The series of memory blogs that follow this Introductory blog are part of David L Page’s creative process – reflecting on selected significant events in the early stages of his life, and associating sonic and musical textures that best represent his memory of those significant events. The collection of associative memories will then be formed into a composition – The Dark Years: A Boy Who Was Beaten – which David L Page will produce as a fifteen (15) minute soundtrack of the first stage of his life. This cultural artefact is to make up one part of his Doctoral Project 1 submission.
Doctoral Research Study Abstract
The aim of this Doctor of Creative Industries Research Project is to investigate both my DIY music practice and my self as a practitioner during the process of creating and producing a cultural artefact (EP). My research study is designed to be a mixed-method qualitative study: a practice-based, ethnographic study that is to include a first-person narrative of my personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of my music practice. As an auto-ethnographic study, I designed the project for me to be performing the dual primary roles of being both the practitioner as subject, and the researcher. Such a multi-tiered examination represents a significant departure from current discussion of music practice, developing praxis of contemporary music practice. In this Project 1 research study exegesis submission I narrate the process to date, highlighting observation around my practitioner self, and my music practice and the emergent distinctions integrated into my developing music praxis.
Blog Posts as part of the Reflective Practice journaling process
Welcome to David L Page’s recollection of his story.
These blogs are David’s attempt to share his recollection of the most significant events of the early stages of his life, as best as he can – events that David believes have shaped the development of his self, or the development of his musical self.
The deep reflective practice process David engaged in as part of his creative practice, saw him over some time, situating himself back in time, delving deeper and deeper into the place and the event. Of course, as much as he could possibly do decades after an event, when so much distance has occurred in terms of time and place – David’s aim was to recall as much of the kinaesthetic, the auditory, the visual, the olfactory, or even the gustatory sensations of the particular time and place – of that particular significant event. This is not entirely a new experience for David, merely describing the process he has always intuitively put himself through in his creative practice endeavours, particularly in his music practice – creation, performance, or production. The difference in this research study is however, David had to learn how to more consciously focus in on the selected suite of significant events – at a scheduled time – to more deliberately situate him self back in time, whilst recording the data of each of his in-situation experiences.
You will notice that the various blog posts – more often than not – David has included associated visuals or images, to accompany the written text, along with the attached associative sonic and musical event. David’s intention was to be able to share his in-situation experience with his audience as much as he could. David trust’s these blogs will appeal to either the kinaesthetic, the auditory, or the visual senses of the audience. With more advanced technology, or perhaps an alternative medium, David would like to – in the not too distant future – also share his in-situation olfactory and gustatory sensation experience with his audience.
David L Page’s Reflective Practice process
David requested for it to be noted: the output of each reflection of a significant event arrived as a result of a range of catalysts. David found his deep reflective re-expereinces occurred as a result of a range of catalysts used stimulate memory recall. These included: a calendar date; a visual image in a photo album for example, a book – quote, passage, or once just the cover – , a magazine – with handwritten notes in the borders, the internet – pictures or articles, or his vast stock of past writings – streams, prose in working, lyrics in working. On a few occasions the catalyst was something David saw in life that reminded him of a time or place; at other times a blurred visual image or colour that reminded him of a past time, place, or event; at other times, a sonic texture he heard in his head situated him back in time; or by a sound he heard as he conducted himself in his every day life. At other times, an old song or piece of music, a musical phrase or motif that triggered a memory – something in someone else’s composition, on occasion something he played on an instrument ; at other times, it was a smell – weather, forest, water, toilet freshener, food cooking; at other times, it was a taste – some deliberate, others by accident; and at other times, it was a feeling he had, and recalled a past time, place or event. On many occasions, it was while he was working in another form of practice, something was said or happened that triggered a memory. David noted these down on a phone message or in iNotes, to return to explore them to a greater depth when he had the time to reflect, and more deeply drill down into the particular event.
However, what ever the catalyst, it was unusual for David not to have reverted to the written word at some point in this deep reflective process. At the base of all of David’s practice, lies writing in some style, form, or medium. More often than not in practice, David engaged in streaming his consciousness onto the page – physical or virtual. This streaming could have been just ramblings from his mind, not quite sure yet of what he wanted to say, but trusting he had to get it out, and down onto the page for some greater future benefit. All writings after all, were to make up the wide range of data to be collected in this research study Project 1. Therefore, David made a special effort not to judge the merit or worth of that data at the time – in the moment of performance of his practice, at any particular time. He gathered it all. Often, emotions accompanied these streamings, deepening the in-situation experience. Sometimes these emotions were easily tapped; but most often David had to draw his self in over many hours, days, weeks or months, in order to arrive at what he could finally accept was the essence of that particular significant event. More often, possibly than David would like to admit, tears flowed as his in-stuation experience intensified, reassuring his self of the value and merit of this significant event and the particular in-situation experience, at that time. Sometimes a narrative flowed out of this streaming in the form of a tale; at other times, as prose; at other times, as song-type lyrics; and at other times, distinctions regarding his self, or any one of the forms of his practice – be it creative, research – reflective and reflective, or education and learning. [for more information about a multi-faceted/multi-dimensional approach to practice, see Research Practitioner Part 16 blog].
