Saturday, 4 May 2013

Albums for Life: My Top 10: Existence Music

Words make you think a thought  
Music makes you feel a feeling 
A song makes you feel a thought
E.Y. Harburg

Excuse me while I gush: this has been a real joy (if a little time consuming); reviewing my record collection has set me back years trying to understand my relationship with music. It was a revelation to find that my love of past loves was as much about sound as it was song. I imagine that we recognize much of each others' choice cuts; it's a certain type of song that has led us to this meeting place. I'd like to think that we'll eventually squeeze each other's fleshy palms but, until that day, I'd like to say that it has been a pleasure meeting your 'virtual' selves. I feel that I know you already, not just from your choices but from your ever increasingly predictable reactions; we love what we know but, it's been a boon to make some discoveries along the way.
- Mojave 3, thanks TT.
- James and EBTG, tip of the hat to David.
- Phil is responsible for too many to list; his Xmas 'Best of the Year' CDs are played all year long; maybe Leisure Society and Mostar Diving Club are his most cherished recommendations.
- As for Seamus... he's had me reaching into some dark corners but I particularly thank him for reconnecting me with Woody Guthrie.

"Music is the art which is most nigh to tears and memory."
Oscar Wilde

My Top 10 is conventional, familiar fare; all but one are albums that I've discovered for myself and are therefore cherished all the more for their part in my adventures in music. It's interesting how little new music has made my list; not much from the past 10 years. I wonder if that's because we only have so much capacity for love; whether there is a saturation point? Or is it that those early connections are just more vivid because our appetite is keener; our younger palette more susceptible to unknown tastes? Maybe it's the love of first music that helps us stay forever young. It's undeniable that those 1st loves are more intense and are likely to be as ingrained in us as our own parent's prejudices.

"Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die." Paul Simon

I've thought long and hard about how I'd reveal and write about my best loved music. I've decided not to rattle on too much, but offer up glimpses of why they've connected so strongly, and endured replay after replay. Sometimes you can say too much, deconstructing wonders often undermines their magic... 
I don't care that you don't like the harps Paul; The Long and Winding Road is, for me, a perfect thing.
So, after this rant, I'm going to keep things brief as I introduce you to my Top 10: my Existence Music.
In deference I'll be buying every one of your top ten albums that I don't possess. I'm hoping that my enthusiasms might be similarly infectious and won't cause too much financial hardship.

"Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life."  
Ludwig van Beethoven

Existence music?
I've just been reading a dissection by Andrew O'Hagan of Scott Fitzgerald and 'The Great Gatsby'. It's about the be mauled on celluloid again and O'Hagan questions how you can possibly capture the essence, the finesse of that perfect, delicate prose on film. He notes that although Fitzgerld's novel is full of rich characters and scenes "it's not the pictures that we remember, it's not the images or even the plot that sticks in mind. It is something beyond paraphrase, call it sublime grace, call it existence music, but however we describe it, the thing that matters is like the beat of a hummingbird's wings, so delicate and so rapid that a camera struggles to catch it." I paraphrase, but O'Hagan notes that, as we set our feet on the terrain beyond our youth, we all have the suits in our cupboards, our expensive watches are set, our cars are in the drive, but we all surely notice that the lives we own are never the ones we ordered. How could we ever become the people we pretended we were? What's left to us beyond memory? The music of our youth and the promise of our future. Whether that music of our youth is literal or metaphorical, it's no less evocative; the stuff that brought us to this place; the stuff that informs our daily lives and our hopes for the future.
"Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that's no matter - tomorrow we we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther."

Regardless of fresh starts, new resolutions, we can never leave our old selves behind. Music is the soundtrack to our existence and vital to how we decode the unravelling stories of our lives.
And yet, as much as I love my old record collection, I'm excited by the music that I've yet to discover; it has me trawling daily, ever hopeful. And I'd much rather discover it for myself. For me, those moments of sublime, graceful discovery have invariably been in music. The same goes for my songwriting. I'm ever hopeful that I've yet to write my best song. I can spell T E N D E R N E S S but I'd much rather reach out and capture its essence in a song. So, I'm ever hopeful of fresh musical discovery; some might say deluded...
It's vital; like breathing; essential because, for me, music is existence.


