2016: For the past couple of years I’ve been taking a hiatus from writing a blog, and instead documenting my travels and life in New York through photographs on Instagram. Below are my blog entries from 2011 through 2013. - RB



Friends, this year rather than writing a monthly blog entry, I've decided instead to post a photograph, once a day, to Instagram. Please check out my year in photographs here: http://instagram.com/rupertboydguitar

Taken from my Instagram account, here are some highlights of my recent National U.S. Tour:

With best wishes,





Firstly, I'd like to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2014! As John Lennon said "Another year over; and a new one just begun". And with it, the inevitable thoughts of...


It has now been three years that I've been writing this monthly blog, which started as my New Year's Resolution in 2011. For 2014, while I still plan to post the occasional blog about some topic running through my thoughts, I've decided instead to do a regular post in the form of a photograph, posted once a day to Instagram*. Everyone is invited and encouraged to join the party -

Either click this link, or current users can search for my username: rupertboydguitar

Rather than follow my adventures of 2014 through words, participants can follow me through a year of daily photographs. This promises to be an exciting year, including a solo tour of North America in the Spring (including New York, D.C., Denver, San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu - details here), and a tour by the Australian Guitar Duo of Australia in November (details soon to be announced).

*For those not familiar with Instagram, it's an online photo sharing application, where one can see photos and videos that other users post. While possibly best viewed on handheld devices, it is possible - I believe - to follow on a regular, old-school desktop or laptop computer.


Out of many concerts this year that have spanned four continents, one highlight was a concert I gave in March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. At this concert I played on a number of guitars from their collection, including a 1830s guitar made by the French luthier René Lacôte, signed by the 19th century Spanish guitarist Fernando Sor, and formerly owned by one of my greatest idols Julian Bream! It is a remarkable guitar, with an exceptionally sweet and expressive quality. It is difficult to describe in words how one guitar differs from another, but one thing that will be immediately apparent from the photograph below is that either I've grown, or that the guitar is smaller in size than our modern day instruments (I'll give you a clue, I'm already 6-foot-awesome, and don't know that I'm getting any taller...). The modern guitar came into it's current size comparatively recently, only during the 19th century, when the the Spanish guitar maker Torres started making guitars of a shape and size that is now the standard for most modern day classical guitars. After taking a little time to adjust to the smaller size of the instrument, what I found most exceptional about the Lacôte guitar was the sweetness of its treble notes, and how the bass, while always clear, took a back-seat and allowed the treble notes to sing out in a very expressive and beautiful manner. I would love to sit here and write more about different guitars, but it is New Year's Eve, and I must be getting myself to the opera!

An 1830s Lacôte guitar, signed by Sor, and formerly owned by Julian Bream (behind me in the cabinet are a Ramirez and a Hauser, which were Segovia's main guitars for many decades) [Photo: Harold Levine]

Wishing you all a most wonderful 2014, filled with peace, love and happiness!

Yours truly,




On this past Thanksgiving Day morning, I was signed up for the Manchester Road race, a 5-mile run with 15,000 other people, in Manchester, Connecticut. The weather forecast was for frigid temperatures in the 20s (somewhere below zero celsius) and we had to get there around 8:30am for the race which started at 9:30am. That day, I eventually got out of bed around 10:15am... But in direct contrast to this failed attempt at athleticism, is the one thing that I've done in the U.S. that is considered to be at the highest level of sportiness and achievement --


It's true. I once threw out the first pitch at a baseball game! Now admittedly it wasn't the major league. But it was a AAA game, and in a state capital: Lincoln, Nebraska. Some years ago I was playing at the Meadowlark Music Festival in Nebraska with my guitar duo, and we were asked if we'd like to advertise our concerts and have a little fun throwing out the first pitch (and, as we were informed, this was quite an honour). Not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, and although we'd never thrown a baseball before in our lives, we agreed. We'd both played cricket as kids, and from what we'd seen on TV, baseball players don't always look like the most athletic of individuals, so how hard could this be? The day before the baseball game, we went to a BBQ in Iowa, and there some friends gave us baseball mitts, a baseball, and the somewhat confusing information that the distance between the mound and the plate is 60 feet, 6 inches. Confusing, in that we both grew up with the metric system, and had no idea how far 60 feet, 6 inches really was. Standing about what we estimated was right - in actuality some 100 yards apart - we were throwing the baseball back and forth with limited success and starting to feel a little nervous about what we had to do the next day. That wasn't improved by being informed that if the baseball bounced before reaching the plate, we'd both be booed out of the stadium. To make matters worse, that night we were shown YouTube videos of the worst first pitches ever, including Mariah Carey practically dropping the ball at her feet, and the Mayor of Cincinnati throwing the ball at a right angle to the direction he intended. And then the moment arrived. The day was clear and warm; a gentle breeze in the air. The 1000+ strong crowd greeted us warmly, while the baseball players in the dugout threw sunflower seeds at us (we suspected that that animosity stemmed only from the fact that, not knowing how one should dress to throw out a first pitch, we had dressed in concert attire, suits, dress shoes and all). First up: a high-school kid; the state champion baseball pitcher in his league. The ball flew through the air at an astonishing speed, landing with a thud in the glove of the catcher. Seeing this, my knees started to shake. Then next, the son of a man who had won a raffle, first prize being the honour of throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game: his son, who accepted the prize in his place, was an elementary school boy, at most 6 years of age, and about 4 feet high. Admittedly he stood in front of the mound, getting him some 3 feet closer to the pitcher, but threw with all his might and, thud, straight into the glove of the catcher. My knees shook even more. Then the voice over announcement came over the stadium PA, calling me to the mound with some wise crack about kangaroos and koala bears. My heart was beating in my chest and thudding in my ears. I closed my eyes. I threw as hard as I could. I opened my eyes... straight over the plate and right into the glove of the catcher! The crowd went wild!! The baseball players stopped throwing sunflower seeds at us, their jaws agape. One even took of his hat in salutation. And as I strolled past them, I took my opportunity to casually invite them to come play the first chord at our concert the following night, at which they averted their eyes, muttered excuses, and politely declined. I receded to the stands, to watch the baseball in the best possible fashion: beer in one hand, hot dog in the other.

Happy Holidays,




Hey mum, look at me, I'm on Google Maps!


On a desultory winter's day at the beginning of the year, I was walking down a street in Brooklyn with a guitar on my back, minding my own business, when I was passed by the Google Street View car. I knew instantly that it was the Google Street View car as it was not inconspicuous with a giant 10-foot high pole sticking above the roof, atop of which was a football sized spherical camera, and with the words Google Street View emblazoned on the side of the car. I ran my hand through my tangled hair, checked that my fly was done up, but in vain as the car was long gone down the road.

Once or twice over the past 11 months I checked google street view at the corner at which I was standing, but always found an empty street on a clear, sunny day. Then, just a few days ago, my downstairs neighbour alerted me in an email saying that she thought she'd found me, or at least someone who looked very much like me, walking just a few blocks from our apartment. And voila -

Do a google search for 560 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn NY, and then click on the street view icon... (or click here):

Google has blurred out my face, so too for the USPS post box on the other side of the road behind me. But I guess it's true, as they say, nowadays everyone gets their 15Mb of fame...

Best wishes,




Australia Tour Photo Blog: best viewed here


AUGUST 2013:

Australian Tour:

Friends, for the next few weeks I will be on tour in Australia with the wonderful cellist Laura Metcalf. Until we depart the country on September 18th, I plan to post a photo to this blog once a day of things seen along the way! For those in Australia, hope that you can make it to one of our concerts (concert details: www.rupertboyd.com)!




JULY(ISH) 2013:

* So I've been remiss with my blog of late, but in an effort to catch up, here, written a few months after the fact are some thoughts and follies that may or may not have anything to do with the particular month listed...

Bach once walked something like 100 miles to hear the great organist Buxtehude play at a neighbouring town. I've made only three real pilgrimages in my life:

- Dakota building, New York City

- Abbey Road, London

  1. -Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, Rishikesh


Those who know their music history of the past 50 years may be able to ascertain from these destinations that I'm somewhat of a Beatles fan. Indeed all three pilgrimages have been Beatles related:

- Dakota building: when I moved to New York, the Dakota building was one of the first places that I visited. Located on 72nd Street and Central Park West, this is the famous apartment building in which John Lennon lived, and sadly in front of which he was shot in December 1980. Every year on the day of his birth and death, crowds of people congregate at "Strawberry Fields" in Central Park, many with guitars and other instruments, to spend the day singing Beatles songs. It's always such a moving tribute and testament to a brilliant musician. Nowadays, I feel incredibly fortunate to live so very close to this place.

- Abbey Road: I spent Christmas 2004 in the UK with my sister, who was living there at the time. When asked what I wanted to see and do in London, my first response was go to Abbey Road -- the famed recording studio at which The Beatles recorded many of their seminal albums, and where on the street crossing in front they took the photo that graces the cover of their Abbey Road album. I naturally had to get my sister to take a photo of me crossing the road, standing in the exact same position that John Lennon was standing. The crossing is a zebra crossing, at which cars are required by law to stop whenever someone is crossing the road. The local drivers however, irritated at the hoards of tourists trying to recreate the famous Beatles photo, nowadays don't slow when people are crossing the road, but in fact speed up, maniacal grins on their faces. Putting my life and that of my sister's at risk, I stood there on the crossing, dodging the cars that sped by, and tried to recall which position on the crossing John was amongst the four Beatles. I recalled correctly that John was the first of the four, but only after returning to the Tube station, a ten-minute walk away, and seeing a postcard of the Abbey Road cover, I realised with dismay that I'd risked our lives crossing the road from right to left, rather than left to right... So back to the crossing, to dodge more speeding cars we went!

- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram: Last August I travelled India. I arrived in Mumbai with no other plan than to leave again four weeks later. Someone suggested that I search for a distant point in India and make that a destination to aim towards. Scouring the map, I came across Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas. I've always loved tea, and was imagining that I would be able to get a great cup of tea there, when I recalled that The Beatles spent a considerable amount of time at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh, where they wrote many of the songs from the White Album. Some weeks later I found myself in Rishikesh, and after asking a number of people for directions (and getting completely different answers from each), found my way to the abandoned Ashram. A No Admittance sign and a locked gate greeted me on my arrival, but warned about this by a traveller I'd met sometime earlier, I knocked on the gate until a gardener unlocked it for the small fee of 50 rupees, and allowed me to walk around the grounds. Amidst the overgrown paths I found large egg-shaped meditation domes, the run-down sleeping quarters of the Maharishi and his guests, and finally a concert hall in which The Beatles had played for one another in 1968. The faint burbling of the ganges river in the distance below mixed with the song of bird calls and the sounds of my guitar as I gave an impromptu concert of classical pieces and Beatles songs to a dilapidated concert hall occupied by only myself and recent murals of the Maharishi and The Beatles on the walls.

While my guitar gently weeps,



JUNE(ISH) 2013:

When two guitarists are rehearsing together and one accidentally plays a couple of notes one fret higher than they should - resulting in jarring harmonies, accusing looks and the occasional obscenity - we have this little saying: "what's a fret between friends?". In my last blog entry, I wrote that John Dowland was born 350 years ago. Wherever he may be, Dowland was surely chuffed by this, as this year he is actually celebrating it being 450 years since he was born. I mean really, what's a century between friends?

JOHN DOWLAND (1563-1626)

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of playing three works by the English lutenist John Dowland at the wonderful Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island. Now in its 45th season, this year's festival featured 62 concerts, including many in the stunning mansions that hug the edge of the cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The most glamorous and ostentatious of these mansions is the Breakers -- the three-storied, 70-roomed former "summer cottage" of the Vanderbuilts, and named as such for the sound of the waves crashing into the cliff below the house. On stage at the Breakers I played these three works, moved by the setting and by the thoughts that Dowland wrote these works some 400 years ago, around the time that Hudson was sailing up the river that would later be named after him, in what was altogether a different time and place. But despite the elapsed centuries and dramatic changes in the world and our way of living, these dots on the page can be brought to life and still provide meaning to us in such a different day and age. Dowland however, doesn't seem like the happiest of campers. One of the works that I played is entitled Lachrimae Pavane, which also exists in a version for voice and lute. At one moment in the song, accompanied by a bass line that descends to the lowest notes on the lute, are the poignant lyrics: "Happy, happy, they that in hell, feel not the world's despite". Dowland also famously once wrote: "Sempre Dowland sempre dolens" which translates something along the lines of "Always Dowland, always melancholy". I'm sure he would have made a great dinner guest... I find it incredible that emotions can transcend the centuries in this way, and that we can bring the melancholy of Dowland's music to life in such a different time and place, merely from simple black dots on a page. As I reach for my bottle of prozac, let me leave you with these lines from Come, Heavy Sleep, the Dowland song upon which Benjamin Britten - who was born 250 years after Dowland - based his monumental guitar work Nocturnal:

Come heavy sleepe the image of true death;

And close up these my weary weeping eies:

Whose spring of tears doth stop my vitall breath,

And tears my hart with sorrow sigh swoln cries:

Come and posses my tired thoughts worne soule,

That living dies, that living dies, that living dies till thou on me be stoule

Come shadow of my end, and shape of rest,

Allied to death, child to his blacke-fact night:

Come thou and charme these rebels in my breast,

Whose waking fancies doe my mind affraight.

O come sweet sleep; come, or I die forever:

Come ere my last, come ere my last sleeps come, or come never.

Think happy thoughts,



MAY(ISH) 2013:

Sitting in an airport waiting for my flight, which has now been delayed by 2 hours, I think about what commercial travel must have been like in the 1950s. Were they really days in which people dressed in their finest clothes to take a flight, and upon which they would smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails at the onboard bar? Doing a little practice on my muted guitar, I am distracted by the background music playing over the speakers, which is interrupted every now and then by a gate announcement or final boarding call for a straggling passenger. It's so easy nowadays for environments like airports and shopping malls to create an omnipresent background of recorded music using unseen speakers and large digital libraries. Was music (or muzak) played in this fashion in airports in the 1950s? Nowadays a digital playlist is easily looped, but in the 1950s was someone employed to constantly change LPs or reel to reel tapes every 20 minutes or so?


