9 Dec

I went to a cold tower in Oxford Castle tonight to hear some improv music. The annoyingly multitalented Chris and his friend Tim twiddled away artfully on a vast array of instruments (including the glockenspiel – nice). The result was a bit beautiful.

This was an example of something that I’m both jealous and really admiring of: the ability to randomly pick up any old instrument and play it to some degree of competence, and to just ‘make it up as you go along’. I am naturally pants at music. I can’t sightread, let alone improvise, and I will never be able to get a tune out of an unknown instrument. I have tried playing the horn and the guitar and I can’t even play the right note on demand on either of those. Learning music is always a slog for me.

Because of this, I love listening to people who do instinctively know what they’re doing and can play loads of instruments (especially if they can play them all at once). I just know it’ll never be me.

I was thinking about this the other day, though, and I guess I’m a bit like that with languages. I vaguely know how they basically work, so if you tell me a few bits of vocab I can get some sentences out of most languages, and I find it weird when other people can’t just put nouns, verbs and adjectives together in that way. I think that’s a similar phenomenon. Understand the basic rules and structure of the thing, and you can pick up any old variation without too much trouble. You can pick up a guitar or an accordian or a ukulele or Spanish or Polish or Quechua. Maybe music theory and perfect pitch are linguistics and grammar.

Do I know anyone who can do music AND languages? Not off the top of my head, but that person might just be unbearable… Sorry if it’s you and I’ve forgotten.


2 Responses to “Moosic”

  1. Simon T 11/12/2010 at 12:31 pm #

    I always find that people who are good at improvising tend to be poor at sight-reading, and vice versa (except, of course, those who are annoyingly brilliant at everything musical – they’re on a higher plane!) I sightread well, but would be incapable of doing anything if I was just sat before a piano or violin without any music.

    And, as you know, the fact that anyone can speak any language other than their own completely baffles me. But since I can’t improvise either, I’m left with nothing… then again, I’m always baffled by people who claim they wouldn’t be able to make a cake. Maybe that’s my talent…

  2. Dark Puss 14/01/2011 at 7:45 pm #

    I’m very similar to Simon in musical terms, I really haven’t tried, over the last 45 years that I have played a musical instrument, to improvise but I’m fairly sure that I’d not be all that good at it! As to languages only in French (other than my mother tongue of British English) do I have any facility and only then when I’ve lived in France/Switzerland continuously for a month or more.

    I can bake cakes, and make lots of other edible things, too!

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