended by some of the members of the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths. While talking to them I learned all about the Goldsmiths’ Company and their relationship with Goldsmiths’ College. In doing research for this post, I noticed how much I missed knowing the history of my institution. History and tradition was an incredibly important part of our identity at Agnes Scott.

For a recap of Worshipful Companies of Whatnot, I’ll take a quote from this post on my adventures at the Lord Mayor’s Show:

These are known as Livery Companies and were originally developed as trade guilds that were in charge of controlling wages, labour conditions, etc.

The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths was given authority over precious metals, and they could (and still do!) mark metals for their purity. This process is called hallmarking. The member I spoke to said that most countries don’t hallmark their metal anymore, so often people will come to their Assay Office in Goldsmiths’ Hall to get pieces hallmarked, which they then take back to their countries to sell. I’m considering taking my Agnes Scott ring–it might be a nice way to imprint London on such an important keepsake.

Goldsmiths’ Hall in Central London–A visit may be in store!

Now, to their relationship with Goldsmiths’ College. Goldsmiths’ Company founded Goldsmiths’ Technical and Recreative Institute in 1891 to give the residents of New Cross a place to study. While the school was later taken over by the University of London in 1904 and given its current name, Goldsmiths’ College, the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths’ still works to promote the value of a technical education, and are in the process of opening the Goldsmiths’ Institute that will do just that.

I always find that when I understand the history of something and the reason it exists, I can more easily see how I fit in.


“The time has come,” the Walrus said…

Thursday, January 26, 2012

To talk of many things.

I was amazed after going through all my previous posts from Prince Edward Island and earlier this year at how many memories are contained here. That’s why I couldn’t simply leave them behind–they had to be lovingly transferred to their new home, so please forgive that every post prior to today will be filed under the same date. With the start of the new year, I’m excited to take the first steps into my big-girl blog.

I’ve been holding out on posting until I established this site, so now to recap my lovely weekend:

Saturday night we celebrated my friend’s birthday with a murderous pub crawl in honour of Jack the Ripper. Doing the research for this pub crawl was really quite creepy, so naturally I have to share what I learned.

  • Jack the Ripper was a rather famous serial killer in 1888 London who targeted prostitutes. He got his name because he’d remove their internal organs after killing them (such lovely blogging material). His real identity was never discovered.
  • The Whitechapel area (where the murders took place) was extremely impoverished and people spent a lot of time in the pubs. Prostitutes would make circulate around the pubs because standing around too long might get them arrested.
  • Certain pubs are associated with Jack the Ripper because many of his victims either frequented these pubs or were seen at them before they were murdered.
  • For a site with way more information about Jack the Ripper and pubs than you would ever want to know: Jack the Ripper.

Because we knew the history of these pubs, I think we were expecting scary little holes in the wall, but they were all seemed to cater to a very trendy, young crowd. What a relief.

Sunday night, I met up with Iwan, one of the people I met while in Ghana, as he was flying out of London the next day. We had an incredible time sharing stories and reminiscing about Ghana over tacos and fajitas. We even did a little Gota dancing while waiting for the bus (photos below of us dancing in London & Ghana). Being able to recharge by laughing about our travels provided for the perfect evening.

Other than that, this week I’ve just been writing a paper, working on details for my thesis…and of course transferring my website.

Off the Hook

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Since returning to London, I’ve been trying to come up with a new topic to post about. I’ve finally gotten back into the swing of things (in other words, I’m no longer jet lagged), and we’re planning lots of things for the next few weeks (Dim Sum, seeing the Iron Lady, a musical, to name a few on our list), but since I’ve been back I’ve basically been sleeping, reading, and attending lectures.

Therefore, I was quite relieved today when I realised that I don’t need to write an entry for this week because I already have one! As part of our course, each student is required (along with one or two other students) to write a blog on one of our invited speakers. My friend, Nora, and I wrote on Adam Ockelford’s talk in November about the relationships between blindness and autism and musicianship.

You may know Ockelford without realising it because he is long-time teacher to Derek Paravicini, an exceptional pianist who is also a blind, autistic savant. Here’s the link to the blog (and it should be interesting to follow throughout the year as new talk summaries are added!):

I’ll also just include some of my favourite photos from this Christmas holiday, just for posterity’s sake.

I will also say that our Christmas included a bit of British tradition because I brought home [the contents of] Christmas crackers (below with the Santa Clauses). Apparently Christmas crackers date back to the Victorian era, and now almost every household in the England will have these at family celebrations during the holidays. Inside there is always a crown (you’ll see us modelling), a little joke, and a small trinket. It was quite fun to share the tradition with my family. Picking up little traditions from each country I visit is one of my favourite parts about traveling.

Happiness and Cheer

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The past few days have been filled with experiencing the Joy that comes with this time of year.

Last night we celebrated Music, Mind & Brain style at the Mayflower Pub in Rotherhithe, a gem of a pub with an incredible view of the Thames. For yet another American history lesson, this pub is very near to where the Pilgrims set sail for the New World, hence the name the Mayflower. According to (and excellent source of information, right?), the Pilgrims set sail in 1620 near a pub called the Shippe, which was later rebuilt and named the Spread Eagle and Crown, and finally got its name the Mayflower in 1957.

The pub was lovely and cozy and oh so Christmasy. We had a private room upstairs, so clearly everyone brought their instruments, voices, and superior listening skills and set out to have a very merry Music Cognition Christmas.

