St Mary's Cathedral is an important part of my life. Its beauty and elegance have always inspired me and now that my boys are attending or have graduated from the Cathedral College my appreciation of this special place has multiplied. Over the years an extraordinary set of memories has revolved around the wondrousness of how choral and organ music rise up and fill that great space.
When Gian graduated as part of the class of 2009 I captured some of that magic on my iPhone. The intention was merely to record the graduation ceremonies but it was me who was captured by the music and as I edited the video of Gian I discovered I had 40 minutes of music and a similar amount walking around capturing the visual magic of the building itself. This YouTube video is the result. It is three of my favorite pieces of music from the night woven with St Mary's visual magic.
Note in 2012 Unfortunately the organist decided he didn't want to be heard in a video and complained to YouTube and the video was taken down.
After Leif's graduation ceremony he took me back stage in the school hall and pulled back the covers on the Kawai grand piano. He sat down, and without the benefit of any music in front of him he proceeded to play. I was entranced, but he, being a perfectionist, apologized for the imperfections. He said he would do better with music to read. Maybe so, but the music that he played was to me extraordinary for the beautiful surprise it represented. I had not heard him playing music for some time and it is plain that in the meantime he has discovered the most important ingredient - passion and real enjoyment of playing music.
After I took photographs I recorded him playing on my camera. It is not a perfect recording, but it has captured some of the magic of the moment. The recording is 4 minutes and 42 seconds long.
Apple has done it again with new iPods that make all other MP3 players into also rans. Their pace of development must make everyone elses heads spin as they try to catch up. This time around there is a touch screen iPod that is much like the iPhone, introduction of WiFi, video on the new Nano, and the classic iPod now has 160GB of storage. The best just got better.
Pavarotti was always this marvelous voice that I loved for its richness and ability to send shivers along my spine. Very few singers can bring tears to my eyes. Fat Lucy could. My life is richer for what he brought to me. That is a great gift for a human being to give. I loved the romance and love that he found later in his life. It was clear from the gossip magazine photos that this was a special love. Many people would not have the courage to risk all for a pure love like that. Pavarotti not only risked all, but he embraced it and valued it with the full passion of his heart and gave his all. I think he is wonderful. He is in my iPod, my heart and my thoughts. Thank you for all you gave, rest in peace.
The iPhone is so cool, but realistically it is just an iPod with a great screen and a phone. What would you say about an affordable way to turn most modern iPods into a device that receives and makes phone calls and at a fraction the cost of a real iPhone? Better yet, this easy method is available now, and allows you to use 3G, and to use any mobile phone network you choose. It is useable right now in any country. It makes your Nano, Mini, Photo, or Video iPod into an iPhone alterative that is affordable. I am talking about the Gear4 BluEye, the simple solution for marrying your existing phone to your iPod.
I just got myself a BluEye and it is a simple plug and play accessory for the iPod. It comes in black as well as white. I bought mine at my local Apple Reseller and have discovered it is no more difficult than using a bluetooth headset. It is quite brilliant, a small remote control for the iPod that clips to a lapel. It is tiny, about the size of a Shuffle, and once paired with a bluetooth enabled phone you just leave the phone in your pocket or bag. When a call comes through the audio on the iPod fades out, a tone is heard and you just answer the call as you would with any bluetooth headset except that this one is feeding the call into your iPod ear buds.
Making calls is easy using the voice activation feature on the phone. It works so easily it is amazing. I had to set up the voice activation on the phone first. That didn't take long, then I practiced using it by calling my son Pablo. It works so well you would think it was made by Apple. It is not, it is made by Gear4. Thanks guys for making a great product. Like an Apple product it just works.
The BluEye has an fm radio built in too, which is a nice addition for the iPod. Sure BluEye doesn't add some things that the iPhone has, like a keyboard. And obviously you don't get the touchscreen, but since my phone is 3G I can send and receive emails already, I can browse the net using Opera, stream photo slide shows from Flickr, and receive mobile television. Best of all, for me I can take advantage of the beautiful CyberShot 3.2 megapixel camera in this Sony Ericsson phone. And now all that is married to my iPod.
Until Steve Jobs decides a camera is a serious part of a phone, and puts a good one into the iPhone I won't be getting a real iPhone. But then with my BluEye I have no real need for one. Except for the keyboard and the big screen I already virtually everything the iPhone offers, and at a fifth of the cost. Check it out, I can recommend it.