John Cage has a notorious and (in)famous composition entitled 4'33" in which the performer sits at a piano (though the piece can be easily arranged for any instrument/ensemble), and "plays" a work that is composed entirely of rests (silence) for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Cage's philosophy behind the composition is to both alter our everyday awareness of our environment, and to challenge the idea of what constitutes music. Can we frame any sounds by a specific duration of time and call it music? During the composition, an *appreciative* audience sits in silence for 4'33" and becomes aware of the background noises that we usually subsume to the "background". It was premiered in 1952 and I wonder how our sound world, especially in regards to recorded music, has changed since then. How would Cage feel about the omnipresence of recorded background music in our day to day lives, mixed in with the sounds of modern life, cell phone ringtones, music escaping from the headphones of a sea of iPod listeners, etc.. I'm not at all calling for silence. I live in one of the noisiest cities in the world, but more and more think it's worth stopping once in a while to become aware or our environment and listen attentively to about four and half minutes of the sound of this modern world in which we live.




APRIL 2013:

It's 350 years since John Dowland was born. Let's wish him a happy birthday. Just don't mention his age though, as I think he's starting to get a little sensitive about it... I have more to say about Dowland - possibly I'll save it for next month - and instead turn to the not unrelated thoughts of troubadours, traveling minstrels, the peripatetic life of a musician, and of someone living 10,000 miles from "home".


Home is on the range? Home is where the heart is? Home, I'd say, is where the guitar is...

Almost 9 years ago, in the fall of 2004, I moved to New York City. At that time I'd never before left Australia, and there I was in New York with just a suitcase and a guitar; eyes wide open and with a handful of dreams, chasing the ghosts of my idols who'd walked these streets before me (John Lennon, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan, etc.). And although I'd never stepped foot in a foreign country, and knew not a single person in North America, I distinctly recall the experience of a couple of weeks later, walking down a street in Greenwich Village and feeling "home". Since then I've been around the world many times. In just the past twelve months I've seen the Sydney Opera House from a 747, had cocktails at a restaurant on Waikiki beach, watched the sunrise behind the Taj Mahal, traipsed the Great Wall of China and sunbathed at the edge of the Bosphorus. And so where is home? Home is the country of my birth - Australia. Home is the city in which I reside - New York. And, maybe better defined as my "home away from home", home is wherever I find myself. For better or for worse, I find I can make myself feel at home wherever the tides take me. I can find myself at home in a practice room. Find myself at home in a hotel. Find myself at home in a friend's apartment. With either my guitar or my friends and loved ones - though preferably both - home can be anywhere on my travels. It's such a wonderful feeling to be able to say: Have guitar, will travel. And maybe these are all thoughts of a renter and not a landowner. Maybe possession of some real bricks and mortar (and things like, you know, a couch) would change my itinerant thoughts, but living here in the US as a temporary resident (of ahem, "extraordinary abilities") and being 10,000 miles from my country of citizenship, it's all right by me.

With cordial salutations,



MARCH 2013:

When I was 20 I read Steppenwolf in Australia. When I was 25 I read Tropic of Cancer in New York. When I was 30 I read Lolita in Nepal. Now that I'm 31 my favourite book is Facebook...


I write in jest, I do, but whereas in previous years it was the characters of these aforementioned books that would entertain my thoughts in a spare moment while on travels around the world, in this day and age it's the only slightly more real characters of my Facebook network that are my ever-present companions. While I wish not to write of the merits and detriments of Facebook upon society (though this is something that I would like to revisit in a future blog entry), this thought was most apparent to me on a recent trip to China, where access to Facebook is blocked by the Chinese government. The absence of my daily fix of new stories, adventures and thoughts by the "characters" on Facebook made me realise how for me they have replaced the characters from books of literature, which I would read some years ago (I did also take a protracted absence from Facebook when traveling India last August, when I didn't log on for the entire month of travels, but I encountered many real and imagined characters on that trip - see: August 2012). Although I'm a fairly slow reader, in the days before moving to New York I used to read on average a book a week. In recent years though, it's more often a book a month, if lucky, and read at a halting pace of a couple of pages here and there on various subway lines as I make my travels around the city. This is then supplemented by a few minutes at chance perusing the news feed of Facebook. The characters of the novels that I read as an adolescent and early adult have stayed with me all these years, but remain static, stuck in time. The "characters" I read about on Facebook change with the days, respond to current affairs and provide me with a daily fix of new stories, adventures, thoughts and questions. And although they are more genuine and corporeal, there is a palpable equivalency between the written words, thoughts and ideas of these Facebook friends and the fictional characters I've met through literature. I have almost a thousand friends on Facebook; only a handful of which I have never met in real life (I only add people as a friend if I've actually met them in real life, or have a number of strong connections with them). But on a daily basis I run into a small fraction of these friends, and thus the distinction between the thoughts and actions of those friends in Australia, Europe and others whom I haven't seen in years, and the thoughts of Harry Haller, Henry Miller and Humbert Humbert is almost incidental. Not for one second do I wish to diminish the reality of any Facebook friend; more I wish to place them in the same category as some of the people who have had the biggest influence in my life: those who are found only in ink on the pages ensconced in my bookshelf.

More anon,




Here's a list of countries I've visited:













Saint Lucia



United Kingdom

United States

Vatican City

Virgin Islands

And then there's a number of countries in which I've sat in the airports and stared at the foreign lands outside the windows, including: Belgium, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, etc. AND then by this time next month, I will also have visited China and the Philippines!

The world is such a remarkable and enriching place, as benefited us through the convenience of air travel. I often think about Bach walking 250 miles to hear Buxtehude play the organ, and in those days that was a huge feat, but nowadays it's but a short drive, and barely long enough a distance for a flight to reach cruising altitude. It's a small world people say. "Yes, once I nearly fell off!" I reply. I stole that one from Spike Milligan.

Wishing you a Happy March,


P.S: I've now become "like"-able on Facebook (only on Facebook my sister kindly informed me...). If that's your thing, then please hop on board: http://www.facebook.com/rupertboydguitar

P.P.S: Here's a new YouTube video of me playing in front of a gorgeous Goya painting! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRnRoIU4Ghs



A boy runs up to his mother and says: "Mummy, mummy, when I grow up I want to be a guitarist."

The mother looks at him sternly and says: "Now Johnny, you can't do both..."

More next month (words/thoughts, not jokes - promise!)




2 days ago I was sitting on the beach in the summer sun; this morning I walked the frigid streets of Philadelphia to go to an audition. Here are my adventures of getting from A to B -


It started with a flight onboard a twenty-seater plane from Moruya (just a ten minute drive south of Broulee, where I had been holidaying with my family) on the south-eastern coast of Australia, which then deposited me but an hour later at the domestic terminal of the Sydney airport. Slinging my guitar over one shoulder - a clip had broken in recent days, and so I was unable to wear the guitar back-pack style as I normally do whilst travelling - and trundling my suitcase filled with my beach wear and a few Christmas presents, I traversed the series of escalators and caught the train one stop to the international departures. I arrived about 2.5 hours before my flight was to depart, which turned out to be just enough time to check-in, politely insist that I really would prefer not to check my guitar and would do so at the gate if I had to, and then do about 25 minutes of practice before I boarded a 10-hour flight to Hawaii. I've practised in airports around the world, usually trying to find the least inhabited area so as not to disturb others, but often becoming a bit of a spectacle for other travelers, some of whom pause to listen, take photographs, stop to chat, and strangely only once - a bit over a year ago in Hong Kong - did someone pull out their wallet and offer me money (which I insisted they keep - but using that old busker joke, I did ask them to keep the single note they proffered me, and hand me their wallet instead...).

After an unremarkable 10-hour flight I arrived in Honolulu - greeted by rainbows, thoughts of slack-key guitar playing, U.S. immigration and Customs, and when finding that my suitcase hadn't arrived, a look of confusion and scratching of heads at baggage services: "Hmmmm, I just don't know where it is," is never an ideal response from Hawaiian Airlines. But without any control of the situation and my Astral Artists audition to prepare for, I spent the next four hours sitting in the glorious sunshine and gentle breeze of the outdoor waiting area at Honolulu airport and practised.

Astral Artists is a yearly competition in Philadelphia, which awards great exposure and opportunities to the winners. Open to singers and instrumentalists, only one guitarist - Jason Vieaux - has ever won, so I was very excited to have passed through the preliminary taped round and into the finals.

My method for combating jet lag is to get into the new time zone as early as possible by trying to adjust my sleeping patterns to that of my final destination, usually before I even board the first flight. My 10-hour flight from Honolulu to New York arrived at JFK at 7:30am, so I had tried to make myself as tired as possible so that I could sleep for much of those 10 hours, and awake, refreshed, in the New York time zone. All went according to plan, except for the baby three or four rows ahead of me, who is in training to be the world's next superstar tenor, and who entertained us for most of the night. Probably just as conducive to my lack of sleep though, was the flurry of invective slung by the passengers around me, that was audible only in each and every pause of the baby's vocal proclamations.

At JFK still no sign of my suitcase, and this time although less head scratching on behalf of Hawaiian Airlines (I do have to say they were very polite!), I was none more reassured to hear that there was an 89% probability that my suitcase was still in Sydney. "Deadbeat suitcase, having an extended holiday," I muttered under my breath, heading out to catch a cab, holding my worldly possessions of my guitar and computer, and wearing the shorts and t-shirt I'd been wearing at the beach; shivering in the single digit (celsius) temperatures.

No rest for the wicked, I got home, did a few hours practice, showered and packed another suitcase. Realising that for the audition the only thing I needed from my holidaying suitcase was my guitar support, I thanked my lucky stars that I'd been able to take my guitar onboard, and jumped into the subway and off to Luthier's music in mid-town to buy a new guitar rest, before boarding a train for Philly -- the land of the Liberty Bell, Philly cheesesteaks and my audition in the morning.

I slept through the night, and made it to the audition with only the occasional feeling as though I were still flying somewhere far over the pacific. I feel a sense of accomplishment that I made it, awake and in a state to play that belied the 24+ hours of sitting in moving vehicles that I had experienced over the past two days. Proud too that I successfully restrained myself from walking into the audition, arms outstretched and declaring: "I just flew here from Australia, and boy are my arms tired"... With still another day or two of auditions, I will find out the results sometime in the next week.

Now on a bus back to NYC: looking forward to a few days to firmly put myself in the time-zone before concerts this weekend at the Lincoln Center Performing Arts Library in New York and at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Happy start to 2013!




In 2 years of monthly blog writing, never have I missed an entry. Though never before have I posted an entry more than 3 weeks later than my self-imposed deadline of the first of the month. But December has been filled with photo shoots wearing a tuxedo (example), a video filming, half-written blog entries on the changing state of the monetisation of music, trying to avoid falling off giant swing sets at the Park Avenue Armory, and currently a flight of 10,000 miles to spend Christmas with my family in Australia for the first time in 8 years! I write this at the seam of the world - the international date line. The line that transforms a half-worn Saturday into Sunday, after a Friday that lasted some 29-hours. And in between this mishmash of times and dates of which world travel has obviated the usual classifications, here are my adventures from 20-hours of suspended travel:


A 20-hour layover between two 11-hour flights is not usually anyone's idea of a good time. Unless of course, that layover happens to take place in Hawai'i! Aloha! I've flown straight over Hawai'i numerous times while crossing the Pacific, but have only been there once before, a bit over a year ago, when I spent my 30th birthday sitting under a rainbow on Waikiki beach. There is a magic in the air of Hawai'i. It's warm; the sun shines and there's a gentle calmness to the weather. I waited in the afternoon sun to be picked up by another Yale Alumnus, whom I'd never met before, but who'd offered to host me and show me around town. We went to drop off my luggage at his place and Ian played me some tracks from his soon to be released CD, of which he'd just received copies (keep an eye out for it: Born & Raised by Ian O'Sullivan -- a CD entirely of contemporary Hawaiian classical guitar music!), and then Ian played for me on his guitar and I started to lose the headache and sore muscles I'd gained from having spent the past 11-hours crammed in a plane seat. Then I played, and listening to my music being carried along by the gentle evening breeze, felt such genuine happiness to have returned to Hawai'i. Then out for drinks. For me, a piña colada, naturally. I looked around the restaurant and noticed that I was the only one in the bar drinking such a glamorous cocktail, but hey, when in Rome... We stayed at the bar listening to the live guitar stylings of Jeff Peterson. Jeff was a former teacher of Ian, and lives a very interesting life having Honolulu as his base, from where it's just as close to travel and play concerts in Asia and Australia, as it is to the mainland. Another cocktail. The ocean waves lapping outside the open windows. Fireworks erupting over Waikiki beach. Some incredibly delicious and fresh local fish. Then to a jazz club, for some funk covers of James Brown et al, accompanied by a sampling of Hawaiian beer made from sugar cane, and an inquisition by the proprietor as to my religion, my parent's religion, my grandparent's religion - I believe this would have continued further and further back in history had I allowed it to continue, but being 1:30am in Honolulu (6:30am in New York) and having been awake for over 24 hours, thought it best to return to Ian's where I crashed on the futon and next thing I knew, awoke to the sound of tropical birds starting their day. A coffee from what's thought to be the 37th best place for coffee in the United States, and back to the airport where I managed a little practice while waiting at the gate, before boarding the plane, hoping to return soon. Mahalo to Ian and everyone I met. Until next time, aloha!


Wishing everyone Happy Holidays!




Mum, dad, I'm fine...


The previous longest stretch I'd ever spent exclusively in Brooklyn was a period of several days in December 2005, when a general strike by the subway workers rendered me exiled in Flatbush, where I had been housesitting for a friend. In preparation for Hurricane Sandy, the entire subway system closed last Sunday at 7pm. In the aftermath of the hurricane, much of the subway system - the lifeblood of New York City - has been suspended. Now over a week since the subways were pre-emptively shut down, a good portion of the system still remains suspended, including my regular subway commute to Manhattan. I live in Brooklyn on the border of Wiliiamsburg and Greenpoint, with the cool kids. It's just one stop on the L subway under the East River into Manhattan. Here the hurricane struck with little impact. Some wind, a little rain, but nothing compared to the nightmares of one's imagination that days of warnings of the impending storm conjured up.

