The shock of the old

One of the pleasantest (yes, that is a word…as of now) experiences I’ve had when listening to music is rediscovering something I thought I already knew well. Some of my favourite albums seem to reveal new aspects almost every time I listen to them. The very fact that I feel that I know a piece of music inside out and back to front can sometimes blind me (or should that be “deafen me”?) to hearing it properly. Sometimes the best approach is to listen to it after not having heard it for a long period. Last night I listened to Abba’s greatest hits. I grew up with these songs and thought I knew them well, and yet they seemed fresh and compelling; complex, even (theses have been written about their melodic structure, believe it or not). Although they sounded even newer when I heard them on a car radio while visiting friends in Stockholm. It took a minute or so for me to realise that they were singing a version of “Waterloo” in Swedish.

It can work with films too – seeing the special edition of Star Wars in the cinema in London’s West End in 1997 (an experience in itself – the atmosphere, the costumes, the cheering and parrotting of dialogue), several things struck me about the film that I hadn’t noticed in the previous dozen or so viewings – specifically how slow and boring the first half is – it takes an hour of screen time for Luke to leave Tattoine…

It was only on my fourth viewing of Reservoir Dogs (I was a student at the time – multiple viewings of Tarantino films were mandatory) that I let my attention stray from the characters and dialogue to the background and I realised that the warehouse where most of the action takes place is full of coffins and a hearse: appropriate given that they all die in the end (oops – spoiler!)