March 25, 2008
Debut single, graduation, new job
This website has been seriously neglected since I submitted my thesis last June, but here are a few updates in case anyone thought I might have dropped off the face of the earth.
October 2007: My band released our debut single on seven-inch vinyl and digital download. You can purchase either a physical copy or mp3 via our website here.
November 2007: I graduated from the University of Stirling with a PhD in Film and Media Studies.
December 2007: I got a two-year work visa to remain in Scotland.
January - March 2008: I taught popular music part-time at both the University of the West of Scotland and Glasgow University.
March 2008: I accepted a job offer as a research assistant at the University of Edinburgh, and will start work on a project analyzing the live music sector in the UK beginning in April.
Posted by matt at 04:33 PM
July 15, 2006
Why most Canadians seem to care less than other nations about the World Cup
I'm back in North America for a month of mixing business and pleasure. Unbelievably, the fabulous Wilco played my hometown of Fredericton last Thursday, and thanks to my brother I managed to catch all the action in fourth row seats. Tomorrow I'm off to New York City to scour jazz archives for a week and then I'll head to Montreal for another week of the same. Call me an international man of libraries.
It was nice to be in Europe to take in the excitement of the World Cup, but most of my friends kept asking me why football wasn't popular in North America. I recently came across some terrific vintage press coverage from the Canadian Broadcasting Corportation about the first and only time Team Canada made it to the World Cup in 1986. I think it goes some way to explaining Canadian disinterest in football, and I can safely say that not much has changed in the intervening twenty years. Check it out here.
Posted by matt at 02:59 PM
April 11, 2005
Early musical memories
A little while ago, I mentioned that I would try to write about music that had made a significant impact on my life. I packed my bags and moved to a foreign country to do a PhD in the history of jazz and rock criticism. I look around my bedroom, and the floor is absolutely littered with books and magazines about music. The Birth of Bebop, Shakey: Neil Young’s Biography, Route 666: On The Road To Nirvana, old issues of Down Beat and Rolling Stone, to name but a few. I’ve got an acoustic guitar that my folks gave me for Christmas in 1999, and a bag full of cymbals and drumsticks behind my door. CDs are piled precariously on top of each other. Posters of Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, and the Beatles decorate my wall. And I’m frikkin’ twenty-five years old. Will I ever grow out of this? Do I want to?
And how did I get here? With that question in mind (the first two were rhetorical), I thought I’d share some of my earliest musical memories.
Nursery rhymes. I can remember my mother playing with me and teaching me nursery rhymes. I don’t remember being especially fascinated with the rhythms, although I’m sure that was part of their appeal even though I wasn’t consciously aware of it. I do remember loving the anticipation that accompanied cadences in rhymes and their corresponding actions, like my mum wiggling my toes as she recited “This little piggy.” I also remember mum singing lullabies and other children’s songs to me. “Old MacDonald had a farm.” “The hokey pokey.” “Three blind mice.” “The itsy bitsy spider.” “Rock-a-bye baby” when she tucked me into bed at night. Unfortunately, the trouble with these memories is that I’ve since seen them re-enacted many times with other children (mostly my first cousins, of which I have, um, at least forty), so I can’t tell whether I’m recalling my own individual memories of the songs, or merely constructing memories based on witnessing my young cousins experience similar early musical moments.
Toys. Unlike nursery rhymes, I know that these memories belong to me, because my musical toys were unique. First of all, I had a porcelain Beatrix Potter “Peter Rabbit” figurine. Peter Rabbit held two carrots, and stood on a circular base that was painted to look like a grassy meadow. Inside the base was a music box, which could be wound up from underneath, causing Peter to spin with the music. I can’t remember the tune in detail, but I'm now aware that a song exists called "Here Comes Peter Cottontail," and it was probably that. Our family also had a clown doll with a music box that you could wind up by cranking his bright red nose. This may have belonged to my sister, who is twenty months younger than I am, but I liked it so much that I twisted the nose right off. From then on, the clown took on a rather menacing quality, boasting disturbing looking metal screw where the nose should have been. But I remember trying to twist it anyway to get the tunes locked behind the spooky face.
Television. In my early childhood, television meant Sesame Street. And let me tell you, the most vital music has always come from the street. There are really too many good songs to mention on that show, but some highlights were the song about the number 12 (someone later told me this was sung by the Pointer Sisters), the theme from “Captain Vegetable,” and a chilled-out lounge piece called “Everybody Sleeps.” Awesome.
