Music: Questions & Lessons

This post started out last night entitled “Goosebumps”, but I didn’t quite like how it turned out, so I’m starting afresh. (An unusual bit of self-editing.)

Recently, I’ve been asking myself some questions:
1. Why am I so fond of repeating a piece of music over and over when I first discover it?
2. What is it that, for me, makes perfect music?
3. What happens when we team music with something else – like film?
4. Why (until 2 days ago) did I own no solo Michael Jackson music?
5. And why, oh why, is my iTunes top 25 most played dominated by the Mamma Mia soundtrack?
As well as thinking about the questions, I’ve been trying to establish some answerers. This is what I’ve got so far…
1. Repition.
This is probably just a saturation thing. When I discover a song/piece that I love, that overwhelms me, that makes me break out in goosebumps all over, I have to hear it again and again. I don’t think it’s uncommon, but I’ve recently (probably thanks to iTunes) noticed how often I do it. It’s also one of my earliest musical memories – trying to listen to Help over and over on my Dad’s old 8-reel (tricky). It was a wonderful moment when I acquired CDs back in the day and the ‘repeat song’ option became available. (Not sure my parents were as happy.)
The current song of the moment is Josh Groban’s Weeping. Yeah, it’s cheesy schmalz, but it’s schmalz with a political heart and its root are South African. I can listen to it over and over, which is exactly what I have been doing at work, thanks to this rather wonderful live version from last year’s Mandela concert:

2. Perfect Music.
Hmmmm, tricky. Critics of my music collection would say cheese, but I think it goes a little deeper than that. It’s about key changes, crescendos, beautiful voices, strings, cadenzas (you’ve got to love a good cadenza; the one in Rhapsody in Blue prompted my learning the clarinet!)….But I think the beauty is that you never know what is it that’s going to get you and pull at your heart strings.
3. Music and something else.
Ok, so the teaming of music with film is as old as well, film. But this last week I had my first experience of live music accompanying film and it produced one of the most powerful musical moments I’ve ever had.
Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace is written to be performed with a film. Like the work, the film covers the beginning of war through to peace: Picture men marching off to war; the building of arms; scenes of violence; dead bodies; nuclear bombs…then there’s a moment of sheer agony. As the famous images of 9/11 unfold before you, the Sopranos launch into hideous discordant sung screaming, then, just as the towers begin to crumble, everything goes silent.
Searching on YouTube there are a few clips – like this one of the Sanctus which includes some footage. But if you’re into that sort of thing, have a bit of a search. Maybe it was because I was sat in the middle of the percussion section, but it was an hour and a quarter of goosebump inducing music.
4. Michael Jackson.
I’m an 80’s baby. I wasn’t a music lover when his greatest solo work came out. Over the years, I’ve resisted the music thanks to the weirdness that went with the personality. (Plus, I was a indie chick Jarvis Cocker fan in 1996 when the Brit Awards controversy took place.) Whilst the Jackson 5 will always mark the true beginning of any party, I’d steered clear of actually owning any of the other stuff.
Then, last Friday morning, listening to the archive tracks being played in memorium I realised that it wasn’t about the man, it was about the music. I had goosebumps and a sudden urge to dance around like a woman possessed. So now, I admit to being one of the people who have contributed to Man in the Mirror being #1 on iTunes. (Though you know why that is? It’s practically the only decent track not on the Number Ones album.)
5. Mamma Mia.
Abba have a lot to answer for. This seems to have become the album I play when I can’t think of anything else to listen to, or just want something comforting. I was utterly dismayed to see that over half the album is now in my top 25 – there’s almost no space left for anything else! This is repitition on a large scale.
I’m never going to have a respectable top 25 again.
My life is no longer worth living.


  1. Liz!

    Have no fear. I think it’s a conspiracy because my top 25 is dominated by Mamma Mia and I haven’t listened to them in ages!

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