Playing/Practising/Perfoming music.

if this is the life, why does it feel so good to die today? blue to gray, grow up and blow away

Labour Weekend is supposed to be a weekend spent relaxing outdoors in the sun — especially since the weather has been amazing all weekend. Or at least studying for my law exams. But nope, I’ve done neither. Instead, I’ve been mucking around and practising for my recital, and then more mucking around.

I’m really freaking out but that’s boring to talk about. So, serious stuff aside, what the hell do I wear to my own recital?! I know that sounds like a really shallow and superficial “dilemma” to have, but it’s not as straightforward as it sounds, when you’re a bass player. Plus, no one wants to hear about how I am wanting to kill myself for having picked a(n awesome) tune which has three different time signatures (3, 4 and 7).

I can’t even look to the other girls at jazz school to see what to wear because they’re all either singers or pianists, so the level of movement that I require is completely different to theirs. Bass-playing is pretty physically engaging and stage lights elevate sweating to a whole new level. I have a really nice silk blouse that I would love to wear, but the long-sleeves mean that it’s absolutely out of the question. I also don’t have any pants that aren’t jeans or sportswear, so that’s also ruled out.

What about footwear?! My patent black leather shoes now have gaping holes at the front so that each shoe has its own “mouth”. And the last thing I want to feel besides nerves and sweaty palms would be pain in my feet, so definitely no heels. Plus I’m not a singer and it’s jazz school, not the classical department, so heels aren’t unspokenly-mandatory.

This sounds silly but I went as far as to put on the outfit I thought would be most comfortable and appropriate, only to discover that anything and everything feels uncomfortable when practising with the knowledge that your recital is less than 48 hours away. I’m getting all picky and indecisive about this because I really don’t like the idea of wearing something that doesn’t feel “me” — especially when I’ve gone out on a bit of a limb with some of my tune choices and arrangements. Everything is all quite Amanda-ish and with music it’s all about how you feel and interact in the moment, so how I feel in my damn clothes are important!

Urgh, break time is over. I’ve got to go finish these charts so they will be hot off the press for rehearsal tomorrow morning.

P.S. Metric announced a show for Auckland in December. I wished it was a few days later so that my sister could go with me. I don’t know anyone else that really likes them and at $60 a pop, it’s not the sort of thing you can ask someone to “just come along”. The boyfriend swore he’d never heard them and asked how I could “love them so much” if I hadn’t listened to them in years. I pointed out that he had heard them (although, yes, hearing is different from listening) but always asked me to skip the tracks when they came on in my driving playlist, soooo yeahhh. I was thinking today that besides Emily Haines’ voice and the occasional line of lyrics I wished I’d written, I can’t actually explain why I like Metric. I think they just hold a high sentimental value for me. If they’d toured here in 2007 I would probably be happy to throw down even more hard-earned cash for their show.

but you ain’t going nowhere, why you procrastinate girl

Taken at MoMA, New York City.

This is it — there are 12 days before my recital and 19 days before my first law exam. And then, perhaps by November 13th I will be able to con myself into relaxing and not constantly refreshing the “exam results” page.

I’ve been quite sick this week (had a fever on Monday night which carried into Tuesday) and I’m going to attempt my first full-day at uni tomorrow, but it will be Friday already. Words can’t even begin to describe how stressed out I am. I know I signed up for this workload so I’ve got to see it through, but my god — how did I ever think my mind and body are supposed to come of this intact?! I’m 99.999% sure that what I’m doing is unprecedented as I’m taking the maximum law workload along with probably the most important paper in my entire jazz degree (since it includes my recital).

Anyway, to brighten my hopes a little, here is a list of things that I look forward to doing in the fortnight right after it’s all over. In no particular order:

