Thursday, March 23, 2006

Music is where you find it

You haven't been reading my blog very long if you don't know that I like music; and you haven't been reading at all if you imagine the music I like is mainstream. Though that does beg the question of what constitutes mainstream. I still get a laugh out of M*A*S*H when Hawkeye and BJ take offence at Charles' music on the grounds that it's 'longhair' music. M*A*S*H is set in the very early 1950's when it might have been true that 'longhair' music was classical. Indeed, I remember people in the early 1960's using the same term to mean the same thing. Then along came the Beatles!

What constitutes 'longhair' music these days? I have no idea.

What I do believe is that whilst the music you like might strike me as trivial in the extreme it's equally likely that the music that moves me might strike you as trivia in extremis. Thus we learn as we get older to live and let live. I cannot deny that I got and get immense pleasure out of listening to Aqua's 'I'm a Barbie Doll'. I don't even feel the need to defend that enjoyment; it's still very real. The fact that I also enjoy Mahler's 10th symphony in no way boxes me into only enjoying po-faced orchestral music. The pleasures are of differing kinds but pleasures nonetheless.

On a recent trip to The Philippines (it was in January) I was sitting in my hotel room slaving over a hot keyboard. It was just before sunset and I'd managed to escape the site whilst still having a shitload of work to do.

A former colleague who lives in Dallas was delighted, one day, to hear me describe something as a 'shitload'. His delight was at learning that there is at least one other place on the planet where a large number is described, in slang, as being a 'shitload'. Australia and Texas! Well, we both of us have big egos :-)

On that occasion, last January, I had a room on the car park side of the Baguio Country Club. Nowhere as salubrious as Valleyside or even Golfside but one goes where they put one when a guest :-) Fortunate I was to have a Carparkside room that afternoon; a group of Filipinos were on the road clanging their bells. Very melodious. It went on for at least half an hour and I opened the window to hear it better. I couldn't see them but it made no matter. Quite enjoyed it as dusk fell.

At dinner later that evening in the Par 7 bar Steve was complaining about the noise. I couldn't convince him that I'd enjoyed it. Well maybe I convinced him that I'd enjoyed it but it was a conviction of wierdness as much as anything else! Since I won't vote Republican when I become a yank that's enough reason for him to think askance of me :-)


I have no idea why or what they were celebrating; I don't think it was a day of religious significance.

In 1996 when I was working for Unisys Australia I was based in the City, Collins Street to be precise. If you're going to have a City address in Melbourne Collins Street is the one to have. It's nearest competitor, St Kilda Road, hasn't half the snob value! All the rest aren't even on the same spectrometer. And if you're going to have a Collins Street address the lower the number the better. We were at 459 Collins Street. To my American readers that sounds low.

When I first became aware of American street addresses, a third of a century or so ago, they sounded unlikely. 2900 Semiconductor Way (the address of National Semiconductor). Or 16287 Mockingbird Lane. I made that one up though the number is well within possibility. If I drive north from where I live along Tatum Boulevard it's nothing unusual to see houses with addresses in the 30 thousands. Puzzled me mightily, given that I was used to the Australian system. The last house I lived in in Australia was 142 Something Street. A street about a kilometre long and I was at the extreme end of it. Under the American system I'd have been in the first block if you went by the street number!

I didn't live in Something street, nor have I forgotten it's name; I just choose not to name it :-)

Indeed, I remember asking my American friend Bob, an exchange teacher, if the streets in the USA were long! Silly question but I couldn't think of a better way of putting the question. This was before I'd been to the US the first time. His explanation made sense; so did seeing it with my own eyes!

I find the American system very logical; if someone lives at 142 Something Street you know exactly which block to go for. Under the Australian system you have to make a guess at which cross street to start from and then work either up or down depending on the street numbers.

All of which is a very long-winded way of saying that, even though we had a Collins Street address it was at the less salubrious end of town. Hmmm how else was I going to work in a discussion of American street numbering versus Australian street numbering. You couldn't (according to Collin Mac you wouldn't) pay to get such variety :-)

In, I think, early 1996, there was a blockade by truck drivers of the Victorian Parliament. Parliament house is at the low numbered end of town but the blockade extended across the entire city area. I don't remember the reason for the blockade; what I remember is how the city was gridlocked with stationary trucks, each blaring their horn.

Surrounded as we were by 30 and 40 storey buildings on all sides the horns raised a most amazing cacaphony. I first heard it through plate glass windows on the 6th flooor as a very faint braying. Intrigued I looked out but saw no particular reason for the sound. A little later it was smoke time; we, Heino, Chris, Joe and myself, made for the elevator. On the ground floor this strangely musical sound was louder; when we emerged into the city air it was wonderful to hear many horns echoing off the buildings in a long, slow melody. Some horns playing a long resonating blast, others doing short toots; each at its own pitch!

I can picture it to this day; each driver, angry or resigned as his personality took him, randomly or deliberately hitting the horn. I don't think a one of them thought of what they were doing as a piece of music; it fell to me as the outsider to percieve it that way.

That was one of the few times, as we lit up, that I didn't encourage the joking; I wanted to hear that sound. I wish I could find a way to notate it.

Music is where you find it!

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