Apply. Rinse. Repeat.

You’re born. You grow up. You go to kindergarten. Then school. Then high school. Then, depending on whether you take gap years (and how many), you eventually go to university. And to be politically correct, as one must be in this fascinating day and age, I don’t mean that everyone follows this pattern. I’m talking specifically about people in my socio-cultural-economic demographic category.

You listen to people supposedly teaching you roughly your entire life from 5 to 25. You think to yourself, maybe they know what the fuck they’re talking about, maybe not… And then, suddenly, you’re thrown into this dark ocean and you’re expected to know how to swim. Just like that. But, now that I’ve gone through education and come out the other end (if that is an agreeable image to use), I can say this: 20 years of education may teach you everything there is to know about swimming, but they don’t teach you how to swim. You gotta learn that all by yourself. Put in practice everything that you’ve been taught, and then teach yourself how to make your path through life. That’s right, buster! DIY time!

While you’re in school, you’re pretty much shielded within a bubble. And you only need to worry about the things inside that bubble, which is a very safe feeling. A schedule is provided, along with a list of academic objectives which you must achieve, and then you spend year after year meeting those objectives. All the other concerns are mainly pimple-related, and whether the girl sitting two desks in front of you liked that poem you wrote for her last week. But, after you graduate, there is no schedule anymore. No list of things to achieve is given to you. You have to come up with everything on your own. It’s a pretty numbing feeling that, no matter how much you anticipate and prepare for, always takes you by surprise.

Left and right, you see angry, stressed out people running around frantically to their next destination. Everyone worrying what everybody thinks of them, and thinking that everyone’s against them. Everyone having a bill they need to pay, children they need to feed, trying to remember happier times when they had dreams they thought they could achieve. Before life whips you into place and into some kind of robotic, dehumanizing routine. Apply. Rinse. Repeat.

Apologies for the bleakness of this post. I am still a romantic at heart, although my cynical alter-ego is seriously developing more and more as I get older. Sometimes I wish I could have stayed 16 years old forever. At that age, I had pretty much all the mental maturity I do now, but without so much of the cynicism that’s built up in the intervening years. So maybe my next objective (now that I am the fresh recipient of a Bachelor of Arts degree) is to get back in touch with my teenage self and to reawaken that feeling of reaching for the stars and dreaming wide awake.

And, in the meantime, find a fucking band to make music with. And then save the world, one song at a time! Does that sound like something you’d like to do when you grow up? 🙂

End Of An Era

Well well well. I have shamefully been absent on here for a long long time. During my hiatus, I have been very busy with the end of my degree at LIPA, most importantly with my showcase. I had great fun, worked with some wonderful people which I am in awe of. Bottom line is that, despite all my constant whining and defeatism over the past 4 years, these 4 years have been the time of my life so far. If I have to draw the line, I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without this wonderful place and these people. I feel bad I didn’t make more friends in this place, because it’s not easy for me to open up to people and I think most of us are this way in this business, so it feels like I didn’t really get to know many of my schoolmates as well as I could have, even though I admire and like the vast majority of them.

To quote my favourite book, “Lord of the Rings”:

“I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”

How true these words ring now. I think I shall have a quote from LOTR at every significant stage in my life. It is the “Godfather” of fantasy stories, with a quote usable for everything in life.

Leave it to me to suddenly turn a post about me finishing LIPA into a post about Lord of the Rings. Typical. The Snoopy within me is currently shaking his head in silent consternation, haha. Oh, and did I mention I’m pretty much done with uni? It’s really hard to comprehend it. Just had my final tutorial today and my teachers made some valid points. I didnt get the grade I was expecting because of my lack of drive and gigging activity this year. Although my voice was great, which was the part I was most worried/concerned about. All this should largely take care of itself when I get back home and on a gigging spree. It’s important in life not to get disheartened by getting a low grade. Or, anyway, a lower grade than the one you were maybe expecting. Especially if you’re like me, and you don’t really care about grades at all. Sometimes, a cold sober shower is just what you need to get you to pull your head out of your own ass and get going. The most important thing I was told today is that I have what it takes to make it in this business, if I could just bring myself to do it. Now I just need to get out there and fucking do it. Not think about doing it. Actually doing it.

I assume I didn’t get to 6600 views on here (and counting) without some of you LIPA peeps reading this, so if you are a LIPA teacher/student/staff member reading this now, I want to let you know how grateful I am that we have met, even if all we exchanged was a furtive glance in the halls. Each and every single one of you has made my life better in many more ways than I could even think of at this moment. Just because I don’t always express my emotions (ever heard of the word “introvert”? Look it up 🙂 ) doesn’t mean I didn’t feel them. I hope the feeling is mutual. I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and would repeat the experience if I could.

