Hairy House

Hairy House

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Remembering Music

According to Facebook, my followers would like to hear from me...not sure that's true, or if I even have any followers.
Be that as it may, I have been thinking of a series of Rants that I intend to write, regarding music education,have just been trying to pluck up the courage/ find a minute in the day to write them. In the meantime, thought I might just witter on a bit about some thoughts I had last night, which could, possibly, be connected in some way.

So, last night I was Morris Dancing with Owlswick Morris in a pub in Whitchurch, a lovely old building called, rather originally for a Buckinghamshire pub, The Swan. Whitchurch is a gorgeous village only slightly marred by being carved in two by the A413. As in so much of England, the architecture ranges from lopsided cottages with pudding basin hair cuts, cuddled up to little houses made of flapjack coloured Cotswold stone, or medieval black and white timbered buildings with diamond pane windows. Church towers, turf covered graveyards, pubs with swinging signs, stags, swans, you get the picture. Last night was the last of May and a cold wind was blowing, slanting rain etc so there was no one but us dancers in the pub, dancing to ourselves. The musicians started up a tune - Beaux of London City, which is a tune I have danced to countless times, occasionally with Owlswick and, for a couple of years, with Windsor Morris, in Ales all over the south of England. And yet, as soon as I heard the music, blowing out into the wet, grey English evening, I was transported to a place and time where the air was hot and dry and smelled of dust and wide open spaces, eucalyptus trees. Behind the notes, I could hear echoes of the call to prayer, the hum of the pool pump, the confused chatter of parrots, laughter, the clink of tea mugs and cns of 7Up, I could feel the thump of teenage adrenalin in my veins, see the inky darkness beyond the floodlights in my parent's garden. Because, in spite of the fact that I have heard this tune played so often, in so many places, the first time I danced this dance, heard the music, was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when I was about fifteen.

It is the same with Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March. I have played it numerous times, most often in Best of British concerts, for instance, in Australia with the Queensland Pops Orchestra; I have sung along to it at the Albert Hall, standing squashed into the Arena with hundreds of other promenaders at The Last Night of the Proms. And yet, whenever I hear the opening flurry of notes, I am filled with the atmosphere of a gymanisum in Riyadh, heaving with drunken, homesick expats, all singing their little hearts out, to the backing of an out-of-tune concert band, in the nerve wracking days leading up to the first Gulf War. 
When I hear the first notes to How Great Thou Art, I see the dim flickering of candles on the altar of St Theresa's Church in Harper, Liberia, hear the deep, rich harmonies of many African voices, the crash and thunder of tropical storms and the swelling of the red earth as it is pounded by the rain. When I hear the Skye Boat Song, it is not a Scottish Loch that comes to mind, but the magical smell  of petrol, hot sand and wind and fish, salt water and sea weed that was the smell of Lake Shepherd, the Lagoon that lay in front of St Theresa's and the place where we had many a barricuda filled adventure in our days in Harper. 

I have heard it said that the sense of smell is that that is most closely linked with memory, but I wonder. If, after all these years, the very first notes of music can bring back such strong memories of every other sense, does that mean that music is a sense of its own? And, I know that in the past, music has often been used as a memory aid, in story telling, for eductional purposes - and I don't just mean music education here. But I feel that, in Western society, more and more, music is just used as a means of "entertainment" with a definitely small e. I know music is used wonderfully by many therapists, but is it not time to see how we may use music more effectively again, in every day education and life?
Anyway, just some preceding thoughts. Would love to hear of others experiences re music and memory, if anyone ever reads this blog after my long absence of writing...?

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