Learning music with Lynda

Have you discovered our Lynda? I have.

Lynda logo

I’m struggling with music notation and learning to read music… I should have paid attention when I tried to learn at 11, because now when I’m trying to learn at 55, it’s quite painful.

It just isn’t straight forward, there are weird rules and exceptions, and it’s more mathematical than I thought it would be. Add to that, I’m looking at it from a jazz perspective and my brain not only hurts but feels numb.

I’ve got books, and I’m in a class, but I recently thought, “hey there’s that Lynda woman in our Christchurch City Libraries eResources who offers videos to learn about just about anything… I wonder what she has to offer me?”

So I got my library card and my PIN ready to go: it’s one of our resources you do have to be a  library member to use. I logged into Lynda, after finding it in the eResources section of our website.

Next, the search for ‘music’, which yielded a plethora of results from Intro to songwriting, Insider’s guide to today’s music biz, and Finding music using apple apps, and there amongst them was Music Theory.

I settled on learning musical notation and worked my way through a series of videos that I could stop, back up, repeat until some of what I was reading and practising was sinking in. There was also music theory for songwriters, improvisation and theory, and one I’m obviously not quite up to, Music Theory for Fun!

In the process, I learnt that you can adjust the skill level to suit you, as well as choose from specific authors and teachers, the length of course you want and a wealth of other limiters to make the learning truly suited to you.

But wait, you say I’m not interested in music theory.. stick with me here, because there are so many other things to learn, such as:

  • Become a Photographer
  • Publish an eBook
  • Become a Web Designer
  • Become a Motion Graphics Artist
  • Be a Small Business Owner
  • Be a Six Sigma Black Belt

So, check out our Lynda and expand your horizons… I’ll keep on with my key signatures and triads (not of the Chinese gang variety!)

Bic Runga Drive’s back to Christchurch

Soulful singer-songwriter Bic Runga, born and raised in Christchurch, is coming back to her hometown for a 20th anniversary concert celebrating her first album Drive, on Friday 20 October at Issac Theatre Royal.

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She will be playing her much-lauded and loved songs that have stood the test of time such as Sway, Suddenly Strange and Bursting Through, alongside songs since then, included in The Very Best of Bic Runga (released 2017).

Drive

There must be quite a few of us who, in their 20s, would have filtered their relationships and emotional experiences through the lyrics of Bic Runga’s songs when the album was first released, and sang along to Drive, while driving around. Her music has cross-generational appeal and now I don’t know who is the bigger fan, myself or my daughter, but we’ll both be there up front in the majestic theatre to sway to her beautiful and equally majestic voice.


We caught up with Bic for a few quick questions ahead of her concert in Christchurch. She shares her reading interests and formative library memories.

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Bic Runga on tour in Australia, March 2017. Photo credit: Amanda Lee Starkey

Bic, you grew up in Christchurch, in Hornby, and went to Cashmere High School… what special places do you think of fondly here?

My favourite places are the Arts Centre where I did a lot of hanging out as a teenager. Lyttelton and Governors Bay are also really special places to me.

What role did libraries play in your life growing up?

I used to catch the bus to the library in town most Saturdays, and I discovered all the music I love there. I used to get out cassette tapes and that’s where I discovered The Smiths, The Sex Pistols, The Cure, The Cocteau Twins. It was unlike the music my parents played at home, so it was really my own place.

Central Library
Literature Arts & Music: audiovisual issue desk, Ground Floor. 1995. Flickr Arch52-BWN-0036

What type of reading do you enjoy? Any recommendations? What are you looking forward to reading?

I like non-fiction. I like science books and I love books about space! And I like music biographies. I liked Patti Smith‘s Just Kids, and I love Marianne Faithfull‘s autobiography Faithfull. The Phil Collins‘ autobiography Not Dead Yet I’ve heard is really funny, I’ll get to it soon!

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Are there any special books or stories you remember fondly from your childhood? And what books are your own children enjoying at the moment?

I remember reading the Ramona Quimby series (about 3 sisters) when I could first read a chapter book. And any of the non-fiction Usborne Books for children. Anything by Roald Dahl worked on me as it does my children now.

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My kids are mad about Minecraft, there’s an unofficial Minecraft book they quite liked called the Elementia Chronicles by Sean Fay Wolfe. So if you can’t peel your child away from Minecraft, you could try the book!

Can you recommend any music or artists out of Christchurch who have taken your interest?

At the show at the Isaac Theatre Royal I’ve asked Asti Loren to sing a duet with me, she has such a beautiful voice. I love how self motivated she is, she posts a lot of stuff online and really does everything herself which is such a different world from my generation when you needed record labels and directors and stuff.