I will finish off this post with the first song I sang at LIPA, in February 2007 for the audition that got me in. The message of this song now comes full circle at the end of this most enjoyable era in my life. Cheers, guys!

And The Oscar Goes To

What a treat, to be in a year with so many great films nominated for the Best Picture Academy award. Given that they’ve restored the number of nominations to 10 movies like in the old days, there’s bound to be a few names on that list that you think don’t really stand a chance of winning the golden man. I mean, can you really see “Toy Story 3” grabbing the award? In a year with so many quality contenders?

For me, two movies stand out above the rest. And below are the two scenes which sold those movies to me.

Just unabashed, all-out, passionate moviemaking. The transformation scene from “Black Swan” left me breathless. Being a performer myself, I can completely understand the metaphor of “becoming the character” just before going onstage. And to see Natalie Portman become the role with such grace (echoes of Audrey Hepburn abound) is more than I thought her capable of as an actress. And as for Colin Firth, it was a role just waiting to happen. A wonderful, talented actor who is finally getting the roles he is capable of. I cannot decide between “Black Swan” and “The King’s Speech”. Whichever of these two wins, I will be happy with. Buenas noches 🙂

Fire With Fire

Happy New Year, world! I hope you are all feeling refreshed and ready to attack 2011 with new energy and commitment. According to Chinese astrology, this is the year of the Rabbit, and it’s supposed to bring a period of calm and things coming to fruition. This forecast fits perfectly with the events that will happen in my own life this year. First, and foremost, tomorrow I am returning to Liverpool to start the final lap of LIPA before finishing my degree. Yes, world, this is the year I graduate from university. I will be a legitimate, educated young man ready to become a force of good in the world. 🙂

This year will also mark my return to Romania to live and work there as a musician and actor after 4 years of being a student in Liverpool. I already have some significant professional opportunities lined up for me back home. Being the superstitious guy that I am, of course I cannot tell you about them now, until I know 100% that they are going to happen. I will, however, say that one of them involves setting up my own professional standard recording studio in Bucharest. Happy times!

Back to LIPA, I have finished my Dissertation (which was the thing I feared the most about this year) and now only need to do some minor editing to it before I can turn it in. Having already done two gigs in Bucharest over the winter break, I don’t need to worry too much about finding more gigs in Liverpool in order to meet the minimum gig quota for my degree. However I do intend to do at least one trial gig before my showcase in April. I am also scheduled to perform at an Auction Gala at a very nice hotel in Bucharest in March. It was very touching to receive this invitation from my old school, the American School of Bucharest. I will be performing for some pretty important international people in Bucharest, which should be a great way to introduce myself as a musician back in my cosmopolitan home city.

It’s weird to see that Bucharest is more international than Liverpool these days. Not to mention it’s at least 4 times as big. And there’s even a jazz scene that seems to be starting up.

So, here’s where I’m at, and what I’ll be up to in the first half of 2011. I hope that you all have an equally productive and (hopefully) rewarding year ahead! 🙂

Best Album(s) Of 2010

‘Evenin, everybody! I’m writing this from my chilly Liverpudlian flat. I thought, since the end of the year is rapidly approaching, and since I happen to be a musician – I should let you know what my 5 favourite albums of 2010 are. So, here goes (in no particular order):

1. JOSH GROBAN – “Illuminations”

From the stylish artwork to the quality of the music, this album exudes value. Produced by Rick Rubin to within an inch of perfection, a true “classical crossover” album. Orchestras abound on this album, as well as more traditional pop instruments. Groban is, vocally, in superb form and he is listed as co-writer on the majority of the tracks. A stand-out showcase of quality over commodification in a music industry that’s sadly, exponentially veering towards the latter in this day and age.

2. ELTON JOHN & LEON RUSSELL – “The Union”

Recipient of a rare 5/5 review on RollingStone.com, “The Union” is, arguably, Elton John’s finest album since his mid-70’s heyday. Collaborating with his idol and main inspiration, the legendary Leon Russell, it makes for sparks flying as the two veteran singer/songwriter/pianists bring out nothing but the very best in each other. The songs are superb, with not one filler in a 16 track list. Stellar production by T-Bone Burnett, with both musicians in fine form. Complete with gospel choir backing vocals and a few guest stars such as Neil Young. A front-row nominee for Album of the Year in my book.

3. TAKE THAT – “Progress”

 

 

 

 

This is the sentimental bet for Album of the Year. The biggest boyband of the 90’s is now complete again, after Robbie Williams’ return to the line-up. Arguably the most eagerly awaited band reunion since The Beatles (which never happened), this album is guaranteed to set some sales records this year. Musically, the band takes a new, fresh direction – sounding different to both 90’s Take That, and 00’s Take That sans Robbie. Brisker, noisier sounds and production values are employed, with Robbie taking centre-seat next to Gary Barlow and contributing some nice songs and vocals to what was already a revigorated band. Also, this is the album cover of the year to me!