In terms of this Research Study Project – and most particularly – this series of deep reflective memory blogs – he observed that there was no particular order of the stimulations. On some occasions David commenced in the digital audio workstation (DAW), composing from whatever memories he held of the significant event at the time – associating sonic or musical textures that he felt best represented those occasions, and assisted to return him to the in-stutation experience. At other times, David began in an excel chart, reflecting on the significant event, and allowing thoughts, feelings, images and aural events to return him to the in-stutation experience. On other occasions, David used the writing process to return him to the in-stutation experience.
However, irrespective of what practice or what medium David commenced the deep reflective process, David recycled through most of these processes and mediums – usually multiple times – in no particular order. With each cycle, David deepened the level and intensity of experience, in order to arrive at a deep reflective in-stutation experience, to gather the range of data for this research study Project 1. You will therefore observe in the following sixteen (16) blogs, a variety of layouts, formats, writing styles, graphics or images; along with accompanying links to an equally wide variety of associative sonic and musical textured events.
David’s hopes, as you join him in his journey back to the first stage of his life, you will start to hear his voice emerge through the multi-modal narratives of these sixteen (16) significant events. He trusts you will get a sense of how David gains clarity of his self, as he gains a better understanding of his identity, musical identity, and how his musical self developed over the first twenty years of his life. This research study was always to be an immersive study; a a first-person narrative of David L Page’s personal journey, critical reflection and reflexive practice, highlighting the co-constituted nature of his music practice.
We welcome you to his journey…..
[NB: Included in each memory blog is a link/s to the associative sonic and musical textures that David feels best represent his in-situation memory of each of the particular significant events].
Message from David L Page
In the early 1990’s I returned home to Australia following a very productive period in creative practice overseas “performing and writing, including recording and experimenting in production. It was a wonderful period for me – one that I hoped would never end” (Page 2014). I recall I arrived home with a new self-image in terms of my creative practice.
In an attempt to develop my practice for my next stage of life, I undertook a number of creative writing courses. The outcome of these programs were a number of pieces of prose, of key moments within my life while I was growing up [see for example, Boy]. A number of the instructors and peers at the time noted my ability to re-situate my self back into the moment of a past event, in some way re-experiencing that experience, in order to then write about it. It was a technique I had developed and practiced, already using this technique across some of the forms of creative writing I engaged in – streaming my consciousness and song lyrics. This technique applied to writing lyrics aligned with my desired confessional singer-songwriter role. A really positive outcome of these creative writing courses was not only the prose, but perhaps more so, my acceptance of this practice as a conscious, deliberate process that I could now apply to another form of my creative writing, prose.
In early 2014, as I was re-considering the focus of my Doctoral Research Study (I had already been accepted), I began brainstorming my journey as a music practitioner. I was very keen on reflecting on more eras, to recall:
how had I arrived at where I was at as a music practitioner?
what life experiences had influenced who I was, or wasn’t, as a music practitioner?
I wanted to articulate these key life experiences into a fluid narrative – my autobiography – of my journey to date. I did return to some of the prose written in the early 1990’s as well as other pieces of creative writing I had done at other times across my life. This reflective exploration took several months, resulting in the narrative overview, Music Practitioner Part 1 – Beginnings (MP Pt1 – Beginnings) blog. I would like it noted though: when I first started writing this autobiography, I had no thought or consideration about doing a soundtrack around my life’s significant events. I had considered at this stage that I would write in the style that I had always done – in an acoustic folk pop song musical style.
Fast forward to 2016 with me now engaged in my Project 1, some 25 months after I had written the MP Pt1 – Beginnings blog, In my search for a thematic idea for my compositions (songs), I started focussing in on more specific events across my life. This then led to another event, and then another, and then another. This process spanned approxiamtely four (4) to five (5) months, arriving as some thirty-five (35) significant events. I then considered how I was going to derive a musical project out of these significant events, arriving at the idea of focussing in on associative memories of each of the significant events. I would – through reflection – associate musical and sonic events for each of the significant event; and then craft the sum of these associative memory events into a soundtrack as the cultural production output for my research study. A musical and sonic collage of my life, if you like.
I knew a challenge for me was going to be to contain the length of the composition – short enough to maintain listener interest; and yet long enough to authentically represent the sum of these significant events. But with thirty-five (35) significant events, it was going to be too long a composition for one Project. I however noted that there was a natural division within the significant events of two time frames that I could possibly divide between my Research Study Project 1 and Project 2: up until twenty (20) years of age; and post-twenty (20) years of age. I decided that it would be logical to have Project 1 represent the associative memories of the first twenty (20) years of my life.
I started experimenting with some sonic events, directly inside the digital audio workstation (DAW). Whilst I gained confidence with my vision, I found that I easily lost focus within each event, and could create some musical or sonic events that were less authentic, less congruent to me of an associated memory. The blogs evolved as a way to more specifically focus in on a range of highlighted events, drawing my self into each of them to determine the actual particular significance of the event. I found by immersing my self into each event via a number of written forms (prose, lyrics, narrative), I could deepen the in-situation experience, and better recall a range of kinaesthetic, auditory, visual, olfactory, or even gustatory sensations of the particular significant event. After experimenting across a number of these significant events, I learnt to trust the physical and emotional responses of these in-situation re-experiences as they occurred. For me, the actual sixteen (16) significant events narrated are real. Whilst immersed in this creative practice, I noted experiences including an inability to breathe, shortness of breath, nausea, headaches and body pain. I relived experiences that brought up emotional responses such as joy, sorrow, fear, sadness, nervousness, loneliness, loss, and feelings of abandonment and shame whilst in-stuating my self within these significant events, and writing these blogs. My planned research study was always to have been a first-person narrative of my personal journey: an emergent study, revealing aspects of my life I had not previously considered fully, or perhaps fully understood. I expected this journey was potentially going to be revealing, and at times, confronting, True to my expectations, it has been.
I trust that you as the reader can in some way experience my re-experiences of significant events within my personal journey, that I now choose to share.
Due to the ill health of my mother and her need for many medical operations over an extended period, I lived in a very dark house for the first seven (7) years on my life. With the curtains and blinds drawn shut the majority of the time, and bedrooms doors closed, I mostly only remember darkness during this time. Other memories include sitting in a very tense environment, fearful we would be reprimanded for talking out of turn, and disturbing my mother, and; being sat in front of a television screen for hours on end as a way of occupying my attention. To this day, the cartoon Mighty Mouse is at the forefront of my memories.
(Terry-Toons Comics 1945-1951)
I recall having the sense that my world was a remote place – perhaps on an island – and the main people I knew at that time were my brother, sister and father. I recall a number of big people – not sure who they were, but perhaps distant relatives, neighbours, or the wives of dad’s work colleagues – came and went during that time, assisting my father with daily duties such as preparing meals, I guess cleaning and our care. I certainly do not recall life in our house.
As I grew somewhat – perhaps around five (5) years of age – I recall spending time exploring the local bushland with my brother and some of the local neighbourhood kids, or my mates from junior rugby. Whilst it was fun exploring, and having new adventures with others, I do however recall that I was happiest in my own company, constructing things and becoming quite rowdy, exercising my unlimited bounds of energy and exploring my voice.
Then at the age of eight (8) years old, once my mother had somewhat recovered from her health issues, we moved into a new house in a new suburb on the North Shore of Sydney. The split-level house had its’ main living area on the top floor – bedroom, living room and kitchen – with the garages, laundry, rumpus room and bar kitchen on the ground floor. The blinds and curtains in our new house were literally pulled back. It was a large light and airy house with a large leafy garden, including a massive willow tree in the middle of it. It was a huge garden for an eight year old to exercise and explore, ride his scooter, yell and sing as he continued to explore his voice to his heart’s content, away from disturbing the family. The sea change included my mother playing what became her daily dose of European classical music – Baroque, Classical and Romantic (including Opera). In addition, my mother loved the pop artists of that era: those who performed on the television program of the day, “Bandstand”. In that era, it was one of the few opportunities to view the latest contemporary artists and hits on television. Whilst I still did not feel as though I belonged to anything – to my new school, my new rugby team, or the local neighbourhood kids – my world now had light and music in it.
Apparently, the music resonated with me and before long I was singing along. I recall having melodies in my head, and I would hum them out, not aware of what I was doing, nor what was to come. I was always an early riser, and keen to get into the day. I would wake well before my brother, my sister, and my parents; and wasn’t one for lying still. Of course – first things first – I would need to go to the toilet for a pee. [Note: the toilet rooms of that era had tiles on the floors and walls, and were great for reflecting sound].
It was very early in the morning, and I wasn’t in that much of a hurry. So, rather than standing I would sit, and gaze at the walls. I recall being fascinated with the light and reflections of the trees (from our back garden) being projected on the walls. I could see the trees bending up and down, some birds flying in and out, the leaves dancing, along with light, up and down the tiles on the walls. I would then start to play with sound, and start to make some noise. Sometimes I would hum one of my internalised melodies; and at times, I would make as many different short, sharp noises with my mouth. Anything to hear sound. I would listen to the sound, and note how the sound could bounce from wall to wall. I learnt to make some sounds stretch out, almost like it had a tail on it, and take even longer to bounce around. I recall thinking how good my voice sounded, in this toilet room. I realise now that I was I was experimenting making noise, listening to the sound bounce off the walls, to the sonic possibilities within our family toilet room, at possibly half past five (5) in the morn. I also reflect now, to realise that I was also possibly becoming comfortable with my voice. Listening to my self, experimenting with my voice, experimenting with what sounds I could make – what original sounds I could make, on my own.
With (apparently) my brothers and sister tired of my early morning vocalisations while on the toilet every morning – while they were still sleeping – my dad suggested I may like to relocate to a new room – into a converted rumpus room on the ground floor of our new house. While I was a little tentative at first, I quickly saw my new space as my own palace. I set up the room with low lighting – lots of lamps around the corners of the room, each with different coloured cellophane projecting up onto the walls. There were usually two or three candles burning, borrowed from my parents many dinner parties, adding to the subdued ambient lighting. Posters of pop culture icons of the day from the local music rag GoSet adorned my walls, beckoning me down a particular path.
