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.