The Monday Mess – The irony of good music – 19 Nov 2012

YupWelcome to the Monday mess, where this Monday we shall, mainly because I had most of this written, and I didn’t want to start anything else, via the medium of a small essay, take a flying look at the irony of good music. Will you still love me tomorrow?

I do not know this woman, she is just appreciating the irony of good music.
(Image courtesy of Morguefile.com)

In times gone by, that being the time before it was easy to get music off the internet and download individual tracks, the single used to be the selling point, and often the introduction to a new album. Originally the album was just a collection of tracks used to get more money from the consumer. Then Artists like the Beatles, The Beach boys, The Who, and many, many more utilised it for larger artistic statements. Record companies realised early on that they could make bigger profits from the album. Artistic statements aside, the album needed to be made, it needed to be sold, and some singles from the album was the way to sell it. Problem is, this often leads to albums with some good singles and some filler. Early Stones or Who anyone? The reality is there are good albums and bad ones. Singles are or were, not always a good indicator of how good the album is, or was. But unless you read reviews you had nothing else to go on other than the singles. Another problem is a good album does not always have good singles, or singles that catch on. Those albums might not get heard much no matter how good they are. Love’s “Forever Changes” being one example which has become a cult classic over time, and is genuinely a great album.

Of course this is the scenario in very general terms. Bands often built an audience through touring or word of mouth. But the point I’m getting at is a single is not always an indicator of how good an album is. The same tracks aside, you could almost say the two are unrelated. You could easily miss a lot of good music, and easily build up a collection of dross. The irony of good music, is that unless you get proper access to it, and a time to explore it, then you could easily not even discover it. Let me explain a little further.

Often good music or great music is layered, or the quality is not always fully apparent on the first listen or two. It takes our brain a couple of listens to decode it before the qualities begin to shine through. A quick listen on the radio isn’t going to get you that. But from the radio, that is what most people want. We more often need something that is catchy, that has the hooks that pull you in straight away. So receiving music that way, is mostly only a certain type of music. In most instances, anyway. That explains why when you buy an album, even one you soon come to love, it does not sound too impressive in the first listen or two. Unless of course it is full of catchy pop hooks. I cannot remember the amount of times I have bought albums and then had to give them a few days of plays to bed into my mind before deciding whether I really liked it or not.

Generally though, even if you don’t buy a lot of music, you will have some variety of taste. You might have been exposed to it from your parents, family or friends. You might be exposed to it through some constant radio listening, or certain tv shows. There will usually be something that didn’t grab you instantly but crept up on you over time. And there will be the opposite, something that stuck in straight away and sounded brilliant. But after a few plays that initial buzz has worn off. It’s ok but not that amazing. Then a few listens later and it is starting to do your head in. A simple truth in music is that writing music which is catchy, and stays with you, and maybe even reveals more detail over time, is difficult. Some are lucky to put together a good one on the fly, but repeating it? Not so easy. You see the irony of most good music is that it takes some time to grow on you, and reveal itself. It’s like a good friend, more just keeps on coming, even if the way you met was nothing special.

And if you survived that, or just skimmed over it, here is the same argument in “Nonet”:

To your ears, I do not sound like much

but I don’t give it up like that

I’ll tease, and let you taste it

draw you in, be your muse

wonder wat you missed

listen again

soon I will

grow on 

you

So with that, I’m signing off.

Have a nice week, and tune in somewhen further down it for the next brainsplats blog post.

Lexicon word of the day: etymology.

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The music map of me, and you

(Image courtesy of Microsoft Clipart)

In most cultures around the world, in some way, our lives are linked to music. It might be through traditional songs that tell stories of our culture, it might be from songs in the music charts, it might be songs you hear on a tv show, or it might be songs used to stir emotions which on the surface might seem more primitive, but have a deep underlying resonance. Underlying this might be how we universally have an innate capability to understand music, and to distinguish different musical notes and tones, even if we understand none of it. “This is your brain on music” by Daniel Levitin is an excellent book on this subject, but that is a different blog piece. I’m interested on a different take, and in particular how it works in Western cultures.

Any excuse to mention this album again huh?

