Listening to music – food for the ears.

Baby says, if ever you see skin as fair, Or eyes as deep and as black as mine, I know you’re lying

One assessment down. Eight to go. I think. Maybe I left something out when I counted…

I thought I’d post a photo from one of the longest and happiest days of my life (San Francisco, November 9th 2010), seeing as I’m trying to be optimistic about everything at the moment.

In the next month I will become so sleep deprived, stressed out and high strung that ferry rides will be my bedtime and my fingers will bleed. Welcome to assessment month hell at jazz school – a.k.a. the last month of semester. My face will start breaking out in pimples, emulating aethestically what will be the chaos of my life. Generally, I never ever get pimples, except when I am SUPER stressed out. I don’t mean to brag (I count myself lucky and thank my mother’s genes, to be honest), but I have such nice skin that one pimple is a cataclysmic event, let alone during assessment time when I get up to three. This is too much gross detail, but with me, pimples generally never form or “ripen”, as some people like to call it. They just stay under the surface and hurt like a bitch.

Basically, life is extremely stressful at the moment, and I really really need to step it up and average out my general performance standards at a higher level. It’s so ironic in many ways that I’ve stopped caring about my grades since I got to university. I used to be the sort of person that will get B’s for not trying, and A’s for pretending to give a shit, or the classes that I enjoy, and that was perfectly fine with me. More than fine, it was bloody swell. I always felt like I always got at least 10% more than I deserved, considering I had never done any actual “studying” in my life, to be perfectly honest. But jazz school is a completely different ball game. It’s not academic in any such way, so none of this being “naturally bright” business bullshit comes into play. To a large extent, it is down to commitment, and time spent, but really, it’s about a whole lot of heart.

I finally received my feedback for the jazz combo recital from the end of last term, and the identical raw mark from both assessors on the panel that night had no bearing on my feelings at all. However, I was thoroughly pleased with the fact that their comments precisely reflected my thoughts on how I played that night. The things they thought I did well, and the things they pointed out that needs improvement were all in agreement with how I felt, so that’s really the biggest thing for me. I no longer care about the ABC’s and care mostly about my growth not just as a musician, but as a person. I mean, for gods sake I got something below a B for the first time in my life when I got to university! Nerves, freezing up and mind blanking have been some of my top enemies, and it all comes down to confidence, so I’m trying to work on that.

It’s funny thinking back on all the employers I’ve spoken to in the past who have said that they would happily employ a music graduate for a non music-related job. I remember most distinctly a barrister I had met, with whom I was discussing how I had gone about the most painful decision of my life – choosing jazz school over law school. After chatting for a good half hour, he told me that he thought I would have made an excellent lawyer had I chosen to pursue it; but also that he can see why I didn’t, and the fact that I hold the possibilities of so much more. And I think it’s this obsession with there is something more, there’s got to be more to life, there’s got to be more to me, more to be discovered, more to be devoured, more to be enjoyed, more to be read, seen, photographed, written, learnt, heard, felt, touched, loved – MORE! that ultimately drives me in the supposedly “unconventional” and “creative” realms that I enjoy so much to delve in. I don’t think it’s enough for me to simply aim for a decent paying job, end up with a nice husband, bright children and then repeat the cycle. No. Yes, I want all that, but I also want so much MORE. Having said that, it is terribly hard for me to let go of the “black-clad powerhouse woman of a lawyer with a disposable income, too little time and the world at her fingertips”-type image that I’d spent a large majority of the past decade aiming for. But also having said that, at the same time, I also harboured dreams of being a performer. I still haven’t figured out quite yet the precise sort of perfomer I’d like to be, but I think that there is merit in all forms. And in a larger, more abstract sense of the word, I also don’t think that you have to be physically doing something like playing music, dancing or acting to be “performing” – I like to think that there are such things as literary performances, which is the accumulation of those dashing, inspired moments transcribed into text on paper, rather than in the form of something you sit down to watch or listen to… which ultimately is what a musical/theatrical/dance performace also is: an “accumulation of those dashing, inspired moments”, except executed in a single setting, so to speak.

