Stream of Consciousness - Music

Let me take the first thought that comes to mind and then let me run with it – the discovery of the pleasure of music.

Many years ago when I was about seven or eight, my father bought us a record player. Our first. Its arrival in our family home in Dublin, Ireland was a major event and there was much celebration in the household. An act of wilful defiance in the face of the family’s impoverished state at the time – as if my parents felt that a batsqueak of pleasure must be had despite the inevitable deficit in the housekeeping money for weeks to come. This musical device was a primitive, battery-driven red and cream-coloured affair but for my sister and I it became a magical toy, a thing of delight that shone brightly in our young lives and our other toys paled into insignificance remaining unplayed with during this period. At the same time as the purchase of this simple record player, my father obtained three black vinyl LPs (Long Playing [records]): Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik; Chopin’s Preludes and Schubert’s Unvollendete (Unfinished) + Rosamunde. It was the start of an exciting adventure in the appreciation of music which continues up to the present.

There was no TV in the house in those far off days (it was the 1960s) but we did possess an old-fashioned radio with valves that was large and sat majestically in the sitting room. From memory, it seemed to be only switched on for news, plays and other programmes where the sonorous spoken word was the expected output of this broadcasting apparatus. Up till then, it was as if the airwaves were devoted to serious matters where music and the pleasure of experiencing it had not existed in my life. 

I recall as if it were yesterday when my father came home from work one winter’s evening and then unpacked the mysterious and as yet unused record player. We stared at this strange, new colourful piece of machinery now in our family’s midst and after carefully reading the instructions in Dutch (as it was a Phillips from Holland) put the first record on. It was the Schubert. Fortunately, as my father was proficient in German he could make a fist of the Dutch guidelines and I remember him carefully placing the stylus on the edge of the revolving LP so as to engage the start of the first glorious grooves that held the golden secret where music would spring forth. At first we were puzzled as we heard the sound of a swishing scratchiness as the needle at the end of the arm holding the stylus engaged the LP as it whizzed around the turntable at the required speed of 33⅓ rpm (revolutions per minute). My sister, mother and I looked at each other in a kind of bewildered excitement not knowing what to expect but elated nonetheless. But no music - yet.

Then, the opening bars of the Unvollendete played. At that precise moment, my soul was captured and I was taken to a new universe of imagination as I delighted in the sound of orchestral music played to my very young ear with such delicacy and enchantment. Never mind the scratches and imperfections on this vinyl record because there was something special about this music that penetrated and slowly embedded itself in my psyche. Even then as a kid I felt that this was a major discovery: the revelation that glorious sound in the form of music could delight so much and so deeply. It was also fun. The family pursuit of artistry in this form of a new, musical contraption had overcome for a while that deadener to a pleasant existence: lack of money. 

It was the same with the Mozart and Chopin records. For the following weeks, my sister and I played those three LPs incessantly as we could not get enough of the magical sound from this simple red and cream record player - a piece of kit solely devoted to the output of music and song as we later acquired an EP (Extended Play [record]) that was slightly smaller in size than an LP and had to be played at the faster speed of 45 rpm. That new addition to our nascent record collection was 'Golden Hits of the 1920s' and 'The Glenn Miller Sound' so that to this day I can recognise the distinctive tune of the 'Black Bottom' dance and 'In The Mood'. 

For me, this childish batsqueak of pleasure fifty years ago was the onset of a marvellous and enriching lifelong adventure with music. 

Based on an article published in Red Room, May 2013.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments 8

 
Former Member on Saturday, 13 December 2014 04:05

Everything reminds me of something and this reminds me of a lot of things. Apparently poverty in Philadelphia was different from poverty
in Dublin. Nonetheless, it wasn't pleasant. I almost need to correct my self even as I say that because for me and my sister -- when I was
five, she was nine -- the leanest years were quite pleasant. This wasn't true, however, for my parents and my older brothers. My brothers,
when I was five, would have been sixteen, twenty and twenty-three. They all had to quit school and go to work so that among them and
my father they could bring in a decent income. My sister and I, being too young to contribute, were spared any fears or anxieties my parents endured.

