123

Sorry spreadsheet fans, but this will not be about Lotus 123 – a tool which played such a major role in my early working life.  I still remember those heady days of the mid 80s with an original (monochrome) IBM PC: loading MS-DOS from 5.25″ floppies before I could load 123 from another floppy disk and then finally start work.  There was more time for contemplation of the human condition in those days, while you waited for stuff to happen…

No, this post will be about my latest, waltz-based obsession (a mere couple of centuries after a similar craze swept through Europe) – so should should have been reading the title with the stress on the 1 (an effect I was unable to accomplish with WordPress).

Until recently, I don’t think I have ever believed I am possessed of any particular musical ability.  I have recognised that I can, through diligent application, achieve a basic level of competence and occasional even move beyond ‘banging the f**king notes’ to achieving something almost musical.  These rare moments of ‘flow’ – in the words of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi (a name which, for some reason, I struggle to remember) – have been particularly precious as a result.  This is broadly the same view I have on my skill with other languages: I don’t have any particular gift in this area, but am willing to put in some effort to try to slightly subvert the all-too-accurate stereotype of the Anglophone abroad.

However, recently I have began to accept that I may have some musical ability.  I think this blog has already laid the groundwork for the fact that I am not tone deaf and that, despite my protestations, I do have some rudimentary sense of rhythm (though a forthcoming post on dance will place an upper bound on that particular skill!).  This week has been more of shock to my long-established self-image.

As previously noted, I had piano lessons for a period in the mid 90s and I have the belief that at my peak I was a weak Grade 4 practical pianist with little or no theory.  Given my rather desultory approach to practice in the couple of decades which have allegedly passed since the mid 90s (for my money, the jury is firmly out on that much time have elapsed) I assumed my ability would have deteriorated.  It was a bit of a surprise when my new piano teacher suggested that in his opinion I was playing somewhere around the Grade 6 level: even more of a surprise given that, while my playing in front of an audience has definitely improved, he has not seen anything like the best of my abilities in action.  He seemed insistent and so acquired, on my behalf, the ABRSM Grade 6 Piano Exam Pieces book for 2017 and 2018.  I believe, on one metric, this is the most expensive book I own at just over 80p per page – however, it is worth every penny!

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I could almost be looking in a mirror!

My current obsession is piece B:2 the Valse Lente by Oskar Merikanto: a Finn I had never heard of until Wednesday.  It is such a divine piece of music, that while we are only on day 3 of my time with it and it is Grade 6, my playing of it brings tears of joy to my eyes (which frankly disrupts my ability to sight-read).  My right foot even seems to (somehow) naturally make use of the pedal: without the usual panic and mental collapse that adding the use of my foot (to the two hands already committed to the musical project) traditionally engenders. Some of the chords are so heart-achingly beautiful and the way the music moves so glorious that I am constantly amazed that I am allowed to play it.  Sometimes life delivers experiences literally beyond one’s wildest dreams: though this may be more of an indictment on the quality of my dreams (or ability to later recall them) than anything to do with the quality of my performance.

Also in the same book, with which I have had a brief dalliance, when I could tear myself away from the Valse Lente, is Cruella De Vil (from the Disney version of 101 Dalmations) which has the wonderful instruction that it should be played “with swagger”.  Swagger is a little way off, but I’m convinced it lies within my grasp!

There also continues to be progress with the guitar.  I have had to acquire a new tutor, as my old teacher has fled to the Midlands to pursue his musical dreams – which are more extensive than just being spared my ham-fisted attempts on the guitar (or so I like to imagine!).  Whilst attempting a little finger-picking pattern yesterday, we discovered that I could actually inject a little swing into my performance!  (I think we should subtitle this post ‘swagger and swing’).  I even showed a little promise on the subject of knowing when to change chord when accompanying a melody.