Anyway, before I ran off on a tangent, the point I was leading to about employers was the list of “qualities” that music graduates supposedly have, or will have achieved. These include all sorts of cheesy, typical-sounding adjectives which you can think of. And I admit, I’d always thought it a little over-repeated for the sake of encouraging young people to pursue a wide range of Bachelor degrees other than the “normal”, “conventional” or “money making” ones that usually come to mind; but funnily enough, these days I think I’m really starting to “get it”. I’m suffering such a bad case of low motivation and general difficulty with “getting on with it”, and I think that’s because in many ways, this music degree is actually indirectly designed to make me a better person – and that is what I’m struggling with. It’s not the actual coursework that I’m struggling with as such (although yes, it’s intense, and yes it’s difficult), but what it takes to do well in this course. You have to be so internally motivated, fight through intellectual, creative, physical and personal barriers just to get through your workload, let alone get good at it. It’s much easier for me to curl up in bed with a text book to cram for a test with, than it is for me to want to stand for hours on end and play until my blistering fingertips really can’t handle anymore bass playing. You have to want to and then make yourself go the extra mile all the time. Also, seeing as I’m self-professed not very obsessed with jazz – yes, I love it, but sometimes I just can’t conjure up the mental capacity for it, even to listen to it – it’s doubly hard for me to want to sit back, and spend hours listening to jazz recordings. By that, I don’t mean put it on and chill out, but I mean to sit there and fully pay attention to it. Over and over. Listening to all the different parts. Not just the chords, but the chord voicings, then the voicings over the particular note choices in the bass line, and the voicings used by another chordal instrument, what the soloist is playing, how they’re playing, their rhythm, time, placement, note choices, chords they outline, chords they imply, time they imply, feel, the groove of the swing… Oh by now my head just wants to burst!

My so-last-minute-I-should-get-shot transcription assessment went well today. Transcribed 64 bars of Hank Mobley’s solo on Someday My Prince Will Come and had to perform to the recording. Apparently my written transcription was pretty accurate, which surprised me. It was so hard to write out something when he plays so darn behind the beat.

Here’s a super lovely track by an amazingly sweet and talent vocalise, Rosa Passos with the legendary Ron Carter:

So much for make believe, I’m not sold. So much for dreams we see, I’m not prepared to know

I just got home from CJC featuring James Ryan (Aus) down at 1885 in Britomart. It was a nice evening of jazz featuring Ron on drums, which always reminds me to appreciate what amazing musicians we’re being taught by at jazz school. I didn’t take many photos as I was mostly preoccupied with listening, and I also had a very corner seat which meant the angle wasn’t great either. Asides from James Ryan’s amazing tone and just lines, lines and more lines, I mostly couldn’t get over the facial expressions that Tom made whilst playing bass. We all know that drummers pull some pretty interesting faces, but woah, Tom’s taken the cake of anything I’d ever seen. That, and the fact that he is the only bass player I know (other than a shorter female) who has their spike lower than me. Although he’s only around my height anyway, the (lack of) height of his bass in relation to him really puzzled me. Perhaps it’s because he mostly plays bent right over…

Usually I really hate having incohesive blog entries that just fly left right and centre, but the following cannot wait for the next post! Yesterday I drove out to the Just Hockey store and  bought all the gear I’ve been needing to replace for a while. It completely emptied out my bank account, but my had kindly offered some support, plus seeing as it’s my birthday soon, we can bank it on that.

I am so in love with my hockey stick. For once I am really really really excited about going to training tomorrow just so I can try it out. I’ve been having forehand hitting problems with my previous stick for as long as I have had it (since 2008!), so it’s been such a relief to get a stick that has a decently balanced weight that will put a lot more power and accuracy on my forehand hit. Don’t get me wrong, I loved my old stick at the time of purchase, but I’ve really grown out of the feel of it – its good feel for reverse hitting just wasn’t making up for the lack of power that I need on my forehand. So here we have its successor, a Malik Gaucho. I’ve been wanting a Malik stick ever since I started playing hockey, because I had tried an international student’s Malik stick and fell in love with it. Unfortunately, New Zealand didn’t stock them for ages so I’ve only managed to buy one now. It was a close call between this, and the 2010 Gryphy Taboo Magnum. Which to some people may appear to be a better stick on paper, cos its original price was a hundred dollars more, but they really felt pretty similar in my hands. Now I just need to name this Malik stick…

I also had to get new turf shoes because my old ones have a large gaping hole in each foot, and always left my feet wet. I reasoned out having bought all this at once because the petrol and effort involved with getting out to the Just Hockey store again simply for shoes was out of the question. On top of that, I spent two hours ripping off my old shinguard lining so I could now use new ones. Phwroar.