Much as songs are used in some cultures to document historical events, and passed on from generation to generation, Western cultures experience this in a different way. There is so much music around these days, and we get exposed to a lot of it. We might have similar interests in music, and have experienced different events with the same music, but all our experience will be different. If you were able to draw a map highlighting how music has impacted your life, you will see that certain songs or pieces of music link to certain events. It could be that you like a song a lot and use it at a significant life event such as a wedding, or it might just be that something was playing as something happened. I’m not talking about your favourite tracks necessarily, it might not be something you chose, or even like, but nevertheless, in some way it is linked. If you were able to somehow extract all these different songs and pieces of music, you would have a music map of you. It would need some translation, but I would hazard a guess that everyones map would be quite different, even if some destinations are shared. I wrote a short piece of fiction called “the unusual map” that began to explore this idea, which I published on the blog last week, however let me examine that idea further with some examples from my life.

In the early days of January 1994, I was in a branch of the long since departed UK music chain “Our Price”, actually one of the earliest casualties of music downloads, and approached a listening post. They had on several not big selling, but critical hits from the year before to listen to. One of these was “Giant Steps” from a band called The Boo Radleys. I had heard of the album, it being Select magazine, and the NME’s album of the year. I had not hear anything from it. I listened to first track “I hang suspended” and immediately knew it was for me. I bought the album. It subsequently soundtracked a significant part of college, and my first year of university, and is still one of my all time favourite albums. This one event however, had a big influence on where my music tastes went, and as regular readers know, I’m a big fan of music.

Sometime in the early 2000’s I was in a fast car with a good friend of mine. He was driving down country lanes at night far too fast. Don’t worry he said, I know these roads well. He has pretty much terrible taste in music. The track playing at the time was “Money for nothing” by Dire Straits, not a favourite of mine it has to be said. I was convinced as a music snob of varying degrees, that I was going to die an ironic death soundtracked to this. Thankfully we got home safe although every time I hear that track now it still reminds me of that drive.

I have an album I like a lot but by someone not really cool, which I call my guilty pleasure. I won’t tell you what that is, because I have a post about it soon.

Bunsen burner” a fun track by musics biggest failure (his words), John Ottway, was a nice live moment which myself and my then girlfriend, now wife, experienced at the half moon pub in Putney back in 2007. It was unexpected fun as we thought the gig would be crap, and still reminds us of those early days together and what seems quite a different time back in England.

“Changes” a track by Sugar I originally got in 1992 on a cassette from long dead UK music magazine “Vox”was incredibly significant in where my music tastes went, even more so than the Boo Radleys. The album the track came from “Copper Blue” was the first CD I ever bought, and one of my favourite all time albums. I heard this album played live by Bob Mould last week in its entirety which I loved. This cassette moment reminds me of my old walkman, some lazy times hiding in my bedroom at my parents house, a fun time in buying / reading the music press, as I discovered a lot of new things, and evenings this summer blasting the remastered version of the album through great headphones. That track and album lives with me.

Elbow’s beautiful track “One day like this” which has become a wedding favourite, was used as the money dance for my wedding. It obviously reminds me of that, actually one of my favourite parts of the wedding, but also of the times around it, and of leaving most of my family to move to the US. If you don’t know the track, take five minutes to check it out below. I’ll be surprised if you don’t like it.

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These are just a few of the destinations on what would be my music map. An alternative way of looking at your life and how it has been affected in some way by a small part of your culture. I hope you followed what I was getting at, maybe found the journey interesting, and hopefully made you think of some significant links in your life. If you have time, tell me below of a destination on your map, the track and how it relates to you.

On another occasion I think I might revisit the character from the short fiction and use him as part of a different story. But that is a different post.

Lexicon word of the day: distrain.

The point when you realise it is better than you thought

It’s a bit like parts of my college and university years in a box.

I’m still thinking about “The blog post trail”, so I will pick this one up at a later point. Today something else. It is a bit music orientated so some of you may wish to press like and move along. Or perhaps you are interested in what I have to say today…

With many things in life, there comes a point when you realise something has changed without you being aware of it. Perhaps you are too familiar and find it difficult to step back and evaluate with fresh eyes. Maybe the change has been subtle to your eyes, like the way you don’t see your child grow day to day. Whatever the reason, it happens, then one day you get a fresh reference point, and realise things have changed. It is like listening to a music album again that you previously disregarded, and realising that it actually, is very, very, good.

