Peter Kaukiainen (@oneharpiainen) had a serious dilemma. After high school, he auditioned on the oboe for a music conservatory in Queensland, Australia. Glowing praise followed, along with an impossible edict: He had to pick just one other instrument to study. But when you hold the unofficial world record for most instruments played by one person, choosing just two is like choosing a favorite child.
“I just couldn’t cut down!” says the now 40-year-old teacher and music therapist, who gives new meaning to the term “multi-instrumentalist.” “So I went out to the world myself and learned as much as I could.”
No kidding. To date, he estimates he can play between 350 to 500 instruments. Yet for such a lengthy resumé, Peter wasn’t a young prodigy. In fact, he didn’t play any instruments until he was 13, but his fate was sealed early: his grandparents played 50 instruments between the two of them, and his great-uncle was country singer and guitarist Slim Dusty, one of the most successful musicians in Australia, with over 100 albums to his name.
Once Peter began to play, he did it stealthily. Each Friday, he’d select a different instrument from his school’s music room — French horn one week, bassoon the next — and return it Monday having learned how to play in his backyard, a massive, 1,000-acre (405-hectare) playground bordering the state forest in Queensland. Animals were his audience.
“I started noticing they were responding. I’d play notes and they’d sing back, so I started trying different notes,” he says. “That’s where I realized nature talks to you as well. So ever since I’ve had this wonderful relationship, especially with birds. Birds will come sit on the fence and sing to me while I’m playing.”
His friends aren’t just feathered. Whether Peter is tickling a glockenspiel or sawing delicate strains on a violin in the videos he posts, kangaroos cock their heads and kitties curl up to sleep. Humans are drawn to them as well, so much so that strangers who stumbled upon his homemade blend of music and nature therapy began reaching out to thank him.
“People started writing to me that the music I was doing was helping them with anxiety. Especially people who live in the city,” he says. “The Celtic harp is probably the instrument I use most in music therapy. Dementia patients and kids with very high autism respond beautifully to harp music, the sympathetic resonance of the harp. It can help people relax.”
He should know. After all, he began filming the videos as a self-help method. “I was grieving for my sister, who died suddenly, and I didn’t play for weeks,” he says. “So I started doing 15-second videos just as a way to get back into playing.”
Once he posted them, responses poured in from around the world.
“Helping other people heal helped me heal,” he says. “It’s amazing how you can access someone’s emotions whether they speak your language or not. It sounds a bit of a cliché, ‘the universal language of music,’ but it doesn’t mean it’s not real. Music makes you feel like you belong to something.”
—Rebecca Haithcoat Instagram @music
To experience more bold winter scenes from Moscow, follow @hobopeeba on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in Russian.)
For Russian photographer Kristina Makeeva (@hobopeeba), Orthodox Christmas, celebrated on January 7, offers an opportunity for reflection. “This holiday is another reason to look back to my country’s history which is inextricably entwined with the Orthodox faith,” Kristina says. Instead of heading to church, Kristina prefers to stroll through iconic sites like Moscow’s Red Square, capturing deeply saturated, dramatic photos of sparkling winter nights.
To see more of Jane and Thayer’s work, check out @inkdwell on Instagram.
San Franciscan Jane Kim (@inkdwell) was a scientific illustration intern at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology when the director approached her with a dream project: hand-painting a 40-foot (12.2-meter) by 70-foot (21.3-meter) mural showcasing all families of modern birds. “He asked if this is something I would be interested in doing,” Jane says. “That was four years ago.” Over 16 months on-site, Jane painted one member of each of the world’s 243 modern bird families to scale, treating them with individual care and attention. “I developed a relationship with each bird as I did it; that was very beautiful,” Jane says. Now, the wall is complete, and Jane and her Ink Dwell studio co-founder and husband, Thayer Walker, have embarked on a three-week road trip back to California to decompress, post-mural. “Life sort of stood still while I was creating this really epic project,” says Jane. “It will be a great way to unwind.”
Drew Forde (@thatviolakid) wanted to be nervous. He needed to feel the pressure — to have a large audience paying close attention to him, listening to and scrutinizing every note he played on his viola, the instrument he had been mastering for the last decade. By getting it out of the way now, he would be tremble-free for his upcoming audition at Juilliard in New York City.
