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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Tuesday, 24 January 2012

It's sheep-or-goats time

Few people admit to disliking music. It's like disliking babies.
Most say they like music. But how much? Forget scores out of ten; how about: Passively? Actively?

Passive music lover (PML). Turns on radio and is thereafter unaware of what's playing. Hears background music in lift and enjoys identifying tunes. Professes to like Messiah but is secretly relieved when Hallelujah chorus finally starts up - is appalled when told Amen chorus is yet to come. Has small number of CDs, all vaguely themed collections (Music to wash your socks by). Stirs restlessly when new tune disrupts the flow of traditionals at Christmas carol concerts. Claims to be pop fan but only likes two dozen songs dating back to when he/she was 15 – 18. Hums along to Eine Kleine Nachtmusik yet is unaware that Mozart wrote operas. Says British national anthem is a bad tune but cannot identify a better. Cannot sing British national anthem. Prefers Classic FM to Radio 3. Stares in wonder when someone plays a scale on a piano.

Nightmare defined: stuck in background-music lift with PML, knowing his/her lips are moving – to the music.

AML. Has made a decision (pro or anti) about Wagner having heard two of the operas. Likes Bob Dylan selectively. AC/DC about The Beatles. Has sought out John Tavener and rejected it as atavistic tosh. Can play recorder but doesn’t. Mutes TV commercials. Regrets not liking Messiaen more. Secretly ashamed of liking Karen Carpenter (“It’s the voice!”). Doesn’t pursue jazz but is touched by anything pre-1960; constantly devising schemes for listening to more jazz. Has never said “I know what I like”. Is angered by the music played at most funerals. Has never recommended music to anyone below age of 15.

Blest Redeemer. 38,078 words


  1. That strain again it had a dying fall... Bravo, you're back. PML very much reminds me of the younger me. I used to long for concerts and recitals to end, but liked a good tune. Was "One Fine Day" worth all the toing and froing in Madam B? I remember overhearing The St Matthew Passion in some cloisters. I could walk about and listen, even talk, without feeling compelled to sit upright and follow every note. It was just there like birdsong. But that was long ago. I gradually began to listen to jazz and elsewhere at 100 Oxford St, and even attended posh music concerts and collected the records. Now I can sit and listen to music, but admit to the feeling which often assails me that I ought to be doing something less passive.

  2. So much for my upcoming blog post on playing the recorder ;-).

  3. Can I admit (in writing) that I really don't like babies? (just the odd one or two - my own I had to get to like, then love.)

    I do dislike some music.

    Still getting to know the Brahms BTW. And have opened Ulysses... I'll report back in due course.

  4. Oh I'm completely content with not caring much at all for babies or only reluctantly and on the whole preferring dogs.

    Your PML was presumably listening to an abbreviated version of the Messiah otherwise they've got Part the Third to sit through.

    In truth I found aspects of both your types described me uncomfortably closely - I certainly stir restlessly and grumble when Carols from Kings is diverted along the paths of modern religious choral music, I could play the recorder but wouldn't. I have no plans to listen to more jazz. I sought out Tavener for Tom when he expressed an interest, he then rejected it as atavistic tosh (more or less), so I occasionally listen to it rather in the spirit in which I eat up things that he decides he doesn't like and I don't much like them either but I don't like to see them go to waste (I won't buy him panettone as I know this is what would happen.)

    I have almost certainly been that person in the lift with the moving lips.

    I think I'd mostly describe myself as pretty passive about music since I have almost always been surrounded by persons who were much more musical, knowledgeable, had stronger feelings and opinions about it which they were better able to express and substantiate, so I was generally quite lazily willing to defer to them and listen to their choices. One of the unfortunate results of this, though, is that there is some music which I miss a lot because it was around when those people were but when they ceased to be so did it, but somehow seeking it out again doesn't seem justifiable.

  5. Who's Tavener? My CD collection is post LP time with some time-travelling. My latest music purchase was last week: The Idan Raichel Project (2006) ... wow! Now I'm interested in Ethiopian music. My most-played discs of 2011 were "Finnischer Tango - Tule Tanssimaan" and the 2008 disk by a thousand shark's teeth "My Brightest Diamond." I've had a year of clarinet and seven years of guitar instruction and can't squeak out a note. I love dogs. I love babies. One of my closest friends is having her first in April and I can't wait! (Although she told me I have to wait until he's 10 before I can start teaching him to brew.) So where do I fall on the sheep-goat scale?

  6. All: It's characteristically kind of you all not to draw the obvious conclusion: since I know such intimate PLM detail, could I be hiding my light under a bushel? The fact is the division is never that sharp and I've had to work hard during my life on suppressing most of those tendencies.