I have found myself wondering about this mid-life musical flowering and what might be its cause.  Malcolm Gladwell had made a reasonable living from the idea that 10,000 hours of practice at a skill will deliver mastery: though I vaguely recall this derives from an original study of rather a modest number of Japanese viola players and so may not generalise quite as far as its penetration of the popular zeitgeist would suggest.  I am thinking of writing my own book about the importance of letting any skill lie fallow for a good couple of decades as the key to mastery.  The importance of benign neglect and procrastination I think is under-recognised in today’s always-on, instant-gratification society!

Being more serious, I think having two instruments on the go (three if we count the recorder) may help as insights gained on one feed into the other.  Acquiring a little musical theory has also been helpful as it has provided a framework into which new knowledge can fit.  But, I suspect the sheer amount of time I have spent at gigs across a huge range of genres watching, listening to and even talking with musicians may have provided the largest fillip to my musical abilities.

The way things are going, there is a growing risk that 2017 may see me compelled to play an instrument in public in front of an audience that are not actively engaged in teaching me at the time!  I think a paying audience remains a long way off, so I shan’t be giving up the day job just yet…

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A night in the doghouse

Having previously noted that my attempts to post in a more original (or at least unusual or unexpected) way on Facebook were diverting some of my creative energies away from the blog and into more live, if shorter-form content, there has come a cri de coeur from those readers (OK, reader) who miss regular hits of GofaDM.  Truly, there is no accounting for taste and we can only lament the under-funding of mental health services in modern Britain.  However, I do not have a heart of stone – though recent news on pumping molten tin suggests a one of ceramic might be a possibility in the future – and I cannot deny my public!  There is in fact a small queue of blog posts awaiting my attention, though for now they must be considered as existing deep in the Argand plane.  These should emerge, blinking and still bearing traces of caul, into the world in the next week or two.  However, this post has jumped the queue and driven by the juxtaposition of events from the weekend and last night (though, in the interests of transparency, I should make clear that these events are not fully independent).

The preamble now safely over, we can start on the walk proper (and textual).  The title does not refer to the author having sunk into some form of disgrace – or at least no more than usual.  The Doghouse in question is the back(?) room of the Guide Dog pub – which I think is (or is very nearly) the nearest pub to my home as the corvid travels.  These is something rather glorious about this room, especially on these dark, dreich evenings when our most proximate pole has turned its face from the sun.  The warmth of its orange walls and the intimacy of the space just seem to be an open invitation to conviviality and community.  The former is certainly aided by the quality and range of ales, both well-chosen and well-kept, on offer from the pub.  Last night I found myself partaking of several servings of Wallops Wood from Bowman Ales (based in nearby Droxford).

My visit last night was to enjoy the monthly festival of music-making which, slightly prosaically, goes under the banner of the Doghouse Acoustic Sessions.  On these occasions the room fills (and overflows) with musicians and their instruments.  This does present a degree of physical risk to the observer: I could easily have taken a bow to the eye (in a low cost, close-range, re-enactment of a pivotal scene from the Battle of Hastings) or as the image below might suggest, a cellist’s elbow to my very vitals!

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Cello peril!

I have the fear that cellists, like swans, seek to redress some past wrong by shattering any human limb that comes within range with one blow from their mighty wings!  Still enough of my bravery in the face of terrible peril, we should return to the music…

I would say, in my state of genre ignorance, that most of the music would fit broadly under the umbrella of folk though with excursions into gypsy jazz and even a glorious rendition of Summertime.  However, my personal highlights were a song in Welsh – following, I like to think, in the footsteps of Taliesin – and a small clutch of songs from the Iberian peninsular.  These also led to the making of the two resolutions during the course of the evening (while any fool can attempt to be resolute at the turn of the year, it takes a real maverick to do it on the fourth Monday in October) – of which more is to come…

Ooh!  Look at me using images to create some dramatic tension in a narrative.  The SO: To Speak Festival has not striven in vain!

