Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Music! Maestro, please.............

Hullo ma wee blog,

It's  part of its strange and fantastic power that you can listen to a piece of music or look at a painting or sculpture and find yourself both moved emotionally and your thoughts veering off in a completely different direction from whatever you happened to be doing or thinking at the time. It happens to me a lot, usually with music as that's the art form I have contact with most. I can be taken to far away places or different times and find myself wondering what moved the composer to create those sounds, what experience or emotion, what need, what vision dictated such a response. I find it incredible that someones experience translated into music can communicate to me down the years, even down the ages and elicit something that is vivid, unique and deeply personal in return. A direct connection between composer and listener, sometimes separated by centuries.

Sometimes, of course, we know what the stimulus was - a visit to a place or some recorded upheaval in the composers personal life. Often we just don't, but the music connects with us just the same regardless. I was driving to Dunbar earlier to see a friend when a piece of music, a favourite classical piece, came on the radio. I've known Albinoni's Adagio in G minor since I was at school in my very early teens. The first time I heard it I was mesmerised by its drama and solemnity, by the slow yet relentlessly pacing beat that drives it constantly on, broken only in a couple of interludes by a solo instrument lifting away and above just for a moment before returning inexorably to the main theme once again. I've often wondered what the trigger for that piece was.

I thought it was beautifully and poetically used  in the Peter Weir film 'Gallipoli', a movie which effectively brought Mel Gibson to the fore. I can look back and see too that it in some way prompted my love for similar pieces, left me prepared to listen to music that before meant nothing to my childish likes and helped shape the musical taste, certainly for classical and instrumental music, that I have today. It came also to evoke memories of my Grandfather, once I had established the connection with Gallipoli through the film score, as he had served there in the Royal Scots Fusiliers in 1915 and 1916.

Music is a fascinating means of association. All of us have music that reminds us of the finding or loss of lovers, of wedding days and other happy or sad occasions, some critical,  but some equally and bewilderingly unimportant points in our lives that are forever marked by one song or piece of music that when heard, always takes us back to that specific point in life and allows us to reflect or to remember those poignant moments. These associations become deeper and broader as reflection and life experience add layer after layer on top of original memories. These audio mementos are very precious to me as a natural hoarder of the physical version - the domino set my grandfather carried in WWI, grannies mantle clock that literally chimes with my childhood, great grannies wedding china and the like. Stuff which fills cupboards and drawers and comes to light infrequently. Things to be held in trust until the time is right to pass them on to another generation. At least that's what I sometimes tell myself, but whether the next generation will want them is debatable.

Musical memories, triggers, are all round me at home through our music collection. Some have been posted across the blog at various times, like audio stakes in the ground that mirror sentiment or feeling linked to particular blog posts for instance, or just a reassurance for me where maybe I've felt that a post needed something, even not directly related. I suppose too it's reflected in my sign off where I'll usually let you know what I'm listening to at the time. Each week there will be a trigger that send me thinking about something or other and as the years pass and experiences build up there are of course more and more triggers around to excite, reassure, reaffirm memories and feelings anew.

Hearing this piece again made me think of my Grandfather, especially so as my brother and I had recently walked some of his footsteps in Belgium, in Paschendaele and Ypres. Once again the imagery associated with the music came to me as images of war. No longer under a blazing sun in Turkey but in the mud and filth of the western front, in that seemingly endless flat ground perfectly made for mans worst creation.

Music is magic, of that there's no doubt. It's incredible how man can be so creative and so destructive and how both can be represented by the same thing.

see you later.

Listening to Albanoni, 'Adagio in G minor'


Morning's Minion said...

You do know how to follow a train of thought in the best kind of way--putting into words something which many may have felt but not attempted to articulate.
You spoke of music which once heard at a particular time or event is forever linked. And I recalled the death by bizarre accident of a young man who was part of my growing up years--in church, school, choir, band. He was from a very musically gifted family. When his older brother met with my mother to plan the music for the funeral service David said, "Please choose little known quiet music--nothing that my parents need hear again and associate with Charles' death."
I find it interesting that sometimes I have music playing simply as "background" and yet it can weave itself very noticably and lastingly into the pattern of a remembered day or scene.
The Albinoni is one of my favorites also--a hauntingly unique piece.

Alistair said...

Hullo MM,

Thanks - I'm surprised you have energy left for reading blogs. You seem to have been very busy on the farm. I looked the area up on google earth to see if I could identify any landmarks which would pinpoint the farm but failed. It looks a nice area though.


Rebecca S. said...

Hello Al, I know why you haven't posted much lately - you were saving it all up for this one. This type of post takes a collected, reflective state of mind and sometimes that takes time.
The Adagio is one I discovered as a young student. I listened to it all the time on my walkman. It seemed to answer some unspoken question or mood at that time, and it still resonates as pensive and beautiful and timeless. I loved how you said music could reach down the ages from the composer to the listener. I have often wondered at that myself. Only yesterday after a day of really hard mental work and dinner to prepare, I put on a Dave Matthews album which brought me out of my creased-brow state of mind into a much more positive one. I silently thanked Dave and all the musicians for their contribution to my well being.
Music is indeed powerful and is a well everyone can draw from.
Thank-you for sharing the video and your thoughts.

The Scudder said...

A really thoughtful & thought provoking piece Al & beautifully written. I couldn't agree more with your sentiments .,., Personally I couldn't live without music in my life.
But a wee thought I often agonise over ( crazy maybe ? ).,., What would my dear mum have made of some of the musical stuff she missed in life ? Sadly, no route there from Composer to listener.

Alistair said...

Hullo Rebecca - thanks for that. It's nice to hear that a piece of music that affects and is important to me does the same for others around the world too as shown by you and MM.

Scudder, Unless your Mum was deaf perhaps I think you might be commenting on your Mums lack of access to or appreciation of a wide range of music here maybe. That was certainly the same for my Mum who despite being a chorister in her youth and having the most beautiful singing voice restricted herself in later life to what I would call 'hoochter teuchter' highland dance music and poo-poo'd almost everything else - certainly I was always being told to turn that racket down. {and have been left with some utterly cringe worthy associations as a result}

I always feel though that narrow as her scope and appreciation might have been, she was happy with that. If not, she could have found something else. I was also surprised that in later life when she became blind that music didn't become a bigger part of her life, but sadly it didn't.

Cheers All.........

Big Swifty said...

Music is so evocative, and one of my favourites is Vaughan Williams' "Tallis Fantasia" which is 100 years old this year. It triggers and stirs something very deep in me, and it's not as if I subscribe to any religions. Music is magic I guess.

Alistair said...

I love Vaughan Williams too Swifty, especially the way he is so rooted in English folk music. I love the fantasy on the D'argason I think it is.


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