Blanket Statements

Abstract painting has always been something I avoided. Despite the exploratory tack I desperately like to take with music, being relatively untaught in the art-realm I tend to cautiously stick to the knee-deep waters of photo-realism, where I can judge how effective a painting is purely by how much it looks like the thing I am painting.

Nailed it.

The most exciting thing I found to draw in Bangalow… Nice place though.

The treacherous, murky currents further off-shore contain pretentious, vague beasts of prey, just waiting to pounce when an art student submits a blank canvas with the word “Future” written on it in sparkly glitter. I was going to say clear gelatine, but that might actually be profound, because in the ‘future’ while it is sitting in the garbage, a colony of ants will probably come along to eat the crystals and thus illuminate the word with their bodies… Apart from a woeful tale of artistic anguish and futility, the moral of the story here is that you can justify anything* with enough of an explanation.

*Indeed, I once told a concert audience that the piece I was playing; “Canteyodjaya” by Olivier Messiaen, was written when he was twelve years old and named after his pet axolotl. This is of course completely** untrue, not to mention utterly ludicrous, but, said with a straight face, it was met not with laughter, but with blank stares, approving nods and knowing smiles. Ironically, I later received one of my best gigs that day from a member of the audience who ‘liked the way I spoke (spake?).”

**probably and hopefully.

???

Axolotls can regrow vital organs, including parts of their brains.

But I digress.

Yes, I have taken my first steps into this notorious tide by taking up the palate knife rather than the brush and attempted a non-photo-realistic portrait. Due to the new lack of detail, and the often inadvertent, but welcome, special-effects of the palate knife medium, I am ashamed to say that instead of the usual 2-month effort, I completed this painting in 2 days; one session doing a rough background coat and the other the actual painting.

It is of Molly, the chocolate labrador, from Lake Cathie, on new years eve, with a blanket.

It is of Molly, the chocolate labrador, from Lake Cathie, on new years eve, with a blanket.

On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

Rant Warning. This is a rant. (It’s been a while)

“What fresh hell is this?”

That is my initial thought upon hearing any noise coming from outside.

You see, we have moved into what we thought was a nice and reasonably-priced apartment. During the inspection we saw a couple of cats and thought nothing of it (I’m very much a cat-person despite always owning dogs and indeed, the prospect of having a trio of someone’s pet cats around was actually an attractive feature), but within a few days of moving in the true colours came out: It’s not an apartment, but actually a crazy old man’s feral petting zoo.

Catacular

Connect the dots and it makes a fish.

Allow me to introduce our subject. He is old, senile, indecipherable (both from a poor grasp of English and the nonsensical fragments that do make it past that particular filter), and only ever wears pyjamas and a dressing gown. But, oh my, most significant of all is the delightful personality cocktail of extreme paranoia with a twist of contradictory ineptitude that combine to make a world outside my window one that defies any sort of logic.

You see we have a cat problem. Problem is an understatement. Usually it means someone’s pet coming at night and sitting on your lavender bushes. At a more intense level it signifies a small group of cats that consistently like to sit on your porch. To the most extreme degree I’ve found on the internet it’s a group of feral cats that are attracted to some kindly old widow feeding the kitties out of kindness until they breed into a veritable hoard. That’s the extent of the problem for which there are ready solutions.

Solutions like Molly, the slightly-cross eyed chocolate labrador puppy with a tendency to annoy sleeping cats.

Solutions like Molly, the slightly-cross eyed chocolate labrador puppy with a penchant for annoying sleeping cats.

Unfortunately, our situation is much worse: not only is there is a massive flock of somewhere between 25-30 individual, feral specimens residing in our back parking area, but we have the aforementioned Pyjama-Man standing on Sauron-like guard almost literally 24/7. From all evidence it appears when he and his wife are not either out on their balcony lobbing meat at the cats (and my car until I moved from my parking space to the street) or out there feeding them from a large bowl, they must simply withdraw to just behind the thin curtains and watch.

Nothing escapes their notice or suspicion and whenever someone walks into the territory it is only a short matter of time before he appears, suspiciously inspecting the path they took on the lookout for traps and reverting whatever changes were made (even cleaning the area) to their original cluttered state to provide disguised shelters for the cats. For instance my only effort so far to help the problem was to spray deterring eucalyptus oil along the fence. Sure enough, later that afternoon, he was out there with a hose (it’s mostly a concrete space) watering everything in sight and ranting loudly (though presumably he didn’t think I could hear him). Similar attempts (or perceived attempts) by other neighbours result in the search-and-destroy mission or an unending hosing down.

The situation is such that he has continuously been told not to feed the cats by his neighbours (though I avoid him), landlord and real estate, but his response to this is a confusing mix of pure denial, saying he’s only feeding one single cat he ‘owns,’ the phrase “this is the way it’s been done for 25 years”, or my favourite, resigned outrage at the fact that the ‘spirit of kindness’ is dead coupled with a sad, rant-filled token act of driving away the cats ‘for good.’ He has done this tirade twice in the past two months … Cats are still there. You see, like the humble shark, the PM is most active in his activities after dark, which is when one of these illogical aspects come to the fore. Like clockwork, our stealthy hero waits until the silent hour of 1am before going out for the main feeding sesh, but then proceeds to make all manner of cat-talk, clapping, splattering, bucket splashing and other assorted noises for a further hour. Even if I turn on all the house lights to indicate I’m still awake he still does not relent in his not-so-secret ritual.

