Art and Music      
Chianciano Biennale


Learn Yourself Music…


I’m round at my friend’s house checking out her cd collection asking her what I can borrow.  I tell her that when my bloke moved out he took all the cds with him.  “Bastard” she says.  Yeah, but they were all his I say.  “Still…. Bastard” she says.  Yeah! I’m thinking… I’ve got no music.

I met a nice muso at the ICA recently who was mildly outraged to learn I only had three albums on my ipod.  “You work on a magazine called Art & Music and you have three albums on your ipod?”  What’s wrong with that? He looked at me like I should know. Weirdly, that night I lost my ipod. Then someone gave me their old Nano which had zillions of albums on it. I had a great instant playlist and started listening to it all the time.

I know that I need to populate my itunes. I tried the downloading thing but didn’t know where to start.  My best bet is the local library down on St John’s Street.  I get a secure feeling at this place. It must be something to do with municipal familiarity or childhood, or maybe it’s because there’s always someone a bit ‘wrong’ speaking really loudly who everyone ignores or pretends to be ignoring. He’s just been talking to them too, so it would then seem rude to tell him to “shhhhh”.  These slightly ‘loony’ characters reassuringly make you realise that you are not actually insane after all. As much as you’d like to talk really loudly to strangers in the library you’re not and he is. Great.

This library is like HMV, there are more CDs and DVDs than books. All through December you can borrow ten CDs at any time for free and that entitles you to a free DVD rental. I’m just repeating what the loud talking guy said but, hey, you’ve got to love Islington Council.

Clearly, borrowing music is a completely different experience to buying it you can take a gamble on anything like where you get an album just because you like one track. The first time is a bit daunting, so I ask someone to choose for me. He came back with some album by Joni Mitchell, Ry Cooder’s soundtrack to Paris Texas and something by the Fall. I didn’t really like those, so I revert to do-it- yourself. I get The Kills No Wow, even though I borrowed this from a different library about a year ago, but that was before I saw them live and fell in love with Alison Moshart strutting around on stage at Koko. Before the album sounded stylish and slick, now it just sounds sexy. I also can’t stop listening to the Arctic Monkeys’ Favourite Worst Nightmare. It’s exciting, young, talky, shouty, a bit 80’s and I love the internal rhyming… and it somehow explains a few of the unfathomable mysteries about the male world.  Like why do men take your number and then don’t call you? Obviously, the album doesn’t actually answer this particular question, but it does make you not care.   I also got Athlete’s Tourist which is melancholic and indulgent but I like that too. I know in the ‘serious’ indie world they’re not ‘cool’, but I still like it. In fact, for some reason borrowing stuff from the library evens out the cool with the un-cool, perhaps because the whole context of the place is so non-brand that everything exists on the same level. So, I give equal allegiance to Neil Young’s albums - all of them (even the Crosby Stills Nash and Young ones), Badly Drawn Boy, Elvis Costello and best of all, everything I would probably have bought when it came out but didn’t because I knew I’d be ridiculed when I got it home.  So I’m shoving all this stuff on itunes and I have my own playlist and I’m taking a small step for feminism. Definitely. 

When I’m at the counter stamping out my CDs, the librarian enthusiastically tells me I can have these over Christmas and that, “You can listen to stuff you might not buy but would quite like to hear.” When I then mention “putting them on my itunes”, things get a bit messy - something about that being “illegal”. He’s definitely a member of the un-cool brigade. The whole process is a bit like an adult education class; Learn Yourself Music it’s like being in the cd equivalent of a book club but you’re the only one in the club.  What have I learnt?  That if I’d gone with my gut and bought Good Souls by Starsailor I’d be a less oppressed person now? That men who are into music are fascists? That men don’t know more about music than women? That the cd collection represents the power in a relationship? Fuck that shit, that’s not it.  All I’ve really learnt is I like hanging out in the library…and my ipod.




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