I witnessed an incident at the weekend which has caused me to step back and think. I was away in Oxford for what has now become an annual weekend with a good friend of mine. It was a great opportunity to catch up, watch a bit of football and do a bit of walking.
On the Sunday morning we decided to have a wander along the Thames Path and were walking along the street to get there when we spotted this man in a big luminous reflective jacket, sporting large headphones and singing at the top of his voice as he walked along. As he went you could see people spotting what they saw as being something to avoid and doing their best to stay out of his way. At this moment I must admit that I also felt rather wary of this somewhat unusual behaviour and my heart sunk somewhat as he turned to go down the same path as us.
However, as we got down by the river something rather strange happened. All of a sudden that person, who was seen as something to avoid on the street, was now being viewed in a completely different way. I’m not sure why this was, maybe the people by and on the water were somehow more relaxed than those rushing to get somewhere on the pavement. Whatever this was I saw a transformation in myself too as I began to see how this man, full of his own exuberance and totally focussed on what he was listening to, created a wave of happiness as he went past people. Following him for around half a mile there was not one person who failed to smile as he walked past them; and, of course, my friend and I were also totally taken by the effect he had on people.
Thinking about it afterwards I was really taken with how this person managed to brighten up the lives of so many people in such a short period of time, and was reminded of when I lived in Birmingham and how one of the bus drivers there used to cheer up an otherwise dull commute by singing Bob Marley songs at the top of his voice. What I also immediately thought was how I could never do that, how I would feel far too inhibited to engage in any such performance… however informal it may be.
Nevertheless, while I could not imagine walking through the streets and waterways of a city singing joyously at the top of my voice, what I could relate to was being in a state of mind where I was totally absorbed by music, a state I can get into when I am writing about music for this blog. Here I manage to get totally inside the sound, especially when I am writing about it; and this got me thinking. Am I just expressing my response to the music in a different but equally valid way as the man of the river path? Is the important thing here not howwe express ourselves but thatwe express ourselves?
There is something here I think about letting go, something that I imagine will be a constant theme for this blog, and the idea that the means of letting go will be different for all of us. Music is a real facilitator in helping me to let go, and that’s why I often like long repetitive and/ or meditative pieces that take me away into my thoughts… whereas at other times I really like hard and heavy music that pummels me and gives me a chance to work through my aggressions, and all points in between.
As well as this there is one arena in which I am willing to publicly let myself go, which is at a gig/ concert. Here I do not seem to be bound by my own rules of shyness and introversion. In the words of the song I let the beat control my body and find it nigh on impossible not to move around when listening to live music; and friends of mine say that they can understand how I get so deep into the music in my reviews when they see me ‘dancing’ at a gig.
Now there is probably a long analysis to be made here about how different social rules apply within the environs of a music venue (and maybe by the riverside too). Putting that aside though I will just say that the total feeling of exhilaration after a band’s set after which I have been completely absorbed to the point that I feel like I am part of the music is something that is unmatched anywhere else in my life. It is that act of letting go that somehow feeds other parts of my live and gives me a wonderful sense of being balanced and refreshed; in a similar way that writing does but with the added energy that comes from the exercise.
Experiencing music, then, is something that I find is vital to my understanding of myself and of the world; and while I still cannot imagine myself walking down the street signing at the top of my voice I can relate to the feeling that this might bring. I can also see how we all need some sort of pressure valve to that just frees our minds and bodies to think and move without any restrictions. This may cause a few heads to turn, but maybe it will bring something positive into people’s lives too.
How do you let go?
What is stopping you?
This is the first of what I imagine with be a series of posts that I will be posting simultaneously here, and on my less established personal blog The Fragmented Flañeur.
Spofity playlists here.