So he began posting videos of himself playing little previews of what people would hear if they came to his senior recital at Georgia’s Mercer University. When the clips proved popular, he gave the series a name: #JourneyToJuilliard.
“People were like, ‘Wow, this guy’s going for it,’” remembers Drew, reflecting on the feedback he received from other musicians, friends and the growing number of younger students who began to find him online. “It wasn’t until after I auditioned that I realized, ‘Oh shoot, what if I don’t get in?’”
Drew didn’t have to worry about that. Thanks to his hard work — and getting all those nerves out of the way — he was accepted into Juilliard for the fall 2014 semester. By then, the videos he was posting were actively improving his viola skills, and giving users a glimpse into the hallowed musical institution.
“When I record and I’m getting ready to post something, I listen to it,” he says. “If I’m not happy with it, I’m not posting it. Most of the time, the first take, I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I can’t post that.’ So it informs me on how I need to make it better.”
In his own way, the 24-year-old has become a teacher even before graduating from his own master’s program (that comes this spring), responding to followers who ask for music tips. Ironically, the school he has worked so hard to promote doesn’t much like his social media presence –– or his efforts to transmit his lessons to the Internet.
“They do not want you posting videos or pictures of Juilliard or in Juilliard or anything like that, and I break that rule all the time,” he says. “They’re following me. They called me to the office a few times just to make sure that I’m not going to do anything ridiculous.”
It’s an outdated philosophy, he thinks, especially because he’s determined to demystify Juilliard and classical music in general. With graduation quickly approaching, Drew is thinking hard about how to extend the project and apply its central philosophy to a rewarding career. A science geek growing up , he says he’d like to become the Neil deGrasse Tyson of classical music, helping spread the art to a new generation.
“I want to use classical music as a platform to create other types of music, like jazz and EDM,” he says. “But on top of doing that, I want to create an implicit connection between pop music and classical music and really be a big advocate for why classical music is so important and why it’s still so valuable to mainstream culture. Because a lot of people don’t value it, they don’t listen to it in their free time. And I think it comes from a place of fear. So I try to dispel that fear with love and acceptance and inclusion.”
To see more photos of London’s street scenes, follow @cherkis on Instagram.
“I’m a storyteller,” street photographer Ali Kate Cherkis (@cherkis) explains. “I like to look for the links and show them — the little knacks and quirks that connect us as humans.” Moving from New York to London to study offered Ali a new stimulus for her work. She looks for scenes on the city’s streets, moving quietly and noticing everything, often asking for permission from subjects after the act. “My friends tell me I look lost or a bit eccentric. It’s really helpful because that’s when people look into my camera,” she says. “They are trying to figure out if I’m taking a photo or just crazy.” Playing off natural light and serendipitous moments, Ali’s work is tied to people and their subtle emotional qualities. “It’s sort of mundane daily things I see,” she says. “It makes the world a little more manageable and feel smaller for a second.”
It’s New Year’s Eve in Tokyo and SEKAI NO OWARI is onstage at club EARTH, holding drum mallets, ready to bust open a giant barrel of sake. The four-piece outfit may be one of the biggest acts in Japan, but its current location is very much a throwback to the days of smaller shows and smaller crowds.
Some context for the uninitiated: The members themselves actually own the venue they’re presently in. Located in a residential area out near Haneda Airport, it’s really the last place you’d find a club in this city. Not that that ever mattered to Nakajin (@nakajin_sno), Fukase (@fukase_sekainoowari), Saori (@saori_sekainoowari) and DJ LOVE (@dj_love0823 — he’s the guy in the freaky clown mask). All they wanted was a creative space where they could play music for a small group of friends and build the foundations of what would grow to be the successful electro-pop-rock concoction that is SEKAI NO OWARI. As lead singer Fukase says, this is “a band that started a live music bar before they even started a band, a band without a drummer or a bassist, a band that does things all out of order.”
Though they’ve been placed snuggly into the snappy J-pop genre, like many groups, SEKAI NO OWARI prefers not to be thrown into any particular box, and shows its diversity through songs like “Mr. Heartache,” a dreamy, jangly vocoder tune, and “ANTI-HERO,” which features elements of jazz, soul, rock and classical.
