Björk Digital – at Vivid Sydney

There she was, dancing to her own beats, obscured by a bunch of leafy pot plants in the corner of a large concrete warehouse/train station. What a strange feeling to be standing a few metres away from my ultimate all time favourite artist and musician. It was supposed to be a ‘dance party’ but not many were dancing. She Dj’d for FIVE whole hours. The more die-hard fans were gathered around her station, the taller of those among us and the ones closest to the front were able to catch glimpses of her sequenced face-mask, glinting off the coloured lights. She never made eye contact with the crowd. She was intent on the task at hand, mixing in world music, a surprising amount of RnB, indie bands and electro dance music. There were a few bands I recognised that had been remixed – Anthony and the Johnsons, the Internet. There were a lot of bollywood influenced tracks and the crowd seemed to like these the most, as we watched her dance behind her console in her head wiggling signature style. She dances like an excited child.

An hour earlier, we had crowded into her new digital art exhibition “Björk Digital”, where we experienced her up close and intimate in virtual reality headsets. This was clearly her intention, to give the crowds an opportunity to feel like we are the only ones with her, her digital self at times looming over us when we least expect it. One of the experiences is filmed from inside her mouth. I spent eight minutes watching the world through her teeth, a 360 degree experience of the wet muscly world of Bjork’s tongue and throat. In another, “black lake”, we see her beat her breast over and over at the end of a song, she is walking awkwardly barefoot through black jagged rock formations. She is physicalising her innermost turmoil, her sense of loss and frustration after breaking from her long term partner. Her body feels so vulnerable, surrounded by these black cold rocks – at one point, blue lava oozes like blood from her. It is beautifully done. The lyrics say it all – anger, betrayal, sadness, grief, brokenness.

“My heart is an enormous lake

black with potion

I am blind

Drowning in this ocean

My soul torn apart

My spirit is broken

Into the fabric of all

He is woven”

I find myself wondering whether any other artist of this scale of fame still trusts an audience this much with their rawest emotions. She lets us see her suffer. It reminds me of one of my favourite Bjork quotes:

“I would die for my art. There have been times when I’ve been touring for 15 months and I’m literally crawling on stage, and people say what’s more important, your health or tonight, and I always say tonight.”

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Björk, glimpsed through the tropical foliage around her DJ station. 

In my favourite of the rooms, black headsets hang in a grid formation from the ceiling. We’re asked to buddy up so that we don’t walk into a complete stranger as we physically explore the virtual world. Inside the headset we see a hollowed out digital Björk made of glowing lights – we can walk right up to her, even right inside her – by the end of the song she has grown in height and is towering above us. All of these artworks only served to heighten the excitement of knowing that next door, Björk herself was waiting for us to come and dance the night away.

When we moved through finally to the dance space I have to admit it felt a bit like a wizard of Oz moment. The moment where ‘the great and powerful oz’ steps out from behind the curtain and you see he’s just a balding normal guy who’s been built up through costumes to be this all powerful wizard. But then again there’s something great about seeing her not performing as a singer – just doing her job – spinning beats for us to dance to. I just wished (and I’m definitely not the only one) that she could have been more accessible visibly while everyone was dancing. The two options were – queuing for about an hour to gain a spot to see her DJ, or dancing to the earsplittingly loud beats in the warehouse without seeing her at all. This I felt was a missed opportunity to really engage with the punters at an event which was really a celebration of her and her work. There was definitely a disappointed vibe in the crowd. She shied away from the spotlight after baring her digital soul.. it was an odd combo.

A few days later we went back to the exhibition and watched the exhibits we didn’t get a chance to see. We stayed for about an hour and watched a large selection of her incredible music videos. What struck me most was the variety of moods and approaches – each one is really a work of contemporary art. Some are confronting and political, some are playful and quirky, some are story telling and others are poetic and sensual. She is an artist of the utmost integrity, and despite having so much power and artistic talent at her fingertips, “Björk Digital” shows us that she’s indeed just a human being like the rest of us, who gets shy, who has her heart broken, who feels the need to express herself and connect with others in her own unique way.

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Carriageworks, the Digital exhibition space that used to be a train carriage workshop.

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Myself, Amy and Priscilla, in the Carriage works hall markets, pre exhibition.

