Archive for August, 2007


I’ve been watching a few things on youtube lately. Youtube is packed with virtuosos, who have found in youtube a way to express to the world their phenomenal talent. There are a great many people out there who can tap harmonics and kick around inside unusual dissonant scales. They’re better at it than I’ll ever be, especially since I have little real interest in tapping.

For those that have never seen me play, I’m not virtuosic. I’m not half bad either, and I like to think I’ve got a bit of natural talent, but I’m not Hendrix.

I’m going to try and express what it is I love about playing. It’s something that doesn’t perhaps fit into words so well, but it’s something I could never show you on youtube, no matter how good I ever am.

There’s something about music that can describe the human soul. Einstein thought the study of physics was the attempt to understand and describe god. Maybe music is like that, I don’t know, but it can describe the very inside of someone’s mind in a way like no other form. It can’t perhaps communicate higher ideas like entropy or why the sky is blue, but every human can understand music. Everyone has preferences, but at a basic level that idea holds true with everyone.

But that’s not what I love about playing.

And when I say playing, I mean just playing for the love of it. I’m not talking about sitting in an orchestra pit, packed in amongst two dozen other museums and gear, counting some ridiculous time signature for 137 bars to hit a punch note with everyone else, so the 200 people in the audience don’t go ‘what the hell was that random note?’ as you come in a bar early. That’s too cerebral to really be fun. Satisfying yes, but you don’t really feel it.

So what is playing for love? How do I do it?
I get home from work and pick my guitar up. It doesn’t matter if it’s been a good day or a bad day. I take all I know about music and playing. All the technique and muscle memory I’ve built. I call it all up. It comes easy, because I’ve been doing it nearly every day for more than ten years. I fill my conscious and subconscious mind with it, and it takes less than half a second. I colour all of that with whatever it is I’m thinking right then. Relaxed? Angry? Upbeat? It doesn’t matter – mix it all together. Then I just kind of pour that all into the instrument. I’m not thinking about what my hands are doing – that detail is long ago taken care of. It’s all about feel. And then you have music – and that music affects what you are thinking, so the colour of what you pour into the instrument changes, and so the music changes. It’s a feedback loop, for the geeks out there. It’s often subtle and smooth, sometimes abrupt and dischordant. And the circle continues. You can’t get all of yourself into the instrument at once. That’s like 9 people trying to get through a door at once. You put it in sequence and put a meter, tempo and key to it. Throw in some dynamics, embellishments and flourishes, and just be yourself.

It’s like channeling the colour of your own mind through your fingertips. It closes out all else and its just about you and your mind.
It doesn’t matter what else there is in my life right then – I always feel good afterward.

I’m not totally happy with that description, but it’s probably as good as I can make it. I can’t even communicate it musically because all you hear is what I’m thinking, not why I’m thinking it. It’s a transparent idea, because only I can see it – kind of like a one-way mirror.

Anyway – that is what I love about playing. I’d rather have that than be a virtuoso, though maybe one day I’ll be both.


If you see one cool thing today

It is this.

Erik Mongrain – you are the man.

I’m Back


As always life has been crazy busy. The ongoing intertron restrictions at work that work that block such jewels as youtube, blogspot, and anything with links on the page is not helping me out with my posting slackness.

I promise to post some more stuff. I especially apologise for leaving a political rant at the top of the page for two weeks.

The Electoral Finance Bill

I object.

Normally I don’t get worked up enough to rant like this, but I’m going to. This must be stopped.

Here’s the gist:
Under this bill if you want to make a political statement in election year that takes a position on a subject that a party in parliament could be aligned with, you must register with the government. The costs of your statement are added to a personal total for the year, capped at $60,000 for third parties, and more for political parties.


As a private citizen I take out two full page advertisements in the Herald saying “Child Abuse is Bad.” This costs more than $60,000. Parties in Parliament have taken a position on this subject, so it falls under the definition of ‘election advertising.’ Since I broke the spending cap I can be sent to jail, doubly so if I chose not to register.

The reason this is so unbalanced is that the laws will not apply fully to the sitting government, because promoting government policies (like Kiwisaver, for example) is done with budgets assigned to those policies (how much advertising have you seen for Kiwisaver on TV, in the papers, websites etc? Answer: heaps, and it costs millions). These budgets are not ‘election spending.’


Government canĀ  spend as much as it likes promoting what it has been and is doing, opposition and third parties have tight spending restrictions applied, and must register their criticisms with the goverment.

Sound right? New Zealanders have paid dearly over the years, many with their blood, for the democratic rights we have today. If you ever thought about writing a letter to the editor – do it on this one. Ever considered writing to your MP? – do it. Blog? – do it. I’m just not willing to trust that it will sort itself out.

Cynically speaking, National’s most self interested course might have been to let them pass it. Public sentiment is probably enough to elect National next time regardless of this bill, and Labour will bitterly regret sitting in opposition with this bill in play. Fortunately they seem to be fighting it anyway on principal.

What’s disturbing is the manner in which this has all been done. This bill has been drafted behind closed doors without cross party support from opposition. Changes to such a fundamental constitutional act should never be done in secret like this. Furthermore, now the real meaning of the bill is out in the open, Labour is claiming they didn’t appreciate the real meaning and that it will be fixed at the select committee stage. Bollocks I say. They knew what they were doing and are trying to squirm out of facing up to being found out.

Some among the media have labeled this the most serious attack on free speech seen in this country in decades. And all for the purpose of winning the next election at all costs.

I love Democracy, and I’m not ready to give it up just yet.

Brave Wellingtons

Here’s to our brothers at 7 WnHB.

Your blood is our blood, that owned and that lost.

Kia Toha.