If it is Inspiration you Seek, it is Classical you Must Find

I was in a London bar the other night, relaxing with a book and a medium sized glass of sparkling cranberry juice. There was a nice flurry of activity occurring around me, date night couples, arguing couples, groups of friends, a solo American businessman trying to engage with conversation (bless), all the standard things you’d expect to see in a alcoholic establishment of its sort and location.

I was sat in a booth to myself and taking in the lively scene of human activity mid page (the joy of a gentle anthology) when something caught my eye. At first I thought I was mistaken by what I’d seen but then the dart happened again and again, until my brain finally came to terms with what it was witnessing less than two meters away.

Mice.

The little pests were so quick and spontaneous with their movements I could barely get my phone out, let alone take a photo, before they dashed back into the shadows or across the tiles into a new crevice. I saw one dash towards the American businessman but he seemed too preoccupied with asking the bartender to hit him with yet another whiskey so I held my tongue.

I’d only just arrived at the pub and settled down, so felt very reluctant to leave. I’d been to the establishment before and saw no sense in hurrying back to the cramped little flat I call home alongside four others. Besides, I’d paid £2.70 for my sparkling cranberry juice.

I knew exactly what to do. I put on my headphones and whacked on one of my most played songs. A classic of a classic, Ralf Vaugh Williams’ The Lark Ascending is as beautiful a composition if ever there was one. And while I can never begin to review it on a note-by-note basis (this girl dropped trombone when she was sixteen) I can firmly say that as a sentient human being it is a song that always helps lighten my spirits whatever mood I am in. I’m playing it right now as I type, listen:

So delicate but forthright and strong. Each time I hear the notes I see a different version of me play out, be it the girl in an evening dress or the girl donning her stick and hanky as she strides towards the city where the streets are paved with gold. And it was listening to The Lark Ascending that night in an average pub with mice running around that I was able to find my inner composure. Don’t get me wrong, mice or any kind of vermin indoors is not particularly pleasant, nor should it be ignored, but just listening to classical music, well, it seemed to transport me somewhere completely different. I could overlook the mice dashing about, in fact I was even able to half smile at their ill fated antics to get any distance before a human made a move of their own.

And then I looked down and saw a mouse sniffing my pump shoe and the bare foot within. Then I freaked the hell out and swiftly finished my juice as a scooted towards the door of a rapidly emptying watering hole. I left the single member of bar staff in the delightful company of the American and a newly arrived drunk local.

And it made me think, when did I start embracing classical music? What were the key tracks that started it? Well bizarrely my love of classical music all started with a free CD that came with a Saturday Daily Express newspaper. Remember those few years where newspapers gave out CDs every five minutes with a random assortment of music? Well in 2004 we got one and it must have been the Euros or something because it was called Football Passion (even though the last World Cup had been in 2002).

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Well much to the surprise of 11 year old me and a good deal of other Daily Express readers the CD was purely classical music. Not a sniff of Lighting Seeds in sight. And yet in a very weird way a free piece of plastic came to be the making of me. Playing it in the car for weeks afterwards I was able to formulate my own narratives around each song. The first and strongest story I devised around a song that was around the composition of William Tell Overture. Don’t listen to this and tell me you can’t picture the spectacle of the horse racing?

Picture a scene resembling the Grand National or Cheltenham Races, horses chasing up to hurdles and bounding over. Riders falling to the wayside one by one as proud owners look on to see their champions to the photo finish. So much energy and excitement.

Pavane, the song that flows straight after William Tell Overture on the CD’s playlist, created in my head the sense of disappointment of the losers.

The riders cast aside as failures, the damaged horses piled in heaps awaiting their fate as the rain starts to drop down. That or a general sense of romantic sadness, young boys packing bags and sent off to war when they barely understand what suffering is. The long days of rain and sadness.

And then, several songs later…

The slow build up, the knowing that something is about to happen, something is about to change. And then boom! The base drops and you’re filled with a sensation of happiness and warmth. The rain has stopped, war is over, there is a shining future ahead and all you can see is the goodness in humanity. O brave new world!

As crazy as it would seem, a free CD aimed at a sport I had no interest in would spark a new altogether different fascination in me. Around the same time my Mum got given a compilation CD set for Christmas called Pure Chillout.

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Still played around the house some fifteen years later, the album’s selection of modern hits with a feeling of ‘future classics’ was timed perfectly to those early teenage years of trying to make sense of the world under a mountain of coursework. The Heart Asks Pleasure First has strong banking connotations in the UK, but for me I could see only two lovers running around wild meadows, pausing only to catch their breath and the beauty of their company.

How mighty is the piano.

Mum, a now retired teacher, used Adiemus for one of her class’ dance routines.

Aged about nine, I listened to the song repeated endless times in the kitchen while she formulated the choreography for a group of twenty seven to eleven year olds. I remember watching the class rehearsing the performance an thinking it very impressive given my Mum half an hour before had been teaching Maths. However it wasn’t the story I’d created in my head.

In my head I pictured it as a battle scene. The noble and good army preparing for the battle ahead at camp, heading to the field, squaring up with their mighty and evil enemy across the board field. Then the charge with an almighty crash as the two sides interlock for the first time. The bloody battle, the slaughter and long battle, ending with the head of the enemy cut clean off and rolling away. The enemy drop their weaponry and the good Queen proclaims the victory to her humble supporters.

In hindsight I understand why my Mum couldn’t have acted out similar with her students.

Spin things back to the present day and you can find Mozart sitting comfortably as playlist bedfellows to songs such as this where English lyrics start to make an appearance, but only as long as they serve as backing vocals to the main event:

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I now find myself frequently utilising the power of the classical genre to help me focus on big tasks or help support and make sense of the creative noise in my head. With no fake beats or confusing lyrics to contend with my mind can make its own conclusions of what it hears. And like any form of artwork, I can listen to it knowing that a distant person on the far side of the world can understand the wordless track just as easily and form their own opinions and judgements.

Were years of classical music the only reason I put up with hoards of bar mice that evening? Of course not. But could I say to you, hand on heart, that without ever listening to a classical music track I’d be sat here today writing the way I do? Now that’s a tougher question to answer. Because classical music forced me to form a story based on no steer whatsoever. It began that process of storytelling that has stuck with me ever since. Without the genre I genuinely do not know if I’d still be able to pull writing topics out of thin air or even if I’d have the confidence to share my ideas for the world to see for themselves.

If it is inspiration you seek, it is classical you must find.

A Selection of September Songs to Keep you Sane

Because I haven’t posted anything for a little, i.e. long, while I felt a quick post was needed. Also because I woke up one day and realised it was September (when did that happen?) and spent the week eating my weight in cheesecake and doing all things BUT sitting at home dwelling on the fact Summer is over.

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Sat, far left. The only time in my life where I remember shaking with excitement while getting my photo taken.

When you’re young you have the distraction and heavy dislike of school to keep you going. The only thing keeping me sane back then was a mix of back to school stationary and new uniforms (the cool kids drank Panda Pops, it was that kind of hard knock, middle class area)

Turns out though those in the music industry can’t get enough of the month.

 

 

A Selection of September Songs to Keep you Sane

 

Green Day – Wake me up When September Ends (complete with very 00s lyric video)

The official pop video is seven minutes long (one of the classic mini-movie types) and focuses on a young couple where the boyfriend enlists in the army and deployed to a non-descript Arabic country where things get very political and emotional.

I think it’s obvious why I opted for the lyric video…seven minutes long? Who do Green Day think they are, Michael Jackson?

 

Earth Wind and Fire – September

No introduction needed.

 

Britney Murphy – Boogie Wonderland (Happy Feet Cover)

Admittedly I thought this was a cover of Earth, Wind and Fire’s September but it’s not. Dang. Well I’ve found it so sticking it here regardless. Robin Williams sings in it so not a total loss.

