An introduction

In many ways, it is difficult to explain the reasoning behind my starting this blog, or even to give any kind of explanation of what I intend it to become. Sat here as I am though, faced with a blank screen pondering over what I am doing, it may help to outline in brief my background with music and how I have engaged with it before arriving at this point in time. I have listened intently, probably obsessively to music for as long as I can remember, beginning a long journey of exploring experimental or just different music around the age of eleven when I would hide a small transistor radio under my pillow to listen to John Peel’s late night radio show. My engagement with what grew into a more refined, or perhaps just close minded focus on a combination of abstract improvised music and modern composition gradually developed over the next three decades beyond mere listenership. So for twenty years or so I wrote semi-professionally about these selective sub-genres, ran a small CD label, designed CD sleeves, presented a radio programme and organised concerts. For around a decade, ending three and a half years ago late in 2015, I wrote a blog that allowed me to organise my thoughts, albeit somewhat haphazardly through several thousand reviews of CDs and concerts, even managing to chaotically write something every day for three of those years. 

The efforts I outline above were always tempered by the time and energy restraints brought by the demands of a somewhat demanding day job, but around three years ago, as these demands suddenly increased after a couple of work promotions and after a period of ill health, I found my interest in writing about music, and actually my overall interest in “experimental” music beginning to wane. For many years, alongside my relentless absorption of “new” music, when I could find a few spare moments I would spend them trying to listen to CDs of classical music. These divulgences had always felt like a bit of a guilty pleasure, seemingly at odds with my  self-appointed role as some kind of arbiter of the new and experimental, and yet there was, and I guess there remains an urge within me to absorb and “understand” classical music in its various forms. It is not that I now reject more avant garde forms of music, far from it. I continue to consider the relentless search for new and interesting things to do with music crucially important. However from a personal perspective, and perhaps this has something to do with the fact I now approach my fiftieth year, I feel the need right now to delve back into the history of music, and spend some time exploring composition that was in itself perhaps experimental in its time but today is pigeonholed away into that stuffy old category “classical”. Perhaps as my attention may also have turned from the shock and extravagance of modern art towards the classicism of Caravaggio, Turner and Vermeer so my ears may be currently more in tune with Beethoven, Mahler or Shostakovich.

I have always found writing about music as I explore it to be a useful way to help me organise my thoughts. Whether this has been in the form of notes scribbled in a bedside book or in a more organised public forum of some kind matters not. The online blog format however is one that I am comfortable with, and also one that offers me no real pressures. I can write when I feel like it and whether anyone reads my words or not isn’t important. So regardless of whether anyone should ever chance across these words or not, my writing here is perhaps some kind of journal intended to document this process of exploration I find myself undertaking. The exact form it will take I remain uncertain of as I begin, but the only element here I would like to retain from the start is that all of the images here will be original and my own, perhaps each of them a response to the music I may be attempting to discuss at the time. For me, as I enter unfamiliar territory as a writer of some kind, I find it no less difficult to respond to music visually as I do with words, so hence the images here.