Saturday, September 15, 2007

What happens when you Google yourself...

Apparently I am an early music performer with an established local and international reputation, according to Melbourne University! I think that might be a slight overstatement, but I'm not complaining :)

I wrote some articles for Socialist Alternative magazine back in my socialist red flag waving days.

And yes, I was homeschooled, and unbeknownst to me, my mother volunteered information about me to Time Magazine.

So there you go, now you know!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Thursday, September 06, 2007


So much of the life of a musician is about waiting. Waiting for concerts to begin, waiting for concerts to end...

Right now I'm waiting upstairs at the Malthouse Theatre to play continuo for the VCA Secondary School orchestra. There is a violinist in one corner practicing the Bach E major concerto, and one in another corner practicing the Bach double concerto, in D minor. The effect is bizarre, but kinda nice.

I seem to have spent a large part of the past few weeks waiting. I am sick of buying coffees just to pass the time. What are fun things I can do while waiting?

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Nijinsky went mad

I didn't know that until today, when I watched The Diaries of Vaslav Nijinsky.

He also told his wife that she was the first woman he slept with - this was very very not true. He wrote in his diaries about chasing after coquettes on the streets of Paris, visiting prostitutes and having a 5 year affair with Diaghilev. But he also wrote that he loved his wife, sensually and spiritually. I wonder what their relationship was like? Was she really the calculating realist who drove him to madness?

He lived for another 30 years after he was committed to an asylum when he was only 30 or so. What was that part of his life like?

Monday, August 27, 2007

Instant house?

If I had a block of land, I would put one of these nifty little things on it.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Photos - Brugge part 2

The amazing Kamermuziekzaal in the Brugge Concertgebouw. The seats around the outside are all on a ramp that spirals around the room three times.

Just a normal street in Brugge!

Me on a boat.

A swan!

No prizes for guessing this one :)

Photos - Brugge part 1

Now that I'm safely back in Oz, and the jet lag is finally passing (why is it so much harder coming East than going West?) I can post some photos of my trip! The first installment - Brugge and the Harpsichord Competition...

Sunrise somewhere over Eastern Europe

The day I arrived in Brugge - a lovely Belgian summer's day!

The sign outside...

... the Provincial Hof - where the first and second rounds of the competition were. This is probably the biggest and most fancy building in town - right on the main square.

Some of the amazing harpsichords in the instrument expo.

Monday, August 20, 2007


I'm standing at a free internet terminal at Singapore airport, having just arrived on a Turkish Airlines flight from Vienna via Istanbul.

I arrived in Vienna late on Wednesday night, after a 10 hour train journey through the Alps, which was amazing, but long. Before Vienna I stayed one night in Friedrichshaven, a small town in the very south of Germany, on the Bodensee (Lake Constance). I was visiting my friend Kathy, another mate from Melbourne. It was really great to hang out with Kathy and Thomas, her German boyfriend (and the reason she moved to Germany), and chat, drink beer and play pool. The evening was only marred by a rather angry young local, who for no reason at all tried to pick a fight with Thomas, who then ended up with a bloody nose, but no real harm.

My internet is about to run out here - I'm going to see if I can connect with my pda wireless... stay tuned...

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Space - Europe vs. Australia

Another thing I really like about what I have seen of Europe so far is the positive benefits of living in small, high density spaces. For an Australian travelling here for the first time this is perhaps one of the most striking things - used as we are to sprawling cities, more space than we know what to do with, and the mythological ideal of the quarter-acre-block. Some of my thoughts, in no particular order, are:

~ Having so much space has made Australians lazy when it comes to urban and residental design. We don't need to come up with interesting solutions to space issues, so we simply spread out.

~ There is such a thing as having too much private space, which is to the detriment of public space. Australians on the whole live more of their life in thier private space than Europeans, and I think we're missing out on something.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


I am sitting in the 'Bordbistro' dining car on the train from Köln to Friedrichshafen, drinking a cup of rather mediocre Geman coffee. I flew back to Amsterdam from Sevilla with Georg on Sunday evening, and yesterday caught the train to Köln, where I stayed the night with Gus, an old mate from Melbourne.

