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WOMAD: A Musical Buffet

My last post was about going to WOMAD, and since then I’ve been thinking about why I like festivals so much, especially ones like WOMAD, in fact, especially WOMAD.

A lot of UK festivals are just too big for me. I like smaller festivals like WOMAD where I can wander around easily and go from one stage to another quite quickly. That’s one of the things I love about festivals I can check out lots of different acts during the course of a day and stay for 5 minutes or watch the whole show.

It is like a kind of musical buffet where I sample some things and don’t get on with them, and others I have to eat the lot. If you know what I mean.

In some ways this goes against what I’d said before about listening and consuming music. I guess that this buffet approach to must is further along the consumer path then the dedicated listen. However, in many ways it is different from that argument.

I always enjoy coming away from WOMAD with a few new things to listen to, and this year they were.

I really enjoyed these three for very different reasons. They were the best bits of my buffet!

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WOMAD 2010

I spent last weekend at the WOMAD festival in Charlton Park, and what an amazing weekend it was. I’ve been going to WOMAD for several years now, but this year’s festival was one of the best so far.

The music was great, I saw some amazing performances from some great artists, and of course, as with all festivals there was a load of stuff I missed too.

If I had to say what was the most enjoyable experiences of the whole festival though, here’s what I would choose:

  • Nouvelle Vague – I didn’t know them before this year’s WOMAD and I’m off to buy some very soon.
  • Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain – They were very funny and very talented, but I think that this is something to enjoy live rather than recorded.
  • Syrianan – I really enjoyed their performance and so I bought their EP CD and was disappointed. I might get their album when it arrives later in the year, but live they were great.
  • Lastly, Rango. Who were the last act I saw and were fantastic!

I thoroughly enjoyed WOMAD this year. The weather was good, I got to meet up and spend time with lots of friends and the music was awesome.

If that wasn’t enough though I actually got to play on the Roots Architecture Stage too! But that’s more in Palm Sounds territory, so I’ll write about that later.

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When did I stop listening to music and start consuming it?

As many of you who are reading this will know, I am a big fan of mobile music technology. It gives you the ability to do so much on the move and take so much with you on the go too. I still have an iPod classic with my entire music library on it and that’s great to be able to take with me wherever I go.

But there is a downside though. Often I find myself flicking through my music library in the same way as you might flick through TV channels. There’s nothing wrong with that, nothing it all, but it does change the way we listen to music, and in my opinion, it moves along the line from listening to consuming.

Of course, there are now a vast array of services to help us do just that, from iTunes, to Spotify and lots more, and whilst lots of these services are great for discovering new music they do push us along this line from listening to consuming.

This was brought home to me a little while ago when a friend asked me over to play some of my vinyl. I hadn’t just sat and listened to an album for a long time. Sure, I’d had an album on while I was out, or while I was working or generally doing something else, but not just sat and listened to the music. I found the experience liberating.

It made me realise that I do consume music most of the time and I don’t really actively listen a great deal.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to have a soundtrack to my day whether I’m working, driving, walking through town etc. But the experience of just sitting still and absorbing music as an active participant rather than as a passive consumer is one that I rarely take part in.

As a result I started to think about ways of adjusting the balance back from consumption to listening. It made me think of book clubs. where people read and discuss a book at great length. It made me wonder if such a thing existed for music.

I think it would be wonderful to go to a sound club, or a music club where the point was to listen to a piece or an album once a month then get together and discuss it in great detail.

I’ve no idea if such a thing exists, but I hope it does.

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Homeland

I’ve been a fan of Laurie Anderson for as long as I can remember now so I was so pleased to finally get my physical copy of Homeland together with a signed 12″ of ‘Only an Expert’.

Homeland is a great album. I remember seeing Laurie Anderson perform it at the Barbican a couple of years ago. What an amazing show that was.

One of the things that I really enjoy about her music and especially her lyrics is the way she sees things from a very different perspective to the everyday. It’s more than just a step back and look at things with fresh eyes, it’s more of a step back and to one side and repeat for quite a while. If that makes sense.

Getting a different perspective is so important. I constantly find myself bombarded with news and opinion from every direction, be it the internet, TV, radio, print. Sometimes in the midst of all those competing opinions it is hard to find your own perspective, your own voice. Listening to Laurie Anderson reminds me that it is still there.

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Tall Tales from Beyond the Border

Walkway to the stories
Beyond The Border

I was at the Beyond the Border International Storytelling Festival recently, which was great as it I had seriously thought it would never run again. The festival has had a few years off due to funding woes and for most festivals that normally means that they won’t be seen again. Not so for Beyond the Border. This year they were back just like there had been no break at all and I was very happy to be there.

It was a superb festival with lots of amazing music and stories from all over the world. Whenever I get to events like this I’m amazed at how riveting storytelling can be. How just listening to one person telling a story can captivate your imagination.

I’m so impressed at the immense cultural heritage that’s gathered in one place. It also reminds me of how easy it is to forget our own cultural heritage, and how in large cities we can forget our stories.

Stories are important, they help us to understand where we are in the world and make sense of things. Living in cities can disconnect us from our stories, and being at an event like Beyond the Border helps reestablish that connection, helps us remember our own stories and reminds us to continue to tell them.

It feels good that Beyond the Border is back. It should be on again in 2012, and I hope I’ll be there.

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I’ve been meaning to do this for a while

Having written a blog that’s just about mobile music for just over 4 years I thought maybe I’d start to write something about me and what I’m up to. A more personal journal if you like.

This blog won’t be about the world of mobile music. Although I’m sure that there will be lots of creative stuff that I want to talk about and some of that will inevitably be mobile related in some way.

But that’s not essentially what my own blog is about. Having said that, I’m not entirely sure what it is about, but I can tell you what it won’t be about, which is at least a start.

It isn’t about:

  • Boring rants and complaints about the state of this, that or the other in the world / neighborhood
  • It isn’t about what I’m having for lunch
  • It won’t contain excessively dull family details about holidays and days out
  • It won’t just be a another Palm Sounds, although there’ll be a little bit of an overlap

What it will be about will evolve over time, and as it does it’ll be interesting for me to see where it goes.

So don’t feel bad if you decide not to read this blog and just stick with Palm Sounds. That’s fine with me.

If you do stay with this, the please let me know what you think. As always, I’m interested in comments.