Records. The first recorded music I can remember liking is stuff from Raffi and Sharon, Lois & Braham. Both Raffi and SL&B are Canadian children’s recording artists. Raffi had some absolutely classic songs like “Baby Beluga” and “Brush Your Teeth.” But most of all I remember a number called “Joshua Giraffe.” It was about a giraffe who got locked up in a zoo (“what could he do?”) and dreamt of escaping into the jungle (“nothing can go wrong-o / I’m in the congo!”). Apparently, the first concert I ever went to was a performance by Sharon, Lois and Braham, who were best known for having a big elephant (actually someone dressed up in an elephant costume) as their mascot. I don’t remember attending the concert, but my mum has told me that there wasn’t much to remember: apparently the elephant came racing down the theatre aisles at the beginning of the show and stopped right in front me, at which point I screamed blue murder until my mum had to carry me out of the theatre. Since that time, I’ve learned to enjoy concerts a bit more.
OK, that about covers it for early musical memories. I felt I had to cover the basics before proceeding further in other impactful musical moments. Are any of your own early memories resonating with that action?
Posted by matt at 04:24 PM
March 25, 2005
Happy Easter everyone. A friend of mine recently suggested that I try posting a recommended musical listening every so often for the handful of people that visit this website. And the more I got to thinking about it, the more I liked the idea. So starting next week, I’ll begin my attempt to write about music that has made a significant impact on my life. Until then, keep rocking and rolling.
Posted by matt at 05:08 PM
January 30, 2005
New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Newark, NYC
Hey folks, long time no posting. My bad. These days I've been feeling like quite the globe-trotter; I returned home to New Brunswick for the holidays, then Memorial University in Newfoundland as a visiting student, and this morning my bags are packed once again and I'm off to Newark, New Jersey, to visit the world's largest jazz archive for my research on the history of jazz and rock criticism. Newark is also a mere twenty minute train ride from New York City, so I'll have to dip in for a day or two to see the bright lights.
When I return from my trip, I hope to do a better job of posting to this site with at least a mild degree of regularity. Until then...
Posted by matt at 11:56 AM
October 20, 2004
My dad and I are both Libras. His birthday is today and mine is tomorrow, and apparently this makes us "celestial favourites" for the coming year! Read on and marvel at the fantastic and glamourous destiny of all Libras:
Astrology Zone: This is an exciting month! Jupiter, the planet of good fortune, will move into Libra on September 22, crowning you celestial favorite of the zodiac, a title you will hold for thirteen glorious months. Over that time, Jupiter will heap all sorts of benefits and privileges on you. You will see opportunities open up in brand new areas, have a chance to stimulate your mind with foreign travel, gain favor from influential people, and maybe even find romance. You are definitely moving into a golden period - and you deserve it.
Posted by matt at 04:04 PM
September 24, 2004
No more comments
Some bad news: over the past month or so, my website has been constantly bombarded with SPAM comments, advertising everything from blackjack to viagra. As a result, it's making it nearly impossible for me to check any real comments from real people. So from now on, no comments. It's sad, because I quite enjoyed reading them, but if you want to get in touch with me, you can still send me stuff via e-mail, which you can find on this site under the "Contact" heading.
I will, however, continue to post stuff on this site, so keep coming back to check out my random thoughts, work, travels, etc.
Posted by matt at 01:20 PM
September 04, 2004
I've returned from a month of travel and unparalleled adventure. A vacation floating across the east coast of Canada--New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia--then off to Helsinki, Finland, only to land with a thud back in Scotland, where it looks like I'm in for a wild and relentless semester. As I adjust from the headtwist, here are some things...
to watch: Finland's most recent musical export was the Bomfunk MCs. They had a big hit in Europe with Freestyler, and the video was filmed in the Helsinki metro, where I spent some time reeling from signs I couldn't read and an unending stream of stylish young people I could hardly believe. Watch it here.
to hear: The soundtrack for my time in Canada was a band called Iron and Wine. You can download a beautiful free song from them here.
to read: With all of the meaningless political rhetoricizing and mudslinging that's being broadcast these days, get rooted in the real by reading a rather lengthy but wortwhile speech from Bill Moyers called "The Fight Of Our Lives."
Posted by matt at 06:47 PM
August 11, 2004
I'm on vacation back home in good ole' New Brunswick, Canada. Highlights so far:
1) Visiting friends and undergrad stomping grounds in Sackville, and stopping by my old campus radio station, CHMA, where I used to hang out back in the day.
2) Playing a wee gig at a bar called George's Roadhouse with the freewheelin' musician Shotgun Jimmie.
3) Discovering a fantastic website called Carleton County Colloquialisms. My old man was born and raised in Carleton County (about an hour's drive northwest of Fredericton--see map above), and I've absorbed more than a few of their peculiar turns of phrase. An excerpt from the site:
Take, for instance, the innocuous phrase, "Good Heavens. It is very cold outside this evening." A County resident might say, "Sweet bald-headed Jesus. Is it ever some friggin' cold out tonight."
