Friday, December 14, 2007

The Rhythm of the Night

Shock, horror! On Desert Island Discs, Professor Sir Alan Jeffreys, inventor of 'DNA fingerprinting', chooses a club music track as one of his eight records.
In doing so, a new record was set for the shortest piece of music played on the programme. They cut it after about twenty seconds in case Middle England choked on its Oxford Marmalade.

It may have come as a surprise to Sir Alan's students to learn that he often has club music blaring out whilst reading a difficult PhD thesis. As for me, I have been known to write this blog while listening to a Judge Jules mix that includes the refrain 'you love it when I spank my monkey'. Though never while spanking my monkey. That would play havoc with my typing.

Sir Alan said he regretted being too old to have enjoyed the Ibiza experience, other than on CD. I was more fortunate, having just sneaked into the club scene before I was of an age to look totally ridiculous or to stand out like a pork butcher in Tel Aviv. (The only embarrassment I recall was handing a friend her handbag at the bar, having thoughtfully retrieved it from the dancefloor. "I haven't got a handbag", she said, shortly before a violent young girl and several security men closed in on me.)

I prefer to call it 'club music' rather than 'dance music' because if, at my age, you speak of 'dance music', people think you're talking about Victor Silvester and ballroom dancing.
After all, TV news reports about the over fifties are frequently accompanied by footage of tea dances in village halls and leisure centres. It would be interesting to know what percentage of over fifties ever go tea dancing. I don't think any of the elderly members of my own family ever went within spitting distance of a tea dance. But if, in another twenty years, the tea dance has been replaced by an all-night rave, I'll be happy to hobble along to the community centre. At least I won't have to get up in the morning and I can discuss the science of DNA with Sir Alan Jeffreys in the chill-out room.

Critics of club music say it's repetitive. But much of Bach is repetitive. Sir Alan also chose some Bach for his desert island. And I've noticed that scientists and mathematicians are often fond of Bach, though I'm not qualified to say why this should be so.

Club music, like much classical music, is life-affirming, although in a totally different way. It gives you a lift. Sometimes you need that shot in the arm, that aural adrenaline, that cacophonous caffeine-substitute, that atavistic expression of joy and youth and movement, that affirmation that briefly, and improbably, you're alive.

If listening to Mozart's Requiem is the closest some of us will get to a non-existent heaven, then club music is the pulsating celebration of living in the indisputably existing here-and-now. So turn up the volume and stick two fingers up at the millions yet unborn and the trillions long dead - that was your past, that will be your future - but this is the brief nano-second in the cold wastelands of eternity when you can shout at the universe 'I'm alive'.
And you can't do that with a cup of PG Tips, a Gypsy Cream and a slow fucking foxtrot.


One thing that does become tiresome as you get older is the strange changes to everyday language.
I wish that total strangers would stop telling me that they'll 'see me later'.
I wonder if I should get some cans of beer and crisps in and worry that they'll turn up during Coronation Street.
What was wrong with 'Goodbye'? Why use three words instead of one and tell a complete lie into the bargain?

Then there's:
How are you?
I'm good.
No, you misunderstand.
I was enquiring about your health, not your moral condition.

And then there's:
"I'll be there for you."
Where will you be?
How will I know that you're there?
Will you send me a text to let me know that you're there?
And why do you presume that I'll want you there, wherever that is?

Now, where did I put that chill-out CD?


At 5:01 AM, Anonymous asta said...

I've been listening to Phantom by Justice and In Paridesum by Fauré. I don't see a problem.

At 7:31 AM, Anonymous smart alec said...

alec jeffreys

At 9:57 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

asta: the problem, as so often, is with other people.
The presenter of Desert Island Discs made quite an issue of it, saying the Professor REALLY had chosen that track.

alec: any relation?

At 11:47 PM, Anonymous asta said...

Of course. The very idea that a person might put classical on the same shelf as pop, dance or any other genre is unthinkable to the classical music snob.
Alex Ross has been torching this idea in his book ( The Rest is Noise) and on his blog.


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