All posts by Jay

Musician, aesthete, lover of concord.

Seth on spam

I regularly read Seth Godin’s excellent blog and found this post about spam interesting.

When I launched this site and my Facebook artist page I wanted to let people know about them and went to send an email to everyone I knew on Facebook. I found that the clever people at Facebook have made it impossible to send an email to everyone you know without you actually typing in every name. This is a great way of preventing the site becoming one huge spam-fest, but didn’t help me. I remembered that, in the past when I’ve set up events on Facebook, it was easy to select all of my friends and invite them. This I did – setting up my website as an event. I tried to explain it in the text but, as I realised when people started saying they were sorry but they couldn’t come, and as Seth’s post highlights, I had shot myself in the foot by opting for my convenience as a priority. We live and learn…

Music means a lot to me

This week I’ve been working on a music project along with three other musicians. We’re working with the 5th class girls of Scoil Angela, Thurles, County Tipperary every morning and visiting other schools in the afternoons.

On these projects I help the kids write songs and raps after getting some ideas from the group as to what they’d like to write about. The school are going for their first green flag and so we decided to write a rap about litter. This fits nicely with the work I do in primary schools with Sustainable Energy Ireland so I happily spent the afternoon sitting in the sun writing the first verse of the rap:

I don’t like seeing litter on the ground; it makes me sad, it makes me frown. You know how one thing can spoil your day? Well – guess what?! – my day just turned to grey right before my eyes. I suppose it shouldn’t be a surprise but I’m a dreamer so it gets to me every time . . . So I rhyme and I sing and I hope it gets through ’cause the mess that you make is for you and me, too, and I don’t want to see our world go down the tubes but if you don’t help me and I don’t help you there’ll be no beautiful world for our kids to come to.

A lot of rap songs use samples of existing songs as a hook so, following in this glorious tradition, I used Coldplay’s ‘Don’t panic’ chorus:

We live in a beautiful world – yeah we do, yeah we do. We live in a beautiful world…

The next day the girls wrote a second verse:

If we all work together we can make our school better. Let’s make a start – we can all play our part. What about the chewing gum? It sticks to our feet, it makes the place ugly and mucks up the street. We have a compost bin you know – it is there! – it’s not invisible; please use it, be fair. Be cool – throw your trash in the bin at school. Come on, let’s do it, the environment rules! If you bring rubbish to school put it in your bag: that’s how Scoil Angela will get a green flag.

I love the crushing 10-year-old sarcasm of the compost bin line 🙂

Yesterday we wrote a song together based on things that they like. I’d written the words of the chorus that first, sunny afternoon, inspired by one of the girls’ comments about how music was all around, even in the lawnmower outside. She’s probably never even heard of John Cage, who I blogged about only last week. Here are the lyrics of our song:

Camogie, tennis, basketball
Soccer, wrestling, we love them all.
It’s fun, it’s fit, why can’t you see
Sport is a way we can be free.
Drama, cooking, dancing, art
We love to play a different part.
We use imagination,
Look ’round for inspiration.

Pass the ball, pass the beat
Come on let’s dance, let’s move our feet. (x4)

Music means a lot to me
It’s not just songs and melodies
If you listen up you’ll see
There’s music in everything (x2)

Music is more than just a sound
You can play it soft, you can play it loud;
You can play it fast you can play it slow
Whatever goes with your flow.
There’s R’n’B, jazz, blues and pop,
There’s rock and roll and hip and hop.
So many kinds to choose from
So get your dancing shoes on.

Pass the ball etc.

Music means a lot to me etc.

We perform these, and the other instrumental pieces we’ve been working on, for the girls’ parents and the rest of the school tomorrow 🙂

Gerry and the Peace Process

Last night was a special showcase performance of the musical I’ve been involved in, ‘Gerry and the Peace Process’, written and directed by Liam Hourican and David Crann. The hope is that some of the production and directing types invited will help us take the musical on to reach a wider audience; the show went really well and everyone played their hearts out so, all being well, that process will be smoother than the political one on which the show is based.

Martin (Sean Duggan) and Gerry (Liam Hourican)

I’ve been with the show, playing keyboard, since its well-received debut in the Dublin Fringe Festival last September. Since then, it’s done another run in the Samuel Beckett theatre (at Christmas time, which I wasn’t available for) and we took it to the Out To Lunch festival in Belfast in January. Having grown up in the north enjoying the humour that the assorted political figures of ‘the Troubles’ afforded us – funny accents, mostly, as I recall – I felt that it would go down a storm. Sure enough, we packed the venue twice on our visit to Belfast which was an important milestone of encouragement for the team as they saw the very real potential of the show’s success.

