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The music March 7, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Bwargh, Durham, Knitting, Lovely people, Really good day.
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This afternoon, I saw Eliza Carthy, amongst others, play live at Elvet Methodist Church in Durham.  It was very strange; in the same way as meeting someone who dyed the yarn that I work with and essentially get to know in a fair bit of detail, seeing someone play music live when you’ve listened to them in your bedroom for years is a very odd thing.  Very surreal.  She has a voice I could write poetry about.

The trouble for me is that the music I’ve liked has never been in vogue at the time that I’ve liked it.  Up until two or three years ago, I didn’t really listen to music much.  I didn’t have much of an interest in it.  I soaked up the obvious bits in the name of culture, and listened to things I liked, although I probably couldn’t tell you why at the time I liked them; they were there.  I liked The Beautiful South, Kirsty MacColl and Sophie Ellis Bextor.  I didn’t actively seek anything out.

My friends, for years, have had a far more developed taste in music than I have.  A lot of them had heard of people I’d never heard of, talked about or listened to or gone to see things I didn’t have the faintest idea about.  For a long time, I didn’t talk to anyone about music, because I automatically knew I wouldn’t know enough about it, and what I did know was in some way a bit shameful.  I liked 90s music when it wasn’t quite the 90s any more, and it hadn’t quite come round again.  I liked Andrew Lloyd Webber when I was twelve.  If I’d looked, I would have found earlier popular music, or I would have found Sondheim, and that would have been interesting.  I didn’t look.

Nowadays, I’ve found what I like, I’ve listened to it, I’ve analysed it and I’ve actively sought out more.  Nowadays I’ve probably heard of people you haven’t.  But music for me is still a very intense, very private thing.  People tend to either think the sort of music I listen to is odd, or know a lot more about it than I do, and for reasons boiling down essentially to my teenage years I’m not really comfortable with either of those.  I now sit on my bed and listen to albums all the way through, the first time I hear them.  I sing to it with my headphones in when nobody else is in the house.  But it’s mine, and it’s not something I share.

Reading High Fidelity in some ways made me very sad indeed.

I can see the irony in this, of course I can.  First of all, I can see the irony of being a music snob of sorts who deliberately seeks out off-the-wall variations on old men with guitars, after having spent a good decade crushing shamefully on Ronan Keating.  Secondly, I can see the irony in taking something that is primarily to be shared – to be played in cafés and pubs and bars, as one very articulate man put it – something that is what it is and has got where it has got because of people making it and listening to it together, I can see the irony of that being very personal.  I laugh at that irony.  I don’t know quite what to do about it.  But the fact is, unless I am suitably drunk (read: very) I don’t dance unchoreographed and I don’t sing in public.  And when someone asks me, so what kind of music do you listen to, I rarely elaborate beyond, ‘Oh, mostly folk these days.’

On another subject: I was sat outside a café with a friend the other day, because it was sunny and we – wrongly – didn’t think it’d be cold yet, and I was knitting a sock.  And a woman came up to me, just out of the blue, and said, ‘Is that the toe of a sock you’re knitting there?’  I grinned from ear to ear, and showed her.  ‘Oh no,’ she said, ‘it’s the cuff of a sock!  Well, it’s gorgeous.  I just thought I’d tell you, because I’m an addict too.’  And then she grinned back, and went into the café.  Even thinking about this now I’m smiling.  Honestly, you should all learn to knit because then you can go up to people and start conversations and they won’t think you’re raving, and people will compliment you on things you’ve done when you’re bored and it’ll buoy you up for days.  I wish we’d had more of a conversation.  I don’t talk to too many people these days who could tell a sock-in-progress from thirty paces, and the ones I do know there’s a high chance I live with them and/or they only know because I showed them.  It’s a bit sad, really.

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1. annadegenhardt - March 7, 2010

If I get the implements for sock-knitting for my birthday, will you sit down with me and very patiently guide me through the process in little baby steps? Because no matter what I knit, I inevitably get tangled or confused, or lose the pattern, the wool or the plot and give up for a few months, before trying to take it up again and try it out.

And if you do that, which would be amazing, is there something I could do for you – in an exchange of favours? That sounds an odd request, but everything in my life feels very self-contained and selfish at the moment and I want to change that.

As for the music – I don’t think it’s ironic at all to find it at its most powerful when it’s private. I have a very dual-sided approach to music now; on the one hand, I love performing. I love playing in a group, whether that’s orchestral or chamber groups, or (very, very occasionally) singing. I love walking out onstage with my viola and sitting down and working together.

