Music is the food of love, the greatest good that mortals know, the speech of angels
People write an awful lot of shit about music, just as they do about love and romance. John Donne hit the nail on the head with the latter (“I am two fools I know, for loving and for saying so in whining poetry”) and Jacques Attali got it with the former: “Today, music heralds... the establishment of a society of repetition in which nothing will happen anymore.”
What with the weather doing all sorts of ridiculous things and making my brain go all over the place, I’ve been thinking about emotive causes and wondering about the state of music, its being rather than whether I actually like the new Scissor Sisters single. How people use it for one.
The “society of repetition” is XFM in the morning, and I’m fine with that. I can’t cope with how horrible BBC7’s breakfast comedy choices are, Radio 4’s too dry on weekdays, 6Music’s DJs bore me back to sleep – but Auntie La La makes me happy. The X List stuff’s familiar enough for me to get onto autopilot without controversy, but the new stuff! Grumble grumble, identikit new stuff. I don’t feel like I’m learning anything about what’s being released. It’s all a bit boring. Someone wrote something about the Young Knives’s quite excellent new single, along the lines of “Well yes, this is incredibly good but we’ve heard all we need to from this sort of tune and how long until the death knell sounds?”
Repetition, imitation, flattery, similarity. How do you break away? Everyone seeks innovation (on the surface at least) but really it’s just looking for a recipe: how do I make myself cool/ saleable/ viable/ hip/ desirable?
I can’t think of any better image of the society of repetition than the Tube, now inextricably linked to music. Same journey everyday, you do it in your sleep. If you’ve never been to Brixton Tube, they pipe classical music through the entrance hall to stop loiterers, fighters and twats causing trouble. It never stops. 9am, you’ve still got Vivaldi soundtracking the united clomp towards the Oyster readers.
After Sunday’s immense storm had stopped threatening my flat’s ageing windows, my girls and I went our separate ways on the Tube. “Mate, this is a fit tune,” said the Orchestral Blonde approvingly, she and the Singer wandering down the escalators and singing The Dance Of The Hours like it was ‘Maneater’. “I’d want to hang about and listen to it all.”
I love that idea. How well would Brixton’s strategy go if a busload of classical music fans got lost en route to the Proms? They’d just stand there, wigging out on the accelerandos and going, “Oh wait…this is the really good bit. Yeah! God, aren’t Kodaly’s principles the shit?”
It’s probably a good thing the weather is so horrid at the moment because it’s made my head more receptive to music for music’s sake rather than as a “Oh what’s this then?” opt-in. After a day of attempted blagging (I am the world’s most horrible blagger – I can’t do it at all) I managed to get on the list to see the utterly marvellous Joan As Police Woman at the last of her monthly residencies at the Spitz.
(This has started a wondrous new game whereby you give Joan As Careers Adviser a whole new career with each mention.)
I texted OIR while I was there. She came to the gig at Wireless and almost had to be carried out of the tent afterwards. “We must go to see her at Hammersmith in September” I wrote.
“Oh My God. Absolutely. Album is great but lacks The Thing.”
“What thing? Passion?”
People change on record. It’s strange. While Joan As Nursery Nurse is absolutely mind numbingly, brain crushingly brilliant live – to the extent it didn’t matter a jot not being able to see her play because hearing was enough – Bat For Lashes (who I’ve never seen live) almost crippled me yesterday with two minute samples alone.
Bat For Lashes is the brainchild of singer-songwriter Natasha Khan and I will have an interview with her up soon. You shouldn’t care about that, although she is fascinating and funny. You should care about the fact that this girl holds music in the palm of her hand. It’s the most visceral, painful, glorious sound you will hear this year. It’s like having your liver pulled out through your heart because rather than having someone instruct you in what you should be feeling, you feel it regardless. It’s emo for people who have emotions, not haircuts.
Stop, come back. Not emo like that. There’s nary a guitar in sight, rather violins, pianos, spooky melodies and tunes that make you stagger with every loss you’ve ever felt. These songs aren’t about the process of heartbreak, or joy, or grief, but the all-encompassing feeling itself. This is why listening to it is such a nagging, wonderful experience (I had tears pricking my eyes for the entirety of yesterday morning). It’s guttural, story-filled and marvellous, with every key change or note that ever made you go “Oh!” at the perfection of it all. That’s what she writes, that what she plays.
In this weather, with my head all over the place, I need that. We all do, a little bit. It stops us thinking that feeling lost occasionally is a bad thing. We need to give into it more, and admit that not everything’s clear-cut all the time.