(My inherited grandfather’s pianola)
My grandfather’s pianola stood at the foot of my bed; alongside an old radio gramophone that blasted out my collection of 45rpms and am radio station hits for many hours of the day. I recall listening to all of the music and sounds that emanated from that gramophone, drawn into another world. I had friends, but with a very protective mother, I found my self spending a lot of time in my palace – my sanctuary – listening to a very wide range of music at every chance I had.
Whilst I loved the sound of the pianola (essentially a piano, but with some more high register tones present in each of the notes), I found the keyboard layout quite complex to understand. None of my family were players (that I knew of). However, I continued to tinker, I experimented but I admit that I never sat long enough, to learn how to play the piano. Over the next few years, my brother started playing guitar. He was cool, part of the politically savvy crowd. He listened to politically inspired music as part of the hippy movement, calling for change to the establishment. I was drawn in – not so much to the message – but to the instrument that seemed to be at the centre of this crowd – the guitar.
The guitar seemed to be far more simple to play than the piano, with its’ chord shapes. My brother was right-handed, and I was left-handed. So whilst I was drawn in, I did not find it easy to mimic what he was telling me to do, to play his guitar. I was frustrated, but my fascination was established. I would spend my time listening to music, sifting through the music magazines, looking at pictures of guitars. Several years later after much – quiet but persistent – badgering, my dad arrived back from overseas with an acoustic guitar in hand, for me.
I started guitar lessons the following week with a local guitar teacher who was teaching my brother. He taught me the notes on the strings, and then introduced a number of songs as a way of learning to play. One of the first songs I can recall learning was: Clearance Clearwater Revival’s (CCR) “Proud Mary” (Creedence Clearwater Revival 1969).
(Creedence Clearwater Revival 1969 music video)
This song was followed shortly afterwards with CCR’s latest single, “Looking’ Out My Back Door” (Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970a).
(Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970 music video)
The album that these songs came off was Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970’s album, “Cosmo’s Factory” (Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970b). My brother did eventually buy this album, and therefore I not only heard it many times, I ended up playing the album many times over myself.
(Creedence Clearwater Revival 1970c).
This album produced so many singles that became popular hits on the radio; song’s that were country rock in flavour, that were predominantly based around the semi-acoustic electric guitar. I loved every song on the album, and therefore I used to played the album – when my brother wasn’t around – with the purpose of studying each and every song. I recall listening to each song over and over, learning to play them, and to try to emulate the guitar rhythm and vocal phrasing. If I was practicing a particular section of the song – for a example a phrase – I would play it through, and then pick up the needle and play through again, over and over, until I could work out what the phrasing, harmony or melody was. I had also learnt a trick from my cousin in Victoria; putting a coin on the album while it was playing, would slow down the rotating record down, and therefore making it easier to hear the particular phrase I was trying to learn. I experimented for really difficult phrasing, adding the weight of a second coin.
(Creedence Clearwater Revival 2008)
The following year Paul and Linda McCartney released their first studio album “Ram” after the Beatles had officially disbanded as a group (Paul and Linda McCartney. 1971). A single off the album “Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey” was released and played on AM radio on a regular basis. I recall falling in love with this song instantaneously. The song was 4 minutes 50 seconds long – quite long for the day – and progressed from one style of music, to another style of music. It was as though Paul McCartney had gotten two songs, and joined them together. I recall being fascinated by this arrangement. But most particularly, the production. Listening to the song on the radio I could hear so many elements and textures that I had never heard before in any other song. I was in awe!. I recall saving the money I earnt from doing my weekly chores, and going to the local music store to buy the 45rpm record of the single (Paul and Linda McCartney. 1971).
As it happened, on the B side was another song – more of a traditional pop rock song – but again with an interesting arrangement. This song “Too Many People” (Paul and Linda McCartney. 1971), became the first song I requested my guitar teacher to teach me how to play on the guitar.
(The Beatles Discography, 1971)
(Paul & Linda McCartney 1971 music video)
In the same year that I had bought my first 45rpm, I heard another artist across the airwaves: the songs of Cat Stevens. I was mesmerised by his craft – sultry vocal tones, accompanied minimally, with an acoustic guitar, and sometime a bass line. The vocal had a lot of – mmm, how could I describe it – a lot of space around it – presence. The guitar was very simple – a strummed guitar, and a fingerpicked guitar, recorded very precisely, and cleanly. There was often a bass riff present, and sometimes some percussive elements, in light support of the rhythm and harmony. Often, there was a piano in accompaniment. Occasionally, the central instrument was a piano. Irrespective, what struck me of Cat Stevens’ songs were: the central element of his performances and the productions were – the song.
Cat Stevens was a UK troubadour with a social and spiritual conscience, carrying forth the tradition of the 1960’s confessional singer-songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, and Leonard Cohen. Cat Stevens was soon to be joined by other rising troubadours such as Carol King, James Taylor, Carly Simon, Jackson Browne and Don McLean (Greenwald 1992, 58). The songs of these troubadours took me to places that I hadn’t been before. To places that were quiet, considered and contemplative. I considered these songs poetic, in a similar vein as so many of the great poets before them. Their songs weaved words, turn of phrase – lyrics with melody and harmony in simple but cleverly crafted ways.
