Thursday, 9 October 2014

When 'old' becomes 'new'.

Once I had the means to choose the music that I wanted to listen to then the amount of music that I actively shared with my parents became less and less. [Though until I had a record player of my own they sometimes had to share – perhaps ‘endure’ would be a better word – some prog rock and jazz stuff. Mum did once draw the line at the Mothers of Invention “Billy the Mountain” and I wouldn’t say that she was wrong there.] There were a handful of things that we were all able to enjoy.

Sometime in the early 1970s we went to the Royal Albert Hall together to hear Pentangle. Mum loved Jacqui McShee’s voice and was impressed by her hair. I enjoyed the slightly gruff and dishevelled contribution of Bert Jansch. I don’t remember if Dad had any preferences when it came to Pentangle but I know he enjoyed seeing the Spinners – a folk trio who did a lot to bring traditional songs and tales to wider audiences. Mum and Dad accumulated quire a collection of Spinners’ albums – if we could think of nothing else come birthdays or Christmas they were a dependable standby.

One of the last things I can remember doing with Mum was going to a party where Tom Robinson’s “2, 4, 6, 8 Motorway” was played and we did our best to dance and sing along.

I now listen, from time to time, to Ella Fitzgerald’s classic Great American Songbook albums. I think Mum and Dad liked many of the songs – even if there might be versions other than Ella’s that they would choose. They died far too soon for this shared pleasure to be an option. When they were alive I did, of course, think that I knew better and that all this ‘old music’ was so much tosh. Now I don’t listen to much ‘new music’. Whatever I hear that is ‘new’ doesn’t strike me as fresh at all – simply a watered down version of something that went before. I must suppose that this happens to many of us at a certain age – we hear music in terms of what we know already, almost as though our memories are full and these new files simply match ones that we have saved already.

Every now and then something breaks through – but it is little and rare. Talking Heads and The Smiths – from 30 odd years ago made a difference to my listening habits. The Tallis Scholars (and other early music ensemble) affected how I heard things maybe 20 years ago. In general terms what is marketed as World Music seemed refreshing in the early years of this century but since then most of my listening has revolved around what I have known about for 40 years or so. And, for me – as a listener, it wouldn’t matter if no new music was ever made again – there is so much that has been laying around that I haven’t heard yet. The ‘newness’ is not the most important quality any more.

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