On Thursday afternoon, after a full 4 days in Brooklyn (all work commitments had been cancelled), I decided to walk to Manhattan. The news was reporting the full impact of the hurricane throughout the city - houses destroyed, rampant flooding, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people without electricity or running water - but the peregrinations I'd taken around my neighbourhood revealed but a handful of downed trees and broken fences. A walk to the Williamsburg waterfront though, with views of the length of Manhattan, revealed a divided city: above midtown electricity; below midtown pitch darkness (see photo below).

It took a full 2-hours of walking from my apartment, over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan, and to my destination on the Upper East Side. And what a scene: Lower Manhattan with no electricity. No traffic lights. 90% of stores closed. Just the occasional pizza store and deli open, operating by the gloomy light of the overcast day, some even offering customers flashlights to find groceries on the shelves. All parks closed. Poor, if any, mobile phone reception. Cars politely giving way to pedestrians and each other. One man throwing quarters at a second story apartment building window, trying in vain to attract the attention of a friend who lived there, neither buzzer nor mobile phone working in the absence of electricity. Every few blocks was a store with a generator, and crowds of people waiting their turn to plug their phone charges into a tangled mass of power strips. "Beer is cold; limited menu" spruiked a publican standing outside on a street corner. The city that never sleeps was as close to being on its knees as I had ever seen in my 8 years living here.

But I continued to walk north. Around mid-town an engrossing business call diverted my attention for 10-minutes as I walked, and when I emerged I found myself in "New York". Banks open. Traffic lights working. Crowds of tourists. The last vestiges of people looking for outlets to charge their phones, and a few straggling traffic cops directing traffic were the only sign of anything but business as usual. Nothing was visible of the struggles that others were going through, merely a few miles down the road.

Life was as normal as ever on the Upper East Side: Andras Schiff performed the second book of Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier to a capacity audience. Brunch at a fancy restaurant. Black and white Picasso paintings at the Guggenheim. And then another 2-hour walk back to Brooklyn via the 59th Street Bridge. Never seen so many people out walking, nor struggling to ride a bicycle. Lines of people, many score in number, waiting to fill up their red jerry cans at the few gas stations that still had supplies.

And this has all been the more fortunate of us in the city. Power is now back to lower Manhattan. The subways will most likely be running within a day or two. But there are the displaced, those who lost their houses, and at worst the many dozens who've lost their lives. The city continues with an overwhelming outpouring of generosity, compassion and renewed sense of community. But this all makes me think of both the strength and the absolute fragility of a society that lives within the confines of a major city. We've become so used to infrastructure and modern conveniences, that but a few days without power, internet and transportation, and everyone's lives are severely impacted.

I leave you with a quote from Here is New York by E.B. White. A seminal book on New York, written in 1948, it's as relevant today as it was then: "By rights New York should have destroyed itself long ago, from panic or fire or rioting or failure of some vital supply line in its circulatory system or from some deep labyrinthine short circuit. Long ago the city should have experienced an insoluble traffic snarl at some impossible bottleneck. It should have perished of hunger when food lines failed for a few days... It should have been overwhelmed by the sea that licks at it on every side... yet New Yorkers seem always to escape it by some tiny margin: they sit in stalled subways without claustrophobia, they extricate themselves from panic situations by some lucky wisecrack, they meet confusion and congestion with patience and grit - a sort of perpetual muddling through."

And so we muddle through. My thoughts and best wishes are with all those still suffering the aftermath of the hurricane,




new york city, early october: for the past few weeks fall has been whispering in the air, but is today banging on the door and making its presence quite loudly known. i sit here gin and tonic in hand, thinking of how food and drink preferences change with the turning of the seasons: white wine of the summer turns to red of the winter; green tea moves to black; gin and tonic will become whiskey, but having neglected to take anti-malarial medication while in india, am still imbibing gin and tonic for the home-remedy effects of the quinine, contained in the tonic. i would write more about the different types of gin i've enjoyed of late, but wishing to retain membership of the local temperance society, will discretely whisper that Hendricks still remains a nice choice.

FALL 2012:

After 5 weeks of travelling outside the US, upon my return the streets of New York City greeted me with a warm, friendly bear-hug. But what I've loved most about New York since being back are the opportunities to experience wonderful art and music. Highlights of the past month include:

DISCOVERING COLUMBUS - TATZU NISHI: For his first artwork in North America, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi has created an installation around the 120 year old, 13-foot high statue of Columbus on top a 60-foot pole at Columbus Circle. After climbing several flights of temporary scaffolding stairs, the installation recreates a modern-day living room with couches, magazines, a TV, and the 13-foot statue of Columbus standing nonchalantly in the middle of the room.

THE MURDER OF CROWS - JANET CARDIFF: The Armory, of which I've written numerous times in blog posts of the past, remains one of my favourite venues for art and performances in New York. For this work, Janet Cardiff set up 98 speakers in the cavernous drill hall space, which allowed for a total surround sound experience of her 20-minute "sound play". It was phenomenal to both sit in the centre of all the speakers - where was situated a single old-school gramophone speaker - and experience the full 360-degree sound world, and also to walk amongst the speakers and hear, for example, a speaker playing just one voice of a choir as the rest of the choir and orchestra came from individual speakers situated off at different distances and parts of the hall.

EINSTEIN ON THE BEACH - PHILIP GLASS: One of my all-time favourite 20th-century compositions, it was such a privilege to see this work fully staged at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, performed by the Philip Glass Ensemble and in the original production by Robert Wilson, which was originally conceived in 1976. Of my 8 years in New York, one of the greatest concerts I have ever been to was the concert version of Einstein on the Beach at Carnegie Hall in late 2007. While it was an experience to see the full 4.5 hour (no intermission) opera - without story-line, hero or heroin - presented in its staged version, perhaps it was because the instrumentalists were confined to the orchestral pit, or perhaps due to the somewhat dated Robert Wilson staging, but in my inevitable comparison of the staged version to the concert version, this production never exceeded nor overwhelmed my expectations. However with all due credit, which other "classical" composer other than 75-year old Philip Glass would see a sold-out audience aged on average in their 30s?

NEIL YOUNG: With one of the most earnest, honest and humble voices in rock music, it was so great to see such a living icon as Neil Young perform a free concert in Central Park. I have to admit to not knowing more than a handful of his recordings from the past several decades, but loved seeing him perform and was especially taken with the couple of songs he played on acoustic guitar from his album Harvest.

And there's more: Gotye performing at the Williamsburg waterfront; lunch at a three-Michelin star restaurant; and just last night, 360-degree visual light projections accompanied by bands performing in a disused 19th-century rope factory in Greenpoint, Brooklyn: New York, New York - a city so great they named it twice!

With best wishes,



AUGUST 2012:

“Which country?”

“Australia,” I replied lethargically. I’d been asked this question dozens of times a day over the past month.

“Ah, cricket! Ricky Ponting, Adam Gilchrist.”

“Yes. Shane Warne, Mark Waugh,” I added without averting my eyes from the scene of the late afternoon Indian countryside passing by the train windows; the windows creating a moving frame of images of women walking through fields in brightly coloured red and yellow saris with baskets of sticks and produce balanced on their heads.

“Your name?”

“Rupert,” I replied. I didn’t feel like chatting, but we had 14 hours to go on this ride and I wanted to keep relations cordial.

“Like Rupert Brooke?” he asked. The instant comprehension of my name and mention of the early 20th century English poet got my attention.

“Exactly,” I said turning to look at him, “but my poetry isn’t nearly as good.” He was a slender, neatly dressed Indian aged roughly in his late 30s, with a pleasant face that smiled gently at my quip and which he accompanied with the affectionate wobble of the head from side to side, that I had found to be so characteristic of Indians and which I’d taken to interpreting as meaning “okay,” or “it’s fine.”

“And your name?”


“Nice to meet you,” I said and attempted a head wobble of my own, which made him smile and perform his wobble with even more vigour.

A few hours later, pulling into a train station, Raju pointed at my rolling tobacco and asked if he may roll himself a cigarette. Handing him the packet, I watched with curiosity as he pulled out a pen from his shirt pocket, and in precise, neat strokes, drew a beautiful and surprisingly detailed elephant on the rolling paper, before putting in a few pinches of tobacco and confining the drawing to the inside of its tubular prison and an imminent immolation. Before I could say anything Raju was at the train door, cigarette between his lips, and as the train slowed almost to a halt, the cigarette was lit and he was walking amongst the vendors of chai and samosas.

Half an hour later, as the train was leaving the station Raju pointed at my guitar and asked if I was a musician. I nodded and asked what he did. “Artist,” he responded and closed his eyes preventing any elaboration on the answer.

The sun had risen in a slow, languid yawn over the horizon as we approached another station. Raju asked if I might do him a favour, and handing me a 500 rupee note, asked if I could buy us both some chai and water. I agreed, but trying to refuse his money found an adamant and almost wounded look in his eyes. Some minutes later as Raju put the change I handed him into his wallet, he took out a 1000 rupee note (the largest Indian denomination, worth about 20 US dollars) and asked me to look at it. Sipping on my chai, I looked at the note. I’d gotten several of these from ATMs during my travel, and didn’t see anything significant about it.

“You don’t see anything unusual?” Raju asked.

“No,” I responded perplexed and wondering where this conversation was going.

“Look closely at Ghandi,” and as he said it, I saw that Ghandi’s right eye was closed as though he were winking at me.

“My gosh,” I replied and pulled out one of my own 1000 rupee notes. In every way the notes were identical, except that on one Ghandi was nictitating, and was he also ever so slightly smiling at the corner of his mouth?

“I made that,” said Raju. “I painted it, just like that 500 rupee note you used to buy the chai.” I was initially astounded, but then hit by a pang of guilt that I had just passed on a forged note, especially to an old chai vendor who had been most reluctant to give change for such a large denomination. Seeing the look of consternation on my face Raju placated me: “Don’t worry. That chai vendor will pass it on. It will be no problem for him.” I sat in silence contemplating the immense craftsmanship of my companion, but feeling somewhat abused that he’d made me complicit in his money forging.

By late morning we were getting close to Mumbai and Raju asked if I wouldn’t join him for lunch with his wife and kids. I had just a day in Mumbai before my flight back to the United States and had no plans whatsoever. I had to admit that as displeased as I was about the forged 500 rupee note, I was intrigued by his obvious talents and so accepted the invitation.

We alighted at the Bandra station and stepped through a maze of people, listless dogs, and even the occasional goat sitting on the station platform and overpass. From the overpass I stopped to stare down at a handful of kids rummaging through the mounds of rubbish collecting on an unused train track, but almost losing sight of Raju in the throng of people, quickly rushed to catch up. He led me through the twisting, hyperactive jumble of crooked alleyways of the local slum and after about 20 minutes we arrived at his residence, a humble affair of concrete walls and tin roof. We took off our shoes and he introduced me to his mother, his wife and pointed out his two sons aged 18 months and 3 years sitting against a wall. A naked fluorescent light illuminated the sole room of his house; a make-shift bed on one side, a kitchen on the other, and then making me stop dead in my tracks, I noticed on one wall an absolutely faithful and immaculate reproduction – frame and all – of the Mona Lisa, painted directly onto the concrete surface. Seeing my astonishment, Raju smiled and said this had been his labour of love over the past six months. Although it had been about seven years since I had seen the Mona Lisa at the Louvre in Paris, at least from memory, this looked as accurate and immaculate as the 1000 rupee note he had shown me on the train. We sat down to lunch with his smiling mother and beautiful wife – neither of whom spoke more than a few words of English – and ate a delicious spicy potato curry served with chapattis. Over lunch Raju told me his life story: Until six months ago he had been living with his wife and kids in Rajasthan, having a fairly successful career as a painter. Then after a period of illness in which he’d been unable to work, he had fallen behind on his bank loan repayments and although only a few weeks late, unable to make the demanded payment the bank had repossessed his house and, as he said with utter pain and anger in his eyes, they had taken all his artworks and painting materials. He had been forced to relocate his family to live in this tiny room with his mother in the slums of Mumbai. Seeing his entire family living in such conditions, his depressing story pulled on each and every one of my heartstrings. After lunch Raju asked for another cigarette and just as he had done on the train, drew an image, this time of a horse – “the horse is for strength” he remarked – before covering it in tobacco and denying the drawing the light of day.

We drank chai as he smoked, and I sat watching his 3-year old son Suresh who was shyly hiding under a large sheet of newspaper, every now and then poking his head out to look at me, giggle, and then with a rustle, return to his self-made cocoon.

That afternoon Raju thankfully led me back through the maze of little alleys to the station, and while we were walking asked of me a proposal. He had amassed 20,000 rupees in his forged notes, but concerned that one day a scrupulous observer might notice their inauthenticity, asked if I might help him exchange them. His plan was that I give him 18,000 real rupees for the 20,000 rupees in forgeries. At the airport I could take these notes to the bank – the same bank that had repossessed his house and stolen his artworks – and exchange them for US dollars. As a westerner they would never suspect me of passing forgeries, and in addition to my small cut, I would also help his family and help him in but a small way to get some retribution against the bank. I got his mobile phone number, and promising to think it over, stepped onto the train to Colaba, where I would spend the night in a hostel.

A sea of armpits surrounded and suffocated me, as what seemed like a thousand passengers enveloped me, standing room only, in the tiny train carriage as we held onto the overhead metal hand rails. The smell, as in many of the cities in India, was potently overwhelming. I retreated internally and thought of the magical moments I’d had over the past month of travels:

- Riding motorbikes to a 9th century Shiva temple in the countryside around Pushkar, weaving between cows lying on the road and returning the enthusiastic calls of “Hello!” by the village kids;

- Sitting on a rooftop in the sacred city of Varanasi watching hundreds of children on the surrounding rooftops flying homemade kites in the orange glow of the setting sun;

- Swimming in a Nepali lake with the local boys and starring up at the ice-capped Annapurna mountain ranges in the distance;

- Visiting the abandoned ruins of the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh, where The Beatles went in 1968 and wrote many of the songs from the White Album;

- Seeing one of, if not the most beautiful building in the world, the Taj Mahal, built in the 17th century by Shah Jahan, as a mausoleum for his third wife, and which Tagore poetically described as “a teardrop on the cheek of eternity”.

