Sunday, 7 December 2008

Invisible, as Music

All that talk about Xmas music has been interesting and very enjoyable (even some of you taking the mickey out of me and my odd friend Mariah – that just makes it feel like a real family Xmas...) but today I remembered one of the reasons why proper festive Xmas music is not such a big thing for me personally. I was hard at work this lunchtime wrapping presents that have to be posted off to friends and relatives elsewhere and I was listening to the CD 'Black Water' from 2006 by Kris Drever. It is a fantastic album and now I know some readers are Kate Rusby fans it's worth telling you that she does some of the backing vocals on the album too. Anyway there I was singing along at full volume and thinking how much all the songs on 'Black Water' remind me of the Xmas before last because I gave the CD to Mark as a present that year and we listened to it loads and loads (and loads and loads). We quite often have big parties in the New Year and I remember it from the party that year too. It is our album of Xmas 2006 – well, mine certainly.

And that's when I remembered – Xmas for me has always been largely about new music. From quite an early age a large part of my Xmas list was made up of albums of music - I can remember asking for ABBA in my pre-teens and Michael Jackson somewhere a little later along the line as well as compilations of all kinds (all vinyl of course...not sure when I got my first CD...will have to think about that one...). Because single vinyl albums were fairly affordable back then (how much were they - £3.50 and the like?) my brothers and I would go to Boots or Smiths or some such excitement (we lived in the sticks) and buy each other albums...year after year after year. “Here's a Pink Floyd for you”, “thanks, here's a bizarre K Tel compilation for you”. They (being older) got the much cooler music but I always used to go and sit in their rooms and listen to their albums when they were out or away so it was a win/win situation for me really. I listened to their Led Zep, their Pink Floyd, their Funkadelic...and I sometimes wonder how different my music tastes might have turned out if they'd liked jazz or classical. But they didn't so we'll never know!

This year will be no different – still a whole lotta new music. I know I am getting the new Chris Wood CD from Santa (I know because I bought it and then said...'I tell you what, babe, give me this for Xmas'...because I do talk like posh spice sometimes...). Chris Wood is a great songwriter so I'm really looking forward to hearing that (and I haven't even sneaked a listen – I'm an angel, see!). I'm also really enjoying a CD by a new Kris Drever project (the trio Drever McCusker Woomble) – it's called 'Before the Ruin' and it's so good that I feel it may get played a lot over the next month or so. John McCusker is a well-known Scottish musician and composer (best known on the folk scene but with eclectic tastes and experience) and Roddy Woomble is known (to some) as the singer from Idlewild (are they an indie band? I've never been much of an indie listener...just bits here and there). I first heard Woomble when he was on stage with Kate Rusby at Celtic Connections in 2007 and he was a bit overshadowed by her on that occasion (it was in the huge Concert Hall in Glasgow and it was FULL of serious KR fans). On this album though I have started to understand what the fuss might be about his voice – very distinctive, very warm without being soppy or obvious. I bought 'Before the Ruin' as a present for someone, took a sneaky listen and liked it so much that I decided to keep it and get the friend something else instead! Maybe I'm not an angel after all...the other present was something she'll like too though!

So, my conclusion - 'tis the season to listen to anything but Cliff...and just out of interest how many of you recognise the title of this post? Without cheating...

x

30 comments:

Ken Armstrong said...

This post seemed to have a portentous start - I was expecting something doom-laden and then, presto, Music!!! Yay. :) I love music for Xmas (see how thoughtful I was just there) I got Tom Waits triple CD Orphans two years ago - an expensive thing - and I am still chuffed about it. Books and CDs and I'm a happy bunny.

Rachel Fox said...

What was portentous? The title? This is my cheery window...give me another 2 weeks and I'll be back to doom...

Tom Waits...the album I know best is 'The Heart of Saturday Night' - I had a uni friend who played it non-stop. I've tried others but none has got me quite like that one (and some are a bit jazz for me). These days I seem to hear a lot of people doing cover versions of his songs (lots of folkie musicians cover his songs).
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Was familiar but couldn't recall it so had to cheat. Wonderful...

Sorlil said...

I don't buy much music these days, when I worked at the fish farm I bought cd's the way I now buy poetry - so we could have something different to listen to in the fish slicing room, leaving it to the guys or the older ones to provide the music was fatal to one's mental condition! So I have hunners of cd's that I don't get around to listening to as it is, plus there is little new stuff coming out that interests me. The last cd I bought was snow patrol!

Rachel Fox said...

Sorlil - I listen to a lot of music whilst doing stuff at home (cooking, ironing etc.) so I do listen to everything I get. Going to the folk club (I go every 2 weeks) means I hear a lot of new music there and come across all kinds of great artists.

If I buy too many books just now they end up sitting in piles unread and making me feel bad. I do read (of course!) but not as much as I have done at other times. Sometimes it seems to take ages to get through a book these days what with interruptions etc. I read poems but very sporadically...a poem by x here, a poem by y there. I don't read many whole poetry books just now (though I do read some...McMillan's for example).

And SW...yes I'm waiting to see who does know it. I thought it might be very well-known.

x

Rachel Fox said...

That's Hugh McM not Ian, I should say. I keep meaning to get a book of the English McMillan but haven't yet. Every time I read some poet being snooty about Ian McM I think...'must read some of his'!
x

Dominic Rivron said...

Christmas is great if you're a music teacher: live music making is actually widely considered to be important and amateur musicians are actually in demand. Many children who are learning instruments and learning to read music make a great quantum leap forward in December.

Folk tunes have always been considered important in the learning of music. One reason for this is that people's folk traditions are deeply meaningful to them: there's a real kick to learning a tune everyone knows. Christmas is perhaps the only time of the year when anything even vaguely like a folk tradition is at all real to most people in England (Britain?) these days: children are desperate to be able to play Jingle Bells, for example, because it's well known, even if they do sing (and why not?):

Jingle Bells
Batman smells
Robin flew away.
He left his pants
In the middle of France
at the RSPCA, Ohhhhh (repeat) :)

Art Durkee said...

I just bought myself three CDs yesterday, for early Xmas, but I doubt anyone here would know or like them. I have unusual tastes. John Taverner is the most likely composer's name someone might know.

But your basic point is spot on, and my experience matches it as well. I always got music for Xmas and my birthday. But then, I'm a musician.

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting points Dominic...I wish you'd been my music teacher!
Scotland does have more songs that lots of people know (i.e.a folk tradition). Some of them are songs that would get called 'folk' and others aren't but people sing them all. There are all the Burns songs for a start...I got an Eddi Reader sings Burns CD not long ago which is gorgeous. I love the tradition of unaccompanied singing here too...particularly popular up here on the east coast.

And we sang the Batman song with the ending 'the Batmobile/has lots its wheel...'and I can't remember the end. Google suggests 'Joker got away' but I don't remember that. They also have lines about Robin laying eggs which sound familiar too.

And Art...you might be surprised what readers here know and like. They certainly don't all share my taste in music all the time! In fact some just come here to mock me...
x

Jim Murdoch said...

I usually get some music for Xmas but it's always off my wish list. For someone with as expansive tastes as I have it always puzzles the hell out of me that no one ever hardly gets me something I've not specifically asked for. The odds are that I'd like it.

And, Art, yes, I know Tavener and I have some of his stuff.

Rachel Fox said...

So what's on your wish list this year, Jim? I'm just nosy...curious...bit of both.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Your comment on Eddie Reader singing Burns reminded me of an old LP I have of Jean Redpath singing Burns - Fantastic!

Jim Murdoch said...

I'm really not a big fan of wish lists. I never read Carrie's and I don't even know if my daughter has one. Mine exists purely for the benefit of my American relatives who really don't know me. These are the books on the list. There are some text books but I've stripped it down because I guess they don't see text books as presents. Perhaps I should take out all the novels and just have text books.

Balancing on the Edge of the World by Elizabeth Baines

Words from a Glass Bubble by Vanessa Gebbie

Leading the Dance by Sarah Salway

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Fup: A Modern Fable by Jim Dodge

The Little Girl Who Was Too Fond of Matches by Gaetan Soucy

Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

A Girl in Winter by Philip Larkin

Jill by Philip Larkin

Rachel Fox said...

I bought that Elizabeth Baines book, Jim. I'd read her blog and the book sounded interesting and it wasn't going to show up in the library just yet. There were a couple of stories in it that I really liked (and some, probably more in all honesty, that I really didn't). But definitely worth a look.
x

Rachel Fox said...

And I really meant music on your wish list...is any of that music...they all sound like books.

swiss said...

astonishly i don't have any music on my list of things for me this xmas.

with the drever talk i did go out and get black water today wich sounds fine but currently isn;t making it onto the cd player due to the davy graham compilation i got at the same time. and even when that's done i got a louis sclavis thing the other day that i'm into but just can't get my head round at the moment

Rachel Fox said...

I'm sure you will love 'Black Water' when you play it! It is one of those albums where I love every track...one comes on and I think 'this is my favourite' and then the next one comes on and I think 'no, it's this one' and then the CD is finished and I want to start all over again. He's good live too. Makes funny faces when he plays...bit like a kid when they're drawing!
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Gosh, that's the eclectic of the eclectic, Jim!

IMO, Larkin's novels aren't a patch on his poems. You may well waste your time there. Just my own opinion, obviously, but I have read them both!

I met Jerry Spinelli (and his lovely wife who's also a writer) a few years ago at a publisher's event - and he's a great guy. Again IMO - I think he's one of the great contemporary children's writers. His book 'Stargirl' is fab also.

Rachel Fox said...

I'd never heard of Spinelli although 'Stargirl' sounds vaguely familiar. Maybe stuff for Small Girl over next few years.
x

Jim Murdoch said...

I have no music on my wish list this year. There's nothing I'm desperate enough to hear that I won't simply get myself if I've not already got it. Maybe someone will use their initiative and I'll have a genuine surprise on the day. Now, that would be nice.

Jim Murdoch said...

@The Solitary Walker - I'm sure you're right about the Larkin but I've never got round to them and if even one appears some day then I'll be able to satisfy my curiosity.

Rachel Fox said...

And if either of you would like to write about those Larkin books I'd be interested to read what you've got to say.
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh well, this is completely off the top of my head as I read them a long time ago, and they have both merged in my imagination, but...

I seem to remember they are both terribly autobiographical - sensitive young man goes to Oxbridge/feels out of place 'cos he's out of his 'class'/romantic unrequited love infatuation/1st job as librarian in remote provincial town(surprsie, surprise - Larkin's 1st job, I beleive, was a librarian in Wellington Library, Shropshire - don't ask me how I know that, it's just one of those bits of useless knowledge that's stuck - if, indeed, I've got it right! - and of course his librarianship eventually led him to Hull and Greater Things)/cheap lonely lodgings and depression and secret writing ambitions... Etc.
V. typical of a certain kind of '50s/early 60s English novel in some ways - but without the panache of a John Braine or an Alan Sillitoe.

Meandering, traditional, unexciting, introspective and not particularly innovative or well written...

Thank God, after the juvenile false start of 'The North Ship', he continued with poetry and became... well, one of the best poets we've ever had! (Though some might like to disagree with that?)

Rachel Fox said...

Well, SW, they might disagree but then they would be wrong, so wrong.
Thanks for the quick review.
Have you read the Andrew Motion biography of PL? I really enjoyed it...but then I am a big fan (of PL not AM).
Oh and 'Juvenile first collection'..maybe there's hope for me after all...
x

The Solitary Walker said...

Yes, I did read that. Glad to see you're not letting his dubious sexual and political preferences cloud your artistic judgement! But the personal life/character of authors - sometimes ostensibly in direct opposition to their art - is a massive subject in itself...

Rachel Fox said...

Larkin was what he was...a brilliant poet but a bit of a sad old tosser in some ways (many ways even). You can't have everything. He was fairly typical of a certain kind of Englishman of that era (repressed, bitter, frustrated, unenlightened in many things!) - England still has them too of course! I couldn't speak about Scotland in this way just yet...I'm still too new!

I have discussed this subject before with Jim (and others probably). I did a couple of Larkin posts back in April of this year. Larkin may have said some crap things in letters to friends (trying to impress? Sooo sad!) but I didn't read anything in the Motion book that suggested he actually ever insulted or harmed anybody (unless I just blanked those bits out). He annoyed his girlfriends (and would never marry them) but I don't think he was a woman hater as such. He hated himself far more.

The Solitary Walker said...

Well said. Will check back later on your posts. Now the toad work looms!

Rachel Fox said...

19th April 08 was the main Larkin one. And Jim did a good Larkin post about that time too.
x

Dave King said...

Christmas for me was always about new books. Not so different, really. I understand exactly what you are saying.

Rachel Fox said...

Oh yes, Dave, I love to get books too. These days I don't tend to get to read them till near the end of January though!

This Xmas I've asked Santa for Steve Martin's autobiography. He was on Jon Stewart recently talking about it and I love comedians. Well, most of them.

x