I have had my BluEye for only a bit more than a day, but already I love it and the way it adds phone capability to my iPod. I don't have to rely on the terrible MP3 player in the phone with its limited capability and lousy music store. And neither do I have to miss calls because I didn't hear them or couldn't get the phone out in time.
Elton John has been quoted as saying that the Internet is destroying good music, and that “The internet has stopped people from going out and being with each other, creating stuff.
Instead they sit at home and make their own records, which is sometimes OK but it doesn’t bode well for long-term artistic vision... I do think it would be an incredible experiment to shut down the whole internet for five years and see what sort of art is produced over that span.
There’s too much technology available.
I’m sure, as far as music goes, it would be much more interesting than it is today.
I don’t have a mobile phone or an iPod or anything.
I am such a Luddite when it comes to making music. All I can do is write at the piano."
Why do these stars from the 70's seem to want to return to their so called simpler times? David Hockney was sounding just as out of touch recently. Its not like the 70's were some kind of cultural heaven. In fact the thought of flared jeans and Disco makes me think the biggest value of the decade lay in its example of just how bad culture can get.
Of course Elton John did provide some of the highlights of the time, but music had had its big creative explosion in the 50's and 60's in a marvelous moment of coincidence of musical expression and new technology including the early computers. It was a time when the vibrancy of American black traditions became an acceptable place for white music to find a new voices and to interact. At the same time technology was allowing artists to explore in ways not possible before from the electric guitar to the jet airplane that took the Beatles to India and their discovery of Indian sounds. From the introduction of stereo to multi-track recording, from the Moog Synthesizer to the first video clips the 50's and 60's were a time when technology drove creative change at a tremendous rate.
Even black music could not avoid inevitable change. Just as fast as black music was infusing white music, it too was absorbing and adapting to the new world - the exchange was never one way.
So Elton John thinks there is too much technology available, that the technology is stopping artists from communicating, yet he seems to have forgotten the role technology took in creating the conditions for his own creative burst. Does he have some arbitrary point where the amount of technology was just right?
As a self confessed Luddite, Elton John claims to not have a mobile phone or even an iPod. That tends to indicate his use of the computer is probably fairly limited too. If he were to venture out there onto the Internet a little more, and explore some of the newer creative music programs now available he might discover that communication and creativity are central to this new digital age.
Back in Elton's youth it is true that artists had to go seek each other physically, often in seedy clubs and warm pubs. His theory seems to presume that somehow this is an intrinsically more enriching and creative process than interacting via the Internet. What he seems to have forgotten is that so much of these old time interactions were superficial and meaningless, and always suffered from the problem that there was a limit to how many possible contacts could be made in any given location. Some places, like Elton's London were rich lodes of talent, but even there there was always the divide between there and other creative centers like New York. Nobody could be every where at once.
The Internet has changed all that. Now an artist in London can creatively interact with one in Sydney, or anywhere else that is online. Sure much of that which is on the Internet is superficial and meaningless, but here and there (just like in the old days) there are special places of creativity and interesting things. And the best of these places are very productive indeed.
One of the best things is how the Internet has allowed Indie artists to find an audience and sell directly to a global public that is switched on to the new ways of discovering talent. Or to discover the myriad different worlds of musical taste that the Internet allows to flourish because we are no longer restricted to only that mainstream which the record companies decide to serve up to us.
Of course much of it is unrecognizable to old timers. I wonder if Elton has ever been on an Oekaki web site where artists collaborate on new artworks in sites that are user interactive. This is something new in the visual arts, I wonder if something similar is bubbling up somewhere in music, I would be surprised if it wasn't.
Elton John is a wonderful musician, and I am grateful for the beautiful ways that he has enriched my life with his music. He is, however, in danger of sounding like an old timer who just can't understand the music from the young folk. It happens in every generation it seems, old people discovering that the world is different, and somehow not as rich and beautiful as it was when the person was young.
It is a matter of perception, and sadly, the young also exhibit a related trait when they reject older music as being boring and out of touch. I cannot agree with Elton John about experimenting with closing the Internet. While it seems that he doesn't need it to make his art, too much of what is good now exists purely due to the digital interchange of ideas. Whether it is P J Harvey's Down By The Water, or the Dreamcatcher's remix of Straight To Number One (to mention a couple of my personal favorites) there is so much in music that is living proof that music is benefiting from creative highs that are very much in evidence right around the world and being made by the very people that Elton John paradoxically says just "sit at home and make their own records".
