10 things about me

Hi. Apparently there’s this blog tag thing going on on WordPress, where one blogger writes ten things about him or herself, then nominates 10 other bloggers to do the same. Well here goes my list…

1. I’m indecisive. Very. This makes me quite slow in chess, for example. Also I entered into the D of E (Duke of Edinburgh) Award in December last year and I’ve done the expedition but I still haven’t decided on what else to do for it, when probably the rest of my school year has finished it by now.

2. I often think of a really good thing that I should have said or mentioned in a conversation hours after it. I find that with blog posts too. It’s often better for me to leave a finished post for a few hours, then come back and see if my unconscious mind has thought of something good to add or change.

3. I don’t have enough Christian friends – not enough friends generally but I really want to start making an effort to find friends who I can fully relate to. The Bible and all Christian leaders emphasise the importance of fellowship among Christians, so I’m definitely lacking in something.

4. I’m somewhat of a Radiohead nerd. Their music is amazing, though I’m actually beginning to get slightly bored of it now. But I’m still fascinated by them for some reason. I know too much about their setlists

5. I’m an INFP (Introverted, iNtuitive, Feeling, Perceptive), according to the most recent personality test I took.

6. When I was ten, I read The God Delusion and decided I was an atheist before I found out that Father Christmas wasn’t real. I eventually found that out when I was eleven, by reading a NewScientist article on whether it’s right for parents to tell their kids that he’s real.

7. I used to be fascinated, and still am quite interested, by the Pitcairn Islands. They’re a remote group of 4 subtropical Pacific islands owned by the UK, about halfway between New Zealand and Chile, with a tiny population of 67 people descended from the HMS Bounty mutineers. I’d love to go there but, as you might guess, it’s a very difficult place to visit.

8. I’m not really sure what I want to be when I’m older, although I’ve often considered being a journalist. I’d also like to study Philosophy at university.

9. I love improvising on the piano and I often come up with musical ideas in my head, which I record onto my phone if I can. But it’s often very inconvenient to have these ideas at random times, like in a lesson, knowing you’ll probably forget them.

10. I prefer holidays (vacations) where you actually do stuff, like walking in Switzerland or the Lake District, rather than holidays like the one I had in Greece, where you relax on the beach and go to bars in the evenings and it’s just England by the sea. There’s nothing wrong with that; it’s just not as good.

Instead of nominating ten people, I’ll just do what DL Aiden (whose blog I linked to with the “apparently” link) did and invite anyone to reply and post their ten things, either in the comments or on their own blog, linking it back to the comments section. Thanks for reading.

5 songs I like at the moment

(in no particular order)

1. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts

This classic song is #1 on the PRS Music list of songs that make real men cry. It’s one of the best ballads I have ever listened to (I can’t think of a better one). Just listen.

2. Coldplay – Brothers and Sisters

A lesser-known but really good song from an otherwise (very) well-known band. This was their début single in 1999, and could have fit in on either of their first two albums. Some commenters on YouTube have understandably accused it of being a rip-off of Radiohead’s song ‘You’ (from their debut album Pablo Honey). But what’s wrong with using a song as inspiration and making it your own? In fact, ‘Brothers & Sisters’ does well as a more subtle version of ‘You’ and arguably rivals it in quality – and though Martin’s voice isn’t as good as Thom Yorke’s, it’s still deep and sombre enough to fit with the atmospheric nature of the song.

3. Radiohead – Jigsaw Falling Into Place

Great song from one of the most acclaimed bands of all time, on their seventh album In Rainbows (2007). Brilliantly atmospheric, the song starts with a beautiful minor chord progression on acoustic guitar and gradually grows in intensity as the song goes on. I haven’t got In Rainbows yet; in fact so far I’ve only got three of their albums – The Bends (1995), OK Computer (1997) and Kid A (2000) – all of which I’d highly recommend. But I’m hoping to own all eight of them at some point.

4. John Legend – Ordinary People

As I said in my previous post, genres like soul and jazz have a direct warming effect on the soul and this piano ballad by a guy with a fragile but excellently fitting voice for the song (and its subject manner) is no exception.

5. Extreme – More than Words

The fact that this song is by an otherwise heavy metal band makes its stripped down nature all the more astonishing. With just an acoustic guitar, using a percussive tap on the strings on the offbeat in the place of drums, and two voices, it is as acoustic as any rock band gets. A great song, though, and good enough to fill in its time of over five and half minutes without overstaying its welcome, despite the lack of instrumentation. ‘Hole Hearted‘, the other ballad on their 1991 album Pornograffiti (and the only other song I know by them) is also well worth listening to.

Extreme – More than Words

 

Meditative music

Certain music really does have a meditative quality. For example, I recently bought the album Kind of Blue by Miles Davis. It’s the first jazz album I’ve bought.