Gus and one of his housemates invited me to one of their friend's places for dinner. I borrowed a bike from another housemate and the three of us set off on a half-hour ride across the city. The preponderance of bicycles and the casuallness and freedom that they give to the life in the cities has been one of my favourite things about Europe. In Amsterdam I rode on the back of Georg's bike, sitting on the luggage rack as we sped along the Amstel. Last night I enjoyed a bike all to myself, riding through the streets and parks, the latter filled with locals barbequeing and picnicing in the evening sunshine.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Portugal... hot!

And sunny... and the food is very cheap and quite yummy.

I´m sitting in a little internet cafe in a small town on the south coast somewhere near Lagos. We´ve been travelling through the hilly countryside of Algarve for the past few days - countryside which is surprisingly similar to Australia, actually. It is very dry, rocky, red-brown earth, with orange and olive orchards in amongst the scrub. There aren´t really any big trees, and the few sizeable trees around are eucalypts, which all the Europeans think are very exotic, but for me is quite normal! Everything else about the place is very different from anywhere I have ever been, though...

Last night we stayed in a little town called Silves. Like most of the towns in the area, it has a moorish heritage, little winding cobbled streets, different coloured houses with shuttered windows and thick walls, old churches and lots of British tourists. After securing accomodation for the night in a little guesthouse run by a local Portugese equivalent of an Italian nonna (with whom we had to communicate via a mixture of sign language, random English and Spanish words and a lot of nodding and saying of ´si, si´) we discovered that this was the week of the Silves medival fair. I was quite entertained by the little stalls run by people in assorted styles of medieval garb, which ran the gamut from belly-dancing attire, through biblical shepherd costume, to a very convincingly made up ´leper´ outside the castle gates.

Oh yes, there was also a castle in Silves. A red castle! Unfortunately the buildings which once stood inside the castle walls were long gone, but I enjoyed walking around the ramparts and peering out at the surrounding countryside through the battlements...

Must finish up now before I run out of time, but before I go I just want to set the record straight... sorry to disappoint you, Becky, but no, the reason I haven´t been posting is because of a distinct shortage of internet facilities in this little corner of the world, not because of anything else more exciting!!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Free internet in Brussels

I am sitting in the cafe Mort Subite (sudden death) in Brussels using some lovely fast free wifi.

Brussels is completely different to Bruges - for starters it is much bigger, more modern (yet still old in the centre, but a different type of old), and less obviously charming, although I think probably ultimately more satisfying. Many of the streets run in straight lines, which is much easier to navigate than Bruges' constantly curving and taking you in a completely different direction to the one gou wanted to go in streets!

I am waiting at this cafe to meet Georg, with whom l will travel to Amsterdam this afternoon. So this is my last day in Belgium, where I have eaten delicious waffles and way too much bread (bread seems to be an indispensible part of every meal), drunk cherry-flavoured kriek beer, and meandered along medieval cobbled streets.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It's Cold!

Bruges is not the warmest place to be, even in summer. Today it's raining, as it has just about every day, and the forcast is for a top of 16 degrees - it feels like Melbourne in winter, except it is much prettier! I didn't really plan for it to be this cold, and didn't pack enough warm clothes, so I might have to go and investigate some shops and see if I can get a couple of warm things.

The semi-finalists were announced last night - and I was not surprised to find that I was not one of them. Out of the 60 entrants in the competition, only about 10 made it to the semis. I only heard a couple of their performances in the first round, but I think they all would have been pretty amazing. I am looking forward to hearing them perform tomorrow.

