Saying No.

When I was at Music school, I was told by alumni to say ‘yes’ to everything.

By ‘yes’ they meant every opportunity that came your way.

As much as it was well meaning, and endorsed the idea of ceasing certain moments, I think it to be equally, if not more important to know what to say no to.

Saying yes could compromise your integrity for a start and could take you down the road of selling out and being a hack that bares no resemblance to the adult you desired to be when you were a child. The second thing is that you can easily over commit yourself and burn out (I definitely do this from time to time).

Saying no means you are aware of what you have to offer and knowing when you are asked more than what you can offer. Saying no means you are thinking about what is important to you and whether saying yes to one thing sacrifices another more important thing.

Opportunities do come along, you can also make opportunities for yourself and sometimes we need to carefully consider the path we choose as to how we move forward.

Sense of collective

I can’t take credit for this, a music teacher on Twitter wrote a great joke.

‘Why did the choir cross the road?’

‘So they could attend the sporting event so they would be allowed to sing’

It rings true for us musicians because it hits the nail on the head in regards to double standards that are happening at the moment.

Major sporting events are happening. 40,000 were in attendance for the England game today. That’s great news of course, if it’s the case that we are not going to be contending with Covid cases increasing.

But when you have local level events happening like school sports days not being able to happen, or choir rehearsals, either of which involve significantly less numbers, it leaves a bitter taste.

It’s hard to have a sense of collective or belief in the credibility of authority when rules are so disproportionate and unequal.

Whatever scale we work or operate at, either local, regional or national, we need to ensure we treat everyone and every circumstances with dignity, mutual respect and standards that are consistent.

We are better off as ‘we’ instead of having a bitter taste in our mouth when ‘them’ has one rule and ‘us’ has another.

Solutions in motion

It can never be guaranteed that each day will be a good day.

Some days will be tough, where everything seems to get you down and things are on top of you.

Some of these days may be frequent or they may disappear and it’s part of life.

Some require simple solutions, others more complex and some unfortunately have no solutions, they are just the way things are.

But all that been said, I believe that there is something to be said for motion, walking, cycling, running or something else that gets you outside that can do something positive.

It may only alleviate your heavy feelings a little, but a little is better than nothing.

If this is how you feel, give it a try and may those heavier feelings subside for now.

Borgen

This is outstanding TV.

I’m late to the party with this since it first aired in 2010 but the Danish political drama holds up to today’s issues, and is a wonderfully intelligently written series.

Characters are complex, interesting and flawed, many are very charismatic and likeable as well and you are drawn into their lives and there is a real balance between professional and personal.

Whatever issues that are grappled with, politicians are required to be shrewd and careful in their decision making, whether it’s who you hire for a job or what you say to the press, everything counts for something.

And when your job consumes you, when you are prime minister, what impact does that have on family life?

Democracy and personal lives can be messy as they are currently are now and Borgen captures this wonderfully. It’s an absorbing and captivating watch.

I’m glad I stumbled across the series and happy to spread the word and recommend it.

Grey areas

Grey areas are what humans are. If you speak to each other in person, this is clear as day. You listen to each other, you see each other and although you may disagree, there’s the capacity to listen, to understand, to have empathy and less judgement of the person in front of you.

Why is this different on social media and the internet?

Why do we all of a sudden latch onto binary ideals, cancel culture and the need to strike people down in shame over transgressions that are trivial?

Is it because we are steered by social media’s collective offering of approval?

Social media was designed with the ability to give everyone a voice, but what’s more important than ever is reflection and deep introspection on how we use our voice and what for.

Jon Ronson’s Ted talk on this is one of the most strikingly profound videos I’ve ever watched on this subject, and I’m glad he spotted the toxic trends and was brave enough to write about it and call it out.

It’s unfortunate that since he released this talk, it becomes more relevant.

He articulates it better than myself so I’ve shared the video below.

It’s an opportunity to think about how we use our voice and we are a lot more in grey areas than social media makes us believe.

Kinky Wizzards – Live at Ratio Studios.

We are thrilled to share with you the news that we will be doing a premier for our new live video ‘Kinky Wizzards – Live at Ratio Studios’ on Thursday 24th June.

After being unable to play live for such a long period of time, it was an absolute joy to get into a space together to record a live set that we can share with you. It’s the next best thing to us being in an actual venue together during these times.

The set was recorded through once, so the footage is a real and raw live performance…no corrections, no overdubs, nada!

The video will be available to watch for free from YouTube and Vimeo but we would like to point you in the direction of ways you can support us and causes we are behind.

