Backstage Vol. 8: Here and there 

It's been about a month since my last post. And I know, I know, the first thing I learned about being a blogger is.... 'Be consistent!' And here we are with a rather delayed 8th backstage blog. Please accept this blog my dear readers.

There are a lot of things I have to share. We'll see what fits with today. This blog may twist and turn. In my head I feel somewhat like a charging rhinoceros who really likes the colour red. And yellow. Oh! And anything sparkly. And purple wigs. And the Maia nebula. And...well you get the point.


I'm thinking of a number between 1 and 100,00


What happens in the space of a month?

One thing for sure. 

I spent a lot of time getting from one place to another. In fact, I think I spent most of my time getting from one place to another. Let's see. 6:30 in the morning the 1st of March, I lifted myself up, transported my entire physical body from my bed to the kitchen..somehow hitched up my mind and dragged it along with me to get my day started. And then there were all sorts of little journeys during the day-to the water fountain, to the window to get a closer look at the squirrel sitting in the tree outside-and there was the 35 minute walk to to campus, and the 35 minute walk home, complemented by any extra travel needed on any given day.

And I'd like to say that at this point in my life I have become pretty efficient about getting myself from one place to another. But have I become good at it?

Let's delay the answer to that question for a moment.

Another good chunk of my time is spent practicing my instrument(s), thinking about music, repeating motions in order to perfect passages and improve technically. Actually when I sit down to practice I'm still working on getting from one place to another. My fingers take many miniscule journeys up and down the strings of my instrument, all directed by the master traffic manager sitting in my brain. And these motions are supposed to create music, but how? It's so easy especially when working directly on technical exercises to neutralize the brain's perceptive capabilities and to just let the muscles repeat their motions over and over again.


Here's what I like about walking. I'm relatively good at controlling my legs to propel me forward. I can pay attention to what's happening around me as I pass through city frame after city frame. My commute is interesting because I often walk the same path twice a day, but even if the backdrop is the same,  each time there are different people, animals, noises, empty pizza boxes, flowers, clouds, name it... Each time I accomplish the same task; that is to get somewhere (usually the same place as the day before). I also enjoy a sense of mental relaxation when I walk. The walk becomes a time of day where I don't dedicate myself to work, but instead I am this thing that is in between places, between my work and between my home, it's freeing, and I get to do this everyday.


Each time I play a scale I accomplish the same task I did maybe just seconds before. Each time I perform a piece, I make the same physical movements I did the last time. There's something to a single movement though. I may press my third finger down on the fret board to play the same note as I have countless other times, but this time it lands slightly different, this time I am thinking about something slightly different and it ends up sounding one way or another.

I have to be aware in the way that finger would be aware of its surroundings if it could see and hear and think. This is how I am able to practice the way I do. There are certainly days were I have a hard time opening my mind to perceive these small events, and on those days working on technical exercises are a real hard chore. But the more I work on perception and the more aware I can be in these working moments I find these tasks that may on the surface sound and look mundane to be full of inspiration.


Sometimes though, I'm not the best at getting myself to a destination. Sometimes it's too far to walk and I need help. Not too long ago I was in one of these situations. Actually it's not so unusual is it, I don't know anyone who can get themselves *anywhere*. Over the past month I've been doing a lot of long distance traveling, from being in Toronto for the Cygnus Trio's last performance, to Kingston to perform there, and I'll be heading back to Ontario in April, again in May, and then to France, and well a lot of places that my two legs would take me a long time to reach. So I rely on other people. I often find taking a cab to be interesting...well either interesting or somewhat awkward...but when you get into the cab you hope for the best. Recently I was heading to the north end of Montreal with my archlute, which as I've hinted at before is often somewhat of a conversation starter. Anyways, the cab driver was enthusiastic to talk about music, and shared with me some information about music from his home country of Nigeria. What stood out to me was the Talking Drum. This is an hour-glass shaped drum with chords tied along it lengthwise and can mimic tones of human speech. He told me that historically it would be used by royalty to address the people, and I even learned that some drummers have names that can be played on this instrument. The idea of mimicking the human voice is not foreign to other musical traditions, but this particular instrument seems to have integrated with language in a unique way. 

What does this have to with walking and practicing and performing? Well perhaps this is just a particularly sparkly rock that distracted me this afternoon, but on the other hand it's an example of a means of communication. Communication is not just something that I'm trying to improve between my mind and my movements, but I'm also trying to improve my communication as a performer, with you, a listener. I don't have an instrument that mimics human speech, nor am I usually speaking while playing a piece of music, but I do experience new things everyday, and I'm always learning about what makes me notice, remember and relate to them. My goal then is really to be you. No, I don't mean I'm going to try and steal one of your hairs or something and brew up a potion, don't worry. I mean I want to become part of my own audience, to react to what I hear, to be able to anticipate, to be surprised, to perceive in real time.

So did you guess the number?


As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any thoughts to share please leave a comment or get in contact with me at or on facbook at

If you have a guess as to which number I am thinking of also please leave me a comment !

I have a few exciting performances coming up in the next little while, so check out my Events page.

Also included in this blog is a recording I made with Fili Gibbons back in November of Giovanni Zamboni's Fuga from Sonata 7 for archlute.

Until next time friends!