“Fukase, Saori and I make all the songs,” Nakajin, the band’s leader, tells @music. “There really isn’t a set process on how the songs are made and it varies song by song, but there is this shared feeling that can’t be described in words — a feeling that only childhood friends can understand.”
The group often cites those childhood roots as a building block. Adds Fukase, “There are no grudges in this crew and no one tries to stand out more than the others. All four of us are equal beings.” While the shared history can help ease growing pains, it doesn’t necessarily release the pressure, particularly for Nakajin. “It’s tough to make these guys happy,” he says. “I get nervous when I send them my edits. The challenging part about my job is bringing the songs to the level that meets my own satisfaction. I always push myself to do better than before, and it’s so hard to exceed myself.”
The admiration each member has for each other helps ease the burden. It also comes in handy when you’re on the road with the same people for most of the year. The bandmates spent the better part of 2015 playing their music all over the world, as they looked to expand their fanbase outside their native Japan. One of their main targets: America. That would explain the addition of English songs to their repertoire — though putting them out into the world was easier said than done.
“English pronunciation was the most difficult and most obvious challenge,” says Fukase. “We thought it’d be impossible.”
But it’s all about new beginnings, isn’t it? That’s one of the reasons the band is called SEKAI NO OWARI, which translates to “End of the World.” While that name may sound negative, it’s supposed to represent a clean slate — a time and place to start from scratch. As Fukase says about the band’s foray into other parts of the English-speaking world, “We’ve spent quite a long time ‘raising’ our English songs. I think it’s about time they leave their parents.”
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags. For a chance to be featured, follow @instagram and look for a post every week announcing the latest project.
#WHPresolutions2016 asked community members to share creative photos and videos representing their New Year’s resolutions. Each week, we feature some of our favorite submissions from the project, but be sure to check out the rest here.
To see more of Eric’s playful portraits, check out @zericiphone on Instagram.
(This interview was conducted in French.)
“This picture is a statement. It says: I have the right to be French and I am proud of my culture,” Parisian banker Eric Hoube (@zericiphone) explains. He alters photographs of famous French portraits with an unusual layer: everyday objects found in the junk drawer, food pantry or medicine cabinet. “I like to confront these totally unrelated elements,” Eric says. “On one hand, we have artistic masterpieces. And on the other hand, we have objects which are part of our childhood memories, another kind of history.” His odd and playful alterations using Carambar candies, Lego bricks and Michoko caramels help Eric tell his own version of French history.
No landscape in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth is more vividly described than the green and peaceful hamlet of Hobbiton. On farmland on the North Island of New Zealand, a picturesque, pint-sized tourist attraction originally built by the team who brought The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies to life, is a fantasy come true for fans.
Stephen Poon’s (@an_amaze_ing_view) playful, spherical photos of the beloved village manage to capture part of Hobbiton’s magic: “The picture with the round, yellow door in Hobbiton almost looks like a photo of a little planet,” Stephen, who currently lives in Qatar, says. “But Hobbiton is like that. It’s another world, just built at a smaller scale than ours.”
Iva Chavez (@eevz) knew she had a gift. When she was about 7 or 8, she began drawing members of the Ninja Turtles and the New Kids on the Block — not just childlike doodles, mind you, but faithful re-creations. Her mother immediately took notice.
“I didn’t trace it, I copied it from eye,” recalls Iva, now 32. “And my mom was pretty blown away by how exact it looked.”
Iva would draw throughout high school, then eventually change gears to become a graphic designer. Years later, she had an epiphany: Why have a talent if you’re not going to use it? Though she hadn’t drawn in about a decade, she somehow managed to pick up right where she started, while also taking a new direction: tattooing.
“I practiced on myself first, before I tattooed anybody else. But it was just mainly small scriptures and little symbols,” she says. “I did not want to even attempt a portrait. You know, you can’t make one mistake while doing a portrait. Like one little line that’s a millimeter off or a little bit of shading that’s slightly too dark and you might ruin the whole [thing]. It takes time to build the confidence to even attempt one.”