If a young person was interested in being a musician today, what advice would you give them?

I’d say just practice a lot, practice slowly and make it your meditation. Everyone wants fame, but it seems no one wants to practice enough!

We asked Bic to share a surprising fact about herself (and it may just be her next creative project) …

I’ve just learned how to draft clothing patterns slowly over the last few years and I’m ready to do a fashion project, maybe using wool. I’m really excited to do something creative that’s not music, but I think the two will work together well.

Finally Bic, you are donating money from every ticket purchased to your Christchurch show to the Māia Health Foundation, who are raising money for projects for Canterbury’s health system. Can you tell us more about that?

I’m proud to be an ambassador for the Māia Health Foundation alongside (fellow Cantabrians) Jake Bailey and Brendon McCullum. It’s still quite a new charity so I’m constantly trying to raise their profile in everything I do. Our main projects right now are a helipad as part of the hospital so the rescue helicopters don’t have to land in Hagley Park 8 minutes away, and more beds for parents in the children’s ward so families can stay together.

 


Bic has won a multitude of awards and worked on many musical projects and collaborations in the twenty years since Drive was released, too numerous to mention here. Most recently, Bic has written a song for a New Zealand children’s annual of stories, poetry, comics, art and other miscellany Annual 2 which has just been published is aimed at 8 to 12 year olds. Her song, Next Thing You Know You’ll Be Happy, is based on the idea that happiness comes from simple pleasures.

Annual 2
Annual 2

 

Take a look inside Annual 2

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Bic Runga’s song about simple pleasures, composed especially for Annual 2 (2017)

MORE

Buy Tickets: Friday 20 October, Isaac Theatre Royal
Listen: Bic Runga’s CDs in our catalogue
Browse: Bic Runga’s website
Read: In-depth background on Bic on Audioculture
Watch: Before she was famous, she formed the duo Love Soup with Kelly Horgan as a seventh former at Cashmere High School in Christchurch and they entered the Smokefree Rockquest Canterbury Finals in 1993, earning her first recording contract afterwards (see their performance of Superman Song from the 5 minute point in this video).

 

The End of the Lineman

I was so saddened to hear of Glen Campbell‘s passing today at the age of 81. He is right up there in my list of favourite musicians whose voice and songs could hit me like an emotional kick in the guts – but in the best of ways. He was one of those artists who some see a coiffed country cliche, in fact the “Rhinestone Cowboy”, but if you listen to his music and understand the influence and contribution of his life’s work to many other artists and hits, you begin to understand his importance in popular and country music.

HCover of Burning bridgese was one of 12 children born to a sharecropping Arkansas family. As a boy he was obsessed with the guitar playing of Jazz great Django Reinhardt and he became a stunning guitarist in his own right. He lent his talent to many hits as part of the Los Angeles based Wrecking Crew, the unsung heroes of hits for big stars such as Elvis Presley, Dean Martin, The Monkees, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra and many of Phil Spector’s ‘wall of sound’ productions. In 1963 alone, he appeared on 586 cuts and countless more throughout the decade, including The Byrd’s Mr Tambourine Man, Elvis Presley’s Viva Las Vegas, and the Righteous Brother’s You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling.

He was a touring member of the Beach Boys when Brian Wilson stopped touring in 1964, and in the late sixties, began winning Grammys and hosted his own TV show. His big hits, Wichita Lineman, Galveston, Where’s the Playground Susie and By the Time I get to Phoenix were all taking off around this late sixties period.

I can never decide whether Wichita Lineman or By the Time I Get to Phoenix is my favourite, I can never get through either without a tear in my eye. It’s writer Jimmy Webb’s words sure, but it’s Glenn’s soaring plaintive voice and his wondrous guitar solos that also add so much to the sadness and longing in both songs.

Burning Bridges by Debbie Campbell is a biography by his daughter, who toured with him for years, and is an account of not only the good times, but also the drugs and drinking and family struggles that seem to so often come with a musician’s fame and life on the road.

The documentary “Glen Campbell: I’ll be me”, released in 2014, is well worth hunting out, following him on what was to be his last tour, as his his battle with Alzheimer’s began to affect his ability to play and perform.  (late edit: Prime TV have announced they will screen this at 8:30pm on Thursday, 10 August).

His last song, “I’m not Going to Miss You”, won a Grammy this year for best country song.

Glen Campbell is survived by eight children and was married four times.

Find out more

Tami Neilson curls up … with a good book

Hair she comes! Hot ticket Tami Neilson kicks off her Songs of Sinners tour, performing in Christchurch tonight (Thursday 25th May) as part of The Cavell Leitch New Zealand International Jazz and Blues Festival with her Hot Rockin’ Band of Rhythm, belting out soul, country, gospel and blues.

