Monday 14 February 2011

A Confessional Blog. What I Think About Music. for my website for the Jesus on the Tube website, a very well known image for the A Graceful Death exhibition, paintings from the end of life

 Confession.  Music Is A Bit Too Much For Me.

This is a confessional bog.  I expect that how I feel about Music is OK and Normal though probably a bit Odd. 

Music.  A wonderful thing, a language that needs no words, a way to reach the soul.  How can it be that we humans can manipulate sound so splendidly so as to create Music?  People go potty about music.  There are different kinds of music, like pebbles on the seashore, or snow flakes, each one is unique and magical.  Some music is of course, ghastly, and that is a matter of personal opinion.  This business of finding comradeship, understanding and harmony within a music is truly a wonder.  Singing together brings people together.  And we really bond with those who share the same tastes in music as us.  We are astonished at how clever and sophisticated they are.

All cultures have music.  All peoples sing and have rhythm.  All nations dance.  Music is an indicator of how appropriate you are in a certain group.  If you like opera and you go on an outing with Hell's Angels you are going to find the going a bit tough.  If you are a shy Bob Dylan fan with two left feet and dandruff, you are going to be able to pass a reasonable hour or two with a gloriously extrovert chief executive who speaks four languages and wears Saville Row and adores Bob Dylan above all others.  

I don't really like to listen to music.

I get scared of music.  I need to prepare myself to deal with it.  This is my guilty secret.  I find music very hard to cope with.  I do not dislike music, I have favourite types and artists but I need to be sure of the music I listen to in case it upsets me.  Maybe that is the problem.  I am afraid to listen to music in case it upsets me.  It moves me to feel unsafe and full of emotions that I am unable to control.  I am afraid then, of the power in it to move me beyond what I am comfortable with.  Is this all then?  No, there is more.  Let me think.  

I do not suffer from depression, and I am an optimist.  I am chatty and sociable and like everything to be tickety boo.  I like jolly colours and fun patterns.  I love wit and admire those who can make me laugh, more than words can say.  I love food, light, lovely smells and fresh air. Flowers, fun, happiness and satisfaction. And quite possibly I am afraid of anything that tilts this Doris Day world of mine into a different position.  Moves it, then, from a major to a minor key.  And music can and does do this.  I feel, when a piece of music is played in my hearing by Daughter, or friend, or passer by, as if I have no control over how I will feel and what it will do to me.  I can be uplifted by new music too, and that is fine.  I am so relieved and grateful to it for making me feel OK that it becomes my new favourite, and all is well.   But what if I am listening to some music and I can't turn it off or leave the room?  And it is making me feel strangely maudlin?  My shoulders start to droop, my eyes start to gaze with a sad longing into the middle distance and I sigh.  "What happened to the jolly creature that was talking so elegantly about the price of eggs a minute ago?"  say those to whom I was talking.  "Why, she has become a fey whisp of a Sad Thing.  Let us abandon her and find another to entertain us."  And I watch them go, sunk into a reverie that cannot break until someone takes the music off and puts on the Jolly Boys singing a Calypso. 

It is well known amongst my family and friends and anyone that comes into my kitchen, that I love reggae.  An upbeat beat, so to speak, where any sorrowful words wouldn't get to me at all amidst the fun rhythms.  At most, I would feel a bit sympathetic, but no more.  And the music in reggae doesn't make me feel suddenly awash with unfamiliar feelings of wistfulness, gloom, longing, the pain of the human condition and so on.  

I have favourites that I can listen to - if I want to and the point is, I most often don't  want to;  I have favourites to sing along to, dance to, and feel safe with.  Funnily enough, Verdi's Requiem and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana are two of them.  Fancy finding them a bit of a sing along.  And I adore Jussi Bjeorling but never listen to his tapes I have somewhere in the house.  I like African music possibly because it can't make me sad, and I like the theme tune to The Third Man.  All these and more are safe for me.  I know them, there are no surprises.  New music unnerves me.  I don't know what to do with it, I am going into unfamilar territory and I am not prepared. 

So what I do listen to is the Human Voice speaking on Radio 4, or Silence.  I like Silence.  I can fill the silence with all the thoughts in my head, and it feels like Relief.  Today I sat in my studio, the window open and the sun shining and found that I was listening to the birds singing.  It was lovely.  I felt very wise and elderly and felt an affinity with all those old folks I used to think were so stuuu-pid for being so predictable and liking boring little birdies singing.  Yawn.  But today I was one of those old folk, and it felt good.  At last, time had passed and I was on my way to being elderly and liking the birdies singing in the garden and I think now those youngsters who don't like listening to birdies singing in the garden are stuuu-pid themselves.

So, to sumarise.  I do like music, but I am not very interested in it.  I like the pieces I already know, because I am a scardey cat and don't like feeling vulerable with new stuff that may and mostly does, make me feel too emotional to continue.  I listen to new stuff when I have nothing to worry about, and I am strong and it won't bite me.  I prefer, as I have confessed, silence or the spoken word on Radio 4. 

Finally, I am surrounded by family who are consumed by music.  I watch and listen to them and marvel.  My daughter thinks by sitting at the piano and just playing.  Beautifully, and for hours.  One of my sons, like all youngsters, can't live without his ipod and the other is able to teach himself all manner of pieces by ear from You Tube tutorial videos.  My brothers are musical, my nephews and niece play endlessly, and me - I used to play the piano but stopped.  It petered out.  The passion they seem to have, the pleasure and inspiration they get, from music is truly wonderful.  I think I get that level of passion from the visual world, from colour, painting, and shape.  Maybe I can only do one passionate art form, and have no space for others.  I know many artists, many writers, I know poets and thinkers - but I don't know any musicians.  How amazing.

Perhaps I will end by saying that I love music, but I am not so interested in it.  By choice, I would not pass the time with it.  But when I do hear music I like I am thrilled, and then want to turn it off.  But colour - wow.  Rembrandt - double wow.  Canaletto, Degas, Renaissance paintings, all those give me a constant thrill.  Gosh.  Though I did find a passionate love for the Jolly Boys and went up to see them sing.  And I would love to set my A Graceful Death exhibition to Verdi's Requiem. 

And funilly enough, I have inspired a love of reggae in my children.  Amazing.  Shhhh.  Silence now.

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