As a ten (10) year old, I remember thinking to myself – can I? could I? could I ever be able to learn to do what they do? could I dare to consider that I could learn to do what they do? Could I ever become a singer-songwriter-performer as they are? Could I ever learn how to transport a listener to a place that they hadn’t been to before? As they did to me? As they did for me? Could I possibly? Unfortunately though, irrespective of any logic, the seed was planted. I recall Cat Steven’s influence on my desire to practice music was instantaneous: in terms of guitar playing, singing, songwriting and arranging – to a depth of personal experience that I had never heard before. I saved my pocket money, and a short time later I was holding my first album, Cat Steven’s “Tea for the Tillerman”.
(Cat Stevens 1970a)
(Cat Stevens 1970b)
The many songs that were on “Tea for the Tillerman” became the next group of songs I requested my guitar teacher to teach me how to play on the guitar. I spent much of the next year trying to emulate the guitar playing, singing, and feel of these Cat Steven’s songs.
A year later a follow up album came out “Teaser and the Firecat”. I spent much of that year again trying to emulate the guitar playing, singing, and feel of these Cat Steven’s songs. Whilst I don’t feel I ever arrived at being able to play any of Cat Steven’s songs to my satisfaction, I do trust and believe this particular artist’s influence on my development as a music practitioner was significant. Cat Steven’s style had become engrained into my being; into my soul.
(Cat Stevens 1971)
(Cat Stevens 1970c)
I continued to progress with the guitar, but found that I had been drawn somewhat back to the piano through the songs of performers such as Cat Stevens. A number of his songs on both “Tea for the Tillerman” and “Teaser and the Firecat” featured piano as the central instrument. I wasn’t so interested in learning to play the piano, but would spend hours listening – tinkering and experimenting – to the sounds that emanated from it.
I got a Labrador-cross pup for my eleventh birthday. We looked very similar – in that her coat colouring was similar to my skin complexion – fair with freckles. She and I became inseparable over the next five (5) years. As she grew, she would lay at the foot of my bed with one eye open, almost as if she was making sure I was ok. More often that not, I was occupied with any form of music practice.
I would play guitar – strumming the strings, forming chord shapes – and listen to the sounds that would emanate from the wooden body.
I was intrigued with how much change in tone could occur with subtle change in any aspect of my playing – such as my attack with the plectrum – velocity or speed, or the actual thickness or material of the plectrum;
I would focus on my right hand with the forming of chords, moving the angle of my wrist around the back of the neck. The clarity of the note would change as I did this to produce different qualities of sound;
I would try to sing the songs of my favourite artists, trying to emulate the phrasing of the vocal line, the rhythm and harmony of the music playing on old gramophone;
I would tinker on the piano’s ivories, listening to the notes as they rose out of the wooden cabinet:
I noted how these notes varied, depending on how hard I struck each of the keys;
I noted how these notes varied, depending on which foot pedal on the piano I was holding down;
I listened to the resonance of the notes as they sang out, bouncing off and out of the rosewood wooden cabinet, after the piano key hammer had come to rest on a particular string;
I immersed myself listening to a range of productions via the radio, albums, or 45rpm singles. I was in awe – full of wonder, joy and intrigue – listening to the cacophony of music and sonic textures that played out of the speakers;
With every song, I tried to strum out chords on my acoustic guitar along to it; or
I would mimic a live performance, guitar around my neck, standing behind my father’s camera tripod, mounted with a bicycle horn on top as my pretend microphone, strumming away to songs playing on the radio gramophone.
Yes, I could see my audience, I could hear the audience, I could feel the audience.
These are the earliest recollections I have of my creative activities.
The next step of my creative practice…..
However, at some point, I did work out that I was not born intomusic. My mother didn’t play an instrument, my father didn’t play an instrument – they were fans. Our house was not filled with our music – it was filled with the music of others. We listened to others perform.
A few short years later, a significant event occurred that led me to put down the guitar for about 9-10 years. This event had a profound impact on my confidence and belief in my worthiness to play music.
Some years later at University, after meeting some musical souls, I picked up the guitar again. But this time it was to be an electric guitar. Over the next few years I progressed into writing, singing, performing, arranging, recording, and playing bass. I also taught music, delved into project management and became an industry advisor.
I spent 3 years in Japan, where I fortunate enough to establish a platform across so many of these areas. I am so blessed for my Japan experience. Japan was so influential in my reconnecting and implanting a music practice flame within me that I still carry to this day. It was one of the most productive periods I have had in terms of my performing and writing, including recording and experimenting in production. It was a wonderful period for me – one that I hoped would never end. But like everything in life, at some point there were enough taps on my shoulder that indicated it was time for me to return to Australia.
I arrived back into Australia and evaluated my options. I moved city, up to Brisbane, and made an effort to connect to players in that scene. I chose to refuse to play in the pub scene – blue jean, intoxicated punters, nicotine-filled live scene that contrasted significantly to the clubs and festivals I had played in Japan. Instead, as part of my tithing value to give back to society, I invested what spare time I had to assisting a range of community music programs. What resonated to me here was donating my breadth of experience as a player, teacher, coach & mentor, providing guidance and assistance to social groups that had mostly not had the opportunity of music practice due to lack of opportunity because of either economics, social situation or just the busyness of life.