Here’s something I wrote the other night:

Chances are found
In the alleyways of life
A little dark
A little scary
and you caught me,

Romances are lost
In the altered scales of life
A distant remark
A false guarantee
and you caught me,

/// /// /// // // /// ///////

Your hand in a tired curl
I hate when it loosens
As you disappear
As I stare
And I stare

(While you disappear)


The dashboard melted but we still have the radio. Oh, we talked about nothing which was more than I wanted you to know

I’m not sure what exactly inspired me to do this, but here is the –

M for March Playlist:

1. Wasted Time – The Morning Benders
This is a link to a live show, I couldn’t find an album version streaming online, so the quality is off but do get their album to hear it.
I don’t know why, but I wanted to open and end this playlist with this band these two songs seem to reflect a nice change of heart.

2. Shadows – Midnight Juggernauts
An Aussie band, nice bass hooks, the sort of thing I can imagine dancing to at a bar.

3. Asleep at a Party – Memory Cassette
The sort of song that evokes a lot more thought than you’d expect it to…

4. On Dancefloors – Metronomy
My favourite Metronomy song. I love how the song sounds like it’s swirling in circles, and the line “all those evenings, spent disappointed on dancefloors” makes me almost want to cry. But I feel like Metronomy does those lyrics justice by evoking such a sad, bittersweet sound and that’s why it’s my favourite track by them.

5. No One Will Ever Love You – The Magnetic Fields
Oldie, but a goodie.

6. When You Sleep – My Bloody Valentine
From one of my favourite albums ever.

7. Tourniquet – Marilyn Manson
I’m a sucker for guitar bends when done correctly…

8. Opium of the People – The Mint Chicks
Not a Youtube link, but nonetheless takes you to their video.
Probably a largely forgotten Mint Chicks song (by now), that I still love love love.

9. Dashboard – Modest Mouse
I know this is one of their biggest songs, but that’s because it’s so damn good. The title of this post is from this track, and so is my friend’s tumblr title, haha. I just love the clean guitar chkchkchk sound over the bass line. Oh oh oh.

10. The Youth – MGMT
After seeing MGMT live, this song has been further cemented as one of my favourite MGMT songs. The haunting whisper-like quality of this song with the typical MGMT-fantasy-sounding effects over the top, ahh.

11. Always Mine – The Morning After Girls
When I was about 13 or 14 I had a huge obsession with this band, their psychedelic-ish guitar twangs and raspy vocals, with the odd song that had some good ol’ rock n roll screaming in it. This is one of those songs from the middle of the album that often gets neglected, but now I remember how much I enjoyed this as the one of the little peaks in the album, in between all the lulls.

12. Tape Loop – Morcheeba
Why couldn’t music on MTV these days (what music?! I know…) be this good again? I love guitar with a bit of good ol’ wah-wah. And even though the bass and drums are playing really simple things, the whole thing is just really nice and tight, and grooves. Damn it’s hard to groove with some drummers, even if you’re perfectly in time. It often just doesn’t fucking groove.

13. Angel – Massive Attack
This is probably really biased as usual, but I really enjoy when bands use the bass as a means of achieving a brooding buildup, and this is precisely what this song has.

14. Porcelain – Moby
I don’t know why but for years I have been under the false impression that Moby was British, not American. Oops. But anyway, I’m sure that for many people besides myself, Moby’s “Play” album reminds them of 1999 going into 2000.

