Playing the Guitar

February 20, 2008 at 9:15 am (life, music)

I bought a new guitar and it is really beautiful. I’d been saving for a while and I’m really pleased with it. The only problem is that I haven’t been able to find much time to play it. I don’t know why because I’ve cut TV out of my diet for lent and I haven’t taken on anything new in the last couple of weeks but neither have I played much. Strange. I think one problem may be finding music that I like that is both playable and written well. Sometimes on the websites that show chord charts for other people’s songs, they have not been translated (I can’t think of the musical term at this moment) very well and therefore sound…how can I put it….well, just wrong! I am playing my own music too but I haven’t written anything new for a while and don’t seem to be able to find time (or motivation) at the moment so there’s only so many times you can play the same songs. Therefore all I’ve got are other people’s music. Any ideas? Any good tabs/chord charts out there for music? I also, don’t like the sound of the guitar with the capo on. To me it sounds really out of tune. This creates a problem if the original song is written for a man or a woman with a different range to me, as I can’t sing and play at the same time. For me, this is part of the fun, so I have to use a capo to change the key but it just sounds so bad! What to do?

Well I’m looking at her now (Penelope the guitar that is) and the act of writing this post has made me want to play. I might give her a little strum. Don’t want her to think that I don’t love her anymore!

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February 5, 2008 at 7:09 am (Italy, life, music)

Being as I don’t go to church anymore and I don’t know what I believe, I’m not sure if I’m still allowed to call myself a Christian. With this in mind I have no idea why I still feel compelled to give something up for lent. However, in these times when pretty much anything and everything is available 24-7, I think it wouldn’t do me any harm to give something up and hopefully it’ll make me appreciate things a bit more.

I’ve been thinking about what to give up and the first thing that springs to mind is chocolate but here in Torino they have an annual chocolate festival mid February and I’ve been looking forward to it since we decided to move out here, so this year, it’s not going to be that. It could be wine, but I’m only just starting to appreciate wine and I feel like I’m in the process of educating myself, which sounds like a positive thing, so I don’t really think that’d be a good thing to give up either.

A and I download a ton of programmes from the internet and we generally watch them whilst we eat or sometimes in the evening. I’ve got a bit addicted to Brothers and Sisters and the US Writer’s Strike is affecting all my watching so haven’t been able to watch ER, Desperate Housewives or Ugly Betty for ages now. We have also ordered a load of books from amazon online and continuing from my 30-in-30 last month I would like to spend more time playing/creating music. So with all these things put together, I think now would be a perfect time to give up TV and downloaded programmes. It will force me to play the guitar more, read more and generally do different things.

For once I’m actually looking forward to the lent period! What a bizarre concept!

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My Debut Single

January 6, 2008 at 3:11 pm (Italy, life, music, my links)

Whilst I was having Italian lessons my teacher thought it would be a good idea to focus my learning onto something that I have a passion for. She suggested writing a play in Italian but instead I decided to translate one of my newly written songs and then record it. It took a while to get it right because the Italian sentences turned out to be at least twice as long as the English ones (in terms of syllables) but I finally cut it down to size and recorded it along with the English version. I made a few CDs of the recordings and also added a dance version (because all good singles have a dance mix!) and these were given an Christmas presents to a lucky few. The recordings are not of the greatest quality (and the guitar seems to be a tad out of tune) but that’s what you get for doing it in a rush when you’ve never recorded yourself before and it’s coming up to Christmas! If you want to check out the English song ‘Morning Eyes’ and the Italian version ‘Lui Dorme’ along with lyrics click here! The dance version is also available at the top right of the page, called ‘Between Yesterday and Tomorrow Mix’, credit has to go to Andrew for this as all I did was provide the original music.

I’m very excited about it and would love comments or feedback (good and bad). So, please scrawl something below in the comments box or send an email to:


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30 Things in 30 Days.

December 30, 2007 at 12:59 pm (Italy, life, music)

After being inspired by Adrian’s 30-in-30 challenge, I decided that I wanted to do something similar. Adrian did something related to learning Italian every day in the month of November and little by little his Italian has improved.