Gosh he’s out there right now. And probably as you read this as well.

Now the cats themselves are not your typical strays, but are born and bred ferals; scared and defensive towards humans, not desexed (there have been three separate litters in the past two months) and the subject of many illnesses and afflictions. Were the kittens taken early enough they could be fostered out and lead long happy lives. Yet Pyjama Man bothers not with this; he cares not for their health, only their legion numbers. Futhermore, his veiled boasting of owning a gun and his very unsound mind, make it disturbingly unclear as to whether anyone else is allowed to take any sort of veterinary care of his ‘non-existent’ cats. I’ve overheard him telling another neighbour he’d ‘give his life for the cats.’ One thing is obvious – attempted trapping of cats for any desexing, fostering program will result in their immediate liberation, one way or another.

Caaaats. Caaaats. Cats-cats-cats-cats-Caaaats.

Caaaats. Caaaats. Cats-cats-cats-cats-Caaaats.

So yes, he’s illogical, uncommunicable, unrelenting, paranoid, possibly unstable and fostering a massive hoard of unhealthy and uncontrolled feral cats, getting in car engines, killing wildlife, and spraying everywhere to the extent that would stun the most experienced Melbourne Cup plumbing contractor .

Sigh. Any suggestions welcome, though keep in mind the unstable, uncommunicable, and unrelenting part! Something tells me we’re moving again.

Rant over, thank you for either sitting though it or storming off. :D

Seventeen Fifty-Two: A Story of Literal Musical Growth.

Seeing writhing masses of musicians graduating each year, like lemmings into the void of uncertainty, makes me wonder just where their little corpses wash up.

We can probably never know for sure, but one can guestimate the extent of this movement, so I did some quick calculations.

Beethoven as I Knew Him

Ludwig Van as I Knew Him (Musician No. 148393)

Verily, it appears by averaging undergraduate graduation rates from American conservatories* (though they significantly vary between 40-85%), they generally settle around the 65% mark. Furthermore cohort size varies dramatically too, but let’s under-ball and assume cohorts of 50 are taken in per year – meaning 32.5 graduates are churned out at the end per music school.

*I chose America because there’s a large diversity of schools to average plus there’s a good public-knowledge website for graduation rates…

So thanks to the appropriately titled list on wikipedia I counted about 549 schools of music around the world. This means about 17843 new music graduates every year. Let’s “assume” this number will remain consistent for now.

The average lifespan of countries with music schools is approximately 79 years so if graduates graduate before the age of 23, by the time the first batch get old and die all at once on their 79th birthday (which they all share), and at which point equilibrium will be reached (i.e. as many new graduates as dying ones) then there will be the tantalising number of 999 208 music graduates in the world!

Assuming this is retrospectively the case for living memory, and as we made relatively low assumptions in the first place (some major university cohorts are in the thousands!), one can probably say with a comfortable yet vague sense of accuracy that there are over a million ‘trained’ musicians in the world at the moment.

This leads to a more interesting aspect:

Trained Musician Population Over Time.

The Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia is apparently the world’s oldest musical institution, founded in 1585. Before this point there were zero musical ‘graduates’.

With our two points of data (and you only ever need two, right?) we can plot a nice graph with a power regression as follows:

Musicians over time

Musicians over time

So, according to the regression y=x^2.280997725 the number of the graduate musicians will reach 5 million before the year 2400. Unfortunately this rate is considerably slower than population growth models, so musicians will ultimately become less and less of an overall percentage over time. By dividing a human population growth formula against the above regression, we can calculate that at the moment there is one music graduate for every 7233 people in the world.

Yet in 100 years the ratio will be one musician for every 17457 people. Curiously, according to this method (and it’s totally way off) the most densely musician-populated year in history was 1752, where there were 1778.55 people per trained musician.

1752 was a leap year, eye-gouging was declared a criminal act and Muzio Clementi was born. Clearly it just went downhill from there.

Compiled Clementi

Muzio Clementi: The Beethoven of his era…

Lost in Tranlston

So it turns out that one can make a pretty extensive start on a doctoral dissertation armed only with Google and some pretty obscure squiggles that may or may not be in German, written over 100 years ago. Anyone who can interpret the following will be awarded an amazing prize* because I have no idea:

What?

I think it says ‘Aowiw lz Oardanier’ but Google Translate says no and I don’t think it means anything in English.

*Despair* Suggestions are welcome. That aside, being without means of creativity and in a small room with a big box of M&Ms, I delve once more into the realm of my previous artistic endeavours in a feeble attempt to keep this blog’s head above water in these turbulent times.

Thence introducing Hannah, the talented author of Not All Who Wonder Are Lost, whom I sketched about a year ago. For the first time ever (excepting that rather ineffectual effort with Ella Grainger) I decided to take regular photos during the process in order to make a time-lapse progression. Without further ado.