Tami Neilson Sings Songs of Sinners.jpeg

Tami’s tour merchandise features a silhouette of her signature black beehive with the proclamation: “The higher the hair, the closer to God.” A couple of us gals working here at the library have been Tami fans for a while. She may just be our alter ego and I fondly remember seeing her play with local boys Marlon Williams and Delaney Davidson at the wee Wunderbar in Lyttelton a few years back.

Tami and her big hair certainly command a much bigger stage now, and the accolades and awards never seem to end for Tami. Possibly even more rewarding for her than a gong was recently getting to open the stage for her idol – blues, gospel and soul singer Mavis Staples.

While she’s got hair up to heaven, Tami now has two young boys to bring her back down to earth. Considering how busy she is with touring and family life, it is a wonder Tami has time to curl up with a good book, let alone curl her hair. But Tami loves libraries and literature (from classic reads to chick lit) and she graciously took the time to answer a few questions about her reading pleasures and sings the praises of a good book.

TamiNeilson3

Tami, are there any special books you remember fondly from your childhood?

I was completely obsessed with Anne of Green Gables from age 11. I read the whole series and then moved on to all of L.M. Montgomery’s books. I own her entire published works, as well as her more recently published journals, which are fascinating and actually quite dark in contrast to her novels. I have visited her various homes across Canada while touring with my family band when growing up. I still re-read her books regularly. The Emily series and The Blue Castle are my enduring favourites.

AnneofGreenGablesStoryGirlLMontgomeryEmilysQuestLMMontgomery

What role have libraries played in your life – either growing up and / or now?

I have always loved libraries and spending time curled up with a book. In my early 20s, when we came off the road and settled into the small town in Ontario where my Mom grew up, we didn’t have a computer yet and the local library is where I would excitedly go each day to check my emails and write to a certain Kiwi guy that I ended up marrying!

The library has played a huge role in my outings with my little ones since becoming a Mum myself – from the time they were babies, I took them to Wriggle & Rhyme and we go every few weeks to swap our books for new ones.

What books are your two young sons enjoying at the moment?

We’ve read to our boys since they were babies and they love books. We visit our local library regularly… a current library favourite is Super Stan, and we have a huge collection of the works of Dr Seuss, which are their go-to bedtime stories (and Mummy’s favourites to read to them!)

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Do your kids love your songs (or are they over them) – do they have their own favourites?

They have their favourites, which they perform for us regularly on Saturday mornings. They set up their “stage” on the couch and haul out all their little toy instruments and play their repertoire of ABCs, Christmas songs, nursery rhymes and Mummy’s songs. Their favourites are Texas (written for Charlie), Loco Mama (written for Sam) and Holy Moses.

Tami would have a bookshelf the size of Texas if she could…

Tami, any books you’d love to recommend?

Anything by Barbara Kingsolver. Her books and characters never disappoint. Long-time favourites are The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, The Help by Kathryn Stockett, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I have a thing for Southern US writers and/or stories set in the Southern States…just like my musical influences tend to stem from there!) also, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood – such a Canadian treasure, that woman.

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What music related books can you recommend? 

I tend to always have a musical biography on the go. I loved Shout, Sister, Shout, the biography of Sister Rosetta Tharpe and I’ll Take You There bio on The Staples Singers when I was researching for my new show, “Songs of Sinners”. What Happened, Miss Simone? about Nina Simone … and I recently picked up a copy of Roseanne Cash’s Composed memoirs when touring through Nashville. She writes so beautifully and I loved that it wasn’t a chronological account of her life, just colourful snapshots strung together with the language of a woman who has been writing songs her whole life.
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Secret reading pleasures? What do you read when you’re waiting for your curls to set?

Every novel written by Marian Keyes! She’s my trashy, chick-lit go-to and makes me laugh out loud. Same with Janet Evanovich‘s Stephanie Plum series. I think I got up to #17 and had finally reached my fill, but, the very best of guilty pleasures.

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What’s on your TBR (to-be-read) pile Tami?

I’ve been working through H is for Hawk for over a year now…having lost my father, it’s a hard one to read and gets too close to the bone at times that I have to put it down for a while, read something else and come back to it. It is so exquisitely written that I don’t mind that it gets read in short bursts, as it makes it last longer.

I also picked up The Rosie Project from the library the other day on a friend’s “light-reading” recommendation, so, it’s on my bedside table, waiting for me to finish The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd. I loved her novel The Secret Life of Bees and liked The Invention of Wings, but, am halfway through this one and have to admit I’m a bit disappointed thus far. I don’t like the main character and just feel annoyed at the end of each chapter!