The night opened with some beautiful Bach chorales. Then, after some food and drink, we danced and clapped to “Whiskey in the Jar.” We were pensive with guitar and electric reed organ, and then blown away by Portuguese fado.

We ended the night with a Beatles sing along and, of course, Christmas carols. Delicious food, ever flowing drinks, incredible music, a secret Santa exchange, and the obligatory sine wave jokes were the perfect finale for our first term at Goldsmiths’.

A Treatise on My Thesis

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I’m currently sitting at my desk having a lovely evening drinking hot apple cider, listening to Christmas music, and working on my thesis proposal.

Wait a second…

While trying to come up with a snappy title for this post, I typed “words that rhyme with thesis” into Google and got these gems: sleepless, grievance, inconvenience. No, really it’s not that bad at all. Actually I’m quite enjoying reading articles and fleshing out the methods of the project (I say that now, right?).

So, now it’s time for the big reveal! I shall speaketh the pretence of the secret thesis (despite its incompleteness) and you all shall know its neatness.

For the next 9ish months I’ll be studying the neural correlates of pitch expectation using EEG recordings. I’ve already started learning how to run EEGs (it’s really great) and because this project is a continuation of another project my supervisor and others just completed last year, the paradigm is basically complete except for a few details.

I chose this project because EEGs are awesome and it fits nicely with the work I did in Annabel Cohen’s lab in melodic completion. I did a lot of reading while I was at UPEI about models of expectation in music, so now I have the opportunity to look into yet another model, that of unsupervised statistical learning (Pearce, et al., 2010). I won’t go into all the details here, but basically I’ll be extending the previous studies on this topic by examining the possible influences of musical training on processing expectancies in a paradigm that attempts to mimic real-life listening. When you see me at Christmas, you’re quite welcome to ask me all about it.

Speaking of Christmas, only 6 days until I’m home! I’ve absolutely enjoyed London an Christmastime: exploring the Southbank German Christmas Market (photos follow!), watching the city light up, working some lovely Christmas parties, braving the shopping crowds, and ice skating (tomorrow!). Despite all that, I’m more than looking forward to spending Christmas in the States.

Thanksgiving was hard enough being away from home, so I realise how blessed I am to be able to have Christmas with  my family this year. Happy Christmas to you and yours. I can’t wait to hand out hugs very very soon!


Pearce, M.T., Ruiz, M.H., Kapasi, S., Wiggins, G.A., Bhattacharaya, J. (2010). Unsupervised statistical learning underpins computational, behavioural, and neural manifestations of musical expectation. NeuroImage, 50, 302-313.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Since joining the choir at Glenn Memorial UMC in Atlanta as a Choral Scholar, I am a firm believer that joining a choir is one of the best ways to 1) engage in the local culture, 2) establish a support system outside of school, and 3) meet some really wonderful people. With these goals in mind, I sought out a choir in London and discovered the Ionian Singers, a chamber choir based in North Lambeth who perform works from early music to contemporary music written by the conductor, Timothy Salter.

I’m happy to report that joining this choir has accomplished all of these things, and also given me an opportunity to sing. I didn’t realise how much I would miss singing when I came here.

We recently had a concert at All Saints’ in West Dulwich, and some of my lovely friends attended and took the picture that follow this post. It felt so good to be performing again. For interested parties, our repertoire was a mix of Purcell, Bach, Brahms, Standford, Nysdedt, Blow, and an original work by our conductor.

For extremely interested parties, here’s a link to our website:

In terms of other extracurriculars, I am working for a London-based catering company called By Word of Mouth. BWOM is known in London for doing quite high-end events, so I think it will be a great way to see and experience the city. Last week, for example, I worked at a dinner in the National Portrait Gallery. Talk about a beautiful place to host an event.

I’m even doing an event at a certain castle in Windsor. Ahem.

Since I always need lots of things going on, I’m really enjoying the Ionian Singers and BWOM. Studying in London is also a once-in-a-lifetime, so I’m trying to engage in “real life” here as much as possible.


As an update to the Sam’s Leavin’ Town post at the end of September, we were, in fact, on Dutch television. The link follows, but I’d recommend starting at around 18:00. The language barrier in the first 18 minutes is kind of hard to overcome.

Bringing Thanksgiving Back Old World Style

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

When I left the states, it seemed that Mom’s biggest concern was what I was going to do for Thanksgiving. Knowing it’s my favourite holiday, she was concerned I’d be in class all day (as a matter of fact, I will be) or, worse, all alone eating spaghetti in my flat.

Thankfully, my friends were more than willing to accommodate this North American tradition of eating ridiculous amounts, so we embarked on the planning of a London Thanksgiving. And just like that First Thanksgiving, many of us were giving thanks that we had made it here. Awwww.

Now, back to the food.

While there was a small mishap with a turkey (Why would they have a turkey? It’s not Christmas yet. Chickens were delectable anyway), we had all the traditional Thanksgiving fixins: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, salads, bread, sweet potato souffle, veggies, cranberry sauce, and pie. Delicious.

And perfect. For my first Thanksgiving away from home, these were the best people with whom to celebrate. I’m so thankful that my family taught me not only how to cook these dishes (although I only contributed to the sweet potatoes to this feast) but also what goes into that food and how to share it with others. While most of my photos turned out quite blurry, everyone just looks so happy.

Happy early Thanksgiving to all you over on the other side of the world. I miss you. But don’t fret, my Thanksgiving definitely wasn’t lacking any food or love.