Hannah

The final result being:

And FinalAh. It’s nice to deal with a tangible art form for a change. Poor Etruscans.** The original title for this post was “Never Look a Gif Horse in the Mouth.” I’d always assumed the phrase was a reference to the Trojan horse legend: meaning if you looked inside the Greeks would know you knew they were there and attack at once. Apparently the actual meaning is much less violent in that horse-age can be determined by the length of their teeth, so if you looked at the mouth of the horse someone gave you as a present you were trying to determine/judge the value of their gift.

*Seriously.

**The Etruscans’ language is basically extinct as of over two and a half millennia ago, or something like that.

Two Hundred Words Under the Sydney

SydneyCityofLifeCityofColourSydney.

It is a total relief to be back where sunny days are considered normal, pedestrian crossings are much less harrowing/ambiguous to deal with, and if you want to get alcohol you get to go to a separate non-grocery store. I heartily apologise for the lack of updates – it has been more than a little hectic resettling back in Australia, and while there have been many stories accumulating as a result, they are unfortunately only self-interesting when placed in the context that most people experience them upheaving to a new (or old) place. As of now I am piano-less, ensemble-less and inspiration-less.

In other words, a musicologist. :O

I considered saying something about how I’ve been institutionalised by my time in the UK and I’d probably be swinging under a ‘Brooks was here’ etching in a couple of weeks, but it wouldn’t be true at all. Perhaps fittingly, my last artistic endeavour in the UK was a Matisse-style single-line drawing of the stodgy Postman Pat photoshop job from a few posts ago.

Irony

Utter crap.

But as they say in gay Paris; Cat haute vitesse vaut attraper ver tôt!

Nine more words bring the word count to 200.

Morocco’s Modern Life

To set the mood:
Bonnies Poem
Good. Now that’s out of the way, to provide a bit of explanatory background…
.
It was the heat of the Moroccan summer. We were in Casablanca, heading for Milan. The plane was waiting on the hot tarmac, after a cramped bus ride. Fortunately the plane air-conditioning wasn’t working, and we had for company a family of four somewhat screaming children. There was a not-remarkable delay sitting in the cabin, but soon* we were on our way to the take-off strip. The runway if you will.
*relatively
.
I grabbed her hand as I am want to do during take-off and landing. The plane began to accelerate, faster and faster. We were about to lift off; starting to experience that surreal weightlessness when suddenly we began to slow down again. It took twenty minutes to limp back to the tarmac. The crew said nothing beyond that there was a technical error.
Some of the goats were ripe.

The Moroccan version of Newton’s realisation-of-gravity story is a lot more colourful!

The air-conditioning was still not working, which didn’t really matter as we were only a few degrees away from being at the closest possible point on Earth to the sun. We stayed there for three hours in that orange heat. The children grew ever more unruly and it was only later on finally leaving the plane that we were able to survey the true extent of their damage: including the floor of the plane covered with the shattered remnants of those airline safety cards, torn to shreds among a coating of various food crumbs. A coating we too shared. A rebellion was quelling among the passengers and various factions were forming, but before a coup could be attempted the crew announced the problem had been fixed, or that they were going to ‘risk it.’
.
In any case, it was a major fault with an engine that had to be solved because there were no other planes available and I admit it was not the most comforting experience re-lining up again to take-off. Having survived, Bonnie asked me to write this poem in the car in Milan, my normally illegible handwriting kept rigorously in check by the gloriously cool climate and surprised relief at not going down in a big fireball as I calmly expected.
Cat on a Cartesian Plane

Moroccan cats have genetically evolved to maintain their kitten form well into adult-hood. This leads them to become world-weary and apathetic towards human-cat interaction.

P.S. I completely understand that some countries have chaotic traffic/driving as the encouraged standard, usually with appalling fend-for-yourself conditions. However, perhaps the strangest thing about Casablanca was that the roads and lanes were exquisitely well-marked and signalled, yet everyone disregarded this and drove around like it was American Civil War Reenactment In Socks Night at a museum of waxed flooring.

The Page of Anxiety

What did two siblings get up to back in 2001 with nothing but an excessively large roll of butcher paper, a block of red plasticine, and a camera? Probably not a lot, but here was our eventuality:

Plastic-Jubilations3

Those were happier, simpler times. A time when you could effectively create a program of Monopoly on your TI-83 graphics calculator and when 10 megabytes was considered a lot of memory that you definitely would not attach to an email. Since then I have seen school-age children search for the ‘on’ button on an acoustic upright piano and toddlers attempting to touch-screen-swipe (I don’t know what the term is) actual books in order to get to the next page.

Anyway, there is something timelessly poignant about that rainy day when my sister and I lined the bathroom with paper and created this short, moving film (he’s vomiting at the end in case it isn’t clear; there was some rather graphic audio too, but it doesn’t translate to a gif and no doubt it would offend the internet’s delicate sensibilities). Hell, I’d barely even started piano then. I think ironically I spent more time trying just now to get the functional looping gif to work on this post then it did to create the thing all those years ago.

Oh look, it’s 1am.