 

Carole King – It Might as well Rain Until September

How bad is it that when I did a quick search entry on my own music library this song came top? Well somehow I’ve acquired this and find myself questioning anyone would wish bad weather on everyone else just because you can’t find a chap. A bit selfish, no?

 

The Bangles – September Gurls

I wish bed hair was still a thing.

 

JP Cooper – September Song

As inferred in my opening paragraph, I don’t see me being anyone’s September song, unless you’re going to string something together that rhymes ‘girl likes cake’ and ‘better bake’.

 

September – Cry for You

Maybe the reason this Swedish popstar changed her stage title back to the latter half of her real name Paula Marklund is because she realised she wasn’t getting bookings for the other 11 months.

 

Strictly Come Dancing Ensemble – September

Because I will never stop sharing this

 

Vivaldi – Four Seasons (Autumn)

Because as the name suggests it’s intended for Autumnal months including September (look, if it’s too tenuous a link write your own September song list).

 

(Plenty more September themed pop hits can be found on this website also 20 Songs About September)

What is it about September that gets musical artists writing? Maybe it’s because it’s the end of Summer and/or they didn’t have cheesecake and season two of The Crown to hand.

 

Any I’ve missed off? Let me know!

Whatever Happened to Duffy?

So, the WordPress prompt of the day is ‘Mercy’ and when I think of mercy my natural reaction is to get on a podium and dance.

And to think, if I’d decided to study Politics I may have had a different reaction to the concept of mercy. A world where Alice is unmoved by the above song. What a sad world that would be.

It did however lead me to wonder: where is Duffy now? Where is Duffy, and Dido and Celine Dion and everyone with a D under five characters?

Well it transpires I wasn’t the first one to think this big question (about Duffy that is. No one seems to have a clue about Dido and I’m quite sure Celine is making plump middle aged women cry in Las Vagas still). Duffy wise, Digital Spy has already addressed this point.

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I didn’t even have to look hard for the article, on a Bing search (don’t judge, I’m too lazy to switch) it came up as second in results under the keyword “Duffy”.

The article paints a story that is heard all too often in the music industry. Too much fame, too quickly, leading to breakdowns and even firing her own publicity team. She went quiet and then fired off a batch of new singles in early 2017 following a break from music. I know, I was completely none-the-wiser either. (If you want the full article click here.)

So there you go. Who says you don’t learn stuff from this blog.

 

Written in response to the WordPress prompt of the day: Mercy

This Could Be the Best Homemade Video Since Charlie Bit My Finger…*

(* – no promises made)

What does one get a family member who has everything? More to the point, what does one get a family member when one has no money, no time and has a terrible habit of writing in the ‘one’ tense? That’s right, she makes a truly amazing video featuring Phil Collins (obviously).

It seemed such a good idea to make a video for lil bub Bennett’s birthday, but then in truth I think I may have really just wanted to pay tribute to Phil Collins and feed my middle age condition (the one where people are born liking The Archers and consider staying up to watch the BBC News at 10 to be a ‘crazy’ one. Yeah, that one.) Anyway, I thought the video would be a nice thing to do for her.

20 hours later…

Brain dead, caffeine overdosed and fed up of seeing my sister’s face more than my own, I finally created a masterpiece. “She better love this” I thought, before dashing into Lush the next day to buy a back up present. Safe thing too, when I first presented her with the gift she seemed less than amused at the offering.

“Right. Ok, well that’s a very nice memory stick Ali, thank you.”

“No you donut, it’s what’s on the stick.”

“Oh right!”

“Did you seriously think I’d give you a cheap USB stick for your birthday?”

*Silence*

“Just play the video.”

Luckily, she loved it. And now, for your viewing pleasure, I have added that same video here. Enjoy! (Well as much as you can given you know nothing of my family and it’s in-jokes…if nothing else watch it for Phil.)

