As I write, I’m listening to a recording of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.5 in D major (BWV 1050). Though it’s about the most perfect piece of music as I’m likely to hear, the problem is I can’t put into words exactly why that is. I can use jargon like counterpoint and polyphonic, talk about how invigorating it is to hear what seem to be three different melodies playing side by side only for them to drop away leaving only a harpsichord, to hear so many different ideas being expressed, and how just half way through the allegro my ears are still constantly being surprised. That if this was the last composition left on earth it would probably be enough for everyone.
I’ve always joked on this blog about how I can’t write about music, and I think that opening paragraph proves it. I’m passionate about music, as I suppose we all are to varying degrees but unlike film I can’t put that passion into words. I can’t tell you with any great confidence why something is really good or especially bad except in the most basic of terms. I could quite happily explain at length why I think that Ocean’s Twelve is a highly underrated film but I’m not sure I could convince you of the brilliance of Dido.
Except that I have a sneaky suspicion that actually I can and reassuring myself is what Mystery Music March is going to be about. It’s to put myself in a spot, and challenge myself to churn out thirty odd pieces of writing about music, with a little help from some friends . I’m committing to this on the back of last year’s popular Forgotten Films February which was great fun to do and I'm still getting comments about.
Like that escapade, hopefully the mystery will still be that I’ll be introducing you music you’ve not heard before, and not just that you won’t know what I’m writing about next. Like forgotten films its sure to be a very personal endeavour and by the end of the month you’ll probably be all too aware of how shockingly mainstream my musical taste is in places, although I’ll be very surprised if you’ve heard of everything before, at least in the form I’ll be writing about.
I do envy though people who can translate what their ears hear into words. But I’m also conscious of the fact that most of the reviews I read tend to spend much of the wordage explaining the biography of the artist and influences rather than the work itself; perhaps beyond a star rating there isn’t much more that can be said until the person has actually heard the music for themselves and made their own judgement.
Pop and classical music reviewing do seem to be two different disciplines though. The former is usually a wholly original piece of work, so the writer has to talk about the quality of the lyrics or the sound and if relevant how it fits within the artists career or genre. Much of classical music is a recording of an existing work, and the reviewer is noting the quality of the playing, the choices of the conductor, the interpretation. Listening to Building a Library on Radio 3, in which an expert selects the best recording of a piece demonstrates that this is all a matter of opinion.
Which is all I can do over the next month, offer opinions. Clearly I’m selecting the music and it’s going to be something I’m recommending (with one notable exception) so none of them are probably going to be too negative and I want you to disagree with me, constructively at least. I would also appreciate ideas; if you’d like to write about something yourself, contributions are welcome. But if there’s a track, artist or album you’d like me to write about, especially if you don’t think I’ve heard it before, I’d love that too. If this is going to be a proper challenge, I do need to be, well, challenged.