I was violently snapped out of my reverie by an elbow in the side, trampling of feet over my toes, and a general pushing and shoving as the train slowed and a mad dash of people started to chaotically get on and off at the next station. “Good old-fashioned jostling” as Martin – my travelling companion of the first few weeks – had described it. I spent the rest of the train ride considering Raju’s proposition. I felt very conflicted. On the one hand I desperately wanted to help him and his family, but I was concerned about the illegality of the task and that I might get caught and end up with 18,000 rupees of worthless pieces of paper, or worse, get arrested and have to spend time in an Indian prison. By the time I arrived at Church Gate station and walked towards the hub of hostels and street stalls in Colaba, I’d decided that I would regret it for the rest of my life if I didn’t help him out. Presuming I didn’t get caught, which knowing the quality of his work seemed unlikely, I would provide help to a family that had been treated so poorly by the bank, and so desperately needed the assistance. I struggled to find a cheap hostel, but eventually found one with comically low ceilings, and then went to an Internet cafe to give Raju a call. He suggested we meet at 8:30pm at Leopold’s Café – a famous local haunt frequented by tourists and site of the Mumbai terrorist attacks a few years ago. I went to an ATM and withdrew the money, leaving my bank account precariously low.

I arrived a little early and was drinking a Kingfisher beer when Raju entered. I called over the waiter for another glass and poured Raju the remainder of the bottle on the table. After some formalities, Raju surreptitiously removed an envelope from his pocket, pulled out one note and although the dim light of the cafe didn’t allow me to see too well, I could make out a perfect reproduction of a 1000 rupee note, Ghandi winking and all. Raju put the note back and handed me the envelope with a gesture that I immediately hide it from view. I did so and likewise slipped him my envelope with the cash I had withdrawn earlier. We sat in silence, drinking our beers, and Raju rolled us two cigarettes, this time drawing the image of a camel, the symbol of love and fortune, on the cigarette paper. He lit his cigarette, stood up, and with a warm smile and friendly handshake told me he must return to his family.

I finished my beer, paid the bill and returned to my hostel room. With a ceiling just 5’2” high, entering the room I had to either crank my neck severely over to the side or walk with a strange bow-legged gait. I sat down and pulled out the envelope Raju had given me. Upon seeing the contents of the envelope however, my heart instantly sank. The note he had shown me at Leopold’s was just a photocopy of the note he had shown me on the train, with a few splashes of red and orange watercolour paint. In the dim light of Leopold’s, the brief glance made it look genuine, but here the fluorescent light of my room revealed the ghostlike and cadaverous nature of the imitation. The rest of the envelope was stuffed with 19 poorly Xeroxed black and white copies, on which Ghandi winked at me with a certain mocking irony as I flicked through them. I had been duped and cheated. And not for the first time in India. I let out a long sigh, and sat and smoked the cigarette Raju had rolled me. I remained there thinking for quite a while, then not knowing what else to do, I went out for chai…

- R. M. Boyd, 4th September 2012, Istanbul


JULY 2012:

Does anyone else remember that when the iPod was first introduced, there were stories of people with the prized signature white headphones being chased down the street by opportunist muggers? I always thought it made an interesting companion to Apple's marketing campaign of white headphone wearing silhouettes in various forms of aerobic exercise...


Take any New York City subway car, and you'll find about 50% of passengers are listening to music through their headphones. I only started doing so recently, and love (and also hate) the way that listening to headphones in public changes one's perception of space and context; one can tune in to the music and tune out of reality. I often wonder if people are actually wanting to listen to music (how well can you really listen to anything in a noisy subway car?), or are just wanting to create this space. Personal space is rare in New York, and any way people can find or create it, they do. When listening to music through headphones, I enter my own personal world. I become oblivious to my surroundings: I sing out loud with abandon, trip over stairs, miss my stop, etc. And there are some negative aspects too. Other than potential hearing loss, there is a loss of communal reality. Between headphone users there's no sharing of that confused look as a garbled service announcement comes through the overhead speakers. No shared look of concern as the man at the other end of the subway car starts screaming obscenities. No polite way to say "excuse me" as you try to pass someone blocking the subway car doorway.

While audio headphones have been around since the early 20th century, 1979 saw the release of the Sony Walkman, a cassette player that allowed the user to listen to music with headphones while on the move. I don't think we can underestimate the significance of this change on the way we listen to music - it has revolutionised the where, how and why we do so. I personally love the freedom of being able to listen to music on the move, and how wearing headphones can create unusual juxtapositions of sound and space, which influences and affects our perceptions of both. I recently walked through the overbearing, overcrowded tourist circus that is Times Square, listening to Tenebrae by Gesualdo; being surrounded in my head by the auditory world of 16th century, strange-harmonied a cappella vocal music, while experiencing the crowds, smells and sights of Times Square is a wonderful privilege of this day and age. A friend also recently told me of a lecture by the highly prized chef Heston Blumenthal (head chef of London's famous Fat Duck), about how he has been experimenting with the use of sound (especially through personal headphones) to enhance the dining experience. Blumenthal spoke of the idea of having diners listen to recordings of the sound of the ocean while eating oysters, and how in the presence of this soundscape, the diner's perception of the oyster became much fresher and tasted more of the sea. And to think I'm writing this while at a bar, watching the olympics, eating a toasted cheese sandwich and with the soundtrack of Footloose playing through the speakers...

My best as always,



JUNE 2012:

It was the photographer Yousuf Karsh, or maybe it was Henri Cartier-Bresson - really, who can remember all these things? - who spoke of the ideal moment to take a photograph as the moment that the soul, the heart and the eye are all in unison. Thinking of "captured moments", and of Rolling Stone's recent article of the Top 500 Recordings of All Time, for this blog entry I've compiled a list of the 10 recordings which I consider capture some of the greatest moments in recorded music history. These are not necessarily the best, nor necessarily my all-time favourite recordings, but rather those where I feel something incredibly special has been captured on tape. While it's impossible to divorce a performance from the composition being performed, I have chosen these recordings not for the actual composition, but rather the emotional intent of the performance thereof. In no particular order:













1) "SUMMERTIME" from Cheap Thrills by JANIS JOPLIN with Big Brother & The Holding Company [Columbia/Legacy], 1968

Maybe it was due to her being awarded the dubious honour of "Ugliest Man" at high school in Texas, but Joplin progressed into adult life with rampant drug and alcohol problems, and with a fiery singing voice that was tortured with emotional intensity. This recording of the classic Gershwin Musical/Jazz number, which is said to have been recorded over 33,000 times, brings a dark foreboding to the music and lyrics, and is possibly one of the most haunting rock vocal performances on record.

2) FRANCK: PRELUDE, FUGUE ET CHORALE by MURRAY PERAHIA, Plays Franck & Liszt [Sony],1991

While a phenomenal romantic composition, this is pure gorgeous playing. Stirringly emotional with a beautiful silky tone, and the most expressive arpeggiations of chords on the piano of which I know.

3) "MACHINE GUN" by JIMI HENDRIX, Band of Gypsys [MCA Records], 1969/70

Less than a year before his untimely death at age 27, Hendrix performed four concerts over New Year's and New Year's Day at the Fillmore East in New York with his newly formed group the Band of Gypsys. Forgoing his usual onstage histrionics, this was a performance purely about the music, and this recording of his anti-war protest song "Machine Gun" is testament to his genius at creating the most expressive sounds and textures from the electric guitar. It's incredible, virtuosic guitar playing that is both soulful, and incredibly imaginative, in which one can hear the sound of machine gun fire, helicopters and war scenes.

4) IN A SILENT WAY by MILES DAVIS [Columbia/Legacy], 1969

Recorded 10 years after his seminal recording Kind of Blue, and just one year before his fusion classic Bitches Brew, In a Silent Way can be seen as a synthesis of these two masterpieces; it has the tranquility and modality of Kind of Blue, but with the electronic instruments, funk elements and studio editing of Bitches Brew. Meditative and calming, the album was recorded in one session in New York, and features a who's who of the 1960s jazz scene: Miles Davis, Wayne Shorter, John McLaughlin, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Joe Zawinul, Dave Holland and Tony Williams.


I have to admit not having studied a lot of recordings of this work, but this one by Rostropovich on cello, accompanied by Britten on piano - two venerable giants of 20th century classical music - is sublime. Romantic, lush and playful, it's a magnificent recording.

6) LADY IN SATIN by BILLIE HOLIDAY [Columbia/Legacy], 1958

Lady in Satin, Holiday's penultimate album recorded 17-months before her death at age 44, is mesmerizing, captivating and depressing all at the same time. She brings an emotional intensity to the songs of this album of someone who'd lived one of the most depressing life-stories I know: rape, prostitution, prison sentences, racial discrimination, drug and alcohol abuse, and abusive partners. It's certainly not Holiday at her "vocal" best, and some of the orchestral arrangements can be somewhat cloying, but it is an incredibly emotional recording of a tortured and devastated soul.


In 1965-66, the 24-year old protest folk-singer Bob Dylan turned his attention to rock music and began playing with a band. This phenomenal live performance was recorded during that transitional period. The first set is Bob Dylan alone with his acoustic guitar, playing hits such as "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" and "Mr. Tambourine Man". The performances are magical and the audience loves him, hanging onto his every word. In the second set however, Dylan comes out on stage accompanied by his rock band. The response is entirely different. From the highly appreciative, perhaps overly polite applause of the first half, you can now almost count the individual members of the audience who applaud after each song; the rest sitting in silence or shouting out the occasional heckle. Towards the end of the set, an audience member famously shouts out "Judas", to which Dylan responds "I don't believe you", before turning to his band and barking at them to "play f**king loud!"... I personally find both halves to be incredibly enjoyable performances, but also think it's such an exceptional recording to hear one of the greatest popular musicians of the 20th century in the process of change and facing such an adversarial audience.

8 ) RODRIGO: "PASSACAGLIA" from Tres Pieces Españolas by JULIAN BREAM, Spanish Guitar Recital [RCA], 1983

A true artist of the classical guitar, Julian Bream and his recordings hold a very special place in my heart. Invariably he demonstrates interesting ideas and a depth of musical conviction in his recordings, but none more so than this "Passacaglia" by Rodrigo. Taken at a tempo that is literally half what Rodrigo marked on the score, Bream manages to keep an incredible intensity through the long lines, and to arrest ones attention for the entire duration of the piece.

9) BACH: GOLDBERG VARIATIONS by ANDRAS SCHIFF, Goldberg Variations [Decca], 1983

I've listened to many recordings of the Goldberg Variations, a composition I consider to be one of the crowning achievements of Western culture, but consider Schiff's recording to be truly exceptional for its generosity of spirit, rhythmic nuance, voicing and grace.


The Easy Star All-Stars have made a name for themselves by making complete recreations in dub style of three classic rock albums: Dark Side of the Moon, Sgt. Peppers and OK Computer. Perhaps I'm being a touch tongue in cheek with this entry, but I truly consider this dub rendition of Pink Floyd's masterpiece to be a spectacular recording. With all due respect, I find the original Pink Floyd recording to be a little lackadaisical and pretentious, but love the energy, imagination and daring present in this recording.


As a honourable mention, one can't overlook the performance of Brahms's D Minor Piano Concerto at Carnegie Hall, with Glenn Gould as soloist, and Leonard Bernstein conducting the New York Philharmonic. An uneven performance that contains some exceptional moments and some frankly average moments, it is included on the list as an honorable mention due to the "disclaimer" that Leonard Bernstein provides in an address to the audience before the performance of the work:

"You are about to hear a rather, shall we say, unorthodox performance of the Brahms D Minor Concerto, a performance distinctly different from any I've ever heard, or even dreamt of for that matter, in its remarkably broad tempi and its frequent departures from Brahms's dynamic indications. I cannot say I am in total agreement with Mr. Gould's conception and this raises the interesting question: 'What am I doing conducting it?' I'm conducting it because Mr. Gould is so valid and serious an artist that I must take seriously anything he conceives in good faith and his conception is interesting enough so that I feel you should hear it, too... I have only once before in my life had to submit to a soloist's wholly new and incompatible concept and that was the last time I accompanied Mr. Gould. But, but this time the discrepancies between our views are so great that I feel I must make this small disclaimer..." - Leonard Bernstein, 1962

I realise this list may be a little eccentric, and doubt that others would have more than a couple of recordings in common on the their own list, but hope that it may both spark interest in these recordings and a discussion of other's favourite moments in recording history.

All best,



MAY 2012:

Other than "Where did you find a shirt THAT colour?", one of the questions that I am most commonly asked is if I compose...


The twentieth century was the first time in history where musicians began to perform music from periods other than their own. While limited repertoire had been "revisited" in the past, never was it to the extent that a recital would be filled with music from a single bygone era, or from a potpourri of musical epochs. In this day and age, a classical concert of only contemporary works will get the label of "New Music", often a dirty and undesirable term. Although beyond the scope of this current thought-essay, we now also live in an age where without leaving one's home, a listener has over a hundred years of musical recordings, of all styles and eras, available at our fingertips; documentation of some of the finest musicians of the twentieth century, historical musical events, and every Tom, Dick and Harry singing songs on YouTube*. (Were one to dedicate their life to the task of listening to it, I doubt that one could even scratch the surface of all the music now available online).

In answer to the aforementioned question, I don't compose. I improvise a little, make arrangements of works, and foresee that if one day the inspiration hits me, I will compose. But for right now, I don't feel that I could write anything nearly as great as the works that already exist, and feel it would be egocentric of me to play one of my own compositions while there exists a plethora of great and profound music still to learn.

So what is it that I do as a performer? More than just play the right notes at the right time, a performer, or interpreter, searches for the essence of a composition - the intention behind the notes - and brings that to life in their own personal way. Music and emotions are open to interpretation, and this is what creates variety between two different performer's renditions of the same piece. While once in the past there wasn't such a distinction between composer and performer, in modern classical music, the composer can't survive without the performer to realise their works and vice versa. I love that every day I look at black dots on a printed page, written anytime from the renaissance through the modern day, and bring these dots to life. This act offers me a direct link between the thoughts, emotions and imagination of composers living throughout the centuries, and from all corners of the earth. I had a very interesting chat with a runway model at a party the other night, and was fascinated to hear her speak of modeling in exactly the same way. Before she puts on an outfit, it is just an inanimate object - like dots on a page - and it takes her skill and the art of modeling to breathe life into the outfit. And like two different performers, no two models will interpret the same outfit in the same way.

