music lessons

I had mentioned in my last post that I was learning to play the piano. This has been going on since January this year, and was a decision made on various factors. The main reason I wanted to learn piano (or any instrument at all) was because, after enjoying listening to classical music so much, I wanted to also know how to play it. I suppose it’s not too dissimilar to the desire to write being born from a love of reading.

All through primary school, weekly music classes were mandatory. For younger children, if I remember correctly, this consisted mostly of singing and learning about rhythm. From Grade 3 or 4, we were made to buy recorders, and were taught how to read sheet music. Continue reading

of the heart

I was going to write something a bit more expansive today, but I heard something remarkable on the radio this morning, and thought I’d share that instead. The below piece is called 800 million heartbeats and was composed by Stuart Greenbaum. I believe this recording – by NZTrio – is the same one I heard this morning.

What is more, or at least equally remarkable is that the title of the song comes from the purported fact that most mammals have lifespans of 800-million heartbeats. The example given by the radio presenter (who I think was paraphrasing an “analysis by the composer”, which you can find online) was that hummingbirds have very rapid heart rates, and live relatively short lives. Sloths, on the other hand, have much slower heart rates, and live longer.

But humans are the exception: 800-million heartbeats would only take us into our twenties.

I think it’s cool that someone, somewhere, has measured and calculated all this. It doesn’t really matter if this is a very useful fact or not. Maybe it doesn’t even really matter if it’s actually true or not. There’s still something romantic in it, no?

mad rush

I heard this on the radio the other day, and knew I’d heard it before. I just wasn’t sure who the composer was or what the piece was called.

I was cooking at the time, and continued to tend to the pot on the stove, but I listened intently, determined to hear the presenter give the details of the piece once it was over.

It was Philip Glass’ Mad Rush.

Incredible, captivating music for thinking or not thinking. Maybe just for feeling.

these days

When Rudimental released dates and venues for their Toast to Our Differences World Tour, I was really disappointed to see that Brisbane was not on the list. Apart from major Australian cities like Melbourne and Sydney, they were also going to go to Darwin and Mount Gambier …but not Brisbane. I mean, no offence to Darwin and Mount Gambier, but they’re significantly smaller cities. It didn’t make sense.

I suppose they’re not in it for the money (?) Continue reading


Earlier this year, when I was listening to ABC Classic on the radio, the presenter gave a very brief account of the life of Aleksandr Porfirevich Borodin. They said that before Borodin was a composer, he was a chemistry professor. It was actually while he was quite ill, and could not go to work as a chemistry professor, that he did a lot of his composing.

I found this interesting for two reasons: First, the fact that music essentially had the status of “hobby” for him — something he did in his spare time, away from work — but he managed to do really well, and became quite famous for it. I wonder if this was his real ambition, or if he just composed music for himself, and somehow realised he was actually good enough to do it professionally. Continue reading


In the last two years, I’ve listened to more and more classical music. I don’t go to concerts or buy records, but if I’m at home, I’ll probably have the radio on ABC Classic. I used to always listen to that station in the car as well, but I tend to spend more time listening to my Persian/Farsi lessons now.

It’s interesting, though, that after all this time listening to classical music, I don’t feel like I know much more about it. I can recognise the names of a lot more composers, but if you just played me a piece of music, I probably would not be able to tell you who wrote it (except maybe Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which is quite distinct, but you’d have to play the right part for me to recognise). Continue reading