Category Archives: music of the spheres

catalytic projection

I wrote earlier about how it’s been a long, cold, lonely winter. The message is, although we’ve been stuck inside and generally weather bound, connections to people and places and ideas and concepts and dreams have been exploding all over the place. I’ve always been really interested in loose affiliations and vague connections – the stuff of inspiration – mystery and imagination. Somewhere in the fusion of the six degrees of separation and how you don’t know how you have changed a person’s life is how our lives seem to have been working this year.

At times it’s felt more than a little overpowering, and at other times it’s been a complete blast. I haven’t been able to put it clearly in words, but, in a way typical of how the year has unfolded, I found a video that very accurately shows the year’s expression of our ideas and interactions – with each other, with you, and subsequently the rest of the population.

The best way to experience the full impact is to open the vid to full screen (click the second button in from the bottom right) and crank the audio volume up to melt-down-imminent-you-need-a-note-from-your-mother-to-do-this. May I present, our year of ideas and interactions with others in 3 minutes and 44 seconds… thanks, everyone, couldn’t do it without you.

the one song…

This is the one song I think anyone, perhaps even me, could sing in karaoke. But strangely (perhaps luckily) I don’t think I have ever heard it – karaoke-wise, I mean. Go-warn, you know you wanna; sing along to perhaps the best Stones sing along song ever…

celebrating the autumn equinox

This evening we decided to celebrate the autumn equinox (I know – a little late – was March 20) but better late than never. We took ourselves off to the stadium, and after a delicious supper of ham, salads, and bread rolls, washed down with a delicate lager and lime, we were entertained by a refreshing range of musical numbers performed by a Finnish chamber music quintet.

The Celts referred to the autumnal equinox as ‘Lughnasad’ – a time of harvest – and, rather than signaling a starting or stopping point, from their perspective, an equinox marked the mid point of a continuum – in our case, from midsummer through to midwinter. I’m interested in engaging with our (my) own seasonal markers – the northern hemisphere models just don’t work for me as well – there’s simply no point in looking at midsummer in June/July. And of course, we southerners can make a midwinter festival like (Matariki – 5 June in 2008) our very own.

Our autumnal equinox festival was very, very good. I loved Lordi, and was pretty much satisfied after their storytelling. Alice Cooper had lost none of his theatric charms either. Kiss – weirdly, felt a bit contrived, a bit jaded to me – I mean, they were hard out, albeit with Gene Simmons looking a bit on the corpulent side; but other than the extraordinarily bright lighting and pyrotechnics there wasn’t a lot going on in a story telling kind of way. That is, until the encore, when they unleashed ‘I was born for loving you baby…’ and then joy of joys, from where we were sitting we could see image from http://www.wotzon.com/Drusilla, monster of rock, getting down and getting funky. Yep, Dru is clearly an early KISS fan as you could see her ears shaking as her head moved from side to side. Perhaps it has her handler’s dancing, but I think not. Surely a creature able to breath smoke and have lasers beaming out from her eyes doesn’t need handlers to be a boogie thing.

Congratulations to Phil Sprey and the organising team – it takes real balls to put on a event on this scale, and while I suspect the event would’ve benefited from an extra 10,000 or so people on each night, it was a truly awe inspiring effort, and everyone can feel hammered, but proud of their efforts – and they’ll have great stories to tell friends and family forever.

it’s getting better…

links to The Beatles - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band cd at Amazon I’ve got to admit it’s getting better, a little better all the time…

It’s about 30 years since this album came out. Today, on Amazon, it’s at number 8 on the best seller list – it’s still selling well. Interestingly, fabulously, Paul McCartney’s latest offering – Memory Almost Full deluxe limited edition is sitting at number 4, and the standard edition is sitting at number 5. Three albums, 30 years apart, in the top 10 on Amazon. Awesome! Congratulations, Paul.

Like it or lump it, that’s a fantastic talent. Paul himself compares the latest album with aspects of Sgt. Pepper’s:

The album title came after I had finished everything. For me, that’s when they normally come, with the exception of maybe Sgt. Peppers, otherwise I don’t think I have ever made an album with The Beatles, Wings or solo where I have thought of a title and a concept. I was thinking about what would sum the whole thing up and `Memory Almost Full’ sprung to mind. It’s a phrase that seemed to embrace modern life; in modern life our brains can get a bit overloaded. I realised I had also seen it come up on my phone a few times. When I started bouncing the idea round with some friends they nearly all got different meanings out of it, but they all said they loved it. So the feedback helped solidify the title.

Paul offers us a preview of ‘Dance Tonight’ and a plug for the album… make sure you stick around for the second video starring Natalie Portman and Mackenzie Crook and preempting (perhaps) the whole Harry Potter frenzy that’s about to start.