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What writers would you love to meet?

If I could jump into a time machine and have a chat… C.S. LewisL.M. Montgomery, Mark Twain, The Bronte Sisters, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

You travel a bit so I imagine you have to read ‘one the go’ – are you an eBooks/eReader convert or strictly old-school?

I have a love/hate relationship with my eReader. I love its convenience and the fact that it doesn’t take up half the weight allowance of my luggage like books used to when I was on tour!

However, part of the reading experience for me is the feel of the pages, I play with them the whole time I read (much to my parents’ and brother’s annoyance when growing up and now my husband’s!) seeing how far I have to go so I can prepare myself for the ending when it’s book full of characters I don’t want to part with, being able to lend a good book I want to share with a friend, see it on the shelf next to my other books after it’s been read (nothing better than a full bookshelf!) and my favourite smell in the world is that new book smell!

Tami, your tour is called Songs of Sinners but you seem so wholesome… can you tell us more about this juxtaposition?

Songs of Sinners is the story of how the gospel and blues music of the Southern States became Rock and Roll. Many artists grew up singing and learning to perform in the church, but then became “Sinners” when they “abandoned” their church congregations for a “life of sin”. From Ray Charles, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Mavis Staples … these artists then influenced future stars Elvis, Bob Dylan and Prince. This tells the story of how many of these more well-known artists wouldn’t exist without first hearing those early gospel and blues artists that may not be as well known.

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At the end of touring this year Tami will be back in the studio to record songs for a new album.

Tami, with your album Dynamite! (2014) you came out “all guns a blazing” and Don’t Be Afraid (2015) was a tribute to your Dad. Has the next album you’re working on got any ‘feel’ or direction to it yet? What can you tell us about it?

I’m currently writing my new album and the emerging theme seems to be sass! A lower tolerance level for putting up with people’s opinions or judgments. A result of getting older, being a mother and losing my Dad all intersecting, I guess. I’ve also been hugely influenced by performing the Songs of Sinners show this past year and being challenged vocally and as a performer, so I think that is trickling into the songs I’m writing as well.

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Countrymusichair

Get the look: Country Music Hair by Erin Duvall (2016)
This recently published book showcases the most notable bobs, beehives, bouffants, mullets, hats, wigs and curls from the 1960s to the present, alongside interviews with hairstylists and musicians and a full history of the ‘dos of the decade with the likes of locks belonging to Tammy Wynette and Loretta Lynn.

Get tickets: Tami Neilson Sings! Songs of Sinners Thursday 25th May at the Charles Luney Auditorium at St Margaret’s College, Christchurch
We’ll be there with bells, polka dots and sequins on! She is performing material her New Zealand audience hasn’t heard her sing before, including music by Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Howlin’ Wolf, Johnny Cash, Blind Willie Johnson and Sister Rosetta Thorpe.

Watch: Tami with local Lyttelton musicians Marlon Williams & Delaney Davidson

(Images supplied by Tami Neilson)

RIP Chris Cornell – Soundgarden

Chris Cornell played his final gig with Soundgarden in Detroit on Wednesday night and hours later was found dead in his hotel room. Chris Cornell was best known as singer and songwriter for Seattle grunge band Soundgarden, which had critical success with the 1994 album Superunknown, and Grammy Award winning singles “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman”.

Rock’s Backpages has an unpublished, uncut interview with Chris Cornell in 2011 by Pete Makowski that was supposed to be in MOJO, it is an interesting read and talks about early influences, why Soundgarden split up, and his solo acoustic tour.

Other articles in Rock’s Backpages include a Melody Maker review of a 1989 gig, Soundgarden and Mudhoney at the School of African and Oriental Studies in London. It describes Cornell as part monkey, part Adonis and all of a doodah. In an interview with Paul Elliot, from Select June 1996, Chris muses on alcohol, nuns and the President of The United States of America.

Chris Cornell will be sadly missed, especially by Soundgarden and Audioslave fans.

Find music by Chris Cornell in our collection.

Mothers’ Day : From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl

When Nirvana catapulted drummer Dave Grohl to fame, his Mum, Virginia, was surprised to be the mother of a Rock Star. Then when Dave reinvented himself as frontman of the Foo Fighters, Virginia quit teaching and began to travel the road. She didn’t often meet other mothers at gigs, but always wanted to talk to them about how music shaped their lives.

From Cradle to Stage: Stories from the mothers who rocked and raised rock stars by Virginia Hanlon Grohl. Image supplied by Hachette New Zealand.
From Cradle to Stage by Virginia Hanlon Grohl. Image supplied by Hachette New Zealand.