Recently I purchased the box set “21” by the English band Blur. If you are from the UK, you will almost certainly have heard of them. They are held in such high regard these days, that they played a concert as part of the Olympic closing celebrations, in Hyde park, just across the city from where the Olympic closing ceremony was taking place. It was available the next day on itunes (and on special CD editions coming soon). If you live in the US, you may well be familiar with “Song 2” (Whoooo Hoo). If you’re a music fan in the US, you likely know of Gorillaz, that Damon Albarn was the main musical whizz behind the music, and had discovered how good Blur actually were by checking out his back catalogue. You may even be familliar with some of the solo work from guitarist, Graham Coxon.

Myself I was a fan from quite early on, although maybe not right at the very beginning. I knew of a few songs including “Theres no other way” but not taken much notice. Then at some point, as I was getting into Indie music about this time, I got with the single “For Tomorrow”. It really struck a chord and I was with them from that point on. The second album “Modern Life is Rubbish”, contained that track, and listening to it now, the version in the box set is excellent, it might be my favourite Blur album. This album was a reaction to music coming out of the US, e.g. Nirvana, Pearl Jam, et al, and a poor US tour they had experienced. They were in many ways still trying to find their voice as a band, and responded with this, the first in a Trilogy of “British life” albums. The second album of the trilogy, pretty much a perfect pop album “Parklife” propelled them into the British mainstream and was actually a key album in “Indie” music becoming the more mainstream thing it is in the UK today. The feud with the other big Brit band Oasis (more on that later) also provided an interesting focal point. That album is arguably their best.

The next four albums finished up the “British” trilogy with a mish-mash of styles (The Great escape), sounded a bit more american indie rock (Blur), a bit more loose, experimental, a more jamming style (13), ending with an album mostly recorded without founding member and guitarist Graham (Think Tank). All four albums sound completely different to each other.

The box set, doubles up each album (if buying the CD version) to contain a second disk of B-sides, fan singles, one off singles, and pretty much everything else released at the time. It also contains four extra disks of unreleased tracks, demos, and rehearsals. I’m still to get to those four. What it did give me chance to do was to play everything again, including the second disks as I had many of the singles, in order. The progression through seven albums is amazing. There are the odd duff tracks (obviously more amongst the b-sides etc), but generally speaking, no drop in quality, if anything, an increase. What amazed me more was that I had always been a fan, but now I was looking at them again virtually with fresh eyes. Blur had a progression similar to that experienced by the Beatles (and I’m not directly comparing the two), albeit with slightly different types of music and influences, and not the “one of the originals” position in pop / rock history. You can clearly see the music change, and the wealth of ideas. I realised that there catalogue stacks up against many of the best bands. To illustrate, try to choose the best 15 or even best 20 tracks. There is so much choice, it is not an easy job. After I had came to this realisation, I spotted this article on Stereogum, which had the same problem trying to find the best 10. It also was an admission that yes, Blur had not been big in the US, being late to the party in that respect, but their catalogue sure did need revisiting to see what you were missing. And it sure has some highlights.

Back in the mid nineties, as Blur released “Parklife”, new rivals Oasis released their debut “Definitely Maybe”, a critically acclaimed album and at the time the biggest selling British debut of all time. Both albums were very good and something to be proud of at the time with the rise of Britpop. Then with the imminent release of albums “The Great escape” and from Oasis “What’s the story, morning glory”, they went head to head with single releases on the same day. Both relatively poor singles I might add, “Country house” and “Roll with it”. It made the national news. Blur got to number one. However Oasis had “Wonderwall” and “Don’t look back in anger” on this album, and achieved greater sales. As it was put, Oasis lost a battle with the first singles, but won the war. But in retrospect, Oasis followed this up with a cocaine fuelled, poor follow up, then a worse one after that. They did better than those two albums, but never achieved the heights of the first two. Whilst Blur changed their sound album to album, going from strength to strength. Which is not to say Oasis don’t have some brilliant tracks, e,g singles like “Live Forever”, or album tracks e.g. “Cast no shadow”. But in retrospect, who really won that war?

Blur have become, through talent and hard work, one of the UK’s most loved bands, particularly for people of my generation. It is interesting that many music fans in the US are starting to realise what they have missed. Lot’s of great songs, lots of great sounds, and lots of fun. At some point I went from being a fan, to being a fan who realised that Blur long since became a key band in British history, like e.g. The kinks, The Small Faces, The Smiths, Roxy music, or many more.