4. MARIAH CAREY – “Merry Christmas 2 You”

 

 

 

 

Mariah Carey’s other Christmas album, “Merry Christmas” (1993) is the highest-selling holiday album of all time. More than a decade and a half later, the diva serves us another helping of what she does best. Sugary, gospel-tinged music that makes no attempt to apologise for its cheesiness, but rather, elevates cheesiness to an art. On this album, Mariah ditches the quasi-hip-hop influences she has (unfortunately) picked up over the years and goes back to the sound which characterizes her early albums, which to me, are the best work she’s done. Also, she’s back in full voice again, after years of stylized whispers and coos. It’s good to hear Mariah the Belter again! Some future Christmas classics will undoubtedly come out of this album over the next years, in particular her work with Broadway composer Marc Shaiman.

5. HERBIE HANCOCK – “The Imagine Project”

 

 

 

 

After his previous album “River – The Joni Letters” famously became the second jazz album in history to win Album of the Year at the 2008 Grammys (beating Amy Winehouse’s “Back To Black” in an unusual twist) the world was watching in expectation to hear what the legendary jazz pianist will produce as his follow-up. In 2010 he delivered it – an unusual mix of jazz, soul and world music recorded in various locations around the world, with a cornucopia of international musicians ranging from Pink, Seal, John Legend, James Morrison – to Congolese group Konono N°1, Anoushka Shankar and K’naan. The album begins with a beautiful re-interpretation of John Lennon’s “Imagine” and continues on in magnificient form.

Vienna Waits For You

Once upon a time, before I had made up my mind I was gonna do music with my life, before the heart palpitations of opening up envelopes from LIPA to find out whether I’d been accepted or not, I was a psychology student in the most beautiful city in the world, Vienna.

I cannot begin to describe the wonderful memories I have of my brief residence in this city. The superlatives keep on coming. Pure class exuding from every street corner, every little cafe, every majestic building. The former capital of perhaps the most cultured of European empires, the urban equivalent of a Mozart symphony. I was a totally different person then, as I feel a much higher affinity towards Vienna than I do towards Liverpool. The two cities have a totally different energy. While Vienna is like a graceful ballerina, Liverpool is like a hearty sailor. Both cities have added two wildly different facets to my character, which balance each other quite nicely.

I have been to the Vienna Staatsoper a good few times. I remember queueing outside the side-entrance for hours to get standing-room tickets to see the likes of Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko in Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette”. It is also here that I saw the best version of Puccini’s “Tosca” I have ever seen. The opera house is situated right in the middle of Vienna’s historical centre, where every building within your eyesight is a work of art.

However, it’s little cafe’s like the one above that represent the best thing about Vienna, to me. Walking around town aimlessly, then turning a corner only to discover some quaint little Kaffeehaus that looks like it was built just for you. Also, I know many people say Italian coffee is the best, but the best coffee I’ve ever been served has been in Vienna. Also the best ice-cream!

I also had the use of a car in Vienna, my trusty little Mercedes A 180 CDI (which I’ve sold since coming to Liverpool). I miss that little car and the trips I used to make right after classes finished for the day at Webster University Vienna. Traffic is not a problem in Vienna, even at rush hour, the system being so fluidly designed that there are hardly any traffic jams at all. I rememeber driving across the Danube to go home every day. Driving up to the hills to the west of Vienna, to the belvedere at Leopoldsberg overseeing all of Vienna and the Danube. Also, the two impromptu road trips to Bratislava (another great Danubian capital) which is as far away from Vienna as Manchester from Liverpool.

Happy memories indeed. It’s fair to say that, in just under half a year, Vienna left a bigger imprint on my life than Liverpool has in my soon-to-be four years here. However, they are both special places to me, each in their different way. Places make us who we are, don’t they?

Shine

With Christmas fast approaching, I thought I’d give you all a big present and announce that my latest album, “Shine” has been completed and is for the FIRST TIME, available for free download! It is a 14-minutes playlist featuring fresh takes on timeless covers which I absolutely love. Also included are 4 demos of original tracks. The full studio versions of these tracks will probably be released on my upcoming album in June 2011. In the meantime, listen to “Shine” on the link below:

http://soundcloud.com/petru-calinescu/sets/shine-2010

 

The tracklist for the new album is:

1. Why Does It Always Rain On Me?

2. Ain’t That A Kick In The Head?

3. Mr. Tambourine Man

4. Lost

5. Falling

6. Note I Left

7. Straighten Up And Fly Right

8. I’d Wait For Life

9. I’ll Be Coming Home

10. You’re Still You

11. Hallelujah

12. It Was A Very Good Year

13. There’s A Place For You

14. Everytime We Say Goodbye

 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support and for even demanding that my music be available for free download. Also, thanks to Liam Malorey-Vibert for showing me the site I used to post it on. Enjoy!

