Today’s theme asks that difficult question, when a particular piece of music is also related to another event, image, media, memory etc, is the music alone good or the association of the music with the other ingredient which makes the music good?
I can think of many many pieces of music that I can associate with happy memories. I can literally plot a soundtrack to my life, particularly my teenage years. It is something I enjoy and am perhaps obsessed with. I love time lines. But what if I were to live a parallel life without these pieces of music and then hear them when I am in my forties? Would I still like them? Would they mean anything to me? What made them good in the first place?
I often see on Facebook, or when chatting to friends, “oh, this is a great piece of music, you’ll love it!” and though I might nod along encouragingly if listening to a track, it is unusual to instantly go “wow, that’s amazing, I love it” which is not perhaps surprising, as everyone’s musical tastes are different – and indeed I am doing the very same by introducing readers here to my particular stand out tracks. It might inspire me to listen again to a particular artist or song but the first listen is not often an instant hit in music.
So how do we test this?
I often have a captive audience in my car that I can spray with my musical choices to see what sticks. I am of course talking about my children.
From an early age (oldest is now 9, younger is 6) I have been putting my iPod on “Shuffle” and judging any reaction from them. In fact, it is now a little game we often play where they get to shout out if they want me to skip to the next track. I am always intrigued by their reactions and comments. Sometimes they just let it run, sometimes they recognise it from before somewhere and sometimes they like it so much they ask to stop the shuffle and switch to the entire album.
I make mental notes of the sort of things they are attracted to. I am generally happy with our progress in this field. Skipping over the issue of discovering their “own” music, which they will inevitably do, I feel I am giving them an opportunity to hear music they would otherwise not be presented with as well as the opportunity to discuss why they like or dislike particular tracks. They will quite happily listen to the entire “War of the Worlds” album as well as “Gummi Bear” or “Crazy Frog”. But to them, they are forming their own memories of some of these tracks. My first memories of the Jeff Wayne classic was some time soon after it was released, one particular teacher at junior school would frequently use the opening track (or maybe a single version) as our “play in” music to school assemblies. “The chances of anything coming to earth, are a million to one, but still they come….” are not perhaps best thoughts for small children first thing in the morning, but hey, at my junior school? Martians were the least of our worries….
But my boys may well remember this Album as the one they listened to on our way back from holiday one year….or whatever.
So I was very excited when, without any prompting, my oldest proclaimed a love for a particular track which I also had adored since I was about the same age. It does however come with a clear attachment. It is a theme to a TV show, perhaps the best TV show ever made, certainly my favourite (and you can quote me) and we are talking about…
The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy.
I’m not going to extol the TV show’s comedic virtues here but the opening music, and indeed the music used throughout, had a dramatic impact on me at the time, and this was picked up some 30 years later by my son. I loved the theme tune so much that I couldn’t wait for the BBC to repeat the show so that I could stuff my tape recorder under the TV speaker to get my own recording that I could listen to over and over. Which I did. My son loves it as well. When he first watched the TV series, he also spent ages singing it around the place. The difference now is that he can choose to listen to it over and over again via the Internet!
So is it a lovely bit of music or is it the association with the great TV show that has made it good? I don’t know. I remember liking it straight away, but time blurs this and my association with liking it in the early 80s gives it a warm fuzzy glow as well.
When thinking about this blog, I did a little research and learned a little bit more about the piece. Here’s the Wiki entry:
The theme tune used for the radio, television, LP and film versions is “Journey of the Sorcerer“, an instrumental piece composed by Bernie Leadon and recorded by The Eagles on their album One of These Nights. Only the transmitted radio series used the original recording; a sound-alike cover by Tim Souster was used for the LP and TV series, another arrangement by Joby Talbot was used for the 2005 film, and still another arrangement, this time by Philip Pope, was recorded to be released with the CDs of the last three radio series. Apparently, Adams chose this song for its futuristic-sounding nature, but also for the fact that it had a banjo in it, which, as Geoffrey Perkins recalls, Adams said would give an “on the road, hitch-hiking feel” to it.
So I have now discovered a glorious 6 minute version exist of the original!
Anyway, I present to you the somehow enchanting version I originally knew that was from the TV series, arranged by Tim Souster. Is it good? Have you heard it before? Do you like it? I would be intrigued to hear opinions from anyone who does NOT know the TV show but finds the music appealing…
Love as ever,