Beautiful Vagabond by Spiers and BodenLast night I traveled north on a bright moonlit night to Cardigan to Theatre Mwldan to hear and to watch the wonderful legends of modern British folk music who are Spiers and Boden.

How they filled the stage with music and story, life and energy. And as I watched and listened I wondered……

When I paint, sometimes it takes days to make a picture. And while I paint sometimes I am completely in the moving of colour, the shaping of story, that moment in time, but sometimes my mind wanders off to other places. And as I listened and watched I wondered, music lives in time in a different way to painting, but what is it musicians are thinking when they play? Are they in the music, in the next note, in the memory of melody. Is the memory physical or abstract, are they caught in the story of song? So I thought as I seem to have so many friends on facebook who play that I would ask them.

melodeans waitingAnd the way that the music exists is different also to paintings, for the time it takes to draw a painting out from the mind’s eye onto paper is like the performance, though usually, thankfully, produced in private, not in front of an audience. And then the finished painting or book, I suppose, is like a recording. Perhaps.

Boden's fiddle, waiting for lifeAs for last night’s performance it was stunning. I love the way Jon Boden makes his fiddle sing, I love the stories that live inside his head, I love the sound of the two men singing together and their energy and skill and I love the shape and the colour and the sound of Spiers’s melodeons.

All the way home the moon shone bright and brilliant, a bit like Spiers and Boden.

About Jackie

I am an artist and writer. I live in a small house by the sea in Wales where I write, paint, walk and watch and dream of bears and whales. I love to read, have a wish for wings and prefer the company of animals to that of humans, though at times I can be quite friendly. I am learning how to work with wood engraving tools and hoping to show that you can teach an old dog new tricks.
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11 Responses to Music

  1. Christina says:

    Interesting question, Jackie. I can’t comment on your Facebook page, so hope you don’t mind me adding my 2 cents here. Not that I consider myself a ‘real’ musician I suppose, but then, I’m not sure I consider myself a ‘real’ artist either! But for me, the two are linked, but very different experiences, especially when you are singing/playing with others. Art for me is mostly a very quiet, solitary, focussed activity. It has trance-like qualities, but there is a level of concentration and discipline and clarity of thought required that is different to music (though I suppose it depends on the kind of art one does). I used to sing in a group, and while you are learning a new song, you have to have that same level of concentration and discipline. But I think the difference is that, when you’ve finished a painting, it is finished. You never finish a song or piece of music. Once you get to the point you can sing/play it in your sleep, you don’t leave it there, because that is the moment magic happens. You can stop thinking clearly and concentrating…and just let it flow, it takes you over. And what comes out is greater than the sum of its parts (the individual singers, in my personal experience, but I imagine bands are the same). Singing with the group was always wonderful, but there were moments when hearing those individual voices mingling all around me, they somehow came together to create a new voice. Those were the moments when I felt the hair on the back of my neck stand up, when I literally felt as if my feet were floating just above the floor. Making music alone sometimes does the same thing for me, when I’m not doing it for anyone but my own enjoyment, and just letting it flow out. Whether it’s something mystical, or can be explained by science in terms of vibrations who knows. I don’t care, I just know it’s real. I believe singing and playing music is a birthright for all of us, it changes how you feel. Sorry that’s so long…hope it was a little helpful!

    • Jackie says:

      I know that June Tabor said something once about Tam Lin that struck me. She said she had been singing the song for years and was just beginning to understand what it was about. That is what stories feel like to me. Speaking different things at different times. And yes, not too long, and very helpful and well put, thank you.

    • Mo Crow says:

      oh yes, well said Christina!

  2. Chloe says:

    Oh I adore Spiers and Boden 😀 Lovely to ‘meet’ a fellow fan 🙂

  3. Oh how I love this sort of singing, and playing–I’m sending you a favorite to enjoy–
    Spiers and Bowden sing Tom Waits

  4. WOL says:

    Yes, creative processes are involved in both art and music, but music is one of those you have to be there. Unless you were there and were touched by the music, or unless the music was written down or recorded, it leaves no visible footprints to mark its passing. Musicians know this because they understand their medium. Art, on the other hand, leaves footprints in the sands of time and sometimes those footprints are high enough on the beach that the waves cannot reach them. They dry, and harden, and persist for ages — like that little painting on a piece of wood that everybody goes on and on about. You know, the one in that big fancy museum in Paris. Or that stuff that guy painted on the ceiling of that old church. . . Artist know going into it that there will be footprints, and that affects the artistic process in the same way that the impermanence of music affects the musician’s process. Yeah, you can hear Mozart’s music played, but you can’t hear him play it. You can hear a recording of John Lennon playing his music, but you can’t hear him playing it while it was being recorded. I saw something the other day about somebody finding a little ivory flute that was at least 35,000 years old. What drives me nuts when I see things like that is, there’s no way I can be there. There’s no way I can know what would it have been like to have been there, in that German cave when it was being played. Oh, but wouldn’t it be magical if you could?

  5. Hello
    I recently spoke about this very subject with a musician, a passionate one for working with al kinds of outreach works and projects, we talked about how music is the first art that a human can experience, in the womb babies respond to vibration and very young children move to rhythm, the voice the becoming that first expression, I was disappointed at first funnily enough, I wanted art, painting sculpture to be everything, but I stood back fro a moment unattached and felt that sense of how powerful music is, It made me want to immediately play piano with my eyes shut, and really plat, nit with notes but with the feeling of sound. I think its vital to g see live music every now and then, it must life up the heart. And when its music you really connect with, its like feeling every cell alive.


    x E

  6. Reminds me of something on one of Joni Mitchell’s live albums…. The audience is yelling out song titles they want her to sing between songs and there’s a beautiful pause while she listens to them. She speaks to the audience and shares that she’s always been interested in the difference between performance art and painting- “nobody said to Van Gogh ‘paint a starry night again, man’ “.

  7. Maggie says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I add into this conversation.

    I play music and I paint. For me the two activities are completely separate. In fact, I can’t even listen to music while I paint, because the musician side of my brain takes over and wants my whole head to pay attention to what I’m hearing.

    I play trad Irish music, and since I’ve known many of the tunes for so long that they have become part of the warp and woof of my mind, I am often able to watch the sports tv in the pub during our local sessions at the same time I’m playing. Or make my shopping list in my head, or whatever.

    However, when I play for set dancers, I can only concentrate on the music and the dancers. And when the dancers are good, and know their parts, we all become this sort of glorious whirl of sound and motion and I am totally immersed. It’s sort of like that feeling of flow when the painting is going well, but more ecstatic, like my heart is going to leap from my chest (I know, icky imagery, but that’s what it feels like.)

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