Having a Catalan friend on Facebook, some of my posts are read and (apparently) enjoyed by those for whom English is not their mother tongue.  In a fit of hubris last night, I decided to attempt to make a post in Spanish (my knowledge of Catalan was way too limited for even my overweening arrogance).  This attempt made it all too obvious the parlous state to which my ability in Spanish has descended.  After listening to the Spanish songs I found myself, like Viktor Frankenstein, igor [sic] to raise the cadaver of my Spanish language skills from their marble slab of neglect.  The monster may turn on its creator, but the attempt must be made.  The first step will be to read ¿Qué me quieres, amor? a collection of short stories by Manuel Rivas which I already own in Spanish (not, as I have just discovered their original language, but learning Gallego will have to wait).  Well, I didn’t really have enough hobbies to fill my time…

Talking of hobbies, yesterday was my second Doghouse Acoustic Session.  On both occasions I feel a mild sense shame that I don’t contribute to the musical forces present (though, everyone should be grateful that I hold back).  The piano is never going to be an option – it is not that portable – and I think guitar-based participation is still some way off.  So, over the weekend I fished my descant recorder from a drawer to see if my childhood skills would return.  In fact, the instrument was actually acquired in the mid 90s and taken to the Greek island of Lesbos.  I cycled into the wilderness – away from all human ears – and at that time discovered that any historic abaility had been lost.  As with so much in the 90s, the project was shelved for a couple of decades.

Over the weekend, I raced through School Recorder Book 1 (the same instructional guide I used with Mrs Spicer – no relation – in the mid 1970s) which, frankly, has a very dull selection of tunes with which to improve one’s playing.  This seemed relatively straightforward so on Sunday afternoon, finding Hobgoblin music unexpectedly open, I splashed out on a copy of English Pub Session Tunes (so they made me buy it).  I feel this may provide my entrée to musical society by the time of the next session – and I can even take the recorder away to practice when I cross the Irish Sea!  Watch this space, as the value of property in my vicinty collapses!

Plan B – should the recorder prove too challenging, even for the selection of tunes falling under the title of “Absolute Doddle” – is to try and learn a shanty or two – a song-form which Gilbert and Sullivan have lead me to believe positively embraces the bass voice!  And the doyens of late Victorian light opera wouldn’t lie to me, would they?

Listening, at very close range, to song in the tongue of my ancestors has led me to my seond resolution to go to an Eisteddfod.  It is way past time to more fully embrace my Welsh heritage – and not just the willingness to spend time outside in the rain.  It may be time for a second trip to Llangollen: a town which has very fond memories because my father, sister and I ate chips from the bag in the street (an activity make much more enjoyable by my mother’s disapproval – I don’t ever remember us doing it at any other time!).

I feel that this post, in many ways, returns to the themes of Music in the city with the importance of going out, drinking beer and listening to live music once again front-and-centre.  Despite my remarks about their propensity to violence, I have acquired two cellists as Facebook friends from last night.  One is also high up in light opera, as part of a shadowy organisation which goes by the telescopic moniker of LOpSoc.  This collection of phonemes my brain is unable not to link to the phrase “and two smoking barrels” – which would certainly lead to a grittier take on The Gondoliers than is traditional…  Over to LOpSoc to bring the long-awaited cockney gangster vibe to the standards of the Savoy Opera!

A Thousand Words

I am taking this as a target, though I am unwilling to die in a ditch (or even receive a paper cut in a gully) for such an essentially arbitrary goal.  The title was in fact chosen because of its historical in the valuation of a picture – the picture being so valued (and indeed, the words) are left maddeningly unspecific.  Would a Rembrandt be valued using the same 1000 words as my own childish daubings (representing the last time I daubed)?  Have either words or pictures been affected by inflation since this phrase was coined?  Does the language of the words matter?  Certainly some languages seem more compact when it comes to word-count than others…

You may wonder why I should have started a post with these odd musings on the exchange rate between words and pictures – then again, if you are a regular visitor to my digital lair, you may have become resigned to such matters.  The reason comes down to a talk/discussion I attended yesterday as part of the SO: To Speak Festival.  This event was rather cryptically titled How can one be free in the 21st Century? and so I was fully expecting to learn how to use language to stay below the radar of the internet giants seeking to monetise our every action (and inaction).  This was very much not what happened and my afternoon was vastly enriched as a result.