  1. Reading. I can’t wait to read. And read. And read. Recreationally. Without guilt as to what else Ishould be reading instead (i.e. law cases and textbooks). I will read in bed, on couches, in the sun, in the breeze, outside, inside, all night long until dawn — I will read!
  2. Play hockey. I’ve been skipping summer hockey games because I need to attend other people’s recitals, or be studying or practising. I can’t wait to show up to a summer hockey game not exhausted from my long day, and get to stay late after the game drinking beers with my team. I’ll probably throw in “go to the gym” and general “exercise” here too. They don’t really warrant new points.
  3. Writing. I have so many ideas that right now merely exist in some abbreviated, bullet-pointed form all over the place — in my phone, notebook, scattered on post-it notes, etc. I can already feel that I will be turning night and day around like I do every summer — reading and writing until dawn, then collapsing when the birds start chirping. It’s going to be amazing.
  4. Drinking beer. That’s right, drinking beer gets its own bullet point here. I fucking love beer and I can’t wait to grab a box of cold beer and be popping them open in the sun, at barbecues, whilst cooking dinner. My god… nothing beats the feeling of a cold, cold beer on a hot spring/summer’s day. I’ll be scouring for sales of all the yummy, hopsy beers, mmm.
  5. Beach. I don’t really care what kind of day at the beach it is at the moment, I just want to go to the beach. Be it to read a book, write some stuff, walk around, eat an ice block, drink a beer, read some more, tan, tan, tan, maybe even swim if it’s warm enough…
  6. Spend all day with my cat. Self-explanatory.
  7. Go to the art gallery again.
  8. Take a shitton of photos. I need to get my camera fixed ASAP.
  9. Remember that I love playing music and keep doing it. It’s not actually as much of a chore as I keep telling myself it feels like.
  10. Listen to music all day and all night long.
  11. Hang out with my friends and catch up with people.
  12. This doesn’t fit within the “fortnight” criteria but oh my god I cannot wait until my sister is home in December. It will have been over a year since I last saw her by then.
  13. Do other, spontaneous, miscellaneous, unexpected, stupid stuff. (Like suddenly leave without notice, maybe?)

the week, end

I wonder if any other couples have a sport-watching routine that would resemble what the boy and I do. We’ve been really sad to see the London Olympics come to an end, and since I stupidly deleted the last day of the Tour de France from mysky, we’ve been watching the Closing Ceremony as the backdrop of dinners and dish-washing. I was so impressed by Matt Bellamy’s vocal abilities that I’ve re-wound and watched the bit where he hits that amazing note and transitions from piano to guitar (why did he step away from the mic?! Argh, I hate that note being cut off like that!!) over and over and over again. And then we speculated as to whose decision it was for George Michael to debut a new song that nobody knew, when he could’ve easily done another crowd pleaser. And whose call was it to blind us all with Jessie J’s 3x horrendous nude bodysuits?! Oh yeah, and to have to sing repeatedly too. Many, many others would have been far more qualified and deserving of the honour of singing along side the remaining Queen members, say. Yikes. So, just as the Olympics have wrapped up, the boy’s soccer and my own hockey are just heading into the business end of the season. I was sad to have missed his two very impressive sounding goals yesterday, since our game times overlapped. And I’m sad to say that my team lost to an opponent who are technically not as good as us, but are proving to be our bogey team. We probably needed the extra motivation though. We’ve had a few decent wins in a row now, and we have the semi final in a couple of weeks’ time, so maybe we needed a decent wake up call. Also, Liverpool probably got a bloody decent wake up call last night. After a night of beer pong and chandeliers (both fantastic beer games, by the way), I dozed off during the game, but to be honest, there was hardly any desire to stay awake considering the shabby loss to West Brom. Embarrassing.

A few food recommendations, then I’m back to nursing some battle wounds and studying with the cat. This Glass Eye Creek Wild Meat Sauce is one of the greatest sauces I’ve ever had. Considering the fact that I’m not a sauce person at all (tomato sauce is about it, and only on average-tasting fries, no less), this is a big deal. They only sell them in selected supermarkets and I’m positive they don’t sell them overseas yet, but I’m definitely sending my sister in Malibu a bottle of this when I get around to it! (Am happy to take requests too) I haven’t done all that much with it yet, but I was introduced to it in the easiest, most amazing manner of consumption: well-toasted Vogels (amazing NZ bread), buttered, sauced, then topped with feta cheese. Too easy.

Oh by the way, I have to confess now that I am turning into one of those people that relies on their phone for photos. So they’re all sub-standard to me (especially of the beautiful restaurant below!!!), so I need to umm, you know, get back into a camera-carrying routine. Damn. Cos all of these were taken on my phone, shhh.

I also put a spot of that sauce in my burger (below). Which was also made in quick-and-easy manner, but tastes so sooo good! The boy and I have been improving with each burger we make, haha. The below features two sorts of lettuce only because it sort of had to be eaten… For the patty, all you need is some mince, mixed with pan-friend onions (maybe garlic), an egg, mustard seeds, salt and pepper, mould into the right size (press down the middle part to a slight welled shape so that it goes flat when cooked) and grill in a regular pan. Flip only once. Let the cheese melt on the cooked half once it’s been flipped. And compile on toasted buns with anything you like. I had an egg with this one. Butter, salad, mustard seeds, Glass Eye Creek Wild Meat Sauce and some ground black pepper.

