* note for future musicians

As kids some people read. I listened. I absorbed not the word and its way of encasing and exploding, but music; The way it sounds after its made, encasing and exploding ideas I had and were yet to have.
My world was defined by the feelings that music promoted. Through endless hours of listening I began to understand that which my meager, sheltered existence had not been exposed. The chaos and safety of humanity.

Both listeners and readers are voyeurs; absorbing ideas after the genesis of someone else’s moment. Someone else’s time. However, through a lack of motivation in my young body and the safety of solitude, it took me years to enable my body to begin replicating these sounds and feelings for myself. Making my own music. Thus my ears worked better than my hands. It took many years of slugging it out in shitty gigs and later the rigor of university to get my body up to speed with my ears. Too many years.
*note for future musicians, do them together; much easier that way.

The ears work in mysterious ways when not associated with your body. They can allow dreams that your body struggles to unfold from the physical realities of gravity and touch. I learned too late that I was actually a physical being having a dream as opposed to the other way around. But over the years, I have delighted in explaining these dreams in great detail to my body and encouraging it to employ and retell them. Had it gone the other way, the limitations of my physical understanding may have hindered my imaginings and thus, made them smaller. I suppose I’ll never know.

But now my work is leading away from the physical again in that I am writing for larger ensembles that don’t contain me. I’m back to imagining music without making it, but I’m on the other side of my ears. Instead of hearing music made by someone else from the outside, it is my own inner ear (if such a thing can be understood) that is making the dream and initializing the experience for others.
Now others hear my music like I used to hear it exclusively; without being in it.
For anyone who does not yet play music but is hearing mine; dream it, hear it, take it, learn it, play it, make a mess of it, do whatever is necessary to put it into your hands. There can he no greater understanding of music than when you play it for yourself.

 

 

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?

Performing Tim Passes

Almost immediately after the performance of Tim Passes on June 12, I checked my watch: I couldn’t believe it went by so fast. The fastest hour of my life. Remarks flowed in that another hour could easily have been enjoyed. A repeat? or a development? Either way, I want to feel that hour again…and again. Often, as a mentor, tutor or such, I talk to student about the landscape of the set, the song, the verse, the phrase, the line, the word and the breath. People will hang onto the most inane of things if you deliver it well, with intent, and with the authority of a map; you know where you’re going and no one is going to get hurt.

I spent much time thinking on the set order for Tim Passes as the 8 poems were not given to me chronologically, alphabetically, or in any other discernible state or theme, other than Tim’s joy and suffering. I organised them so as to introduce Tim with a reference to his end, then celebrate his inner child, his children, his genitalia, his inevitable end and the family that needed consoling after the fact. It was this final point which had the most significant weight. This work was about, and for a family; a family that I believe had engaged in little ceremony for Tim’s passing over 20 years ago and had yet to celebrate him. Not that I’m claiming to have any authority on the passing rights of a man through the families eyes, but I don’t imagine Tim ever had a party as big as this one.

I learned a great deal about poetry, music and respect during this process. Tim’s work was of a unique position; closer to death than any of us care to be and vividly aware of its slow grip and of the nearest peoples reactions to it. I can’t say that I’ve felt that. I had a ripping hangover once and can’t remember the booze I drank to get it – that’s as close as I get. Lame. I can imagine though as life grinds down around you, that whatever words you commit will ultimately define your position. They will become your expression after you part. Tim chose his words well. Honest and brutal. The music needed to fit the same shaped hole he made; the hole his family recognised as ‘Tim’. During the lead up, there was much press about the event. One such article in a weekend magazine had a quote from Tim’s brother David about my composition of Tim’s work. Referring to Tim’s “right-angled turns and about-faces” swerving from “truculence to tenderness”, David went on to say, “Dean must preserve that inadvertent ambiguity”. David had announced this expectation via print media and I shit myself. It was the word “must” that buried in the most. I must interpret the words in accordance with the Tim-shaped-hole that I was still learning to appreciate only hours before the show.

I spoke on an earlier day about the study and use of vowels and consonants when defining the parameters of the music. But beyond that is the performance, the delivery of another mans ideas who can no longer tell you if you got it right, nearly right, or missed completely. But, as I’m sure any musician can empathise, when performing someone else’s work, a line delivered poorly has you imagining the originator in the front row, tongue out, fingers up, or turning their back on you as you over-sing the next few lines to attempt recompense, ultimately making it even worse. I learned a lot about performing with an orchestra too. With a band, when you trip, you can turn to the band, raise your eyebrows (literally or metaphorically) and the band can react to this and adjust. An orchestra is like the Titanic approaching a u-turn at 80 knots; if you trip, there’s fuck all you can do accept find your own way to make what you just did sound like you meant it.