In Forbes Street SCEGGS (which is a private girls school) has a new arts/music building next to old St Peters Church. Sometimes when I walk by I see the girls through the window, instuments in hand hard at work making music. Little do they know that on that very spot many years ago a mad artist made music in a very unusual way. His name was Peter and I often wonder what he is doing these days and where he went.
Back in the 1970's a little old brick terrace house stood where the SCEGGS music room is now, and it was in a state of continual re-invention by Peter. He had removed the floors so that walking in off the street it was a cavernous 2 story space with just the outside walls left and from the street one had to step down to the bedrock which once was under the house, but, by then, was his floor.
Leaning against the wall to the left as you entered there was the steel strings from the interior of a piano. These Peter would play with the back of a spoon. I still remember the sound that made. It felt like being in a magic garden full of wondous things to be at his place.
The exterior of the house was Peter's artwork. He continually painted it. One day it would be spaceships in the sky, then a forest would appear. All the windows had been removed and replaced with objects like a car windscreen. It was colorful and marvellous and I loved seeing it, but now it only exists as fragments in my memory.
So whenever I walk past that part of the street and see the girls making their music in their brand new building with their well dressed teacher I cannot help but contrast the sight with that zany music I heard all those years ago and the mad artist who was making it, and wonder, whatever happened to Peter?
Tonight the model played Bach on the viola. Everyone had to feel the music and transpose the musical rhythms into visual rhythms. A beautiful poetic night of drawing. I recorded a little of the music with my mobile phone.
Click the player to hear the music as people were drawing. The recording is not perfect, but it does capture the magic of what was happening wonderfully well. The recording is 4 minutes and 35 seconds long.
When travelling from place to place I variously use my iPod or mobile phone. On the iPod I listen mostly to podcasts and audiobooks. When I only have the phone with me I will watch TV news, or play a game if on a train. Walking, I will listen to fm radio or my recorded music.
Tonight walking up William Street I was listening to a mix that had favorites from the 60's to recent. As I walked The Hollies singing "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" came on. Every time I hear that piece of music it instantly transports me back to a certain bit of road in North Queensland many years ago. I was hitch hiking, going to the Zen Colony down Sluice Creek Road. The cars were few that day and I had been walking for a few miles. The air was warm and clear, the grass an emerald green, the rainforest rich and dark. The smell of things growing was thick like honey in my nose. It was a long straight strip of bitumen grey and warm that showed the tired cracks of thousands of wheels since it had been laid back in the War. It was a long storyboard stretched out before the dirt road that lay ahead. To my left was a farm that my father used to own. By then he was a thousand miles away, but I could feel my family presence still in things like the fence I once helped fix, the paddock where I dug the ground. A gate that I could then, and still do, remember driving the tractor through, and the old black dog who was on the other side. There were the places I escaped to for a quiet time of thinking, and looking deep into the sky. The places where my imagination could turn a country loneliness into a fantasy land of my choosing. This was land that was in my soul, and a little of my soul was in the land.
I always return to that piece of road when I hear that song. It's not that I could physically hear it at the time, but it was playing in my head. The problem with having near perfect recall for such moments is that it fills the head with so much stuff. It can be hard to get to sleep unless I totally exhaust myself, because there are so many experiences that flood my mind constantly. That day back then was no exception. I only heard that song once before that beautiful day yet I could play it in my head with perfect fidelity, and so as I walked I played the song on my internal MP3 player, and liked it so much I played it a second time. By playing it twice I burned it into the brain so much that I often rewalk that mile or two of road from that idyllic morning so long ago.
This evening, as the cars of William Street whizzed past me they became cows in the field, the cold of winter drizzle became tropical warmth and the buildings became dark green rainforested mountains, and along that country mile as I walked, The Hollies started to sing... again.
Reg Mombassa was in the exhibition, and together with the rest of the band, Dog Trumpet played at the opening of the exhibition at the new Mission space in Chippendale last night. I first heard Mental As Anything playing at the Unicorn in Paddington when they first started. I also used to see them at the Civic or somewhere like that, but mostly at the Unicorn. They were fabulous, then they became famous. Reg and his brother were central to the Mentals and they are central to Dog Trumpet. They looked like they were having lots of fun. Tonight they did a wonderful rendition of a Marlena Dietrich song that I love and lots more beautiful music. I felt honored to be able to take some shots. Here they are.