On an individual album basis, I recently had a similar realisation about David Bowie’s album “Low”, and how good that is. But I wanted to write about Blur.

Lexicon word of the day: Paseo.

Am I too addicted to buying new music?

Some recent buys and yes, I’m boring enough to burn downloaded music to CD so I can also play it via my stereo.

No results to “the experiment” parts 1 or 2 this week, I haven’t got round to writing it yet. My mind is on other projects, so I had to add a bit of finish to this half written post, instead.

I love music. Regular readers of this blog will know and understand this. An early post of mine discussed how music influences me, or more specifically, what music and writing have in common, to me anyway. I’ve blogged on music lots of times, although not too much recently. I’m always hearing new things I like on radio Sirius XMU, or reading about music that sounds interesting in Mojo magazine or on Pitchfork. So I like getting hold of it. I’m mostly talking about albums here. The snob in me looks down on just buying individual tracks. I’m an old timer in that sense. You can tell I’m a music fan when I love the album over downloading seemingly random tracks.

My current dilemma involves buying new music. Although I prefer CDs (for the quality of the format), I’m quite willing to try new music as downloads, especially when the price is good, that always seems to serve as a good introduction. But naughty Amazon.com keeps putting albums on a $5 or sometimes even less, price. So what is a music fan to do I ask you? Ok I shall give you the answer. Buy some music. Bring it on…

So I both do, and did. And you know what, it’s great. Problem is, when you get a new album, especially a half decent, or good, or great one, they take four or five listens to really open up and to begin to get to know the songs a bit. Your mind needs time to decode the layers. Usually a song that sounds great straight away, rarely lasts that long, before fading into the sometimes played. So time is needed to play new music, to fall for the lyrics, the melodies, the beat, the timbre, or whatever facet grabs you most. And I’m now getting a bit of a backlog of albums I’m trying to familiarise myself with. Here is a list of recent buys, loosely grouped into genres although admittedly some could cross into several groups:

Pop / Folk

  • The idler wheel is wiser than the driver of the screw and whipping cords will serve you more than ropes will ever do – Fiona apple
  • What we saw from the cheap seats – Regina Spector
  • Thats’s why God made the radio – The Beach Boys
  • Yours trully cellophane nose – Beth jeans houghton
  • Home again – Michael Kiwanuku
  • Tramp Sharon Van etten
  • Valtari – Sigur Ros
  • Bloom – Beach house
  • Master of my make-believe – Santigold
  • Dr dee – Damon albarn
  • Huh? – Spiritualized

Rock / Alternative

  • Maraqopa – Damien jurado
  • Oceania – The Smashing pumpkins
  • Neck of the woods – Silversun pickups
  • Open Your Heart – The Men
  • Celebration rock – Japandroids
  • Ghostory – School of seven bells
  • Funeral Blues – Mark Lanegan
  • Blunderbuss – Jack White

Dance / Soul

  • Hurry up, we’re dreaming – M83
  • Wonky – Orbital
  • The bravest man in the universe – Bobby Womack
And this is not everything either, there is probably some I’ve missed. Some of the above I am more familiar with than others. Thus far I would recommend checking out tracks from the Bobby Womack album, Fiona Apple, Jack White, Damien Jurado, Spiritualized, and if you like a good rock / slightly punk album, Japandroids. Though that said, none of the above strike me as bad thus far. For example if you’ve liked Orbital in the past, you’ll probably like that one. Oh and I’ve also bought the Sugar “expanded” reissues (when I was in the UK where they came out earlier and had dvd discs). I loved that band, they are one of my all time favourites. I’m obviously familiar with those though.
To help with this fun problem I recently received (a few weeks ago) an expensive but completely fabulous gift from my lovely wife and son. It was a pair of these superb Grado Labs SR225i headphones. You can keep your Dr Dre, or Bose headphones, I’m not criticising them, and I do own a few pairs of Sennheisers which are decent, but I prefer Grado Labs.

quiet now.. come to daddy..

