Listening between the notes

Monday Night, Croydon Folk Club, Coope Boyes & Simpson gig.

I know I spend a lot of time writing about music, but there is method in it. In the right circumstances, and these were they, being in the front row, singing along with professional musicians who encourage joining in, not only do the spirits lift, but the brain uncreases and all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas get flowing, despite the slightly wistful I wish I could do that that takes over when I hear someone at the top of their game as CB&S are.

Coope Boyes & Simpson are very relaxed, unassuming performers, they chat quite happily between songs, but when they are singing they pay close attention to each other, giving the impression that they might just be improvising, not that I think they are, and there is a feeling that you are eavesdropping on a private session. They feel no need to drag the audience in, there is no need to do more than sing.  The timing is exquisite (The Cool of the Day), the harmonies clever and the contained way in which they deliver quite devastating songs (Hill of Little Shoes) is perfect.

To get singing (and song writing – Falling Slowly and Turn Your Face to the Light) of this calibre in a prefab shack at the back of Ruskin House is extraordinary. Worth missing the last train for. Lester Simpson claims to not know anything about music theory, describing one of the songs as not being in 4/4 time, but the changes in tempo in his songs are one of their highlights.

So what does this have to do with writing?

Live music works on two different levels for me, I get completely engrossed in the music, (which is so totally three-dimensional compared to recordings) at the same time that I am following and playing with the harmonies, which have their own spacial existence, I also listen to the spaces between the notes.

I was once asked to explain harmony to a Deaf choreographer, eventually I said, when you have more than one person dancing, what they do reflects and follows and contradicts what the other dancers are doing, and they create shapes that only exist in the relationship between each dancer? (Poor interpreter, that stretched him), Yes yes, she said. Right, that’s what harmony is, just in sound, I said, sweating a little with the effort. She beamed, completely understanding.

So I do, on some level, experience sound (in particular music) as being shape and space and three dimensions,  (I’m sure in terms of the physics of sound waves that this is true, if not quite how a scientist would describe it) and that creates room for something else.


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