Music Appreciation: A Dying Art Or A Missed Opportunity…?

Over the past year, or so, I’ve been thinking about how we educate our young people in music.

Regular readers of my blog will be aware of my views on some aspects of this that I consider negligible in worth: aural tests in ABRSM exams, the Kodaly method and other similar academic delusions. But the topic that I want to talk about today is ‘music appreciation’. Continue reading

Tarot: Not Just A Paradigm For The Cosmos…

“Tarot Laaaaady” – sang Ronnie James Dio on Rainbow’s ‘Rising’ album, circa 1976. What? Never heard of him? Well, he’s the guy what invented the ‘horns’ sign that all you young people use nowadays 🙂 and he should know, right? The wee vocal powerhouse had no doubt met many a ‘Tarot Woman’ on his travels through the world of hard rock. You know the type… long, flowing hair, bangles, beads, maybe a head scarf, a flouncy Stevie Nicks-type dress etc.

But I’d like to introduce you to a new breed of Tarot enthusiast… the Tarot ‘Man’. Continue reading

The Making of ‘Metaphysical Attractions’

I have a new album out this year. It’s called ‘Metaphysical Attractions’ and it’s turning out to be my favourite John Irvine Band album yet.

It’s taken me five years to get this one near completion. Mainly because I decided to write a sci-fi book trilogy after the completion of ‘Next Stop’ in 2013. But it has gradually come together.

It’s amazing how that happens; how the brain takes it’s own sweet time making the decisions (or at least mine does) that put things together. Continue reading

The ‘Musical Ear’: What Is It? And Why Do We Need To Test It?

You’ll know from my other blogs on music education that I’m of the opinion that a lot of what is being examined in our young musicians (and mature ones, taking the dreaded graded exam journey) is outdated and irrelevent. The system has remained much the same for over 80 years, and shows no signs of changing anytime soon. Most exam systems we know have been changed several times of the years, so why have music exams (and I’m looking at you ABRSM) staunchly remained the same all of this time?

Continue reading

Shakespeare On Screen: My Week With The Bard

I really try my best to avoid Shakespeare. Like the Beatles, it’s all so ingrained in our (western) culture that when you hear it you tend to switch off. But unlike the Fab Four you have to try hard to understand what’s going on. And if theatre really isn’t your thing then who has the time to revise the York notes before going to see a production? Well, this week I fell prey to this and agreed to go to a live screening of Shakespeare’s ‘Macbeth’ at the Cameo Cinema here in Edinburgh. Continue reading

Being A Polymath: Does All That Math Add Up To Anything?

I often think of people who have concentrated solely on one artistic career – the writer who only writes, the musician who only plays – and wonder if they ever get a hankering for doing something different. Trying a new form or genre?

I’ve met very few people in my time who like to try their hand at a different art form than the one they normally do. Of course, having the time to do other things is hard to find. Continue reading

Rip It Up And… Don’t Start Again: How Music Is Just A Universal Noise.

I’ve not written a blog for a while now, so I figured that with these few days off work, becasue of the snow and whatnot, I’d knock off a quick one about a couple of my favourite musical bugbears that I hear people bandying about willy-nilly.

And here they are:

1. Music that I don’t like is ‘just a noise’.


2. Music is a ‘universal language’.

Argh! Continue reading

The Death Of Progressive Rock: Addendum

Following my post 1979: The Death Of Progressive Rock & The Jazz/Folk/Acoustic Amalgam, I began to think more about what I’d written. Was I being too hard on the Prog scene by saying it was virtually dead in 1979? Surely there was some life in it yet? But then I thought, what does the sentimental side of me say about this? It said ‘no, you were not’. And my logical side, of course, agreed. Continue reading

Weighing Up The Scales: Does Your Left-hand Know What The Right-hand Is Doing?

So, a while back, I was teaching a bit of compositional theory (as you do) and I asked the students a seemingly outrageous question: “What is the purpose of the harmonic minor scale? Why is there a raised 7th in there?”

Blank looks.

But I was not deterred and thought I’d push them even further… “OK, what about the melodic minor scale? A raised 7th AND a raised 6th.”

Silence. Continue reading

Vinyl, Cassette or Digital – Is it Déjà Vu All Over Again?

I’m going to open a can of worms here…

The big, wormy can of ‘music format choice’.

Yeah, sorry. But it’s something that I think about quite a lot – being a musician and also teaching a music technology class – the issue constantly raises its head, and always creates a big stink. But it’s a big stink that I quite enjoy smelling… Continue reading