Notational Interludes

After my post about art I could write about how I’m also a frustrated musician, inspired by my mother, who was the epitome of a folksy mcfolk musician, playing, as she did sporadically, the piano accordion, recorder, xylophone and glockenspiel, mostly by ear. On the other side of my family my knitting Nan focused her powers on the electric organ by her front door as she belted out hymns. However, as my violin teachers and family can attest, there was mainly relief when my music stopped.

All Greek to me.

All Greek to me.


I consoled myself with the thought I had really wanted to play the cello, but there wasn’t one, and when there was, another student played it. I never could get the timing right. Although the high school rock band is another story…

I never imagined music as a way of life. For one I thought you had to be able to read music, and I spent two years trying and mostly failing to learn how to read it, having only just mastered reading words. I realised later reading music wasn’t necessary, not for my mother, and not for countless others who got the rhythm and played along.

'The Music of the Poets. A Musician's Birthday Book. 1896.  It's just like Music and Lyrics.

‘The Music of the Poets. A Musician’s Birthday Book. 1896. It’s just like Music and Lyrics.

Music and me parted ways. Sometimes I am sad about this, like when I see live theatre and for a second yearn to be up in front of the footlights, like I was in high school. And then the vision fades and I will return into the west and to remain just me. Or Galadriel, whichever.

This is where writing is good. I can make up stories about anyone and anything. It’s like acting, which is pretending to be anyone, only I’m responsible for the story and I don’t have to dress up or talk to people.

If you like, too, writing has beats, swells and troughs, clear notes and driving bass. Stories have moods and themes and shrillness and depth. Rhythm and emotion. Stories almost have everything that music has except a live audience.

Should I start busking stories? Or asking for cash in exchange for 50 word poems featuring three words of your choice, guvna?

I think, too that whatever mode you practice, you shouldn’t dismiss the other modes. I’m aware it’s a sport to pick on actors in bands, but really, it’s all just human expression. Dickens and Mark Twain performed for audiences, singer song writers deliver narratives and ditto painters and dancers. Behind each is a desire to provide an experience – to communicate. Mostly this communication is one way, unless you’ve had a beer bottle thrown at you in a shifty bar as you sing the blues. Yet it is communication.

All this communication is done for the joy of it, for a living, for the ideas in it, for practice, for fun, for a story, for others, for an idea and for reasons you or I can’t articulate. It seems we’ve always done this, whether it’s 35,000 yo finger flutings on the wall of a cave in South Australia, or an interpretation of a children’s book in Matilda the Musical.


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