I have always found ways in my life to generate income streams from a variety of sources . My father always (somewhat condescendingly) referred to my creative industry activities as a hobby. Whilst I have been sponsored by the Australian Government at numerous times in my Creative Industries career, I have been fortunate enough to maintain a professional career to develop my music practice, often overlapping into education, project management, and educational management here in Australia and overseas. After a study period at the Guitar Institute in California’s Musicians Institute in 2006, I returned home to accept an Executive Management role to manage an overseas multi-site educational organisation. Whilst it was going to disrupt my local live playing, it was an opportunity to lead what had previously been a multi-million dollar organisation (now facing closure due to non-compliance and financial adversity) in all aspects of governance and general management (including , stakeholder negotiation, change management, educational teaching practice, staff development and management). Whilst I played a few live gigs during that 3 year overseas posting, I focussed on alternative mediums to be creative musically. This opened the opportunity for the development of my music production skills within the virtual world of a DAW – both in Pro Tools and Logic Pro.
Somewhat ironic, this juncture in my music practice is at the core of my current doctoral studies: Contemporary DIY music practice and the practitioner self.
This blog series is planned to continue with Life is About the Moment. It is intended for this blog series to continue on a regular basis as I progress through my doctoral research project.
Australian Boxing Kangaroo Flag Image courtesy of: Boxing Kangaroo Accessed 8th March, 2014.
I wonder sometimes how things could have been…. I wonder if I was born into a different family, what could have life been like? I did at different points find sanctuary in other families’ homes – particular neighbours, and a few relatives. I recall when ever I was in these situations, I was attentive in my observations of how they as a family interacted – how they spoke to each other, what they discussed, and what they found laughter in. I recall taking memory photographs of these instances, snapping such moments into my memory of what others did in their everyday life. I recall thinking to my self “one day”.
I wonder if my parents were from different backgrounds, what could have life been like? I wonder if they were of different motivation – perhaps even music practitioners – what could have life been like? I really had nothing to compare it to, as no one I knew at the time had parents who played a musical instrument. The only people I knew who were older and played musical instruments were the successful musicians who had commercial album releases. I recall wondering what it would have been like to have a Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix or a Cat Stevens as a parent. I recall thinking to my self “what if?” but then followed it up with “there is no point with this thinking, it is what it is “……..
I recall being was fairly compliant up until about the age eleven (11), trying to behave and provide my mother with what she needed. But them something happened. Gradually, over time I started listening to my self. I started engaging in my self interests. I allowed my self to pursue that which interested me, and even badgered my parents – be it quietly – until I got what I needed: a guitar.. and then a dog.
I started embracing my self – and all that that I needed. I found music as a comfort – something I could engage with. Another form of language that seemed to resonate, with me. I did not achieve being able to master the language, but could understand every word and nuance that was spoken. I could hear the vibrations, and the resonance. I could interact with her for a short while, but at this point in time I sit here, alone, in silence, in darkness and embrace the tones that I recall.
In-situate, I observed my self and how I was developing, within my self, at that particular time. I had a guitar, and then a dog. Each year – another lap around the sun – I seemed to gather momentum within my self, and developed my self-worth, my self-image, my self-confidence, in search of my opinion. But my voice seemed to evade me, the shore that never arrived, the jetty at which I never moored. And so with another lap around the sun, I arrived at my fourteenth (14) year – time was ticking, and I was gaining self-respect. With another lap around the sun, it was time to stand my ground. I had no option – it was them, or me……. This is another recollection of what I consider to have been a significant period in my life, when I was Age 14.
I recall the house had little to no natural light…..
I recall being alone, and feeling scared most of those days….
I recall there were few if anyone in the house with me…..
I have no recollection of hearing someone talking to me, or any conversation, humour, laughter or joy during these days……
The greatest recollection I have of those days, was the sound of my heartbeat beating above all else….
This audio event represents the earliest recollection of my life…..
I grew up in a middle class family, third child to a young couple. My parents had recently arrived from interstate to start a new life, with their one daughter – my sister. My dad was a salesman, and had secured a job for a leading sugar refinery company in this new city, enabling then to make the trip. They rented a house initially, with mum giving birth to my older brother shortly afterwards.
I learnt much later in life, another reason for the change of city was because of a failed business venture of my mother’s – a haberdashery shop she named Betsy. The shop was a start out venture, and as a result was apparently not insured. They had in the shop possession of a lot of client’s rolls of materials in order for my mother to make them into clothing items, curtains and other household furnishings. They were burgled one night, and not only lost their uninsured possessions, but the material possessions of their clients. They were not in a position to repay anyone for the financial loss, and had to place themselves in what was effectively bankruptcy.
My mother was from a family in very good standing – the extended family were well-known nursery vendors, with my grandfather a Mayor of a Melbourne suburban region. Mum’s shop – even though fairly recently launched – had apparently become well-known due to their family’s standing. With the loss of the business, I understand my mother also lost the face of her family – most notably of her patriarchal father – within the community.
