“Musical: What role does music play in your life?”
Ah, I can almost hear the groans from my nearest and dearest when they read this latest of WordPress’ ‘365 Days of Writing Prompts’. They know what’s coming.
But before we get to the Grateful Dead – as we surely shall – let me answer the question in broader terms.
We’ve already established that I have no practical aptitude at all when it comes to making music.The same goes for theory. A piece on musicology might just as well be written in Sanskrit for all the sense I would be able to make of it: I wouldn’t know a diminished fifth if it got up and bit me. Likewise, if you played me a note I honestly wouldn’t be able to tell you whether it was an A flat or a G sharp, or something (presumably) in between.
But none of this particularly worries me and why should it? After all:
“I don’t know anything about music. In my line you don’t have to.”
– Elvis Presley
Despite my almost total ignorance of how music works, I know what works – for me, at any rate.
It may come as a surprise, but I do like some classical music. Once upon a time I was quite a major devotee of Wagner. I have even sat through the complete box-set of The Ring Cycle: although if I were to tell you that it was on VHS, you may get an idea of how long ago this was. As background music I don’t mind some Gregorian Chant or baroque chamber pieces, but the key word there is ‘background’.
Mostly, though, my taste in classical music tends to stuff that creates a favourable environment in which to feel sorry for yourself. Just try to keep your spirits up while listening to Elgar’s Cello Concerto, or the adagio from Mahler’s Fifth Symphony (aka ‘Death in Venice’) and you’ll understand what I mean. Fortunately, though, I tend not to feel miserable very often, so they don’t get much airtime.
My real ‘thing’ – doubtless reflecting what was around in my most formative years when it comes to musical taste – is rock, and more specifically the serious end of it. Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin rather than Boston or Journey or, heaven help us, Survivor.
Terrific as this is, though, the point is that I’ve heard it all before: I’ve got the albums and the MP3s and they’re not making them any more. I still listen occasionally, of course, but realistically I have as much as I can handle with the Grateful Dead (oh, here we go).
I won’t bore you with the background. If you’re interested, it’s in one of the first posts I wrote here, called ‘Help on the way’. More recently I’ve updated you on the size of my downloads collection. Yeah, like you care.
Look, I’m not going to try and evangelize. Let’s just say that there’s enough in my still-burgeoning collection (new update: 822 shows and counting) for me never to hear the same thing twice – unless I want to, of course.
Here’s something that may illustrate what I mean. The first song they played at the first show I went to is called ‘Jack Straw’. It’s basically just a cowboy song that lollops along quite nicely. They played it a lot: indeed, I find that I have about 170 versions among those 822 shows. No two versions are identical: they vary in length between three and a half and over eleven minutes, depending on how the mood took them. The video below lasts about six minutes, so it’s just an average outing for the song.
Try it; you just might like it.