Friday, June 29, 2007


"And what about you, Frank?", he said, or shouted again, so recklessly that one old mare pricked up her drowsing ears.
"Have I not taught you anything?", he asked.
"To expect damnation", said Le Mesurier, without considering long.

I don't consider the above to touch upon the true "meaning" of Patrick White's Voss in any sense, but it is something that I found particularly striking. The novel is far too dense for one reading, spread over two months, to discover its secrets - and so I will not attempt to analyze its deeper meaning or central themes. Certainly, to paraphrase Voss himself, it uses the narrative as an opportunity to provide some insight on the human condition, and as it goes with such novels, there is precious little I can offer that is not a mere quotation, followed by a sigh of pleasure. Suffice to say it is powerfully written, and more than satisfied my expectations.

I guess I really wanted to remark on why I started the book in the first place, which, as is often the case, was due to a pure whim on my part. Well, this was a whim that actually turned into something of an infatuation. There was something about the description of White's work, Voss in particular, that I felt drawn to. Perhaps it was the excitement of seeing how he might use the desert as a device to reveal great existential truths. Or something like it goes with my whims, I am all to eager for some great universal revelation to be presented to me, without much knowledge about truths that have passed by me before, and an almost child-like (winsome?) fascination that does not really seem befitting of the subject matter.

It was a tough read, but I am glad I pulled through. The first third took next to no time, which seems appropriate given that this is pre-expedition. The middle third was a long, arduous journey for me, much like the book. And the last third...well, you get the idea. There were most certainly times when I gave serious thought to putting it down, and admitting defeat; somehow, though, I persevered, and reached easier terrain!

Anyhow, a second read seems inevitable, even if I cannot place the time. It will be revealed to me, I am sure.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Recently, on seeing a valiant fellow traveller's rewards on the journey thus far, I have thought about the place that time has to play in listening to music. I might be the only one who likes to place a substantial gap between listens to albums, for the simple reason that I feel like it gives the material some chance to percolate. This is done on the back-burner, and I know that it's done when a line or melody comes to me at some odd time, usually with me being completely unable to place the source. I take this to mean that I have somehow subconsciously assimilated the material, and that I am ready for another listen.

Putting this into writing, I realize how strange this must be - even weirder than my principle of listening to entire albums. One unfortunate consequence is that the amount of albums I can say I have listened to is rather small, by all accounts. However, that is a rather banal metric of listening - what is more important, and more interesting, is whether this addition of time is artificial, or whether it does help create some space for the music to grow. I suspect that as always, the answer is wholly dependent on the individual; given my particular wirings, and my past foibles, I am fairly confident that for me the experience is more enriching.

But even so, I cannot fully shake off the ghouls that ask why it is I listen to so little, yet profess to love so much. Part of my struggle with this question is the admittedly juvenile, but somehow resilient equation of volume with "knowledge", or some such vapid notion. The internet* has helped provide some grounding for my suspicion about how anomalous my listening habits must be in this regard., for instance, coolly tells me of countless people who in a month listen to as much as I have the past year. Now, who exactly it is I need to prove knoweldge to, I am not sure - is it similar to the obsession that drives collectors in the first place? Why, for instance, do I feel compelled to complete certain parts of my catalogue (aside from borderline OCD, that is - and I do not mean that in an entirely flippant manner)? A natural explanation is the imaginary creation of an uber-critic or collector who watches over the collection as it forms, passing judgement on weak spots that are evident to all. Why this fictional creation should be given any time at all is another matter...

It seems only natural that I should respond to these volume-heavy listeners with a broad dismissal of them not "understanding" or "appreciating" as much as I do, but frankly that's a bit of nonsense. I cannot deny that more than a few of them really do seem to have a deeper knowledge and love than the caricature of this type of listener I'd like to imagine. For them, however, time seems to play little to no place - back to back listens of albums are no problem, whereas for me they are nigh impossible, as the second listen would simply wash over me - I'd hear the same thing I heard the first time. I find I need time to collect my thoughts and feelings before that next listen, in order for it to hit home harder.

So what then is the insecurity that makes me feel as though I ought to be listening as much as these other people? It is, I think, a consequence of me getting a little too caught up in the game. With this sort of attitude, music loses its personal charm and "true meaning", but instead becomes the end of some inane competition. Who listens to the most, who knows the most, who has the most eclectic tastes...all rubbish, really. I am glad that in my calmer moments (I'd count this as one), I'm able to stay true to the motivation for time-separated listens (giving more meaning to something that deserves it), but I do wish that it were able to put a stop to these nagging doubts about inadequacy. It's easy enough to blame the internet for this too, but that doesn't even fool me!