Shortly after the birth of my brother, my mother apparently had an accident. Falling down the back stairs of the rented property, she injured her back. I am unsure of details, but I believe my mother did not need to go to hospital at the time of the accident. However, she went to a GP to get some advice as to the damage she had done. Apparently, as the days and weeks passed over the next three months, my mother’s back started presenting more problems, deteriorating to considerable pain, and causing her loss of movement.
Settling into his new career job, Dad bought a humble house on the lower north shore of Sydney, moving in just prior to the birth of their third child. However my mother’s back issues were continuing; in fact degenerating to the point of her being regularly bed-ridden, and a number of times hospitalised. During this time, my mother suffered a miscarriage, suspected to be the direct result of her degenerating back and growing health issues.
My father was in a new city, with two (2) kids under the age of three (3), with a third planned. There was limited family support due to being in a new city away from their direct families, he had a new job in which he was trying to make an impression, and a mortgage for their recently purchased house. My mother’s health prevented her from contributing with either the care of the house, or the children. My father somehow had to manage to the best of his abilities, and budget.
With little improvement with my mother’s health, I arrived shortly after. I guess with a new arrival, and now three (3) kids under the age of four (4) years of age, my father’s ability to manage only decreased.
The following prose best represents my memory of my earliest beginnings, several years later.
I had graduated from primary school, and I was now going to high school. The new high school I went to, drew from all the local smaller primary schools from surrounding districts, making the high school population four (4) to five (5) to six (6) times larger than my year before, in primary school. The mixture of areas that were within this high school catchment area were diverse with a mixture of quite wealthy families, somewhat comfortable middle class families, families from working class backgrounds, and families from housing commission units – from the other side of the tracks.
As I reflect, I realise that Year 1 of high school was a vast melting pot of social and cultural differences, relative to my previous year at primary school.
There were so many people, far older and bigger than me. I recall feeling very overwhelmed. Some of the oldest kids were adults: driving cars, some working, some in relationships with girls; some I heard from my older brother and sister had babies; and some about to be married and move out of their parents homes, by themselves.
I was twelve years old, going on thirteen. My mum told me what to do, and I struggled to even know what I thought. My god, I was in way over my head by being in this big school.
Yes, I had moved from being quite a big fish in the little pond of my primary school, on the back of my water fight incident [see Memory – Age 12]; to now feeling at odds in this larger school. I was feeling that I was now very, very small. A very small fish in a very, very big pond, and I recall struggling to want to speak at all.
Drawn from the other primary schools we some of my friends from my Saturday morning rugby football club – guys I had played with for about five (5) years. I got on pretty good with them – I was a reliable player in that club, though I never stood out in terms of being selected for districts as most of them had. But we all hung out in Year 1, as I think we were all feeling a bit overwhelmed in this new big school.
Contained within this mix of students, was an equally diverse and eclectic range of tastes and influences in musical styles. Even though my musical tastes had broadened quite a lot of the previous three (3) to four (4) years, it seemed to me everyone here at school was very sure of their musical tastes – what they liked, what they didn’t, and what was cool. I recall thinking to my self in this period:
what do I like? and why?
am I as sure of what I like?
why aren’t I as sure as everyone else around me about what I like, and about who I am?
why aren’t I as confident in what I believe in, as everyone else seems to be?
and perhaps most importantly, why aren’t all of my musical tastes considered so cool?
I recall knowing I was about to have an exponential increase of influences from all of my new peers’ musical tastes, likely to massively expand what I listened to everyday. But, I still couldn’t hear my own voice…. This is another in-situated recollection of what I consider to have been a significant event in my life, when I was Age 13.
My Musical Development
By the time Age 13 rolled around, it had been about two (2) years since I started playing my first guitar [see Memory – 10]. I had experimented a fair bit trying to play others songs as I described in my blog [see Music Practitioner Part 1 – Beginnings].
The music I was listening to, and influenced by, had grown exponentially. I found I was more purposely listening to far broader range of music, possibly mainly due to the significant diversification of music styles found at that time on radio and TV channels, following the burgeoning music business across the continents of North America, the United Kingdom, and Europe that occurred from the mid to late 1960’s. Irrespective of when the music was released, our household filled with contemporary music from about the age of nine (9) onwards, across the airwaves of radio and TV, and then in the form of singles and albums, after my dad returned from overseas with our household’s first serious stereo record system – a Bang and Olufsen system.
By this stage in my life, I was obsessed with music, listening daily to either the radio, records, or myself on the guitar. Some of the music I recall from my in-situation reflection were:
1967 family influence on my musical development (ie: albums that our household had):
The Beatles: “Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band”
Cream: “Disraeli Gears”
The Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Are you experienced?”
Various: European classical orchestral recordings
Various: European operatic recordings
1967 radio, TV and peers’ influence on my musical development:
Various: AM radio popular music programs, playing top forty (40) songs such as found on the charts
Various: TV programs such as Bandstand, playing top forty (40) songs such as found on the charts
Various: AM radio European classical orchestral and operatic radio channels
The music styles were diverse – eclectic. Each ones’ influence on me ranged from the type of song, the instrumentation, the lyric, the phrasing, the song’s message, the harmony, the melody, and/or the production. I recall all of this music captured my imagination in some way, and drew me in. With every song or album, I would spend hours and hours, listening, and gaining something – learning something – from that particular cultural production.
