Cold but fine; this is going to be the last reasonable day until well into next week according to the forecast. The rain symbol, with no coy sun peeping behind it, is in the ascendant for the foreseeable future. And my mood will plummet, as I now seem to live by Ruskin’s Pathetic Fallacy. That is one reason that life in the UK does seem impossible at the moment, or an indeed at any moment in the future unless global warming becomes much more dramatic than it is at the moment.
As I type highlights from Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo are playing in the background conducted by Nikolaus Harnoncourt with the Concentus musicus Wien and Berberian, Hansmann, Kozma, Van Egmond with other nymphs, shepherds and the Capella antiqua München on a Das Alte Werk disc that would have been beyond my purse before the internet destroyed recording. I am having the time of my life in indulging my slightest tastes in music as the whole edifice of the music industry comes crashing down in a proliferation of impossible-to-resist box sets of scrumptious harmony.
For Proust it was a bit of cake and tea, but for me it is usually music which instantly transports me to a time and place where I first heard it or where I heard it significantly. L’Orfeo will always be associated with Room 816, Neuadd Lewis Jones, Singleton Park, Swansea when Jim, a bearded, breast stroke swimming, flute playing student asked if he could play a record he needed to listen to for one of his courses. I complied and then immediately confiscated the record. Once you listen to the Toccata it is imprinted on your mind. I loved it and since, I have heard various versions – there is no definitive score to help musicologists, or rather the lack of score is god’s gift to musicologists who can make a career by suggesting various scores of their devising as the ‘authentic’ version that Monteverdi might have had in mind when he wrote this proto-opera.
Since I was in college there has been an explosion of interest in so-called Early Music. We have seen the rise of the counter-tenor, the development of modern original instruments, the increasing sophistication of musicology associated with Early Music and the truly stunning sound which we now expect when we listen to it. You listen to some early recordings of Early Music and you will astonished by the roughness of the rendition. The music may be great but the performance was usually more worthy than polished.
I sometimes wonder if the musical sound that you get in Catalonia when people are building their human castles is more akin to what would have been heard in Britain in the church orchestras that used to accompany the singing. The sound is raucous, not without a certain uncompromising energy, but you can also see why some members of the clergy would have looked towards the organ as a far more civilized way of providing music rather than the undisciplined gang screeching
away, drowning out the congregation and sometime the clergy as well!
I am just grateful that I can appreciate the advances in recording technique as well as technology that allow me to have an almost unparalleled musical experience. A far fuller one than the generations of musicians that actually produced most of the music!
I wonder if anyone has done a study about the differences in ‘learning’ music nowadays compared with those brought up with the record player? My generation of listeners will still probably still know ‘side 1’ of a given piece of music better than the remaining movements. The inertia of failing to turn the record over to get the rest is something that was real. Now the whole of the disc plays without your having to do anything except listen! And listen without clicks, hiss and jumps. Truly, I live in a very different musical world from the one in which I gleefully accepted my first classical records and got to know The Nutcracker, Peer Gynt, The Planets, The Polovtsian Dances, The Ritual Fire Music and what was contained on Immortal Melodies. If I try I can even remember some of the record labels: Golden Guinea, Ace of Clubs – and the artwork on the covers even better. Now all gone and I have multiple versions in much high quality sound, though possibly not in better versions! My musical memory is nowhere near good enough to remember the personality of the music!
It is now much later in the night. This writing started in the afternoon when my hopes were all pinned on Toni’s recollection (I gave in and admitted that I had lost something) of where it might be. It was not a location (at that time) in Castelldefels – and perhaps the phrase in parenthesis gives you some idea of where the actual location might have been. So, it was well after six before we got there.
Our setting off was fraught. My TomTom had run out of battery and the other Garmin that I had (come on, you didn’t seriously think that I had only a single GPS did you?) was flat and the bloody lighter socket in the so-called courtesy car did not work. We relied on memory to get to the garage in a distant town in the dark. Toni likes to know where he is going, he is not one to relish the unexpected and rely on luck to get himself through. So two failed GPS and a broken socket did not set, shall we say, a soothing atmosphere for our jaunt.
In a silence broken only by recriminations we finally got to the re-spray place – on a fairly direct route as it turned out and sank with luxurious delight into the palatial, safe comfort of our car. The SCCC (so-called courtesy car) was relinquished with unseemly haste and we were off back to civilization while riding in civilization. The smooth silence of the ride was in marked contrast to the opposite of all that we arrived in.
And eventually that which was lost was duly found. So if anything happens in the UK I will now be able to travel there without the panic of having to find the British Consulate and arrange emergency papers to replace my passport. You can see why I was a trifle worried; but, as with books, wallets, computers (but not pens) things come back to me. Generally.
To celebrate the return of decent transport and important papers we went to La Fusta and had our usual tapas and I had a small jug of sangria. It seemed the least we could do.
I am continuing to load up my computer with my new discs and marvelling at some of the delights I have in store. Out of sequence, but irresistible, was a piece by Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656) called, ‘A Sad Pavan for these Distracted Times’ played on the virginal. If he had lived for another decade he would have had even more reason to write such a thing!
Toni might be going to watch his nephew play in a nearby location tomorrow, so I will devote the day, or at least the morning to getting on with the next stage in my writing course. We have now reached the writing of ‘Setting’ and it was no surprise that the first writer to be mentioned in this chapter of the Big Red Book was Thomas Hardy and his creation of Egdon Heath – though I am glad to say that the monumental of the character-like landscape which Hardy can write is not necessarily held out as a good example to follow for us. Thank god.
Now to load up another disc to burden the hard drive of this over-worked computer. Let music un-tune the sky!