I am not at all disappointed to not be in the second round. I am quite happy for the pressure to be off, and to be able to listen to as much as I can and absorb as much as I can. In a way I feel that it is more useful for me to listen and learn while I am here, rather than practice and perform. I can practice and perform at home, but I can't listen to some of the best musicians in Europe at home!

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Better... Worse...

I listened to several of the other participants in the competition this afternoon, and came to the conclusion that:

1. My Bach and Buxtehude were better than many, and

2. My Scarlatti was certainly no worse than quite a few.

So now I'm not feeling so bad!

Now, off to find something for dinner...

Friday, July 27, 2007


Well it's over.

I just played my first round performance for the competition. I felt pretty good before I went in, and had a good warm-up, playing slowly through the fast pieces and settling as much as I could.

I waited outside the hall while they introduced me and announced the order of my performance, then walked in to sporadic clapping, took my bow and settled down at the instrument.

2 days ago I had a rehearsal in the hall, when I chose which one of the two harpsichords I would play. There was a dark green one and a light green one - I chose the light green one because it had a nicer touch that I felt was easier and more natural for me to play.

Back to the performance: the first piece was a Buxtehude suite, which I really enjoy. I was really trying to listen to the music and I am happy with my performance. Two Bach sinfonias were next, which I am also mostly happy with - I felt that my playing was expressive and there was one little mistake in one of them which I didn't really worry about.

Then disaster struck: the final part of the program was two Scarlatti sonatas, which for some reason I have a complex about. I can play them very well when I'm alone, but in front of an audience strange things seem to happen. All of a sudden I became really nervous, and didn't trust that my fingers knew what they were doing. I felt out of control, and there were quite a few mistakes - I even left a bar out at one point! The bits in between the mistakes were pretty good, but I don't feel so great about that performance.

I'm pretty sure the Scarlatti debacle will knock me out of the running for round 2, but I'm going to keep practicing until I know for sure, rather than admit defeat now. I don't really mind about not going through to round 2, but I would like to have felt good about my round 1 performance. I feel good about 60 percent of it, but not about the rest. I guess that's how things go, sometimes, though...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Brugge - at last

I am in Brugge finally! But it was a bit of a saga getting here...

I turned up at Melbourne airport on Saturday evening, joined the Thai Aiways queue, and went up to the check-in desk in due course. The man checked my passport, put a tag on my suitcase and asked for my ticket. `Oh, it´s an e-ticket, you just need my passport´ I said...

Apparently, despite telling me that I had an e-ticket, my travel agent had actually booked me a paper ticket. I thought I had an e-ticket, the airline had no e-ticket in their system, and my travel agent, despite being a large national chain, no longer had a 24 hour phone service. So I couldn't get on a plane on Saturday night.

Sunday morning, I rang the travel agent - they couldn't help me because their ticket office is not open on weekends... In the end my mum booked me a completely new ticket with Qantas, ringing them as we were on the way to the airport at 1pm. At 1:30 I picked up my ticket and checked in for the 3:30 flight to London. When the plane finally taxied down the runway, I almost couldn't believe that I was actually on board, going to Europe.

I arrived in Brussels on Monday morning, welcomed with a lovely grey, rainy Belgian summer's day! After catching the slow train to Bruges (I later found out that the L on the train timetable stood for Local (stops at every two-bit, one horse, three cow village)) and sharing a compartment with assorted Flemish farmers, dressed in pullovers and gumboots, I finally arrived in Bruges, where it was still cold and raining and grey. But at least I got there!

Friday, July 13, 2007

One week to go!

... or more precisely one week and one day to go before I leave for Europe.

I guess this is the time for the big announcement: I'm going to Bruges to participate (I hate the word compete!) in this year's Harpsichord Competition. This is why I have been so quiet over the past coupla months - I've been practicing my ass off! Oh, and the fact that I'm still having a fight with the computer repair people, who didn't fix my computer properly, and still have it sitting in their workshop... yes, that might have something to do with it as well...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Amazing art

I played at fortyfivedownstairs the other week, when they had a great exhibition called Natura.