This particular pair are open headphones which means if you are sitting nearby you will also be able to hear what is being played. But as anyone familiar with how headphones work can tell you, you can get a much better sound out of open headphones than you can closed ones. It is to do with the airflow. These headphones really are fabulous, they do a great job of opening up the sound, great clarity on instruments, great separation, they introduce things you have not noticed before. As a downside, they also show up when MP3 quality can be bad (the detail isn’t in the file to play), or when something has a dense mix and the separation is not there. These headphones are great, noticeably different from e.g. a $50 pair. An upgrade from my older pair Grado Labs Sr60i (also very good). And more encouragement to buy more music. Oh well, I love music, what can I do.

Music. It’s my addiction. Am I addicted to buying new music? Well of course, and old music as well. I love it. It is entertaining and inspiring in so many ways. If only I had time to do it justice. This addiction I’m ok with. Oh by the way, suggestions for other new good music are welcome below.

Lexicon word of the day: pudendum.

Record shop day and Amoeba records


Yesterday was Record store day, a day to support independent music stores, for the music fan anyway. I suspect most people don’t care too much. That might be a shame considering how many music stores are disappearing in favour of a few online stores. I’m well aware of downloads being the current and mostly future of music (for most people anyway), but I love the physical aspect of vinyl or CDs. Plus the quality. Online downloadable music is not fully up to scratch yet. I did a post about that once. Also as much fun as it can be looking online for music, and it is, I really do enjoy flicking through the racks of a music store. I love the posters, artwork, the smell and feel of a store.

In support of record store day, many artists have been releasing limited edition singles, EPs, or even albums. These are strictly limited number pressings available only through participating independent stores. This year there were a lot of releases, and to some extent it looked like there was a bunch of artists jumping on the bandwagon, just so they will have something out on the day. I might be being cynical, but that is the way it seems. Still there is plenty of cool stuff in there, including a big release by the Flaming Lips (and friends), singles by Jack White, and a good single by Best Coast. However that barely even gives a flavour. A full list of releases yesterday can be viewed at the link at the top of this post.

Having a small child, I’m not really in a position this year to get in line with the music geeks and queue up, making sure I could get a record or two. I kind of like the look of the Flaming Lips release but I figured I was unlikely to get to somewhere before it sold out. That said, whilst I wasn’t desperate to get hold of anything, I figured a trip to Amoeba in Hollywood, was in order (a sort of wedding anniversary gift from my lovely wife). A chance to check out the vibes, and see how different from a normal day it is.

We usually head to Amoeba for when it opens, to get decent parking, but as anyone who has lived around LA can tell you, also to avoid some of the worst traffic. When we arrived, there was an enormous queue of people outside, a couple of blocks long. It was soon revealed as a line for those wanting to try to buy releases for record store day. Otherwise you could head straight in. Good luck to them I say, as previously mentioned, I was not in a position to queue in the hot sun, and I figured I was so far back I would not get what I wanted anyway. So a little disappointed that I might not be able to get the Flaming Lips release, I went for plan B. I was at Amoeba, might as well just browse the store and pick up a few things.

So that I did. It was pretty busy (which is good really, even if not the best for browsing), And I didn’t spend a lot, but I picked up the following:

  • Wilco – “Kicking Television – Live in Chicago” (Wilco are a really good band live, and I have never heard this).
  • Pavement – “Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain” (deluxe edition)
  • Graham Coxon – “Love travels at illegal speeds” (I already had this, but it came from the time when there was stupid copy protection on the disk and I could not even import it into iTunes, I always wanted to pick it up again with a “clean” disk).
  • Pete Townsend – “Lifehouse elements”
  • The Verve – “Forth” (I thought this might be a bit average, but it was cheap so worth a go).

See, I’m a music fan who has a lot of albums, and a lot that I like. Sure there is always something to discover, but sometimes my music browsing is often to pick up a few things round the edges that I haven’t got yet. Actually I have a list of some things I want to pick up. Many were not there today, but that is ok. I got others, I supported an independent store a little. In terms of record store day releases it was a washout for me, but maybe next year if there is something I want, I will get up nice and early. Amoeba is always good for a look, for something new, or for something to add to the collection.

I think Amoeba had a successful day. You can read their store blog about it here.

Lexicon word of the day: gallimaufry.

What music and horoscopes have in common.

I shall immediately start with pointing out that I’m not a believer in horoscopes or star signs, but if you stick with me you’ll see where I’m going. Don’t worry, it’s not a long piece.

