Monday, 19 April 2010

Random thoughts on music

I suppose, after motorcycling, I love music more than anything. All kinds of music, from medieval motets to Rap - it's all music to my ears.
Does it surprise you that I like rap? Why? Because I'm 'old'? Why does music, and indeed, the people who listen to it, have to be pigeonholed.
To me, music always has something to say. Maybe just to the composer, but more often than not, it will strike a chord with listeners. It may remind you of some place (Bax-Tintagel), some event(Crazy Cavan - The Ace Cafe Brighton Run), or somebody (Beach Boys - Tears In The Morning). It might just be an echo of how you are feeling at that moment (Eminem - The Way I Am). But music is a form of expression that is unrivalled in the world, and immediately accessible regardless of nationality or culture.
I have a collection of something over 2,000 CDs. These range from classical to rap, and include music from all over the world - from African drum beats to Buddhist chanting.
I have no time for those people who turn their noses up at what you are currently listening to. When I was at school, there was a young lass whose father was a music teacher, and he forbade her to listen to anything other than 'highbrow' classical music. To my mind, he was denying her a part of her education. I absolutely horrified him when I told him, yes, I did like classical music, but I didn't particularly like Beethoven or Schubert! Not even the knowledge that I absolutely adore Mozart appeased him.
Similarly, I hate those people who consider themselves audiophiles. A few months ago, I was in the position of finally being able to replace my ageing Technics HiFi, and with my natural thoroughness, I did a lot of research into what I wanted to replace it with.
I wanted something that would handle my extreme range of music well, and which had a warmth and depth of tone that most Japanese HiFi systems don't give you, but English ones do.
Going the rounds of the Sound specialists in Kent was quite entertaining. "Oh well, madam, this is the best you can buy. The setup is £24,000, the speakers are an extra £13,000" Yes, yes, that's all very well, but does it sound the way I want my music to sound. Actually, no, it didn't.
My hearing is not as good as it was - mostly, I suspect down to years of riding bikes without hearing protection. All I want is something that sounds good to ME - not you, or the so-called expert in this, that, or the other magazine, ME. Geddit?
Eventually, I found a nice young man called Sam, who listened to what I was trying to explain to him, grasped it, and set up 4 systems of varying prices and capabilities, letting me play a selection of my own CDs on each. I ended up buying the second cheapest (although not exactly cheap) because to my untrained ears, it sounded right.
I wish more salesmen listened to their customers, instead of constantly trying to push what they are currently earning the highest commission on.
However, I digress.
I've always loved music. Again, it was encouraged in me by my mother. She played the piano. Sadly, my parents couldn't afford for me to have music lessons.
We lived out in the country and didn't get electricity till after I'd started school. When we did, my dad bought a big old Bakelite mains radio, and my mum and I would spend every evening listening to plays and music. I developed a love of sound, because, unlike TV, which I find oppressive by being all-consuming, just using your hearing, left your hands and eyes free to do other stuff, and your mind free to wander and imagine whatever the particular piece of music sparked in your mind.
Eventually, Dad bought me a battery-powered record player for my birthday, and all my relatives gave me money, so I had enough to buy 2 LPs. The first one I bought was Elgar/Enigma Variations coupled with Vaughan-Williams/Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis, conducted by Sargent.
The second one? Buddy Holly - Reminiscing of course! Thus started my ever-growing collection of diversity. In fact, I'm sitting here at work typing this with my iPod on. The Animals, followed by Jay-Z, followed by Andrea Boccelli, followed by......................
It soon became not enough for me to listen to the radio. I had to 'own' the music. I loved the feel of actually holding a record in my hands, of being able to read the sleeve notes and learn about the artist or composer. Although I have downloaded some music, I still prefer, even now, to go and buy the physical recording. To me, the possession of music is as important as the possession of books. They sum up who and what you are.

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