I sit on the floor with my back against the door frame chatting away to my son and itching for a pen. I don’t have one to hand. The voice recorder, obviously, is in the other handbag… it always is. I haven’t managed to remember it once, or set it up in the car before I set off. I despair of me sometimes.
It was a great idea. I drive a lot and when I drive, I think. A voice recorder stops me, theoretically, having to pull over and scrabble for a pen. Unfortunately that only works if I have a) picked it up and b) switched it on. One cannot, after all, continually write life down and these flashes of inspiration are as quick to dissipate as any dream unless they are captured. The idea was that I could record all those random thoughts and realisations as I drive.
Unless I have music, and then I sing. In which case anyone within earshot probably wishes I was thinking instead.
Music was the subject of the conversation today. Nick, my son, had been mixing. This is a skill he has acquired fairly recently and which has been a bit of a revelation to him. He was always into music, playing the violin as a youngster, singing (sorry Nick) soprano as a youth and then inflicting his particular choice of torture upon my ears through his teens.
Of course, his coordination limits his ability to play an instrument these days, so he decided to have a go with mixing decks. My younger son, Alex, installed his own decks at Nick’s home for a while (much, I suspect, to the relief of my younger son’s partner) and the two played happily, as they had done years before. But her relief was temporary as Nick bought his own decks.
For the uninitiated, mixing very basically consists of blending a series of ‘tunes’ (and I use that term colloquially and so loosely it might fall off), dropping them into each other seamlessly to create a new sound.
I shall not pass comment upon ‘Hardcore’ and ‘Drum and Bass’, except to say it is not all bad. Honestly. Let us be gentle and admit it is not my usual cup of tea and the finer points of it escape me. But as with other passages through musical adventure over the years, some of it I quite like. I particularly enjoy those moments of shocked horror when my sons realise I’m singing along and know the lyrics. This, of course, is perceived as unacceptable behaviour from me. On both counts.
Nick and I were discussing the progress in coordination and speed that mixing has helped him to make. He was talking too about the technical aspects of mixing and the musicality required to do so. As is the norm when we get going, the conversation became a little surreal, passing through the breaking of personal limitations and the barriers to progress that we inflict upon ourselves, through to comparing mixing to modern art.
A little while ago I would have scoffed at that idea, but the more I learn about what it takes to produce a good and seamless mix, the more I am inclined to accept that. The music has to be heard on a set of headphones for one tune, while playing another. Bars and beats are taken into account and then you have to predict the future, with a leap of imagination that holds all this in the head and can foresee.. forehear?… the results of dropping the tune at a given moment.
It is, like any other, a creative process.
My sons, it must be said, are a creative pair. Not necessarily in a traditional sense. One could call it the deliberate and creative lunacy of opportunism, otherwise referred to as ‘being random’. And do you know, I am as proud of them for their randomness as for anything else. Seriously.
To watch two young men being able to indulge in the general weirdness of being random as a fine art is beautiful. To indulge in their light hearted idiocy with a total lack of self-consciousness takes a special kind of mind-set. They are acutely aware, at some deeply twisted level of being, of the inherent possibilities of subverting their particular landscape for laughter. Rarely there is deliberate planning involved… as in the incident with the remote controlled tarantula, or towing people on rollerblades behind a mobility scooter… but mostly they are seizing a momentary opportunity. They are a constant delight to me.
Nick said yesterday, laughing, that he is sure he and Alex ‘have issues’ when they are together, because of the way they behave, sparking each other to further acts of verbal or physical randomness. Yet they seem to manage perfectly well when apart. The photos I could post and stories I could tell… but they’d probably strangle me…..
They have something that I have found to be very rare, a real joy in living, an awareness of the possibility of laughter that I am not sure they even see in themselves. Their delight is infectious and it is difficult to be around the pair of them and be glum.
Perhaps it has something to do with the intensity life acquired following the attack on Nick that allowed them appreciate life and living with greater awareness and engagement. I have learned a lot from my sons. I do not know where their joy stems from. Nick, however, would tell you the source of the lunacy in a single, oft–used word. “Genetics”.