Brass

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Disclaimer – this article is concerned with brass band music and if you happen to not like it please feel free to skip πŸ™‚

I’ve spent a weekend listening to brass band music. British style. In competition, nonetheless. It left me wanting more of the same. I tried to analyze why I like it, although that type of exercise may not serve much and it won’t change anything.

Brass band is, like all music, purely individual. For someone like me, who doesn’t play any instrument (yet!) it was hard to understand at the beginning. All those instruments sounded the same (sorry, my friend!) I could feel the rhythm just because of the percussion section (sorry again!) and yet it called to something in me. So I set myself the very nice task of unravelling it. I am not there yet, but after this weekend I hope I am closer. I have, for example, very clear opinions about what I like and what I don’t. What they call test pieces I usually dislike intensely, they are long winded jumbles of discordant notes intended, as the name says it, to test the various players, with rare chunks of beauty that frustrate more than enchant. I have found two test pieces that merit more attention and I have been promised a list of others. Again, I don’t play any instruments, so I don’t even have the professional interest to hook me πŸ™‚

I find I like orchestral pieces arranged for brass band, and also traditional folklore themes and certain marches. I am getting better at recognizing skill when I hear it. I am partial to the lower tones, although a soprano cornet solo can lift me to tears. I am getting better at recognizing instruments, although not on sight. That’s not bad for someone who used to be deaf when it came to the mellow, honeyed euphonium compared to the far clearer baritone.

Now for some notes:

The street march is pure pomp, ceremony and outrageously exhilarating entertainment!

Test pieces are great for sorting out stuff in your head, both with instruments (they get tested in turns so you can get a feel for the sound) but also personal (time to think about that friend who is working too much or the other friend going through a rough patch)

After a while you know who’s subbing in for whom and who plays in more than one band (allowing for uniform changes).

Brass players are in almost constant motion, especially when they are NOT playing, they constantly check and clean their instrument, move their mouths, turn the pages, drink water (I assume it’s water!) etc.

Mutes are funny πŸ™‚ The way they change the sound coming out of the instruments is incredible. I have also seen beanies, towels, egg cartons and changing the position of the player in order to achieve that ellusive note.

Cornets can be substituted for violins.

Brass players can play the other instruments in the band as well.

Probably the best thing for me is the personal touch brass bands bring to sometimes quite complicated music. Smaller by far than an orchestra, limited and in a way set free by the range of instruments, with a tradition that has kept them local and linked to their communities, they also play the grand role of teaching children to carry on in the same manner. I like that πŸ™‚

WOMAD

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I’ve been to WOMAD this weekend just gone and it seems fitting that there should be an article about it. I will explain, but let’s start with the definition: World Of Music, Arts and Dance, at your service.

And the disclaimer: even if I was the one thinking about it, I could not have come up with a better way to entertain myself or with a better expression of the eclectic nature of this particular human being. In short, WOMAD suits me as if it was made to order! Lucky for me, Peter Gabriel is a genius πŸ™‚

I will start with the obvious: it would be very difficult for me to stick with one genre of music. Yes, I love rock, yes, I love classical, yes, I love folk… and I can say yes to pretty much most music, with the possible exception of rap and punk. So WOMAD suits me because it has variety and choices within that variety. Sounds pretty dry, huh? Somehow not enough…. despite every word being absolutely true.

Like most people I listen to the music I love and occasionally delve into something similar to it. But WOMAD means that I can sample a lot more than just the tried and true. It opens up the world, which I assume is not far from the intent. I can listen to Canadian Irish folk then go straight through to Austrian electronica, Brazilian bossa nova, Australian soul, Kiwi rock, Korean drum and this is just one day out of three!

Then it’s the people watching – one of the pleasures of going to WOMAD. You see, the atmosphere at this festival is quite interesting. The experience is more important than individual taste, so instead of competing, people are more likely to settle down and decide they actually like each other. Which, in turns, makes for a relaxed, smiling crowd, mellow during the day (smoking of the green could possibly have something to do with that πŸ˜› ) with an edgier alcohol fueled vibe in the evenings. But its’ family friendly at all times so the little one has come with me since birth πŸ™‚

The food and drink are expensive, as with all festivals, and I have been known to bring peanut butter sandwiches from home in leaner years πŸ™‚

The weather plays an astonishingly small part of the festival despite some real wet or scorching events – if it’s wet then you might see less of the fashion, but that seems to be all.