Once she gained that confidence, she never looked back. She’s now been a full-time tattoo artist for three-and-half years, specializing in portraits of rappers. Iva, who grew up in Australia, has always been an enormous hip-hop fan, and has transferred that love through ink, with tattoos of everyone from Tupac to Eazy-E.
“I’ve always been interested in drawing hip-hop,” she says. “I grew up on it.”
Around the Community
To see more of Allan’s animal selfies, follow @daxon on Instagram.
It all started with one baby camel. Three years later, globe-trotting adventure photographer Allan Dixon (@daxon) continues to take selfies with wildlife, sometimes relaxing with them for hours before a photo is taken. “Patience is key in getting so close,” Allan explains. “I think they can sense how I feel and know I have no desire to harm them.” Allan grew up in Ireland and is currently traveling in Australia where his favorite animal, the quokka, lives. “It’s hard to believe that an animal the size of a rabbit, with the body of a kangaroo and a face of a bear exists in real life,” Allan says. “They have a permanent smile across their face and are very curious when you come say hi.”
How do you transition from punk rock to folk music? For Barry Rust (@great.plains.handmade), who builds custom instruments from found objects, it all began in an unremarkable town in central Illinois. “I was in high school and I started listening to punk music from the ‘70s where they were kids who just got a guitar, didn’t really know how to play, but banged out some songs,” he says. “I love that idea, that you don’t have to enter in some sort of course of study before you are allowed to enjoy playing music or being creative.”
Combine that with a childhood surrounded by tools on his family’s farm and, as Barry puts it, growing up “around this potential in everything,” and you’ll end up with Barry’s current gig: transforming old cookie tins, cigar boxes and other objects into handmade banjos, ukuleles and fiddles.
Working out of a studio in Brooklyn, Barry can spend up to 20 hours making a coffee tin into a ukulele — and while the result is certain to be beautiful, he never knows if he’ll totally pull it off. “That first strum is pretty magical,” he says. “It’s hard to know before that if it’s really going to work.”
In the handmade instruments business, Barry balances practical considerations — a box made out of cedar will resonate well, a metal tin will produce a quirky twang — with aesthetic ones. At thrift and antique stores, he finds inspiration from objects that tell their own stories. “The best boxes are the ones that have writing all over them,” he says. “It makes you think about who was it that owned this box, and what they were storing in there.” With a little help from the Internet, Barry was even able to revisit his own childhood. “There was a candy factory that I remember touring when I was in elementary school,” he says. “It was eventually bought by Nestlé and then closed down a few years ago. But I found somebody online who was selling really old tins of those candies from when I grew up. So that was an amazing personal find for me.”
Above all, it’s the connection to real life and real music that keeps Barry motivated. “Folk music — there’s not a lot of artifice around it … you pick up some instruments, and you sit around in a circle and you play.” See? A lot like punk.
To see more yoga poses and scenes from Jerusalem, follow @talia_sutra on Instagram.
As a new year kicks off, yoga teacher Talia Peretz (@talia_sutra) has a reminder for everyone: Be open to change. Six months ago the 27-year-old was trying to get to New York City, her home of nearly 17 years, from Paris, but her flight was canceled. Instead of waiting 28 hours for the next one, she switched course, and took off for her native Israel. Once there, she met a stranger on the street — a man who became her fiancé and inspired Talia to move to Nachlaot, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Jerusalem. “It might be obvious, but I feel at awe at being here,” she says. “Less obviously, I have never felt more safe.”
To welcome transformative experiences in 2016, here’s Talia’s advice: “Sit down and cross your ankles on the floor, focusing on your breath and watching your thoughts. If that’s too comfortable, try it on your head.”
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post every week announcing the latest project.
The goal this weekend is to take creative photos and videos that represent your resolutions for the new year.
Last year, we featured this photo by Benjamin Mitchell (@animalparaid) for #WHPresolutions2015. Benjamin’s submission, a conceptual self-portrait, symbolized the types of surreal photography he wanted to explore in 2015. His resolution for 2016? “Take more risks,” he says, adding this advice: “Create work for yourself. Create work for something you believe in. That’s what makes you stand out.”
Think about how to translate your resolution to a visual — whether straightforward or abstract, a photo or video — and be sure to write about the resolution in your caption.
