21 November 02005

No Music Day

I found out rather late in the day (via the Soundscape UK email list) that today is No Music Day. This idea began with Bill Drummond, who apparently chose 21 November as it is the eve of St Cecilia's Day — St Cecilia being the patron saint of music.

The idea of No Music Day is to create some space in your listening so that you can, in Drummond's words, "do nothing but think what it is you want from music, and develop ideas of how that could be achieved".

So it's far from being an anti-music day. As Drummond goes on, in one of his characteristic essays, the need for No Music Day arises precisely from the (in many ways joyous) surplus of music we have access to today, and its on-demand nature:

Maybe it is just because my pallet [sic] is jaded. So many men, and I guess women, who get to my stage in life are happy enough slating all modern music as rubbish, are happy to contend themselves with music that presses the nostalgia buttons. But I can't fucking stand that. And it's not 'cause the new artists are shite, it's just, to my ears, that they all begin to sound like vaguely updated versions of something that has gone before. Do I just accept this as a natural part of the ageing process. No! No! and fucking NO!…

It was in 2004 that I began to suspect that my problem lay not so much with the music as the way that music exists. The very fact that it is now all there for us to purchase from Amazon or to download whenever we want. And when we have got it we can literally listen to it where and whenever we want. We can have this non-stop soundtrack to our lives as we sit on the bus, do the shopping, watch the match. Whatever. And whether it's traditional music from Bali, Bach's Cantatas or the latest R&B, the experience is somehow the same. Yeah, I know we have had Walkmans for the last twenty odd years, but back then it seemed liberating, now it seems constricting. It has got nothing to do with the genre and everything to do with the fact that is just there. Maybe I am wanting music that is to do with place and time and occasion.

I felt something similar when I wrote last year about the volume of music becoming an 'embarrassment of riches', which brings with it 'diseases of affluence' such as not giving the music the attention and gratitude that is its due.

Nevertheless, as Bob Dylan is due on stage in less than two hours, and I have a ticket, I shall not be observing No Music Day this year. Maybe next year — though you can have your own day any day, I reckon: it's not like Remembrance Sunday when everyone has to be quiet at the same time.

Posted by David Jennings in section(s) Cultural Calendar, Events, Future of Music on 21 November 02005
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