I don’t know quite to explain why the diversity of people at WOMAD makes me excited and happy rather than apprehensive and on guard. I may know some of them, but we have different taste in music, food, drink and clothes…. we are not of the same age, physical ability, ethnicity. We walk, act, sit and enjoy ourselves differently.

We are not attracted to this festival by any similarity other than our shared humanity – mayhap it’s enough?

Quaint

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It’s one of those words with changeable meaning. Originally it meant clever, ingeniously unusual, something to marvel at. Nowadays it is used in an almost derogatory way: obsolete, old-fashioned. Sometimes though it goes further and means simply unobtrusive, nothing to write home about, and if relating to dΓ©cor, to be changed to something more modern.

Kind of like us, then πŸ™‚

Even if the Chinese didn’t say β€œmay you live in interesting times” it remains a favourite wish of many to do so. Craving adventure, out of ordinary events, escapism, forgetting perhaps that we also need solitude, peace, a roof over our heads sometimes, security even. Not to mention the money that must be made somehow, relationships that need sustaining, books that are too heavy to carry in a backpack.

I am one of those people, you see. Railing sometimes at the routine I am told will make my life easier. Watching jet planes tracks across the sky and wishing I was on one of them. Wanting to go with the retreating wave.

It doesn’t mean I am forgetting the above. The small pleasures, the gratitude for so many things, the safety routines can bring to everyday life. Just that sometimes I am also aware that there is more to life than just the small circle in the sand I have been marking. That’s where the envy comes for those who travel, who create, who explore.

If I remember correctly, those anti-suffrage used to say that women who go to higher education will no longer be content with the life prescribed for them. It was true, too! πŸ™‚ Whole systems needed to be changed to accommodate those women.

So what to do when life is prescribed and I am no longer content with it? When the soul demands that the eyes witness what documentaries present? When the spirit rebels against bedtime as night dreams can’t hold a candle to daydreams? When the body aches from sitting in the office and asks to be allowed to roam at will?

Reading remains a staple, sometimes to the point of obsession, but fiction can’t hold me anymore. If I am to be stuck on the couch then I want my brain to fire on all cylinders. I can find emotion and feelings elsewhere! Music, especially live, is another good way to escape routine. Walking, while useful, is no longer enough in the weekends, so gardening will have to take its place, especially permaculture where the brain is involved as well, not just the wonder at life appearing out of seemingly nowhere.

It seems to me then that the brain is the culprit then, so it’s the brain that needs to be pleased until the time will come for an escape from the routine. And stubbornness will have to suffice, until freedom is at hand. And if there is a sacrifice… well, I assume it will be sleep!

Links

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My friend sent me this video by Pentatonix to watch. So I did and it will come as no surprise that I liked it πŸ™‚

And as usual it got me thinking – because I can’t really help it! There are so many links in this world that throw webs of fragile threads around us, until it feels as if we have only to pull on one and the entire world would change direction! I shall attempt to explain.

The song my friend sent was PTX’s cover of Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen – and there is a reason why many thought it funny that Bob Dylan should have been awarded the Nobel Prize for literature when there IS Leonard Cohen. But poetry taste aside, and because and despite Hallelujah is a mysterious wonder, of course my mind jumped to the actual Leonard Cohen concert I saw a couple of years ago. Standing or kneeling, surrounded by vocalists and instrumentalists that are stars in their own right, the man himself delivered a performance that had the audience crying not because the songs are sentimental but because of an overload of beauty that twisted the heart into joy apparent.

And that has happened to me only once before, when an impressionable 20-something year old saw Tarkovski’s movies and understood that everything has been said by them and there is no other point to cinema. I changed my mind, of course, but even now at the back of my mind the memory of that certainty remains, setting the standard.

