Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song..

What is it about a song that can cause such a tumultuous uprising of emotions? I find myself more and more moved by music as I get older and wonder if it is because of my own connotations affiliated with particular lyrics or merely because I identify with the music in general. Whatever the case, I am affected and often find my mood changing colour as one song bleeds into the next. There is a reason for this, in the same way there is a reason to create music, a connection from the sound to our souls which can not be severed.

Music has been an outlet and an escape from the pain that sometimes constitutes life for many a year,one of the most obvious instances of this being the negro spiritual music of the slaves of America. These haunting melodies began as a secret code of communication between the slaves, as they endeavored to salvage a life for themselves in the animal-like captivity where privacy was considered a revered luxury. The tunes spoke of freedom, messages of hope and devotion to an adopted religion. The richness of both voice and lyrics is often overpoweringly beautiful, bittersweet and heartbreaking in equal turn. A rollicking, rhythmic movement flowing synonymously with the physical exertion it accompanied. It is plain that this form of expression was more than mere communication between the slaves, it allowed for something wondrous to grow in amongst the oppression, a bud pushing up through the fetid mulch of a white man's twisted dream. It is thus not hard to see why this soulful music can bring forth such a plethora of feelings, inducing tears to the most cold-hearted among us.

Is it then the idea of hope that music seems to carry, of something precious and lovely between the grit and grime that squeezes at our heart? This is definitely the case in some instances, where empathetic feelings grow as we listen to someone else's journey depicted in a song.  What about the punk music of the middle to late 70's though? When music became an expression of angst and anger at the hierarchical systems in place at the time? How relevant was the idea of hope in this music really, where safety-pinned youth screamed obscene scrawls of lyrics at frothing, malevolent crowds. It would seem that the idea of hope was abandoned for the more seductive act of rebellion. Then again The Clash's "London Calling" bears a definitive note of change and advancement, Joe Strummer's strong voice sends shivers of apprehension and one can feel the turning point London was facing at the time through his words.

So whilst music is a very subjective and personal thing, there are without a doubt some songs which we all identify with. Johnny Cash's "Hurt" is one which most people feel a certain affiliation with. I feel this could be due to the fact that every human who has walked this earth has made a mistake somewhere along the road, and Cash successfully expresses the hopeless despair we face when we have failed. Bob Dylan's rendition of "Blowing in the wind" is another one I find particularly expressive and emotionally stirring. The war affiliation is always going to be a strong subject to portray and even though I was not around during this era I find it an expressively and beautiful song which easily evokes one's emotions.

There are many of them though, these songs which cause us to stop and ponder, reminisce and wonder. To lose ourselves to a sound, the tangible threads of someones thoughts, woven into a melody. Some other well-known, emotive songs would be: Gary Jules's rendition of Mad world, Pink Floyd's Wish you were here, Simon and Garfunkel's Sounds of silence, Louis Armstrong's What a wonderful world, The Beatles -Let it be and Yesterday and John Lennon's Imagine.

So I find myself with no conclusion, no set template to write a song to coax emotion from its cave. It seems that it may just be a combination of many ingredients: empathy, affiliation, love, awe, knowledge of subject matter or just pure enjoyment and synchronicity with a particular song. Whatever the case may be, music is something which can always bring forth a reaction, whether it be for a revolution, a smile, an exhibition or a tear. Music is so much more than just a sound to be enjoyed, it is a testament to who we are as human beings, an expression of what we have achieved and ultimately what we feel.

Monday, February 13, 2012

An introspective beach meander

I was recently on holiday in Plettenberg Bay, where the sea is always warm and there is nothing more pressing to do than lie on the beach with a good book. It is natural in this holiday town to take many a wander down the silky stretch of sunlit sand, letting the cool water lap at your feet whilst the sun sizzles at your neck.

I found myself becoming rather introspective on one of these strolls, allowing myself a few ponderous moments as well as trying to appreciate every scent, movement and streak of colour that surrounded me. A few questions rose to the surface of my mind, one of which seeming the most important. 

The question was this: Why is it that humans lack the ability to see and rejoice in that which is right in front of their eyes? Now who can oppose this statement-like question? Anyone? Ah I see..we are all too well aware of our distraction from our immediate surroundings to even try a word of protest. I don't know how many times I have had to forcefully remove my head from the clouds in order to better see the beauty that my eyes are quietly capturing. It is a frustrating habit which is shared by the majority of the human race according to Ekhart Tolle, author of The power of now and A new earth. 

In Tolle's words we are trapped in our thinking and find it hard to separate ourselves from our thoughts, which we believe define us. Apparently this is not the case, as our identity is purely a self-created idea of what we are supposedly comprised of. Now whilst I do not subscribe to every word Tolle writes, I am definitely convinced by the idea that we are letting our everyday lives run away with us, our worries and stresses at the helm of the ship we call life. I am guilty of this and yet it is so incredibly difficult to achieve the zen-like state of mind which will allow me to appreciate the "now" and not the "then or when". 

I know it is exceedingly difficult to separate ourselves from our stress and worry and allow ourselves to be 'guilt-free' in the present moment, but try and lose this sense of guilt -Why are you feeling guilty? Guilt is such a wasteful and damaging emotion, one which I abhor and fear in equal measures due to it being such a constant friend in dire times of regret. So I say try to lose the guilty feeling because what on earth does guilt lend to our lives? Just a tragic sense of nostalgia to time-travel into the past and change things supposedly for the better. It is exactly this nostalgia that traps us in the past and stops us from seeing the magic and wonder of what is happening at exactly. this. second.

So enough of that rambling, the essence of what I am trying to say is enjoy what is in front of you, for me it was the softly warmed sand rubbing in between my toes. The creamy froth of white horses, bubbling in the turbulent sea and spilling onto the sand in splashes of  cappuccino foam. The call of the seagulls, circling an errant crab as he scuttled for his hole and a perfect shell, pearly and iridescent at my toes. These are all tiny moments, seemingly unimportant in the face of our towering, frenetic lives, and it is many a time that they go unnoticed as we sweep past on a wave of what we are 'meant' to be noticing. Try a little harder to slow down, look a little harder at that which surrounds you and I am sure you will see as I do that it is these little glimpses of synchronicity, of unashamed existence and beauty that remind us of what life is actually about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chilli jam on a rainy Monday..

In the garden there lives a little chilli bush. The little chilli bush is so full of fat, juicy, fiery chillis that I fear it may colapse! Luckily I am an absolute chilli addict so for the next month or so I will be trying out many lovely recipes which all incorporate the red devils.

The first one I tried was chilli jam and it turned out absolutely scrumptiously. Here is the recipe and some pics :)
Chilli Jam

2 Red peppers chopped roughly and de-seeded
10 red chillis chopped roughly
A finger-sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped roughly
6 garlic cloves peeled
A handful of cherry tomatoes (About 10-15 of them)
400-600g of Caster or brown sugar (Depends on how sweet you want it)
220 ml Red wine vinegar
Tip peppers, ginger, chillis and garlic into a blender and blend until very smooth.
Pour this mixture into a heavy-bottomed pan and add the tomatoes, sugar and vinegar. Bring everything gently to the boil. Skim off any scummy bits that float to the top. 
Turn down the heat and simmer for about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Once the jam starts to become sticky, continue cooking for 10-15 more minutes but stir it frequently as it will catch and burn very easily at this point.
It should now look like bubbling lava. 
Turn off the heat and let the jam cool for a bit before placing it in glass jars. 

Voila! Sublimely sweet and spicy chilli jam :)

Friday, January 20, 2012

Design inspiration from mother nature..

Nature really has it covered, in every aspect of design, be it colour, pattern or layout. I remember one of my lecturer's saying that we need look no further than out our window when searching for a particular tint or shade. I know that personally, I involve nature in all my design processes from subject matter to materials.

It's no secret that global warming and the deterioration of our planet is a real and looming threat to our precious earth and as designers we have a vital role to play in alleviating and combating the progressing destruction. It is in saying that that we need to remember who started it all, who had all the intricate patterns and ideas laid out in front of them. Who? God? No, not God. And I say this purely because I am not a monogamous believer, I choose to instead embrace the more probable and factually substantiated ideas of natural evolution and the universe as a transient, energy-filled sphere of life. This being said, nature had and has all the blueprints and it is only when we look, and I mean really look at the intricate and awe-inspiring beauty and perfection that makes up every tiny bud, stem and wing, that we realize how superior 'she' is to us.

In nature, everything works hand in hand and interconnects as snugly as a well-fitting shoe. Animals and plants live symbiotically without ever taking too much from each other as us humans are so prone to doing. If we could only become more connected and aware of our surrounding environments and truly learn and master the sophisticated and timeless processes and movements which are constantly happening around us, I think then we could begin to grow again as an earth.

As designers we really have it all on a plate with regards to the natural environment and as stated before, I always incorporate as many elements of nature into my designs and design processes. I consider myself to be lucky to be living in an age where it is imperative to return to the outside, the organic and the natural. I love the idea that my design ethos and ideals all pertain to the preservation  and protection of our fragile planet.

So, it is evident that when one is confused, at the cul de sac of a design idea or needing a source of inspiration and motivation, all that needs be done is to surround oneself with nature. Gaze at the sublime blue of our sky, feel the warmth of sand grains beneath your toes and listen to the sweet babbling of insects and birds. Let it move around you whilst you absorb and listen to the tiny instruments playing out in harmonious synchronicity. Trust me, it wont take long for a fledgling idea to take flight!

A ripe Sweet melon smells like the epitomy of summer to me..

Paint by numbers diy -This is such a fabulous idea! I will be making it as soon as I find a paint by numbers kit!

Year of the rabbit..