 

 

Written in response to the WordPress prompt Dancing

I’m The Classiest Thing to Happen to Swindon Since Billie Piper

With a title like that you’re probably thinking one of three things, “too right Alice is”, “this girl has got right up herself since she set up a Facebook page. Who is she, Donald Trump?” or “huh, I did not know Billie Piper came from Swindon”. Either way, I’m going to say it loud and proud* (*not in real life you understand? Just online).

Two weeks ago was carrying an unzipped suitcase down the stairs when all my belongings tumbled out. At that very moment I thought to myself “you really are a piece of something” and now I know what that something is. It’s pretty obvious that I am the embodiment of class and comedy gold (I’m also the embodiment of a minor caffeine addition and sleep deprivation, but I’ll leave that to the obituarists).

Backtracking a little, with a name that translates as “Pig Hill” not a lot of celebrities have graced the streets and houses of Swindon. Case in point: when was the last time you saw Jude Law in the Canal Walk McDonald’s? Exactly. And don’t get me started about the fact Canal Walk is no where near water. I’m going off on a ranty tangent here, but Swindon needs to have a serious rebrand. Why not change the name to, say, “Swingdon” and make the place full of jazz or “Richdon” (subliminal messaging for the dumb rich people)? I pay you enough ruddy money in taxes, sort it out council.

Until a new name is implemented or Jude Law decides to unleash his offspring into the concrete jungle that is Swindon’s Tented Market (really, it is made of that – WHO WORKS IN BRANDING?!), then I’m going to claim the title of classiest female to grace Swindon. Sure, I spill tea quite literally everywhere and yes, I can be reduced down to a child-like mentality when presented with new pillows, but given my competition is Billie Piper then I think I have good grounds for asserting my case. For anyone not in the know, Piper made her name in the late 90s/early 00s as a pop star and then as an actress (more commonly known for playing Rose Tyler in the reboot of Doctor Who). She’s good, don’t get me wrong, but Swindonians don’t half like to harp on about her like she’s a big claim to fame. You know who my local town of Stratford-Upon-Avon had? Shakespeare, that’s who. Trust me, there’s no beating that, however competing against this I think I could take Piper on:

(Seeing bins melt into men, billboard cartoons come alive and rhino bouncers? Yep, it’s called a standard Saturday night out in Swindon.)

I write stuff, good stuff, and despite my frequent Calamity Jane moments I like to think I represent a good role model. I walk to work, go to the gym, I even do the occasional bit of baking. I tell you what, get Anthea Turner (star of How to Be a Perfect Housewife) on the phone, she’ll support me (and in doing so knock back Feminism to 1969 but hey, we’re talking about me here.)

In short, I’m a ruddy aspirational professional.

And you know what? I think my presence is having an effect on this town. For instance back in 2014 you would never see this type of thing out and about:

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You might have come across a cider can or an empty beer bottle, but never a wine flute carefully placed on a window ledge. It’s a sign!

Not wanting to brag, but I’m the classiest thing to happen to Swindon since Billie Piper.

(Disclaimer: before writing this post I had consumed a large, strong, coffee. This may explain pretty much all the comments made in the above. Do I regret them? Not at all.)

Nablopomo Day 18: Inappropriate Music

My colleague and I had an inappropriate song-struck-in head off today. As our chairs are located literally back to back (#OverstaffedOfficeProblems) we share a great deal of information, sometimes perhaps too much. Put it this way, it’s been a bonding experience. Nowhere else can I say I’ve learnt the art of careful wheeled office chair reversal (trust me, it’s a very unvalued skill). One of our many chats today was on the topic of music which followed minutes later by my colleague announcing she had “Apple Pen” stuck in her head. For those of you who have yet to experience the delights of this song, here is the video:

Pretty annoyingly catchy right? Double points for that fact for simplicity and dance moves I can learn. Besides, any music video that prioritises dress over props is going to score highly with me. Reduce the price of fruit and pens I say.

Despite this, I was all to quick to respond “I can better that” and muttered the lyrics I had stuck in my head. Faced with her disbelief, told her to Google it.

This was the song I had stuck in my head whilst sat in a professional office environment:

Definitely NSFW!