But back to the video, a capella singing is a favourite of mine, and especially when there are only a few people in the group so I can actually distinguish the voices and hear what it is they are trying to meld. So I heard this note, a low, resonant one, so I had to check it out which led me to learn of such things as basso profondo and oktavists. Which meant another trip on YouTube for Russian choral music (no organs in an Orthodox church, therefore voices will have to suffice, and my goodness they do!). But hearing those low, low, low notes had me remember throat singing (or overtone) which is such an eerie thing to listen to, on a warm autumn night, closing your eyes so that you can really hear this tiny Inuit woman who decided that WOMAD needed to know that the human throat is a wonderful thing… and if you live in a world where WOMAD exists, than it well behooves you to attend, you know? πŸ™‚

And if I am listening to Hallelujah then I should also pay attention to the biblical hints in it (Thomas the unbeliever, Delilah etc.) and so that will also remind me of my favourite Corinthians quote (dissected somewhere else in this blog) and a choral rendition of it at the end of a movie that Tarkovski would have liked I believe, Kieslowski’s Blue from the Colours trilogy. Which of course brings me to Juliette Binoche who…

I will stop here. I have tried to count the β€œand”s I have used in this article because the links are just that. No buts or ifs, ands. With memory in charge not only of division, but the bringing together of people and times and knowledge.

How else would I live, if such things are possible?

Music

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I was listening to the gale outside and felt my heart beat faster. There is something so inherently wild about wind that adrenaline spikes even if all you can do about it is cover your ears with the duvet and remind yourself that your house has stood up during the last storm as well.

Then cicadas screeching in summer and certain birds calling for their mates, thunder and rushing water over stones, waves crashing against each other… and I haven’t even started with man-made sounds πŸ™‚

The word itself is Greek, art of the Muses even though said nine godesses did not stop at beautiful sounds. As music is taste dependent we shall not discuss particular groups etc. This is just an inventory of sorts, before I pull that duvet firmly down on my ears.

Stress and worry mean music without words in any language that I can understand. If I am very stressed then no words at all, but if I am still in control I will accept classical language and foreign words in the melody. These are also the songs I will listen if I am playing number puzzles, for some reason or another my brain still counts in my native language, so any other language just confuses me and slows me down.

Feisty means latin and dancing, too, not just listening. πŸ™‚

Sadness means music about time, to remind me that there is no other cure. The period really doesn’t matter, but I won’t listen to classical, because that is usually too detached and I am still a child of my age.

Particular people have particular songs attached, and I find it easier to wait for them by choosing carefully the songs that remind me of them. Something to do, I guess, while waiting… The best music is the one that they recommend though, memories already formed and the main way for me to expand my taste.

Songs in my native language are again carefully chosen for the memories, especially good ones, with turns of phrase that make me want to write some more. They are mostly poetry put to music, or folk and sometimes both. Occasionally it is folklore, just to remind me that you can be direct and tactful at the same time πŸ™‚

Several instruments deserve pride of place: classical guitar, the piano, marimba and saxophone. If I read about a piece of music or an instrument in a book, I will check it out later.

All of the music above I have on computer and cds. I have tried playlists but was badly jarred and gave them up. I guess it was the fact that my songs have those memories attached, and one memory will lead me to another… which belongs to another person, another song, another genre, and I can’t possibly know all this at the beginning of the listening.

So I would rather choose each song, remember, then move on…

Connection

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For reasons fair, a relationship of mine had to…end. I do not like the word, nor is it true, so I thought I will explore the β€œconnection” theme.

But first, a metaphor: running water. More precisely, a fast flowing mountain stream. Magic sources state that running water, especially that going in a certain direction (does that still apply in the Southern hemisphere or is it inverted? Must find out – most of my magic sources are Northern hemisphere born) is a bigger barrier than suspected. So let’s assume that the two persons in the relationship sit on the opposite banks of the river and, for both magical and practical reasons, cannot cross.

Sharing of sorts is possible, of course. They can see each other. They can hear each other (imperfectly, the water is loud). Occasionally they have to shelter from inclement weather.

