Where da b-line?
Travelling with a pair of electrically impotent double A powered speakers has – paradoxically - added a new dimension to my listening adventures. I recall a time, but a few years ago, in a very austere hostel in Gran Canaria (named after dogs, not birds it transpires) and my friend - erstwhile audiologist and reformed musical fascist: Max (he’s mellowed over the years bless ‘im) - commented on the distinct lack of any actual bass, and therefore any interest, in my diminutive little speaker array (incidentally, the manager of the hostel didn’t find them quite as inoffensive as Max, nor our response after he complained about the noise at 3am). Whilst it is certainly true that the speakers themselves aren’t capable of reproducing the very broad range of frequencies present within the modern musical canon, I know the albums I listen to well enough to fill in the bassline shaped fissures myself: right in my own mindbox. Clever huh? And fun. For all the family. To me this makes listening to music more of an ‘active’ experience. Why have the speakers lazily reproduce the bassline when you can step up to the bar and imagine it in your head with all the rich, sonorous, belly-kicking grandour it so proudly deserves. This argument parallels my issues with reading the work of Tolkien (et al goblineous et hobbit est takete stuff): I need an actual ‘role’ when I read; a ‘purpose’; an element that stops me from being little more than a passive observer of an artwork taking place in my general vicinity; which seems to care little – if at all - whether I consume it or not. Tolkien tells me everything and even offers me bloody maps so I can imagine where it actually happened too (‘In the Kingdom of Oprah, by the straights of Tarragon, amid a sham of a mockery of a mockery of a sham sits bugger all’). When the book offers up such an avalanche of facts and figures, plot and sub-plot: what do I get to do? I know who a character’s mother is, who his friends are, his ancestry, his deams, his beliefs, his fears. I know what happened, what is happening and what will happen (for it is foretold…probably, it’s been a while since I read it) so in the end I kind of think that it - the story - doesn’t really need me; the story can take care of itself. In the meantime: I’ll be in the pub.
I prefer a book which allows me the space to complete aspects of it by myself; that takes me to a dropping off point and allows me the opportunity to create my own resolution; that lets me (the reader, not just me, that would be very selfish) close its narrative arc. In a traditional romantic resolution do you need to see the couple actually living happily ever after? Or is there a possibility that actually attempting to show the period after they realised they actually love each other will turn out to be rather tawdry. I mean, living happily ever after: It’s bound to be well boring isn’t it? You know when a friend says ‘we’re just SO happy, it’s amazing, just being together is enough really’. Well yes…for a while; but forever? Happily ever after? I think not. They always come back a few years later after that ‘cute little face she does when she doesn’t like something’ has transmogrified into ‘that face she makes that makes me want to punch her fucking head in’. Living ‘happily ever after’ will always be a complicated and messy affair of sturm and drang, bob and weave, Jekyll and Hyde, so I think the open ending offers the opportunity to imagine a (purely fictional) resolution more powerful and rewarding than any that could be written. So here’s to the unwritten, the unsaid, the implicit and the ambiguous; although when I get to hear my music with actual basslines again I may well change my mind. I’m fickle that way (and in most other ways).