Eventually Virginia embarked (in her seventies), on a two-year journey to find the “special sorority of mothers of musicians” with whom she could talk about “the trials and joys of raising creative children.” The result is her new book From Cradle to Stage: My son the rock star and the remarkable stories from the mothers who rocked and raised music’s greatest.

Like herself, many of these moms raised their kids solo, holding down several jobs to keep food on the table. While some mothers were okay with their kids quitting school to commit to music, others weren’t – Verna Griffin, Dr Dre’s Mom, worried that her son would be absorbed into the gang scene. (Dr Dre is 51 now!)

Virginia grew up in the Midwest, but Dave and his sister Lisa grew up in Washington, D.C. – a much more sophisticated environment. As a young mother she shared her music with her children (Dave remembers learning to harmonize along with Carly Simon on the car radio) and as he got older, Dave was sharing hard rock and metal with Virgina.

With a foreword from Dave himself, From Cradle to Stage is a tribute to the mothers who encouraged their kids to be creative and follow that star.

Sprinkled with personal ‘vignettes’ from Viriginia, Dave, Nirvana and the Foos, From the Cradle to the Stage chronicles the lives of eighteen musicians – from the army background of Michael Stipe , the early beginnings of The Beastie Boys, to the tragic end to the lives of  Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain.

I really like her style. A former English teacher, Virginia writes a relaxed, entertaining, and at times moving story. It’s not only about people’s lives and roots,  but contains slices of American history as well. It’s so interesting to read of each artists’ first sparks to creativity. For Dr Dre, it was GrandMaster Flash. Yeah.

This book is for everyone. The musicians cover a range of ages and even your Mum/Mom would enjoy it (Virginia even blanks out the F-words).

The mother of the ‘nicest guy in rock’ knows her stuff – using some pretty sophisticated terms (e.g. Minority Rap, Thug Rap in Dr Dre’s chapter – not Gangster Rap) but the last word goes to Dave:

There is no love like a mother’s love. It is life’s greatest song. We are all indebted to the women who gave us life. For without them, there would be no music.

Listen to Kim Hill interviewing Virginia Hanlon Grohl 22 April  RNZ

From Cradle to Stage: My son the rock star and the remarkable stories from the mothers who rocked and raised music’s greatest
by Virginia Hanlon Grohl
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9781473639560

Q&A with Adam McGrath (part 1)

Kia ora music lovers!

Adam McGrath (Image supplied)

The big music news for 2017 is that Christchurch City Libraries will be featuring Adam McGrath for New Zealand Music Month 2017.

Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?

I posed a series of questions to Adam in order for us all to get to know him a little better…

So Adam, what was the first album you ever bought?

“When I was ten. I hadn’t seen or heard from my Dad in two, nearly three years. He never paid child support and his name was dirty in my house. So he was like a ghost that I vaguely remembered.

One day I got home from school and on the doorstep was ZX spectrum 16kb computer and a jar full of money delivered courtesy of my erstwhile father. I was stoked, my mum full of sighs. We plugged the computer in and it worked, surprisingly. Come the weekend we hit New Brighton mall for a little shopping with the jar money, Mum got some new threads ready for a dance at the working mens club. I got a GI Joe Cobra Bore, “rip and roar, cobra bore, lots of trouble for GI JOEEEEEEE!” I still remember the advert.

But for me the holy relic of purchases on this day was a copy on tape of ‘Raising Hell” by Run-DMC. This changed my life, made me obsessed and hungry for music in a way I had never felt before, either for toys, or lollies or anything else my young brain had ever thought it wanted. That desperate desire continues unabated today. After 1000 failed jobs and nowhere/nothing starts there was no choice but to give my self up wholly to the blessing and curse of full time music and song slinging. I blame my dad, Reverend Run, Darryl McDaniels, Jam master Jay and New Brighton Mall.”

Which instruments do you play (on stage and not)?

On stage; guitar and harmonica and the nodules in my throat. On record I’ve played bass, mandolin, and keyboard. However not a single one of these, on stage or off would anyone (including most people in my band) say I was anything more than a hack and a chancer.

Is there an instrument that you don’t play but which you would love to be able to?

I would like to play the tin whistle. However whenever I pick up a tin whistle everyone around me suggests I don’t take it any further.

What was your first guitar and do you still have it?

I guess what I call my first guitar was an old F-series Yamaha, I bought for $100 at a junk shop on Manchester Street. I used to go in and play it and listen to the proprietor’s problems, health emotional and otherwise. This served me in good stead because the guitar was actually $120. It had a crack and the top lifted off from the sides, so I taped it together with yellow and green and white insulation tape.

