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[personal profile] cjwatson
[livejournal.com profile] pentamer asked me to write about music. I briefly covered this in my post on art earlier in the month, but let's expand on that a bit.

Consumption first. I never really got into the habit of listening to music when working as I was growing up - most of the other teenagers in school listened to music incessantly while doing their homework, by all accounts, but I always found that too distracting when I tried. Looking back, I think I found that anything with words activated my verbal centres too strongly which were generally occupied reading textbooks or trying to write essays, and anything orchestral caused me to sit there doing musical analysis rather than anything more immediately useful. As a result, the things I like to listen to were most heavily seeded by things I played or sang myself, so quite orchestra/cello-heavy and later more choral stuff. I already mentioned Elgar's Cello Concerto and Mahler's Symphony of a Thousand; others along these lines would be Bach's cello suites, Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, and from more modern times I'll happily listen to just about anything John Williams ever set to music. When I worked at nCipher, the developer office had a shared jukebox (DisOrder grew out of that), so there was generally music playing while we worked, and at that point I got a bit more used to it and also expanded the range of music I listened to a bit. These days I often find myself listening to Muse, Dépèche Mode (because sad old goth sometimes), occasionally Tristania, that kind of thing.

As a general rule I find it difficult to listen to music with words unless the singing is quite clear, which it often isn't in pop music (for that matter I'm not so keen on opera either for a similar reason); I think perhaps I find it harder than most to pick out lyrics over music, and I find that frustrating.

Production is easier to talk about. As I said in that earlier post on art, I used to play piano and cello, up to grade 8 and grade 7 respectively (not a perfect indicator but should give other musicians a rough idea). I was noodling around on the family piano for as long as I can remember, to the extent that I don't remember not being able to read musical notation. By the time I left school I was competent if not brilliant, and was able to accompany people and even occasionally play solo to suitably-tolerant concert audiences; I remember playing Grieg's "Hochzeitstag auf Troldhaugen" in a concert given by our piano trio, where I was normally the cellist. The actual pianist in that trio is now a professional concert pianist, so rather overshadowed me in terms of skill; I vividly remember him sitting down at my 12th birthday party and playing "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" by ear with full harmony, so it wasn't actually a huge surprise when he got to the point of playing Rachmaninov piano concertos.

On the cello, I mostly ended up playing in Belfast's pretty good hierarchy of youth orchestras, and in the Training Orchestra (second-from-top) I led the cello section for a year, which gave me the chance to do things like playing the solo in Sibelius's "Finlandia". When I reached the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra (top of the hierarchy) I'd run out of natural talent a bit and sat seventh, but I still got to go on our tour of the USA's east coast conurbation, which was clearly the highlight of my cello-playing and possibly my musical career. Unfortunately I haven't had much time for the cello since, except for occasionally picking it up for Music Week; maybe next year when (all being well) work is less pressing I will make some time for it.

I've been singing for pretty much as long as I can remember too - I believe I had a solo at my First Communion at the age of seven, though I couldn't now tell you what it was, and I sang in school choirs and musicals and stuff - but I suppose I thought of that more as something you just did rather than something you spent lots of time practising. When I was a teenager, Dad and I joined the local church choir, and as well as being great father-son bonding it also expanded my view of singing considerably. I joined CUMS Chorus at university and that let us sing some absolutely fantastic stuff in amazing buildings (the aforementioned Mahler, Walton's "Belshazzar's Feast", lots of other things I've since forgotten). These days I'm a cantor in our local church, and while they like to have me sing at some of the big services, I particularly enjoy occasionally getting to sing "Ag Críost an síol" around harvest time, which was often performed in our church back home.

This post is part of my December days series. Please prompt me!

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-18 11:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghoti.livejournal.com
I can't listen to the Mozart Ave Verum at all because I've sung it so often I have to sing it :) I hate listening to things I know well to sing, because I'd much rather be singing.

(no subject)

Date: 2014-12-21 01:09 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] pentamer.livejournal.com
Thank you! I found that interesting.

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