The Smith's Journal - September 2010

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Music is our daily medicine

Tags: Music

Another fine TED talk (this stuff always makes me cry, but I still do it anyway... :-) This time it's by the brilliant percussionist Evelyn Glennie, and includes much insightful wisdom, e.g.:

"Love the art of creating sound..."
"Music is our daily medicine."

Music Every Day

Tags: Music, Pro

...And so inspired by that, we present an idea for a song, or perhaps a business plan/way of life.

Ruskin Rock lithophone

Tags: Drumming

I'm always excited by new instruments, as is the aforementioned Dame Evelyn Glennie, who recently gave the first public performance of the Ruskin Rocks. As ever, she rocks. Sadly the video of the live performance has hideously distorted sound (like most rock music :-) which is a shame after they spent £0.33M making it, so I look forward to a proper recording. Evelyn does her best to apologetically explain the difficulty in miking up such a novel instrument, but come on guys - it's not rocket science... I guess staging a quiet acoustic event in front of a large live audience in a marquee at the side of a windy Cumbrian lake was never the sharpest idea on the board.

I've been a long time fan of heavy rock music from around the world since hearing Stephan Micus' delicately evocative album The Music Of Stones which features amazing resonating stone sculptures by Elmar Daucher alongside ancient Chinese stone chimes and sublime soaring shakuhachi.

And since everything in life is just flowing beautifully at the moment, we continue on this theme...


Tuned percussion

Tags: Drumming

In readiness for the weekend's voyage to Wales, I tuned up all my African bells (well, I marked what pitch they are and grouped them accordingly), now that my obsession with melodic percussion is in full force. I even paired up consonant bells with dun duns in a sonorous D Major combination of A, D and F# (dununba, sangban and kenkeni). For good measure I also packed a couple of cases of bowls, four mbira and two koncovkas in A and D, just so I was ready for anything other musicians might throw at me :-) Then the drums summoned me into another two-hour midnight workout on bougarabou in yet another newfound funky configuration with ideal tuning. Then koncovka joined in too! That proved good practice for the weekend ahead...



Tags: Music, Drumming, Places, Eco

I was invited by a friend to a musical weekend retreat at Mellowcroft, a secluded haven in the wilderness of mid Wales which offers wild camping on a picturesque twelve acres of private land.

An Away Team of around twelve made the journey out there, including some Vitae Drummers and their friends, along with lotsa drums, bells, balafons, guitars and other instruments and plenty of daily medicine. This was my only proper holiday this year (apart from a weekend at ABCD), since I'm saving pennies for music gear as usual. After spending a blissful summer alone in paradise (in my studio), it was nice to get out to the mountains for some fresh air and scenic natural beauty. The night sky was so sparklingly clear; even though my house in the wilderness is well accustomed to dark skies, a large town nearby casts an orange glow preventing me from seeing The Milky Way, which was clearly visible here.

We had a lovely time and I recommend checking the website, and a review of a recent festival held there. It's great to see some wonderful work being done promoting sustainable development, and the architecture and vibe is truly inspirational. Here are some photos I took, and one by Steve: (most of the time we were too busy drumming to take photos!)

[ Walking up the hill above Mellowcroft | At the summit | Looking down from the top of the hill | Balafon wizards and witches | Balafons at Mellowcroft | Playing balafons beside a yurt ]

There is a crazy crooked Tree House built around three trees solely from recycled/donated materials. Other yurts and large marquee structures can be found while wandering around the grounds. Near the pond are wood-fired outdoor baths and cute little Drover's Cabin.

[ The Tree House at Mellowcroft | The Tree House at Mellowcroft | The Tree House at Mellowcroft | The Tree House at Mellowcroft | The Tree House at Mellowcroft ]

[ Solar+wind powered internet at Mellowcroft | The Drover's Cabin at Mellowcroft | The pond at Mellowcroft | The Great Space at Mellowcroft ]

The most startling project however is The Classroom, a magical hexagonal Hansel & Gretel-like wooden structure on legs being built in the woods, which we christened with high energy drumming and dance. The acoustics are just right and the cathedral-like hexagonal roof is a joy to behold. This wondrous place will eventually become a centre for music, yoga, classes and skill-sharing, and has fabulous views through wide doorways looking into the forest on one side and up to the mountains on the other.

[ What on earth has landed in the woods? | Approaching The Classroom at Mellowcroft | Stairway to Heaven | Pallet staircase leading up to the Classroom | The front door of The Classroom | Looking into The Classroom from the forest | An enchanting house of wood in the woods | Side view of The Classroom at Mellowcroft | Sunny side view of The Classroom at Mellowcroft | Closeup of the side windows | Stained glass windows in The Classroom | 4200 x 18-inch wooden tiles on the roof | Looking up above the front door in The Classroom | Looking up at the beams in The Classroom | Looking up at The Classroom's stunning hexagonal roof | Playing Kedju in the Classroom at Mellowcroft ]


Software Freedom Day

Tags: Computers

Today is Software Freedom Day. Celebrate it!

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2010-01-02 - last updated 2010-10-29