    Plutarch: In the mirror you provide I see my flashes of myself. When it comes to Mme. B herself I'm a veritable Nabokov, armed with a huge net. Never so angered as by the Humming Chorus. As to the Passion in cloisters this is a classic PLM failing - imagining the location will somehow compensate for a deep sense of ennui. Many religious building have a long echo that PLMs mistake for a good acoustic. Your final point: can anyone so absorbed by gardening sit down - especially in the afternoon - and listen unreservedly to music? I think not.

    Julia: If I were you I'd go large on the Brandenburgs. It's not a crime to play the recorder, just a debility.

    EB: Disliking babies almost makes you unique (or would have done had Lucy not turned it into a club of two). Admitting it puts you into a celestial category of foolhardiness. You will be remembered for this long after your other good works are forgotten. May I urge the poltician's get-out: that your words have been taken out of context. By yourself!

    Of course you dislike some music, we all do. And it is one of my jobs to encourage you to spill out your guts on Tone Deaf, given that Mangetout attracts a more sensitive clientele. I approve of your drawing some camouflage over yourself with those admissions about Brahms and JJ. Revealing that you've read Der Mann Ohne Eigenschaften, though not necessarily in German, will protect you further.

    Lucy: I've been waiting for this comment for more than three years. Although you've done throwaway admissions about Gregorian Chant and The Sixteen you and music have always been out of focus, as it were. Mind you it's been a bonus to discover that Princeling somehow emerged into the world aged four-and-a-half without passing through the slobbery stage.

    And I have a confession. Although the admission about carol concerts describes me just as much as you it was the slice of jammy toast intended to catch the opulent butterfly. I was all set gloat when you came up with this magnificent diversion involving Tom, Tavener, Tosh and Panettone and my gloatiness was replaced by my never dormant sense of acting the good editor - in this case providing the circumstances by which others rise to great heights.

    It seems you surround yourself with musicologists who - accidentally, I'm sure - behave as steamrollers with you as the tarmac. Or is this a cop-out. Because one reading of your predicament is that you believe the Duino Elegies to be superior to Cosi. Or more accessible. Or easier to blah-blah about. But would you wish your tombstone to be inscribed: I'd Rather Wander Lonely as a Cloud Than be Wafted by Soave Sia Il Vento. A heavy burden given that you've still got midsummer, autumn and winter to go.

    RW (zS): Tavener is melodious and Christian. But alas the St Matthew Passion was written 350 years before he was born and he is irrelevant. You have only to repeat "I'm interested in Ethiopian music" and you will be as well protected from music-snobs as if you were living behind a boma. So the babies and dogs are merely gilt to your gingerbread. You don't seriously think I'm going to answer that final question, do you? How naive! How positively New World! If forced I would designate you Hors cat├ęgorie.

  7. Oh I had to admit, almost unwillingly, that Princeling was a quite gorgeous baby, the photos of him in the maternity ward drew record comments so I wasn't alone in thinking this - I think that was before your blogging time. He continued to be so until he woke up.

    In fact as far as listening is concerned, you have a point about literature being given priority. I am, as you may know, quite well stocked with Naxos editions of audio books, mostly unabridged, of the kind of things I might well not get around to reading otherwise - currently I'm on Heathcote Williams reading The Divine Comedy. Moments when I can listen with the concentration required by new music or words - and these might well be, figuratively, sock-washing moments, ironing, processing oranges for marmalade etc, where my hands are occupied but my mind receptive - often end to be given to listening rather to words.

    My musical friends have tended more to enable my laziness than steamroll me, really.

  8. I have to confess that I do not do "background music". I find it distracting from the job in hand. Also, I will not listen to music whilst driving, which I enjoy and consider needs total concentration. (My professional background showing through here). Listening to music is an active thing for me - I choose, place needle in groove (so to speak) then sit to enjoy.
    Babies? I suppose they are OK, but I could not eat a whole one at a sitting.

  9. Lucy: I'd be prepared to accept all that about Princeling if I'd ever heard anyone say (esp. in the vicinity of a maternity ward): "My words, that's an ugly little toad you've given birth to." Fact is, all babies are beautiful and remain that way until the males become soccer fans. As to the others tradition says they remain beautiful until taken away to become angels. Mrs LdP becomes actively uneasy when, in the privacy our own home, I mention that Mrs X or even Miss Y is quite ugly. A secular blasphemy, it seems.

    "Hands occupied, mind receptive." Hmmm. If I were still BB I might be tempted to respond coarsely to that one. Fortunately LdP's mind is on higher things. And I do like "enabled" laziness - a very modern concept.

    Avus: You really like driving? Bikes, yes. But cars? Just a bit in NZ but there car density is roughly the same as that for flying saucers. One reason for not liking car driving in the UK is because of cars themselves. I agree about listening to music and driving - much better to listen to Anne Satnav and imagine what kind of body goes with that kind of voice.