Dean Stevenson

Musician | Songwriter | Composer

X-Men save the midlands!

 

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A nice idea this local pub thing. Make lots of them, quite small so everyone has to squash in. The impact of noise and fervor make for an exciting place where everyone says the first word of their sentences three times, each one louder than before, in order to allow the rest of the sentence to flow and be noticed next in the cacophonous line. Like a family of 10 children all needing airtime.

Every London establishment has at least 2 people in it. Event the crummy looking ones. Inevitable with such a vast population, everyone’s got to go somewhere and there’s only so many seats, bars, bottles and kebabs that the people can go to before they fill up and they have to choose the smaller, grottier ‘next door’ establishment.

Yesterday I travelled midlands on a Virgin train. And here, speeding across the english midlands in fast train, being offered wi-fi at a cost, refreshments at a cost and I have to wee at …no, that’s free. The recorded message in the loo warned me not to flush, rubbish, food, hopes, dreams or gold fish down the toilet. So I didn’t. And now I sit, enjoying my own free time. The Virgin train I’m on has a plaque bolted to the outside that says ‘X-Men. Day of Future Past’. Obscure. What shall I expect on this ride? A movie? Or the chance to be rescued by a super hero should a darstardly, moustache twirling villain decide to arrest the train for his evil ways? I feel strangely safer for this plaque. Go X-Men!

The reflections to midlands of Tasmania and England are true; topography similar, rolling, green and easy on the tires. Alighting at a midland station for an arts centre within a university. There’s something quite cliche about the rambling of students across a campus. Bags on one shoulder, never too fashionable, what they can afford, which breed its own significant fashion. The clothes are honest and the minds that wear them are searching for meaning on campus. Searching for meaning through the minds of university professors who are gate keepers for a life only few will ever possess. And good. It seems the education system is largely designed to service those few.

In contrast, this midlands arts centre is a great, functioning example of engagement with university life through its student body. There is no discernible music institute within the university. It was designed that way specifically by its benefactor to avoid the trappings of an elite music ideology. So it runs an arts centre that coordinates ensembles for student experience directed by a small staff of workers. They have a massive roster of concerts, full-time technical and curatorial staff  running concerts workshops and an impressive subscriber base that keeps it moving through fresh ideas. Last week Alan Davis (QI) toured through, tonight, Soul-to-Soul on their 25th anniversary tour. (Back to life). I was here the last time they were big. Ouch, showing age.

It was a good ‘power to the people’ day, until the bus was running late, threatening my train trip home. T’was then the bus/transit/brit-rail maelstrom that brought my people power rush to a windy stumble, getting me to the rail station just in time to leap X-Men like onto the train for my London return. Those bus-driving moustache-twirling baddies will have to wait another day before getting their hands on this guy.

London bound again.

 

England = Beer?

My recently developed passion for beer has landed me in a quandary. Put simply, there’s too much of it. English pubs are a need of british life and in being so, put beer in as much need as the venue.

Faced with this quantity and (yet to be clarified) variety, a long term, calibrated, budgeted strategy must be employed to maximize this opportunity without gluttony, misuse of time, funds or dignity. Ideas? Anyone? No, neither have I. Cheers then. Gulp.

One would think that such a social people, always meeting, drinking, talking, that this would create a vibrant, intelligent, community minded people. But I’m yet to eaves drop on the conversations. I’ll keep you posted. 

But meanwhile, I walk the streets that have filled my eyes for decades (thank you BBC). No cultural cringe here. Filming every street brick and naming it is part of the british condition. As is the U.S, who celebrate themselves like no other kind of animal, short of the male Peacock in mating season. Australia hides itself a little more discreetly. In fact, its not discreet at all. Stick your head out and name the street brick and there’ll be someone there the next day putting high-vis tape around the area, calling it a high-cringe zone that is not to be focused on, mentioned or mattered, lest we fall into a way of self appreciating that leads to someone telling you that you’re a bit shit. Stick your head in mate.

I digress.

The beer here isn’t warm as the legend will have it, just delightfully room-temerature. I see the benefit. Less energy to convert it to body temperature = get drunk quicker. Its cheeper that way. Perhaps if we chilled the average national beer temperature by 4 degrees, we might reduce a lot a casual violence. I’ll put it to the local representative. Over a beer.

 

 

 

 

London, Im here. Where’s my bag?

London. Im here. My bag isn’t. Which is fine except for the odor of disuse coming from my armpits after the long haul across the world. (At this time I’d like to thank the inventor of noise cancelling headphones for eliminating the bludgeoned feeling often born of aircraft hummmmmmmmmmmmm). Emerging from the underground is a revalation at first, it could be in anywhere, not particularly London. What makes this unique beyond its landmarks?

Now sitting in Green Park, having walked a few blocks through the delightfully sheltered Berkeley Square. The Park is beginning it’s march into winter; through the long strip tease of Autumn. I shall visit tomorrow with running apparel and join the throngs. The English seem at first glance to run differently. There’s a knowing about them that seems to say with each step: not to worry, I’ll be home soon. The colors of Autumn make sense to me. They speak to my childhood memories and to the desire of my adult condition. These inner city parks that will soon permit the sun to the grass beneath, rot the leaves and canabalise themselves, are immensely peaceful to me; almost as much a forest. The peace doesn’t last as long, but its proximity to the edge of the urban is exciting and full of possibility. Like it feeds on the park to give it credit that urbanity alone cannot provide. Cities celebrate human achievements as they separate from nature; a disconnected engineering. But city parks justify the human city build and hint at the origins of us. But don’t be fooled, they are a hint only and can never fully balance humanity in the city scape. They are a trick, albeit a delightful one.

Without a local phone, I’m somewhat bound to my apartment today waiting for the airline to email with good news. I’m remembering last night at the Royal Albert Hall. Max Richter and his ensemble played ‘Re-Composed – Vivaldi’s 4 seasons’. Max is an enigma that has found a wonderful crack between classical and modern that has filled the Albert Hall with mostly the young (guessing 20s and 30s). With an unassuming character and a music that album by album is quite repetitive and without chaos, Richter has spoken to the world with a voice of simplicity and melancholy but with just enough hope be interesting.

He is a perfect storm; a storm where a new voice was needed, old instruments were needed, film -like qualities of soundscape are accepted as ‘classical’ by a new, hip generation of students, and a subtlety of technological sound to appeal to a generation with Dr. Dre on their heads. His music is a tomato concentrate; boiling down the access, eliminating the frill, but maintaing just enough for it to have a unique dignity. Simplicity as we understand it from the hands of Pärt, Glass or Yann Tiersen. They get the modern riff, even phrasing and repartition, but they have gone one step further towards a minimalism that allows us to hear, not music, but time. A time that feels with every moment. Thats rare in an age of fluff. Last night the thousands of people who filled the Royal Albert Hall felt time together. And we breathed unknowingly together. Our inner clocks slowed a little, giving us a peace that no city can take away. Not even the Saturday night of post-summer London.

Now, where’s my bag?


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