Peruse the colourful descriptors employed by the residents of Carleton County, including my current favourite, jumpins.
Posted by matt at 02:23 PM
July 29, 2004
My crazy old job
As some of you may now, I once had a job teaching English as a second language at an ultra-extreme summer school run by fascists. They were very severe about their rule of "full immersion" in English: you could get booted out of the programme at your own expense for speaking your native tongue. Anyway, their hardcore antics have made the news:
Globe and Mail: Quebec native Yvan Tessier was only too happy to sign on for an English-immersion course in New Brunswick this summer. But he hadn't anticipated that his guide dog, Pavot, would effectively have to take English classes too. Now a storm has erupted at the University of New Brunswick over its iron-clad rule that no one -- not even a dog -- may be addressed in a language other than English.
The conflict stretches Canada's bilingualism conundrum to new lengths, since Pavot is unilingual. Trained to understand commands in French only, he responds to "Pavot, reste!" but not "Pavot, stay!" Mr. Tessier, 39, blind for 20 years because of a degenerative illness, wants to file a complaint with human-rights officials, arguing the university is discriminating because of his disability.
P.S. I learned from my flatmate Christine that it even made the news in Germany! Check out Spiegel Online.
Posted by matt at 11:57 AM
June 03, 2004
Well, I'm off to London on a two-week research trip to the British Library, where I'll be up to my ears in microfilm and dusting off back issues of Rolling Stone magazine. Until then, did you know that...
... the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for music is widening its entry criteria to encourage jazz entries (and about time, too)!
... there's a famous Hollywood actor who's taken to writing an online journal (or "blog") under the name of Rance revealing all kinds of seedy goings-on within celebrity culture?
... you can download all kinds of cool illegal art, including Danger Mouse's infamous Grey Album, at a website called Illegal Art?
Posted by matt at 04:57 PM
May 14, 2004
Prague Vacation Photos
Today I chose to ignore my work and instead scanned some of the photos I took from my vacation in Prague. Hope you like them...
A view of the lovely city itself, including the Charles Bridge and the Vltava river:
My gracious hosts, Matthew Trafford (left) and Linda Besner (right), and fellow freeloader Katie Bryniak (back), as we dine by candlelight on the "table" (actually an old broken door that Matt and Linda salvaged):
The most elaborate clock I've ever seen, built in the 15th century and located in the Old Town Square:
Linda with an unidentified tree in the old town:
Prague has got some seriously wonderful churches:
All kinds of architectural adventures, from gothic ...
I found a store which sold nothing but babushka dolls. Some serious cultural collisions in this shot--see if you can spot the Britney Spears or Osama Bin Laden dolls:
Prague is also famous for its puppets ...
and random sculptures:
This is a stained glass window made in the 1940s, advertising the communist "Tesla" radio station:
The old Jewish cemetery:
When I first arrived, Trafford and Besner had no light bulbs in the kitchen, so this is me making veggie burritos with a head lamp. 'Nuff said:
We also celebrated Easter while I was in Prague, so Linda and I painted a bunch of eggs. Linda made some nice eggs, while my proudest contribution was the "Easter Bunny Robot of Doom" egg (see below):
The city has some nice graffiti tucked away on the side streets:
A karaoke bar, Czech-style. Live band, no tv screens, western pop tunes sung in Czech, a ceiling that rolled back during set breaks to let the cloud of cigarette smoke drift away. Plus a seriously inebriated karaoke enthusiast (bottom right) we refered to as "tie-dye guy":
A bonfire at the edge of town on the Vltava river, courtesy of my hosts' friend Johnathan Shef. We drank fire-warmed medovina (honey wine, not unlike mead), made 'smores and told stories:
Thanks a bunch to Matthew and Linda for a great time. And if any of you are interested in coming to Scotland for your vacation, don't be shy--I feel like I'm due for another one already...
Posted by matt at 02:26 PM
April 05, 2004
Hi folks. It's reading week over here at Stirling University, and in an act of total self-indulgence, I've decided to take this week off and fly over to Prague for a little vacation. That means no updates until later next week, but I'm sure you'll survive. I know I will... Until then, take it easy, friends!
Posted by matt at 02:30 PM
December 25, 2003
Where I Live
Here's a photo of me atop DuMiat hill, right next to my university and the town of Stirling. I hike up this hill once a week when weather permits. Beyond the rolling hills of heather (ah, Scotland!), you can see a tower poking up through a patch of trees almost in the centre photo. That's the Wallace Monument, in memory of Braveheart himself. The city spreads out beyond the monument, and over to the right you can see a collection of grey buildings and a man-made loch (read "lake"). That's Stirling University, where I study.
Posted by matt at 08:31 PM