2014:

Friends, this year rather than writing a monthly blog entry, I’ve decided instead to post a photograph, once a day, to Instagram. Please check out my year in photographs here: http://instagram.com/rupertboydguitar

Taken from my Instagram account, here are some highlights of my recent National U.S. Tour:

photo

photo 1

IMG_3004

photo 2


photo 3

With best wishes,
Rupert

December 2013

Firstly, I’d like to wish all my readers a very Happy New Year and all the best for 2014! As John Lennon said “Another year over; and a new one just begun”. And with it, the inevitable thoughts of…

NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS:

It has now been three years that I’ve been writing this monthly blog, which started as my New Year’s Resolution in 2011. For 2014, while I still plan to post the occasional blog about some topic running through my thoughts, I’ve decided instead to do a regular post in the form of a photograph, posted once a day to Instagram*. Everyone is invited and encouraged to join the party -

Instagram

Either click the above link, or current users can search for my username: rupertboydguitar

Rather than follow my adventures of 2014 through words, participants can follow me through a year of daily photographs. This promises to be an exciting year, including a solo tour of North America in the Spring (including New York, D.C., Denver, San Francisco, Chicago and Honolulu – details here), and a tour by the Australian Guitar Duo of Australia in November (details soon to be announced).

*For those not familiar with Instagram, it’s an online photo sharing application, where one can see photos and videos that other users post. While possibly best viewed on handheld devices, it is possible – I believe – to follow on a regular, old-school desktop or laptop computer.

HIGHLIGHT OF 2013:

Out of many concerts this year that have spanned four continents, one highlight was a concert I gave in March at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. At this concert I played on a number of guitars from their collection, including a 1830s guitar made by the French luthier René Lacôte, signed by the 19th century Spanish guitarist Fernando Sor, and formerly owned by one of my greatest idols Julian Bream! It is a remarkable guitar, with an exceptionally sweet and expressive quality. It is difficult to describe in words how one guitar differs from another, but one thing that will be immediately apparent from the photograph below is that either I’ve grown, or that the guitar is smaller in size than our modern day instruments (I’ll give you a clue, I’m already 6-foot-awesome, and don’t know that I’m getting any taller…). The modern guitar came into it’s current size comparatively recently, only during the 19th century, when the the Spanish guitar maker Torres started making guitars of a shape and size that is now the standard for most modern day classical guitars. After taking a little time to adjust to the smaller size of the instrument, what I found most exceptional about the Lacôte guitar was the sweetness of its treble notes, and how the bass, while always clear, took a back-seat and allowed the treble notes to sing out in a very expressive and beautiful manner. I would love to sit here and write more about different guitars, but it is New Year’s Eve, and I must be getting myself to the opera!

IMG_7730
An 1830s Lacôte guitar, signed by Sor, and formerly owned by Julian Bream (behind me in the cabinet are a Ramirez and a Hauser, which were Segovia’s main guitars for many decades)
[Photo: Harold Levine]

Wishing you all a most wonderful 2014, filled with peace, love and happiness!
Yours truly,
Rupert

November 2013

On this past Thanksgiving Day morning, I was signed up for the Manchester Road race, a 5-mile run with 15,000 other people, in Manchester, Connecticut. The weather forecast was for frigid temperatures in the 20s (somewhere below zero celsius) and we had to get there around 8:30am for the race which started at 9:30am. That day, I eventually got out of bed around 10:15am… But in direct contrast to this failed attempt at athleticism, is the one thing that I’ve done in the U.S. that is considered to be at the highest level of sportiness and achievement –

THROWING OUT THE FIRST PITCH AT A BASEBALL GAME:

