I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Solo Improvisation - 30.9.12

This is Joel playing to a tiny video recorder when the house was otherwise empty this afternoon. This is how he is getting through the rigours of his VCE year. He sometimes struggles to balance the need to practise and play so he can do good auditions for music degrees at the end of the year, with the need to study and revise for his upcoming final exams.

My mother and I watched this together tonight — my parents came up and drove me to a church in North Balwyn where I talked about the history of emotions project to their Sunday evening group — and Mum asked him if he was happy when he played. "Oh yes," he said in a heartfelt manner. Apart from the performer's anxieties and frustrations with wanting to do better. Still, I do think that fifteen minutes of utterly improvised and passionate music is no small feat at age 17.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Evolutionary Music

Sometimes, and especially after dinner in the evenings, Joel will mooch towards the piano and start to play. At this end of the day it will usually be free improvisation. He will simply start to play, sometimes after a moment's thought; sometimes immediately.

Tonight, as the kettle boiled for tea, he produced three minutes of accelerating, deepening, bubbling, rippling sounds, ending abruptly with a "click" as the water boiled.

But then, having made the tea, as his parents stretched out on the couch and a comfy chair, a new magic began.

Over a complex rhythmic bass pattern, the variations in the right hand began, overlapping and layering with the richest sounds. The lid was open and the sound filled the room. Waves and waves of echoing, woody piano patterns emerged, lit up by occasional moments of dissonance against the resonance and harmonic patterning. The rhythms were sharp and powerful; the melodies sweet and lyrical.

We are watching David Attenborough's Life on Earth (two weeks ago he'd improvised around the theme music), and had just watched the episode in which the Australian marsupials starred: all those tiny blind creatures crawling toward the pouch. I could not help but contrast the complex life-form before me: full of teenage anxiety, conflict and doubt (someone he knows, of his age, has recently died after enduring depression), yet producing this confident, emotional music. I'd look over and see his head bent down, Keith Jarrett style, as he rocked and swayed into the music. I'd catch his father's eye, and we'd raise our eyebrows together in mutual wonder.

When he'd finished (my tea was almost cold before I drank it), he spoke about the music, how he was experimenting in the right hand with melodies oriented around a semitone higher than the dominant key in the bass; how he was thinking about Attenborough's world: the earth as planet and as eco-system, with all its life forms.

I have a hundred mundane tasks to complete, but don't know where to begin with any of them.