Short 'n Curlies #37 by Si Spurrier

Short 'n Curlies #37 by Si Spurrier

(Back By Popular Demand, You Fuckers) — This Week I Have Mostly Been Hating:

…the subconscious propensity for the human brain to absorb external sensation and shit it — like some thoughtless post-jalfrezi sphincter — into whatever it's been trying to do.

Like when you're attempting to talk to your missus, for instance, and some planet-boobed slutsylph walks past in the background, and you accidentally say the word "jiggling" instead of "yes darling, I love you and always will."

Or when you're simultaneously making a cuppa and watching a daytime TV cookery show — because you're such a Conventional MiddleAged Fucking Disaster — and one of the fat troggs on-screen is talking about adding a Pinch Of Salt To Taste, and you upend half the fucking Atlantic Ocean into your steaming Earl Grey.

Or, worst of all, when you're trying to write beautiful and affecting prose in a cosy coffee-shop on a drizzly London Afternoon, and letting your eye rove the room while your fingers tappety-tap-tap their thing, and then don't notice until you're doing a read-through two weeks later that you've described an in-story character as "tall, lithe, with makeup smeared in radial curves down both cheeks like the bones of a bat's wing, and hair the colour of oh my god that's an ugly baby oh fuck shoot it shoot it cleanse it with fire."


You'll recall I indulged in a little spuffage on the subject of Musical Obsession last week — specifically the mysterious phenomenon by which it's possible to have a healthy and gratifying relationship with music whilst mysteriously not also being a frothing religious culture-raptor with Creative Influence Flowcharts seared onto the brain, genre-taxonomies down to the eighteenth iteration tattooed onto the inner-eyelids, and An Elaborately Constructed Opinion On That New Single, You Know The One, It's Not Released Yet, What, You Haven't Heard It Yet, Jeeezus, Get With The Programme…

Behold, then, the Corollary of Joy, which proves I too am capable of airy-fairy musical ramblings, can indeed experience a Deep Metaphysical Response to juxtaposing chains of Notes 'n Warblings, and was therefore — in a sense — talking Utter Gash last week.

This week, you see, I went to a Concert. Note the capital "C".  I'm talking a full bells-and-whistles experience, here.  I'm talking a 60-piece philharmonic orchestra, a full military marching band, two choirs, four cannons, violin virtuosos, a fucking harp, and a fat bloke in a waistcoat with a voice like a foghorn.

Ker-lassical music, you understand, which is somehow distinct — we are given to believe — from the guitar-bothering, vocal spuffing, beat-laying, pop-popping choonz that comprise Modern Sound.  There wasn't an aggressively wobbling latino arse, scrupulously-greasy fuzzcut or whiny Californian voice in evidence the whole night.

Now: don't worry. I'm not about to make some sort of old-before-my-time case for the superiority of classical music.  The fact is that a lot of the pieces being performed were rather dull, or rather grating, or otherwise Not-The-Celestial-Experience-My-Granny-Promised.  It's also true that the concert in question went to great lengths to be accessible and popularist: performing Classical Classics, popping-off fireworks, vaping the audience with an industrial suite of finely-tuned lasers and otherwise Dodging The Boring.  (By way of illustration, if this gig had some sort of non-classical counterpart, it would almost certainly be a Greatest Hits Of Pop tribute band with a chirpy pun-based name — possibly Dis-Go! — packed full of delighted Eurotrash and dutch perverts.

It was difficult, in other words, not to enjoy it.

But still, but still. There was… something.  Something different.  Something to do with watching the orchestra move like a great amoebic gestalt.  Something to do with a dozen violinists' arms moving in a hasty peristaltic ripple — like fronds of a spotlit anemone in a shifting current — and the nucleic blob of the conductor: forever manipulating his abstract, immaterial cell with a creepy, biological excitement.

You can already tell, I think, that it got me all sticky and poetic.  I can only apologise.

Shorn of all day-to-day distractions, bottled-up there in the concert hall, the experience ceased to be purely musical and instead became somehow narrative: as if the vacuum left behind by lyrics, or gurning floppy-haired popstains, or promo videos, or whatever-the-fuck-it-is that separates "Classical" from "Not Classical" (and it's sure-as-fuck not a simple case of Types Of Instruments), was instead sucking-in a sort of abstract storyline from the immaterial Esogunk of my brain.

At one point, for instance, I found myself inventing an amorphous saga about an injured Being (slightly seahorse-esque, if memory serves), on the fringes of a great and terrible battle, in a swirling realm of cosmic material, appealing for help from a passing Nature-God to be healed so he could return and win the day for his tribe.  The callous demiurge skitters past, uncaring, and our hero sinks into a deep and mournful coma, howling his grief.  Only as the end draws near does the Nature-God return — blazing with power, with a long entourage of smashing, crashing, leaping imps — to transform our moribund protagonist into an echo of itself: transcending the sleazy requirements of battle and becoming something far, far greater.

That was the 1812 Overture by Tchaikovsky, by the way.  It started with a whine, bounced around like a fattie on a forklift, and finished with Explosions — and if that's not an excuse to get the abstract creative juices flowing I don't know what is.  Mind you, most of the other performances conjured their own stories too, so it's not as though I'm even suggesting Modern Pop would benefit enormously from the inclusion of four fucking-great Field Guns and a roomful of flag-waving geriatrics.  Although, thinking about it, it probably would.

I have no point to make, particularly, I just thought it was sort of interesting.  I zoned-out and entered that eerie/divine/fucking-annoying state of Passionate-Yet-Analytical Awe which, I suspect, creeps over a lot of my more musically-conversant chums every time they whack on the radio.  Was it the grandeur of the theatre, the scale of the orchestra, the simple lack of vocals…?  I dunno.

But by way of conclusion — one last refrain on the overworked chorus, here, arf arf — it really shouldn't have surprised me at all when, just as I finally entered the soppy headspace of being Moved On A Profound Spiritual Level By The Celestial Power Of Music (and thereby utterly contradicting all my mean-spirited bile from last week's column), it all went wrong.  The evil little 80-year-old hagwitch sitting beside me started a) sucking her malteasers like a Philippino Black Hole, b) humming along to the parts of the tune she (thought she) knew, and c) radiating a faint-but-unignorable smell which can only be described as Dusty Fish.  All of which booted me out of my emotional haze faster than an electric-chair enema, and proved once and for all — as if there were any doubt — that the Universe Hates a Hypocrite.

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Rich JohnstonAbout Rich Johnston

Founder of Bleeding Cool. The longest-serving digital news reporter in the world, since 1992. Author of The Flying Friar, Holed Up, The Avengefuls, Doctor Who: Room With A Deja Vu, The Many Murders Of Miss Cranbourne, Chase Variant. Lives in South-West London, works from Blacks on Dean Street, shops at Piranha Comics. Father of two. Political cartoonist.
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