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Virtual reality headsets

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One of two long projection walls in the “Black lake” exhibit. Speakers were placed around the edges to give the effect of following her around sonically.

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A fabulous bell suit from “Who is it”.

 

 

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Music video still from Vespertine’s “Hidden Place”.

2016

It’s almost May. How did that happen?

I’ve just started to wear my slippers again, and as the winter cold sets in, I’ve got a lot of music to write..

In February I finished the mammoth TV series ‘Hillary’ for TVNZ which will air this winter in NZ and Australia. Writing the score for this was one of the most satisfying and pleasurable collaborations I have ever had. The trust and encouragement I had from the producer and director was amazing – I’ve never had a score with so little re-writes. It really gave me so much joy to be able to connect with the project and trust my instincts. I also learnt a lot about recording and mixing, with the last four episodes being mixed and recorded by me also. The last four episodes I played all the stringed instruments except for Bass, and even was asked to write 3 or 4 songs which might have been playing on the wireless at scott base in antarctica in the 1950s. This was quite a challenge and contrast to the ‘underscore’ that I was writing for the other episodes. I learnt heaps about Ed Hillary also.. what an interesting and troubled man with many extreme highs and lows in his lifetime.

In March I was busy with gigs, playing keys for SJD for various festivals, and performing with the pint-sized blackbird ensemble group ‘Fledgling.’ I also performed cello for the visiting Flamenco musicians at Q theatre, which was quite scary – flamenco music is incredibly complicated, and I had little time to prepare. Rehearsals were a mix of spanish and english, and I had to rely on my friend Paul (guitarist) to translate what was going on.. March was also festival time so I spent loads of money seeing some amazing shows. Sufjan Stevens was a highlight for me, I had second row seats at the civic. Magic.

Looking ahead at the rest of 2016 is a bit daunting. I’m creating 3 new blackbird shows, almost simultaneously, and trying to tour a previous show also. We are having to raise a lot of money to put them on so that’s one of the challenges ahead. Also I need to find time to write a new violin concerto for Amalia hall and Orchestra Wellington. The funding campaign for that is about to begin. The work premieres in december in the final concert of the year for OW. It’s going to be based on the idea of ‘stark’, both in contrast and in the name Stark, referencing a strong NZ female historical figure, Freda Stark. She was a dancer in the heyday of the civic theatre during WWII. I read her biography a few years ago and was captivated by her life.

I’ve just booked tickets to go to sydney to see Björk DJ in june. Can’t wait! She has curated a very exciting digital exhibition as part of the VIVID festival.

 

Here are some photos of the last few months..

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This doggie is called Bali, and he lives in my backyard.

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This is me and my friends Kelvin and John on the pink bike path that’s just opened in Auckland.

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This is lola the cat, planking for the camera. Lola lives in wellington with Emma.

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This is me and Isabel, the flamenco dancer from the show at Q theatre.

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This is me on tangerine dream (my orange e-bike) on my way to collect free ice-cream for cyclists.

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Me and mum at Dawn French at the civic.

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My beautiful band Fledgling after our gig at Q theatre for White Night.

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Me and my sister plus nephew Joseph on a special Aunty visit day in the city.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 1.29.36 pmScreen Shot 2016-04-19 at 1.39.51 pmA couple of stills from the promotional video made to fund the violin concerto with Amalia Hall. It was shot at karekare beach and in the nearby woods.

 

The reason for my silence

Is because I’m making a lot of music, and fast.. for this upcoming monumental NZ tv series “Hillary”.

Due to air next year.. here’s a bit of info about it.

Watch a preview (without my music) here.

https://www.tvnz.co.nz/ondemand/tvnz-new-season/hillary/16-09-2015-6386054

http://www.stuff.co.nz/entertainment/tv-radio/65867339/Andrew-Munro-to-star-in-TV-series-on-Sir-Edmund-Hillarys-life

See you in February when it’s all done!

News and advice from the composers pen

Hi Friends!

This is the busiest time of year apparently. That’s why I think most of you will read this, to take a break from that busy world you’re whirling around in, perhaps avoiding that important thing you need to do. Good on you. Procrastination is the key to achieving things you didn’t know you needed to do.

I’d like to give you some survival tips for the new year, and some personal learnings which may be useful to you.

SCARY THINGS, THEY’RE ACTUALLY GOOD FOR YOU

And I’m not talking Roller-coasters. But actually they’re probably good for you too. They get the heart rate up, give you a boost of adrenaline and make you feel alive. I’ve made it my general goal for the last few years to have more courage to do scary things. Things which fling you far from your cozy comfort zone, and extend and develop you as a person/performer.  Here’s a few scary things I’ve done lately which scared me shitless:

1. performed my first solo gig playing my own songs as ‘Pigeon.’
2. performed my first solo flamenco dance, interlaced with a cello performance (watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqWz9HXKJjQ)
I knew there was a large chance that I could totally bomb with both of these things. And bomb is what I did in almost all of the rehearsals. But there is something about ‘the actual thing’ which somehow heightens ones ability to pull out all the stops and put on a good performance. And plus I had lots of support from lovely friends and colleagues in the audiences -(which actually makes it more scary but nice too.)
3. performed as a lead singer with blackbird ensemble, dressed in a hologram onesie. I’m not sure if it was the onesie or the singing that scared me more.
4. Been on dates with people I met on the internet! OMG these can be the scariest things ever.  (and I’ll tell you something for free, rockclimbing on a first date is NOT a good idea. trust me.)

It’s not just the fact that things are scary that they’re good. They’re good because scary things are things which REALLY matter, which you REALLY care about, and REALLY want to do. No matter how much you feel like you don’t want to do them. Which makes it feel all the better afterwards.

I think what was most scary was putting myself out there as a performer and being vulnerable to judgement from others. But it’s only through performing that you realise how much of the ‘i’m not good enough’ is just inside your head. Go do some scary stuff! Then tell me about how it went.

NAPS! POSSIBLY THE BEST THING ON THE PLANET

Oh, I hear you say “I can’t nap, it makes me groggy”.. or “naps are just for lazies.” Well to you I say pifffft! Codswallop. Here’s my 5 step
napping guide to get you started.

1. Napping takes practice. Don’t be ambitious, if you haven’t napped in a while, just take a short one. Then gradually daily increase incrementally until you’re napping for 40mins at a time. Soon you’ll be a seasoned pro who can nap anytime you wish!

2. Never pass up a good nap opportunity. When the conditions are right, the conditions are right. Some of the right conditions are: freshly made bed, sun coming through the window, heavy rain fall, cat or dog already asleep in napping area, other people napping in the house. NB times NOT to nap: whilst operating heavy machinery, whilst jet-lagged and needing to catch flight, whilst supervising young children.

3. Naps are not for the lazy. They are for the productive people who feel the need to give their brains/bodies a little kickstart! Never feel bad about napping!

4. Always nap with a blankie. Don’t nap under the bed covers. Don’t nap in pyjamas. They’re a one way street to the Zzzz kingdom of nighttime.

5. When napping outdoors or in public places, exercise caution. You never know when the hare krishna drum brigade might decide to practice
next to you – and an interrupted napper is not a happy napper. Believe you me.

Remember, you can always contact me for nap advice. Except between the hours of 3.45pm-5pm obviously.  If you don’t want to take my advice, just ask Leonardo Da Vinci, Winston Churchhill, Eleanor Roosevelt, or Napoleon Bonaparte.. all big nappers.

WE COME TO THE BRIEF EXCITING NEWS SECTION.

-Will be writing a new blackbird show for next year called ‘The Afterlife’ which features 8 ‘dead’ musicians trapped between this life and the next. It’s a musical without words, a surrealist mime show where the actors play instruments and the instruments play the actors. It’s everything you’ve never imagined a musical concert would be, and more.. Directed by the one and only Sara Brodie and composed by me over the next few months.

-Will be producing and performing in ‘DREAMS’ a brand new blackbird show in April 2015 at the basement, by a cast wearing nothing but victorian pyjamas. Featuring lullabies, surreal dream inspired songs, and music inspired by the rituals of the bedroom.. Join us for some tunes and hot toddies.

-Just completed an arrangement of ‘Let it Go’ for Orchestra Wellington’s New years Eve concert. Possibly the most cheesy arrangement I’ve ever had the joy to orchestrate. And finally have removed the song from the ‘on repeat’ play in my head. Thank cheesus.

