One of my favourite guilty pleasures is a set of gentle romances from the 60s and 70s by Iris Bromige. Her heroines are gentle, firm and optimistic, her heroes are domineering and loving, and the couples never really fall in love – they just grow to love. One thing they always seem to do is sit down with a cup of tea listen to the latest recording of a Beethoven string quartet, or the Mahler 5.
It’s been a long time since I did that myself – sit down, turn off the lights, pour a cuppa, and listen to music. Not music as I’m doing something mindless, like maths homework or cleaning, or background music, or simply playing music. But paying attention to the music itself is a practice I’ve fallen out of. When Toronto lost city power several years ago, my friend told me she put batteries in her stereo and put on Coldplay’s Parachutes, sitting for 45 minutes listening to it in the dark. The other day my iPod was on shuffle, and Rachmaninov’s Second Piano Concerto come on. And I decided that it deserved – and I deserved – a full 40 minutes devoted to it. So I turned off the lights, turned up the volume, and sat down.
And oh, what a joy. My favourite recording is the Artur Rubinstein (no Lang Lang for me, thank you very much), and I’m glad that I took the time to re-discover it. The harmonies, the virtuosity, the sweeping grandeur and romance – I only wish that I had a phonograph to listen to it properly.
I’m glad I took the time out do it. I listen to music too often through an iPod, and inundating my senses in music is an experience not easily replicated when you’re shut in and shutting out.
Do you just sit down and listen to your favourite album or artist? What would you recommend?
– Jean AAR