Friday, 3 December 2010


I love music; I can't live without music; it is my lifeblood; it is like bread and water to me.

My love of books is fairly well-known now, I think, but not so much my love of music. Well, in essence, music is just as important to me as books. I just could not carry on/live without either. Books and Music - the essentials of life, as far as I am concerned!!

I have been a little reticent about talking about all this publicly; when I first got published, I took the professional approach; then the political and Marxist theoretical approach.

It is only over the last year or so that I have started making my love of literature and music more public. And as I say, the focus has still been very much on the novel (apart from my long piece about Michael Jackson - as I was so beside myself over his sudden death).

Anyway, I now feel that it is time to rectify this anomaly, and to say something more about my love of music. As with books, I have loved music for as long as I remember. But I guess the big difference is that with books, reading books, it was all very much my decision (well reading a book has to be doesn't it - it is such a personal, individual experience). As a child, I took myself off to the local public library; I choose which books to borrow; I went home and read them. Then, of course, there were the books that I got for presents. But even then - one chooses whether or not to read them, what order to read them, whether to read all or some of them, whether to re-read them etc. And of course, this love of books has remained with me forever. When some people say that they never read a book I am very puzzled - however, do they get by in life, I think? But of course, that is only my way of looking at it all. We are all very different, when all is said and done. I love getting into the minds of different people; or at least, people that think, that have things to say and express; and that can do this well - i.e. getting into the minds of published authors. This is so, whether it be fiction or non-fiction, but of course, fiction was my first love.

As a child, music, in contrast, was all around me (it was not something that I decided to do on my own in the way that reading books was). My mother loved to sing and dance; I sang hymns at church; I was in a choir; my mother was in a choir; I went to concerts (I remember being very keen on Gilbert and Sullivan, for example); I listened to music on the radio; and I learnt the piano and the recorder (although I wasn't so keen on the 'learning the piano fiasco' - the cold front room and all that - no central heating in those days). Anyway...But then in my mid teens I started buying some records of my own. Cat Stevens was one of my first loves here.

Then, when I went to university I bought myself a record player and lots of records (certainly did not want a TV). Lovely! I also used to go to university discos about 3 times a week and danced very energetically and enthusiastically; I was in heaven. I absolutely loved it. Lots of wonderful music used to waft across the campus as well; Pink Floyd's 'The Dark Side of the Moon' was the ultimate; it was brilliant. The sounds of that wafted across the campus, from student's rooms, more than any other album or artist. We all loved it. The sun shone, and Pink Floyd sang.

And so, this love of music has continued ever since - always looking out for the next interesting album, the next artist etc. These days I borrow lots of CDs from my local library in Ilford - that way I can get familiar with a large repertoire of music without it costing me too much. Great. I love it.

So, I read, I write, I listen to music, I dance, I sing etc. Truly wonderful; I am in seventh heaven as long as I have all this. Take it all away from me and I would be doomed. But I certainly don't intend to go down that path!

Although I had private piano lessons as a child (and also learnt the recorder actually), I was not properly classically musically trained. This is one of the problems with music. It can still be very much a class/elitist thing, when all is said and done. You know, middle class parents having the money and inclination to send their children to private music lessons (particularly important given how poorly resourced music departments in schools tend to be). Breaking out of that mould is very difficult. And can folks make a living/make money out of music? Well, very difficult. So, folks often choose the 'safer' career options; but without music we are all the poorer. What an impossible life it would be without these wonderful creative outlets. Dear oh dear! But it is wrong that, once again, those that are not so well off can tend to suffer.

In regard to music and libraries, whilst we all know that libraries are for borrowing books, we can sometimes forget, or at least look over the fact, that they can also be very good for borrowing music!I have gone through various phases with this one; well, I go through phases with my library-usage anyway, but more so with music....

When I was on maternity leave with our eldest son, Alexander, I used to borrow a lot of music records from our local library in Coventry - yes, it was still records in those days!

Then, on and off over the years, I have borrowed music CDs from the local library - and of course, this was easy when I worked in the public library service myself. Furthermore, our middle son, Victor, worked at Kensington Central Library for a couple of years. They have a wonderful music library there -with lots of music CDs but also lots of music scores and books about famous composers etc. Anyway, he borrowed lots of CDs whilst he worked there; some of which I liked but quite a lot of which did not appeal to my tastes all that much. Still - it was all an interesting experience!

Then, last year, after my father-in-law died I picked it all up again. The music selection in my very local library was useless; but Ilford Library (not far away) has a wonderful collection I discovered. Now, months later, I am borrowing music CDs again on a regular basis. It means that I can listen to a large repertoire of music without it costing me too much. I also like the physical thing of going into the library - so, no I don't want to get it all from the Internet, if anyone asks. I have heard some wonderful music by this method. I love listening to new music as well - so this is a great way in which I can keep cheerful, listen to and absorb a lot of new music, sharing music with others, as well as having a great time dancing around, relaxing etc - without it all costing a lot of money. Winners all round - until the cuts start biting. Whatever is Cameron and his crew doing to the public library service, and indeed, to our public services and way of life, in general. But I try not to think about it all too much; it is too depressing, and just all to dreadful. Why did people vote in all this rubbish? But then again, whilst the electorate can be blamed for voting in Thatcher, they can't be blamed for voting in Cameron in the same sort of way. Cameron does not have a mandate from the people for this right-wing government; but still, he continues, never-the-less.

I love such a lot of different types of music; I could not begin to say where it begins and ends. A lot of the time, these days, I prefer the softer artists over the heavy rock and metal ones, it has to be said; but then again, I/we go through phases with music, and a lot of the time, it can depend on one's mood, can it not. It is the continued freshness and the difference that I love; and the ability that music has to reflect your mood - I put on a certain type of music when I am in one mood; and a different type of music when I am in a different mood. One can express oneself through music in ways that it is not possible to in any other way. And we need a variety of ways in which to be able to express ourselves.

But certainly, I love listening to new music; to music that I have not heard before. I am not one of those that likes to keep listening to the same thing time after time after time.

At the moment, there are a number of strands to all of this music for me: listening to music (CDs etc); dancing; singing in a choir; going to concerts; seeeing live bands (including our local folk night, 'Forest Roots'), watching music programmes on the TV and DVD; enjoying our middle son Victor's band, 'Cold Hands & Quarter Moon' and all the excitement around watching them grow, develop, listening to the new songs that Victor writes etc. etc.

Perhaps, I will write some other blogs about particular artists and albums that I enjoy/have enjoyed. Have to see.

But for now, let's sing and dance, and enjoy all the wonderful things that music can offer and bring to us.

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