Sunday, May 25, 2008

Music in Exile

Since I first heard it a year or so ago I have been fascinated by the music of Esteban Salas. Born in Cuba in 1725, he lived in Havana as a musician until 1762 when the English invaded. He was then transferred to a position as choir-master in the little cathedral in Santiago de Cuba, where he remained until his death in 1803.

From the CD liner notes:

"The image of Salas is one of angelic purity. The little troubles and tribulations which he experienced in his life enable us to envisage a simple, trusting soul, who since his youth had observed strict chastity, living like an ecclesiastic, in no way undeserving the tonsure. A true mystic, he had taken the vow of living in poverty, and he always dressed in black."
The compositions on this recording are carols for a small choir accompanied by a simple string orchestra. Heartfelt, simple, genuine and poignant, for me they summon up a sense of great distance and exile. The music seems less sophisticated, less polished, less worldly than European music of the time. There are no obvious "Cuban" influences, but elements of "that distant and isolated" country surrounded by sea have managed to creep in nonetheless.

There is something beautifully unpolished and genuine about the recording as well. Recorded in Cuba in the Dominican church of San Juan de Letran by a Cuban choir, there is a very particular quality about the voices - sometimes a little breathy, not quite together, but always honest and with conviction and integrity. Sometimes the sound of crickets can be heard in the background through the unglazed windows of the church.

In Praise of Boredom?

"There is a strong argument that boredom, so often parodied as a glassy-eyed drooling state of nothingness, is an essential human emotion that underlies art, literature, philosophy, science - and even love.

"If you think of boredom as the prelude to creativity and loneliness as the prelude to engagement of the imagination, then they are good things," says Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of the book CrazyBusy. "They are doorways to something better, as opposed to something to be abhorred and eradicated immediately.""

In Praise of Silence -

Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Tent

On Thursday night I went to see The Tent, as part of the Next Wave Festival. Stupidly I didn't have my camera with me, because the setting was absolutely incredible. Behind the Federation Square capark, between the high retaining wall of Birrarung Marr and the railway lines, there is a gravel-covered open space, a kind of no-man's land in the middle of the city. Looking down from Birrarung Marr, in this dark space between us and the glittering lights of Melbourne's skyline, we could see a canvas tent, looking a bit like a yurt on the steppes of outer Mongolia - completely at odds with it's surroundings.

Entering the tent, we were sat down and given blankets to keep our legs warm and hot beef stew to keep our stomachs warm, as we sat back and watched the show.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Quite Possibly My Favourite Record Label

... currently is ECM, especially their New Series. Recently Readings had a sale on ECM albums and I indulged in

Anouar Brahem's Le Pas Du Chat Noir

Tord Gustavsen's Changing Places

and The Dowland Project's Care Charming Sleep.

Other albums that I love from this label include Rolf Lislevand's Nuove Musiche

... and of course Keith Jarrett's The Köln Concert.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Play Things

Last night I went to hear my mates Fernando and Duncan (aka Play Things) play at the Rooftop Bar. I couldn't stay for long as I had to scoot to have dinner with my mum (it was mothers day after all!), but I absolutely fell in love with the venue, as well as the music. Next time I'll definitely take the lift rather than the 6 flights of stairs, but the climb was worth it.

I felt almost a sense of vertigo standing up there amongst the skyscrapers, thinking "this is my city".

Sunday, May 11, 2008


I said breakdowns come
And breakdowns go
So what are you going to do about it
That's what I'd like to know
Paul Simon