If you’re like me, and have wondered who are all those people are on the cover of Sgt Pepper’s, wonder no more.

music man

Renaissance man, Mark Bernstein asks, “How would you know?” What Mark is writing about is how does one discover and enjoy the varieties of music that surround us. It’s a very good question, and one I’ve written about here before – How to explore (without a map) parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 4 (continued), 5, 6, 7, and 8. It’s all well and good to explore territory without a map – a visual world, but how do you explore an audio world?

It’s a topic near and dear to my heart – one of my work colleagues asked me what on earth was that strange sound on my iPod – “Yes”, I reassured her, “It IS a cover of the Beatles ‘Lucille’ (Loomsiah by Payom Moogda), in Thai, from the 60s; and yes, it is disturbing. It’s the images of go-go dancers in smokey bars I can imagine, the cokes, the boys on leave from ‘Nam. It’s nostalgic and scary, and I love it.”

I got “the look“.

“Life is short, listen to lots of different kinds of music.”

“No,” she said, “Life is short, listen to lots of music that you like.”

“But if you don’t listen to lots of different music, how would you know what you like?”

Oh, and before I know it, Mark’s writing it up…

So, here’s what I’ve done in the past. Last week.

I go to the library and borrow cds. Here I can rent a cd box for $1 for a week. I say a box, because I’m tight, I like to get the double cds – two cds for $1 for a week. I take along $10 and get a week’s worth of music, and have some left over to pay off more of my library fines (presently growing at a rate greater than the Iraq war ‘effort’). My best effort was something like 23 cds for $10. So, ok, I finally got to hear Wagner’s Die Walküre, in English. Here’s a version of Ride of the Valkyries by the American Symphony Orchestra in 1921. Classic. The trick is to cruise along the stacks, and grab cds you think you might like, a name that sounds good, something, anything. Grab it, take it home, and give it a righteous listening to. In my case, that means in the kitchen, while I cook. I’m there for an hour, I can listen, do my notorious boogie thang or generally go with the flow. Love it – listen again. Hate it – back to the library. If you like it, go online to Amazon, search it up. Listmania, or “People who bought this bought that.” Cool. Go to the library, and try to find that cd. Get it, listen, love it. And then there were two…

Wikipedia it. Music never travels alone. It’s never in isolation. Find what came before it, and if it’s an old work, what came after it in the continuum. The context of the music can be very helpful in exciting your interest in the music itself. Mark started with Bach – sure, why not. Bach probably taught someone. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student probably did too. That student is probably alive today, playing and recording music. Bach’s influence can probably be traced, the echoes of the motets are not too far away.

Previously I’ve used Napster (I know you didn’t, you noble preserver of artistic integrity, you) and once I’d garnered the songs I could remember and wanted it was a lot more fun to enter in random words and see what came back. I found Tori Amos’s (who?) Mr Zebra this way. I just discovered on Wikipedia that Mr Zebra was included on Tori’s 2003 album, Tales of a Librarian, and the songs were arranged in Dewey decimal order. Whoa – that library thing is catching on. I also discovered the richly diverse work of Mike Nesmith by typing in “Ficus”…

In the end, I think that music begets music – it is part of a continuum, as I’ve mentioned, of time; and influences, both directly to and from music, and indirectly from the rest of our existance here. I think one of the definitions of civilisation is music, and it befits us to have as broad a base for our civilising influences as possible. Which is why recently I’ve been cooking to Yothu Yindi. Tom Waits. And some Indian influenced garage band stuff, probably from Bradford. Diversity, as much as possible, as fast as possible – that’s how you would start to know.

Inarticulate Speech of the Heart

View Inarticulate Speech of the Heart product details at AmazonLast night Marica and I were making food for today, and finding some time just to enjoy each other’s company over a little antipasto. I’d slipped on Van Morrison’s Inarticulate Speech of the Heart cd – I think it represents some of his very best work. Track four is Celtic Swing – I suddenly remembered the video from years ago, and how my friend Terence also loved it. I was struck by the timing of what we were doing and the song – Terence pulled a late night, if not an all nighter, a few years ago. Christmas morning – the sun would’ve been coming up as his BMW purred across the last few kilometres of straights, home to Pauline and the kids.

A little later that morning I called my Mum. My sister was late coming home because there’d been a bad accident and the traffic had been diverted. I was chilled, and said, ‘Someone’s Christmas just got a whole lot worse.’ And although I didn’t know at the time who, I did have a premonition that I would know who it was.

