Monday, February 15, 2016

The February Blues

February is often the cruellest month, take note T.S. Eliot, as the delayed worst of winter often hits at this time. We've had few weather warnings, and, my, has it rained, but its actually been the mildest of winters. The post-Xmas January blues  - all those people giving up alcohol, going to the gym, and taking back unwanted Xmas presents - not to mention the endless colds and lurgies, mean that I've tried to keep busy since the new year. Mid-February I'm now having a bit of February blues, as the weeks skip by and the best-laid-plans, resolutions and ideas fail to come to pass, or at least happen quickly.

That said, I've been nothing if not active: went to see the BBC Philharmonic perform Shostakovich's "Leningrad" symphony on Saturday, which was fun, rousing and inspiring in equal measures. Can't be many seventy plus minute pieces of music that seem, if anything, too short. The time whizzed by. I'm not much of a classical music buff, and growing up, despite a few exceptions, I associated classical music with all the wrong kind of things: po-faced concert halls, middle class and middle aged people who didn't like anything with spirit, the BBC establishment... this world existed (and exists) so far away from the rock and roll world that became my obsession that its no wonder I didn't investigate much. Alex Ross's "The Rest is Noise" book a few years back, as well as a longstanding interest in modernism in all its forms, shook me out of my indifference and I began to not just listen to the odd few favourite pieces, but also to read about the composers, understand a little of the history. It's one of the best books I've ever read for being a potted education and chimes with my own tastes - for 20th century work, rather than earlier epochs. That was the other thing I learnt - the "classical" badge was a broad one, and I needed to find my own favourites, just as I did in pop and rock. The avant garde leanings of bands I like, such as Sonic Youth, has always helped with a crossover, and its still the case that the repetoire is too loaded towards the pre-20th century canon that doesn't do a lot for me. (Yet I'm wary of dismissing it: a piano recital a few years ago at Salford University paired John Cage's early piano works, which I love, with the Mozart that had inspired him.)

There are quite a few gallery openings at the moment - HOME, Castlefield, and Manchester Art Gallery in the last fortnight - and I need to revisit them all. There are a couple of literary highlights coming up as well: The Other Room on Wednesday should be really special, featuring sound based work from Mark Leahy and others, and I'll hopefully be doing my first reading of the year at the open mic at Verbose next Monday, alongside some non-fiction from "the Real Story" readers. I'm planning on roadtesting a couple of new poems, as I've some longer "sets" coming up.

Ah, poetry... however much I try and spurn you, you keep fluttering your eyelashes at me. I guess when I'm concentrating on fiction it takes a necessary back seat, but some gets written nonetheless. Though I'm finding it harder to read poetry at the moment - though I've been to three or four poetry readings this year already so certainly still getting my fill. My 6-year old "Playing Solitaire for Money" collection had a couple of people asking after it recently, and being complimentary which was nice, though it does seem a long time ago now.

I think my real February blues are because I've not had enough time to do anything in detail - just snatching a few hours here and there - its after all six months since I had a week off without any commitments (Christmas being a bit all consuming.) I need a holiday - not in terms of place so much as getting away from my everyday routine.

No comments: