Friday, January 19, 2007

Music: A Theme

I'm haunted by four chords. The opening chords of Planet Telex by Radiohead. I remember the first time I heard them - I was listening on headphones and effect was instantaneous: my chest swelled, my eyes watered and my eyes darted around the room looking for something solid to counteract the movement of the music. It makes me want to run.

When I hear the theme music to Mise Éire, composed by Seán Ó Ríada based on an air called Roisín Dubh, I feel a strong and strange combination of sadness and optimism. (I had occasion to hear that air played on the uilleann pipes by Tomas Ó Canainn - friend and biographer of the late Ó Ríada, and by coincidence my fellow student of Chinese here in Cork).

The gentle melody of one section of Carmina Burana (no - not the Old Spice ad, a song called In Trutina) seems to me so perfect that it can repair the worst of moods.

There is something biological about music, something that we share as a species. I remember wondering aloud (probably in a pub) a long time ago whether the human brain had a music faculty in the same way that we have a language faculty. According to many, we most certainly do, but I've never read a theory on why this should exist, from a Darwinian point of view (maybe if I paid $30 I could!)

So my third (and one would hope final) theme for this trip will be music. We'll try to hear - and perhaps even record and upload - as many different forms of music as we come across in our travels.

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