|Mandolin and Guitar, Picasso|
Music, argued Nietzsche, is the purest form of art. I think I've read something similar from Picasso and a number of other artists: they would make music, they say, if they could. But they don't have the talent so they paint, write, sculpt. Why "purest"?
No doubt theorists have discussed this to death. I don't want to join them here: research definitions of art and postulate dryly. I just want to feel it. I have seen paintings that stir something physical and make me feel more alive, but music is the only art form that makes me want to dance. I love it, yet I rarely listen to it because when I do I can't concentrate on anything else.
I can't hold a conversation when there's music playing; I can't cook, or read, or write. I can clean the house, so when I remember I put my iPod in a pocket and attach headphones. I can run to music so I do get to listen, and move, to it for an hour most days. On the whole, though, I live a fairly musicless existence. Or did.
There was a time when I was a regular clubber. We lived in Glasgow for a while and there were lots of places a person who likes to dance could go. So I did. I went with a friend, she had different reasons for going to clubs, but that was fine. She would get on with her thing and I would make my way to the dance floor and stay there till the lights came on. Then I'd go home, my friend having long since found what she thought she was looking for and left. For the next few days my life as a young housewife and mother would seem less mundane. My head would be clearer. I'd feel brighter. That was twenty years ago, and it's been a long time now since I've danced regulalry. I'm not sure if that's to do with age or living in the country, there are no clubs here, no dancing opportunities. But if I lived in a city would I still go?
|Three Dancers, Picasso|
Probably not. In a place full of twenty-somethings I'd feel inappropriate, and as for those over forty nights my experience has been that they're full of desperate men:
"Can I buy you a drink?"
"No thank you."
"Oh go on, it's just a drink."
"It is, but I don't want one."
"You've been dancing for ages, you must be thirsty."
"It's very kind of you, but, no, I'm not."
"Are you a lesbian or something?"
"I don't think so. Do lesbians not get thirsty?"
"Don't get smart with me!"
"Come on, let me buy you a drink. Where are you going?"
"Look," I say, waving my left hand.
"Well, what the fuck are you doing in here?"
"You're leading people on."
"A woman on her own. Where's you're husband?"
"He's at home."
"Does he know where you are?"
"Is he an idiot?"
"Oh, for god's sake! I came here to dance, because I like it. Dance, not drink, not chat. Now, go away."
Why does a certain type of man think that's an insult? They seem to be saying: "you want to have sex with the same type of people I do, you freak!"
I do feel I'm being unfair because, in truth, those places aren't about music but about coupling, and being already coupled I don't belong. My clubbing, and thus dancing, days are over. My days of rising with music, though, aren't over at all.
I have found that being in the presence of live music, played by talented musicians who love it, utterly vivifying. I can sit still, listen, watch, and become myself. I've known this for a while but haven't had access.
A few years ago a couple of local musicians started practising on a Thursday night in one of the town's pubs. Word got round and others joined them. They gained an audience. Now on any given Thursday evening the Black Bull jumps. Musicians from far and wide come to join in, sometimes you can't get in to the room because there are so many people with instruments. Guitars, fiddles, accordions, pipes and whistles, last Thursday there was a chap with a double bass. It was fab.
I popped in after our writing class with a couple of my students, we sat in the back-room because there were no seats in the main one and one of us (let's call her Ingrid) can't stand for long. As we chatted I tried to zone out the music so it wouldn't distract me for fear of seeming rude. But once or twice I was grabbed by the sound and had to jump up and go to watch. And when I went to get more drinks I hung about listening for a little longer than was probably polite. When I went out for a fag, ditto. Then Ingrid left so Rosie and I, happy to stand, went into the main room to enjoy the full experience. She knows everyone so we chatted to a few people, but mostly we just listened, and watched. And I wondered if watching a painter paint would be just as enlivening. I'm pretty sure watching a writer write wouldn't.
At one point one of the guitar players walked past with a couple of CDs, and as I'd heard he and his musical partner had just released one, I quizzed him. And then, panning for pounds in the coppery soil of my purse, managed to scrape up the eight quid to pay for the joy of bringing their sound back to my house.
Later, when everyone had left, and I was getting my coat on, the last in the bar, Dave, who I'd bought the disc from came in and said: "Eryl, are you coming?" I thought he meant they wanted to lock up, so I wrapped my scarf around me and followed.
There was a whole crowd outside, and as I emerged they started to move off. I could see Rosie up ahead. I must have looked puzzled because a nice chap came and walked beside me and talked about the evening. On we went up one road and then another before turning into my own.
"Here it is." Said the friendly man.
There was Rosie: "I'm just going to get a CD, he didn't have any more on him."
That made sense. Dave, whose house it was came to the door: "Ah, come in!"
I hesitated, as I had no instrument, like the man who walked beside me, and I already had my CD.
"Eryl, come in."
So I went in, and there was the double bass in the hall, and there was the double bass player making a mug of tea. And there was someone else rummaging in the freezer for vodka. And there was a glass of red wine pressed into my hand. And there was a chair by a bookcase, and a gesture made to sit.
So I sat, and for the next few hours listened to them play, and discovered what Nietzsche meant.