Wednesday, November 21, 2007

No Music Day

So, I decided to stay at home today, not simply because I thought it'd be easier to avoid music here, but also because it occurred to me last year that my job isn't really compatible with the whole thing, being essentially aiding and abetting the performing of music. It's not that simple though - I've already almost clicked through a link to a song on You Tube (well, it did promise smurfs and masturbation - no link today, I'm afraid, I'll put one in here after midnight). Hooray for Resonance FM and BBC Radio Scotland, who are both going noteless for the day.

10.13: I sat down on the sofa and very nearly picked up the uke. A close shave. I put the instrument away in its case.

10.29: Last night I was thinking about the fact that my orchestra rehearses on a Thursday, and therefore next year I'd have to bunk off, but my brother points out that 2008 is a leap year, so November 21 will fall on Friday. Which surely proves that God is on the side of this enterprise.

11.17: There's been some interesting stuff on Radio Scotland so far, including an article about beards (including an interview with a man with a large beard) and an interview with Shane out of Boyzone, which concluded with them telling him they wouldn't be playing his record today. He sounded like he might cry. It was great.

11.38: Now here's a dilemma: I have on the table a half-finished theremin kit. If I were to do some soldering work on it (just the kind of little job I've not got round to due to business but could usefully get done on a day off), am I going against the spirit of the day? I mean, I'd be soldering, not playing music, but constructing a musical instrument is after all a step in the process of producing music. Hmm. I decide to defer this dilemma by going to the shops.

12.50: I never thought I'd say this, but hurrah for Tesco, who have a policy of not piping music in their stores (well, not in the food section, anyway. There may have been a whiff of something coming from the upstairs CD/DVD bit, but I didn't go there today, and it was noisy enough that I can't be sure I actually did hear any music). If only they could introduce a policy of not rearranging their store layout for no very good reason.

It's the little mental twitches that I'm noticing - on returning home I had a brief mental itch to put on a CD. Only a very brief one, but it just shows how ingrained such behaviour is that this action should suggest itself without any thought whatsoever.

By the way, the word is spreading - here's an article from the New York Times.

1.00: I nearly switch on the TV news, but realise it has theme music, not to mention lots of background music as they read headlines. I switch on Radio 4 instead.

2.00: Bill Drummond is on Radio Scotland talking about recorded music (having already covered Shetland woolwear), and he says a lot that chimes with thoughts I've had myself - the idea that recorded music is so ubiquitous now that it's in decline, and live performance, which can only be experienced in one place at one time, will become the important thing. Also some interesting thoughts about how kids' attitude to music differs to old farts like him (and me).

Interesting coincidental fact - today is the 130th anniversary of Edison's unveiling of the phonograph.

2.42: Having decided that circuit work is OK, I then proceed to swear very loudly and aggressively as I inadvertently pull a wire out of the board, pretty much impossible to put back without dismantling the entire thing. Cocking hell. I decide to take this as a sign that I'm not meant to tackle such things.

15.15: One of the nice things about going to the shops on a day off rather than after work is that you have more time to think about it and so you actually remember to buy things like washing up liquid. And then you have time to wash up the dishes which have dried food stains welded to them because you kept forgetting to buy washing up liquid. Now I shall go for a spin on my bike before it starts to get dark.

5.51: Cycling frees the mind. I wonder if by concentrating on recording the day I have not lived it as I might. But that could be said of all blogging.

I find songs come to mind (and have done throughout the day. Even when music is absent, its ghost haunts my conscious.

I ride, with no particular aim, simply enjoying the feeling of being out, away from everything. I see people walking their dogs, a few schoolkids fishing, but otherwise I am alone.

I return home, and am drawn into a conversation on Resonance FM about radio - its past, its future, memories of it. Radio engages in a way television can't. I think of childhood, of comedy on the radio - the Hitchhiker's Guide, the Goons, of Jazz Record Requests on Saturday evenings as my dad cooked, of nights under the duvet listening to John Peel on my brand new transistor radio. Television is an intruder; radio is a companion.

7.38: Too much chili in the stir-fry! Would I have made such a basic error if I had music?
I have been having a slightly brain dead period, cooking, flummery, gazing distractedly into space. I did read an article in New Scientist about why it is worth individuals doing carbon-reducing green-type stuff. I am also greatly amused by a still from a Simpsons episode featuring Alan Moore as guest star, in which Millhouse holds up a DVD of "Watchmen Babies: V for Vacation".

7.56: I want to watch the football. I was going to leave it until kickoff to put the sound on, so as to miss national anthems and stray jingles. But the fans might be singing! I'm not sure what to do. I wonder if the radio commentary will have the crowd sounds sufficiently backgrounded to get away with it? It'd be better than listening to the witless drivelling of Motty or whoever's commentating on telly. I shall see how the radio goes. If necessary I will have to turn it off and use the Grauniad's online commentary.

8.09: If England carry on like this, I won't have to worry about singing, that's for sure.

8.12: England flailing about. I flail at the radio switch as the crowd starts singing the National Anthem. Silence it is, then.

8.28: Watching football in silence is a very odd experience, detached and impassive. Which in the circumstances is just as well. Second-choice Steve looks bemused. It's quite simple, Steve - you're not going to have a job in an hour or so the way things are going.

8.50: Watching football in silence is just too weird. I am playing with the tactic of having the sound up and my finger hovering over the mute button. Interestingly, if you mute for a few seconds, when you bring the sound back on it can take several moments to register if the crowd are singing. Although they're generally booing at the end of the first half.

The pundits are struggling to find anything to say. It must be hard to fill 15 minutes of air time with variations on "they're shit".

9.03: Beckham comes on, and the thumb twitches to spare me the national anthem again. Can the preening, non-fit, crappy American League lag and publicity whore bring us back from the brink?

9.07: A question that interests me is, does chanting count as music? As in the cries of "Come on England!" that occasionally punctuate the stadium. And where does chanting slide into singing? Like sexuality, maybe music exists on a spectrum rather than absolutes.

9.11: On comes the mute again as those brass-playing twats start up.

9.18: Fat Frank's penalty seems to have got the team looking a bit more lively, if not much better quality, and had inspired "England til I Die" singing. Muted til they stop, I'm muted til they stop, I know I am I hope I am, muted til they stop.

9.24: Replying to a text means I'm slow on the draw, and the brass playing twats are several bars in before I get rid of them. Well blimey, the preening publicity whore came good, and now we're level. Is it wrong of me to feel slight disappointment? What a traitor I am.

9.36: Now I feel bad because I feel a certain satisfaction as Croatia go ahead again. Looks like we're in for a quarter hour of desperate scrabbling, then.
Those brass-playing twats are the bane of my life at the moment.

9.53: Well, that's it, we're out, and we deserve to be. What a bunch of useless tossers. I can only hope this now means there'll be some proper rethinking at the FA and we actually start to address all those problems we've ignored for too long.

Well, that was a tense couple of hours, and not just because of the football. There's a bit of me that thinks I've made it too easy for myself staying at home today, and the song-dodging felt like I was having to work to avoid music more than at any point today. Still two hours to go. I can't watch Heroes (the only other telly I'm bothered about seeing tonight) because it's laden with music, being a TV drama, so I'm taping it, and I reckon I'll watch it after midnight. I'll probably regret it in the morning and be yawning all day, but what the hell, after last week's (BBC3, i.e. this week's BBC2) episode, I can't wait. Now to ponder how to pass the rest of the day.

10.52: I decide to vent my frustrations through the medium of cartoon dogs. Now I shall see what Resonance and Radio Scotland are up to. Soon the experiment will be done for another year.

11.03 I am Mohinder Suresh, according to the Facebook "Which Hero Are You?" application. How dull.

11.05: Slightly bored with Scotland (the station I mean, not the country. I've nothing against Scotland. I like Scotland.), I switch to Resonance and am hit with a slab of Reggae. Bah! I scramble for the switch. So, let the final minutes be quiet contemplation.

11.17: Determined to make some use of the final haul, I hit on an idea: I shall watch a silent film. With the sound down, obviously. How necessary is music to the enjoyment of Buster Keaton?

11.40: I watched "Cops", a classic Keaton short with a cynical streak of black humour that's always appealed to me. It's odd watching it silent; as with the football it seems slightly distancing. You can appreciate the gags alright, and maybe I had to pay even more attention than I would normally, but you don't feel the same need to laugh out loud. Funny how music seems to be such an important part of a style of film-making that has no sound. But of course there would have been sound - the musical accompaniment, which seems almost like another character when done well, but is something the film maker has no control over. I like that idea, it appeals to me in the same way that chance does in composition, forcing the composer to cede control. I think too much control is stifling.

So what have I learned today? Well, the importance of music (or sound, at least) in certain situations. It helps you get carried away into the world of whatever you're experiencing. Which is I suppose why shops pipe muzak, a kind of brainwashing exercise, and something we should all fight against.

I've also been made aware of how much music seeps into every corner of our lives, to the extent that I've had to avoid most television and radio today. That to avoid music is often to avoid rather a lot of life. If I can take something from today, it's an idea that it'd be good to take some of that life back, not to drown it in sound. And make a decision to listen, not just hear.

12.00: Hail! Bright Cecilia, and all that. No Music Day is done for 2007.


Oh yes... the smurf/wank video is here. Astonishing.

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