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11.04.2012  

What I’m listening to this week:  A variety of songs that remind me of the great journey that awaits us, and our return back home…

Way back home, String Cheese Incident; American Girl, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers; Travelling Song, Passenger (feat. Gabrielle Huber & Cameron Potts); America, Simon & Garfunkel; On the Road Again, Willie Nelson.

Any suggestions for my mixed playlist?  I need a little variety – this playlist has to last me 6 weeks with many, many, many hours spent on trains, planes and in automobiles….

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10.09.2012

What I’m listening to this week:  Angus & Julia Stone, A Book Like This (2007).  Man, how I love this folksy brother/sister Australian duo.  Simple melodies, acoustic guitar, the occasional harmonica.  Right up my alley, especially for a sleepy morning. 

No favorites on this album, I love them all.  (Plus, they kinda all sound the same so its hard to pick favorites…)

09.17.2012

What I’m listening to this week:  Dave Matthews Band, Away from the World (2012).

Because no matter what my age, I always love DMB.  My first concert was at 13.  My most recent, 26.  And since Under the Table and Dreaming was my first CD, I maintain my love for DMB is most definitely not mainstream. 

But I digress.  The latest release has bits and pieces of a new sound (e.g., funky jazz rifts on the opening Broken Things), but all in all will be familiar to an old Dave fan.  There’s the sad and sweet poignancy of nothing more than Dave’s voice and a guitar on Sweet and Belly Full.  There’s the politically messaged Gaucho that should be a contender for Obama’s 2012 campaign song (an evolution from “Change you can believe in” to “we gotta do much more than believe if we really wanna change things…”, complete with an a capella bridge of children’s’ voices and references to American’s greatness in the 1960s in landing a man on the moon).  And then there’s Drunken Soldier, a perfect DMB jam from a perfect jam band.

03.09.2012

What I’m listening to this week: Flight of the Conchords, self-titled (2008).

un baguette, jacques cousteau, foux du fafa…

I’m starting a new series of posts, as a way to share my musical leanings:  what I’m listening to this week. I hope you will be reminded of some old favorites, find a few new and interesting tunes to check out and maybe share a little of what you’re listening to. 

I’ll aim to post every Monday, so here’s a back-dated one for this week.

20.08.2012

What I’m listening to this week:  Birdy, self-title album (2011).  Lots of piano, sweet and soulful female vocals and a sprinkling of unique covers.

Fav songs on the album:  1901; Shelter and Skinny Love.

Sometime mid-July, our impending departure from Melbourne became real.  We’ve known it was coming (for 2 years now); it was bound to happen. 

The catalyst?  I listed my piano for sale.

The listing made the move real for me.  It was the first tangible step in a series of step that will culminate in us packing up our lives, shipping off our pets, and finding ourselves, once again, starting over.

I bought the piano shortly after arriving in Melbourne, and it’s been a great friend through my time in Melbourne.  Those cold Saturday mornings in the dead of dreary winter, those hot Saturday afternoons in the summer with only a scant breeze, those fleeting minutes when I’ve missed the 8:59am tram and manage to fit in just one more song before I catch then next one…

I had honestly forgotten how important music was in my life. How some days (maybe all days?) there’s really nothing I’d rather be doing.

Having trained in classical piano as a child, my second life in music has been an inspiration to try something new – music for the sake of music.  No lessons, no performances, no parental overlord reminding me to practice (helpful as that was, really it was!).  I’ve come to terms with the fact I will never be able to play those Chopin nocturnes again like I used to at 17 (unless I quit my job and magically find 2+ hours per day to practice).   

But I’ve found new enjoyment in less technical and more soulful playing.  In my first life as a pianist, I played strictly by reading or memorizing sheet music; I have never had an ear for playing as they say.  Slowly but surely, I’ve  re-learned the basics of chords and scales and how to  improvise. I play when I want to play, and most days, there just aren’t enough minutes in the day. 

So it is with great pride that I hammered out my very first “arrangement” a few weeks ago: a version of “Stay with Me”, a 1960s ballad originally performed by Lorraine Ellison.  After buying the sheet music, I realized it was in the wrong key for what I wanted to (and could) sing.  So I painstakingly, over the course of an entire Saturday, I readjusted the chords and handwrote the melody on blank sheet music.  It was a song I longed to sing, and felt I had to master. 

It is a ballad dedicated to my 1901 G. Schwechten.

And just as I perfect my pièce de résistance, just as I’ve grown comfortable in the simple key changes that seemed so daunting to hammer out by ear, just as I learn to slip away from carefully dotted notes and go wherever my fingers and vocal chords want to take me, just as I grasp one last time at the ivories… I find they’re slipping away.  

So if you find yourself walking the streets in Richmond, you’ll probably hear the refrain… Stay with me, baby.  Please stay, with me baby… 

at least, for a few more weeks…

So I’m not sure how you spent your Saturday, but we spent ours didgeridoo shopping.  Yep, you heard it right.

We visited Bruce Rogers in Kangaroo Bend, VIC, out near the Yarra Valley, an amazing musician and craftsman who handmakes didges for a living and travels the world performing. Check out Bruce playing at the recent Melbourne Didgeridoo Festival.

It was literally one of the most interesting Saturdays we’ve had in Melbourne. Bruce was incredibly knowledgeable and willing to share with us, over the course of two hours, the history of the instrument, how it is constructed, and basic playing techniques. This incredible instrument not only sounds bad ass (when played correctly), but it has a 2,000 yo heritage and originally hails exclusively from the Northern Territory of Australia, where a particular species of termite devour the inner chambers of gum trees, leaving a hollowed-out chamber perfectly conducive to rhythmic vibrating breathing.

(as I type this, Steve just leaned over and said, “I want to be playing didgeridoo!”  Yep, you could say we’re hooked…)

Oh and by the way, in case you were wondering, when played incorrectly, the didgeridoo sounds like a massively amplified, messy fart.  So much so that when I bottomed out one (ok, ok, quite a few), the sweet two-year old daughter of another didge maker we visited with giggled uncontrollably.  It’s going to be a fun learning process….

I’m still working through the hundreds (literally over 1,000) pictures we took in NZ.  But to tide you over, a glimpse of what our week was like…

We did a lot of driving from Christchurch to Queenstown, which was accompanied by a lot of quality time with Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement. This one kinda became our theme song….

Since I first resolved to re-learn the piano, and brought my beautiful G Schwechten home as a first step to realizing that aim, I’ve had a hard time evaluating when to declare this particular resolution complete.

I briefly considered success to be achievement of my previous playing level. This goal was promptly abandoned when I flipped through the pages of my Chopin nocturnes and realized I could barely read the tightly packed stanzas, much less contort my early-onset-carpal-tunnel fingers into the right technical positions. Honestly, 9 months later at the “re-learning” effort and I am amazed that I was ever able to perform such a feat, which I chalk up to youthful zeal and a phenomenal and patient teacher.

I then considered, particularly given my remote location, recordation of a tune as evidence of my accomplishment. After all, concerts are a necessary part of any pupil’s repertoire and it would be the only way for the parents and grams back home to nostalgically reminisce of Sunday afternoons spent in the Andover public library.

I set out to record The Long Day is Over, both because my determination to re-learn piano was partially fueled by a desire to find an outlet for my passion for singing (other than shower karaoke) and I relate to this song on a particularly deep level. It is of the melodic romantic style my musical soul has always craved, and a particularly poignant commentary on my current lifestyle. But try as I did, and despite my sweet husband’s assertions that I play it as good as ol’ Nora, my perfectionism has not yet let the slight blemishes in my every attempt escape into the public domain.

At last, I have decided to judge this re-kindled passion of mine by the same token as my culinary leanings.  For the last few weekends, despite my zombie like state from 60+ hour work weeks, all I yearn to do on Saturday mornings is sit and play.  It looks at me longingly in the morning as I run for the tram, remembering mornings of a less stressful time when I would sit and play a few songs before catching the 9:15. I long back, waiting for the lazy, sunny afternoon when we can spend hours together remembering old melodies.

So, in my heart at least if not in my fingers, I declare, resolution complete!

(p.s. Jody, this post is for you and you are right, long overdue)

We just saw one of the most amazing shows I’ve ever seen.  Seriously, my face hurts from 1.5 hours of smiling with unabashed glee and child-like wonder.  Think hip hop meets cirque du soleil meets electronic-jazz-funk-guitar solo mashup meets fast-n-furious drumming meets the best beat boxer you could imagine.  Then you might have some idea…

If you’re in Melbourne, you MUST go to see the Tom Tom Crew.  One week left.  If you live in a major city worldwide, they travel and when they come to your city you MUST go.  And if you just can’t wait to see what I’m talking about, well there’s always youtube.