Some of you may know that I enjoy having something to focus on and to motivate me, so I am going to do my own 30-in-30. I thought about taking on this challenge in December but as we all know, December is a far too crazy month to be setting extra things to try and do! Another reason for the delay is that it has taken me a while to pick the theme of my 30 things to do; unfortunately, I have far too many things that I’d like to work on. I have finally decided to split my 30 things into two topics, so on alternate days I will do something related to studying Italian and making music. I’m really into my music at the moment and am currently trying to record my songs, write music and get my website set up, so hopefully a little push will be all I need to get some of them finished!


I am also living in Torino, Italy and I still can’t speak the language so I would also like to devote some time to this.


My challenge will take place throughout the month of January and I’m handily forgetting that the 1st of January exists, so that my 30 things can be completed in the remaining month. (Also, who actually starts anything new on the 1st of January anyway? Surely we’re all too hungover!)

As the month goes on I will be hopefully posting a few articles about my progress so that you can keep abreast of my developments.

Fingers crossed that the language finally starts to become easier and that the album will be well under way by February!

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Music Making

December 12, 2007 at 9:24 am (music)

I am trying to make a my space page so that I can put up some of my songs and generally join in the buzz. Unfortunately I just don’t get it!! I can’t seem to make it look nice and I have no idea how you write stuff on it or put pictures and songs up. The worst thing is, is that I think I’m pretty technologically minded. I’m obviously fooling myself!

The good news is that I’m composing and recording at a rate of knots and hope to have something to show the world in the early new year. Watch this space…

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More Piano

August 28, 2007 at 4:41 pm (music, sign language)

Well, I finally got round to watching ‘The Piano’ two nights ago and it was brilliant. It was so moving and brilliantly acted and if that wasn’t enough, it was about a mute lady who used sign language! All my favourite things rolled into one film…ok well not all my favourite things, chocolate didn’t materialise in my hands whilst I watched it, but hey, you can’t have everything.

When you next go to the video shop, I recommend that you get this out, it’s fab but be ready with the tissues!

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The Piano

August 22, 2007 at 10:44 am (Italy, music, studies)

Whilst sitting in Piazza Bodoni with the Verdi Music Conservatoire behind me, I could here someone playing a gorgeous piece of piano music, which reminded me of my quest to find more music. The piece was ‘The Heart Asks the Pleasure First’ by Michael Nyman, which was written for the film The Piano. So, I decided to start my broadening of musical horizons with Michael Nyman and spent the day trawling through videos on YouTube and listening to various pieces. I am absolutely in love with ‘The Heart Asks the Pleasure First’ and probably listened to it about 20 times in a row! It’s one of the most calming and thought provoking pieces of music I’ve listened to in a long time. Yes, it is very romantic and all very melodic and dissonances are rare but in my opinion this is nothing to be frowned upon; it’s just a really well written piece of music. Have a listen. This is a video of the piece with some clips from the film-enjoy.


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Montebello Gamelan

August 5, 2007 at 10:32 am (Italy, music, my links)

When the decision to move to Torino was made, it seemed rather random to have chosen a city in the north that doesn’t normally attract a vast amount of tourists. I was informed, however, that nearby there was a man who had his own gamelan. After contact via email, we were invited to visit the mountains to the north of Torino, for a ‘merenda sinoira’. The area is 5 mins away from Castellamonte and is found by driving up a number of small windy roads and passages. Giovanni kindly led the way (or I don’t think we would have ever found it!) up the windy roads, past fields of corn and up some dirt tracks, until we came to a gorgeous villa in the mountains. The well decorated house (white walls with dark green doors) stands on acres of land that is made up of fields, wild areas, trees and the most impressive of gamelan pendopo I have ever seen. Having not been to Java, my knowledge of gamelan houses is fairly limited but this has to be one of the most impressive. The pendopo (in the picture above) on which the gamelan is set out, is raised on wooden struts and the top part (when it is not being played) is surrounded by a protective canvas. When we first arrived I thought it was a shame that we could not see the gamelan and hoped that we might get a glimpse later. Sure enough, Giovanni suggested that we have a look and maybe listen to some music and play along. (I found this extremely difficult as it is a different type of gamelan to the one I used to play. The Montebello Gamelan is Javanese and my gamelan knowledge is purely Sundanese.) We only had a little tinkle and did not play any instruments properly (although I did attempt the bonang solo of a Sundanese piece on the gambang) but even so it has the most amazing sound. The gamelan house is surrounded entirely by nature and open fields so the music can drift out, instead of being trapped in by walls and sometimes sounding too loud and encroaching. To sit at the foot of the pendopo whilst gamelan music was pouring out of the PA system (that is constantly set up on the platform) was one of the most relaxing things I have ever done. The views were gorgeous and the evening a general success.