  1. great piece Trev and mirrors a lot of my own thoughts. The nearer the top I've got the narrower the yrs focus - and I've decided because music that truly touches you is all about time and place and not quality or ability. It is all highly personal because at the end of the day it is a bout the memories that a snippet can induce. I've learnt that I'm simple in my tastes - I'll go for a nice tune over great musicianship anytime (which is probably why I just don't get jazz). Also I tend to like the watered down version to the real thing (I'll take a 100 Mike Scotts over any Van the man , Mac over Jim Morrison , etc). I don't think there will be anything in my top 10 that will test your wallet! But like you I've found some, re appraised some and reconnected to some stuff - all money well spent!

  2. If only I could "not rattle on so much". Sometimes I can just imagine the blank faces of people clicking out of my outbreaks of logorrhoea. In real life I get to see peoples faces grow blank when I rabbit on but in blogland I can blithely go on and on.
    I've been finding it next to impossible to find time to follow up all the music that is new to me in all the lists. I'm finding it hard to get time to listen to the music appearing in my own list. However, I am listening to more music and hope that this continues. I even subscribed to Spotify Premium, finally worn down by the ads. As the kids start to grow up it is likely that it will be easier to find a little time, now and again.
    As for those dark corners, I was always told I was going to grow up a corner-boy.

  3. Ay, you're right about the 'logorrhea'; there should be a 'bullshit' button somewhere to help us with the editing... it's good to 'rattle' though. Better out than in etc...
    Up early. Off to Old Trafford to see the Reds smite the Blues...

    1. So, you go to see the Reds and a) they lose & b) a couple of days later Fergie decides to retire. I think a lifetime ban from Old Trafford would be appropriate.

  4. “Without music, life would be a mistake.” ( Friedrich Nietzsche)

    “Without music, life would be a blank to me.” (Jane Austen)

    “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” (Plato)

    "It's vital; like breathing; essential because, for me, Music is existence. (TJ?)

    Weighty declarations, all...

    Love to hear you preach Rev... wonderful sermon again. I'm afraid we're all members of a diminishing congregation of misfits, with this peculiar obssesssion - I prefer to call it passion. I may be one of the few here, but when I was much younger I had several friends and aquaintances that shared that unbridled passion for music. Alas, those were the days my friends... Understandably with family, work and responsibility, that voracity for music often becomes an extraneous interest. I greatly admire those who can juggle all of the commitments whilst maintaining their obsession/passion for the arts. I'm grateful for a spouse who tolerates mine. Could be worse... liquor & prostitutes? Er, heroin & prostitutes?

    I'm indebted to all involved in these forums, where lovers of a fairly specific music outside the margins get an opportunity to participate in a conversation... It's truly a joy. If it is an obsession, it's a magnificent obsession...

    "So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

    PS: Just caught a portion of what may be my favorite movie, 'The Shawshank Redemption' on TV. A lovely & relevant piece of dialogue caught my ear...

    Andy Dufresne: "That's the beauty of music. They can't get that from you...haven't you ever felt that way about music?"
    Red: "I played a mean harmonica as a younger man. Lost interest in it though. Didn't make much sense in here."
    Andy: "Here's where it makes the most sense. You need it so you don't forget."
    Red: '"Forget?"
    Andy: "Forget that...there are places in this world that aren't made out of stone. That there's something inside...that they can't get to, that they can't touch. That's yours."
    Red: "What're you talking about?'"
    Andy: "Hope.”

  5. Nice; I really like that film too; Stephen King writes great dialogue when he puts his mind to it; shame that it seems to come too easily to him; his quality control is (in my opinion) all over the place.
    It wrote a great memoir/guide to writing 'On Writing' which is a fascinating read.
    And passion? Everything smells of the laptop these days which means a pretty dull and dusty experience. I need to go and climb a tree...

  6. Very nice piece ,Trev. This has been a wonderful ride. Thanks to David for setting it in motion and to you fine chaps for educating and amusing me on the way. I don't think there's any danger of you not owning any of my top 10 .Very predictable!
    So, what's next ? Top 100 songs perhaps? God , I love lists.

  7. Agree about the ride. It will be odd to arrive at No1.
    Top 100 songs sounds good to me; I've already realized that they will be totally out of synch with my favourite albums...

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