The talk involved two artists Walter van Rijn and Jane Birkin – taking us through their practise which, in very crude terms, explores some of the interstices between language and image.  With Jane we started with her day job at the image archives of Southampton and Winchester universities; with Walter we began with a font he had created as part of the efflorescence of art which characterises Hull’s year as City of Culture.  Unpromising seeds, perhaps, but seeds nonetheless which grew in unexpected ways to create a spreading canopy of intriguing ideas over the next couple of hours.

We were a small audience, only just outnumbering the artists but I think this helped to shape the way the afternoon developed with no barriers to the interplay of ideas between artists and audience.  The artists took the lead, but everyone took part and though I suspect the rest of the audience were far more knowledgeable in the fields of art and poetry, I was never left feeling out of my depth.

I am going to attempt to provide a flavour of the conceptual art created around words and images, while making a futile attempt to avoid parallels with the use of dance to describe architecture (or, indeed, vice versa).

We started with the Being Human font: just like a normal font but embedded in the capital letters were words – in the first instance, each letter contained a key quote from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  So, everything you write using the font will have human rights built into it – but they are only visible at very large font sizes.  This embedded text could, we theorised, have further text embedded within it and so on all the way down.   This had led Walter to further experimentation with words embedded within words and using the text-to-speech functionality on a modern laptop to render this as speech.  In the extreme, a single word gained (perhaps) random additional letters or phonemes from a limited set of linked words to make patterns of “words” impossible for a human to read, but the computer would still attempt it in a very consistent manner.  This created an extraordinary speech-based artwork with hints of the looping of Steve Reich and the minimalism of Philip Glass.  We also experimented with different computer voices reading the text-art: I thoroughly recommend Xander who will read all words as though they were written in Dutch!

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Moving closer to images, Walter had taken a visual artwork which had been created to represent and support a story from the Australian aboriginal oral tradition.  This was then described as text, where the descriptive text was the same size and shape as the original image with each element of description in the same location as the same element of the image.  This was fascinating as text and the patterns contained therein, but was then converted back to speech: returning to a story.  Further, the soundtrack contained two different tellings of the new “story” overlaid on top of each other recalling the multiplicity of retellings that would occur in the original oral tradition.  It was like a weird meditation on the whole idea of translation and representation of an image through words.

Jane’s day job is reducing images to words to enable their discovery from an archive.  It was really interesting thinking about how you describe an image: what to include or exclude.

Her first artwork took an existing artwork where three images and associated descriptions, embellished by broader discussions, derived from viewing the images.  This text was slowly reduced to a flat description of the images, with sections of undescriptive text slowly fading away one-by-one.  This sounds boring, but was oddly compelling: it reminded me of some ideas from slow TV.

In a second work, she had taken a series of images from the web, each tagged with the same piece of metadata: in this case “island”.  For each image (which we never saw), its flat description appeared, as though being typed word-by-word.  Description is often thought to be the antithesis of narrative, but somehow the gradual appearance created a narrative related to each image.  Somehow, there were even plot-twists in the descriptions.  Further, being storytelling animals, none of us could resist creating a narrative linking the (effectively) unrelated descriptions. I am explaining this so badly, but it was amazing and I think has the seeds of a whole new literature of the fourth dimension.

This has been an interesting (if largely failed) experiment: at best a faded palimpsest of a wonderful afternoon.  Language, or at least my facility therewith, has proven insufficient.

 

No sign of an organ-grinder

(Though there was an appearance by a pianist, plucked from the audience).