I saw what is now one of my favourite works of art - this painting by Christopher Beaumont. If I had had a spare four grand in my wallet (and if someone else hadn't already have bought the painting) I would have bought this without hesitation.

This is ridiculous!

Computer troubles are still in full swing. Too complicated to go in to.

Boring boring boring.

I still don't have a computer that works. And now I dislike Apple repair people and insurance people.

So sorry for the uber sporadic posts!

Monday, May 07, 2007

Quiet Music Festival

I heard about the Quiet Music Festival today. It's being held on Sunday. Maybe I'll try and go.
I really like the idea of a festival "dedicated to the celebration of detail, timbre and musical expression", and I am glad there are people like Leo Dale in this world, who know that
The beauty and skill in slow, quiet music can be such that you suspend your breathing and you can almost hear colours and textures in it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Our PM expects us to be selfish

I just heard our esteemed prime minister say that Australian voters should ask themseves: what policy is "best for me and best for my family?" What about what is best for the community as a whole? Best for society?

Obviously we are all expected to vote as selfish myopes, fortifying ourselves from the nasty big wide world that lies ouside our white picket fences.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

This makes me feel a little strange

So I googled myself. Come on, admit it, we all do that occasionally!

There's all the usual stuff - concerts I've done, that kind of thing. But one thing caught my eye. This was a discussion on the Eques Forum (which is a horse magazine website - strange!) regarding an email that I had sent someone when I was doing some temporary office work over summer. I was working for an accountancy which recovers lost super and the like for people, and we got lots of enquiries from people who thought we were trying to scam them, which we weren't. It makes me feel quite weird, being talked about on some forum in connection with something which is really not anything to do with me, just because I happened to do some temp work over summer.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

I'm back

... and back to me!

A word of warning: be very, very, very careful when using headphones in your laptop and simultaneously trying to carry the laptop across the room. In fact, don't even try at all. Because headphones have wires which get caught on things and make computers jump out of hands and crash on the floor.

So yeah, I dropped my computer, and then it didn't work. And I am a poor postgrad musician with no money to buy a new one. I really just wanted to turn back time by about 30 seconds.

Anyway, to cut a long, and rather boring, story short, the next day I had a brainwave and realised that my insurance covers 'accidental damage'. So there was a week of phone calls to the insurance people and the computer service people, to get quotes, and decide exactly who was going to authorise the repair. Then three weeks for the parts to arrive at the service centre. Apparently Apple was out of stock of some essential part.

Finally it was all repaired and ready for me to pick up on Tuesday. So now I have a computer again!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Concert photo

A photo of me and my fellow musos as we finish a performance at Wendy Jore's final Masters recital last Wednesday (that's me on the left, sitting at the harpsichord).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

How to make yourself feel old...

...without even trying!

It's easy, especially if you are born in those dark days before 1980! Just walk through a university campus during orientation week. I made the mistake of doing that yesterday, on my way to the Baillieu Library to photocopy some esoteric harpsichord music. The place is crawling with eager new first year students, wide-eyed and full of enthusiasm for parties and pub crawls. Ten years ago that was me. Ten years! I am a whole decade older than them - a decade less enthusiastic and a decade more cynical...

but I don't feel any older or wiser, really.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Ground Elastic Sound

Oh, the heat! The last few days have been absolutely tropical here in Melbourne town. But somehow we have survived, mostly.

Last night I endured the un-airconditioned stuffy mugginess (but visual splendour) of the Forum Theatre to hear Ground Elastic Sound, a concert presented by Melbourne composers' collective Dead Horse Productions.

First of all I was very impressed with the audience they attracted. There must have been between 200 and 300 people there, which for a presentation of new compositions is very impressive for this city. Their marketing campaign was excellent, and I think struck the right balance between a street aesthetic and a more intellectual avant-garde feel. It certainly seemed to attract the punters.