This evening I was just listening to the album in the living room in front of a warm fire, almost as warm as the music itself, and there were candles beside the fireplace. I can honestly say that listening to the music in such a way really did have a spiritual effect on me. The longer you listen to music like that, the deeper it penetrates your being. It’s a form of meditation. I don’t know what it is, but there’s something specifically about the sound of the genres of jazz and soul that has a spiritual effect on one’s being.

Not to say that this effect is limited to those genres. Just now I listened to the 3rd Movement of ‘Electric Counterpoint’ by Steve Reich, a 20th century minimalist classical piece, and to ‘Planet Telex’ and ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ by Radiohead on YouTube, and they are all continuing that spiritual effect in me. Coldplay’s music, not their rather disappointing new stuff but in particular their second and third albums, also has that ambience to it.

That’s it, really. It’s ambient, atmospheric music – particularly jazz and soul, I think I’ll find as I listen to more of it – that moves me. Also anything that is just so melodic that it strikes an emotional chord. ‘Something’ by the Beatles is one of my favourite ones of those…   

The joys of songwriting

Others know it, I am just discovering it.

I have come up with two musical ideas in the past 24 hours.

The first one came when I was tinkering about on the piano yesterday evening and came up with a tune to a Dm/C7 chord progression. I suddenly started to imagine this on an electric piano with an elaborate bassline, then a possibly electronic drum kit, then a synth, then an acoustic rhythm guitar part coming in one by one. I began to imagine a repetitive but very atmospheric bassy electronic song coming into being. I wrote it down on some manuscript.

Today I had a music lesson (I do music GCSE) at school. We had a practical lesson, so I used the computer program Sibelius to write what I’d learnt down, and I added a bass part. I didn’t get much done, but I really loved the sound of it.

Sorry if this all seems like self-glorification; it’s just – though I’ve often enjoyed improvising on the piano and have often had tunes popping in my head, either through improvising or at random times – I’ve, perhaps at my peril, not usually bothered to record them or write them down. But as soon as I played this one, I felt utterly committed to it. I couldn’t go back on the piano until the next day at school, but I felt really frustrated that night that I couldn’t.

By the time I got home from school today, my feelings of near-ecstasy had died down, but I still got back on my piano and the lower four strings of my acoustic guitar, trying to add to the bass part. I then (on the guitar) came up with a different bassline that sounded more rock than the other one, which I also wrote down.

It could be played on a guitar or on a bass, though I’m inclined to writing it as a bass part. I think it’s more of a hook than what I had come up with on the piano, but it didn’t provoke us much feeling in me. It’s actually in a different key to the electro piano tune and it will definitely be a different song.

I have always enjoyed improvising on the piano, much less so the guitar (as I’m not very good at it and have only recently started really enjoying it) and I have written some stuff down. I’ve recorded (on paper) several piano and one orchestral idea but only developed one of them, into a classical piano piece which I was quite proud of.

On the guitar, my teacher once asked me to write a song, but I came up with very little over three weeks so we dropped the project – although shortly after, I got the GarageBand app for my iPod Touch and came up with a guitar-based tune I quite liked.

None of it compares to my electro piano tune, though. Although I might well have forgotten it if I hadn’t written it down then, I was still humming it when I got home from school this afternoon. I’m actually slowly beginning to get bored with it now. It’s too catchy. It’s gone through my head so many times now that it’s annoying.

Sorry! I know it’s sounds like I’m too big for my boots, like I think I’ve concocted a masterpiece, the catchiest tune ever, up with the Beatles. But I’m just being honest. I doubt it’s up there with what professional songwriters/bands can achieve, it’s just that I personally seem to love it. I’m experiencing the kind of happiness that I’m sure any songwriter will feel when he comes up with something that means a lot to him, for whatever reason.

This, I’m sure, will be the first thing I’ve come up with and actually made into a proper song with different parts – an electric piano part, a bass part, a(n electronic) drums part, a rhythm acoustic guitar part, a vocal part, probably a synth part, possibly a lead electric guitar part near the end, I don’t know yet. However, the only obstacle that’s getting my way is being able to get everything that’s in my head onto paper. I feel that worrying about the correct rhythms and all that stuff is getting in my way. Sibelius, especially, is fiddly. And, paradoxically, my excitement is making me a bit too hyper to concentrate on it.

I also still need to come up with the lyrics, though that shouldn’t be hard.

I’ve been interested in songwriting for quite a long time, and I have the book Songwriting for Dummies. But I am only beginning to discover why my favourite writers love their jobs so much. The deadlines, the pressures and anxieties of bands must get in the way of enjoying it, but to me it doesn’t seem like a bad part of a career. Not that I’m setting my heart on that kind of career, mind you. I’m not sure I’d even want a job like that, having to spend such long periods of time touring with very little rest.

But anyway, if nothing else, I might have discovered a new hobby. And to any other people who want to write music but don’t feel inspired enough to turn their ideas into songs, don’t give up hope! One day you’ll come up with something you’ll just have to work on!