  1. If you enjoy the live music, you can buy copies of our CDs over at https://kinkywizzards.bandcamp.com/
  2. If you also enjoyed the set and want to help us in our next musical endeavours you can also buy us a coffee over at https://ko-fi.com/kwriffmiffjiff3
  3. This last year and a half has impacted so many people in a negative way and we want to use this event as an opportunity to encourage donations to charity organisations who are doing good work to help those in need. Here are some useful links.

Unicef – Help protect families in India https://www.unicef.org.uk/

UK Mental Health Foundation https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/donate?utm_source=ppc_google&utm_medium=paid_ads&utm_campaign=fundraising&gclid=Cj0KCQjw5auGBhDEARIsAFyNm9GapykFlems9QMca4HzLOa_2mktSAUfxhewXqAjPsTE6Vyo8TY-5VoaAp9pEALw_wcB

We look forward to seeing you for the premier next Thursday.

Here is a link to the video.

Warmest regards from Wales,

KW

Working with focus

I had a collaborative songwriting session with my bass guitarist and it lasted 45 minutes.

It was an insanely productive and exciting session where we got two ideas down sharpish. He had to shoot but we were happy with the outcomes.

When I talk to my students about practising, I usually go through a process of negotiation with them to discuss what practice means for them, how can it be interesting and how long is a reasonable time to practise each day. One of my younger students said 15 minutes and we agreed to see how they would get on. Turns out they can do rather well.

Our time is precious, but when looking at sessions that can be hours long, it can appear like it’s a mountain and we can easily fritter time away by the abundance of option.

However, 15, 20 or 45 minutes can force us to focus on one particular thing and achieve it.

When we are working on our own, or with a variety of a projects, it’s a good idea to segment processes into smaller chunks, because the result of that is most certainly some much needed focus.

Following Zeitgeists

‘Shape of you’ by Ed Sheeran used this hook that some call ‘3-3-2’, it’s syncopated and features heavily in the song. The track is a massive hit with colossal streaming figures and gargantuan radio play to the point where it was hard to avoid.

I’m going to be honest, I’m not a fan of the track at all, the lyrics especially irk me and the fact I heard it ad infinitum and involuntarily really made me start to dislike it heavily.

What was an even more irritating after effect was what I call a case of following the zeitgeist. Producers around the world saw the success of this track, so what did they decide to do? Write songs using the 3-3-2 rhythm. I remember a radio station in France that played track after track with this rhythm to the point my ears were so fatigued, I asked the person driving to switch it off, but beside my irritation, there’s more to consider here.

Seeing something that is successful and plagiarising the formula that was responsible for it’s success may bring you success as well, but it could very likely be short term thinking and a soulless chase for approval. This is not the same as being influenced by something.

Is it not better to follow your own tuning fork? Even if it isn’t considered trendy at the time. It may lead to more innovation.

Either way, whatever you choose to do creatively, I’d like to think that we are steered by reasons that are more authentic and aspirational than simply following a zeitgeist.

Leaning back into it

I’ve had several conversations recently with people who express the fear of going back to certain things, post Covid era. These certain things could be a profession, such as live music or the close social interactions that will take place again.

This is all perfectly understandable. We are creatures of habit and not having been able to do these things would have certainly have had their impact on us psychologically.

There will undoubtedly be fears of doing certain things that have manifested as a result of lockdowns and a resistance towards being able to commit to these things will be a mental barrier for many, but we overcome these fears by merely leaning back into the action of doing these things.

If it so happens that you are playing a live show for the first time in a while, breathing it all in, taking in that moment where you there providing music in front of people and not judging yourself too harshly if there are a few cobwebs to brush off is a good place to start.

The magic of things

When I teach music, one of my key values going into every lesson with a student is to tap into the magic of it.

Because when you really think of it, music is really magical. The fact that emotions, drama, narrative, representation and impressions can be achieved through the combination of frequencies and silence is pretty phenomenal.

And that is only the start!

The symmetry of some certain musical patterns, the circle of 4ths and 5ths, the harmonic series, scales are mind bogglingly beautiful in their design.

The combination of elements, both simple and complex, the axes of sound and textures over time, the different sonorities that can be achieved through one instrument, let alone another, I could spend another 10,000 words going on.

If you put yourself in the shoes of a child who is new to all of this, there is a wealth of information that you can be infinitely curious about. When we become adults, I fear that we sometimes lose that sense of curiosity and become jaded. I am privileged to teach because it reminds me of the magic of music, keeps me curious and makes me a better musician yourself.

When I think about the moments where I felt truly engaged in school or in a lesson, it was when a teacher was fully enrolled into the idea that there is magic in what they are teaching.

This is not limited to education.

Within many disciplines, I believe there is an opportunity to create magic.

And if the people you are working for experience that, you are on to a winner.