Music is all about us. It is a mood altering substance of infinite beauty, variety and challenge.
I grew up learning classical piano from a passionate, eccentric, somewhat intimidating wild haired former Russian princess who had a son famous for living Tarzan like in the jungles of Papua New Guinea and Northern Queensland. From suburban Sydney in the late 1960s I found this impossibly exotic and compelling.
I still have those pieces of music, mostly Russian composers such as Shostakovich and Kabalevsky scrawled with Mrs Fomenko’s distinctive handwriting…slender lead pencil for everyday instruction and thick red for when I hadn’t practiced enough or was playing at my usual speed of one hurtle up from breakneck.
During a particularly memorable lesson, the neighbour in an adjoining flat started banging on the wall. This infuriated Mrs Fomenko who sent outraged forte chords crashing up and down the length of the keyboard. Like an operatic duet, there was answering banging from the other side of the wall at which point Mrs Fomenko got up, grabbed a plate and threw it. It’s shattered fragments fell onto the floor. Mrs Fomenko cried out then sat down calmly beside me and resumed the lesson.
I was probably about eight or nine and a little scared but mostly thrilled. Every music student should have a teacher like Mrs Fomenko.
In the decades since, there has been much music, but still there was still lots I had never experienced live. I added this to my list and here’s what came my way.
Early in the year I ran into a woman I used to work with. She told me her son was in a band called Justice for the Damned. She told me it played hardcore music. As dedicated mum, she helped with transport and other roady stuff for gigs. There was one coming up..did I want to go?
Of course I did.
So that’s how I found myself out at Sutherland in the south west of Sydney, at Bubafest, a gig of hard core bands for under 18s. It was in an area I didn’t know very well and it was fairly dark by the time I got there. I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place but I parked the car and took a punt, walking through to where I thought it should be.
The sight of clusters of teenagers hanging around out front, the throb of music and a couple of police vans encouraged me to continue. I thought I might not make it through the security check..no weapons or drugs but suspiciously out of demographic. I got through and settled in.
The music roared. The floor was thick with bodies and beams of light flashed across to the beat.
I had a great night!!
I missed getting some shots of the band but I did get this T-shirt…fabulous and even with the year on it. A unique memento of the experience and the generosity of including me in it.
I hope I can get it on over my head if I make it to 100.
My first experience of rockabilly live, was at the Kurri Kurri Nostalgia Festival. Over the weekend there was much music to enjoy. Regular sets on the main stage in the Park, buskers on the town streets and bands at local venues in the evening. It was at one of these evening shows that I had my night of rockabilly.
On the main stage area in the park, anyone could get up and dance. Kids and adults flung themselves about for the sheer fun of it. I especially loved this couple in the purple. The perfect combination of elegance and exuberance. The man had set his hat down, knowing, no doubt from past experience, that it had no chance of surviving the energy of their dancing.
As they twirled joyously I found myself grinning from ear to ear.
Oud and riq
Here is an ood
Here is another oud
So far as I can make out they are separated by a single vowel rather than by pronunciation. The form of the first has even been fashioned onto cupcakes. To my knowledge, the second has not.
They are both instruments of music.
The first ood was imagined by Dr Who writer/producer Stephen Moffat. When they first appear they are in ‘service’ . Unsurprisingly It turns out that this ‘service’ is dictated by greed and maintained by convenient ignorance, paternalism and, when threatened, swift and merciless brutality. The ood endure a bleak half-life until their communal song is restored and they are able to ‘sing’ their release.
The second oud is an instrument with middle eastern origins. I had my first experience of this oud live at a performance in a local hall where the talented Joseph Tawadros accompanied by his brother James on the riq (a middle eastern tambourine like instrument) sent by turns heart breaking notes keening into the night and intense energetic sequences pulsing in my head and chest.
Tucked into the back of my mind for a few years had been the Adelaide Cabaret Festival. This seemed the perfect chance to have the live cabaret experience. I fiddled the travel plans to at least have a dip into the Festival before we boarded the Ghan.
From our dimly lit small table shared with congenial new acquaintances we were fortunate to see Ali McGregor. She could certainly do sultry and languid but was also vibrant, charming and witty with a strong warm sound. It was a treat and whet my appetite for another visit to Adelaide for the full Festival experience.
Unaccompanied folk music on train
Perhaps a narrow genre (actually just made up by me!), but an utterly unplanned live music experience that took me by surprise in many ways.
Strangers on a train.
A few glasses of red wine.
Easy conversation which found its way inevitably to music. It was pitch dark outside and we were ensconced in the cosy bubble of the lounge car with the percussive rhythm of the Ghan tracking across the desert.
He sang me a song.
The simplicity of the folk tune with only the music of words was perfect.