I suppose that like most things when it comes this subject, I am not entirely sure whether my theories are fabrications of my mind, or if I genuinely believe them. Of course, it doesn't matter whether they are or not, but some sort of confidence in my technique would nonetheless be reassuring. It would save you the trouble of wading through such half-baked posts too.

* Ironically enough, I sometimes feel that the internet has provided a mechanism that can sometimes rob the fun out of certain endeavours. I owe virtually everything in my catalogue to the advice of the internet, but I suppose I am also referring to both the ease of information and, of course, the ease of downloading - something I have deliberately avoided out of some potentially archaic (yet, conveniently, legally supported!) set of principles. Like many an old coot before me, there is a pleasure associated with going through some effort in waiting for a CD, finding it and then purchasing it. It is also a very useful way of curbing excessive listening, you know!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

It hits me hard, this cruel fact. If only they could understand it was not my choice... But why did I let myself go through with it? Perhaps stupidity is the reason I am punished the way I am.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Weary - I wish there were more time to collate, to compress. There is too much cluttering my head, I need to give it time to settle down. Jokes and fantasty worlds occupy every thought, and sometimes reality is unclear. There is nothing unique in the observation, but does not the personal experience validate its importance? As you might expect gentle reader, I pose this potentially complex question with no intention of answering it myself. All I hope is that morning brings focus, even if all my questions remain.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

I am a little concerned with my foray into classical music, in particular with my perceptions of it. I would like to think that my interest stems out of the musical qualities themselves, but I sometimes wonder whether it is what I proudly proclaimed wouldn't happen - namely, being motivated by thoughts of it somehow making me more "informed" and knowledgeable. Rather pathetic, really.

Regardless of whatever ulterior motives I fear I may possess, there has been some actual time spent on listening, thankfully. Mozart has proven to be rather easy on the ears, and it's no wonder he's usually the first choice for "initiation" into the fold. Almost like pop songs, sometimes; at least, the ones I've heard. Bach, on the other hand, seems like he requires far more dedication and patience. It might take a good, oh I don't know, fifty listens to get through The French Suites. Beethoven finds himself somewhere in between, but is a bit closer to Mozart for my comprehending abilities. Of course, my judgements do not presume to be about the actual quality of the music, for I know far, far too little about classical music to say anything meaningful on the topic; as such, they are just initial sketches which I can only hope get clearer in due course.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sometimes, I think, one's life can appear to have elements that are lifted straight out of a class of literature that I would struggle to define. I refer to pieces that can be written in a way that seems strangely beautiful and overpowering when it is read, but which come back during silent moments in the future and seem to be stuff and nonsense, lacking any sort of coherence. I suppose one could say that they require sufficient abstraction on the part of the reader for them not to be dismissed as nonsense. Oh, and there is certainly an overlap with that body of work which requires an intellectual capacity far beyond me; but it also encompasses many things I do consider dear to my heart, but which are vulnerable because of their nakedness.

At any rate, I have come across such situations occasionally, ones blessed with both an innate artistic beauty that is clear only on reflection, but more obviously with an element of randomness and discordance that defies even the most careful study and scrutiny, but nonetheless makes its presence felt. Sometimes it is worth thinking about the questions that such events pose. Sometimes, though, it is best to accept the insanity, and hope with a wry smile that they keep coming.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I really do miss the days when I used to listen to actual CDs on my CD player, rather MP3s on the computer. Nowadays, my CDs typically see the light of day only for that first time when I convert them to MP3 form, which is added to my digital collection. I rarely, if ever, put a CD into my player; since my computer is connected to my speakers and headphones, it is convenient to listen to music either way! Of course, it does mean that my CDs are nice and clean, with no smudges and what have you. Still, all that lying around can't do much good for their dust resistance...

The convenience of my digital library I cannot question, but it does feel like something is missing. It is strange to talk of the tactile aspect of an audio-medium, but that plays no small part I think. I find that even the joy of flicking through liner notes is shoved away till the mood hits me, usually at a completely arbitrary moment where there is no music being played. Even the album art itself used to find itself subject to careful scrutiny, along with every aspect of the track listing. Looking at some old CDs that I remember studying carefully as the music was playing, I can't help but feel that convenience is most certainly not everything.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

When I first came to town

I should be a bit more careful writing stuff like this, expecting everything will just "know" my sources and intentions - don't want to be accused of plagiarism! Anyhow, it is based on Nick Cave's song of the same name, and I suppose one could call it an "interpretation", although perhaps it's just a CliffNotes version of it!?! There is a deliberate point of difference with the song, though, in the very first line (which was in fact my inspiration for writing this).

When I first came to town, people didn't gather round; no drinks did they buy. Their cold silence whistled through my bones, and I knew then what it was to be alone. Those dark rumours followed me till the end, when, with tears, I knew the heavens would send me no mercy. I knew though that my curses were in vain, for the next town, as always, would be the same.