I was expecting that there would be some works which I would really enjoy and others which I would think were crap, to put it bluntly. But I was very pleasantly surprised. All seven pieces in the program I found engaging and enjoyable.

I loved how the concert opened with a Biddy Connor's Ground Elastic Sound Fanfare played by clarinet, trumpet, trombone and baritone saxophone standing in the aisles in the audience, and making their way to the stage during the piece, joined in the middle by a tenor saxophone entering from side stage.

For some reason I remember really enjoying Wally Gunn's Eleven Fifty-Five, although now I can't really remember the specifics of the piece. There was some beautiful string writing, and a particularly poignant moment between a string trio, horn and clarinet.

Kate Neal's Semaphore also struck me with its timeless timbre, taking its inspiration from T.S. Elliott's poem The Rock:
In the beginning, God created the world. Waste and Void.
Waste and Void. And darkness was upon the face of the deep...
The poem was presented before the performance of the music, in a video projection of Kate's hand writing the poem on a piece of paper, which was much more personal and engaging than merely projecting the typed text onto the screen.

I think the highlight of the concert for me was David Chisholm's Ikebana, performed by both a live and a pre-recorded string quartet. I loved the driving momentum of this work, with the constant contrapuntal interplay of the 'virtual' quartet with the live musicians onstage. David describes this work as
almost a renovation of Baroque threads, a reupholstering, perhaps, of a threadbare couch utilising modern materials and instincts.
The musicians were superb - fully commited to the music and playing with a lot of focus and feeling on an almost unbearably hot and humid night. So kudos to them.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself through about 90 minutes of new music - which is more than I can say for some concerts of 'old' classical music that I have been to! Congratulations to Wally and the rest of the Dead Horse Productions gang, and I look forward to their next gig...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Revenge of the Dish Monster

Memo to self: it's best to attack the dish monster before the mould starts to grow!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rain running

Yesterday afternoon, as I pulled on my running shoes, thunder rolled around the sky. A few minutes into my run, and little drops of rain started to fall. It was a lovely, light, steady rain, that cooled the air slightly, without making it cold. Smells of the earth and growing plants wafted in the air, and the most beautiful double rainbow I have ever seen filled the eastern sky.

I just had to stop running for a minute to take this photo with my phone.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Morning Routines

I slept in this morning. I kept pressing "snooze" on my alarm, and finally got up with only just enough time to sink down a cup of coffee, grab a bowl of cereal, throw on some clothes and jump in my car. I've had a headache all day and certainly haven't been my most focussed or productive self.

How you start the day certainly sets the tone for the day, and a pleasant, relaxed beginning makes for a much more pleasant day. We all know what happens when we get out of bed "on the wrong side" - when we start the day badly it can be very hard to turn it around.

So what is a good start to the day? I sat down and wrote my ideal morning routine:

  • I would wake up at about 6am
  • make myself a nice hot cup of herbal tea (somehow I miraculously no longer need my caffiene hit before I can do anything)
  • write my morning pages
  • do some yoga
  • have breakfast, shower, etc
  • make a fanstasic cup of coffee, and carry it into my warm, light-filled studio to settle down at my harpsichord for a long practice session.
This is not something I have yet managed to do (and I have to work on that music studio!), and currently I am a complete zombie in the mornings, but nevertheless it is something I intend to work towards.

Morning routines seem to be an important part of many successful people's lives. 17 out of 20 top executives that Jim Citrin spoke to woke up before 6am to exercise, check email, and start the day in a relaxed manner; 36 people on 43 Things want to develop a morning routine; and bloggers everywhere (here, here and here) are analysing how best to start the day.

What's your morning routine?

Image from Stock.xchng

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Being yourself

I realised the other night what the phrase "just being yourself" actually means. This phrase used to frustrate me - as though I could be anyone else but myself! And when you're nervous before an interview or date, the last thing you want someone to say is "just be yourself". It doesn't seem very helpful or encouraging at a time when you're feeling vulnerable and unsure of yourself. Maybe you don't even like yourself much at that moment, or you don't really think you're that special. How can just being yourself possibly help?

