I have, as I think I have mentioned before, a rather musical nature. There is almost always a tune running through my head or being whistled slightly off-key. I’ve never been in any ways a virtuosic individual – in performance terms I’m generally sub-standard – but I am, I think, a great enjoyer of music*. It’s part of how I think, part of how I understand the world. Part of my humanness.
Saying all that, my listening life can go through real phases. There was at least five years between me buying anything other than bad Christian worship music at one point (the ‘bad’ there being somewhat redundant). I went from the Stereophonics’ ‘Just Enough Education to Perform’ to Brandi Carlile’s ‘The Story’ with nothing purchased in between. I still osmotically absorbed new music, still whistled tunes to annoy housemates and co-workers. I just didn’t do much to actively listen or enjoy.
That, I think, is/was a real shame.
As with many areas of my life, l’Abri was a bit of a turning point. Living in close proximity with so many people with a real passion for new music was bound to have an affect. Hearing Steven and Wesley play songs I’d never heard before… Julia sharing her record collection… Anna’s wonderful mix-tape gifts… I didn’t (and still don’t) get the Hipster obsession for the latest cool new band, but I did gain a whole lot of new listening material. Material I am still ploughing through, mining for auditory gems on a regular basis.
I can only really describe it like a reawakening. I’ve bought more CD’s in the last two years than in the… well, I’ve bought quite a few, anyway. And it would have been far more if it were not for the wonders of Spotify.
Which brings me round to the purpose of this post. Rather than generalise or reminisce, I wanted to share some specific (re)discoveries from the last week.
The wonderful thing about Spotify is that, if you can put up with the adverts, you suddenly have access to all the tunes that disparately fly through your consciousness. I wake up humming some random song, and then suddenly it’s up on the stereo (well, the laptop). Or, as in the last few days, it’s exploring a piece or band that you dimly remember but haven’t listened to in years. And that is a real joy.
Delights this week have been varied. I have loved diving into the early work of Ben Folds (‘Ben Folds Five’ and ‘Whatever and Ever, Amen’). Oh how I wish I could play piano like that! There just aren’t enough bands with that kind of energy…
Another wonderful blast from the past was Gomez’ first album ‘Bring It On. I remember hearing it on the radio, years ago, but it was fantastic to discover a tight, creative bit of musical expression, with every track a worthwhile little gem, all holding together perfectly. And all that from finding myself humming a single refrain from a track I can’t have heard in nearly ten years!
Even better, especially when you’re trying to battle dull application forms, is some sublime classical music. Preisner’s ‘Requiem for my Friend’ is even better than I had hoped. Julia introduced me to this nearly two years ago, but it was such a joy to find that the whole requiem met the (very) high standard set by the Lacrimosa she played me in a field in Greatham.
Recommending the Preisner to a friend got me an introduction to Karl Jenkins. Now, this was completely new to me, but I have to say I enjoyed ‘The Armed Man’ a lot. It’s going to bear repeated listening, methinks.
Jenkins’ requiem was a bit more disappointing. There are some wonderfully creative ideas in there, but I’m not sure that his juxtaposition of traditional Latin Mass with Japanese religious music/poetry really works. While he unites the themes at the end, they just jar too much on the way through…
The other musical rediscovery this week has been on my iPod.
I’ve been getting a little tired of my music collection recently. I love the music I have on there, but it just seems like I’ve listened to it all too often. (Anyone have a recommendation for new music podcasts?) So, yesterday, frustrated by being in a house with no internet access (and hence no Spotify) I tried something a friend suggested several years ago. I started listening to the contents of my iPod in alphabetical order.
The surprise has been how well everything has hung together. You would have thought that, at some point, glaring clashes would occur, but that hasn’t really happened. Admittedly I am only in the B’s right now (U2’s ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’, track 110 of 1169). There have been a few bad transitions (unsurprisingly Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ doesn’t like being played as individual tracks) and I’m sure I’ll have to skip through the odd l’Abri lecture or episode of Theme Time Radio Hour as the list goes on. But, largely, the transitions have been smooth and the different styles of music have set well together.
I don’t know what all this says about my musical taste. Classic Brit rock, Brit Pop and American Indie obviously go together too well. But the combinations have been fun (so far) – rediscovering new tracks and strange partnerships. Paul Simon’s ‘The Boy in the Bubble’ actually transitions into Stars of Aviation’s ‘The Boy Who Held His Breath Too Long’ rather well, even though you’d have never consciously put them in the same playlist.
There have been odd discoveries, of course. I have quite a few repeated tracks: two versions of ‘Bullet The Blue Sky’ and three of Midlake’s ‘Balloon Maker’ (Why do I have three versions of ‘Balloon Maker’??). And maybe the very gelling of the tracks is actually an indictment of my iPod. With little Hip-Hop, no Showtunes, too little World Music (baring a Manu Chao album) and only a small amount of Classical now on there, perhaps my tastes are just too samey?
Or maybe it’s just time that some people sent me some more mix-tapes… 😉
* This is actually a recent revelation. When discussing with a good friend in America what on earth I was good at, she mentioned my relationship to music. She said she had never seen anyone listen to, or enjoy, music quite like me. I took that as a compliment.