But always there was music. Irish music, popular American music, hoedown music and the classics -- John McCormack, Caruso, Jan Peerce, the pianists who played Chopin and all the great composers. Fortunately for me my parents had eclectic tastes so I was exposed
to a wide variety of sounds. Also fortunately for me I was born into a golden age of popular tunes that became standards that jazz player still keep alive.

But the one memory that will never die for me is the Victrola. We left it behind when we moved from Oak Lane to East Germantown. I
always remembered it as very big. I had to climb up on a chair to change the records or the needles. (The needles had to be changed
after every three records.) I also used the chair to turn the crank. It had to be cranked for each play. Years later I broused in an antique
shop where they had a collection of Victrolas. I was stunned at how tiny they were. What had been small was me. (I, if you want to nit-pick.)

But my father had ingenuity in the hard times and kept other men, who had done well in a better economy, earning money and supporting their families -- not lavishly but we all ate. But again, there were parties. My mother taught Irish step-dancing and our home
at those time was full of brogues; I thought everyone with a brogue was an aunt or uncle. And the music. Mostly they made their own.
My father and one brother played accordion, one uncle (from Ireland) played flute and there were others. They danced and sang and my
sister and I never felt poor. A few of my friends came from better-off families but although they had more opportunities available to them my sister and I knew more about all kinds of music than any of our school mates.

I don't want my "comment" to develop into an essay, which maybe it already has, so I'll quit here. But, Nicholas, you have pulled your
thumb from the dyke. Right now I'm holding back a deluge of wonderful memories of Hard Times. Thank God for music.

Everything reminds me of something and this reminds me of a lot of things. Apparently poverty in Philadelphia was different from poverty in Dublin. Nonetheless, it wasn't pleasant. I almost need to correct my self even as I say that because for me and my sister -- when I was five, she was nine -- the leanest years were quite pleasant. This wasn't true, however, for my parents and my older brothers. My brothers, when I was five, would have been sixteen, twenty and twenty-three. They all had to quit school and go to work so that among them and my father they could bring in a decent income. My sister and I, being too young to contribute, were spared any fears or anxieties my parents endured. But always there was music. Irish music, popular American music, hoedown music and the classics -- John McCormack, Caruso, Jan Peerce, the pianists who played Chopin and all the great composers. Fortunately for me my parents had eclectic tastes so I was exposed to a wide variety of sounds. Also fortunately for me I was born into a golden age of popular tunes that became standards that jazz player still keep alive. But the one memory that will never die for me is the Victrola. We left it behind when we moved from Oak Lane to East Germantown. I always remembered it as very big. I had to climb up on a chair to change the records or the needles. (The needles had to be changed after every three records.) I also used the chair to turn the crank. It had to be cranked for each play. Years later I broused in an antique shop where they had a collection of Victrolas. I was stunned at how tiny they were. What had been small was me. (I, if you want to nit-pick.) But my father had ingenuity in the hard times and kept other men, who had done well in a better economy, earning money and supporting their families -- not lavishly but we all ate. But again, there were parties. My mother taught Irish step-dancing and our home at those time was full of brogues; I thought everyone with a brogue was an aunt or uncle. And the music. Mostly they made their own. My father and one brother played accordion, one uncle (from Ireland) played flute and there were others. They danced and sang and my sister and I never felt poor. A few of my friends came from better-off families but although they had more opportunities available to them my sister and I knew more about all kinds of music than any of our school mates. I don't want my "comment" to develop into an essay, which maybe it already has, so I'll quit here. But, Nicholas, you have pulled your thumb from the dyke. Right now I'm holding back a deluge of wonderful memories of Hard Times. Thank God for music.
Nicholas Mackey on Saturday, 13 December 2014 11:51