We were treated to the Italian equivalent of ‘high-tea’ which consisted of a very tasty African dip, foccacia, salami sticks (that reminded me of pepperami), an Italian rice dish and we also tried some Javanese drinks. All were delicious.

My only regret is that I did not take my camera with me, so I have no photos to show you. (The photo above is taken from the website It truly is an amazing place and it is a shame that the gamelan is rarely in use. If anyone out there knows how to play Javanese gamelan and fancies a holiday to Torino then please let me know, as I would love to hear the live gamelan music drift over the picturesque Italian landscape, as I’m sure so many would if they only knew what potential it held.

Click here to listen to some Javanese gamelan. Once on the site, choose a CD from the list on the right and then ‘from the tracks’ at the top left. Then pick which track you want to listen to – easy!

(All the websites linked to and photos provided in this post are owned by Giovanni – thank you!)

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August 3, 2007 at 9:00 am (music)

We were listening to 6Music today (through the powers of the internet) and from the bedroom I heard a song that I thought I recognised as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The more I listened, the more I realised that I was wrong; it turns out that it was Stevie Wonder’s ‘Higher Ground’, which (as I learned today) the Chili Peppers had covered. I didn’t ever know that the RHCP’s version was a cover but I’ve always thought that this song had something lacking (if you click on the links above and listen, I’m sure you’ll agree) and I now know why: it’s a cover. I’m not suggesting that all covers are bad, not at all, some are extremely effective but there are only a handful of covers that really work. Some of the successful and unsuccessful covers (in my opinion) are below:


  1. Alien Ant Farm – ‘Smooth Criminal’ – originally Michael Jackson
  2. Muse – ‘Feeling Good’ – originally Nina Simone
  3. Cake – ‘I Will Survive’ – originally Gloria Gaynor
  4. Eva Cassidy – ‘Fields of Gold’ – originally Sting and The Police
  5. Mike Flowers Pops – ‘WonderWall’ – originally Oasis


  1. Will Young – ‘Light My Fire’ – originally The Doors
  2. Emma Bunton – ‘What I Am’ – originally Edie Brickell & New Bohemians
  3. All Saints – ‘Under The Bridge – originally Red Hot Chili Peppers
  4. Westlife – ‘Uptown Girl’ – originally Billy Joel
  5. Atomic Kitten – ‘Eternal Flame’ – The Bangles

Correct me if I’m wrong?

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In New Music We Trust

July 20, 2007 at 10:00 am (music)

Unlike the title suggests, I’m not talking about the radio 1 feature but rather, new classical music.

After watching the BBC’s Classic Britannia I realised that there are a hell of a lot of composers out there that I either know nothing or very little about. I have picked a few composers whose snippet of music I heard on the programme and liked and I’m making a note of their names here. Hopefully, this will help me to remember

  1. who they are and
  2. that I wanted to find some new music at all! (I have a terrible memory!)

So, over the coming months I will endeavour to find some/more of their music to add to my collection and will let you know what I think of it.

The list so far:

  • Nitin Sawhney – ‘Eastern Eyes’ (Indian raags meet dance music)
  • Nussen – ‘Where the Wild Thinghs Are’ (Opera collaboration with a childrens novelist about friendly monsters)
  • Mark-Anthony Turnage – ‘Greek’ (Opera set in the East End of London in the 80s using Edopus as a theme)
  • James McMillan – ‘The Confessions of Isabel Gaudi’
  • Zoe Martlew – ‘Shift Trap’ (Cellist click listen to samples on the left and composer)
  • Michael Nyman – ‘Peter Greenaway’, ‘No Exit’, ‘The Piano’ click listen to samples on the left (Good old Nyman, mostly film music and I like his work for piano)

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