I don’t have any examples of the live music from the show itself – provided by Big Swing – but I do have one of the video clips interspersed throughout the 75-minute production, “…the Taosieach, Bertie Ahern, made a statement flanked by the Minister for Justice but it wasn’t quite clear what he was talking about…”.

Bertie Ahern (Liam Hourican) and Michael McDowell (Jim Roche). Mozart’s ‘Queen of the night’ aria from ‘The Magic Flute’; I’m on piano.

John Cage

I stumbled upon this video of John Cage talking about sound – interesting guy and there’s something inspiring about his views on music.

(After his segment the rest is in French but stay tuned for a cute clip of a baby listening to its mother singing :-))

The belief that everything has to have meaning is terribly constricting and requires a sizeable amount of mental gymnastics to sustain (which gives us a lot of nonsensical ‘arty’ talk and theology…).

Here’s one of John Cage’s sonatas for prepared piano.

As good as a rest…

A couple of people had commented that the website could do with being more compact. I’ve changed the format of it and I think it’s an improvement. Any comments are appreciated, here or on Facebook.

My birthday celebrations this year are nearing their end(!). Last night I was given an amazing surprise gift (let’s just say it plays music and has a touch screen) and earlier I had been guitar shopping. Family and friends have got money together for me to get a new guitar (I’ve had my old faithful for fifteen years now) and I finally settled on a Martin JC16-RGTE. Can’t wait to pick it up on Monday 🙂 It was by far the guitar I most preferred after visiting every music shop in Dublin before finding this one in my local – Goodwins on Capel Street.

Facebook page

I just published an artist page on Facebook. It includes a nice, neat music player and I’ve linked this blog to it. I’ve always much preferred using Facebook to using MySpace – it’s a cleaner interface and much easier to set up with content.

Type ‘Jay Wilson’ into the search box and up I’ll pop. If you like you can become a fan 🙂

Making overtures

Making overtures advertisement

Last year I went on a course run by Music Network all about building a performance career in music. It was packed with information from a number of top people in the various areas looked at: web design, PR, seeking funding, planning tours, accounting and taxes, health, community and outreach work. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone thinking of (or already with) a career in music performance. Music Network support musicians from many genres through their work, too, and I met classical, jazz, trad. and rock musicians on the week I did.

Cost for the five packed days is only €150, closing date for applications is 20 June and there are only 20 places.

Hamlet’s gig in Bewleys – 27mar08

I met Hamlet Sweeney back in January at The Purty Sessions in Dun Laoghaire; he was on the bill and I was playing with Jill. I really liked his humorous songs and thought he did a great job of performing them. About a month later he got in touch and asked if I’d play with him at a launch gig he was putting on in the Bewleys café theatre.

He sent me some demos, we chatted a couple of times and visited the venue before meeting up on the afternoon of the gig to rehearse. Plans to get a bass player had fallen through but there was a piano there so I was able to add body to the sound on that and on cajon. Everywhere I play the cajon people comment on it; it has such a remarkable sound, especially if you’ve never seen one played before and some dude on the stage starts thumping his chair all of a sudden!

We played:

  • ‘Canary in a coalmine’ – Hamlet opened on his own with this lovely song, capturing the audience’s attention in the intimate room.
  • ‘Is she real?’ – I added a nice little ostinato on the guitar.
  • ‘Boogie man‘ – when Hamlet heard I played the clarinet, he suggested I try it on this tune. It was great fun to play (it has a kind of ‘Hit the road, Jack’ feel to it and calls for some audience participation on the chorus, which went down well).
  • ‘Sunshine’ – a groovy, bluesy tune which I played on piano.
  • ‘The Una Molloy hangover song’ – piano again.
  • ‘Breathe in the light’ – to the cajon with some backing vocals in the refrains for this epic, gospel-y song.
  • ‘Voices in my head’ – this was particularly good, I thought. I added a simple piano part to the second half of Hamlet’s haunting song. Very effective.
  • ‘Street lights’ – Hamlet’s done a video for this one with a guy who I met at the gig, Mark Doherty, which should be interesting to see.
  • ‘Perfect day’ – a song that Hamlet’s had some success with on radio in other parts of the world. A summer song 🙂
  • ‘Buy this song’ – funny lyrics! I put in the drum intro from ‘Gold digger’. This’ll be great to play with a band.
  • ‘Mr Slim’ – Hamlet’s ‘beef’ song.
  • ‘Why must love die?’ – Hamlet went out into the middle of the packed little room and sang this alone. Lovely moment and another wistful beauty.

One of Hamlet’s friends captured ‘Voices in my head’ on video: