Sunday, 21 December 2014

Religious People And Me

When it comes to religion it is important to think in terms of what we have in common, rather than how we differ. For instance, as an atheist I am considered a heretic by every religion, condemned to an apparently infinite list of infinite physical and emotional tortures, whereas a religious person is considered a heretic and condemned by every religion except one, so religious people and I have much more in common than you'd think. 


Tuesday, 16 December 2014

She's Really Nice

They are leaning against a metal railing, behind them a sports field, before them an outlandish pointy pyramid that houses the chapel of this posh school. Beside her a French horn case, beside him a clarinet, they've left orchestra rehearsal on a Friday afternoon, both wait at the same gate for a parent to arrive and drive them home. The school is quiet, everyone else went home a couple of hours ago.

He is nervous. She is pretty. She is younger than him. He is nervous because he doesn't know the social rules regarding being friendly, let alone friends, with a girl from a younger class. He is nervous because her older brother may turn up and give him a hard time. Let's face it, this kid is nervous most of the time, a pretty girl is just making it worse.

She opens a conversation, makes him feel welcome to chat, welcome to engage with her. No girl has ever done that for him before. Her eyes are both innocent and knowing. As long as he doesn't look at her eyes he can control his nerves, as long as he doesn't look at her smile either. Or her hair. 

They converse for a while. He wonders what he was nervous about? It's easy, actually very pleasant. She's funny, makes him feel that he might be a little bit funny too.

His father arrives, he has to go. His farewell is unintentionally gruff and dismissive, his nerves aren't as under control as he thought. As he sits in the passenger's seat he feels sad that he can't control his life, that he has to leave her alone to wait for her ride home. He knows she is safe, and that a parent will arrive within minutes, but her ladylike behaviour has inspired a chivalry in him that he didn't know existed. 

This young man prides himself on his command of the English language, the breadth of his vocabulary. All the way home he is trying to find the words for what he is feeling. All he can come up with is, "she's . . . really . . . nice". 

The young fellow with the clarinet is not a happy student, leaves the posh school soon after. He never has the chance to converse with the pretty, younger girl again. 

Years later, when he thinks back on his shabby high school career, he thinks fondly of that Friday afternoon, that conversation, that girl who made him feel good about himself for a few minutes. He wishes he'd found a way to overcome his nervousness and tell her, even in a fumbling, shabby way, "you're . . . really . . . nice".


Friday, 12 December 2014

When Electricity Wasn't Required To Make Music

There was a time when electricity wasn't required to play music, a time when electronic amplification didn't exist. That time wasn't so long ago.

There was a time when people attended gigs to listen to music, so the band didn't have to play louder to be heard above the conversation. There was a time when musicians created beautiful and interesting tones by using their bodies, not by twiddling knobs. There was a time when music was played in venues sympathetic to music, where the natural acoustics of the room enhanced the performances. 

Can you imagine such a time? It was less than one hundred years ago. High quality instruments played by high quality musicians, singers with high quality voices, rooms with high quality acoustics, can you imagine how beautiful that time was? The definition of high fidelity sound, honest and real.

I dream of such a time.

A time when playing and listening to music was an intimate, human experience, when musicians didn't suffer hearing loss as part of their jobs, when low quality music wasn't disguised by high volume and electronic effects. A time when musicians were masters of their craft and respected for it.

I yearn for a time when I can turn up to a gig carrying nothing but my instrument, play music for an audience who came to listen, hear every note played by others sharing the stage, craft and blend a performance out of the natural sounds our natural instruments and voices create. The time when this was normal wasn't so long ago. 


Thursday, 4 December 2014

What Is Facebook?

What is Facebook? Facebook is a company that earns money by selling advertising space on its web site. That's all it is. 

The advertising space the company sells is valuable because the web site attracts a large audience. The site attracts a large audience because of the content that people post on it. Without that content there would be no audience, the advertising space would be valueless, the company would make no money. 

Unlike traditional media, newspapers, magazines, radio and television, Facebook does not pay the people who contribute the content that attracts the audience. Even Rupert Murdoch pays the people who contribute content to the advertising based media he owns. 

Whether, or not, you choose to use the web site owned by the Facebook company, a company that only earns money when you give it content to sell advertising space around, is up to you. I've decided to cease giving Facebook my content. 

What is Facebook? Facebook is an old fashioned confidence trick.


Saturday, 29 November 2014

Scales And Arpeggios

You say you can't see how practising scales and arpeggios will change anything. 

I say you have to practise the scales and arpeggios before you can see how anything will change.

Some things are in the doing.