It’s true. I once threw out the first pitch at a baseball game! Now admittedly it wasn’t the major league. But it was a AAA game, and in a state capital: Lincoln, Nebraska. Some years ago I was playing at the Meadowlark Music Festival in Nebraska with my guitar duo, and we were asked if we’d like to advertise our concerts and have a little fun throwing out the first pitch (and, as we were informed, this was quite an honour). Not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into, and although we’d never thrown a baseball before in our lives, we agreed. We’d both played cricket as kids, and from what we’d seen on TV, baseball players don’t always look like the most athletic of individuals, so how hard could this be? The day before the baseball game, we went to a BBQ in Iowa, and there some friends gave us baseball mitts, a baseball, and the somewhat confusing information that the distance between the mound and the plate is 60 feet, 6 inches. Confusing, in that we both grew up with the metric system, and had no idea how far 60 feet, 6 inches really was. Standing about what we estimated was right – in actuality some 100 yards apart – we were throwing the baseball back and forth with limited success and starting to feel a little nervous about what we had to do the next day. That wasn’t improved by being informed that if the baseball bounced before reaching the plate, we’d both be booed out of the stadium. To make matters worse, that night we were shown YouTube videos of the worst first pitches ever, including Mariah Carey practically dropping the ball at her feet, and the Mayor of Cincinnati throwing the ball at a right angle to the direction he intended. And then the moment arrived. The day was clear and warm; a gentle breeze in the air. The 1000+ strong crowd greeted us warmly, while the baseball players in the dugout threw sunflower seeds at us (we suspected that that animosity stemmed only from the fact that, not knowing how one should dress to throw out a first pitch, we had dressed in concert attire, suits, dress shoes and all). First up: a high-school kid; the state champion baseball pitcher in his league. The ball flew through the air at an astonishing speed, landing with a thud in the glove of the catcher. Seeing this, my knees started to shake. Then next, the son of a man who had won a raffle, first prize being the honour of throwing out the first pitch at a baseball game: his son, who accepted the prize in his place, was an elementary school boy, at most 6 years of age, and about 4 feet high. Admittedly he stood in front of the mound, getting him some 3 feet closer to the pitcher, but threw with all his might and, thud, straight into the glove of the catcher. My knees shook even more. Then the voice over announcement came over the stadium PA, calling me to the mound with some wise crack about kangaroos and koala bears. My heart was beating in my chest and thudding in my ears. I closed my eyes. I threw as hard as I could. I opened my eyes… straight over the plate and right into the glove of the catcher! The crowd went wild!! The baseball players stopped throwing sunflower seeds at us, their jaws agape. One even took of his hat in salutation. And as I strolled past them, I took my opportunity to casually invite them to come play the first chord at our concert the following night, at which they averted their eyes, muttered excuses, and politely declined. I receded to the stands, to watch the baseball in the best possible fashion: beer in one hand, hot dog in the other.

rupert

Happy Holidays,
Rupert

October 2013

Hey mum, look at me, I’m on Google Maps!

15MB OF FAME:

On a desultory winter’s day at the beginning of the year, I was walking down a street in Brooklyn with a guitar on my back, minding my own business, when I was passed by the Google Street View car. I knew instantly that it was the Google Street View car as it was not inconspicuous with a giant 10-foot high pole sticking above the roof, atop of which was a football sized spherical camera, and with the words Google Street View emblazoned on the side of the car. I ran my hand through my tangled hair, checked that my fly was done up, but in vain as the car was long gone down the road.

Once or twice over the past 11 months I checked google street view at the corner at which I was standing, but always found an empty street on a clear, sunny day. Then, just a few days ago, my downstairs neighbour alerted me in an email saying that she thought she’d found me, or at least someone who looked very much like me, walking just a few blocks from our apartment. And voila -

Do a google search for 560 Manhattan Avenue, Brooklyn NY, and then click on the street view icon… (or click here):

Google Street View
Google has blurred out my face, so too for the USPS post box on the other side of the road behind me. But I guess it’s true, as they say, nowadays everyone gets their 15Mb of fame…

Best wishes,
Rupert

September 2013

Australian Tour Photo Blog -

Australian Tour (Day 21):

australian21Return to Sydney and back to possibly Australia’s smallest (and possibly best) coffee shop: Sydney, NSW

 

Australian Tour (Day 20):

australian20Final night in Queensland and staying in a 100 year old cottage: *near* Esk, Queensland

 

Australian Tour (Day 19):

australian19Normal-sized Laura with Queensland-sized pineapple: Sunshine Coast, QLD

 

Australian Tour (Day 18):

australian18Soundcheck, concert no. 7: Brisbane, QLD

 