15. Cheated Hearts Could Be Beautiful – Metronomy Remix (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
In its original state, “Cheated Hearts ” is one of my favourite Yeah Yeah Yeahs songs, but obviously this is an M-playlist so here I’ve got the Metronomy remix. It took me longer than I thought to really enjoy this track, but I guess that’s what happens when a band you like goes and fucks with the songs by one of your all time favourite bands and you go, ooh errr ummm for a bit there. In the end though, just like how I really like “On Dancefloors” (as above), I love the sad sound of this mix, which almost has a sweet tinge to the edge of it – like the inverse of a salt-rimmed cocktail glass.

16. When We’re Apart – The Morning Benders
Just another sweet-nothings sort of song…

…which is the perfect segue into photos from a sweet-nothings sort of evening. Le petit ami et moi didn’t manage to find any suitable mens boots for him, so instead we indulged in “Fruit Flo”s and purchased a book each for our brains to gorge on.  We also spent far too long trying on Ray Bans and now my years of suppressed desire for either a pair of Wayfarers or Aviators has been reignited. Uh oh.

Butter chicken and beer.

Usage & Abusage. See, he was going to buy my book and then I was interested in buying his. We ended up buying a different one each, but damn I want “Usage & Abusage” because we’d been using it all last night, looking up the “correct” way to use the words and phrases that are often misused.

An expedition to the kitchen for beer resulted in me taking photos of what his phone’s light looks like through ale in my pitch-black kitchen.

Which kind of just looks like light coke or something, especially because we were using coke glasses.

Just the pale ale
of experience
Takes away the crooked edge.
But only when empty.
Like a sharp migraine,
you get to me.

In the secrecy of your room
Words untold and
Theories unrepeated.
Weave me
through your
shirt again.

And if, scold is the new chide
Then happily behind
those shades we hide.
For even when shuttered twice,
I fear it’s too dark,
The film of our love is
still underexposed.

(Written in the most rapid-fire fashion ever, I spastically scribbled, crossed out and scribbled as the boy looked on in confusion before finally relaxing into the song he’d put on which set off this… spark.)

Comfort zones & mislaid harmonies.


But I’ve been waiting too long to give this up. The more I see I understand… But sometimes I still need you

I’m surprised that I’m not hallucinating by now, because I’ve had very little sleep all week, and only had 3.5 hours of sleep last night. It’s a bit stupid that I stayed up so late working on my transcription test which was at noon, but I had spent most of yesterday with my ring finger in a mug of cold water since I accidentally got a burn blister from cooking (a tiny fragment of an eggshell!!! who knew those things got so hot so fast?!). It was made more difficult by the fact that I had to change all my fingering for slides and triplets and all a bunch of crap, as well as trying to play up to speed in the first place. Argh.

That said, I know it sounds even more retarded that I’m not in bed asleep already – and trust me, I dreamed of doing so, all day, but I have so much stuff on my mind that it just doesn’t want to rest. I just sat for an hour in bed writing a reply letter to one of my best friends abroad instead. See, that’s the funny thing about people being abroad – they will eventually come back. Even if it’s just for a short visit. There are two instances where this very subject is gnawing away at my mind right now: the former, being very close friends (see below), whom I wish would be back for longer so I could spend some decent quality time with; and the latter, being someone who I perhaps might not know well (or at all), who I dread having to come across one day.

The problem with having a blog that is read by people I know offline is that most of the time, I can’t just say things straight up. I sometimes miss the anonymity of when my blog was little more than chunks of (mostly neglected and unread) text that I could say anything and everything in. The upside was that I didn’t have to censor much. But the obvious downside was that I hardly had any readers and so rarely got the thought-provoking sort of response that I was looking for anyway. Ahh, forever a blogger’s dilemma.

For now, this was my evening. My friend Raymond held a musical soirée at the iconic Sly’s Pianos in Newmarket, as he was passing through on his way to Wellington for some work with the NZSO. All I can really say is that listening to him made me really miss the feel of playing classical piano. The very particular texture and timbre that such black and white keys deliver is completely incomparable to the raw and rugged experience which a bass brings… especially that of an upright. My fingertips feel like they’re on fire – to which, of course, my bass teacher shows his approval of the fact that I’m playing more and more. They hurt so much that it felt like I was inducing yet another burn blister when I ate fries at the bar with my hands earlier.

I’m always humbled by how amazing all my friends are. Truly.