Love, Petru 🙂

 

MySpace

Hey everyone. Thank you for reading my blog – we are soon going to celebrate a year of my return to the World of Bloggitude, and to celebrate this awesome occasion I have created my very own musician’s Myspace Page. Yes, my days as a guerilla musician armed only with a Facebook page are now over. I’VE SOLD OUT TO THE MAINSTREAM BEAST. Soon, Lord Sauron and our combined armies shall have dominion over all of Middle Earth. La-di-friggin-dah and whatnot.

www.myspace.com/petrucalinescu

By visiting the above link, you will not only have access to my latest tracks, but will also be doing me a great favour as an up-and-coming musician by showing your support. I promise to send whoever adds me as a friend on Myspace by the 1st of January 2011 A SIGNED CD… as soon as I release my first official record, that is! Yes, no harm in being optimistic. You guys will play a big part in this, as the more support I have, the more likely I am to release said album. And the more likely you are to receive said signed copy! Win-win? 🙂

It’s Coming On Christmas

Round about this time of year, malls, shops, office building lobbies and elevators throughout the Christian world begin their Christmas madness. I went to get my haircut yesterday at St. John’s in downtown Liverpool and found myself staring at the loveliest Christmas tree. Carefully decorated, complete with fake snow and neatly wrapped faux-presents underneath. And Mariah Carey’s new Christmas single, “Oh Santa!” was triumphantly blasting out the establishment’s sound system.

At the LIPA bar, usually host to a variety of undentifiable and dubious smells, one can now feel the smell of mulled cider in the air. I guess it would have been too expensive to get us proper mulled red wine, but it’s the thought that counts.

Yes, you might say that round about this time of year, I also start getting into the spirit of Christmas. I think when you’re 5 weeks away from Christmas, its socially acceptable to be listening to Christmas music, right? Haha, what’s wrong with a bit of cheesiness in one’s life, I ask you? We lead fast-paced, unemotional, machine-like lives these days – and it seems that everything’s about how quickly you can get from A to B. So, if only for this month, month-and-a-half of the year, can we not slow down a bit and worry not about how quickly we can get from A to B, but about looking to the left and to the right of the road and observing how beautiful the road is. And it really gets to be very pretty, at least down my way in the beautiful Carpathian Mountains.

If there’s one good thing this recession has taught me, it can easily be expressed with regards to Christmas. It’s not about how many presents you buy, or how pricy they are – but about making it meaningful to the person you’re giving the present to. This Christmas, we won’t be buying trunkloads of expensive gifts. Instead, we might remember things which are more important, like a good old-fashioned hug. The smell of mulled wine in the air. A nice Christmas CD playing softly in the house.

Yes, we’re 5 weeks away from Christmas, I hear the more cynical amongst you say. But I’m going to start getting into the spirit now. Plenty of other boring months during the year!

Nowadays

I wonder sometimes why we can’t be more open with each other? We are capable of such beautiful things and I believe all of us are inherently good people – however when it comes to interacting with each other we always seem to present a lesser version of ourselves. Even when we feel we know somebody, we need to ask ourselves just how well we really know that person. Because we don’t know them really. Not very well. How well do they know us? We raise an instinctive shield to the world to protect our most fragile inner self when, shouldn’t it be the other way around? Instead of hiding from everyone and thinking the world is out to get us, shouldn’t we embrace it with arms wide open?

And we’re all so afraid of ridicule without even realizing it’s not really a contest at all. It’s not a race. We’re not competing against anyone, really. Not even against ourselves. Passengers through a fleeting world, we concentrate so hard on racing to destinations that we forget to focus on the moment, forget to look left and right and just see this beautiful planet we are on which, despite all the horrible things we are doing to it, is still magnificent and worthy of numinous tears and a poem or two.

Maybe growing up really isn’t growing up at all. I still remember how I saw the world as a child, and I realize it was a much more beautiful vision than what I see now. So by that token, growing up is really some sort of “growing down”, of being beaten into shape by this sinister society that values everything but the things that should be valued. Moral fiber, love, beauty, innocence, poetry, virtue, honor, truth – all these concepts are not worth a dime anymore in today’s mature, modern society. Instead we value money, possessions, competition, winning at all costs. We deceive and we cheat and steal and betray – we watch the news and it’s all accidents and horror. Nobody will ever start a news report saying a baby was born. Or a painting was painted. Or that somebody took the time to smile at somebody else.

So, where to from here? Can we only go down, or is there a glimmer of hope?

PS. I have decided to apply a facelift to my blog by trying out a new theme. It might just be a temporary thing or I could stick with it.