I took that guitar all around the eastern and southern states of America whereupon even in its battered state it kept me feed and watered as it sung out across street corners from Philadelphia to New Orleans to Nashville and many smaller more lonesome corners between. After some time I guess it sensed that I had improved enough for something a little better. It’s job done, it pretty much committed guitar suicide whereupon all parts of it decided to more or less break at once; machine heads popped off, bridge pulled up, neck snapping. It was time to let it go.

It was called Rosilita and the last I saw of her she was in a wardrobe in the town of Conshocken, Pennsylvania waiting for either the dump or the next pair of desperate hands crazy enough to take her out into the world.

From now until his library performances in May, Adam will be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, he’ll be searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be available for a series of “Live with the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.

And here are the dates and times for Adam’s performances;

Central Library Peterborough – The Showcase Concert 

Saturday 20 May, doors open at 7pm

Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

Friday 26 May, 3:30pm-4:30pm

New Brighton Library

Saturday 27 May, 2pm-3pm

South Library

Sunday 28 May, 2pm-3pm

Stay tuned for the next installment of our Q&A with Adam McGrath!

NZ Music Month 2017 – Live in the library

Christchurch City Libraries has a brand new initiative for 2017 and it’s all about MUSIC!

NZ Music Month

We are celebrating Christchurch stories. We are celebrating music. And most of all, we are celebrating libraries and the way they can enrich any creative pursuit you are undertaking, at any stage of development. Christchurch City Libraries have a wealth of resources that can help you learn, discover or simply enjoy music.

Our collections and our communities can also inspire the creation of music and we are fortunate this year to have Adam McGrath to share his expertise.

Adam is best known for his work being the driving force of the band The Eastern, who are widely regarded as the hardest working band in the lands. But did you know about his social conscience and the value he places on not only community but public libraries too?

During the time of the earthquakes Adam and his band played widely across Christchurch, acoustically and at no charge. His drive was to help communities in their recovery in the best way he could – by giving relief from stress by way of music. He continues to contribute to the creative output of our city, playing regularly here in New Zealand, touring across Australia and over to Europe, sharing the stories he has gathered along his journeys.

Image supplied
Image supplied

In the lead up to New Zealand Music Month, Adam will be spending time in our libraries all over Christchurch. He’ll be reaching into the depth of our digital resources, searching and exploring our physical resources, and most of all he’ll be connecting with the people of Christchurch by hearing their stories and discussing their lives/loves/losses. He will use much of what he discovers to inspire new works, songs and music, and during May, Adam will be performing a series of “Live in the Library” concerts, during which he will tell his stories of us, the people of Christchurch.

Come and celebrate with us at one of our concerts – hear new work by Adam McGrath, performances from our communities, or even a group made up of some of the musical talent we have on our library staff. Who knows….. YOUR story may be put to music by Adam McGrath.

We’ll be speaking with Adam throughout his process and he’ll be giving us some insight into his creative processes, and his musical background. Keep an eye on our website for interviews, Q&A, and more. Stay tuned!

Browse our full list of NZ Music Month events and performances.

This Beats Perfect: YA author Rebecca Denton sings out

CoverThis Beats Perfect is a contemporary young adult story about finding your voice. There’s music, social media and girl meets boy. Author Rebecca Denton was a teenager in Dunedin in the early 1990s rocking out to the ‘Dunedin Sound‘ and has been ensconced in the music scene ever since. Her novel even includes a playlist. We went ‘backstage’ to talk to Rebecca about writing her first book and musical influences.

The novel’s title is a perfect play on words. The story is based a little bit on the author’s own life experiences of being 17. Denton was a singer-songwriter herself but too shy to put herself forward due to a “fear of failure.” She says that “always in the back of my mind since I was really little I wanted to write… a book, a movie… write, write, write” and that it was a matter of finding “creative courage” to do so. In a way, this first novel is like putting a song out there. I interviewed Rebecca to hear more.

Rebecca Denton (image supplied)
Rebecca Denton (image supplied)

Rebecca, you have said you still feel like a kid, 18 at heart, and in This Beats Perfect you say you get to revisit dreams that you didn’t chase. Can you tell us more? Both the main characters Amelie and Maxx are held back by a fear of failure – about playing their own music to a wider audience – whether it’s anonymous Amelie feeling performance anxiety as she falters at her auditions or famous Maxx afraid to break out of the boy band mould he’s found himself in. Has this focus on a fear of failure come from somewhere for you?

I picked up the guitar from 14 (after I rather shortsightedly deemed my piano and trumpet were highly uncool). I wrote a few songs and played the odd gig but I was so terrified performing that I never chased this passion with the ferocity I should have. As a teenager I was afraid of being judged for many reasons but one of the most critical was that I felt if I wasn’t exceptional then it wasn’t worth trying.

