Thursday, November 24, 2005

Article from Jakarta

In Greek and Roman mythology, the nine muses were the daughters of Zeus, the king of the gods, and Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory. The muses were the patron goddesses of the arts, and over time each muse became associated with a specific art. Traditionally, a poet would invoke the aid of the appropriate muse to guide and assist him in his creative endeavor.

In its earliest form, the invocation was essentially a prayer, a request that the goddess being invoked to inspire, literally, "breath into" the artist. The idea was that the artist did not himself "create" the work of art, but merely served as a mortal channel through which the divine voice of the muse could speak. Luckily for jazz aficionados living in modern day Jakarta, we have the Nine Muses Club continuing the patronage. They recently invoked guest performances from Denise Jannah, a jazz singer and Mark Isaacs, a jazz and classical pianist/composer from Australia.

My husband and I arrived at the club early to enjoy a chat with Mark Isaacs before the performance. As we were taking our seats a lady at a nearby table with a Dutch accent was very loudly regaling her dinner companions, in fact all tables in the vicinity, with an extraordinary story about a transvestite. Dutch accents abounded but we soon learned Denise Jannah is from The Netherlands, hence the connection (Denise Jannah was born in Suriname, South America. She moved to Holland in the mid seventies with her family).

We didn’t overhear the end of the story as we were distracted by an introduction to Mark Isaacs by Gil D ’Harcour (Director of the Club). Mark had already been in Jakarta for a few weeks by the time we met that evening. He had been doing some part-time teaching as artist-in-residence at Institut Musik Daya (IMD) music school, which is affiliated with the Nine Muses Club and provides the weekly music program. Founded by noted jazz piano diva Tjut Nyak Deviana Daudsjah, or Deviana, the school is the first and only independent academy of music providing a comprehensive international standard curriculum in Indonesia. It was Deviana’s response to the dull Indonesian music scene and a lack of quality musicians. Mark found that his teaching hours were quite short so he had been able to do some of his own composing in Jakarta in between performing Thursday to Saturday at Nine Muses. He spoke very highly about the school, the Nine Muses Club and the other guest artists.

He said he had been very fortunate to earn a living from doing what he loves. From his home near Sydney, he travels 10 weeks a year for international performances. He has been many times to Russia, places in Eastern Europe and Thailand over the past 10 years. It seems he was destined for a life in music. Mark’s father is an accomplished jazz guitarist and songwriter who had one of his songs recorded and released by Petula Clark and his mother had been trained as a classical pianist and is a fine jazz vocalist. One uncle was the legendary British jazz guitarist Ike Isaacs, who was on friendly terms with many of the biggest names in jazz. Duke Ellington came for dinner one time and there were visits from George Benson, Joe Pass, Wes Montgomery, Barney Kessel and many others. As Mark grew older he would have informal jams with some of the famous musicians who would visit the Isaacs household. He proudly told us he also considers his 18 year-old daughter to be a talented musician.

Mark is a very friendly, immediately likeable man. I learned that we have something in common I’m a Queensland girl and he is married to one. He winked knowingly to my husband. I asked if he will play weddings, parties, anything....’No!’ But he did offer up that he has been invited by various Australian ambassadors to play at their functions from time to time. His new CD "Visions" (an exploration of eight classic 60s and 70s popular songs in a jazz piano trio setting) will be released on Vorticity Music at the end of November.

We soon realized a half an hour had passed and Mark gave his farewells as he set off to do whatever performers do before the curtain call, while we were served the first of a three-course set meal. We found the wait staff to be very attentive and though they obviously wanted to complete the meal service before the concert, we didn’t feel in the least bit rushed. After all, no performer would wish to compete with clinking cutlery and orders for more bread. The starter wasn’t memorable but we did enjoy our individual choices of main course (rack of lamb and salmon). My husband is a dessert fiend and assures me the bitter chocolate tart was delicious.

I took a brief respite to the ladies room and discovered that the restroom symbols can be a little tricky to decipher after a cocktail or two. The restrooms are located across an outdoor courtyard, which is worth a look as the garden ambience at night is beautiful. In the corner there is a small stage (a mini ampitheatre) with dining tables overlooking from an outdoor terrace. The Nine Muses Club décor lends itself better to evening but it is possible to book private day-time functions.

As to the concert, Denise and Mark had the melodious tones of consummate jazz artists. They had every performer's dream, a full house and the patrons sat mesmerized, very content to listen.

Christine Gibson-Pierce
Australian and New Zealand Association (Indonesia)
Monthly magazine: BERITA (News).

Read full article

Wednesday, November 16, 2005


3 of the 12 piano preludes are written. Update Nov 18: 4 done Update Nov 23: 5 done Update Nov 29: 6 done Update Dec 1: 7 done Update Dec 3: 8 done Update Dec 7: 9 done Dec 10: 10 done Dec 13: 11 done Dec 14: all 12 done

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Solo piano pieces

Despite all the immersion in sonnets below, these solo piano pieces I am writing are not going to be sonnets (though studying the sonnets got me going). As it turns out, I have discovered I am writing my Preludes Book II. (Book I was written 20 years ago). I have completed sketching two of them this week, there will be twelve in all to match the first set (and to follow tradition!).

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Poetry and music

Been reading poetry this weekend, in particular sonnets, as a way to launch beginning to compose a new set of piano pieces on Monday. For a while I thought I might try to map the the 14-line iambic pentameter sonnet form onto the music itself. Now I'm not so sure.

I love poems that express the ebbing and flowing of our connectedness. The pain of separation, the joy of union.

Two favourite sonnets, both by American poets. Read poems

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,
And last year's leaves are smoke in every lane;
But last year's bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide
There are a hundred places where I fear
To go,—so with his memory they brim
And entering with relief some quiet place
Where never fell his foot or shone his face
I say, "There is no memory of him here!"
And so stand stricken, so remembering him!

I carry your heart with me by ee cummings
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Friday, November 04, 2005

New composing and recording project

On Monday I will begin a new composing project. It will be a set of solo piano pieces, to run about 50 minutes. These will be through-composed as per classical music, no improvisation. I plan to record them myself eventually but they could also be played by classical players. I am visualizing the pieces as very lyrical, like poems, blending classical and modern jazz lyricism. I will be reading poetry during this period, and individual pieces may be inspired by particular poems. I was funded to compose this music by the Australia Council.

Also speaking of the Australia Council, I found out about a week ago that I have been awarded a Project Fellowship to contribute to the costs of recording a new CD of my original jazz compositions in the USA. The band will be a collaboration between Australian and American players, the Australian participants being myself and guitarist James Muller. The recording will take place some time in 2006.

The release of my CD Visions has been delayed due to studio availability for final compilation and mastering. To avoid the Christmas/New Year period which we now can't get ahead of, it will be released in February.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

From Wangaratta review in national press

Sydney pianist/composer Mark Isaacs is one of the rare musicians to successfully bridge the classical/jazz genres in composition and performance. Isaacs brought onstage Sydney vocalist Elana Stone -- who later won this year's festival competition -- and with his melodic swinging and perfect underpinning brought her superb jazz feel to supremacy.
THE AUSTRALIAN November 1, 2005