Quaint ramblings and occasional reflections of a journeying Aussie musician...

21 August 2006

..."as the light wind lives or dies"....

Hello All,
So it's central London in the late English summer, as the sun noticeably gets lower in the sky with each day that passes, and the warmth surely and quickly bleeds from the air (to who knows where) as the old girl returns to what feels like her natural state.
The season is moving, the times they are a changing, a constant reminder of the uncertainty of my own situation....
....so as you can see it's the same old rollercoaster....feeling fantastic one day, other stuff the next and a whole jumble more in the meantime......but it's also an intriguingly exciting time too.
Big news of late - I'm going to NYC in September for a week!
It had been a couple of months since Ireland with my dad, and I'd basically gone the rest of the summer without tripping anywhere. I was thinking maybe a region somewhere (southern Italy? Spain?), but then housemate DJ bought his weekend break to the Big Apple and it got me a thinkin'...
So there I was motoring through Hanon chapter 1* wondering about where to go and then it was a big HANG ON!? What about all those distinct separate dreams you had throughout your childhood, visually distinctive dreams, about walking the avenues? What about all that music and the history? What about dodgy hot dogs and lox bagels? C'mon man, there's no choice here, it's five hours across the Atlantic! One of the three places in the globe that you've always wanted to go! The city of your dreams, man!....
And so it was done. I expect the first cuppla days to be partying with housemate, then when he goes I'm thinking of checking out some gigs and hanging with a couple of muso mates over there. When I'm not distracted by the 57 other things on my mind at the moment, I'm literally excited beyond belief....
So, as further procrastination to those of you aching to read of the end of the tour and Paris and Ireland, I shall offer you a piece I often think of at this time of year, probably my favourite poem in all literature.
Until soon, loved ones....

To Autumn
by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness!
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the mossed cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind,
Or on a half-reaped furrow sound asleep,
Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twin├Ęd flowers;
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cider-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too, -
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The redbreast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

* technical exercises for piano

04 August 2006

London Calling - A Sunny Day In Camden Town

I don't know how anyone else wakes up, guess I've never thought to ask, but for me it's usually a highly confusing tornado of memories and music and things to do in the day ahead. Here in the nation's capital at the moment it's warm enough to keep the window open, so the noise of the council flats and the street somehow infuses into this morning jumble, waking me into a greater confusion with which to start the day. But it's the sounds of the hood, so I kinda like it....
So, as I've said before, this new flat rocks! I'm feeling totally at home in it, holed up there in a rather grim looking block of old council flats, but it's all right. It's a room to sleep and have my keyboard set up and put stuff. Now I think of it, it kind of reminds me of the old B and G days where I had pretty much the same thing, and how much I enjoyed that. Screw the whole big house thing - as nice as that is, the flat vibe is going great for now.
Now I'm smack bang in the middle of ex-council flats, there seems to be even more people in the general vicinity. Woken into a hungover fug by the BT guy come to connect us, I just ended up hanging around the kitchen and staircase for a while to make sure that no-one came in to rob the place.
Eventually moving to the keyboard, I ended up doing about half an hour on 'I Loves You Porgy', real slow, first only the melody, then harmonizing two parts, then three. To any players out there, it's simple stuff I know but I've been really trying to get the techinque together lately. Age old problems are finally starting to define themselves, and in doing so becoming easier to remedy.
Brushing my teeth before going into the job, I hear the workmen outside through the bathroom laughing and yelling and carrying on as they've been doing all week, taking the scaffolding down from outside our building. This particular morning sees two of them scraping all the paint off the little railings that define the edges of the tiny little courtyards outside each one of the flats. Watching them hunched over with their scrapers, this is one of those days where I feel quite happy and lucky to be a musician.
One of them turns up the radio and it's the new Lily Allen single, 'Smile'. Musical analysis brain goes into overdrive, a reflex action.....faster reggae feel, two chords, melody largely within an octave so everyone can sing along. It's in that miserable, apathetic English talking singing voice that I suppose most people associate with here.
Analysis finishes....well, do I like it?
Well, maybe yeah, kind of....
Every once in a while a dumb pop song comes along and it seems to just fit the mood you're in, and with the summer and holidays and everything it just slotted in, didn't leave! I wasn't listening to the words, no-one does anyway. They didn't mean anything for what I was drawing from the tune, because it provided that bittersweet soundtrack to your day. I think it was Neil Finn that said once that the best pop music is the happiest sounding chords with the saddest sounding lyrics? That's basically what the blues is about, to me anyway, the avoidance of emotional absolutes, the crossover, those feelings when things are happy and sad and other stuff at the same time. And that was all okay....
I now have a bicycle, and London is mine! The Londoner without personal transport any faster than walking tends to navigate around town largely through the stark modernism of the tube map, further disoriented by the fact that it's all underground. On a bike you start to see the bits inbetween the tube stations. The ride to my day job takes me past the craziness of Kings Cross station and down Gray's Inn Road, so for about ten minutes there it spreads out, gets a little quieter and greener.
So this particular day, I suppose a mental image I can leave you with is your humble correspondent, mid morning on a bright hot London summer's day, riding along, grinning, humming a silly song, all edged with the thought that this nice little niche life I've carved out for myself here could all wrap up in six months.....
I get home after an afternoon of no work, don t-shirt and shorts and stroll down to my local pound shop to buy some cleaning supplies. One thing about this part of town is that you can wear anything you bloody well like down there and no-one will bat an eyelid.
I walk back up the street with my domestic haul and a little girl loses a ball across the street....the grimace as it somehow dodges all the cars and ends up on the other side of the road....I look back and she's hugging the fence, all sheepish, so I do my good deed for the day, walk over to the other side of the road and throw it back.
You see, folks, the people of Camden Town, they respect each other. We share the love in this community. On this same stretch of my street only a week before, I was walking home with my Sainsburys curry wondering how I was going to cook it since there's no microwave in the flat....and what do I find sitting under a tree? A microwave! Walked up, made sure there was nothing inside it, picked it up and took it home. The folks on my street are giving as well!....Camden Town, what a place!