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coverpic flag Mare Smythii - Full Moon 90 - 02/06/04

Silence or How being a music fan makes me vibrate

I've just got back to Melbourne from a two-week meditation retreat in Western Australia run by two friends that I met in England. It was an incredibly valuable experience, especially in terms of re-evaluating my relationship with music.

Since I started university at eighteen, the more music I've had in my life the better. Or so I thought. Comparing my measly collection of CDs with some of my friends' made me sickeningly jealous, and their knowledge of bands and music history made me feel like the naive teenager that I was. From then on I committed a significant proportion of my meagre funds to purchasing CDs and attending gigs, and shaped my tastes according to the dictates of NME and Select magazine.

It wasn't until the meditation retreat that I realized just how far this persona that I created had evolved. Now I read the Pitchfork website whenever I can, and buy many CDs by many bands that I haven't even heard of, just because the writers at Pitchfork deem them worthy. But, isn't that what music journalism is for? To aid the avid record buyer in discovering the real gems out there? Maybe, but I've created this mountain range of jewel cases in my life that refuse to let my mind or ears rest. I'm tormented by all the music that I don't have time to listen to, and the music that I do hear spins round and round my head.

For the first few days of the meditation retreat, the silence left me remembering the music I had recently enjoyed. The Shins figured for the most part, "Pink Bullets" and "Young Pilgrims" on repeat play in my mind. The vibrations captured on those little silver discs have kept the cells of my body constantly aching for music of a subtle and addictive kind. I'm not necessarily talking about pop music here; more music that is expansive, enigmatic and unique.

Gradually the songs in my head petered out as the fourteen-day retreat progressed. My musical life seemed to be playing backwards, ever receding into silence. It came as such a relief when I started to be able to just sit and hear the sounds around me, rather than be constantly distracted by records I had heard days, months or years before.

And now, when I write these pieces for Luna Kafé, I most often enthuse about those albums that I've just bought and enjoyed, as would be expected, but I'm becoming less and less enamoured with my part-time unpaid status as 'music journalist'. In order to listen to and write about the music that I enjoy, to ultimately try and persuade anyone who reads this of the bands and albums I believe are worth checking out, I am subjecting my body to a continuous onslaught that rarely allows me any rest.

For example, since falling in love with the debut Circulatory System album, I've been waiting and waiting for new material. Thankfully a new song has just been released on the recent Amos House Collection Volume III, and I eagerly sought it out. It's a decent compilation, but the Circulatory System track is only a tantalising 1:41 long. Plus it will no doubt appear on their forthcoming album. So, I've spent as much as I would on a full-price album for the privilege of hearing one song. Doh. I've also been listening to an album called Mechanics of Mind by Psomni, just so I could write something about it as the band were kind enough to send me a copy. I don't even like it - it sounds like a poor man's Joy Division - and yet I'm spending my valuable time subjecting myself to it.

Being a music fan is not big and it's not cool. If you're not careful you can turn yourself into an anti-social obsessive who is able to waste a great deal of time and money - it's a gamble when you part with your record-buying cash and sit down with a pile of CDs. Sometimes it's good to just sit, do nothing, and experience some peace and quiet. Or, God forbid, you might just turn into a music journalist.

Copyright © 2004 Tim Clarke e-mail address

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