I can’t imagine what went wrong in those last few moments – I just know that Terence was taken too soon.

last of the wild front ears

As a little update on the story of my adventures with my new iPod, Brian recommended I get Griffin Earthumps. I was initially a little surprised – Earth Humps? Should one be doing that with Mother Earth? Oh, du-uh, it’s Ear Thumps. Due to an unexpected turn of events I now have a set, and indeed, they are a good thing. Much more comfortable, once the initial shock is over, that the iPod standard speakers. I believe you could wear them under a crash helmet, which will be most useful if I ever have a midlife crisis, grow a mullet and get a Harley. More directly, I work in an open plan office, and I find it almost impossible to concentrate with the background noise. I can now overdose on Mozart and Gotan Project and life is good. Thanks, Brian, good call. And also, thanks Kate, for the kind offer. I’m a bit swamped at the moment, but I will follow up.

cone of silence

I bought an early xmas pressie for us – the 30gb iPods. Yay! They’ve been a while coming while I reconciled myself to paying about four or more times what I’d expect to pay for a 30gb hard drive. You can tell the Mac charisma doo-dah hasn’t really taken root with me – I was all keen get a black one, and then found the earphones were in matching white. Great, a true designer accessory. And then I’ve discovered that, because I was cursed from birth with deformed ears, the hard shiny plastic speaker cases slide out of my ears – or, better still when I got really annoyed and shoved them up my head, they stuck to the wounded flesh and formed a sound-proof seal. Pffft – design. Yeh, right. Deliciously idiosyncratic, quirky, gently eccentric. See also: crap design. However, as Kate writes, great packaging.

Moaning aside, there have been a few great new experiences as a result of joining the iPod set. First, I now have more Mozart than I know what to do with (although I do know what to do with it). Instead of playing the same cd over and over because it was too hard to change (and who can be bothered when the flow kicks in?) I an now able to create a day’s worth of sounds and let ‘er rip. Rip being the operative word. I’ve managed to dig out some meditation material and now spend a set time meditating each day. I write a set time too. No big changes, but it’s a coordinated strategy and I’ll go with that.

From cds I know really well I’m finding subtle sounds and effects I didn’t know was there – so, I’m rediscovering familiar music all over again. I’m also realising how much noise there is downtown, as I have to turn the sound up much more walking during the day than I do in my office. I had the bizarre experience of having the earphones blown out of my ears the other day – not from the volume, but from the gentle breezes we’ve had wafting in lately.

One of the greatest benefits of wearing the headphones is it’s like being in a cone of silence. Whether you’re listening or not. People don’t engage with you. I even noticed in the lifts people don’t even so much as look at me – they don’t engage at all – I’m loving that.

So now the gloss is fading from the new-ness, I can relax into finding cool ways of hacking the iPod. I’m interested to see if I can take a leaf out of Kate’s book and maybe get flash working for interactive learning games, to get text into audio, to generally make this over-priced playback device earn its keep.

no sandwich, just the cheese

link to 88.4 The CheeseI slip below for a few days and when I surface I find people have been madly creating and working like wild things. I’m thrilled to see Grant has got 88.4 The Cheese up and running online. Online. Streaming radio. The best part, from my perspective, is hearing Grant doing the weather. Yay! Much better than those *urgh* yanqui voiceclips. Sound bites. Just urgh.

I’ve had a link in the Side Bar (the watering hole for friends of marginalia) for a while, but now, a download of Winamp Lite, (link from 88.4 The Cheese), a quick install, and boof – the job’s done. My previous experience of online radio has been limited to trying to find Scriarbin on ConcertFM. Connecting up with something rather more modern (but perhaps less avante garde) was effortlesss. Smooth, Mr Thoms, very smooth.

shine on

View The Piper at the Gates of Dawn details at AmazonIt seems like a hundred years ago from the time when this gawky kid sat in the front row in a seminar room of the old Wellington Polytech and listened, rapt, as a very much younger Ian Athfield reignited the kid’s dreams of design, architecture in particular. I remember with real delight that Ian was clear that plastic buckets were a reasonable solution to roof leaks, and the other, more wistfully, a number of members of Pink Floyd were architects. Who knew? My previous experience of architects hadn’t lead me to believe architects and creativity, of the order of Pink Floyd, were possible bedfellows.

I was saddened to read of Syd Barrett‘s passing – I finally got a chance to read some of the international comment today. I always feel sad when I read of a uniquely creative individual passing. It’s not as though they’re being replaced by such brainfarts as ‘Rock Star Supernova‘ – make it stop someone. It’s interesting to think that such astounding creativity found its own wings in The Piper at the Gates of Dawn in contrast to the inspid construct that will be supernova, which, given the sweaty thumbing of txts from around the world will create an instant celebs out of non-events.

The most interesting snip I discovered in my reading today is that, according to wikipedia, Johnny Depp has shown an interest in a biographical film based on Barrett’s life. I think Johnny Depp could pull it off. That’s a great idea, Johnny – my joy runneth over.