Wednesday, June 21, 2017

O. Reader on the Musical Life

             Roberto asked me to explain how my country, music, tradition and religion have influenced me.
             Those are big questions. To coin a phrase from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy - the answer is 42.
            My religion must have influenced me considerably since I’ve worked full-time for a certain group since 1961 in a bewildering variety of roles. In Rachael’s eyes that must make me VERY OLD. (In a “this is your life” convention interview I once cracked the joke that I started when I was three... Well, at least the audience laughed). And as well as “old” you could probably add “odd” since few who work full-time like this also raise a family, buy a home, run a business (with special dispensation) and do all the “normal” stuff. Many do it for a bit when they’re young and have fewer responsibilities, but then other things in life take over. I managed to balance the lot successfully, with only one mantra - if my choices made sacrifices necessary (as obviously they did at times) then if anyone went without, I did, not the family. So I look back and am pleased with the choices I made and how things worked out. And the family are pleased.
            But I can only speak for myself. One thing I learned as life trundled on is that we all have free will and I must respect the views of others. When younger, with the impertinence and impatience of youth, I maybe didn’t achieve that too well. But I learned that while I’ve a right to argue my point of view, so do they. I must be a good listener. Sadly some people don’t think things through and run away from discussion or debate, but again, I have to respect that’s their right. When writing about views that I disagree with, I still like to get the input on the other side and have often run the text past them before publishing. And when correspondents come back and say I have been “fair” then for me that becomes an important complement. But it is a balancing act, and depending on the context of the discussion, I still won’t water down beliefs that I hold dear.
             As to music? We have very eclectic tastes here. I grew up with classical music, and went through rock and roll and blues and skiffle and folk. (I may do a rambling post on the British phenomena of skiffle at some time. All those earnest young men playing three chords and trying none too successfully to whine a Leadbelly song while growing out a most unsuccessful straggling beard. The Beatnik movement sort of followed in Britain, where you didn’t even need the guitar and the dodgy singing voice... But I digress, that is maybe for another time...).
            I probably play folk music more than any other, but in my younger days concentrated on American folk rather than home-grown British. If nothing else, America has such a mixed culture in its vastness and mass immigration, there was so much variety there. However, in more recent times, I have come to appreciate the home grown variety more. But there are some songs that bring me - the original hardened cynic - to tears. There are some songs I learned to sing and then found - fortunately just in time - that I just couldn’t sing them in public. A grown man - a sort of elderly grown man - bursting into tears is a sure way to kill a folk club sing-around stone dead. Believe me - I’ve seen it happen. But so far, not to me. Not yet.
            Of course a lot of folk songs are very political. The greatest of over-simplification is that country music veers towards the right, and folk music towards the left - even when they sing the same songs. American Tom Lehrer parodied it rather well I seem to remember. But I don’t do politics so don’t have to agree with the sentiments on any side. However, I can still appreciate a neat lyric that expresses a point of view. And in folk music lyrics touch on things you just wouldn’t find in other styles of music.
            How has my country influenced me? - that’s British of course, but almost adopted Welsh now. Well, as noted above I don’t do politics, but Britain has an interesting history. As the empire shrank and disappeared, the country was forced to become multi-cultural, multi-racial and multi-language - far more than my parents and grandparents generations could ever imagine. It may create problems in some areas, particularly in some parts of some cities where religion divides, but the general mix when compared with the country and the London of my youth is something I enjoy. I love having friends of many nationalities; most of whom were born here and in many cases had parents who were born here. A bit like America really if you go back far enough. And my own experiences abroad have convinced me that the British National Health Service, for all its faults and abuses of the system, is something to really be thankful for.
            And the influence of tradition? I love the British tradition for old-fashioned detective fiction. Even with characters of cardboard I love solving puzzles, but many modern authors have lifted the form into something more. I love humor in literature - and the same goes for movies. I love the British capacity for parody and self deprecation. This is not just a reaction to an empire going down the tubes, it goes back to Trollope and Austen and Dickens and the satire of Swift before. But modern British humor doesn’t always translate well. At least, mine doesn’t. So I’ve found...  But hey ho - “C’est la Vie.” Or words to that effect...
            And just to see if Rachael has read any of this with our slightly different linguistic traditions - LONG LIVE THE PASSIVE VOICE.  I’ll end on that. It’s what we call here - living dangerously...


  1. Very old ... At least 90 or so ... or maybe not.

  2. An occasional reader2:50 PM

    When I reached the age of 60 I thought that now I should call myself "middle aged." Then I thought - how many people of 120 do I know..?

    When you get to my age three things start to happen.

    First, your memory starts to go.

    ...and the other two I can't remember...

    (My excuse for repeating the same old jokes)

  3. Anonymous11:35 PM

    "But MY modern British humor doesn’t always translate well" Corrected for you!

  4. Anonymous3:02 AM

    Re above: some self-deprecating humour would be good here......