Posts Tagged ‘music’

From My Diary, June 5, 2017


An annoying day winds down, and I’m glad to see the back of it. It’s been raining and blowing hard all afternoon, and I’ve sat and listened quietly to it. No distractions, the block pleasantly quiet.

The driving drum of rain on PVC window frames is one of my favourite sounds, up there with sea crashing onto a rocky beach, a river’s rustle and the song of a skylark on a hot summer’s day. The open windows rattle and creak a little as the gusts bellow through the flat, a ship rolling in a heaving sea. The sounds surround me, wrap me gently in the warmest, softest arms and breasts. Annoyances hurled into the wind and carried away.

Time for bed, though it’s still light. A book open, music adds an extra background sound – the dreamy Sigur Rós () album seems to work well. It will soon be time to close the curtain and kill the lamp. But not just yet. Savour the peace a little longer.


Late Night Wakefulness


Late on a Friday, that day that once meant so much now faded to the same pointlessness of all the others. After a few drinks at the pub, I’m back home but am too alert to go to bed despite the modernist symphony of yawns punctuated by pauses perhaps too long even for Pinter. Yet I long for the warm temporary forgetting of bed, but I know I have to forgo it awhile. Know I have to wait for the tiredness to overcome my brain’s unwelcome alertness before I can yield to the warm embrace of my duvet.

So in the waiting, I seek the tranquillising effect of music. Arvo Part tonight, a composer I can usually rely on in such times. It brings to mind that brief, amazing moment in 2010 when after a concert, I met him very briefly as he was signing CDs. A softly spoken man with a neat beard and blue velvet jacket, looking considerably less than his 75 years. Wow, I thought, not really believing it. And I still don’t, I have to look at his signature on the CD sleeve to convince myself.

The temporary oblivion of sleep and its blessed forgetting. A consummation devoutly to be wished indeed, though I don’t know dreams I’ll be thrown into. They have lately been disturbing, dystopic. Not nightmares where I’m pursued by great slobbering monsters with dripping fangs, but unpleasant enough to be glad to wake from. Not that I can remember any of them, they seem to vanish from memory before I’ve had time to get out of bed and draw the curtains. Sometimes an impression, a hint of a suggestion is left, but usually not. Perhaps that’s just as well, even though they can soften the edge of the reality.

So, the CD ends. Time to take my pills, swigged down with milk, and then bed. There are worse things to be drifting through the mind than Arvo Part. If I could but turn that into pill form.

Unreliable Memories


I’ve always prided myself on having a good memory, yet today, I wondered. I was on YouTube, playing eighties music and came across a link to a song called “Broken Land” by The Adventures (1988). It sounded familiar, so I clicked on it. As soon as it started I was flooded with a powerful rush of feeling. It was instantly familiar, I recalled how much I had liked it at the time, and I was able to accurately sing along. I’ve written before of the power of music to evoke feeling and memory, and this was a good example of it. So what’s so surprising? Until today, I probably hadn’t heard the song for twenty-five years. I had neither bought it nor taped it from the radio (apparently it was the most played song on Radio 1 that year) yet I’d forgotten all about it. It had fallen through a hole in my memory.

Yet this rush of renewed memory was so powerful, was brought so suddenly close, I could almost touch it. I was instantly borne away on a warm river, back to being a nineteen year old away at university. How could I have forgotten this song? It seems incomprehensible. But forget I did, though that has made the rediscovery all the sweeter: it’s a pity I can’t hold on to the feeling I got when I first re-played it, turn it into some sort of pill… A rush? Quite probably. Hearing it again certainly lifted me, and I could do with more of that.

Comfort me through this stormy weather/From where I stand/I see a broken land

Find Your Food in Music


The brilliance of music, its comfort, so easy to say yet so hard to explain. The solace it brings, the uplift, the prop and support in bad times and good. Then the instant spark to memory even a brief excerpt can provoke. This is something that never ceases to amaze me. Hear it and it opens the gate to a flood of images that can no more be dammed that could Canute reverse the tide. Memories of the time it was first heard or bought, however long ago. Open the gates, dive into the torrent and you are back there, the old you. Today fades, though not entirely as there will be that painful awareness of just how much time has passed. Usually there will be some unconscious filtering of any unpleasantness, but it will still be present, on the edge of awareness. Worries, stresses, old rooms, old loves, it’s all there.

Old loves, now there’s a tricky subject. Like music, I wonder just how much of old love is ever truly forgotten or recovered from. It’s written into you in indelible ink, carved into the hardest rock with a diamond drill. Bury it at the back of an old filing cabinet that’s full of junk, stored in the remotest corner of a heavily cluttered room where the lights don’t work behind a securely locked door (with a sign on it saying Beware Of The Leopard). A place that seldom receives daylight or clean air. Except when a snatch of music is overheard, and then on go the floodlights. Sharp relief and harsh shadows.

A jumble of memories jostling for space, clamouring for the right of free association. A mass whose component parts aren’t related, link into a mass of non-sequiturs, jump forward then back, forward then sideways and round and round. The weight increases, rock upon rock dropped into an already bulging rucksack. Your knees begin to buckle, feet sinking into the soft ground. Approach memory overload, the system heading for a crash and the inevitable fatal exception error.

Sometimes it’s easy to think that it would help to dive headlong into a bottle. Imbibe to inebriation, soften those harsh, sharp edges that draw blood every time you brush by them. Daggers straight into your mind, knife twists over and over again into the heart. However, the older I get, booze now seems a whetstone, honing those sharp edges finer and finer still so that even to pass it through the air alone will draw blood.

A chain reaction, all started by a song or the briefest snatch of one, a few notes overheard by chance. Persevere and music will bring order even to this. The gentlest of balms as well as the stirrer of strong feeling. These stirrings remind me that I’m alive and still capable of such feeling, when the day to day serves only to blunt it. Music opened the door, sounded loud bootfalls in the memory, but it will also gently close it. A gentle sea refilling that void, washes the sides smooth and carries any jetsam away to the horizon. The soundtrack of my life. Play on.

How Foreign is the Past?


Heading rapidly towards midnight on another Saturday, with Tears for Fears “Songs from the Big Chair” on the ipod. I was 16 when that album came out, and yet it seems like yesterday. As soon as the opening song “Shout” started, I was back there in 1985, my mind a flood of images from then. So long ago, how can that be? The power of music to do that never ceases to amaze me, never ceases to render me speechless and wordless to describe it. It doesn’t matter what type of music it is, some pieces have this transportive power. I see my 16 year old self, so different; was it really me? If he saw me, what would he say? And if I met him, I don’t doubt I would be surprised at the things I had forgotten. And yet, if we did meet, I think we would have a lot to talk about. Assuming we could understand each other.
The past really is a foreign country, one for which you will never get a visa, let alone revisit.

Nick Cohen: Writing from London

Journalism from London.

The Political Potteries

A Political News and Debating Website for Stoke-on-Trent


Poetry around The Potteries

Everywhere Once

An adult's guide to long-term travel