-Will be Composer in Residence with Orchestra Wellington next year! Will be writing a violin concerto for the very talented Amalia Hall!

-Will be composing another piece for the NZTrio, as part of their CMNZ concert series. Horrah! Always nice to work with these guys again.

THE FOODIE BIT

-I hear there’s a REALLY good belgian waffle stall just along from Elliot stables. They even do savoury waffles. Is that even legal?
-ok here’s a recipe SO easy and SO good you won’t believe it. AND they bake in 8minutes!

PEANUTBUTTER CHOCOCHIP COOKIES FROM HEAVEN
-mix 1 cup of peanut butter, 1 egg and half a teaspoon of baking soda with 3/4 cup of sugar.
-add chocolate chips, as many as you want
-mix into small balls and squish on a baking tray
-bake for 7-8 minutes at 170degrees or 160 degrees fan forced. They’re done when they start to crack. Keep an eye on them.
They are DELISH and NO FLOUR!?? OMG I’m sure these are illegal. Better keep the recipe hush hush.

SOME THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW (AND PROBABLY DON’T WANT TO KNOW ) ABOUT ME

-I actually develop negative reposes to people who wear colours I don’t like. I can’t help it.
-I almost always cry when watching strictly ballroom
-I find open toed sandals quite hilarious, the more velcro the better
-I very rarely wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row
-I have a gag response to people scraping plates with knives/forks
-I love the smell of petrol.
-I have to have the colour blue around my bedroom/workspace or I get a bit anxious.

Merry Christmas. Here are some christmas crafty collages I’ve been making.

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Art Dego 2014

On Sunday November 9, I participated in what must be a very rare world-class dining event at Auckland Art Gallery.

The genius Courteney Peters at Gather & Hunt magazine, plus Rebecca Smidt from Cazador co-produced the event, which featured 5 artists, paired with 5 chefs to create 5 courses of degustation. My chef, Michael Newlands, is head chef at Bracu Restaurant out in Bombay. We chose to collaborate on a dish centered around passion and fire, and flamenco rhythms. We used my piece ‘Subtle dances‘ as a starting point. I then worked on producing a performance which portrayed the playfulness, fire and passion of the artform. Dressed as a Spanish matador, I choreographed a small dance sequence that was combined with a cello & looping pedal piece.

Chef Mikey preparing one of the courses in the kitchen.

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I created hand-printed scores of ‘subtle dances’ and wrapped them around a beeswax candle for each diner.

They each came with a single match and a red twine cord to represent ignition of passion and heart-strings.

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This was the amazing dessert course designed by Little Bird unbakery – a chocolate tart entitled ‘Birds eye view’

which came in a swirling dry ice globe, to give the effect of looking down through the clouds.

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Parts of bird’s eye view. Some of the yummy things in there included candied miniature mushrooms.

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Through the clouds..

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Me performing my matador cello routine.

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Setting up the loops.

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Enjoying our course, post performance. Really glad to have a wine in hand!

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Bex and Courteney, the producers of the event, caught me as I came off stage. Turns out I made Bex cry. 10629364_858680464166075_1356103686615235234_o

OUR DISH. Very proud of Mikey – it was a taste sensation. A taste seduction maybe. Roast Pork Jowl with

a white asparagus flaminquette and roast cauliflower puree, nasturtium vinegar and blood-orange jelly. oh la la!!

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Watch my performance here.

Composer in Residence announcement

I am very pleased to announce that I will be Associate Composer in Residence for 2015 with Orchestra Wellington. I have been having discussions with management for a while now and feel it’s the best time to take on this position. I will use the opportunity to write a new concerto for the orchestra, my first concerto, and first substantial work for symphony orchestra. I am hugely excited and grateful for this opportunity. I think this orchestra is one of the most open minded, enthusiastic and forward thinking ensembles in the country, and I’m so lucky to be associated with them officially for the year of 2015. I have in my company two other very talented composers, – David Long (from the mutton birds) and their educational composer in residence, Thomas Goss.  I will begin shortly on a short documentary about the piece that I want to write, for a very special young soloist. Watch this space.