Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A decent day

I guess I'm getting in the Christmas spirit. I handed in both of the essays which I've been working on for the last couple of weeks today. It was the kind of winter day I love, with a clear blue sky, cold without being unbearable and a layer of frost covering most surfaces but thankfully not the pavement. There's something kind of beautiful about trees when every one of their branches has been coated white with frost, making them look skeletal and festive at the same time. It was one of those fairly uneventful days where the simple fact that nothing went wrong actually makes it a great day. Nothing big or dramatic happened, I went to Uni, handed in some work, played on the Xbox for a bit, went round to a friend's house and watched a DVD before wandering home well before midnight. But for once I've reached the end of a day without a single thing going wrong or frustrating me, without anything to dwell on or regret. It's a nice feeling and one I allow myself too rarely. It's not like the things that have caused me to feel a bit crap at various times this term have gone away or been solved, in fact they're completely unchanged, it's just I guess they don't seem to have mattered so much today and I'm grateful for that.

I watched 'Home Alone' this evening for the first time in ages and I'd forgotten how enjoyable that film is, simple, funny, charming and intensely evocative of a whole host of Christmas based memories and associations. It also struck me just how violent some of the traps the burglars fall for are, something which had passed me by when I'd watched it as a child, those guys would almost certainly have both died from the punishment they receive (don't worry though, I know that strict realism was hardly the aim of the film makers there and nor should it have been).

The main focus of this post, or at least the initial inspiration, isn't my improved mood. It's not about my day today either. It's another post about music, and the role it plays in my life.

I spent a lot of the last week sat in my room working on essays and it's times like that when I truly become aware of my reliance on music to get through a day. I had my iTunes library open constantly, listening to a whole range of songs and I genuinely think it would have been much more of a struggle to complete the essays had it not been for that. There was a fairly heavy emphasis on Frank Turner among the songs I listened to. I know quite a lot of people who simply can't work while listening to music, they find it too distracting but I am the exact opposite. I have a fairly inattentive mind a lot of the time, I quite rarely manage to focus on one thing in particular, even if I'm watching a film or TV show I love I'll find my mind is wandering and I'm tempted to check a few websites or read a magazine while watching them.

I have a theory that it's at least partly a defence mechanism; anyone who knows me properly will know that I have a tendency to over think scenarios. I quite simply think too much, and not in a intelligent or beneficial way, just in an overly analytical and often slightly self-destructive way. I also tend not to draw the most positive conclusions from these periods of thought, ending up with a fairly negative outlook on the way certain aspects of my life are going. It's because of this that I think I often end up doing two or more things at once, if I was to do just the one that would leave me too much room to think about the exact kind of things it does me little good to focus on. Recently I've not even been successful in transferring that energy into being creative and coming up with stories to write, it's just been a kind of self-perpetuating cycle of slight sadness.

Music seems to operate in the same part of my brain as the section which dreams up things for me to over-think (I doubt there's any actual psychological link, it's more just how it feels to me). So combining music with work is quite effective as it keeps the practical and over-imaginative sides of my brain busy and I am intensely grateful for music whenever I'm faced with work.

I was reminded of my gratitude for music at two separate points today. Firstly when I was walking into university, enjoying as I mentioned earlier exactly the kind of winter morning I love, accompanied by the Fleet Foxes eponymous debut album. It was just one of those moments where the music matched my mood and my environment so well. I genuinely feel sorry for all the generations who had to live without iPods and MP3 players. I know that could sound condescending or foolish, but seeing as I pretty much literally never walk anywhere alone without my earphones in, it's just hard to imagine a life without that. Some people might argue that people were more social or just enjoyed the sounds around them, but I never listen to my iPod when I'm with friends and if anyone can explain quite what I'm missing out on by drowning out the sounds of traffic and other people's unrelated conversations I'm willing to listen.

The second time was fairly similar, just about 8 hours later. Walking round to my friends house on my own I decided to listen to an album I'd not listened to for a couple of months. "Until the Earth Begins to Part" by Broken Records is an incredible album, but for some reason I'd not listened to it for quite a while so i enjoyed that wonderful feeling of re-discovering a love for a piece or pieces of music. I tend to listen to albums intensely for a while, then forget about them, and as a general rule the really good ones I'll re-discover, the more average ones tend to stay forgotten. In this case I was very glad to be reminded of just how much I adore that album and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who reads this.

The final musically related thing I can think to mention is the name of my favourite Christmas song atm, which is Christmas in London by Frank Hamilton. It's on iTunes and Spotify and I would really advise people to give it a listen, it's a really good folksy/acoustic Christmas song which so far is managing to make me feel festive without being nauseatingly over familiar.

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