The media were kind. The Age called it the ‘highlight of the opening weekend’. Given the other acts on that weekend, I’ll take that. My favourite moments? Being a piece of bread in a stage-light toaster in Song for the Adequate Person and listening to the guy who tried and failed to wait until the music stopped before clapping (he was so keen!). Keeping focus whilst singing about a floating cock in a bathtub. The dynamic smash of the Professor of History Greets His Students, conducting the Fragment of a Requiem for Timothy Hamilton Walsh and who doesn’t like a 5 minute standing ovation. I wonder now what Tim would have thought at the premiere. His remaining friends and family seemed chuffed, but would they say that with Tim standing by?

 

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6am.

It’s 6am and Im awake. That in itself is not unusual; usually the dog and I are considering our way towards a run near this time. A few kilometers to smash the day into place. But at this 6am I’m still up to my neck in Doona bearing sonic witness to the rain as it strikes the windows sideways; blown in over the mountain at incredible speed.

Ordinarily, I would simply return to a sneaky sleep, knowing that rain had closed the running idea, but this morning the sound is so violent at the window that I’m still awake and sleep can’t beat noise. Not this much noise. I am, by virtue of being awake, now able to fully engage in today’s inevitable conversations that will begin with “How about that rain this morning? Wasn’t it amazing?”. Yes, I will say. Can say, as I am held awake to know its ferocity. 
Trying to punch through the clouds is the rising sun that at this stage has not yet the firepower to make it through. So a glow seeps into the room; a glow from a far off, indirect place. Like a great distant fluorescent globe, creating an indistinguishable quality like peripheral vision; you almost need to look next to a thing to see the thing at all. The light seems to emanate softy from things rather than upon things. A glow from the walls themselves, that wait for the sun to take mantel; to shoulder through the clouds. 
And the clouds know it. Soon enough, at 6.40, the rain eases, it’s windy transport gone away allowing the days rightful heir, the sun, to take up and begin. 
Now I could sneak another quick sleep, but light from technology has penetrated my eyes and begun my journey towards it. And I will keep moving towards it all day until I realize at the days end that the chase was a fruitless attempt to catch anything at all except a vehicle for my experiences of the work of the natural world. Which is after all, how it started. 

Nothing like a deadline.

Extraordinary how the human brain works. All day we observe, absorb, collect, re-tell, confirm and update about the world around us. Those who write books, journals and such are the ones who understand the need for commonality and uniformity in human thinking. The rest of us lift those people to an elevated human position because they ‘speak, collect and collate’ for the greater human condition. The rest of us are self oriented collectors and curators of obscure information and bias. We don’t collect for the greater population, because we all harbour the idea to some degree that we are each unique thinkers and must therefor collate and process information differently to everybody else.

My mind requires a different food from yours even thought we may observe and remark on the same object, incident or idea. In doing this, we can become quite narrow in our want to collect ideas that are strange, or at least look like someone else’s stuff. And when we get busy, we can focus on the job at hand (especially if its someone else’s job) and our information scoop can get put away. Garaged for an available time. It can be easy to think you’re shut down sometimes.

But the information already collected sits there. Waiting. It must do. Where else can it go? I’ve often thought that if I lost a leg, would I lose thoughts, memories and ideas that have been stored in the cells there, waiting for the perfect day to retrieve them? Or perhaps waiting for the right smell to trigger their release? Like the smell of fresh baking brings my grandmothers face to mind. All because of one day, painting on a ladder near her kitchen window. But there; I didn’t need that smell to recall her memory then did I? Hmmm. I shall consider this further.

But when a deadline is presented, confirmed and paid for, there can be no greater trigger of style, genre, speed, colour, or mood. A pressing end to a project opens flood gates to collections that were until that time unawares to even you. (What else lurks within unawares?) I have a recording this weekend of music for a film. I’ve been sweating on it all week; arrangements, schedules, mood matching the images and such. But even now as I am still missing connecting fragments of music, the deadline has given me strength to stop writing the music…and write this! How is this possible, when last week I could barely string a sentence together. I was, perhaps hung over, but I’m sure my point is made.

When there is a reason to create, we create.

My best barometer for this need (without a 3rd party deadline), is to look at my record collection. If nothing inspires me to listen to it, take it from the shelf and drop the needle, no familiar sound wants to spark old memories, I know the only sound I can hear is the one that I have to write. Now! My mind needs a new music that is a response to all the listening that came before it. And it can only be written by me.