The important part of that phrase is actually not "yourself", it's "be". It's not about who you are, it's how you are. The meaning resides in the concept of being. It is about turning off the external viewpoint, shutting down the critical observer's voice and just being.

So many times I catch myself looking over my shoulder, looking at myself, thinking "Why did I just say that? That sounds so stupid. Am I speaking too loudly? What are people thinking? Maybe I should have worn that other skirt today..." and so on.

It is only when I turn off this self-consciousness, and simply be me, looking out at the world with interest and wonder, and not looking back at myself in some kind of narcisistic self-feedback loop - it is only then that I am truly being myself.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Random acts of music

I saw a beautiful thing today.
Well, actually I heard it before I saw it.
On City Road, out the back of grey, humanless skyscrapers.
A waft of music on the air.
A burly security guard, in grey-blue pants and a shirt, a communication earpiece in his ear, huddled in the fire-escape,
Playing a mouthorgan.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The myth about beige cardigans

I am a musician. It makes sense for me to teach music, both financially and personally. Financially, I can earn almost twice as much per hour as I can doing most other things. Personally, it is good for me to be engaged with as much music as possible, and to "live" music. It is excellent to have to put my ideas about music into words, to find ways to explain musical concepts that I take for granted. And makes much more sense for me to earn my pennies doing something related to the career that I want to have.

So why have I been so reluctant to earn money by teaching? I realised the other day that I have a lot of resistance to the idea of being a "music teacher". Subconsciously I felt that music teachers are unattractive, lonely, boring people who wear beige cardigans (apologies to all music teachers for this terrible stereotype). I don't know why I had this image in my head, or where it came from. My music teachers have always been very vibrant and lovely people who would never go anywhere near beige!

Maybe I worry that I will become some kind of social outcast if I become a music teacher. Again, I don't know where all this baggage is coming from. Lots of very interesting, fascinating, friendly and sociable people teach in schools so what am I worried about? I'm not going to be some kind of gnome that hides in the music room and doesn't talk to anyone! And anyway, the purpose of working is to do just that - work. If friendships grow out of working relationships well so much the better, but that's not the purpose of working to earn a crust.

So I'm going to teach. I'm going to share the knowledge that I have gained in all the years of university and the life experience I have gained from, well, being alive. I want to inspire others and in turn open myself to inspiration and new inputs. I love music and it's time to share the love and blast any remotely beige ideas out the window!

Friday, January 19, 2007


I woke up to the beautiful sound of rain on my roof - rain that we haven't had since Christmas. There are big drops, little drips, pattering on the leaves and plants and drumming on the tin roof. I can almost feel the happiness of the plants, soaking it all up into their parched and yellowing stems.

I am reminded of the wonderful Score for a Hole in the Ground, which uses dripping water to create an incredible musical installation. I am completely in love with the concept of this piece - the gramaphone-like amplifier just sitting there in the woods, the way that people can just come across the piece unexpectedly, the fact that nature (the great creator?) is actually playing the piece now that it is out of human control.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

I'm back

It's summer. It's hot. It's already 30 degrees, and only 7:30am. Yesterday in the city it was 40.8 degrees, and still Melbournians were buying their steaming hot lattes. I love the way this city is addicted to its coffee!

I feel as though I am just ready to start the year now. The last month or so has involved a lot of planning and soul-searching, and re-planning and dreaming. I am quite excited about the prospects for this year, although it is also very daunting.

It's funny how the idea of moving from one year to the next can be such a powerful motivator for taking stock of one's life and making decisions. Who doesn't make new year's resolutions of some kind or another? But in actual fact the difference between December 31 and January 1 is just that the earth has made one more turn - the importance of these dates is purely in our minds. Still, it's a good opportunity to plan and dream!