Wow, Charles what an incredible 'comment' to make and I agree entirely that music can be such a dam buster to memory that verges on the unstoppable. Thank you for this and I treasure your writing as it sounds so true and I learn so much from reading you. Best wishes, Nicholas

Wow, Charles what an incredible 'comment' to make and I agree entirely that music can be such a dam buster to memory that verges on the unstoppable. Thank you for this and I treasure your writing as it sounds so true and I learn so much from reading you. Best wishes, Nicholas
Rosy Cole on Sunday, 14 December 2014 11:35

I think my first encounter with a record player even precedes yours, Nicholas :) It was a second-hand, heavy black box with a crank handle to wind up and a little quadrant push-out box in one corner full of steel needles which it was necessary to replace in the armature quite frequently. I was nine at the time and was given it for Christmas. Along with it came a range of 78 rpm records which included music from Disney films and Mozart's German Dances, EineKleineNachtMusik, and some Handel and Bach pieces. From the wireless!, I knew I loved Baroque music before that, but, of course, didn't know what it was. However, this set me on course for a lifetime of deep appreciation. It was magical, as you say. It inspired atmospheres of other times and places, ones I felt I knew, and somehow gave them, or me, validation.

Thanks for sharing these memories. It's nice to see you again :)

I think my first encounter with a record player even precedes yours, Nicholas :) It was a second-hand, heavy black box with a crank handle to wind up and a little quadrant push-out box in one corner full of steel needles which it was necessary to replace in the armature quite frequently. I was nine at the time and was given it for Christmas. Along with it came a range of 78 rpm records which included music from Disney films and Mozart's German Dances, [i]EineKleineNachtMusik[/i], and some Handel and Bach pieces. From the wireless!, I knew I loved Baroque music before that, but, of course, didn't know what it was. However, this set me on course for a lifetime of deep appreciation. It was magical, as you say. It inspired atmospheres of other times and places, ones I felt I knew, and somehow gave them, or me, validation. Thanks for sharing these memories. It's nice to see you again :)
Nicholas Mackey on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 10:34

Thank you for commenting, Rosy. Interesting to see how music makes such a significant impact in our lives and how it serves as a wonderful hook for memory.

Thank you for commenting, Rosy. Interesting to see how music makes such a significant impact in our lives and how it serves as a wonderful hook for memory.
Former Member on Sunday, 14 December 2014 21:42

I just read Rosy's comment which explains a lot about her literary tendencies. It also makes me grit my teeth for the time I wasted as a GI
in Wethersfield, Essex County. There was probably a Rosy not far from where I was, as they said there, billeted. In fact there was -- Margaret of Clockhouse Way, the nicest girl in Braintree. But I was a young boozer and couldn't get past the base beer garden. But, sticking to music and the progression of musical conveyances: I'm surprised that Rosy and I shared the "little pot of needles" and "turning the crank for the next 78" experience. There was my next older brother's Christmas 1940 gift of an electric portable player, blue, looked like a little suitcase. Then my oldest brother's purchase of the first automatic changer on which he could pile 10 records. 1942. But -- long way around -- my youngest brother's wife went into dementia in her early eighties and for ten years regressed closer and closer to infancy. Finally, her youngest daughter had to tend her just like an infant. One night when we had a lot of family for dinner at that niece's home and Doll (that sister-in-law) and I were the last at the table, the others having to retreat to the kitchen or the living room, I started singing to her, old tunes from her time and some from mine. First she stared blankly at me. Then -- and I remember the tune was Keep On Smiling -- she started finishing lines for me. I started a line and she sang, "the sun comes shining through..." This kept up for a while with my beginning a lyric and Doll finishing it. She died not long after that and science has since discovered this phenomenon and is using it as therapy. Nicholas, you see what you've started?