More anon,


*The other day a friend came across this video on YouTube of a guy singing and playing ukulele, and thought it looks and sounds EXACTLY like me. I personally don't see the resemblance, but it's a pretty good song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlrMHOSMt3g


APRIL 2012:

The time is out of joint; O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right!

  1. -Shakespeare (Hamlet: Act 1, Scene 5)


So here I am, writing my blog entry five days after my self-imposed deadline of the first of the month, and pondering the meaning of time. We have our days signified by the rising and setting of the sun, and then grouped into weeks, months, and with a full revolution around the sun, into years. But along with the internet, time must be the greatest abstraction of our daily lives. While a clock can measure the passing of a second or an hour, our internal perception of time is one of the most random and varied aspects of our lives. Even Einstein explained his theory of relativity by this varied perception: "When a man sits with a pretty girl for an hour, it seems like a minute. But let him sit on a hot stove for a minute and it's longer than any hour. That's relativity." So what is time? We all live by the time; the ticking of a second, the passing of an hour, deadlines, appointments, circadian rhythms, but yet it seems more and more that time is the greatest luxury we can know. And in this day and age where through the internet we have a veritable smorgasbord of film, art, literature and TV available at our fingertips, and electric light to counteract the natural cycles of the sun, time has become an abstraction and an elusive element to modern living. This is not just a product of the internet age however. Stravinsky in response to Julian Bream's request to listen to him play the lute replied: "But when? I have no time. There are people who have time. There are people who have money. There are people who have patience. I have some things...". Having reached but the beginnings of my 30s, I'm fascinated by how time is different from when I was much younger. When one is a kid, an entire year represents a large fraction of one's life, and as such a huge expanse of time. As the years pass, each year becomes less and less a fraction of one's memories and while time doesn't speed up as such, it seems to pass with increasing velocity. Memories of a year, let alone a day or week, add but a fraction to our life experience. Like a whirlwind, my recent years have spun by, and memories of events years ago, feel closer than ever.

I've often thought about the difference between time static art forms, compared to the performing arts, where the artwork is executed in real time. The static art-forms like painting, sculpture and literature allow for revision and re-working, whereas a live performance occurs in that moment, and no matter how much time has gone into preparation and rehearsal, when the moment of the performance occurs, that is it. We step into the spotlight. It is both daunting and electrifying. And no two performances can ever be the same. I also feel that in my daily practice and approach to music, I spend considerable time feeling the effect of varying rhythm. A series of quavers (eighth notes) can be played with exact rhythmic precision, or can be ever so slightly bent to give emphasis to particular notes. To this extent I feel that music is a "sculpting" of time. A passage rendered with exact rhythmic precision will produce an entirely different time experience for the listener than one where the rhythms are stretched - sped up, slowed down, dwelled upon, etc. As an interpreter of the written notes, while rhythmic nuance contributes subtly to the performance of a work, it also is possibly the greatest defining feature between performers. We can affect interpretation through articulation, colour, tempi, voicing and dynamics, but ultimately rhythmic nuance, and our flexiblity of time is the greatest freedom we have to personalise a performance. No two eighth notes are created alike...

Thank you for your time,



MARCH 2012:

Greetings from Oostraylia!


Australia is a truly remarkable place. A land of sun and vast open spaces; of beaches, fresh food, and an openness and easy way of life. Returning to Australia is like a dream. I spent my first 22 years there, and the last 8 in New York, and so while everything is comfortable and familiar, it’s also slightly faded by the distance of time.

Throughout March the Australian Guitar Duo undertook a CD Release Tour of Australia, which incorporated every state and territory in mainland Australia (we’re saving Tasmania for the next tour…). If anything can be taken from this tour, it is the shear extent and vastness of the country.

Some statistics of the tour:

Days: 31

Concerts: 18

Distance flown (within Australia): 14,739 km (9,158 miles)

Distance driven: 3281 km (2039 miles)

It was fascinating to see so much of the country in such a short space of time, and especially the diversity of climate and agriculture. As with any tour, we constantly ran up against the inevitable problem of never enough time in any place we visited. It was great to catch up with family and friends, and meet so many new faces, albeit for far too brief a time. Wish that many of the evenings could have been much longer. Heartfelt gratitude and thanks to all those who hosted us, those who came to the concerts, and see y’all next tour!





I just flew from New York to Australia, and boy, are my arms tired!


Every time I prepare for a trip from New York to Australia, people invariably ask me how long is the flight. Following the response of about 20 hours of actual flying, I am typically met with a slight raising of eyebrows and a cautious re-appraisal of my mental stability. I on the other hand, gentle smile of my face and eyes glazed over, remind myself of what Paul Keating – former Prime Minister of Australia – once remarked: “Of course Australia is centrally located, it’s 24 hours from everywhere!” I think Australians are accustomed to the fact that if we are going to travel somewhere, it’s going to involve a long flight. So that brings me to today’s topic of conversation: how to cope with spending hours, if not days, getting acquainted with airline food and half a dozen complete strangers sitting but a foot away from you.

To a certain extent, I revel in the idea of a long flight. It mainly stems from the fact that you can’t travel the world without spending a fair amount of time getting there, but I also typically find that the days leading up to a trans-continental flight – especially one anticipating concerts or a tour – can be quite hectic and so suddenly a long-haul flight can become a moment of respite and repose.

I am currently in Australia to release the debut recording by my ensemble the Australian Guitar Duo, in an 18-concert tour that covers every state and territory in mainland Australia (and continent for continent, with regards geographic size, Australia is very nearly as big as the U.S.). I presume that if you are reading this blog, you are surely already aware of the release of the new album Songs from the Forest, but if not, more details can be found here.

The very first piece of advice that I offer to people traveling excessive distances is to try to adjust one’s body clock even before you step onto the airplane. Quite simply, by adjusting your watch to the time zone that you will be entering, one can fairly easily adjust to the new time zone and reduce the painful effects of jetlag. For example, the east coast of Australia is currently 16 hours ahead of New York City. Although I boarded my flight at JFK at around 6pm, I convinced myself that it was really 10am and that I should drink some coffee and get ready to start a new day. Then some 10 hours or so later, as my flight from LA to Melbourne took off, I figured it was time for bed (I had been awake for about 20 hours at this stage) and slept reasonably well for a number of hours, before waking up nice and early in my new time zone, ready to land in Melbourne and start the new day ahead.

The second piece of advice I offer is to take a few really good books. For this trip I have a couple of Kurt Vonnegut books, and in anticipation of this being an election year in the U.S., a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72. I find it incredibly difficult to get much serious reading done during my daily life in New York City, and so use international flights as a good chance to do some catching up.

The third piece of advice I can offer is that if the previous 2 don’t provide the necessary distraction of being trapped in a typically uncomfortable plane seat for what seems like an inordinate amount of time, a good gin and tonic, glass of wine, beer (or all the above) can really go a long way…

I usually find that I’m most restless for the first 5 or 6 hours of the flight, and so that once I’ve gotten over that initial leg of the journey, I enter a timeless state, where pressing concerns and distractions can float away, leaving me in an atemporal void, where I’m free to read, meditate, dream and pass the time without recourse to the usual obligations. Although some years ago I had the special skill of being able to sleep at will, this ability has diminished in recent years. If I do find myself unable to sleep for hours on end, watching 5 or 6 films one after the other is the next best thing – just don’t be expected to remember, let alone name, the 4th film onwards…





Where would we be without January? February, I guess...


- Australian Guitar Duo CD

  1. -Guitar in NYC


Throughout January I've been somewhat preoccupied with putting together the final stages of the CD Songs from the Forest by my ensemble the Australian Guitar Duo. By the end of this week however, boxes of CDs will be lining my cupboards and we'll be spending the month of March in Australia giving a national CD Release Tour. After much thought, we decided to self-release the CD, as what with the omnipresence of online shopping and the current state of the record industry, it doesn't seem that releasing the album on a label would offer us much advantage. For better or for worse, it also gave us total creative control and the responsibility of the legal and production issues. Although we recorded the audio content of the album just outside of London in August 2011, the past 6 months have been spent in post-production, overseeing the editing, artwork, legal rights, etc. What with Jacob living in Barcelona, our audio engineer and producer John Taylor in London, our graphic designer Phil MacLaren in Australia and myself in New York City, it really has been a cross-continent affair. John Taylor did an exceptional job of putting together and mailing us a first edit of the CD, which Jacob and I both listened to numerous times, made notes, compared notes, blamed each other a little, then sent a list of things that we weren't totally happy with to John. He then provided us with a 2nd edit, of which we had just a couple of final corrections, which we listened to and approved via email. We're both super pleased with the sound quality, the repertoire and the playing and can't wait to have the CD released.

I've always enjoyed words and writing, and fancying myself as being able to turn a phrase or two, I volunteered to write liner notes for the CD. I have to admit however, it has been quite a humbling experience. Although English is my native language - and the only language I speak with any modicum of fluency - I was somewhat ashamed to realise just how flimsy is my grasp of grammar. I prepared and revised my notes to a stage at which I was happy with how they read, before passing on to a few friends for comments and suggestions. In addition to a number of standard grammatical errors, I was intrigued and somewhat embarrassed to learn what a dangling modifier is, and just how many times I had used them without any knowledge. It was also quite interesting, but also somewhat tedious, to really get into the style manuals of punctuation. For example, is it Granados' or Granados's... Bring that up in a crowd of English majors and you'll have a rollicking good conversation! (Throughout the CD we use Australian English and punctuation, and using the Australian Government Manual of Style as a guide, I went with Granados's...). The other valuable lesson that I learnt from the process, is that you just can't please everyone all the time. If you give someone text and ask them to give you their opinions, they will. If ask a few people, they will give you some feedback in agreement, and some that is quite contrary. It seems that one could constantly revise text, and never have it please everyone. I've had this experience often with interpreting music, and found it so interesting to have the same experience with words.

Regarding the artwork, Jacob and I had decided upon a rough layout last year. We got permission from Phillip Houghton, one of the Australian composers whose works we feature on the CD, to use one of his paintings from the 1970s as the artwork for the front cover. We gave the painting image, text, and our headshots to the wonderful designer Phil MacLaren, and after a few comments back and forth from the four corners, he has created a great looking design with which we are super pleased. Stay tuned for CD release information throughout the month!


Chopin once said, "Nothing is more beautiful than a guitar, save perhaps two". He was referring to a guitar duet vs. a soloist, but I wonder what he would have thought of the 7-hour guitar marathon with numerous performers at the 92nd Street Y last weekend. Co-curated by the eminent classical guitarist Eliot Fisk and the organiser of the New Guitar Festival David Spelman, in an afternoon and an evening session, each three and a half hour concert (neither of which had an intermission) featured over a dozen performers playing Italian guitar music. It was a great experience to see so many wonderful performers and such fine music, but too much of a good thing? Just possibly... But maybe it was just a little overwhelming, as January has been a great month for classical guitar in the city. I feel as though the marathon was the culmination of a month of guitar concerts and events that I attended, including, but by no means limited to, my former teacher Ben Verdery play Rodrigo's Aranjuez, a masterclass with Eliot Fisk, the complete Beatles catalogue played on ukelele, etc.

In the lead-up to the release of Songs from the Forest, the Australian Guitar Duo is making itself heard on YouTube. Click here. Enjoy.

Give peas a chance,




"So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, and a new one just begun..." So sings John Lennon. And so it goes...


- Trinity Church Concert

- December in New York

  1. -Resolutions, reflections, writings...


On December 8th, I gave a performance as part of the prestigious lunchtime concert series at Trinity Church in New York City. The church, at the intersection of Broadway and Wall Street, was consecrated in 1846, but is actually the third Trinity Church to exist in that location - first was destroyed by fires during the revolutionary war, and the second by severe snow storms in 1838-39. With wonderful acoustics, it was a beautiful church to perform in, and was also a somewhat sad and special occasion as it marked the 31st anniversary of the day that John Lennon was shot in the city. In colouration that is somewhat reminiscent of 1970s television, the concert was recorded and can streamed here.


New York is beautiful in December. The weather hasn't yet turned dreary, and the holiday season fills the city with cheer. I saw two great performances in the past week: the final dress rehearsal of the new pastiche opera The Enchanted Island at the Metropolitan Opera and the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Park Avenue Armory.

- The Enchanted Island features an all star cast including Plácido Domingo, Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, et al, and also two rising stars of the opera scene: Paul Appleby, whom I had the great experience of performing a few songs with a couple of years ago, and Anthony Roth Constanzo who was a student at the Manhattan School of Music at the same time that I was there. They both sang exceptionally beautifully and so great to see them doing so well with their careers.

- Merce Cunningham was an American avant-garde dancer and choreographer, and lifetime partner of the composer John Cage. Merce Cunningham died in 2009 and this performance was the culmination of a 2-year world tour, with dancers that Cunningham had personally trained. Staged inside the 38,000 square foot drill hall at the Park Avenue Armory, this was an incredible performance that took place on 3 separate stages, and with a 360 degree surround soundtrack of live instruments and pre-recorded electronic music. With limited seating, most of the audience stood and were invited to move throughout the hall during the performance. Most people however, remained where they were, and I ended up watching whole performance standing next to the actor Steve Martin.

The rest of the month has allowed for an opportunity to catch up with friends that I hadn't seen during the many busy months of this year; a chance to reconnect and explore the city I love, and as I write this on the eve of the New Year, a chance to reflect over 2011 and look ahead to 2012:


It was at this time last year that I made the new year's resolution to write a monthly blog entry, as a record of my adventures living as a musician in New York City (and has so far been one of the very few resolutions that I've ever really stuck to). I'm still undecided as to whether I will continue to write this somewhat time consuming, somewhat self-agrandising play on words (if anyone would like to email me their thoughts about this, I'd be most appreciative). Throughout this year, I've documented my professional work, concerts that I've attended and travels. If I do continue the blog in the new year, I think I may take it in a direction that could be more of a discussion of ideas and thoughts on life, art and modern society. I'm often taken with ideas of contemporary living, like the abstractness of the internet and smart phones in our daily life, or the isolation of individuals in public through headphones that remove themselves to a private world. But that will be decided. In the meantime, the one concrete New Year's resolution I have is to make a weekly entry in the New Yorker caption contest. For those unfamiliar with this contest, at the back of each week's magazine is a cartoon, which the readers are invited to supply the missing caption. Something at least to keep me off the streets... Wishing you all the best for a happy, peaceful and fun 2012!





Happy Birthday to me... The day after witnessing an authentic Halloween in New York, my parents continued on their American tour. Having recently received a fortune cookie that said: "Traveling this year will bring your life into great perspective", and since I was having an imminent birthday - and not just any old day of the week birthday, but one of those birthdays that ends in a zero and turns some heads - I begged them to take me with them. First stop...


- Las Vegas

- Hawaii

  1. -New York Concerts


I had thought I would find Las Vegas incredibly tacky, and funnily enough I did find it incredibly tacky, but also kinda loved it! Instantly upon arrival, this town reveals itself as unlike any other, with such novelties as slot machines by the departure gates in the airport, and the incessant feeling of being unable to escape a soundtrack of rock anthems wherever you go. Although not much of a gambling man, on my first evening after putting just one dollar into a slot machine, pressing a button and magically turning it into $18, I knew that I was going to like this town! Where else in the world in the space of a day can you see the giant pyramid of giza, view the entire Manhattan skyline in the space of city block, walk past the Eiffel Tower, marvel at the world's largest chocolate fountain (actually, I found this quite underwhelming), sip cocktails while watching people bungee jump off the top of the tallest structure in the US west of the Mississippi, and stroll an indoor recreation of venetian streets, with gondolas propelled by opera singing gondoliers? Fun! Also while in Vegas saw the Cirque de Soleil Beatles show Love - accompanied by a Beatles themed cocktail that was at very least 32 oz (1 litre) in size. To escape Vegas one day, and actually the main reason for visiting Las Vegas, we took an incredibly memorable helicopter ride to the Grand Canyon. After flying over Hoover dam, we then flew over the northern rim of the Grand Canyon and landed at the bottom where we stopped briefly for a glass of champagne!


On the handful of flights that I've taken from Sydney to Los Angeles, there's always come a point two-thirds of the way through the flight where I've stared wistfully at the electronic map as we've flown straight over Hawaii. But this time, and just in time for my big 3-0, Hawaii was my destination. Believe it when people say it, Hawaii is a truly magical place. Although we didn't leave the island of O'ahu, it's incredible how diverse the climate and agriculture can be for such a small island. We swam on beautiful sunny beaches, hiked desert-like volcanic craters, went for walks through lush tropical rainforests and drank sparkling wine while watching the sun set into the ocean (perhaps the only unpleasant experience of our time in Hawaii was when we substituted sparkling wine for the local sparkling pineapple wine - yeah, perhaps wouldn't try that again...). I spent my birthday morning sitting on Waikiki beach, and although sitting in bright sunlight, there was a huge rainbow overhead. Then went for a swim in the ocean and was surrounded by beautiful angelfish. Quite a magical way to start a new decade: Aloha!


Back in New York and back to the hard work, but I've also found time to see two exceptional concerts this month:

Satyagraha by Phillip Glass at the Metropolitan Opera - I love the works of Phillip Glass; in particular Koyaanisqatsi and Einstein on the Beach are two of my favourite 20th century compositions. I hadn't seen/heard Satyagraha before and loved both the production and the music. I find Glass' trademark style of minimalism, with its seemingly endless repetitions, both very meditative and also hauntingly emotive. Loosely based on the life of Ghandi during his years in South Africa, I still have the final aria from the opera floating through my head.

New York Festival of Song presents A Goyishe Christmas to You! - New York Festival of Song is a great company that I have been privileged to have worked with in the past, and which presents a number of concerts of art songs throughout the year at Merkin Concert Hall. Directed and accompanied by the wonderful pianist Steven Blier, this was a thoroughly enjoyable and amusing concert of Yuletide song by Jewish Songwriters. Particularly wonderful was Let It Snow, sung by Stephanie Blythe.

All the very best for the upcoming Holiday Season & will see you next in 2012!

My best,




BOO!!! Happy Halloween (hope that didn't scare y'all too much...)!


- Carnegie Hall Debut

- Concerti in New Jersey

  1. -Upon being a tourist in New York City


I feel incredibly honoured to have been presented in concert this month at Carnegie Hall by the D'Addario Music Foundation! I shared the concert with the exceptional Brazilian guitarist Eduardo Minozzi-Costa, and it was such a wonderful experience to perform in the beautiful acoustics of one of the world's most famous concert halls, and to be presented by such a prestigious organisation. My heartfelt thanks to D'Addario, to everyone who attended the totally sold-out performance, and for all the messages of support I received. As a happy coincidence, my parents had been planning a trip to visit me in October since the beginning of the year. They had been planning to arrive on October 21st, but after I received my invitation to perform at Carnegie Hall on the 20th, it took just a flight rebook, skip, and a jump (and 30-something hours of travel), and they were able to be in attendance for my Carnegie Hall debut!


The weekend before Carnegie Hall, I played a couple of concerti with the Society of Musical Arts Orchestra in New Jersey. In my day-to-day life I'm usually playing solo repertoire or works for small chamber ensembles and it's quite rare that guitarists get to play either within or as a soloist with orchestra. I relished the opportunity to be surrounded by the fantastic timbral world that one experiences when playing in front of an orchestra. I performed the perennial favourite Vivaldi Lute Concerto in D Major, and the more modern Concierto Barroco by the contemporary Puerto Rican composer Robert Sierra. Thank you to conductor Stephen Culbertson and the entire SOMA orchestra for the great experience.


One of the best things about having friends or family visit New York is being able to be a tourist in the city for even a short period of time. Like many cities I'm sure, New York is quite a different place for a tourist compared to how it is for someone who actually lives and works here. However with just a slight broadening of the Australian accent, one can get away with asking simple questions, drinking cocktails at lunch and stopping in the middle of a busy sidewalk to take a touristy photo. It's also great to take all the best bits of the city that I've discovered in over 7 years of living here, and be able to show them to my parents in just a bit over a week. Trying to prove the parable of the city that never sleeps, I've taken my parents to - or at very least orientated in the direction of - great museums, restaurants, parks, shops and cocktail bars. Particular highlights include a trip on the metro-north train up to the Día Beacon museum in Beacon, New York which is both an incredible museum and being situated a bit over an hour north of the city, affords beautiful views of both the Hudson river of the autumnal foliage; Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera; the Willem de Kooning retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art; an exceptionally early snowstorm that blanketed the city in a good few inches of snow; many of the city's great cocktail bars; and finally the annual and largest Halloween parade in the world - attended by over 50,000 participants and up to 2 millions observers, the parade and the Halloween evening is one of the more "lively" and exciting nights in the city. Somewhat sleep deprived and coming from work with a paisley shirt and wearing a guitar on my back, I dressed this year as a classical guitarist, but I do endeavour to really make an effort next year - perhaps I'll even dress up as one of these guys:

Must leave you as I'm off first thing in the morning to continue with my parents on their American voyage, and to live out my 20s in both Las Vegas and Hawaii! See you one year older, but possibly none the wiser, next month!

All my best,




So where was I? Oh, that's right... driving down the highway in outback Western Australia:


- Smallman & Sons Guitar

- Malaysia

  1. -Return to New York


The purpose of my trip through outback Western Australia was to pick up a brand new Smallman & Sons guitar. Only the second guitar that I have bought in over 15 years, the previous guitar that I've been playing was made by Eugene Philp - himself an apprentice of Greg Smallman - and which I bought new from Philp in 1996. One of the world's leading luthiers, and one who has done more than anyone else to revolutionise classical guitar construction in the past 30 years, Greg Smallman is now assisted in the production of the guitars by his sons Damon and Kym. Located half an hour outside of Esperance, WA, it would be be difficult to find a luthier located anywhere further in the world from New York City. At the workshop I was able to choose between three recently finished guitars. Built to the same specifications, they were all very similar, but each had it's own special beauties. After a while playing the three instruments, I felt myself swimming in the sounds of the guitars and wondered if it wouldn't have been just all that much easier to have had them send me one by courier... But as I've been telling everyone since, it was a great opportunity to meet my maker.


After driving back to Perth and saying goodbye to the beautiful desolate Australian coastlines, I then went on to the next stop: Malaysia. The first time I've ever been anywhere in Asia (other than the occasional airport while connecting to another flight). I immensely enjoyed the incredible food and the warmth of the Malaysians, and after a while somewhat acclimatised to the weather: every day was about 92 degrees Fahrenheit and an even higher humidity. After spending a few days with my parents in Kuala Lumpur and visiting the Petronius Towers (until recently the tallest building in the world, and still the world's tallest twin towers), we traveled to Malacca to attend the wedding of one of my cousins. It was great to spend time with my relatives - a number of whom I hadn't seen in about 25 years! - and a special and wonderful experience to attend a traditional Malaysian wedding. Having left my passport with the U.S. embassy for a number of days, into which they were putting a new visa stamp, with but hours to spare before my return flight to the U.S., I collected my passport and started the long journey home.


The flight from Hong Kong to New York is best described as long. It's the 10th longest commercial flight in the world by distance, and if measured by duration, number 7! No chance to be jet-lagged however, as since returning to New York it's been straight back into the swing of things including: a performance for the New Jersey Guitar Society; performing as a finalist - and one of only 2 guitarists - in the Pro Musicis competition; a performance at an unusual 10 course dinner, at which it was expected that the various performances would make the diners "choke" on their meals; and all the while dealing with a wasp infestation in my apartment... it's great to be back! Many a time I've heard people poetically describe themselves as having a tempestuous love affair with New York City. I think this is always much more apparent after being absent from the city for any period of time. New York can be incredibly brutal, and just when you think you've had enough, something happens that turns your head, stops you in your tracks and makes you love the city once again! A cool breeze is in the air, the leaves are starting to change colour, and the more optimistic in society are running around trying to stick any fallen ones back on the trees. It seems that everyone else is either back at work or hanging out on Wall Street. Vale summer.




AUGUST 2011:

While it would be hard for me to say that I'm particularly widely traveled, I've certainly traveled long ways... Within this past August, I've experienced New York summer, Barcelona sunshine, London winter, and now here I am on the other side of the world in Western Australia!


- Spain

- England

  1. -Western Australia


The purpose of the European leg of this trip was to record a CD with my ensemble the Australian Guitar Duo. The other half of the duo, Jacob Cordover, has been living in Barcelona for a number of years, and so that was first port of call for a couple of weeks of rehearsals. In preparation for the recording, we put in some very long days, but having lived in separate continents for the past few years, we're used to meeting up and jumping into long, intensive rehearsals. Although leaving little time for sightseeing - on a previous trip to Barcelona a few years ago, I spent some 3 weeks being a tourist there, and so didn't feel too guilty - we did though, take the time every day for some fantastic food. Of particular note, was the dish arroz negro, a rice dish that is cooked in squid ink, and takes on a rich flavour and intense black colour. Served with a garlic aioli and a bottle of Spanish wine, a perfect way to end a long day of rehearsals.

My last two nights in Barcelona were the beginning of the Festival de Gracía, an annual street festival at which over 50,000 people a night walk through the warm evening streets of Gracía (a suburb of Barcelona), buying beer and cocktails from street vendors, listening to live music and admiring the decorated streets. For an annual street decorating competition, a number of blocks are closed to traffic and elaborately decorated with various themes. The next block over from where Jacob lives had a 20 foot high boat with flying mermaids and underwater aquatic life; another street had a giant coffee maker, and Carrer de Mozart had a giant Willy Wonka style Mozart character (see photos below).


I don't know why people are so down about the weather in London, I thought it was perfectly reasonable winter weather. It was just unfortunate that it was occurring at the height of summer... Jacob and I went to London to record with the eminent producer John Taylor (particularly noted for his classical guitar records). We recorded over three consecutive days in a village 40 minutes north of London, in a beautiful old church dating back many centuries (the first vicar was appointed in 1209), and which was surrounded by nothing but wheat fields. The acoustics were ideal for guitar, and other than a few pigeons whose intonation was frightfully wonky, the village was otherwise fortuitously quiet. We were both very pleased with how the recording sessions went, and excited for the release of our CD Songs from the Forest, scheduled for early 2012.

With a day free in London I went to the Tate Modern, which I had visited on a trip to the UK in 2005, and renewed my love of both the building and the collection (especially the Rothko room: initially conceived as a series of paintings for a commission by the Four Seasons restaurant in New York City, Rothko felt the paintings were too serious and somber for the restaurant, so reneged the commission and later donated the works to the Tate. A still and meditative room, it's somewhat reminiscent of the Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas, which I saw last year).


Right before leaving London, I was asked by a friend if I enjoyed flying. Without hesitation I answered "yes, of course". About 20 hours into the trip from there to Australia however, I began to have some doubts and remembered what former prime minister Paul Keating said about Australia: "Of course it's centrally located, it's 24 hours from everywhere!" I kept myself entertained in the Dubai airport by finding in a convenience store a 3kg (6lb) box of Omo laundry detergent. Admittedly practically a steal at only US$10, I was contemplating why anyone would need such a large box just before they boarded their next flight, when I was broken from my reverie by a gentleman who picked up one of the last remaining boxes and took it to the cashier... I always love returning to Australia, where everything feels comfortably familiar, the people are relaxed, the food wholesome, the coffee delicious, and although the end of winter, still warmer and sunnier than the UK. This trip to Australia is somewhat an adventure, for although having spent the first 22 years of my life exclusively in Australia, I have never before seen either Perth or the west coast. Having flown into Perth - generally considered the most remote capital city in the world - I spent the past couple of days there, and for the duration of my week-long visit to Australia, will be exclusively on the west coast of the country. I'm presently heading south on a road-trip for a specific and very exciting purpose, but which I will write more about next month... stay tuned!

Warm thanks to all the friends I caught up with, and the new ones I made, and especially all those that accommodated me on my travels through Europe!

More anon,




JULY 2011:

On the eve of a six week trip outside of New York, I am reminded of a moment in Werner Herzog's film Fitzcarraldo, where towards the end of the film, the deluded and hapless protagonist Fitzgerald mutters to himself in a short soliloquy: "I'll tell you a story. At the time when North America was hardly explored, one of those early French trappers went westward from Montreal, and he was the first white man to set eyes on Niagara Falls. When he returned, he told of waterfalls that were more vast and immense than people had ever dreamed of. But no one believed him. They thought he was a madman or a liar. They asked him, 'What's your proof?' And he answered 'My proof is... that I have seen them.' Sorry. I don't really know what that's got to do with me."

I don't really know what that's got to do with me either, but it does make me think back to being in Montreal at the beginning of the month:


- Montreal & Rupert, Vermont

- Sir Paul McCartney

  1. -Museum exhibitions


At the beginning of the month, I took a trip to Montreal, arriving just in time to wish them a Happy Canada Day, eh, and then spent a weekend enjoying summer in the city and catching a number of shows at the Montreal Jazz Festival. The festival is incredibly fun, with several outdoor stages set up in an enclosed area in the centre of town, with dozens of performances - most free - and people hanging out, listening to jazz, drinking beer and wine, and eating poutine - a source of a national pride for Canada, poutine is basically french fries covered in gravy and chunks of a rubbery cheese (it's good to eat every now and then, a polite Québécoise informed me, just don't eat it too often or you will - at which point she gesticulated a wildly expanding waistline...).

On the way to Montreal however, I took a detour to pass through a town I've been wanting to visit for years: Rupert, Vermont (population 705). Named for Prince Rupert of England, Rupert is this very year celebrating 250 years! Comprised of a congregational church, a historical society, a volunteer fire department and a post office, the town afforded me many great photo opportunities. I also think I made the post office lady's week, but stopping by to chat about the town. The post office in Rupert is one of the six oldest post offices in the United States, and the second smallest in the country (the smallest post office, located in Florida, measures a total of just 7 square feet, and by comparison the one in Rupert is positively luxurious).


In nearly 7 years of living in New York, I've only been to the Bronx on four occasions. Not that I have any issues with the borough, I just seldom have reason to go there. I ventured up the other week though, to see Sir Paul McCartney perform at Yankees Stadium! In a 2 & 1/2 hour non-stop performance (that even featured an encore with Billy Joel), Sir Paul was in great form and exhibited an absolute love of music and performing. A story I like to tell often, I actually graduated university at the same time as Sir Paul. When I graduated from Yale University a few years ago, Sir Paul was given an honorary doctorate and was in attendance during the ceremony. Since I was receiving the Artist Diploma degree, I like to think that while Yale considers Paul a Doctor, they consider me an Artist... I thought it was incredibly special to see live in concert, someone who has such a profound and lasting impact upon music in the past 50 years.


Alexander McQueen @ the Metropolitan Museum: One of the hottest exhibitions in the city this summer, this is a retrospective of the late Alexander McQueen, the enfant terrible of the modern fashion world. A truly memorable exhibition, fashion more than I have ever seen before, becomes a incredible work of art. A genuine genius, McQueen's exhibition has been receiving so much great publicity and hype, that the queues to get in were the largest I have ever seen for an exhibition in the city. Fortunately as a member of the Met, I was able to skip the lines, but when I left, I followed the queue which extended throughout a significant portion of the museum, all the way to a sign at the front desk that announced the wait for admission was 90 minutes.

Lyonel Feininger @ the Whitney Museum: On the few occasions that I have been to the Phillips Collection in D.C. I have always been struck by the beauty of a small, somewhat abstract work by Feininger. I was very excited to see that the Whitney is currently having a comprehensive exhibition of his works, that progresses from his early newspaper cartoons, through his futurist and cubist works, to his later more abstract (yet still figurative) works. Born in New York, Feininger moved to Germany in his teens, where he remained until returning to New York decades later after having his works declared "degenerate" by the Nazi Party. This is a beautiful collection of works by an artist who is quickly becoming one of my favourite of the 20th Century.

Next stop Barcelona! Rehearsing there with my ensemble the Australian Guitar Duo for the next couple of weeks, before we head to London to record our debut ensemble CD Songs from the Forest [working title]. Following that, next month's blog entry will come to you from Western Australia - stay tuned.

More anon,



JUNE 2011:

If you walk around any city with a guitar on your back long enough, invariably you'll have someone shout out: "play us a tune will ya, play us a tune...".Well here's a June for ya:


- Make Music New York

  1. -New York Concerts


Make Music New York, in its fifth annual incarnation this year, is a festival held on the summer solstice throughout all five boroughs of New York City to celebrate music and the official start of summer. In what turns out to be a long day (well, the longest day of the year), free public performances are held all day throughout the city's parks and streets, and include elaborate performances such as a 90 second composition for push-bikes and bicycle bells held on Bleecker Street (anyone with a bicycle, a bell and a helmet was invited to join in), through to a performance on Wall Street, where the participants were invited to download a free iPhone application which played a composition and directed the participants to meet on a particular street corner at a certain time. As that time approached and the participants converged on that particular corner, the sound from their phones coalesced to form the composition. I was involved in two performances for Make Music New York this year. One, organised through the Brooklyn Conservatory, had me playing to evening foot traffic on the corner of 5th Avenue and 9th Street in Park Slope, Brooklyn. The other had me waking up almost before I even went to bed:

Secret Piece (1953) by Yoko Ono:

Written nearly 60 years ago by the artist Yoko Ono, the composition is written thus: "The woods from 5 a.m. to 8 a.m. in summer / Decide on one note that you want to play. Play it with the following accompaniment:" And below these typed instructions Yoko had hand-written on a musical stave: "with the accompaniment of the birds singing at dawn". Open to any members of the general public, Make Music New York invited participants to meet in Central Park from 5am, go to a secluded part of the park and play the note of their choice on any instrument or with their voice. Arriving around 5:30am to the accompaniment of the rising sun, I was struck most by two things: firstly, the park is so incredibly beautiful and tranquil in the early morning light, and secondly, there are a lot of very serious cyclists riding along the roads in the park at that time of the morning (traveling very fast, in teams, all wearing the same jerseys, etc.)! About 50 participants had checked in before I arrived, and so before settling on a place to sit, I first took a walk around to hear the composition. Scattered sparsely through the areas in which I walked, I came across at most a dozen people participating, all just playing one note; some playing that note just 3 or 4 times a minute, others substituting their early morning aerobics for vigorous violin playing... I sat down out of earshot of these other performers in a pagoda at the edge of a lake, not too far from Strawberry Fields, and chose the note E - for several minutes I just played E, at times just the one octave, and then branching out to all 4 octave Es available on the guitar. It really was quite magical in the tranquility of the park to meditate on just one note. I have to admit though, after a while I got a little restless of playing just E, and couldn't pass up the opportunity in the beautiful surroundings to play some repertoire (shhhh, don't tell Yoko! But if you do happen to be speaking to Yoko, please ask her if she got the letter I wrote her some years ago. I sent her a copy of my CD Valses Poéticos and asked if she'd ever have time to meet me for a coffee. I never heard back, but having moved apartments 3 or 4 times since then, maybe her response got lost in the post?). At 8am everyone returned to Columbus circle and drank green tea.


Although many of the arts institutions in New York have finished their regular season and are on break for the summer, I've been to some really interesting performances this month:

- 'The Transfinite' by Ryoji Ikeda @ the Armory: Firstly, if there is a haunted building in New York, I'm sure it's the Armory on Park Avenue. An incredible building, built for the National Guard in the mid-19th century, I had the pleasure of doing some performances at the Armory with the dance company Moving Theater a few years ago. In addition to the "officers" rooms on the ground floor (often adorned with stuffed moose hanging on the walls), the Armory has a 55,000 square foot drill hall - one of the largest unobstructed indoor spaces in New York - which was the venue for 'the transfinite'. Ryoji Ikeda is a Japanese sound artist, living and working in Paris, who creates artificial audio soundscapes that accompany visual projections of numbers and other abstract mathematical concepts. Ikeda filled the drill hall space with a huge vertical screen, on which visuals were projected on both the front and the back. Monotonous, repetitive and abstract (and not for those prone to seizures), 'the transfinite' was an incredible work that was at once both mesmerising, and as was pointed out to me, also somewhat like the start of a migraine headache.

- Zarkana by Cirque du Soleil @ Radio City Music Hall: I love the circus, and this being the first Cirque du Soleil show that I've seen, I might almost run off to Canada to join the circus... Radio City Music Hall was chosen as the venue as it has one of the largest fly-systems in the world, allowing for many people and objects to be suspended above the stage. Their precision and timing were just immaculate (obviously many many hours of training), and really made me think about how in music if a performer misses a couple of notes, they miss a couple of notes, but in trapese, if you miss-time something, you or your partner falls 30+ feet through the air (not to their death as there are nets below, but either way a long way to go!). I also found it incredible just how beautiful and emotive movement and acrobatics of the human body can be.

- Cunning Little Vixen by Janácek @ Avery Fisher Hall: As an annual tradition, the New York Philharmonic stages an opera, and this year they did a production Janácek's opera the Cunning Little Vixen (for this production, translated into an English version). Great singing and playing, and fantastic costumes that really made the animals of the forest come to life on the stage!

I'd better dash! I'm off to Montreal, not to join the circus, but for Canada National Day, eh, and to hopefully see some shows at the Montreal Jazz Festival.

All my best,



MAY 2011:

Just me or is it hot in here? It's now definitely summer, and what a beautiful month was May:

- Recording of Trickle released through iTunes

- New York Concerts

  1. -New York City Life

  2. -

I was very pleased to see the release this month of the premiere recording of Trickle by Rob Mosher, which I recorded last year. A Canadian born, now New York based composer, Rob is traditionally a soprano saxophonist and jazz composer, and so Trickle is somewhat a departure in style for Rob (and also for me!). Trickle is written for two classical guitars, which through the use of overdubbing, I performed both guitar parts. Although I find it of utmost pretension when people say that their music is outside the boundaries of any genre of music, Trickle is quite different from any other work that I've played before, and perhaps best classified as "Minimalist Classical" music. I highly encourage you to have a listen to the samples through the links below, and hey, you may even be so inclined as to part with one hard earned dollar to listen to the entire work:

Trickle on ITUNES:

Trickle on CD BABY:

[For readers outside of the US: if the links don't work, please search for "Trickle Mosher" in either the iTunes Store or www.CDBaby.com]

New York is often described as a "grown-ups playground", where with enough time and money, one can do whatever they want! Although I often feel woefully bereft of both, this month I feel privileged to have seen a number of great concerts, including:

- Gluck's Orfeo ed Euridice at the Metropolitan Opera, starring the magnificent countertenor David Daniels and with choreography by Mark Morris (Gluck's Orfeo was actually the first opera I ever saw at the Met, some 5 or 6 years ago, and was great to see again);

- The Wordless Music Orchestra playing works by Glass, Ligeti & the U.S. premiere of a work by Radiohead's guitarist Johnny Greenwood;

  1. -The contemporary folk-rock group the Fleet Foxes at the beautiful United Palace Theatre on West 175th street (I've been listening to their 2 albums a lot in recent weeks and truly loving them!).

  2. -

After passing several people in the subway this month who were handing out flyers on how to survive the impending Armageddon, I both carefully gave them a wide berth, but also took pause for thought and reflected a little about my life. They say that on their death bed, no-one ever exclaims that they wish they'd spent more time in the office. I have to admit that I've never actually spent any time in an office... While I've certainly spent my fair share of time in the practice-room (and continue to do so every day), in my day to day life, my "office" is a continually changing rehearsal space, venue, school, apartment, etc. throughout the city. Everyday I "schlep" myself and my guitar through the breadth of the New York subway system on my way to rehearsals, performances and to teach lessons. Although I feel like I'm in a constant state of "subway lag", I love that everyday of the week I am in a different part of the city. Even having lived here for almost 7 years, every unexplored street is a new adventure and every old familiar street is at the mercy of the constant change and vicissitudes of the city. This month in the beautiful spring weather, I've really enjoyed the downtime I've had between engagements. In the winter months, I usually spend a spare hour or two in a coffee shop either reading a book or writing emails on my iPhone. This month I've spent most of the time walking around the city, or spending time in one of the city's many public parks. Even in a city of 8 million, barely has a day gone by this month where I haven't run into a friend or colleague on the streets. I'm convinced that New York is the world's smallest big city...

For as much as I love New York, if I spend too much time in the city without a break, I get antsy and do feel the need to escape from the constant motion and energy. This past weekend was a long weekend for Memorial Day (the colloquial start to summer in the United States), and I had a wonderful chance to escape to upstate New York, where I drank a beer in the oldest Inn in the United States (even George Washington himself drank there!), finally arrived in Woodstock (albeit some 42 years too late), and took a beautiful hike in the Catskills mountains. Feeling refreshed and recharged for the next 2 months of summer in the city!

Yours as always,



APRIL 2011:

Although April was considerably more relaxed than March, it seems like just yesterday that I sat down and wrote last month's blog... I am often hit by the poignancy of that passage in One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest, where Chief Broom describes the Nurse's ability to speed up and slow down time: "The Big Nurse is able to set the wall clock at whatever speed she wants by just turning one of those dials in the steel door; she takes a notion to hurry things up, she turns the speed up, and those hands whip around that disk like spokes in a wheel." And so through this month have spun like whirling hands on a clock: Spring, Easter, Passover, wonderful concerts, Royal Weddings & April rains. They say that April rains bring May flowers, so does that mean we are to expect a whole bunch of pilgrims landing on these shores in the next few weeks? [Oh, I can hear the groans from here...]


- Chamber Music Adventures

- New York Concerts

  1. -Springtime in the City

Continuing on from our concerts and adventures in March, the first week of this month was dedicated to The Australian Guitar Duo. In addition to a very productive photo shoot with Matthew Fried, we also gave a presentation to the New York City Classical Guitar Society, at which we discussed and performed a number of works by the contemporary Australian composers Nigel Westlake, Ross Edwards and Phillip Houghton. To conclude 3 weeks of very intense rehearsals, Jacob and I had a burger at Peter Luger's Steakhouse in Brooklyn (one of, if not the best, steakhouse in New York City), and then Jacob hopped on a plane to Barcelona, where we will next meet for rehearsals in the summer, before recording our debut album in the UK.

Never one to be particularly monogamous in my chamber music playing, I think I could still hear Jacob's plane flying overhead from JFK to BCN as I started rehearsing pieces for a soprano sax and guitar duo with Rob Mosher, and for a concert next month of a Boccherini Quintet and Paganini Trio. A unique combination, the soprano sax and classical guitar work fantastically well together, and it was a pleasure to play a small showcase with Rob Mosher this month of works that he had arranged for the duo including a Prelude by Chopin, the first movement of the Kindertotenleider by Mahler, the fifth movement of the Quartet for the End of Time by Messiaen and a new composition by Mosher himself. Although this depressing, sombre music fits our respective personalities perfectly (ha!), we also have plans to do Ravel's Le Tombeau de Couperin and some slightly less than severely depressing works in the future...

Two highlights of concerts that I saw this month were Berg's opera Wozzeck, performed at the Metropolitan Opera and conducted by James Levine, and a tribute concert to Leo Brouwer at the 92nd Street Y. A 20th century German play, the story of Wozzeck was, in addition to Berg's opera, famously made into a film by Werner Herzog. The story details the demise of a poor man Wozzeck, who to make money agrees to be part of a scientific experiment where he eats only green peas for several weeks, before he ultimately goes crazy and murders his wife. A profoundly moving and intense opera, this was a sublime production where the harsh lighting and exaggerated shadows resonated perfectly with the atonal music.

Curated by my former teacher at Yale Benjamin Verdery, the Tribute to Leo Brouwer at the 92nd Street Y was a tour de force of the classical guitar world, featuring Odair Assad, the Eden Stell Duo, Ricardo Cobo, Benjamin Verdery, Raphaella Smits, Rene Izquierdo and the Canadian Guitar Quartet. Comprised of works by probably the greatest living guitarist/composer, with such an all-star cast and quality repertoire, this was one of the most enjoyable and impressive guitar concerts I have been to in the city.

Spring is such a beautiful time in the city as the weather changes from being too cold to being too hot - just don't blink or you'll miss it! I've been taking all the chances I can to enjoy the warmth and sunshine, and whenever possible have taken a stroll through central park. The most visited urban park in the United States, and possibly the world's most prime real-estate park area (the real estate value of central park was estimated in 2005 to be over $500 billion), central park is an oasis from the "concrete jungle" of the rest of the city. I took two contrasting strolls through the park in recent weeks, one in glorious sunshine and the other in a thick mist, and just love that being in the heart of a city of over 8 million people, you can almost disappear and find yourself surrounded by nothing but trees, birds and the occasional rabid raccoon...

Unless the raccoons get me, I'll see y'all next month!




MARCH 2011:

March, march, march... in reality it's been more like Run, run, run - boy, what a busy month!

- The Australian Guitar Duo: U.S. Performances

- Chicago

  1. -Guitar Exhibitions in New York

Most of this month has been occupied with rehearsals and performances by my ensemble The Australian Guitar Duo (with guitarist Jacob Cordover). After having played together for some 11-years, it's always such a pleasure and rewarding experience at how easy repertoire comes together. After just 2 days of intense rehearsals we gave our first performance in Connecticut, and in the proceeding 2 weeks gave a recital in New York City, recorded a TV show in Pleasantville, NY, and were the headline acts (along with William Kanengiser) at the annual Mid-America Guitar Ensemble Festival, held this year in New Lenox, Illinois. In addition to a very enthusiastically received recital, we also had the pleasure of playing in the orchestra for Shingo Fujii's Concierto de Los Angeles, with William Kanengiser playing the solo guitar part, backed by some 150 guitars! I'm still in awe of the visual and musical experience of having so many guitars on the one stage at the same time, and imagine it may be some time before I'll see the likes of that many guitarists all playing at the same time again... I feel so fortunate to have been part of this festival, which was so wonderfully organised and run, and at which we had the pleasure of meeting so many great and friendly people!

Following the festival in New Lenox we had a day to discover Chicago: "the windy city", home to the Blues Brothers, the deep dish pizza, the tallest building in the United States, and a seemingly endless number of sporting teams. Armed with but a handful of hours and a fistful of dollars, these attractions are just what we did:

- The Willis Tower (formerly the Sears tower, and known affectionately to the locals as the Big Willy): Standing as the tallest building in the United States at 108 stories, the 103rd floor is an observation deck with 360 degree views over Chicago & lake Michigan, and for a unique experience contains a number of glass bottomed viewing platforms, that jut out - seemingly unsupported - over the street below.

- Deep-dish pizza: It seems that if you really want to annoy a native of Chicago, ask them which place makes the best pizza in the city, and then when they respond with one of the five or so places that vie for that title, suggest that you'd heard that one of the other places was even better... Other than sport, deep-dish pizza seems to be the main past-time and passion of the city. Putting the choice of my first deep-dish pizza in the capable hands of my Chicago-based agent, we were taken to Uno, and it really was quite a culinary experience.

- Art Institite of Chicago: a definite favourite of all the museums I've visited in the world, the Institute is home to an inordinate number of "must see" paintings: Picasso's Old Guitarist, Seurat's A Sunday on La Grande Jatte, Gogh's Self-Portrait, Wood's American Gothic, etcetera, etcetera., and almost every wall had either a work that I'd read about in art books, or other works that were just simply exquisite.

The guitar seems to be experiencing a renaissance in New York City at the moment, with both the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum currently housing exhibitions about the guitar. Somewhat pressed for time, I practically ran through both exhibitions and hope to find time next month to visit each at a more leisurely pace. MoMA has an exhibition entitled Picasso's Guitars that brings together some 70 mixed-media works on the subject of the guitar by the great artist. The Metropolitan Museum features guitars made by three New York based luthiers, in addition to some great period instruments including one of just four guitars made by the legendary Antonio Stradivari. It's a great exhibit with many stunningly beautiful instruments, but I have to admit that while I love seeing these guitars, I just found it a tease, as all I really wanted was to be able to hear and feel, rather than merely look at the guitars which were all encased in their glass "enclosures".

My thoughts are with all those around the world affected by the earthquake/tsunami and ensuing complications in Japan.

More anon,




February is such an elusive month. Only 2 or 3 days shorter than the other months, it always seems to just fly by. Vrooom! "What was that?" "Why, that was February, mate!" "Oh... ".

- Trip to North Carolina

- The Busking Project

- Concerts in New York

- Here is New York by E.B. White

The last weekend in February I made a trip to Winston-Salem to play a concert at Wake Forest University with soprano Johanna Young. I played a solo recital at Wake Forest in February 2010, and I was invited to come back and accompany my friend Johanna who lives in New York and is an alumna of Wake Forest. I've taken a lot of pleasure from working with singers in recent years, and this concert featured some great repertoire for voice and guitar, including classics by Dowland, Villa-Lobos and Falla, as well as some less common but beautiful works by Cordero and Brouwer.

A fairly wealthy city known for its tobacco industry and underwear manufacturing, Winston-Salem is also home to the original Krispy Kreme Doughnut Factory (quite a delight, hot of the presses!). While I don't wish to dwell on the eccentric or the blatantly unusual in different societies, it is often these little things that gives a place its utmost character and distinctive flavour (Australia certainly has its overwhelming share of whacky traditions and cultural icons). While I often spend just 24-48 hours in these places, I love catching a glimpse of a billboard or TV advert for some local custom. I recall in Houston being told of a famous spider monkey that is dressed in a cowboy outfit and strapped to the back of a sheep dog in a mock cowboy routine for the opening act at a rodeo. North Carolina's favourite celebrity - so the tv ad goes - is Twiggy the Water Skiing Squirrel... Have to admit, that as cruel as it sounds, it certainly piqued my interest.

THE BUSKING PROJECT (www.thebuskingproject.com):
[busk - vb. chiefly British. to make money by singing, dancing, acting, etc., in public places]

Just want to send a bon voyage to my friend Nick Broad, who is about to embark on a 9-month trip around the world to "interview, photograph, film, and discover the life and motivations of the world's street artists". A quintessential English chap, Nick and I often ran into each other randomly in the subway and at the opera, and last August took a trip to Toronto one weekend for Toronto's Annual Buskerfest. Nick also invited me to give a street performance in Manhattan a few months ago, and then interviewed me on my experiences busking. A link to the interview can be found below. Although I may sound somewhat negative towards busking in the interview, I genuinely love the colour and vitality street performers bring to any city, and am fascinated to see the acts that Nick will document on his travels!

In addition to another wonderful concert at Carnegie Hall sponsored by The D'Addario Foundation and featuring guitarists Ricardo Cobo and Artyom Dervoed, I feel very fortunate to have seen Nixon in China at the Metropolitan Opera. Composed by John Adams in 1987, Nixon in China is one of the great operas of this era, and was an all-star production, conducted by John Adams, with production by Peter Sellars and choreography by Mark Morris. Definitely one of highlights of all the operas I have seen at the Met!

Although given to me years ago, I only just got around to reading this beautiful, short book on New York by E.B. White, who was a long time writer for The New Yorker and author of Charlotte's Web and Stuart Little. Written in 1948, Here is New York is remarkable both for getting to the very essence and soul of New York City, and for how much of a mirror it still is of the city today, some 62 years later. "The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines . . . the poem whose magic is comprehensible to millions of permanent residents but whose full meaning will always remain elusive . . . The merchant princes, riding to Wall Street in their limousines down the East River Drive, pass within a few hundred yards of the gypsy kings; but the princes do not know they are passing kings, and the kings are not up yet anyway - they live a more leisurely life than the princes and get drunk more consistently."

Now I know I mentioned that this month would see the release of Rob Mosher's "Trickle", but as Douglas Adams said: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as the fly by". Stay tuned . . .

Until March,





Hi Mum!

Allow me to welcome you all to 2011 & to the official Rupert Boyd blog! Of the New Year's resolutions that I hadn't broken by the morning of January 2nd, one was to start an online blog of my adventures as a classical guitarist living in New York City. Following my own self-prescribed guidelines, it is my intention to post an entry by the end of each month of thoughts, ideas, news and adventures from the preceding weeks. Not for a minute do I suggest that my life is any more interesting than that of the other 8,450,000 inhabitants of NYC, but hey, history is written by the bloggers, no? Here's hoping that the readership of my monthly dithyramb will at least number one (hence the opening greeting)...

- The Caribbean onboard Queen Mary 2

- Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy

- Concerts in New York

  1. -San Francisco

I began the new year by taking a voyage from the cold, snowy conditions of New York, to the sunny Caribbean on board Queen Mary 2 - the world's largest ocean liner (admittedly yes, Oasis of the Seas - built after QM2 - is now the world's largest passenger ship, but technically not an ocean liner...). Jacob Cordover, the other half of my ensemble the Australian Guitar Duo, invited me as his guest on board QM2, on which he was performing as one of the Classical Guest Artists. Although the Australian Guitar Duo will reach it's 11-year anniversary next month, over the past few years Jacob and I have been living not just in separate cities or countries, but in separate continents! We grab any opportunity we can to meet up and rehearse, and who could say no to an all expenses paid vacation to the Caribbean in January?!?

In addition to rehearsing for concerts later in the year and for our debut recording, which we plan to undertake in the summer (northern hemisphere) of 2011, we also had the opportunity to explore the Caribbean islands of St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Barbados & Dominica, and to eat copious amounts of food (opulent fancy dinners every night & breakfast in bed, etc). The only negative experience of the trip came when, trying to find a beach to relax on in St. Lucia, we decided to take a right rather than a left when leaving the dock. We walked for hours without finding a single beach (it was a smallish island, how hard could it be?). Otherwise it was a very pleasant experience, although I never could quite shake the feeling that the boat was somewhat redolent of a floating casino with its endless corridors, eternally void of time, and populated by the aging, the retired and the downright eccentric. A favourite passenger to whom I made acquintance was Carl, who'd done everything from work with Michael Jackson on the film clip for "Beat It", through to dancing with Mick Jagger's wife, and hanging out with Eric Clapton...

I found time on the boat to read Piano Lessons by the Australian pianist (and now novelist) Anna Goldsworthy. I met Anna and purchased a copy of her book in late 2010 at a book reading in New York. In an emotional and touching memoir of her childhood music lessons, this book creates a vivid impression of the profound influence that music and music teachers play in people's lives.

Back on dry land, I saw some wonderful concerts this month including Verdi's Simon Boccanegra at the Metropolitan Opera House, and the second concert in the new D'Addario Foundation Debuts & Premieres Concert Series at Carnegie Hall. This concert featured Florian LaRousse and Anabel Montesinos, both exceptional players, and these concerts are a very exciting addition to the New York guitar scene.

To round out the month, I made use of an about-to-expire voucher from United Airlines to take a weekend trip to San Francisco - one of the two remaining cities in the United States that I'd had a great desire to visit, but hadn't yet done so (the other city being Chicago, which I will see in March!). A few weeks ago I was chatting with some well traveled friends about how we'd never had a female pilot on the dozens or hundreds of flights we'd had around the world. It was such a pleasant surprise to have a lady come over the speaker and announce herself as the pilot (I think her name was Barbara). It also was very pleasant to hear that she too had that typical folksy West Virginia drawl common amongst airline pilots, which Tom Wolfe in his eminently enjoyable book The Right Stuff ascribes to have been passed down through the generations of pilots, originating with the legendary test pilot Chuck Yeager.

San Francisco is a fun city! With just a little over 48 hours, managed to see everything from a fortune cookie factory and eclectic musical instruments store in Chinatown, through to Alcatraz, the Golden Gate Bridge & GSP - one of the most renowned guitar music stores in the world...

Stay tuned (no pun intended) for the next blog entry, coming to you on 2.28.2011! More thrills and spills including the release of a new composition by New York based Jazz composer Rob Mosher, as well as a concert in Winston-Salem, NC, and surely other adventures hopefully not involving mass quantities of snow. Mark your diaries, put it up on the school calendar, tell your granny, friends and family - the next Rupert Boyd All-Star Band Blog will soon be hitting a computer screen near you!

More anon,



© Rupert Boyd 2016