This weeks starts the new term. Lessons start up again, new fresh-page notebooks and some fun ideas that I anticipate trying out. This dark rainy weather makes it particularly easy to stay in and organise folders and tidy up.
Over the course of preparation i’ve burnt out pretty much all of my nice candles trying to make an ambience of my work space, but I thought I share a little music that has been beautifying the room over the past week or so…
In a low-res glowy halo…George Harrison Paul Simon- Here Comes the Sun:
From one of my favourite ‘Berlin Bowie’ records, Low, Always Crashing in the Same Car:
In other news, I’ve recently started volunteering at Norah Head lighthouse. Tours of the building run daily until 1.30pm
A peaceful and inviting studio or practice space make can make a big difference to your musical practice. Yoga studios and art rooms are more often good examples of inviting and purpose driven spaces. You don’t need to have grand space or even a full room but carving out your ‘own space’ can inspired and enrich your practice.
Here’s five things that can make a space ideal for a focused singing practice… Hydrate
Stock your space with tea or water to keep hydrated. The steam of a nice herbal tea will fill with the room with a nice scent without drying the air like a scented candle. Steam is very beneficial for your voice.
Air is important for singers, so keep your practice space or studio refreshed and clean. You could add some indoor plants to naturally filter the air or keep a window open for a bit each day.
I’m a bit guilty of letting piles of sheet music, books and notes accumulate, but nothing says ‘calm’ like a good looking, well kept bookshelf.
A space with good natural light is ideal, but you can supplement with the soft light of lamps to avoid a stark and clinical atmosphere. Mirrors are also great, serving multiple purposes- checking posture and presence, as well as reflecting light and creating the illusion of space.
It’s important to make your studio or practice space somewhere inviting and where you’d like to spend time. Put your own spin onto it and add your own little vignettes, maybe through art or sentimental objects.
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese view and aesthetic that defines beauty that embraces imperfections and impermanence. It is an antidote to homogeneity. A beautiful practice within this philosophy is Kintsukuroi, the act of mending broken pottery with gold. The effect shines a light on flawed beauty- in a way the broken object becomes more beautiful.
Wabi-sabi may unintentionally present itself in vocal warmups. Sometimes the little discoveries we make about our own voice come from times when you feel like you are simply mucking around. Singing teachers and students may recognise moments like this when you are attempting to make the ugliest of sounds, such as a witches cackle, low heavy sobs or a deep and unguarded laugh. If singing is an act of being a conduit for emotions and stories, the most believable and beautifully heartfelt doesn’t always equate to technical perfection. Think of the unique and recognisable voices of your favourite singers.
Another wabi-sabi consideration is the way that the voice changes over time. The voice can take on different characteristics and abilities as we age. You can read a bit about the common changes here: http://www.entnet.org/content/voice-and-aging
Using elements of wabi-sabi in your singing practice could mean releasing your judgement and embracing your own unique sound. An essential in healthy singing method is to be relaxed. This will ease up muscles and breathing, allowing your voice to flow freely and safely. You may find the parameters of your vocal range and ability actually expand by being relaxed. As Bill Murray said, “the more relaxed you are, the better you are at everything”.
So I just came back from a short break at our lovely neighbours NZ. It would be easy to stay forever. It would also be super easy to spend a not-so-small fortune on all the activities on offer.
From my stay in Queenstown and Auckland, here’s a list of cheap fun experiences to savour the simple things on your travels…
1. The Vistas
In New Zealand, perhaps particularly so in Queenstown, the scenery is spectacular. No filter necessary. Hailing from Australia, I’m not used to epic mountain scenery. The consistent panoramas all over Queenstown are bedazzling and gratis.
2. Taking It In
Along the same line, with the macro views, New Zealand is also filled with many micro-views. Little spaces of still life that you just want to sit and absorb for while. In December and January there are so many flowers blooming everywhere and lots of great parks to relax in.
3. Cairn Spotting
If you decide to go for a walk on some of the many scenic trails you will probably come across these mystical little piles of rocks. This behaviour has existed across the world since prehistoric times, where people use stones as trail markers. Despite their arcane presence, they are probably just markers… but you can try and add a couple of stones, just for good luck.
4. Quirks and Perks
New Zealand is quirky and fun. Whilst in a totally pimped out pub bathroom, I noticed this gem…
5. Auckland Art Gallery
Good fun on a donation budget. Lots of lovely art and a great cafe with lots of veggie and vegan options. The gallery itself is an architectural treat alone.
As an Australian, I tend to consider myself a bit of a coffee snob. We just have really nice coffee at home. Happily I can say a ‘Kiwi cup o’ joe’ is good. Auckland has a bit of a coffee empire. Try somewhere in the suburb, Britomart, down near the port. You can enjoy a good coffee whilst wistfully gazing in the windows of designer boutiques.
7. Other Beverages
If you’re staying in a hostel in Queenstown there are many drink deals to be had. Staying at Nomads on Church street you receive discounted wines, beers and spirits from $4 at The Find on Shotover street. If you can be bothered lining up for 2+ hours this is the same street of the infamous Fergburger. (You may need those drinks!)
NZ has made a name for wine and also dairy industries. On a budget note, Nippy’s is the flavoured milk I was told to try whilst on a visit to Hobbiton. It’s kind of like Up&Go. I don’t even think it’s Kiwi but Lorde loves it.
Perhaps the best cheap thing exempt from this list is that from Sydney, New Zealand is just a sweet and cheap 3 hour flight away.
When I think of minimalism I have always thought of the luxe museum houses plastered in glossy design magazines. I think of straights lines, monochrome and slightly masculine persuasions and order.
I love the aesthetic of a clean and stylish all black outfit, a la the beautiful Jeanne Damas…
Or the zen vibes of this organised dream wardrobe (that couldn’t look more contrasting to my current dumping ground of a built in) …
Or the beautifully balanced aesthetics of my favourite Australian born brand Aesop…
Last year I went travelling around the world for a few months and to save cash and time, I made the very conscious decision to only take carry on luggage. I thought it’d be impossible, but in fact, it was very possible. The more I travelled the less stuff I wanted. It’d just slow me down.
It ignited a spark… could I become a minimalist?
I never thought so, due to my love of all thing maximalist and unkept: Colours, crushed velvet, baroque patterns, glam rock, 60 and 70’s vintage clothes and bohemian deco (and I tend to like my music this way too). This seems to be something I can’t repress, nor do I want to.
One thing I’ve come across that changed my perspective is the beloved maximalist William Morris, with such a simple and effective mantra that can be applied to minimalism.
Lately my understanding of minimalism has changed and just in time to tackle the suffocation I was feeling being in my tiny bedroom brimming with stuff. I’m a sucker for buying stuff and I want to curb this habit.
Minimalism is not necessarily about changing your style, but about refining it. What are the essentials to you? And what can you live without?