Desert Island Disc

Music is food for the soul.

To reveal a list of music that is meaningful to me is like opening up my heart and giving you permission to poke around.

It’s personal. It’s subjective. It’s fluid – it ebbs and flows. My go-to song today won’t be the same tomorrow or a year from now.

Because of all this, this post idea has been in drafts for over a year. I urge you to go visit my friend and fellow blogger, Sinéad who shared some of her own musical loves and inspired me to finally finish this post. Also, her music is much, much cooler.

This though, is me:

I used to listen to Australia’s version of the BBC’s Desert Island Disc and wondered about the music I’d choose if I were on the programme.

Of course, this strange mix of music is but the tip of the metronome (which makes no literal sense, but I’m keeping it).


This is a song that reminds me of my childhood – it reminds me of my parents and dancing around the house. There are many songs I could choose here, but I thought I’d opt for an Australian band. I rarely listen to it now because I guess it’s my love of their music.

This reminds me of my brother. We didn’t have much classical music in our house and it was my brother who discovered it for himself and introduced it to me. It is something we still share despite our differing tastes. It was also a family joke. My mum used to say that he loved a dirge. This music never ceases to stop me in my tracks. It also always reminds me of Warner Bros cartoon – ‘Kill the Wabbit!’.

This is a nod to my husband. He is too modest to admit he is a talented guitarist but I remember admiring him when he played this in music class aged 16, long before we were a couple. This song was the beginning of a whole heap of music he would introduce me to.

Some of my favourite music belongs to film. I don’t necessarily mean iconic film scores like Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia, often I find beauty in the incidental. Music that merges into the power of a scene so seamlessly it is almost unheard.

This, by Thomas Newman, is a great score which perfectly encapsulates the quirky mood of this film.  There are probably better examples from this score, but it’s also a great excuse to screen these mesmerising end credits.

I love my fair share of traditional music (in this case Scottish), this is a particular favourite with its awesome rhythm.

I love it when relatively modern music arcs back to older music.

I love music that is somewhere between heartbreak and healing…

That might do for now. Too many to choose.

Let me know what you think. Leave a comment, or create your own post – tell me your music.

Begin Again

Writing is a series of footsteps.

Placing one word after another until you reach your destination.

Once

Upon

A

Time…

 

A piece of music is medicine.

You only have to take one note at a time for as long as it takes to get better.

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Excerpt courtesy of Chopin.

 

A picture is a thousand brush strokes. A thousand dabs of paint. A thousand colours.

But it begins with only one.

 

One word. One note. One colour.

Repeat. Don’t stop.

Begin again.

 

 

Classical Note

I love music, but I’m not particularly musical.

I can play the piano but I’m somewhat restricted by my repertoire. I have zero gift for improvisation and I’m unable to play sheet music at first sight unless the tempo is glaciale (yes, I made that up) – and even then, I can make no promises. My preferred audience is my cat, but unfortunately he hates me playing and will either meow at me, make a point of leaving the room, adjust his sleep position to ensure he’s on his ears or jump up onto the keys/hands/lap/anything-that-might-make-me-stop. My personal favourite is when he plonks himself on the low notes and just stares at me.

I’m also pitch imperfect which, on a positive note, allows me to play my old and un-tuneable piano. Miraculously, my husband who’s has perfect pitch has not yet divorced me.

I love music though and I rarely do anything at home without a soundtrack.

Although musically inept, I’m ridiculously pedantic about certain musical etiquettes. This IS entirely MY problem but I wish to enlighten anyone willing to listen so we can share the same, inane first-world-problem. And then we can be frustrated together – yay!

Rhythmic displacement – otherwise known as clapping on the wrong beat. Its disjointed effect and its seamless correction is shown in the clip below by the skillz of Harry Connick Jr.

Also, I have an issue with applause.

I promise, I’m not anti-clapping per se.  How can clapping even be wrong?