Yesterday was the third Friday of the month which, for lovers of the music scene in Southampton, means the Three Monkeys Showcase at the Art House.  Last night’s event took place under the umbrella of SO: To Speak (just as well given the rain!), Southampton’s annual festival of words.  Fear not, word-lovers, there are still plenty more festival events to catch before the festival ends on 28 October!

Regular readers may have wondered about the reduction in quantity (and possibly quality) of updates to this blog, particularly those of a more diary-like nature.  There are a couple of main factors involved: (i) I am going out a lot more often which (a) restricts my time for writing this sort of nonsense and would (b) try the patience of even the most loyal reader if I immortalised them all through GofaDM and (ii) I’ve started using Facebook to memorialise the more quotidian details of my existence.  I may be slightly(!) over-using Facebook but, despite the underlying sensation of abiding evil which seeps from the platform, it is very handy way to share my life and bad jokes in real (or near real) time with people who are more likely to be interested (or willing to feign such interest) and it seems to provide better audience interaction than WordPress.  This more Pepysian instalment of GofaDM (though despite intimations of imminent apocalypse, I have not yet started burying my cheese in the garden) reflects the author being commissioned to produce a few words about last night’s gig (well, I say commissioned – I don’t think the person who asked for a few words had this in mind!).

The Three Monkeys has a deceptively simple premise: there are three performers (sometimes a performer may be comprised of more than one person) who perform one song each in sequence.  They do this three times followed by an interval and then a further round of three songs each.  While simple, the concept is rather brilliant, which coupled with the friendly and inclusive nature of the Art House, creates an (almost) unique vibe for the gigs.  Having all the musicians on “stage” throughout the gig gives them more chance to interact with each other and the audience.  It also means the audience don’t just turn up for their favoured act but get to see the whole gig which must help with music discovery, even for those normally reluctant to sample the new.

The Three Monkeys Showcases are always good and some have been really special, but even given this very high historic bar (limbo was much easier in the past) last night was particularly great.  Our Monkeys last night were Jack Dale, Charlie Hole (and if no-one has already done so, I shall be writing a series of children’s books with him as the principal character – what a name!) and the Real Raj (or Rat as he was introduced thanks to some dodgy typing).

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A Simian Trilogy!

I won’t attempt to assign a musical genre to each monkey – partly because I don’t really approve of pigeon-holing (even for pigeons) but mostly because I don’t really understand genres except at the Phylum level.  In each case, we had a chap with a guitar producing glorious music with mouth and strings – and, in the case of Jack joined for one number by a random audience member (aka his ex-stablemate Patrick Ytting) on the piano.  Perhaps in honour of the SO:To Speak Festival, the verbal interplay and trade in quips between the songs: both intra-monkey and with the audience were a much larger feature of the gig than is traditional – and the gig was all the better for it.  I fear it will be impossible to explain here the importance to the evening’s merriment of such topics as heavy breathing, wedding singing, radio racism, rule breaking and the importance – and competitive nature – of capo position, nor indeed the major role played by the absent Tom Dale!  Suffice it to say, I doubt any members of Genus homo will have had more fun last night than the near capacity crowd at the Art House did.  St Crispian’s day may still be four days away, but I feel more than 7 billion people will be counting their manhoods (or alternative gender appropriate head coverings) cheap this morning.

Music in the city

Strap in people, this is going to be a long one!

I have found Southampton to be a surprisingly musical city, since I made my fateful move here a little more than 4 years ago.  I knew there would be some music as the presence of the Turner Sims concert hall was one of the factors which led me to choose Southampton as my domicile.  I had imagined it as the local equivalent of West Road in Cambridge – but now know that it is a fish of an altogether different feather: with a broader range of music of higher quality, but fewer student orchestras and classical ensembles that its East Anglian counterpart.