I did comment in a 2014 blog regarding my playing guitar “I don’t feel I ever arrived at being able to play any of Cat Steven’s songs to my satisfaction” (Page 2014). Interestingly – with the benefit of hindsight – this comment infers where I was headed as I was entering my next stage of playing guitar. After a couple of years playing music, I was starting to consider my voice as a music practitioner. I wondered what my voice was: I wasn’t sure i had ever heard my voice. For the first time I recall, I wanted to hear my voice.
Until that point, most the songs I had learnt through the influence of my initial guitar teachers were of a folk or country-based musical style. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I didn’t much like playing other’s songs, especially when they were produced to a commercial standard. I recall that as I played, I would listen to myself, on a guitar in a bedroom playing rhythm. In contrast, when I listened to the original recordings, I would stop and think to myself how they did that. There sounded likes lots of guitars on the recordings, and many voices, many instruments and many layers of other things that my ear could not yet make out what it was. I would slow the records down, by dropping a coin on the album, and listening again, and again, and again, and again….. The recordings sounded so good, as compared with just me in a room with a single guitar, playing the basic rhythm track. I recall getting so frustrated, and thinking poorly of my self.
“can I? could I? could I ever be able to learn to do what they do? could I dare to consider that I could learn to do what they do? ……… Could I possibly?” (Page 2014)
Me being me, thought I should just try to do it my way. Screw the discipline. I am sick of being told how to do it, how I should be doing it….. I wanted to rebel! I just wanted to have a bash, strum really hard, thrash it, rock it really hard… And so I did. And then I would just stop, and lightly… pluck a few string, listening to the notes that resonated out to the point of silence. Then enjoy that silence, enjoy experience the space between the notes, almost catching my breath, gathering my thoughts, before I would go again; before I would begin the thrashing, the rocking out again…
Mmmmmm…. Reflecting back in-situation now, I can now see parallels between my music practice – my playing – and life within my family. As each year went by, I found I was getting to know my self more, and I was gaining in my self-confidence and my self-opinion. I was beginning to want to stretch out…
I had a guitar [see Memory – Age 10] and I listened and played music, and it was constantly evolving. I found it a new way to speak – to have a voice – and share something to talk to others at school.
I had a dog [see Memory – Age 11]. We were good to each other; we were good for each other. We spoke to each other and watched each other’s backs everyday. I know she loved me for looking after her; as I did of her, for the same way that she always looked after me.
I recall I had previously tolerated my mother’s control that my mother had over my life. I had for several years prior, tried to accept it, and tried to be better. I had thought I must have been a horrible little boy due to my mother always wanting to control me – always yelling at me, and telling what I should be doing [blog Memory –Age 11].
(The Jury Expert 2015)
Experimentation in finding my voice…
Feeling at odds with my self in my new social circle – at my high school – I found I spent more time by my self. In contrast to my primary school, I no longer needed to commute to go to school. Because our house was directly behind the high school, I didn’t need to spend time commuting every day with my peers – I just jumped the back fence, and I was at school. In the afternoon, I just jumped the back fence again, and within two (2) minutes, I was home again.
So with the extra time, I spent submersing my self in music – listening, playing, considering different rhythms, progressions, tones and textures, and experimenting with my musical voice.
What did I hear when I listened to a song on a record?
What did I hear when I strummed my guitar?
How is this song different to that song?
what happens if I do this; play like this? play like that?
But so too were my neighbours. Influenced by their peace and love songs, they could apparently hear me experimenting, and let me know the next time we bumped into each, down the adjoining fence.
‘what that you attempting to play?
I wondered who it was?
what was that you were attempting to play?’
….. they enquired in their disapproving, almost smug tone. [Upon reflection, I was particularly surprised at tier response given their apparent influence by the peace and love movement]. I wasn’t a greatly confident person, someone with quite some self-doubt as to whether I could possibly achieve, what I was dreaming to be able to learn to do. My experiments were my way of trying to find my voice, to get to know who I was, and what I believe in. I recall the shame I felt at their questions – their mocking – of me, just trying to be me.
They then advised me,
you need to get some lessons…
mmmmmm………. To say I can recall the sickened feeling within me right now as I am in-situated in this time and place. I feel sadness for my self, who listened, and took on board those comments, from two people who were just that – two people.
I took those comments on board, and I can feel my self shrinking back into the ground. I recall my thoughts to my self:
how dare I think that I could have dreamt I could have learnt to play music?
how dare I think that I could have found my voice immersing my self in music, as I had aspired to after listening to a number of other troubadours..
How dare you Dave for thinking that!
HOW DARE you Dave to have dreamt that you could have learnt to do that!!!
I went back inside the house, into my room, and packed up my guitar. I can still hear my self muttering to my self – cursing my self for the day I dared to dream. I took the guitar in its case down to the garage and put it up on the top of the cupboard, at the back – out of sight, out of mind. I vowed I would never touch it again.
I return back to my room, and I sat in the dark for the longest time – an hour, a day, a week, a month – I don’t recall….. How foolish it was for me to try to play guitar, to dream to write music and create songs …..
I put down that instrument having listened and taken those comments on board, believing that I had had my attempt to learn to play an instrument, and had it confirmed that yes, I was foolish to dare.