I just read Rosy's comment which explains a lot about her literary tendencies. It also makes me grit my teeth for the time I wasted as a GI in Wethersfield, Essex County. There was probably a Rosy not far from where I was, as they said there, billeted. In fact there was -- Margaret of Clockhouse Way, the nicest girl in Braintree. But I was a young boozer and couldn't get past the base beer garden. But, sticking to music and the progression of musical conveyances: I'm surprised that Rosy and I shared the "little pot of needles" and "turning the crank for the next 78" experience. There was my next older brother's Christmas 1940 gift of an electric portable player, blue, looked like a little suitcase. Then my oldest brother's purchase of the first automatic changer on which he could pile 10 records. 1942. But -- long way around -- my youngest brother's wife went into dementia in her early eighties and for ten years regressed closer and closer to infancy. Finally, her youngest daughter had to tend her just like an infant. One night when we had a lot of family for dinner at that niece's home and Doll (that sister-in-law) and I were the last at the table, the others having to retreat to the kitchen or the living room, I started singing to her, old tunes from her time and some from mine. First she stared blankly at me. Then -- and I remember the tune was Keep On Smiling -- she started finishing lines for me. I started a line and she sang, "the sun comes shining through..." This kept up for a while with my beginning a lyric and Doll finishing it. She died not long after that and science has since discovered this phenomenon and is using it as therapy. Nicholas, you see what you've started?
Nicholas Mackey on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 10:42

I appreciate you taking the time to comment, Charles.
Btw, what I really like about your writing is your stream of consciousness style and how you reveal so much about you and what you've experienced; there is a certain rawness about it.
To bowdlerise the title of John Buchan's autobiography, 'Memory Hold The Door' (aka 'Pilgrim's Way'), I would propose simply: 'Music Holds A Door To Memory'.

I appreciate you taking the time to comment, Charles. Btw, what I really like about your writing is your stream of consciousness style and how you reveal so much about you and what you've experienced; there is a certain rawness about it. To bowdlerise the title of John Buchan's autobiography, 'Memory Hold The Door' (aka 'Pilgrim's Way'), I would propose simply: 'Music Holds A Door To Memory'.
Katherine Gregor on Monday, 15 December 2014 11:03

What a beautiful, touching piece, Nicholas. I think all three of us here were influenced by music – and there was no turning back. As I keep saying, I write words because I can't make music.

I must have been about about three when, on a dark winter's evening, the doorbell rang and a man delivered a large box. It contained a black Phillips record player for 33s, 45s, 78s and 16s. My mother tested it by playing her 45 of 'Strangers in the Night'. Sinatra's voice filled the living room.

Many years later, when I was a teenager, this particular record player broke down. It was over the Christmas holidays and, as usual, we had no money. "We can't be without music!" my mother said, outraged. She borrowed money from a friend and we went and bought a new, less grand, Phillips.

My earliest memory of classical music in our home was Brahms. My mother loved Brahms.

What a beautiful, touching piece, Nicholas. I think all three of us here were influenced by music – and there was no turning back. As I keep saying, I write words because I can't make music. I must have been about about three when, on a dark winter's evening, the doorbell rang and a man delivered a large box. It contained a black Phillips record player for 33s, 45s, 78s and 16s. My mother tested it by playing her 45 of 'Strangers in the Night'. Sinatra's voice filled the living room. Many years later, when I was a teenager, this particular record player broke down. It was over the Christmas holidays and, as usual, we had no money. "We can't be without music!" my mother said, outraged. She borrowed money from a friend and we went and bought a new, less grand, Phillips. My earliest memory of classical music in our home was Brahms. My mother loved Brahms.
Nicholas Mackey on Tuesday, 16 December 2014 10:46

Many thanks, Katia for your kind words. It seems that music strikes a chord within all of us and then, as if my magic, the memories cascade through our consciousness like a bracing mountain stream flowing swiftly by.

Many thanks, Katia for your kind words. It seems that music strikes a chord within all of us and then, as if my magic, the memories cascade through our consciousness like a bracing mountain stream flowing swiftly by.
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