I suppose the omens were good.  On my first evening in the city, staying in the most budget of the city’s Ibis hotels, I came across live music sheltering against the side of The Cellar (as it then was) and sat a while and forgot about the stresses of moving.  In that same first week, my neighbours and friends staged some live music in the little courtyard garden behind my flat.

However, initially the city’s musical offerings seemed rather weak compared to Cambridge.  As I now know my focus was far too narrow in terms of both venues and genres.  Before coming to the city, almost all my experience of live music had been classical – with just very rare forays off-piste in a somewhat desultory attempt to broaden my musical palate.  With classical music, I knew what I was doing: you get a named seat and a start time which will be pretty rigidly adhered to.  During the concert itself, you sit down and shut up and applaud only when a piece has come to a complete stop and any batons or bows have clearly moved out of use.  I am led to believe that this somewhat rigid regime puts off many folk – and is considered elitist – whereas, the lapsed mathematician in me appreciates the order provided.  Other genres with their less structured approach to attendance and applause, their patchy provision of chairs and somewhat medieval approach to time-keeping (I presume most favour sundial, candle or clepsydra rather the piezoelectric qualities of quartz) always seemed rather daunting.  I think we can safely say that I have mostly overcome any diffidence I may once have felt about turning up at a venue for some live music and now just brazen it out: the broad principle of finding someone who seems to know what they are doing and generalising from their behaviour seems to work fine.  It also helps to bring a good book and some way to read it in poor light (or a friend) to cope with the rather optimistic approach to timing employed by many music venues.

Southampton seems to has been fortunate to retain, for now at least, a decent number of dedicated mid–scale music venues along with a number of spaces, pubs and cafes, which stage regular smaller scale gigs. My experience has been with live music, but I get the impression that the student population also supports a range of venues offering dead (or recorded) music with DJs and the like – though cannot speak to the range of musical tastes these cater to.

The city itself seems to have a rather ambivalent approach to its musical riches.  I feel that at some level it does appreciate them, but does rather tend to the “all help short of actual assistance approach”.  It does hold intermittent, relatively major events which have music at their core or as a major component – but these always seem slightly divorced from the city’s music scene and I’m not convinced do much to strengthen that scene away from these flagship events.  There doesn’t seem any coherent attempt to sell the city both to its residents or the wider world as a truly great place for live (and/or other) music.

Over the summer, the city organised a major series of cultural events – including a range of gigs – in Guildhall Square under the tagline Summer in the Square.  I enjoyed a significant number of these, but I go to a lot of events anyway and am reasonably good at hunting out the cities cultural riches (however vast the bushel that may be concealing their light).  Most events I was at were rather thinly attended by the general public: a group I will define here as people I don’t recognise (which suggests they probably aren’t regular gig-goers – or are mistresses of disguise).  So, while it provided some musicians with a paid gig and a chance of a very modest new audience, I fear it may have left only a de minimis legacy for music in the city.

Last weekend was Music in the City, where multiple gigs take place in unusual places across the city on Saturday (and to a lesser extent, Sunday).  This is my third year going to MitC and it is a lot of fun and does seem to attract a significant audience.  It can be a joy going to a gig in a space which isn’t normally open to the public, and the city is lucky to have several vaults (from its days as a major wine importer, but I’m trying to cut down) and other historic spaces which make very atmospheric places to enjoy live music.  This year, I felt there was more focus on pubs and cafes as venues: often those which don’t host music for the rest of the year and which really didn’t make very successful venues due to layout or acoustics.  I worry that as much fun as MitC can be, it creates the impression that music in the city is something that only happens once (or perhaps half-a-dozen times) a year as part of some centrally-planned event.  It is also largely separate from the places where music actually occurs nearly 365 days of the year in the city – there may be some practical reasons for this given the dispersal of venues a little way from the central core of the city, but the event already runs free bus services between venues (one of which was at the docks) so this doesn’t feel like an insuperable obstacle.  I’m sure the commercial venues did decent business during MitC, but I suspect the musicians weren’t particularly well-paid (if paid at all) and I think that value of “exposure” is massively over-estimated by those offering it.  To paraphrase an old boss, “exposure and 50p will get you a cup of tea” (this was the 90s, so a chap could realistically expect a 50p cuppa): clearly, in those halcyon days, 50p would also get you a cup of builders without the exposure.