This all or nothing fear of being nothing but *the best* never left me. It followed me right through my career in advertising and TV and really held me back. I was too afraid to stand out creatively, make bold decisions and believe in and listen to my own voice. Because of this I never fully put myself out there.

Then I got older, wiser, and realised that creativity can be a personal pleasure and it didn’t matter if that outspoken friend or peer I looked up to didn’t like what I did. It didn’t need to be for them. When you get wise to the fact that critics are not the custodians of pleasure, you become free. See: PUNK ROCK.

“Not everyone is going to like what you do no matter how real you are.” – from This Beats Perfect

How does the saying ‘write what you know’ apply to your novel?

When I decided to write a book, I didn’t have time for tonnes of research (due to small children) so I thought: What did I do at 18? Who did I want to be? Let’s relive that. And luckily I’d spent my career working and being around music and musicians so I was able to draw on that. I didn’t know everything of course. I got a little help from some friends.

Rebecca, you moved to Dunedin as a young teenager and went to Logan Park High School. How has growing up in Dunedin shaped this young adult novel? Tell us more about the influence of this time and place on your novel?

Frankly, I hated high school. But Logan Park has produced some pretty crazy talented folk* over the years. I didn’t click with my music teacher, or perhaps any teachers while I was there, but I appreciate some things looking back. The school was far more liberal and supportive of creativity than some of the more conservative single sex schools in Dunedin.

By the last couple of years of school I was so tediously bored and from about the age of 16 I started sneaking out of school and hanging out at the student union at Otago University in my school uniform or this little café near the university where they sold Dime bars, mugs of tea and single Camel cigarettes.I fell in with a music crowd and started sneaking into gigs at the Empire and the Crown. The 3Ds, The Clean, The Chills, The Bats, Bailterspace, Straitjacket Fits – I listened to or saw them all, multiple times. I was so lucky to be living in Dunedin at that time – it felt important. And in the days before the internet, small towns in the South Island never really felt important.

This time of my life totally influenced the book. I had the most amazing, clever and eccentric group of girlfriends with whom I shared everything and explored everything. There was a lot to love, and a lot to leave behind but it’s still with me, everyday. There are elements of people who have been a part of my life intertwined everywhere.

* Such as Kiwi musicians Andrew Brough, Jane Dodd, Graeme Downes, Martin Phillips
Read more from the library about the Dunedin Sound

The tagline title to This Beats Perfect is ‘She’s NOT with the band…’ In your novel, the main character Amelie is definitely NOT a groupie. Tell us about the character’s need to not be defined by a either a boy or her father.

I wanted to explore an area of music we don’t normally find a lot of women – and that is production and composing. PRS for Music (The Performing Rights Society) did a report in 2011, and discovered that only about 13% of registered composers in the UK were woman – I’ve not seen the numbers but I’m pretty sure it’s around the same or maybe even less in engineering and producing. So a heroine songwriter was a must – but a budding engineer was even more interesting to me.

Amelie shows her nuanced musical knowledge in the novel, rattling off obscure genres (like Nerdcore, Japonoise, Baby Metal, Nintendocore, Happy Hardcore and Fidget Bass). A depth of music appreciation shows in your writing. The playlist aspect you’ve created to tie-in with the book is unique. Each chapter is titled after a song. Can you tell us more about that idea?

My editor gave me feedback in the editing process that I needed to pack the book with more music. And I was struggling to come up with titles for chapters – so I thought, ‘hang on what about a playlist that reflects Amelie, the story and me?’

Listen to the This Beats Perfect playlist

The playlist includes New Zealand’s own The Chills (Heavenly Pop – funny ‘rock’ video, literally), The Clean‘s Tally Ho and Edward Gains. There’s hip-hop and The Beach Boys. Delightful discoveries in this playlist for me were Regina Spektor’s The Consequence of Sound and Sufjan Stevens’ Futile Devices. Amelie’s favourite artists mentioned in the novel include Marika Hackman, Laura Marling, SZA and Aldous Harding.

Hannah Harding: Lyrical writing
Aldous Harding at Lyrical writing session, WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival 2014. Flickr 2014-08-31-IMG_1823

You have specifically referenced Lyttelton musicians Aldous Harding and Marlon Williams in your novel. When Amelie’s sound engineer father encourages Maxx to find the soul of his own music, he takes him to see a musician he feels embodies this…

“His voice was deep as Johnny Cash, but with a modern cabaret feel, inspired and exquisite storytelling over timeless melodies.” “This isn’t songwriting for money, for fame, even for the audience’s entertainment.” … “Reminds me of Marlon Williams…”

I just want to support Kiwi musicians as much as possible, and I absolutely love what Marlon and Aldous are doing. Marlon Williams’ cover of the Screaming Jay Hawkin’s track Portrait of a Man is just so… so good.