Every time they share something though, a small thread is thrown across the water. Thin and fragile, insignificant you might say. Over a couple of years, many threads have been thrown over the waters, they have twisted around each other, finding similarities. The connection is now a rope they both hold. And then one of them decides to loosen its grip onto the rope. The decision could have been made to leave. Or unkind words would have tried to sever the connection.

Does it matter? Of course it matters at a personal level, but does it matter at the connection level? Can that brave person who leaves actually let go of the rope? Can that rope be cut?

It seems unlikely to me. The rope (and the connection it signifies) will loose strength over time, it is true, otherwise grief would be absolute and eternal. But that rope is strong enough to survive at the beginning. And so it happens: people you meet on the street have the same first or second name of the other person. You suddenly see so many similar cars, someone may have their coffee the same way, you smell the same perfume, you listen to songs on the radio that have associations, you see something in a shop and you start to buy it before you realize that you don’t have to. Sometimes you end up buying it anyway. Mostly books and music. You turn your head and start talking before you realize that there is an empty space. A life turns on its axis, trying to find a new centre of gravity.

So how is that the end? You may want it to be so, it is occasionally healthier. It will, as I said, fade in time. But if our memory is triggered by emotions, then I could say in all honesty that years from now, threads of that rope will still be crossing that river, waiting for a particular hand to pick them up.

And would that I could cross, and find you…

Study

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If you had more money than you needed, what would you do? Invest, travel, give to charity, buy a house/land/car/motorbike etc?

All of the above have gone through my mind. And I would probably do it, too! But now, listening to medieval choral music (it’s that type of evening…there was rock happening in the morning πŸ˜› ) I can say that if money was no issue then the best I can spend it on is study.

Yup, I would go to university again in a heartbeat. And get a private tutor for some things. Let’s see…I would start with herbalism. It’s not difficult to find recipes, what herb, what method, what affliction. Time is of essence, as most of the herbs need to grow, then be steeped, extracted or worked for long periods of time. Waiting, patiently? Me? πŸ™‚ Well, yes, and especially if someone could explain and walk me through interactions with other medications, what to use for holistic care (one herb/tisane per affliction is awesome, except that most don’t have one affliction… so which herbs interact better with others in order to provide the maximum of benefit)… these are not necessarily things you easily find in the myriad books in the library.

Next would be music lessons, for both voice and at least one instrument. Hmm… guitar? Piano? Marimba? Shepherd’s pipe? And the voice? Choir or solo? Classical or modern? No matter, as long as there is a person there to teach me. This is not something you go to school for, private all the way πŸ™‚ Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against performing, show-off that I am.. but I do prefer to know what I am doing!

Right, anthropology next, and here private tutor is not what I want. I want to be in the same place with others who can discuss the subjects, debate, maybe argue and therefore allow the subject to grow and stretch the mind, encompass humanity, put it into perspective, drag it down from the pedestal people themselves have put it on.

What else, I wonder? Ah, of course, astronomy. A short amateurish course to begin with, mainly because I have never been able to figure out even the most famous constellation when looking at the night sky. I am looking but I cannot see… what type of blindness a multitude of stars has put over my questing eyes?

And, of course, languages. At least a few of them, with private tutors. I am good with languages, which is why class setting is not my favourite. Someone to teach me the basics, then point me to children’s books or chicklit so I can get the conversation going properly, someone to converse with afterwards.

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Some cooking classes would not come amiss. And drawing and painting, too. Restoring old furniture. Weaving and spinning wool. Sericiculture (better get that mulberry planted then!) and apiculture. Carpentry. Making jewelery. Ah, so many possibilities… and that’s it, you know? It’s narrowing down what I want, acknowledging my luck that I was born in my age, when I can actually do it, there is nothing really stopping me… even money is not a real obstacle for most of the above. Time is though… or rather the perception that I don’t have time. Finding the right persons from whom I can learn… that is probably the biggest obstacle; as an adult student I am not likely to put up and shut up, I can vote with my feet πŸ™‚

Shall I vote and do it?