In the box set Quadrophenia by The Who (my favourite Who album) there is an essay by Pete Townsend, where he describes how the many facets of the album came about. I won’t go into everything it covers other than to say, the essay is interesting if you like the album, and you like the story, or the details behind albums. There are also good photos, reproductions of notes, and other things in the box set (click the picture above to view it on Amazon). I love the Quadrophenia album so for me, well it’s all good. However as someone getting back the writing bug there was one part of the essay which stood out a bit more in a different way, and this concerns how to write something that makes sense to the audience.

Pete points out that there is a fundamental difference between how someone writes a story, or drama, compared to someone who writes rock music or songs. From Pete’s perspective, the rock composer has to guide the listener in someway but not provide all the details, leaving something left for the listener to fill. I hope he won’t mind if I pinch a quote:

“The listener jumps into the music and it is only then that the real story begins. Too much information, too much detail, too much plot, makes the leap impossible. Rock and Pop fans don’t merely want to identify with the story … They want to be the story”.

To me this is a great point and something I agree with. That is the reason so many people can take a song and have it mean something to them. It may only be a part of a song that clicks with someone, but that part links with your world. If the whole song does that, then you get something you really like. A classic. But it is how you fill that hole that means so many people from different backgrounds can get so much (and often different things), from one song.

Regular readers might have noted that I’ve been attempting some poetry with varying levels of success. Some are more like songs than poems (like this one), but it makes me wonder if I have achieved that hole that a reader can inhabit. Well if I haven’t, it is something to aim for in the future. I kind of figure poetry in some forms is a fine line of difference between it, and a song, with perhaps some obvious verse, chorus, structure differences, but often that same rule will apply. Again it is why different people can find themselves in different ways within a poem.

So how does this relate to Star signs? Well I could go on a big rant about what nonsense they are, but I suppose this sentence will do that job. If there are any readers who have read a few star signs in their time, they might have noticed that some astrologists, or as I call them “writers”, seem to be better at it, or more related to your life than others. That I believe is a simple point. Horoscopes also work with the same “hole”, that the reader needs to inhabit. If they are too direct and have too much detail, then it won’t fit most readers. Readers of horoscopes are not after a story, they are after something that relates to them. Like any area of writing, some writers are simply better than others. Those <ahem> “good” ones are just better at creating the hole.

So that is what music and horoscopes have in common. Agree or disagree? Or do you even agree with Pete’s point about the hole?

Lexicon word of the day: Indubitable.

What music and writing have in common

I confess, I seem to be on a music kick this week as far as writing is concerned, on this (dramatic drum roll), … the 15 minute writer exercise blog. Well that sounds kind of clunky doesn’t it? Well it is only an exercise, re-drafts must be on a separate post,you understand – I am enjoying this daily writing, I must confess, there is little about it that is under duress. Hmm…

In a reversal of how rhythm with words is a fine take on (ahem), “good” writing, and I’m not talking about the bad punning, and birthday card poetry of the previous paragraph here, today I’m interested in a different way that music and writing have something in common. It is about how music and writing interact for me, how they may interact for you, and the symbiotic relationship they have on each other, at least in my head.

Pretty generally speaking and excluding people who are trying to listen for specific instruments, people listen to music such as pop, rock, folk, and similar in two ways. The first way is to listen for the lyrics and enjoy a song that way, the music is a lesser priority. The second way is the opposite, they listen to the music, the melodies, riffs, the rhythms, timbre, and so on. The lyrics are the lesser priority, sometimes even picked up phonetically, so that words might be learnt without the meaning considered. This is more common than you might think. I’ve often done it in the past myself. So, and this is interesting because I like reading and writing, I tend to be the latter. The music comes first for me. Now I didn’t choose it that way, that is just what happens, I usually have to work a bit more to get the lyrics, or read them if provided (yet another downside in downloads, which is aside from the quality issue). Yet I still love quality lyrics, they just are not up front for me. Therein lies what appears on the surface to be the first contradiction, but as you shall see, it is not.