Just a token chocolate shot. Brain food.

On Friday night we managed to get around to going to a Japanese restaurant which the boy had been planning on taking me for quite some time. It’s located in the oddest of neighbourhoods (next door to a Chinese takeaways), and I can’t say that the shop front looked all that promising – in fact it was rather blinding. But after we were lead through this…

… a sliding door opened to reveal some stairs leading down into a quasi-basement area that was very industrial-loft-looking with a high ceiling and the most amazing framed windows on one side, and a lovely wall that was entirely painted with cherry blossoms. The waiters and waitresses (and chefs) all spoke or were Japanese, so it definitely passed my standard of what they advertised as “authentic Japanese” should be. We had the most amazing, drawn out meal that consisted not only of our absolute favourites such as karaage chicken and tempura prawns, but we also had shabu shabu. Not to mention the three bottles of Japanese marble soda that I could not resist!

Photo of the beautiful iris flowers in my front yard. One of my favourite, favourite flowers.

And this is what winning beer pong looks, like, heck yeah! After some warming up, the boy and I made a killer team last night. I had to crack open some beers on the side in order to drink any haha. One more week of tests and such, then it’s study break. I miraculously did better at my combo recital last week, (the best public playing I’ve ever done so far, I think), so yay for improving. In the meantime, Jacam Manricks is back and we’ll be attending his show at jazz school on Tuesday night, but check him out online!

bring, bring the thunder and the loud, loud rain

Life’s changed a lot as of late. For one, I haven’t blogged for over a month, and believe it or not, at one stage in the holidays, I didn’t turn my computer on for over two weeks! That is not to say I haven’t been on the internet for all that time, but I just didn’t do all the things that I usually like to do online. I was too busy doing so many things, or, more realistically, I was too busy doing nothing. It felt great, to not have to do anything for a little while, for a change. But now semester has started,  and everything is already taking off at speeds I don’t dare dwell upon. I’ve got an even bigger workload this semester, doing five papers as well as virtually doing a sixth paper, but not for credit. My exam and recital results all went well enough (the boy would tell me off if I said they were average, because most people would consider them “good”, but they’re just okay to me), and I’ll have to work even harder this semester. By the time I finish my two undergrad (non-conjoint) degrees, I’ll have completed 840 points. A fact which sent people at jazz combo reeling today, considering they were discussing aaaalll the things they have to do for their conjoint degrees.

I have to wake up in less than five hours to try and stream myself into a tutorial, and then I have to board a ferry and do some serious bass practise before having hours and hours of class in a row, so I’ll try and keep this short. Just a summary of what I’ve been up to, through the lens of a generously gifted iphone which I’d gotten for my 21st birthday in May. I can’t believe it’s been two months already…

From left to right:

– Sunset views on my birthday + best birthday meal EVER: the manager came out to see who had ordered the 1kg t-bone steak, haha.
– One of many birthday cakes + beer and burger at jazz school for lunch. Best way to ease oneself into late rehearsals…

– A percussive instrument which you either shake or tie to your leg (I didn’t actually play this), but it’s made of some kind of bean shell + School of Music is beautiful but after three years of university I have finally had ONE class there this year!
– The hardest essay I’ve ever had to write… and it took the longest time, too – I’d pulled so many late/all nights only to have NOTHING written + view of the beach round the corner from the boy’s house.

– Birthday party decorations + lasagne at dinner with the boy and our parents.
– Phone cover + garlic and cheese bread for sister’s birthday dinner.

– Sister’s birthday dinner + hockey.
– Amazing post-game cheese + drinksss.

– The Grizzly teddy bear that has now been transformed into my sister’s driver cover (ref to below) + art gallery with the boy.
– Flakey + Aotea Square

– Waterfront with sister + Flakey not wanting Liv to go back to America.
– Flakey being adorable + Grizzly bear now in Malibu!

– Homemade burgers + belated birthday lunch Christine took me out to – amaaaazing (huge) scotch fillet, yuuuum.
– Beer! + playing Chandeliers – so so so much fun.

– Sushi train dinner with mum + Flakey whilst we watched the Tour de France.
– Sandwiches I mad for lunch yesterday + dreary cityscape
– Deliiiicious lasagne with Flakey + musical education

After this hopefully normal-blogging shall resume… And find me on instagram: pixxybug for a daily stream of adorable-catness, haha.

sweet relief calms me down. makes me drown, lost and found. neighbours complain, people they want us to fall down. but we won’t ever touch the ground cause we’re perfectly balanced, we’ll float around til no one is near. do you hear this sound?