PROJECT RULES: Please add the #WHPresolutions2016 hashtag only to photos and videos taken over this weekend and only submit your own visuals to the project. Any tagged photo or video taken over the weekend is eligible to be featured next week.
Monthly Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @music on Instagram.
With the new year comes a new hashtag project. This month, we want you to make your own album cover. You can re-create a famous one, like the Abbey Road-inspired picture above, or design a new one from scratch. We’ll be featuring our favorite submissions on @music.
A few quick tips to help you get started:
PROJECT RULES: Please add the #MHPalbumcover hashtag only to photos taken this month and only submit your own. Any tagged visual taken this month is eligible to be featured.
To see more of Stian’s photos of the aurora, follow @stianmklo on Instagram.
Norwegian photographer Stian Klo (@stianmklo) does not need to leave his living room to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. Capturing them, however, is a little more complex. “It’s a lot of trial and error and taking chances,” says Stian. Once the right conditions are in place — a solar storm paired with clear skies — Stian goes out in search of his ideal setting. “I compose my shots as regular landscape shots, and the aurora is just the icing on the cake,” he says.
Stian also welcomes the challenge of taking photos when a landscape is transformed by ice and snow. “It forces the photographer to work the scene,” he explains. “The compositions are less obvious, and you really have to push boundaries.”
To see Ryan continue to up his selfie game, among other things, follow @ryanseacrest.
Little known fact courtesy of Ryan Seacrest (@ryanseacrest): The only way to get to the ball that drops 70 feet (21 meters) on New Year’s Eve is by finding a secret elevator in a drugstore, and then hiking up half a dozen flights of stairs to the roof, 25 stories above Times Square, New York. “Visiting it is always one of my favorite parts of being in NYC for New Year’s Eve, there’s really no experience like it,” says Ryan, who is in from Los Angeles, taking his place as host of Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve for the 11th year running. “In person [the ball] is smaller than you’d expect given how large it looks from the street and on TV, but it’ll still dwarf you when you’re standing next to it. The detail in each crystal panel is unbelievable.”
It’s a small group that gets to join Ryan with the ball. This year, Taylor Swift, who is debuting a highly anticipated new video, will be there — and hopefully she won’t be as cold as she was last time around. Ryan remembers Taylor on stage in a sequin dress, shivering, a few minutes before the countdown. “As anyone would do, I started to give her my overcoat, forgetting I had a labyrinth of audio cables taped down inside and enough body warmers to stock a ski shop. Needless to say, it didn’t turn out to be the smooth gesture I had envisioned in my mind, but eventually we got it done — just in time,” he says.
Snafus with giant stars aside, Ryan says he has “this New Year’s thing” down. His selfie game, on the other hand, is where he sees room for improvement. “I’m always a step away from dislocating my arm trying to find that Kylie [Jenner] angle,” he jokes, and points out that his feed reflects a “nonstop work life.” (At 41, the man hosts a radio show and a bevy of TV shows, is an executive producer of even more TV shows and is gearing up to be a host at the summer Olympics in Rio. And, last year he launched a clothing line.) “Most of my selfies are the result of a floating 15- or 30-second pause during a commercial break or backstage at a concert where I can take the moment to share what fans may not be seeing on their TV or through their radio,” he says.
Tomorrow, Ryan will take a breath though. “Whatever you would call a combination of actively sleeping and eating. Sleating? That’s what I’ll be doing on January 1, 2016, and I bet I won’t be alone.”
Join Instagram’s New Year’s Eve celebration by watching people welcome 2016 around the world. Show us your videos with #IGNewYear2016.
Weekend Hashtag Project is a series featuring designated themes and hashtags chosen by Instagram’s Community Team. For a chance to be featured on the Instagram blog, follow @instagram and look for a post every week announcing the latest project.
In this sweet photo, it’s Matt’s 90-year-old grandfather who clutches his great-grandson’s toy. “While we were setting up our picnic blanket and getting sorted, I asked my granddad if he’d hold on to the crocodile. With a chuckle, he gripped the inflatable raft, and there it was,” says Matt, who took this photo on a Kent, England, beach. “While he isn’t so mobile anymore, he never wants to miss out on the fun.”