I’m a big music fan and in return, music can provide a big inspiration to me. For example, there are times when I may be sitting round, a bit bored, or maybe a bit tired, but seemingly not on the ball creatively. But then I plug the headphones into the laptop, put them on, and play some tracks (oh iTunes you little devil you). Usually within a minute or two I’m caught up in it. Something has happened. I’m caught up in a riff or melody, maybe synchronised with a beat, or riding the changes in tempo. I’m following the story of the music, the ups and downs and everything else, a particular lyric or phrasing, even the emotion of a vocal performance, perhaps the way award is phrased. There is a something. It gets me flowing. Suddenly I have a tempo, or a realisation on an emotional up or down. It can be a bit fantasy, a bit dream like, if you will, it takes me away from where I was and places me somewhere else. It gives me imagination. Somewhat amazing is the amount of times an idea I had in the back of my mind, flies to the front, without conscious prompting, then suddenly I have four or five ideas around it. Things I can add to, or revisit and edit later. Notes that need to be taken.

Sometimes I use music in a different way. Music listened to over time can be very nostalgic, it will soundtrack certain things in your life. Re-listening to songs can bring back memories, feelings, or often different emotions. It might remind you of a great trip somewhere, a little shared moment, or a horrific breakup that tore up your insides at the time. Listening to a song can take you away from where you are now, and in these instances, practically right back to that other place. To me when this happens, it gives me an emotional depth, or an emotional water well from which to draw from. It gives me the emotional thing, the feeling I want to try and replicate. It tells me how something should be, what I should be striving for when I put it into context. It is a way of realising what is in myself, some might take this as what is in my soul. Whichever way you want to take it, the music shows me what is there, it is merely my task to try and use it for what it is. To translate it from the electrical noise in my brain to the written word on the page.

It occurs to me now that as I like music and have quite a lot of it, that my music library is to some extent, a personal library for me, of me. I’m just using it to access me, (or at least parts of me), a bit like an index.

It ought to be clear from the above that I can also use music as a reboot. It triggers my brain into some kind of action. When I really get it right and choose something I’m (often unconsciously), yearning for, then I literally am taken away. I can be swept away  into a different mental state, I can be somewhere else, I can move up out of here and fly. It sounds a little cringeworthy but that is what it is.

Music also makes me respectful of what it is as a piece, as a work, or a project. It can be small and throwaway, it can be about a theme a heartfelt, wrought, piece of emotion. It could be a story, a diary, an emotional moment of someone’s life. It could be days of hard work, or five minutes of inspiration. It can be genius, it can be terrible. It can be a showcase of talent, it can be three or five guys in tune with each other, feeding off each other. It could be the result of hundreds of hours of practice, or something that just seemed to appear and write itself. It can be an attempt to create something specific, to a theme or story, or just something that seems throwaway, that gives a few minutes of entertainment. It could be made in an expensive studio, or in the singer’s bedroom. It could be all this and more. What is not to respect about this? It is someone creating something. When it works it is (in gestalt terms) “greater than the sum of it’s parts”, it is something alive in our hearts and minds. It is the result of everything that got it there, before it slots in and becomes apart of you. It is that we must respect and admire, for if we wish to write something that engages, we wish to do the same thing. It embodies the idea of what we are trying to achieve as a writer.

With all this in mind we must also consider that music can also be used to add to life’s moments. I’m talking about the little things that make you smile, or make you realise that whatever else is going on, a little moment is all that is needed. My 14 month old son is starting to notice music a little more. He is also is getting steadier on his feet, and combining this with bouncing up and down, or throwing his arms around, or even all three. There have been a few times where a song has come on that has grabbed his attention, he looks at me and does his little dance, so I can do it back to him. He laughs, it’s fun, he’s only 14 months old so it is genuine. It makes me love the little fella a little bit more, and thankful that I’m his dad. It’s one of those moments. It is real it was there. What it has in common with writing, and especially fiction, is producing these moments. The moments people can say, “I understand, I was there as well, I shared in it”.

And that is what music and writing have in common. Music can inspire me, it can take me away to a different place, or return me to an old place. It can show me an emotional moment, or it can create a new one. It makes me respectful of what people can achieve, and the process involved in getting it there. If we wish to write, to communicate with others then a great way to do it is to try and create these similar moments. Moments which take a person away from where they are, show them something new, tweak an emotion, make them think, or respectful of what they, or others have. That is what music and writing have in common for me, and why they cannot be separated. I hope you have something like this that works this way for you.

Lexicon word of the day: Magniloquent.