My father had a natural ear for music. He could pick up any instrument, and once he’d found his way around it, either by trial and error, or with assistance, he would be able to play a version of ‘The Londonderry Air”, and once that was sorted (see previous blog!) any other tune was possible.
I did not inherit this gift, sadly, although I can hold a tune.
The strange thing to me, though, is that I very rarely heard him listen to music for pleasure – comedy, yes – but rarely music, unless we had company, when the Edith Piaf and Al Bowlly would come out. I’m also aware that as I get older, I listen to music less and less often – my aural landscape is more Radio 4 than Radio 3 and I haven’t gone out to buy new music in over a year. This is partly due to the shift in technology I know, but also due to an increasingly hectic lifestyle and less time to sit and LISTEN without any pictures of any kind for additional stimulus, and without simultaneously catching up on a few emails, cooking supper or writing this blog.
I love ‘Desert Island Discs’ because it becomes possible to listen with the ears of the person who has chosen the tracks, and even the most familiar music sounds as you have never heard it before.
It’s becoming a rare treat to be able to sit quietly and listen – however, when I work with children and young people and offer them this treat, it never fails to move me when I witness how keenly they embrace the peace, the focus, a chance to really carefully appreciate someone else’s musical output and marry that with their own emotional landscape.
I wonder why I don’t do it more with grown-ups? I think I’ll start.
My father died last night, and the first thing I did when I got the news was to put on a piece of music that reminded me of him (Piaf’s ‘Milord’, since you ask). It just might be that without taking the time to share the experience of listening, really listening, to music together, we are doing ourselves out of deep and subtle communications that transcend all kinds of boundaries.
So today, at some point, why not play some – and have a good old listen.