One of my biggest frustrations in life is how much I love music, and how difficult I find it to make music of my own. I’ve never been any good at it. It has been a history of personal humiliation.
Generally, I enjoyed school, but I even preferred PE to music lessons. The only time I was ever thrown out of class, for coughing too much. The teacher was the kind of man who probably thought that he should have been composing some new classic choral piece but instead had to teach the recorder to year after year of twelve year old boys instead and looking back that probably explains why he was a total git. I was of course useless with the recorder. I could never seem to get the hang of the whole finger movement thing, and found it hard to retain any kind of plan for how the music should go. It, like music notation, would just not stick. I guess if I had the option for one-on-one remedial schooling I might have gotten somewhere, but my parents could barely afford to send me to school in the first place let alone pay for anything extra. When it came down to it though, those early moments of shame and defeat meant I wanted to spend as little time in the music school as possible.
But I could still sing, right?
I can usually hold a tune. When I arrived at university, I noticed that they were having a try out for the college choir. Flushed with enthusiasm I duly attended.
Of course, all the choral scholars out there are shaking their heads sadly. Of course you need to be able to read music. Yet again, I was humiliated. I never went to College chapel as a result.
So it is all bad news?
Not completely. In the last decade or so, I seem to be surrounded by people who can play virtually anything and play well, so I kind of sometimes feel slightly more special because I cannot play anything. Plus, I think it has helped me develop and I don’t care attitude regarding my singing, as anyone unfortunate enough to be in my presence when karaoke is around. I know it does not work for everyone but knowing I don’t really know what I am doing – and not caring – is quite liberating. I say this because I see some supremely talented musicians who just cannot seem to improvise because they know it will sound ‘wrong’. I think it is what has attracted me recently more towards folk music, as this is mean to be sung by everyone, banging whatever comes to hand, as a communal exercise in sharing music. I had a little of that last week at a Duke Special concert, where he asked everyone (as much as would fit) up on stage around the piano and continued playing in an atmosphere that suggested he could have kept going all night if he’d been allowed and most of us would happily have stayed, singing along when we knew the words.
I apologise to everyone when I hit the wrong notes. Unlike Maria and the Von Trapps I do not know the notes to sing. Put it down to enthusiastic, joyful noise. But mostly you’ll be safe, like most things in life, I’ll settle back and leave it to the experts.