There’s a widespread and very annoying myth which surrounds jazz – that it’s easy, because you “just play whatever you want”. To its credit, this myth makes some sense, in the fact that, alright, okay, technically we do “play whatever we want”, but by no means does that equate to musicians thoughtlessly churning out notes completely randomly. In fact, ironically, it’s kind of what we aim for – the ability to seemingly not think at all, in the improvising process – for it to just naturally, magically happen. Unfortunately, that’s not how reality works. To put things in perspective, I guess we’re taught the rules and how to make them work. Then it’s up to us to play within and then beyond these boundaries, but to an extent that is somehow… heck, to whatever extent one wants to, really. But put it this way, the art of playing “out” is complicated in the sense that you want it to sound “out”, but not like you can’t play “in”.

Having sort of established that context, the rest of what I want to say might make more sense. So I mentioned last week that on top of tests and assignments, I also had a recital. To be honest, It wasn’t anything that major, just a combo thing that we do twice a semester, so by my third year now, it just comes by like clockwork. But this particular one was especially important and symbolic to me, because of something that happened at rehearsal the week before it. See, the thing I’ve struggled most with, at jazz, is taking a solo. Most people love it, it’s why the play jazz after all. They want to take a solo in every single tune they play, and many people take long, long ones, and get lost and absorbed in the enjoyment and happiness of it. I’d never quite gotten there, to feeling like that… After a traumatic incident on stage back when I was around 16, I’d never been able to get over the “deer in headlights”, FREEZE, BLANK, PANIC! that just completely takes over me when I’m supposed to take a solo. Sure, it’s improved a lot since then, but in my head it’s still always been miserable. Which explains why jazz school has been the hardest thing I’ve made myself stick to, regardless of the fact that I seem miserable all the time – because I hate soloing. A lot of it comes down to confidence and just staying calm, I know, but it’s always been easier said than done. The PANIC! button has been the hardest to tame, because once the switch is flicked, nothing else seems to exist, and cognizant behaviour seems completely out of the question. I guess this is a very particular form of stage fright, in the sense that I’m perfectly okay with hopping on a stage, until I have to do the specific task of playing a solo.

Anyway, the thing that happened was, I had a musical epiphany of sorts. I had brought in a hard tune with tricky changes that I decided I wanted to try and solo over and every day when it crossed my mind, I’d scare myself shitless over it. It was at our last instructed combo rehearsal with Nathan Haines and I was intimidated out of my bloody mind, but for once in my life, it felt like it was a conscious decision – an available choice – to be able to say to myself “I’m not going to panic, fuck it, I’ll just see what happens”. And what actually happened? Well I have no bloody idea. That was the brilliance of it. It felt like an outer-body experience. I don’t know what I played or how I played it, it kind of just happened. Seemingly without any consciousness of what I was doing, and without any of the blind panic. It wasn’t miserable, and I’d almost enjoyed it, even. I went hope delighted and gushed at the boy about how bizarre and scary and wonderful and all sorts of adjectives about how it felt – but the problem was, that sort of thing isn’t to be replicated. I knew that to get through the combo recital I couldn’t just conjure up that “unconscious” playing, and I would have to actually tackle the issue of the PANIC some other way. So I made the pianist play the changes with me over and over and over again the afternoon before the recital (a bit late, I know), but I finally got comfortable and just left it to be.

I’m sad to say that it never ended up being half as enjoyable or lyrical as that afternoon spent in practise, because of an arrangement alteration we’d made which made the cue to my solo a logistic nightmare that actually came true. I’m annoyed at not having put my foot down and kept the original arrangement for it, but whatever, it’s okay. It just meant that the beginning of my solo was a state of confusion for the whole band as to which chords to play, but it turned out okay in the end. I ended up being thrown off and rushed somewhat, but I’ll live. The important thing to me now, is the fact that I feel it might actually be possible for me to one day thoroughly enjoy this business of doing a solo.

A surprising and interesting thing I’d discovered though, was that even though my bass teacher has been playing for lord knows how many decades – 5? more? – he said that the “unconscious” thing where it felt like a solo has just magically happened has only happened to him four or five times in his life. I said, oh, ha, great… so once every ten years then?

And on that note, here’s a nice photo of me that he’d taken at combo rehearsal last year. Who knew that Kevin Haines wasn’t just a bass master, but also took nice photos?

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