Wednesday, August 2, 2017


"This very familiar recital of the musical experience suddenly takes on, as I can tell it, the aspect of a very hazardous undertaking. It is hazardous because at no point can you seize the musical experience and hold it. Unlike that moment in a film when a still shot suddenly immobilises a complete scene, a single musical moment immobilised makes audible only one chord, which in itself is comparatively meaningless. This never ending flow of music forces us to use our imagination, for music is a continual state of becoming."

Aaron Copland, Music and Imagination

I thought a lot about that quote during a train ride between Salzburg and Hallstatt. The untouchable, ephemeral nature of what he had described moved me, that it was never possible to capture or evoke music in an instant. I reflected upon the nature of the musical imagination, writing quickly in cursive hand, free of any fear that I would ever read what I wrote again: "I hear a recording of Freddie and the detail of it, the nuances of his tone make him seem so incredibly alive still. There is life in its recorded expression and it is addictive, that ability to access that voice, that detail of expression..."

Yesterday, I recovered some demos that I thought had been lost and gone forever. They were covers of Ricky Nelson's Garden Party and Tom Petty's I Won't Back Down that we had recorded before he returned home for Christmas that year. It made my heart leap to discover that they had lived on in my Sent Mail all this time, existing as MP3 attachments to my estranged co-collaborator. The guitar was lowly amplified, the hushed vocals wavered in occasionally perfect unison, with each phrase adopting some imagining of a Southern twang. The recording features innumerable stuff ups, giggles and apologies, with dialogue in warm, low tones: impossible to ever decipher, impossible to ever recover.

Speech, like music, can never be properly immobilised. You can't capture it in an instance, time is necessary to replay those recordings where the inaccessible speak freely, laughing and utilising the expressions they use too much. There's a real joy in becoming reacquainted with a lost voice and I've been finding it more and more, as I've been making a radio documentary for Olli's departure from the hostel. I've sought out contributions from countless guests and they've come back with these voice recordings. Edited together, the finish is rough and the quality variable, almost every detail of their delivery remains intact, close and alive.

As Olli prepares to leave, I feel grateful that I've managed to share this passion for reflection, sentimentality and documentation. In addition to verbally sparring almost constantly, we've both kept our respective notes, continuously writing down quotes and ideas. He looks at my Twitter from time to time, loudly bemoaning the absurd misattributed quotes. It's been a joy to exist alongside him and I know there'll be more to uncover when he leaves. It's odd to think but perhaps it's that method of recovery which will add to that sense of the past being recaptured. Maybe it needs to be distant, it needs to be thought as if it's lost and maybe only then, you can have it back.