Later, at Mac’s Brewbar on Nuffield Street. I love the decor in this place.

I swear I didn’t “conveniently” not have any money with me.

His & Hers: Mac’s Black & Great White beer. Previously, Sassy Red & Hops Rocker.

What their beer menu looked like. I have no idea how the quality of these two photos are so… shoddy. Oh welllll.

I can’t wait until Easter break, because I’d really like to catch up with my old piano teacher. We had meant to get together over summer, but that never got organised in the end. But better late than never! I really miss all our late-night piano lessons filled with laughter, musical revelations and anecdotes. I think anecdotes are possibly every teacher’s best friend.

The youth is starting to change, Are you starting to change? Are you? Together

Instead of adhering to the tradition of drinking at a pub on St. Patrick’s Day, I went and saw MGMT. In fact, I think it’s stupid that such a large portion of this country’s population makes St. Patty’s Day such a huge deal and an excuse to all go out and get drunk. Especially those that are nowhere near Irish. Why?! Why do they need the excuse? We all know everyone does it anyway, so why bother with the excuse, why the hype? It’s annoying on an annual basis. If you really wanted to go out and drink, wouldn’t you just do it anyway?

I must say, I feel so disabled without a press pass and the ability to take my dslr with me.

These were taken on our new point and shoot – the Canon IXUS 300 HS. It’s a cute little thing, but just so darn frustrating not having complete control over what I was doing, especially with the focus and all, grrrr. However, I’m actually really impressed with the quality – especially sound quality! – of the videos that I took. Unfortunately, I’m really really low on bandwidth so can’t upload any yet.

So here are the below-my-usual-standard photos, and now I know what it feels like to be in the audience with a point-and-shoot like everybody else:

Something out of the ordinary happened to me earlier today: I felt a tinge of excitement for the MGMT concert.  I say that because I usually feel none or little sense of excitement for a concert or event, I guess largely because I don’t want to build up any huge expectations in anticipation. Just in case things don’t turn out the way I’d like. What a pessimist I am. I’ve been known to come off as blasé about these things, which has pissed people off, in the cases where I had a press pass.

See, that’s the thing about me… I can’t live with, and I can’t live without. With a press pass, the gig becomes a job. And with a job, comes responsibility. Although I love every moment and flash of stage lights of it, I simply cannot relax until I get home and see how the photos have turned out. Yet, doing so gives me such a great satisfation. Because the challenge posed by concert photography is just so enticing to me, the satisfaction is incomparable. It’s like scoring a goal in hockey or football (where scores tend to stay low), as opposed to scoring points in basketball (where there is constant progress on the scoreboard). Actually, often if not all of the time, I already know how good of a set of photos I’ve gotten, and how big the set is, before I’ve even gone home and looked at my photos. In the split second just as the shutter closes and releases, I  just know how the photo will turn out. I’m sure most other people also get this sensation, in whatever fields they are skilled and comfortable with.

But on the flip side, I thoroughly love going to a concert completely carefree. No bag, ever. Crammed right up centre front, best views, best squish, etc… which I’ve done several times even when I had a photographic assignment, but it’s just not quite the same. The downside to giving up concert photography is that – as I discovered tonight, since I can’t remember the last time, if ever, that I went to the Powerstation without a press pass – I spend the entire evening going “If only I had my camera right now…” and I would see all these amazing things and angles that I wish I could capture.

For me, it seems to be about the thrill of the chase.


The setting felt familiar, like revisiting
an Old Memory.
I tried my best to not cast any visions of
how I want the evening to turn
but somehow it feels like it’s
Happened all before anyway.
The Powerstation, with the projected buzz
and pixelated technicolour;
the stage format
the way VanWyngarden and Goldwasser stood,
sang and played
Reminded me of Avey Tare, Panda Bear and
Geologist. Those lads and the
Space in their music.

The space left in my pounding head and
racing mind full of…
something indescribeable, but such spacious
thought-provoking feelings.

Tonight, MGMT made me relive
a more youthful, worrisome and carefree
Time of my life.
and it’s funny, in all facets of the word
I feel exaxtly the same
and care about the same things
All over again.

“The youth is starting to change”.

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