Well, since I asked myself on your behalf – it can be wrong at classical music concerts.  I struggle when people clap between musical movements. Which is, essentially, before a piece has finished.

The last concert I attended accentuated this issue – The Symphony of Sorrowful Songs by Henryk Górecki.

If you are unfamiliar with this work, it is as it sounds – profoundly slow, expressive and mournful – the words taken from the walls of a Gestapo prison. The first time I heard it in my teens, it froze me in my tracks. It is exquisitely beautiful and emotive.

The silence is part of it. More than any other piece, it deserves the silence.

*Awkward silence*

So, any thing small but musically significant frustrate you? I will not accept answers which include folk who are, allegedly, musicians.

Meanwhile, I’ll be on a musical bridge getting over it.

Forty Reasons to be Cheerful

 

  1. Love
  2. Friends
  3. Family
  4. Books
  5. Music
  6. Freedom
  7. Contentment
  8. Snow
  9. Sunshine
  10. Leaves
  11. Kindness
  12. Cuteness
  13. Art
  14. Creativity
  15. Writing
  16. Smiles
  17. Laughter
  18. Pillows
  19. Silly Socks
  20. Respect
  21. Writing with your favourite pen
  22. Experience
  23. Sharing
  24. Discovery
  25. Pets
  26. Colour
  27. Eccentricity
  28. Giving
  29. Letters
  30. Sonder
  31. Connections
  32. Compassion
  33. Lighthouses
  34. Rivers
  35. Moonlight
  36. Sanctuary
  37. Hugs
  38. Wood-fires
  39. Cosy
  40. Gratitude

Post inspired by Graeme Koehne, and his fanfare, ‘Forty Reasons to be Cheerful’.

NB: There are more than forty reasons.

Collecting Memories

004 Aus music book

The Australian Music Books series. Circa 1900

Sounds like the name of a novel doesn’t it? No wait – I should have gone with The Memory Collector. That’s the name of a novel. And if it isn’t, I might copyright it or something – right now – STOP! It’s my title, you can’t have it.

But this post isn’t about books I haven’t written.

Christmas has faded into a happy memory. Over the holidays I was gifted ‘Stardust (by Neil Gaiman) but as soon as I read the blurb I realised I already owned the DVD adaptation. I already loved this book.

But this post isn’t about how slowly I make connections, either.

001 Music stackWith Christmas comes the clean up. Not from Christmas festivities (although, that too) but from the year-long accumulation of stuff in my loft. I always intended to convert the loft into a studio for my writing and arty-crafty faffing about and while I am inhibited by the climate up there – sauna in summer and freezer in winter – it forever remains a depot for random stuff I can’t give up but have nowhere else to place.  Cards, letters, old school memorabilia, old craft projects and school projects can all be found here. I’ve saved boxes for wrapping presents in. I’ve got artwork I can’t find a place to hang. Also up there are a significant amount of  flea market finds I struggle to slot into my home.

This is a difficult thing to explain to the anti-hoarder/my husband.

006 Etude Music mag 1913

Also amongst the sheet music, ‘The Etude’ music magazine. Now 101 years old.

From a market a few years ago I bought a whole box of piano sheet music. I broke my arms getting the collection back to my car but it was wholly compensated by the buzz of joy deep in my chest. The lady who sold it to me asked if I would play it. She’d grinned at my enthusiasm and said, “I’m glad it’s going to a good home”.

I sat on the floor and sorted through it.  While I knew it was a box of music, it was such a delight regrouping the sets, removing the lonely pages and discovering the old music coverpages. I planned to reuse the incomplete music as unconventional wrapping paper. I managed that once – it took me so long to decide which piece to sacrifice I haven’t tried since. I’ve attempted to play some of it, of course, but mostly it’s remained upstairs with its makeshift dividing markers.

Montage of sheet music

Some of the more interesting coverpages. All published in 1926/7.