Read our blogpost about Aldous Harding’s session on songwriting at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival.

Any favourite memories or places in Christchurch for you?

When you live in Dunedin, Christchurch is the big smoke. I specifically remember I saw The Bats there when I was 16 (braces and all) with my friend Marea. She wore my mum’s home-knitted emerald green ’60s dress and I wore some cobbled together monstrosity.

What did you READ when you were a teenager?

You know, not a lot. I kind of stopped reading at around 13, well books anyway, and all my spare time was dedicated to music. Playing, listening, memorising lyrics. I did love books like Flowers in the Attic (yikes!) but honestly I just didn’t really read very much. I wish I had. I think if there had been a more interesting YA (young adult) reading community like there is today I would have read much more.

What role did (or do) libraries play in your life?

My father is an academic and writer so I spent a LOT of time in libraries with him when I was younger. Even today, when my Dad visits there will probably be some kind of trip to the library involved. I love going to them with my kids as well, snuggling up on a sofa and reading Hairy Maclary for the 100th time.

What’s your next project Rebecca? Any encores?

Book 2 follows on from This Beats Perfect, but it’s not Amelie’s tale, but the story of two young women: the privileged daughter of a record label executive who gets caught up in the business of selling celebrity secrets. And a hyper bubbly fangirl who has outgrown her idols and looking for what to do next. It’s fun, but also probably more layered than This Beats Perfect. Book 3 is in the same fictional world as well. I’m just starting it, but it will be about an all-girl punk band who scam their way to international glory. I can’t wait to write this book.

Rock on Rebecca!

More

This Beats Perfect would make a great read for artistically inclined teens or any young person wanting to give their passions and talents a push. This is the sort of book I want to give my musically minded daughter in her teens. It is published by Atom Books and Hachette New Zealand.

This Beats Perfect
by Rebecca Denton
Published by Hachette New Zealand
ISBN: 9780349002729

Rebeccalaunch
Author Rebecca Denton at This Beats Perfect book launch February 2017 (Photo credit: Carolyn Burke)

More about the author: Rebecca is originally from Melbourne, moved to Dunedin as a young teenager and later spent many years in the UK. New Zealand sits deepest in her heart. She now lives in Austria with her young daughters, a trumpet, 2 guitars, a keyboard, several vintage computer games. She spent her career travelling the world making music TV for MTV and Channel 4, and wrangling young adult audiences for the BBC and ITV. She’s filmed Iggy Pop, MIA, Kaiser Chiefs, Sonic Youth, Jack White, Dirty Pretty Things and The Klaxons, to name a few.

Rebecca’s recommendations

Rebecca says: YA literature is SO MUCH MORE than fantasy. There are so many incredible books out there (200+ debuts in the USA alone this year).

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Read

Everyone teenager (and adult) needs to read The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. The story was inspired by the killing of Oscar Grant, an unarmed 22 year-old African America by a transit officer and is one of a crop of books exploring racial injustice out this year.

Read Kiwi

Fellow writery mum Bianca Zander‘s Predictions or The Girl Below.

Magic

A great escapist read was Caraval by Stephanie Garber. Great fun – I really just lost myself in that book.
Read our Caraval review.

Queer stories

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli is going to be a cult movie – so read the book first! And one of the most hotly anticipated YA books of the year is The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich. A fellow YA author said to me that it is ‘one of the best books you’ll ever read.’

Listen

Start your ‘women in punk‘ journey with Patti Smith’s record Horses.

Watch

Grace Taylor. Seek out some of her spoken word performances online or Taylor’s TedX Talk. And then buy, share, support and help to raise up voices of the marginalised in New Zealand.

Support art

Go to Art Ache if you can (it offers original pieces of art at affordable prices). There was one recently in Dunedin, and they happen regularly in Auckland. Buy some affordable limited edition pieces by other New Zealanders and help boost our artists.

If you like the sound of This Beats Perfect …

lonesomewhenyougoYou may also like the recently released Lonesome When You Go by Saradha Koirala. Paige plays bass in high school rock band Vox Pop, which means keeping steady even in their most raucous rock and roll moments. But in the tense build-up to the Rockfest competition, Paige finds she can’t control everything in her life, no matter how hard she practises. Lonesome When You Go is a novel about practising solo, performing like a rockstar, and how contributing your best self to something can create a force greater than the sum of its parts.
Author Saradha Koirala taught English at high school in Wellington for ten years.
Read an excerpt from Lonesome When You Go.

Stream some traditional Irish music for St Patrick’s Day

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