Popular Posts

Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Musical consumption again

Desert Island Discs is, I suppose, one of the great guilty pleasures of the British middle-classes. We know  the format is contrived and the guest is putting on a face, but  it is still fascinating to be on the receiving end of this aural presentation of self. I've spent many a happy hour listening to programmes from the archive while doing various bits of house renovation and repair. And of course I've engaged in the fantasy of what I would  choose if I could take only eight discs to an island paradise. In fact though, my fantasy has mostly been stymied by my inability to discipline my choices. My problem is that I like too many different kinds of things, but my musical preferences depend on what I am doing at the time, which is, I suppose, the curse of using music as a wall-paper or soundtrack to everyday life. With this sort of problem, evading the issue by having multiple choices of eight differentiated by genre doesn't help. I can't just have eight hit lists and choose number one from each, because I don't know what I will actually be doing on my desert island, and for my manner of musical consumption that is important.
If I'm doing housework, hoovering or cleaning, it has to be, in the broadest sense, popular music  - rock, pop, MOR, perhaps soul or reggae. Anything that is lively, upbeat and  happy will do to get me through the drudgery. The same would have been true when I exercised regularly, but since I cut that out, the problem of what to listen to while jogging has been removed. The same kind of taste prevails when I'm driving and have got bored with or irritated by Radio 4. Rock, 1970s disco, Madonna, Prince... anything as long as it isn't soporific. This may be tempered by who else is in the car with me. If it is my daughter then her tastes will prevail.
At home I might  have music on at low volume in the background if I'm reading. String quartets, Byrd, Gibbon, Palestrina, lieder (as long as they aren't in English) or Webern, Schoenberg, Boulez, Wagner, things that are either soothing or so abstract they become part of the general background hum. Miles Davis, Duke Ellington, Art Pepper, Lester Young, Keith Jarrett, Pat Metheny, Benny Goodman, Brad Mehldau all work in a domestic setting. Armstrong, Beiderbecke, Coleman Hawkins, Charlie Parker and Bebop in general  demand too much careful attention to be doing something else at the same time, as does all symphonic music. I have lots of symphonic recordings, but I rarely listen to them. To appreciate symphonic music you have to listen to it at the right volume and that isn't appropriate in a small terraced house. If you put the headphones on you just have to sit and listen, which is great, but when I'm at home I usually have too many other things to do to devote time to just listening. This is, of course, a great reason to  make yourself go to symphonic concerts where you can't do anything else but concentrate on the music.
About the only time I have for really listening is when I am walking from one place to another and then I tend to listen to folk or singer songwriter type things, usually people singing and playing a guitar. Nic Jones, Dick Gaughan, Richard Thompson, Gillian Welch, Show of Hands. The interest is partly in trying to figure out how they are playing what I can hear, how they achieve the effect.
So, if somebody asks me whether I like or dislike a certain sort of music, my answer is: it depends.

No comments: