Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Thoughts from lockdown etc (aka The torture never stops)

Okay, the title is a bit heavy, Zappa’s Zoot Allures popped up on my YouTube feed the other night and I couldn’t resist adding that little ditty to the title. A little black humour to lift my mood. But I guess it could be torture for someone reading these disjointed ramblings I scribbled down during the lockdown period.

In many ways lockdown hasn’t been that much of a change for me since returning home (and the few months leading up to my return to NZ). At times it’s a lonely existence. The last couple of years has been a blur as the dust settles. Living in the countryside and having a social life don’t always sync up. It takes more effort than I have been willing to put in at times. And clearly, it’s an effort for people to come to me (and I’m talking pre-covid here), but that’s nothing new. Probably time for a change.

There’s been plenty of time for reflection. What I like about my life. What I don’t like. What can I change? I’m lucky to be able to spend this amount of time in close quarters with the folks and not drive each other up the wall completely. I enjoy helping them around the property and would like to do more than I do. Often, I struggle getting the balance right – work/horn/social activities/helping the folks etc. That’s something I need to work on.

I haven’t felt compelled to get hell bent on being super productive during lockdown. Hence me taking forever to move my computer speakers into my workspace (and then not liking the set up and moving them straight back). And I could have sorted through the remaining stuff I want to get rid sell/donate. But I haven’t yet. However, I did finally get some better lighting in my bedroom (there’s bit more of a mellow vibe now). And it wasn’t until I was back at work that I switched the room around to fit in my desk. Some new recipes were tested; flourless cake with pinto beans was interesting, needs a tweak but I’ll make it again. And a couple of older ones were resurrected - Hayden’s Fibonacci split pea soup hit the spot, and it was nice to bust out chicken liver curry again.... I left the recipe in the US and made this one up.

I was fun resurrecting the blog after a break of a few months. I’ve still got some posts I need to finish and publish (they’re well and truly overdue now). Posts will become less frequent as things kick back into gear but I’ll try and make the effort to get something up here and there.

The radio show is a lot oJazz Compositionf fun to put together (self-promotion isn’t my strong suit; hence this is the first mention of the radio show... 6 months in). Although I miss heading into the studio as it’s such a nice scene, recording programmes at home as been fun - even it can send me down a rabbit hole. Maybe the playlists will be posted here at some stage. I need to get some guests into the studio too. In these “on demand” times in which we live, radio puts the choice in someone else’s hands, and that’s refreshing. Let’s hope this lockdown period makes people realize that the “anything you want, any time you want” thing, isn’t the be all and end all. Maybe we can realize how meaningless some priorities are.

Some nice videos popped up along the way too. Arts for Art posted a great interview with Connie Crothers from 2015 and Hayden Chisholm made a presentation of some of his musical research. Another pleasant upshot of the global pandemic was Tom Bukovac’s Homeskoolin’. It’s a breath of fresh air in the world of youtube/online lessons. The only downside is that there’s no saxophone equivalent out there doing this. No frills production, high quality content, and not the same old same old (Tom’s vids did prompt me to have another browse around the online lesson scene and nothing really popped out….but I’ve got enough on my plate as it is).

Working from home has been pretty good and something I would like to do more, and I don’t miss commuting. It has been great having music on at work. It was possible at my previous job, but it’s a little tricky at the current one. Sometimes it’s a distraction, but I can see it being a useful means of subconscious absorption. More please.

I miss getting out to hear music - even if I don’t do it as much as I once did (nor as much as I could). I’m just far enough away that I don’t really feel part of the Wellington scene. Putting together a trio is on the cards. I have a small set of tunes in a working state and it’s time to play them with people. I need to make that happen once things cool down (on the lookout of for keen bass players and drummers in the coming weeks/months). That might bring me closer to feeling part the scene. And I’m looking forward to getting to a Swagman gig once things open up, it will likely be quite a party. But I think the return to the live scene under current social distancing practices will be an odd experience.

Sometimes I feel like jazz music and the saxophone is just escapism for me. And it has been that way for a while now. I want to continue to simplify my approach to the horn and music making. Keep developing the connection. Let the escapism evolve. I enjoy it. It made me think, how do you do less without slacking effort? Actually; doing less likely requires more intense focus. While I’ve been keeping my lip in, I don’t feel like I’m getting work done the way I would like. Again, it comes down to balancing life. As always, it’s a work in progress.

“There are many levels of mastery, the practice of the art is valuable all the way along” (some zen thing I heard along the way somewhere).

From Lacy’s notes of Monkisms.... “Don’t play everything (or every time); let some things go by. Some music just imagined. What you don’t play can be more important that what you do.”

Was it Jim Hall who said, “Don’t just do something, stand there!”?

“It’s easy to be enlightened in a remote cave”

Over the last few months teaching has been popping into my mind on occasions. I would need to find a teaching space in Wellington and if I can get a few people back-to-back maybe it would be viable. I’m not sure about the online thing, I spend enough time looking at a computer as it is. But face-to-face is a commitment I would make under the right circumstances.

This probably isn’t the time to make any drastic decisions and I think I’ll just chip away at a few smaller things and see how it pans out. I’m definitely due a holiday (the pandemic put a stop to trips I was planning to NYC and Europe). Not sure where I’ll go just yet. Maybe a road trip to somewhere out of the way.

Full points to all those who made through to the end.

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