The owner had written her name on some of the music in fine calligraphy. I surmise she’d inherited the older music which dates from the 1900s but she’d added her own musical tastes to the pile all the way up to the 1960s and undoubtedly played it. It was well thumbed and dog-eared and yellowing. They were all out of order because she probably kept them long after she stopped playing . She probably kept them even when piano-less. A lifetime of music.

I love things relating to pianos, and cover-art of this era. On this basis you could argue I collect music. Maybe I do, maybe I have. But this isn’t just a box of music, it’s also a box of memories – is it so strange that they’re not my own?

Measuring Art Against Success

78c620cb9f5c2744f4fdeb6832376c00When we can’t rationalise where success comes from, we begin to panic. It seems incongruous that something without apparent skill can be successful. And it begins to feel unpredictable, like it’s determined by numbers tumbling in a barrel and we’re all waiting for ‘Bingo’. Is there no skill in it at all? Is it all just luck? And we think of all the talented people and worry that success is finite – a show with a limited number of seats. Can’t we all have a share? We don’t begrudge another’s success, we just want to feel more in control of our chances.

There’s a painting in the National Gallery of Victoria. It consists of squares – three across and four down. Painted in oranges and reds and yellows, bordered in plum-brown. I look at it and I shrug. What’s so special about that? I could paint that. A six-year-old could paint that. I explain the painting to a friend, and she says, “I love that stuff!”. My expression of disbelief leads her to say, “Think of when it was painted, think about how it challenged convention.”

Composer John Cage wrote 4’33”. That is four minutes and thirty three seconds of silence. When performed, I assume it is four minutes and thirty-three seconds of someone sitting a piano, wedged between the time it takes for the performer to enter and then exit the stage. I view it with sarcasm and wonder if they need a stopwatch. I could write that (I could play that), I would write that now if I it wasn’t for the copyright infringement. Then I listen to John Cage’s views on music and I find his passion for sound. He speaks of the sounds that exist in silence and believes that all sound is music. I still don’t really get it, but my perception has shifted.

google.comKen Done is an Australian artist. In 1980’s Australia, at the height of his popularity he influenced style, fashion and colour with his two dimensional Australian landscape paintings. And I felt he was over-rated. I saw no skill in his paintings. Then, in an interview, he explained how he admires children’s drawings and that no-one can draw quite like them. This insight made me look at his work differently.

What about a novelist who sticks to a formula and each new book is effectively the same. I have zero tolerance for formulaic predictable writing but then I happily hire a romantic comedy from the video store and enjoy it. And I realise that sometimes I don’t want a journey, sometimes I just want to get on a bus and go for a ride.

Then there’s the musician who writes one brilliant song but cannot seem to write beyond it. And while I claim to hate repetitive music, I then think of the exceptions lurking in my music collection. I have no tangible explanation for this – they simply resonate.

Many writers have cringed at the success of Fifty Shades, a book so well known I don’t need to include the full title. An erotic tale touted as badly written. I have not read it, and I cannot speak of its eloquence. But it was written. Started and finished. For that alone the author has my complete respect.

So what’s at play here?

The human aspect. If we knew what the general public wanted all businesses would thrive, all writers would be read, all music would be heard and all artists would be seen. We are human. We are unpredictable, hypocritical and contradictory. And we learn and change our minds. When it comes to phenomenal success, I’m sure that E.L. James and Psy did not predict it. When J.K. Rowling found success all she hoped to do was make enough money from writing to ‘get by’.

It’s a lottery of art in a barrel of success. If you keep putting in your numbers, it increases your chances of ‘Bingo’.

Art is a complex tapestry of controversy, aesthetics, talent, creativity and originality layered and interwoven with meaning, understanding and context. Success can be born from and driven by any number of these factors. It’s aided by timing and grown in curiosity and perpetuated by need. Success can then be clinically measured by popularity and monetary gain, but it’s true test is this – longevity.

Of course, it’s all tied together with one last element.

My opinion.

 

This blog post was inspired by SJ O’Hart. And this one by Chuck Wendig. Do read them.