But on the (very rare) occasions that I sit down and listen to music, which I ought to do more often, it’s a completely private experience. I dislike listening to music when there are other people around because I become more concerned about their experience of it than my own. The other thing I really, really Hate is when someone comes up all unsolicited and bungs their earphones in my ears and demands that I listen to this or that piece because they think I’ll really like it. And then sit there and watch me listen and try and talk me through the piece. No matter who they are, they are never going to get me to enjoy something unless they first of all leave me alone when I’m listening to it, or second of all (but actually most importantly) just suggest I listen to it. If I’m feeling receptive to that suggestion, or in a listeny mood, I’ll remember their suggestion, and go away and find the damn thing on my own. I object to being coerced into listening. Which makes it sound like what they’re doing is some sort of violent attack; I know it’s never intended like that, but it feels like it…

And the other thing is that I find it really difficult to concentrate in places where there’s music playing but you’re supposed to be having a conversation. I can’t do both at once!

Wow. Le rant, c’est fini…

Cxxx

2. Flix - March 7, 2010

I can’t really do background music unless I’m doing something that doesn’t require much concentration. Like washing up, or getting ready. Most of the time I listen to music for music’s sake.

I am urged to go learn to knit by the odd message of a society I signed up to. I can’t go. I can’t start off being rubbish at something as seen by people who don’t know me. I feel incompetent enough as it is with my day-to-day activities; I couldn’t extend that to hobbies. I guess I don’t have the patience or determination to get better, either. It’s a problem.

Random compliments coming from a stranger without ulterior motive are absolutely wonderful.

3. Jenny - March 9, 2010

It is taking me years to get up the confidence to stand up and say, as far as music is concerned, I like this, and this, and this, without being first given permission to do so by the fact that the people I’m talking to also like those things or things that are similar. So someone can go ‘I love Eliza Carthy’ and I can go, ‘ooh, you like folk – do you like Joan Baez/Shooglenifty/Spiers and Boden’, but it’s bloody new to me to get into conversation with someone and for them to go ‘I like Mainstream Chart-Topping Strumpet’ and me to be able to say, ‘well, I guess, I don’t like her stuff so much but she’s OK. To be honest I’m more into folk/classical/probably-shouldn’t-admit-how-much-I-still-like-Nickelback’.

I can do background music if I’m not concentrating too. Normally though my ‘background’ is radio four, whilst tidying or washing up or whatever, and then when I’m travelling I will *listen* to music.

And that concert was excellent. I need to buy her music, since as yet I haven’t.

What I am terrified of in my music tastes – or indeed my likes and dislikes in anything – is hte extent to which I am hugely influenced by people who, for whatever completely unconnected reason, I have a lot of respect for. Oh, you’re an intelligent, morally upstanding and attractive young man, perhaps I even fancy you, this must mean you have better taste in music/books/films than me. It needn’t. And I am a culture magpie. That said I’ve realised once I gain an interest I don’t put it down. So I may have been a lot more interested in folk this year than previously, and it’s possible that next year I will be a lot more interested than previously in trainspotting/jigsaws/whittling birds out of driftwood/tibetan throat-singing, but that does, to my credit, not mean I won’t still be interested in folk/the cello/knitting/poi.

I will run out of space in my head/life one day.

4. annadegenhardt - March 9, 2010

I really want to hear you try Tibetan Throat-singing…

5. Fiona - March 9, 2010

@Clare, we shall of course sit down with the knitting at some point. You just have to take it a stitch at a time, and you’ll find it no trouble. As for exchange of favours, don’t tempt me. You know what, though? I knit a lot for other people. I love knitting for other people. If I show you how to make socks, make some for yourself because that’s an achievement! and you’ll love them! but please will you make some for me? Nobody ever knits for me.

@Flix, knitting is mostly motor memory really, if I’m honest. Everyone’s slow the first time or two – slow doesn’t equal bad, though. If you concentrate on what you’re doing you’ll be fine straight away. And within an hour or two you’ll start getting the motor memory and get exponentially faster, I promise you. If you do it regularly it gets very easy very quickly. Oh go on…

@Jenny, Shooglenifty=win. Also, I keep running into Stu Hanna in places. He seems to have worked with everyone. He’s also my new favourite, in every incarnation, by which I mean I keep finding he’s got involved in everything I already like. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcpbvlwuZrQ&feature=related


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