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visitors since May 12, 2002
March 6, 2003
How do you like to live

When I first came to this house I was interviewed by Guan-Ji. One of the questions he asked was "how do you like to live?"

I have absolutely no idea how I answered the question, but I hope I said something vaguely truthful. Later, when Guan-Ji moved out, I found myself asking the same question to everyone who came to look at the room. I had a notion that I was keeping some kind of tradition alive.

Generally speaking people didn't like the question. I'd say "so, how do you like to live?" and I'd usually get a response of "what do you mean?" or "huh?" But some people took to the question as a duck takes to a metaphor. As a result, I've heard people talk expansively about their stamp collections or their obsession with finding every known b-side of Fun Boy Three.

Recently DJ Hardware announced his intention to leave the house, so there's been another installment of asking "so, how do you like to live?" One of the answers I got was "I'd like to live here." This didn't seem technically correct, but it was more or less what I wanted to hear. Perhaps I've been asking the wrong question all this time.

On the weekend I'm going to the Port Fairy Folk Festival, so there might not be any updates until I get back on Monday. A while back I got into a trifling spot of bother for saying that folk music is the great refusal to entertain, and that it's made by people who mean well. A couple of people seemed aggrieved that I didn't provide reasons for these comments, but I'm happy to do so now.

Rock music, at its worst, is boring and embarrassing. Jazz, at its worst, is boring and incomprehensible. Classical music doesn't seem to have a worst, or a best, and long ago settled for a steady state of irrelevance. But folk, at its worst, is intensely irritating. More than any other kind of music, folk wants something from you. It wants you to feel empathy, to inspire you to take action, to protest, to change how you see the world, to change the world.

When folk is done well, it's hugely powerful. Unfortunately, it's almost never done well. A couple of years ago I saw a folk singer play a song about a mining disaster in the 1850s. He wanted you to feel what all those doomed miners of long ago felt: that the powers that be had no concern for their safety, that they had no rights, that their lives were dispensable, that they were, in effect, sent into a pit to die.

Question: and how did this sensibly attired, well intentioned person attempt to achieve this lofty aim?

Answer: by singing a long list of the victims' names. Almost every word of the song was a name. Initially this seemed an interesting way of bringing home the magnitude of the disaster, but then it seemed like the world's laziest and least effective method of songwriting. No other information was provided, such as what caused the disaster, or what happened to the families of the victims afterwards, or why anyone in the audience should care. Instead the song contained forty seven verses, all of which were mighty similar:

I sing of all those people who died
of John Roper and Robert Clyde
of Trevor Smith and Bradley Crewe
and James K. Watkins, too

It went on like this, and kept going like this, for the next six minutes. I was enormously unimpressed. I started hatching plans to instigate a more modern, contemporary mining disaster. For this is the problem with bad folk music: it makes you want to put on a tie, get a high paying job with capitalistic oppressors and hunt down anyone with an acoustic guitar and good intentions.

Despite this, I'll be spending the next four days at a folk festival. I'm looking forward to it, but I'm also hoping that I won't be listening to four days of names.

I suspect that therapeutic purposes are my real reason for going. It seems that for the last few months all I've done is sit in a darkened room and stare at a computer screen. There was a time when that's all I dreamt of doing, but now that I'm doing it I dream of other things, such as occasionally seeing daylight.

So I'm turning the computer off and spending the weekend away. Tomorrow morning I shall get into my Kombi and drive two friends down to the coast. I want to spend the weekend walking around a nice old town, listening to some music and catching up on some reading. For this is how I like to live.

     Posted by Sean Hegarty at 04:29 AM in the Boring old news category | Comments (2)
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