Over recent months it has become clear that many of the city’s music venues are struggling financially, needing to run crowd-funding appeals to carry out basic maintenance and just tide themselves over the quieter summer months, when the students are away.  I suppose this shouldn’t surprise me, when I was treasurer for an organisation putting on classical music concerts in Cambridge we thought ourselves lucky if ticket sales covered 50% of our costs: and to reach 50% you had to have bums significantly outnumbering bum-less seats.  For classical music (and a lot of theatre), the shortfall is made up from grants, for example for Arts Council England or the Lottery, by corporate sponsorship or by fund raising.  Most music venues don’t seem to receive grants; ACE, for example, seems to have a somewhat narrow definition of the Arts and declining resources.  I suspect that all but the largest venues struggle to obtain significant corporate sponsorship: companies seem willing to splash more cash on taking clients to the opera or ballet than to see some live music in a more ‘spit-and-sawdust’ venue (this may be because the former are considered more high-brow, but more likely that they have better access to the traditional trappings of corporate hospitality).  Finally, I suspect that the donors answering fund-raising pleas from small-to-medium venues are not as wealthy as those supporting, say the Royal Opera House or Chichester Festival Theatre.  So, many venues rely on bar sales to square the impossible circle.  I know it’s tough and none of us want to do it, but I think we all have a civic duty to drink – and drink reasonably heavily – whenever we go to see live music.  I am selflessly sacrificing my liver that live music may live on!  (I suppose I could consume soft drinks, but whilst I am a monster I’m not an animal!)

I love the theatre and have visited the ballet this week and will be going to the opera next week, but the city and our culture will be hugely impoverished if we lose our live music venues.  They seem very vulnerable at the moment as arts funding and people’s budgets are squeezed and business rates for many are rising.  Many are at risk of being redeveloped (these days, it seems, to be replaced by student flats) or find their activities curtailed by noise complaints from nearby new developments which appeared long after the music started.  I worry that on-demand TV is meaning more people stay at home, slouched like a bag of spuds in front of haunted goldfish bowl or laptop.  So, live music is a pubic health issue!  Going to seem some music and enjoying a bit of moshing – or even more gentle swaying or foot-tapping – would boost activity levels and the health of the nation.

This has been rather longer than planned and a tad preachy – but I always felt I’d make rather a good vicar (and I think belief in God is largely optional in the modern Church of England) – but live music is important and is one of the few things we don’t yet import from China and where the human element is unlikely to be replaced by robots.  To keep (and maintain) a vibrant music scene you first need musicians – but I feel any even modestly-sized city will throw these up.  To develop they need a good range of paid, local gigs and this means we need venues and an audience.  Yes, we the audience, need to recognise the vital role we play in developing new musicians and music, in supporting venues and keeping them open.  You probably don’t have to go quite as far as I have: mostly people won’t have the time (or inclination) to attempt to spend “no evening in” or to try and fit multiple gigs into a night – though by all means feel free to follow in my footsteps, it is a huge amount of fun!  I also suspect relatively few readers will want to support their local music scene by hiring local talent to teach them how to play their previously neglected cache of musical instruments – though again, I can thoroughly recommend it.  Still, I think most of us can go to a gig a bit more often and try something new occasionally!  Drag a friend or relative (or enemy – we all know how critical it is to keep such people close) to join you!  Have a drink! Have several!  If you like the band, buy a record!  Chuck a couple of quid at a venue or band fundraiser!  Let’s keep the UK a great place for live music, and especially Southampton as I love being able to walk home from a gig with a smile on my face and music ringing in my ears (and I really can’t face dealing with estate agents for a while yet!).