Australian Tour (Day 17):

australian17Tonight’s concert venue was adorned with photos that the owner had taken of a veritable Who’s Who of the 1960s music scene: Sunshine Coast, QLD

 

Australian Tour (Day 16):

australian16Minigolf: Gold Coast, QLD

 

Australian Tour (Day 15):

australian15Eastern most point of Australia: Byron Bay, NSW

 

Australian Tour (Day 14):

australian14Pollock @ National Gallery of Australia: Canberra, ACT

 

Australian Tour (Day 13):

australian13 Arthur Boyd’s studio: Shoalhaven, NSW

 

Australian Tour (Day 12):

australian12Shoalhaven river with wombat: Shoalhaven, NSW

 

Australian Tour (Day 11):

australian11I Voted [Federal Election 2013]: Canberra, ACT

 

Australian Tour (Day 10):

australian10Warming up before our second radio interview of the day: Canberra, ACT

 

Australian Tour (Day 9):

australian9Laura and cello board for Canberra: Adelaide, SA

 

Australian Tour (Day 8):

australian8Pavlova: Adelaide, SA

 

Australian Tour (Day 7):

australian7End of roadtrip: Adelaide, SA

 

Australian Tour (Day 6):

australian612 Apostles: Great Ocean Road, VIC

 

Australian Tour (Day 5):

australian5Idyllic concert setting: Melbourne, VIC

 

Australian Tour (Day 4):

australian4Essendon vs. Richmond (Australian Football League): Melbourne, VIC

 

Australian Tour (Day 3):

australian3Concert No. 1: Melbourne, VIC

 

Australian Tour (Day 2):

australian2Lookin’ good: Melbourne, VIC

 

Australian Tour (Day 1):

australian1Sydney Harbour Bridge: Sydney, NSW

To see things from the other perspective, please check out Laura’s photoblog: http://www.laurametcalf.com/#blog

August 2013:

Australian Tour:

Friends, for the next few weeks I will be on tour in Australia with the wonderful cellist Laura Metcalf. Until we depart the country on September 18th, I plan to post a photo to this blog once a day of things seen along the way! For those in Australia, hope that you can make it to one of our concerts (concert details: www.rupertboyd.com)!

G’day,
Rupert

CelloandGuitar-Poster

July(ish) 2013:

* So I’ve been remiss with my blog of late, but in an effort to catch up, here, written a few months after the fact are some thoughts and follies that may or may not have anything to do with the particular month listed…

Bach once walked something like 100 miles to hear the great organist Buxtehude play at a neighbouring town. I’ve made only three real pilgrimages in my life:
- Dakota building, New York City
- Abbey Road, London
- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram, Rishikesh

PILGRIMAGES:
Those who know their music history of the past 50 years may be able to ascertain from these destinations that I’m somewhat of a Beatles fan. Indeed all three pilgrimages have been Beatles related:

- Dakota building: when I moved to New York, the Dakota building was one of the first places that I visited. Located on 72nd Street and Central Park West, this is the famous apartment building in which John Lennon lived, and sadly in front of which he was shot in December 1980. Every year on the day of his birth and death, crowds of people congregate at “Strawberry Fields” in Central Park, many with guitars and other instruments, to spend the day singing Beatles songs. It’s always such a moving tribute and testament to a brilliant musician. Nowadays, I feel incredibly fortunate to live so very close to this place.

- Abbey Road: I spent Christmas 2004 in the UK with my sister, who was living there at the time. When asked what I wanted to see and do in London, my first response was go to Abbey Road — the famed recording studio at which The Beatles recorded many of their seminal albums, and where on the street crossing in front they took the photo that graces the cover of their Abbey Road album. I naturally had to get my sister to take a photo of me crossing the road, standing in the exact same position that John Lennon was standing. The crossing is a zebra crossing, at which cars are required by law to stop whenever someone is crossing the road. The local drivers however, irritated at the hoards of tourists trying to recreate the famous Beatles photo, nowadays don’t slow when people are crossing the road, but in fact speed up, maniacal grins on their faces. Putting my life and that of my sister’s at risk, I stood there on the crossing, dodging the cars that sped by, and tried to recall which position on the crossing John was amongst the four Beatles. I recalled correctly that John was the first of the four, but only after returning to the Tube station, a ten-minute walk away, and seeing a postcard of the Abbey Road cover, I realised with dismay that I’d risked our lives crossing the road from right to left, rather than left to right… So back to the crossing, to dodge more speeding cars we went!

- Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram: Last August I travelled India. I arrived in Mumbai with no other plan than to leave again four weeks later. Someone suggested that I search for a distant point in India and make that a destination to aim towards. Scouring the map, I came across Darjeeling at the foothills of the Himalayas. I’ve always loved tea, and was imagining that I would be able to get a great cup of tea there, when I recalled that The Beatles spent a considerable amount of time at the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi Ashram in Rishikesh, where they wrote many of the songs from the White Album. Some weeks later I found myself in Rishikesh, and after asking a number of people for directions (and getting completely different answers from each), found my way to the abandoned Ashram. A No Admittance sign and a locked gate greeted me on my arrival, but warned about this by a traveller I’d met sometime earlier, I knocked on the gate until a gardener unlocked it for the small fee of 50 rupees, and allowed me to walk around the grounds. Amidst the overgrown paths I found large egg-shaped meditation domes, the run-down sleeping quarters of the Maharishi and his guests, and finally a concert hall in which The Beatles had played for one another in 1968. The faint burbling of the ganges river in the distance below mixed with the song of bird calls and the sounds of my guitar as I gave an impromptu concert of classical pieces and Beatles songs to a dilapidated concert hall occupied by only myself and recent murals of the Maharishi and The Beatles on the walls.

While my guitar gently weeps,
Rupert

June(ish) 2013:

When two guitarists are rehearsing together and one accidentally plays a couple of notes one fret higher than they should – resulting in jarring harmonies, accusing looks and the occasional obscenity – we have this little saying: “what’s a fret between friends?”. In my last blog entry, I wrote that John Dowland was born 350 years ago. Wherever he may be, Dowland was surely chuffed by this, as this year he is actually celebrating it being 450 years since he was born. I mean really, what’s a century between friends?

JOHN DOWLAND (1563-1626)

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of playing three works by the English lutenist John Dowland at the wonderful Newport Music Festival in Rhode Island. Now in its 45th season, this year’s festival featured 62 concerts, including many in the stunning mansions that hug the edge of the cliff, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. The most glamorous and ostentatious of these mansions is the Breakers — the three-storied, 70-roomed former “summer cottage” of the Vanderbuilts, and named as such for the sound of the waves crashing into the cliff below the house. On stage at the Breakers I played these three works, moved by the setting and by the thoughts that Dowland wrote these works some 400 years ago, around the time that Hudson was sailing up the river that would later be named after him, in what was altogether a different time and place. But despite the elapsed centuries and dramatic changes in the world and our way of living, these dots on the page can be brought to life and still provide meaning to us in such a different day and age. Dowland however, doesn’t seem like the happiest of campers. One of the works that I played is entitled Lachrimae Pavane, which also exists in a version for voice and lute. At one moment in the song, accompanied by a bass line that descends to the lowest notes on the lute, are the poignant lyrics: “Happy, happy, they that in hell, feel not the world’s despite”. Dowland also famously once wrote: “Sempre Dowland sempre dolens” which translates something along the lines of “Always Dowland, always melancholy”. I’m sure he would have made a great dinner guest… I find it incredible that emotions can transcend the centuries in this way, and that we can bring the melancholy of Dowland’s music to life in such a different time and place, merely from simple black dots on a page. As I reach for my bottle of prozac, let me leave you with these lines from Come, Heavy Sleep, the Dowland song upon which Benjamin Britten – who was born 250 years after Dowland – based his monumental guitar work Nocturnal:

Come heavy sleepe the image of true death;
And close up these my weary weeping eies:
Whose spring of tears doth stop my vitall breath,
And tears my hart with sorrow sigh swoln cries:
Come and posses my tired thoughts worne soule,
That living dies, that living dies, that living dies till thou on me be stoule

Come shadow of my end, and shape of rest,
Allied to death, child to his blacke-fact night:
Come thou and charme these rebels in my breast,
Whose waking fancies doe my mind affraight.
O come sweet sleep; come, or I die forever:
Come ere my last, come ere my last sleeps come, or come never.

