Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Music for maladies ~ and good times

Over the years music has been not only a pleasure but a way of staying sane, and of keeping in touch with the best in myself.  That hasn't always been easy and music has been a big help.

Just a few days ago I returned from being away.  I had overdone things rather and as I relaxed exhaustion closed in accompanied by depression.  There didn't seem to be any point in anything at all, not even in the things that usually give me pleasure.  Rest is always good of course, but having done that and finding myself still out of sorts I got out Stan Walker's album for background music. I was doing some dull work at my desk and needed some nice sounds to keep me company.  Ordinarily I enjoy the album, and this time it was okay, but when he got to 'Hallelujah' by Leonard Cohen, I really woke up and the clouds rolled back, bless him. I've listened to this album, "Introducing Stan Walker" a lot since buying it soon after he won Australian Idol, and there's only one track on it I don't especially care for, which is a good measure of success in my view. 

Other favourite albums which have kept me going over the years have been: 
"Tranquility - A Real Music Sampler" which I have listened to countless times and don't tire of.

"Eagle Spirit" by Medwyn Goodall, and also

"Medicine Woman" by the same artist.  His style of music does vary quite a lot from one album to another.

"River of Stars" by 2002

Almost anything by George Frederick Handel, especially his concerti for organ and orchestra

"Evening Services" (etc) by  Charles Villiers Stanford which is of choral music.  Here is a link to "Stanford: Sacred Choral Music, Vol. 1" ; a similar collection of his music.

And from time to time, a good blast of disco music.

Oh and that wonderful gutsy rock classic "Whiplash Smile" by Billy Idol!

I'm very sensitive to sound which seems like both a blessing and a curse - a blessing in terms of beauty and pleasure, and a curse in so far as so much of modern life is pervaded by a cacophony of sound.

I'll let you into a little known secret - if you need to block out heavy bass the best thing in the world is classical organ music: wind it up and you're in a world of your own.  I discovered this one evening when I was nearly out of my mind with the neighbours interminably exploding fireworks.  I think it was Virgil Fox's recording "The Virtuoso Organ" that saved me that time.  I have very strong associations with this record from my childhood when it was played with splendid effect many times over but which I didn't fully appreciate at the time - it is rather overwhelming if you listen to it properly, and even if you don't!  Although that particular Virgil Fox recording doesn't seem to be available now, there are others, such as "Virgil Fox Encores". This particular album isn't quite what I was thinking of, but does have wonderful music on it.

On the other side of the equation, the performance of music can be transformational.  When I was younger I sang in the city choir and loved it.  It has given me a special appreciation of the singing of others - I find myself instinctively singing along with them, even if only silently, which is often uplifting.

I have to wave a flag here for Adam Lambert: it was after watching his performances on American Idol last year that I realised how important self expression is, and how little most of us allow ourselves.  I found him fascinating - not only his talent, but also for his self confidence and exuberance, discipline and imagination.  I was amazed at how he always seemed to know exactly where the camera was and the candour with which he let others see what they would.  The other contestants seemed pale and insubstantial in comparison. I thought, good on you, Adam, and I think I should let out a little more than I do.  It was at that point that I decided to set up these web logs, which have been the source of much pleasure - for me anyway.  I'm grateful for that.  Thanks Adam!

Book shop links for interested NZ listeners:
These links are all (intended to be) to CD's.  Keen listeners may wish to check for other versions and compilations.  "Whiplash Smile", for example, seems to come in a range of different  (additional?) tracks.
"Tranquility: A Real Music Sampler"
Tranquility: A Real Music Sampler

"Eagle Spirit" by Medwyn Goodall
Eagle Spirit

"Medicine Woman" - by Medwyn Goodall 
Medicine Woman

"River of Stars" by 2002
River of Stars

"Whiplash smile" by Billy Idol
Whiplash Smile

"Virgil Fox encores"  
Virgil Fox Encores

"Introducing Stan Walker" - The Amazon stores do have this but at vastly inflated prices. For buyers outside New Zealand and Australia, it's available from itunes via the link in the text above.
Introducing...Stan Walker

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