I have always delighted in the different types of music that I get to play, and take pleasure in the fact that, even now, my reputation as the Organ Scholar with the heavy metal band still endures. Thankfully some other aspects of my time at college have disappeared into the depths of time, but somehow, every now and again, somebody expresses a little lifting of the mists as some hazy rumour from aeons ago turns out to have been true.
Odd, though, that somehow playing different styles of music should seem so strange and noteworthy to some people, though I can, at a push, see how it could appear so. All those years ago at college it was all about specialisation, about being a Baroque specialist or a twelve-tone composer or a Schenkerian analyst. Being a musical polyglot just seemed so last century.
I fought against those notions then and fight against them now, that idea that putting your efforts into one area should somehow preclude you from having any interest in or desire to investigate any other or, heaven forfend, having a little bit of fun now and again. As a member of the not very great and severely unlamented Chainsäw, possibly the most overqualified band in music history (four Oxford music degrees plus one Welsh National Opera chorus member), we went out of our way to play music that was considered naff but which, we felt, had some value. We played it badly, I’ll admit, but play it we did, and we had much more fun than all the navel-gazing indie types of the day.
So yesterday, after tinkering a little more with Dunstan, I packed my keyboards into the back of a colleague’s car and went off to rehearse with RetroChic as we run in our new bass player, an evening of Nile Rodgers and other similar fodder as a counterpoint to the, well, counterpoint of earlier in the day. I learned a little more about the arrangements, about my technique, about the light and shade of those songs, quite the education again.
I doubt very much that bass lines from some seventies funk classic will make their way into the Dunstan cantata, but in terms of the placement of a note in order to push the music forwards or to imply some kind of motion, there is certainly something to be learned. Everything helps everything else if you are prepared to keep your mind open, prepared also to sort the wheat from the chaff, and that, in the (probable) words of Rodgers, is a funky thing.