Think happy thoughts,
Rupert

May(ish) 2013:

Sitting in an airport waiting for my flight, which has now been delayed by 2 hours, I think about what commercial travel must have been like in the 1950s. Were they really days in which people dressed in their finest clothes to take a flight, and upon which they would smoke cigarettes and drink cocktails at the onboard bar? Doing a little practice on my muted guitar, I am distracted by the background music playing over the speakers, which is interrupted every now and then by a gate announcement or final boarding call for a straggling passenger. It’s so easy nowadays for environments like airports and shopping malls to create an omnipresent background of recorded music using unseen speakers and large digital libraries. Was music (or muzak) played in this fashion in airports in the 1950s? Nowadays a digital playlist is easily looped, but in the 1950s was someone employed to constantly change LPs or reel to reel tapes every 20 minutes or so?

4’33″

John Cage has a notorious and (in)famous composition entitled 4’33″ in which the performer sits at a piano (though the piece can be easily arranged for any instrument/ensemble), and “plays” a work that is composed entirely of rests (silence) for 4 minutes and 33 seconds. Cage’s philosophy behind the composition is to both alter our everyday awareness of our environment, and to challenge the idea of what constitutes music. Can we frame any sounds by a specific duration of time and call it music? During the composition, an *appreciative* audience sits in silence for 4’33″ and becomes aware of the background noises that we usually subsume to the “background”. It was premiered in 1952 and I wonder how our sound world, especially in regards to recorded music, has changed since then. How would Cage feel about the omnipresence of recorded background music in our day to day lives, mixed in with the sounds of modern life, cell phone ringtones, music escaping from the headphones of a sea of iPod listeners, etc.. I’m not at all calling for silence. I live in one of the noisiest cities in the world, but more and more think it’s worth stopping once in a while to become aware or our environment and listen attentively to about four and half minutes of the sound of this modern world in which we live.

Shhhhhh,
Rupert

April 2013

It’s 350 years since John Dowland was born. Let’s wish him a happy birthday. Just don’t mention his age though, as I think he’s starting to get a little sensitive about it… I have more to say about Dowland – possibly I’ll save it for next month – and instead turn to the not unrelated thoughts of troubadours, traveling minstrels, the peripatetic life of a musician, and of someone living 10,000 miles from “home”.

HOME IS…

Home is on the range? Home is where the heart is? Home, I’d say, is where the guitar is…

Almost 9 years ago, in the fall of 2004, I moved to New York City. At that time I’d never before left Australia, and there I was in New York with just a suitcase and a guitar; eyes wide open and with a handful of dreams, chasing the ghosts of my idols who’d walked these streets before me (John Lennon, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Stanley Kubrick, Bob Dylan, etc.). And although I’d never stepped foot in a foreign country, and knew not a single person in North America, I distinctly recall the experience of a couple of weeks later, walking down a street in Greenwich Village and feeling “home”. Since then I’ve been around the world many times. In just the past twelve months I’ve seen the Sydney Opera House from a 747, had cocktails at a restaurant on Waikiki beach, watched the sunrise behind the Taj Mahal, traipsed the Great Wall of China and sunbathed at the edge of the Bosphorus. And so where is home? Home is the country of my birth – Australia. Home is the city in which I reside – New York. And, maybe better defined as my “home away from home”, home is wherever I find myself. For better or for worse, I find I can make myself feel at home wherever the tides take me. I can find myself at home in a practice room. Find myself at home in a hotel. Find myself at home in a friend’s apartment. With either my guitar or my friends and loved ones – though preferably both – home can be anywhere on my travels. It’s such a wonderful feeling to be able to say: Have guitar, will travel. And maybe these are all thoughts of a renter and not a landowner. Maybe possession of some real bricks and mortar (and things like, you know, a couch) would change my itinerant thoughts, but living here in the US as a temporary resident (of ahem, “extraordinary abilities”) and being 10,000 miles from my country of citizenship, it’s all right by me.

With cordial salutations,
Rupert