Music For A Cause

These days everyone wants to be a part of some kind of charity, we donate over the phone, via the internet, by entering raffles in shopping centres and dropping coins in tins as we walk past collectors. There are so many worthy causes and it’s great to give to those in need but a lot of the time it’s so impersonal and we don’t know where half the money goes.

If you sponsor a child with World Vision and pay $50 (AU) a month you’d like to think all that money goes directly to the cause, it bothers me that so much is spent on sending brochures and update packages to the donator. It’s great to hear of the progress in the third world country and to know how your money is helping to make changes but there is no reason why it should come on coloured card with stickers and photos. It just goes to show that even when we’re donating we expect to be given something in return and if we don’t they’ll give it to us anyway, somehow making what should be a selfless act into a transaction.

This weekend I was lucky enough to be invited to a cancer benefit that did it right, it was put together by a local organisation, JS Music Studios, to help raise funds for a member of their community who has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Unfortunately the treatment he needs is not covered by medicare or his health fund, and so a group of musicians and close friends organised a benefit to help out.

Tickets were $30, food was provided, games and raffles were arranged while eighteen musicians made up seven acts, took to the stage and brought the atmosphere alive. It was an amazing thing for these people to do not only for the man diagnosed with cancer, who was there to greet people and participate in the evening, but also for all those invited.  There was an amazing sense of celebration, everyone was having a great time and enjoying the live music. There was a very approachable dance floor and the crowd included people from all ages and walks of life. Once the scheduled bands had completed their sets people were encouraged to be involved in an open jam session. Some of the more talented musicians taking to the loudest instruments while people in the audience helped with percussion.

It’s pretty touching to see so many people come together and help someone they care about, all of the money donated went directly to the cancer treatment and in return the people involved were able to spend some quality time amongst talented and passionate musicians. Congratulations to everyone who participated.

Literature vs Traffic

There are a significant number of people in my life that never read books, I’ve often heard them say: why would I read the book when I could watch the movie? I won’t lie, I want to bitch slap them … but I don’t because it’s not the best way to make someone see the value in something.

I love watching movies and there is certainly a place for them, they too are a valuable art form, but I think the pleasure of reading is getting left behind in our rapidly changing world and there are far too many mind-numbing ways for people to entertain themselves.

The thing about reading is that it helps your mind to grow, it actually has to create its own images to go with the words but the great thing about it is that you don’t even notice it happening. It engages your imagination, someone else has given you the story line but you’ve made the movie yourself.  The characters will look exactly right; the way they talk, move and behave will be according to your specifications. As the scenes are running into one and other you’re trying to guess what will happen next, imagining what’s happening in the lives of the characters not involved in that chapter and relating their experiences to your own. While you are completely distracted by all these things you are learning about language and that gives you the tools to communicate with other people and express both feelings and ideas. The importance of language is a whole other subject— we wouldn’t be where we are today without the use of words and if it’s that important to our history and our future we need to ensure its survival.

That’s why I love this art project by Luzinterruptus—a Spanish design group—called Literature vs Traffic. They are known for illuminated installations in public places such as New York, Madrid, Berlin and now Melbourne, Australia. The idea behind the concept: “We want literature to seize the streets and become the conqueror of public spaces, freely offering to those who walk by a space free of traffic which for a few hours of the night will succumb to the modest power of the written word.”

Federation Square has been paved with glowing books, a space that is usually crowded with pollution and noise has been converted into a place of peacefulness and relaxation. The books were donated by the Salvation Army, all of them previously owned and loved, people are encouraged to walk around the display, read the books, take them home or even write in them. It’s a celebration of books and hopefully a reminder that words are what connect us to the world around us—all you have to do is read.