Music held up to the light

June 18, 2007

I’ve been thinking more about the notion of listening to music properly. By properly I don’t mean separating myself off in some hermetically sealed chamber with an amazing hi-fi system, but actually giving the music my attention, allowing myself to try and be ‘present’ with the music, become involved with it in a more focussed manner. i’m not trying to advocate some Zen-like state of meditation, but just an attempt to really understand the music rather than just let it wash past me.

In the past I’ve just not done enough focussed listening. A friend who told me he had a “listening room” seemed over the top to me, turning music into some kind of torturous chore, but just recently I can see what there may be to gain from this. Its not that I have been paying lip service to the music, but I just haven’t had the time or energy to devote to serious listening, spending the required time probably only when I intended to write something about the music in question. I can make all the excuses of working long hours as much as I like though, truth is I’ve been a bit of a lazy listener lately.

So I spent a little while today with a CDR of a concert recording that arrived in the post, and the experience served to underline my thoughts above even more. The recording was off the Angharad Davies / Tisha Mukarji / Andrea Neumann trio at the Music Lovers’ Field Companion festival in Gateshead a few weeks back that I wrote about here. In my review I said nice things about the set, as I enjoyed it quite a bit, but on the day I had been helping David Reid record the festival, and if you’ve never had the pleasure of doing it, recording a festival with David can be a stressful experience! Just before the set began there was a massive panic when one of the recorders wasn’t working and once resolved I collapsed into my seat with great relief to try and enjoy the music.

What I think then happened is that I struggled to involve myself with the music as much as perhaps I normally would. I say this because the CDR of the show that David sent me of the recording is really very nice indeed. Spending time with it listening to the interactions between the musicians and the spaces they create between sounds has been a very rewarding experience, and above all a very different experience. I wrote somewhere at this blog about how CD releases of concerts can sound very different to your memories of the shows themselves. Well perhaps this could be one reason why, more focus and attention paid at the right time will definitely reveal more…

Incidentally in the new issue of The Wire that arrived here today Nick Cain wrote about the above set; “The trio of Andrea Neumann, Tisha Mukarji and Angharad Davies produced a sequence of inconsequential, unlinked passages” (Thats all he wrote, its a Wire review after all!)… Dear oh dear Nick…;)

Comments (5)

  • Alastair

    June 19, 2007 at 9:48 am

    Well, I’ve not had the opportunity to listen to a recording of it, but Nick pretty much echoes my thoughts on hearing it at the time…

  • Richard Pinnell

    June 19, 2007 at 10:41 am

    I’d be interested to see if hearing the recording changes your mind then… when I see you next…

  • andrew barker

    July 5, 2007 at 9:21 am

    Reviews like Nick Cain’s in the current WIRE illustrate the lack of serious informed criticizm in that magazine these days. I find these one-sentance jabs better suited for a message board, where frustrated types like this retard can vent their sophmoric, one-line quips without doing harm to artists who demand, for better or worse, more respect than what this misguided nerd has to offer. I’m not saying all reviews should be glowing adulations…But I believe a serious music magazine requires serious critical analysis to go along with it. Otherwise, it might as well be a tabloid.

  • Richard Pinnell

    July 5, 2007 at 10:24 am

    Hmm, a little harsh on Nick Andrew he is far from a “misguided nerd” and in my opinion one of the better music writers about right now, as much as I find that quote from the Wire pretty wide of the mark.

    In general I tend to defend the Wire more often than knock it, but the live concert reviews are just about the worst section of the magazine. The space given to each individual review is essentially the problem, far too short, with some serious editing happeneing also. If space was really a problem I could forgive this, but each review is usually matched by a photograph that is quite often bigger than the review itself, which is just plain stupid, no matter how much I like photos and aesthetically pleasing magazine design.

    The CD Reviews though I generally find OK, not great overall but no worse than any other publication, on or offline.

  • andrew barker

    July 6, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    Ok Richard…you’re right. The name calling just puts me in the same category as this irresponsible “journalism.” Good thing that I don’t write for the Wire.
    I should have prefaced my last post with the fact that my set with Daniel Carter and Sabir Mateen was dissed in the “review” in question… If all he could muster in terms of criticizm was to say that it was “depressing formulaic,” not only missed the mark, he missed the show. I don’t take offense to the fact that he did not enjoy the music…Just the ability of a poorly written review to reduce our efforts to nothing in one sentance. For Wire readers that didn’t attend the concert , the crowd of people who stayed until after midnight on a Sunday to see our set, who really appreciated the music– do not exist. Sorry to vent a little here, but I had just read the review, and was quite annoyed. I admit that I haven’t read enough of Cain’s reviews to pass judgement (like he has in a sentance)…but based on this one, I think the Wire needs to raise the bar a bit.

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