Sunday, April 30, 2006

musical musings

Ok Peter, I'm blogging like buses again I know...

In the car back from YF Camp we were listening to Simon's ipod which through some magic gadgetry was playing through the car stereo. Must admit I'm always rather chuffed when I find I know a decent proportion of the music being listened to by someone practically a generation younger (altho' we decided against trying to persuade them to let us get a family ticket for the LOTR exhibition!). Admittedly the reason I knew the music had nothing to do with me being up to date with the current music scene and everything to do with the (in some cases considerable, in popular music terms) age of what we were listening to.

It all meant though that the majority of tracks had memories associated with them (to which I could probably now add sitting in the car back from YF Camp wondering if we were going to be in time for Beth to get to the Rolling Stones concert!). I'm not entirely sure why it is that I have such strong associations with music and places, people, events but I do. There are probably many tracks I love more because of their association than musical value - I mean why else would I get excited when they play 'The A-team' theme tune within an advert on a local radio station?! (don't worry Kate, I don't sing along - just in case another window breaks...). So as the post Easter traffic meant we crawled along SH1 at something like 1kph Beth got a potted history of my life track by track!

A question that comes up time and again is this - how come when YFs get together seemingly anywhere in the world with a guitar for a singalong the same songs crop up and how is it after more than 20 years now of Quaker events is it that music of The Beatles is part and parcel of every single era and group of YFs I've ever been part of??


Thomas said...

For me personally, i find that music works on a different level to regular words - for example, there are so many songs that have lyrics that you just couldn't say' as they wouldn't sound sincere - but in musical form they just make total sense. I'm sure there's a deep psychological explanation for it - though, i'm quite happy taking it for what it is :P

And I believe the reason that the beatles still get played at various camps is because they wrote relatively simple music, that has strong melodies and just feel nice to sing. There aren't very many bands that have songs that sound good so stripped down.

Martin said...

The other reason is probably that most of the material (ie all the Lennon/McCartney material) is published and is widely available in print, often in 'easy' arrangements.

Anna Dunford said...

I agree with both of you but the Beatles get played as much on cd (now, as oppose to the cassettes I started off with!) as they do singalong style - it's a bit chicken & egg though, which comes first - listening to it or being able to sing it?

Not that it matters in the slightest mind and I'm certainly not complaining =)

Martin said...

Obviously I'm just not keeping up! I can pretty confidently say that I've more often heard Beatles songs sung by people I've known than by the Fab Four.

The other thing is that people of course learn songs by hearing them. And if you hear songs from diverse sources (rather than always going back to the 'original'), then of course those songs will evolve over time. I sing the song my way, you hear it from me, you keep the good things I did, lose the bad things and add your own individuality.

This is the process of folk music - the oral tradition.

This is as true for songs initially produced by the recording industry as for ones whose origins are lost in time. So the version of To Have and Have Not that always comes to my mind doesn't have Mr Bragg singing it, but Bobby Nicolson.

Songs that can be reduced to whatever instruments you have to hand/can carry to the pub fit right into this; much better than the ones that need a van full of electronics. Or the ones that consist of a very singable/memorable chorus and dull as ditchwater verses. Ask yourself - which Beatles songs get sung with a guitar? It's not the ones put together in the studio, it's the ones from the early days, or from the back to basics Let it Be.

Or, to put it another way, how many people ever saw the sheet music for Heartbreak Hotel? You learn it from people who sung it to you. If you can't sing it (and sing it *all*) with what you've got, it's back to CDs.