Saturday, August 31, 2013
A hitchhiker’s guide to the musical galaxy
When I was at university in the late 1960s hitchhiking was my preferred mode of transport. I remember thumbing it out of Reading headed for the Gower Peninsula in South Wales, only to be stranded at a roundabout outside Cardiff as dusk approached. In desperation I tried another exit and scored a lift – complete with ferry crossing – to the Isle of Wight where I spent the weekend on the beach. Another summer was spent thumbing around the Netherlands in a giant circle with the Paradiso in Amsterdam at the centre. In those hitchhiking years serendipity prevailed in the form of chance meetings and destinations, and as a result my life was infinitely enriched.
Similarly cultural hitchhiking was my preferred method of musical education in those far-off years. Sticking my thumb out on BBC Radio 3 brought a chance encounter with Boulez while travelling to Beethoven in the concert hall took me via Berg. Thumbing it in record shops opened up the world of Eastern music and a chance encounter in the cinema exposed me to the music of Mahler.
But the atomisation of our society into a dangerous and litigious jungle means that hitchhiking on the road has gone, and with it has been lost the infinite possibilities of chance meetings and destinations. Similarly a culture atomised by the onward march of the internet and dumbing-down has bleached our media, concert halls and record shops of those infinitely valuable chance musical meetings. Next week I will be in Nantes in western France again and for the first time since this blog started nine years ago readers will not benefit from my chance discoveries in the city’s priceless Harmonia Mundi boutique; it closed a few months ago, another victim of the corrosive power of the internet.
Fortunately all is not yet totally lost and that hitchhiker’s guide to the musical galaxy par excellence Prelude Records in Norwich still provides me and my readers with invaluable chance discoveries. My most recent find there is featured in the header graphic, an exquisite CD of new music in the classical tradition of northern India by Michel Guay and Prabhu Edouard. Fortunately Prelude Records seems to be in rude health, but I swear that if it ever succumbs to the onward march of the internet On An Overgrown Path will close as well. But enough of dark thoughts, it's time to take a break from blogging and indulge in some more musical hitchhiking - à bientôt.
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