Music, Pretension and Cycling Chat

by wjohngalloway

I’ve been corresponding with a very dear friend about music in general and Gustav Mahler in particular. I could be wrong but I think I managed, almost by accident, to define my relationship with music in a couple of phrases.

Here’s the text of my reply email after she’d urged me to listen to a couple of pieces in particular.

“Spent two days listening to symphonies 2 and 8. Incredibly moving, descriptive music.

I listened to Mahler a fair bit at a time when I was also listening to a LOT of Vaughn Williams and Elgar (both of whom I’m also now revisiting) and they, along with a number of other composers, fall in to a particular category in the Galloway mind.

And now the looney bit.

In my head (and heart) there are two kinds of music.

Type 1 (Mahler’s in here).

This is typically music which is emotional, harmonically complex and often, but not always, rooted to a place or nationality. e.g. Tchaikovsky or Shostakovich. However that’s not what defines them in my mind. It’s the fact that the music on a very visceral level makes pictures in my head. It paints with sound whether it’s a small intimate portrait or a wide expansive landscape.

Type 2
Is music which exists in and of it’s self. Bach is the archetype here. It’s hard to describe, but when I hear say St Matthew’s Passion or the Cello Suites there are passages that bypass thought or visualization altogether and just tap straight into my emotions (much fun was had singing Bach before my plums dropped). Bizarrely this is also true of the like of Charley Patton, a plantation worker in America in the 30’s whose recorded works are very few and sound awful by modern recording standards….or plainsong, which can be like aural meditation.

Neither type is better or worse than the other but I find myself drawn toward music that leaves no room for anything other than it’s self. I can’t be an orchestra, but I can lose myself completely in a two part fugue.”

That’s either profound or complete shit. Not sure which.

On a completely different tack, Scott and I recorded the first episode of Velocast, a weekly podcast about all things cycling.

Velocast Logo

It can be found here

and shortly (probably tomorrow) on iTunes.

My cold and blocked nose are sadly still much in evidence. I’m going to use a noisegate on my mouth breathing next time!