Sunday, 11 January 2009

These are the days of miracles and wonder.

Music's amazing. How are there people that don't listen to it or play it? I come home, I put something to listen to on. I listen all day at my desk. I put it on in the car. I listen on the train. I listen walking about. And if I haven't got phones in my ears, I'm listening in my head, or singing out loud. I look forward to choir practice, to spending time with a piano (for preference) or failing that nearly anything that is tuned so that I can practice songs I adore. The title of the post comes from a song called 'I know what I know' from the album Graceland by Paul Simon. I did nearly call it 'Thank you for the days', from the song 'Days' by The Kinks. Either sentiment fits what I want to say, but I like the sense of immediacy of the one I chose. Now is the moment. Carpe diem, and all that - you will never get it back. Now is for living in, don't wait. But The Kinks line is necessary, too. It is just as important to realise what you have had, how you have lived - what happened, what it means, what you take from it, how you apply it to the days that will happen in future. That sounds really clinical, when I write it down. It was quite a poetic thought in my head. At least I avoided the use of 'evaluation'. The lyrics of that song are fantastic. Simple, but effective. I can't work out the song's mood though, probably because I can't work out my own. Up and down again.

Music just has a way of underlining existence. Oli Robinson had something when he put together Something about life and music.... I have become addicted to Graceland. I have listened to it at least once, most days, since about the middle of November. I know it by heart. It's part of the experience of my life at the moment. I couldn't tell you why, though. Why THAT album. It's undeniably great. It has pathos and power and melody and harmony and tune and lyrics that intrigue and captivate. It wavers on the border of old fashioned and almost modern pop in places. It carries folk and elements of rock. It's of its time, in the recording quality if nowhere else. (And in its obsession with potted drums - lots of clipped tight noises, which I think sound hopeless...what's wrong with acoustic?! You just stop it sounding real. But that particular sound dates it for me. Not that we don't have that around now, but I don't really think it sounds the same.)

But actually, the lyrics of the songs don't resonate specifically with my life. Well, they do, but I could find more emotive things to hear, I think. The album flicks between moods. It's young, but learning; it's attached to life but sees the pain. I think that's it. It's romantic, even though I don't think it's really about love. During SAL&M, Sarah Lambie said it was something she and her Dad had listened to it while driving around the Peak District, when she was a kid. That's her connection to it. And it IS good driving music - the songs seem to have that movement to them. They don't finish where they started. I can't explain it, you'll have to listen and see if you can hear it, too. It's also enormously American. There's an enormous scope to it that seems silly in England. And I want that scope. Not that I think England CAN'T offer it, but it is different. Here it is slow. There is an immediacy to Graceland that seems odd in this country that can be so ponderous. Too much weight of history. Mostly, I love the history, but sometimes it seems like it might be limiting us. I don't know. I don't know anything really about America. I'm working from a nebulous folk impression of the place, of which Graceland has become inextricably part, now. That, and Stephen Fry's America programmes that were on in October and November and were fantastic. I become more in awe of that guy all the time.

I've talked about music for ages. Which is hopefully a little more interesting than my slightly excited countdown of simple things that have made me hungover happy this week. You get both...
  • John and I cooked the pheasants Will shot for dinner on Thursday. It went SO well. I was so pleased. Not that it was complicated, we just covered the things in bacon and butter and roasted them with pears and onions and juniper, and served them with mustard roast potatoes and parsnips, with spicy cabbage and a mushroom and white wine vinegar gravy. It was a bit hotch-potch because too many people had been in charge of shopping and we didn't have quite what we really wanted. Worked out pretty damn well though! I love watching people eat food that I cooked. It's satisfying. Yes, probably even satisfying some maternal instinct. A very old way of showing people you care, but there are reasons for that. This event made me hungover, however. We started with G&Ts mixed by John, then moved on to the wine (there were six of us, and we probably drank 3 bottles of wine...not THAT bad...yet), and then started on the port. We drank 2 bottles of port. And then went on to spirits... Good job work is REALLY dull at the moment and only Jenny was in the office on Friday, really.
  • I went to London yesterday, to see Pete McDonald, mostly. We had lunch at Wahaca in Covent Garden, which was fantastic fun, then saw Slumdog Millionaire in Leicester Square. The film is billed as something like 'the feelgood film of the year', which is a load of rubbish...I cried a couple of times, but then I'm soft-hearted. It's fantastic. Cheesy in places and occasionally lacking much sophistication, which is unsurprising given it has Bollywood roots, but still a wonderful thing to have seen. India is a place of extremes. It frightened me because I couldn't get to grips with them. I shouldn't have been trying. But it was brilliant.
  • We then wandered over to the National Portrait Gallery, because we had some time to kill and figured it would be warm there (it was -5. I didn't have a hat. I wasn't impressed). They had the Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize on display. It would have been more powerful if it had been less busy (the whole city was heaving yesterday - I had difficulty finding a seat on my train in), but it was still an experience. At a very simple level, technically brilliant photographs of people that are blown up more than life size are always going to be arresting. Some of them were generic images, in terms of facial expressions or of pose or whatever. Or some were over-worked, trying too hard and falling down - like the iconic picture of the girl with the plastic bag on her's too didactic. I don't feel I have the same lack of comprehension about photographs that I do about paintings. I think I know more about what I like, and more about the process and everything. And so I feel a bit more able to judge, at least against my own measures. I suppose that in photography I HAVE my own measures. I know what I'm trying to achieve when I take pictures for myself. Though if you actually asked me a bit more about what that was I'd find it hard. There were some that spoke, that you wanted to know more about, that drew you in to their eyes or their story.
  • I then headed off to meet up with a few other people and catch up with the world over girly dinner. I always go to London feeling the need to make the most of the time (especially since they've put the damn fares up again...not long now before a Young Persons' Travelcard from Cambridge will be over £20...), and I'm always shattered when I come home again. I love the whirlwind experience though. I met up with three sets of people, all of whom come from different areas of my life. I love the interaction of all of that. And meeting up with lots of people almost guarantees too much when I got back to Cambridge at 1am I was pretty shattered. And THEN there were people online to chat to, to complete the social events of the day. 'Social events' has a derogatory tone to it. My Saturday had nothing derogatory or generic or ordinary about it.
Oh, and I had some luck in my exam on Wednesday. It has been a week of extremes. Bit like the film. Bedtime.

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