Living in Eclectic Dreams or Why I hate Radio 2

Last night, at my Welsh class, we had a special lesson on the Welsh music scene, I suppose in readiness to celebrate Dydd Miwsig Cymraeg on the 9th of February. I am already a huge fan of the Welsh music scene. What was interesting was how Welsh music was presented by our tutor, but also how my classmates considered it.

I should point out that I’m talking about music in the Welsh language, which is a subset of Welsh music, which is all music made in Wales in any language. The tutor started by the common misconception of Welsh music as being: Male Voice Choirs, Hymns and other Welsh Christian devotional music and old folk songs like Pais Dinogad. What I’m talking about here is the contempory Welsh music of the last fifty years or so,  which is what Dydd Miwsig Cymraeg celebrates.

So the tutor took us on a little tour through the history of Welsh music. What struck me was which musicians I was interested in and which I wasn’t as much. For we all have different preferences. I don’t know anyone with the same musical tastes as I have. I always find it difficult to answer the question of ‘What sort of music do you like?’ , because it would take so long to give a meaningful answer. It’s everything from renaissance polyphony to contemporary Mongolian throat music. So often I get pigeonholed as having eclectic tastes, sometimes that suggests that I am some sort of freak or that I purposefully seek the obscure. Yet that isn’t it, to me I just like music and when I really like a piece of music, it’s because it resonates within me, it touches me in powerful way. Not every piece of music does that, there are pieces of music that stir others souls that leave me empty.

Sometimes music grates your mind. I know that many people find this with anything tooloud or ‘too fast’ like metal or hardcore electronic music.  Yet, for me it’s BBC Radio 2. If anyone puts Radio 2 on it drives me up the wall. Sometimes I’ll hit the auto-tune in the car, when an FM signal gets lost and hear a song I like, but very soon I realise that I’m listening to Radio 2 and feel sick. it’s the whole concept of ‘Easy Listening’ that is perhaps the extreme opposite of the ‘eclectic music’ person.

When you hear a piece of music for the first time, you begin your relationship with it. At first you might not understand it, but with every listen you learn more. Sometimes you’ll listen and suddenly that piece of music will hit you with everything it’s got, it might make you burst into tears or feel surged through with joy. With later listening you go deeper into the song and work out why it works as it does to you. Then you stop listening to it because there’s lots of other stuff to listen to. When you hear that piece of music again, it is also a reminder of your relationship with that song, so you either experience nostalgia, or an academic interest in how it relates to other pieces of music you know. I do listen to music occasionally for such purposes, but most of the time I’m looking for something new, something to take me to a new place.

So, I hate Radio 2 because it’s modus operandi is nostalgia, to play well known songs. But  such nostalgia only works when it’s the songs you have had the relationships with, the rest of the time is experiencing songs you aren’t crazy about that you don’t have any nostalgia for and are not in a context to reference the music you are listening to now, so what exactly is the point? I love it when a good DJ drops an old song in that links with a contemporary piece, but Radio 2 drives me insane. It’s for the same reason that i am a Radio 3 person and not a ClassicFM person. Maybe I am just this eclectic person.

I suppose this eclecticness was why I put off learning Welsh for so long. The local Male Voice Choirs would keep singing the same old songs and we would sing the hymns in church that everyone knew. Church choirs have so so much frustration with congregations that want to same pieces of music every week that they know. We go , look, here are piles and piles of music we haven’t done, lets try some. So I kind of saw the Welsh language as part of old traditions and at the time saw thes traditions as stifling, when that is not their purpose. I love tradition and music, but not if it’s purpose is because everyone’s knows it or it’s unchallenging. It was when legendary DJ John Peel introduced me to bands like Melys, Gorky’s Zygotic Mwnci and Datblygu that I realised that there was this whole contemporary Welsh music scene, that was interesting to me. Really, living in England, what is so annoying and Radio2ie is that it’s incredibly incredibly rare to hear anything sung that isn’t in the English language. Granted there are masses and masses of great music in the English language, but there is even more outside of the culture of the English language and in Britain unless you actually try, you hardly ever hear singing in languages other than English, which is so sad.

The question I’m asking myself is why do I really like this seemingly unconnected range of music, yet I don’t like many to the things which are said to be similar. I know it’s not any inherent property of the music itself, the dots and lines. It’s just that some pieces of music stand out to me or some reason, that somehow mingles with how my mind works, what gets me excited, which isn’t a simple thing at all.

It’s not just music, it happens with everything. I’ve also found odd how I find certain women amazingly attractive and yet not others whom other heterosexual men find attractive. It’s just some people I just really like and others who don’t somehow create that sudden instant attraction thing in me. It seems not to be with looks, height, weight, race or anything easily measurable, just like with music and it’s dots and lines and structures. Sometimes you hear a piece of music for the first time and it’s like here we go, I know I am going to love this. It’s the same with women on meeting them for the first time you know that a tiny part of you will love them forever.

I think it’s just something, either in the music, or the words or in the performance that resonates with me, that I have found something I can relate to, like it’s somehow a part of me, but doing a different thing. it’s like discovering something where your mind doesn’t go, kind of like in ‘Where your Eyes Don’t Go‘ by They Might be Giants of part of your mind ‘wondering what the part that isn’t thinking, isn’t thinking of’ . These are things about myself I am not fully aware of yet, or that I’ve lost that I probably am only meant to have brief glimpses at. So if asked to describe what music I like, how can I answer when it’s about discovering the parts of me that I don’t know about yet. How is this a type of music? Is this why those of us who reluctantly accept the ‘eclectic music fan’ label, like music in a different way to most other people. Radio 2 is incredibly popular, but it’s not right for me at all.

Living in Electric Dreams – The Human League

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Working Relationships and Compromise

Often, when we talk about relationships we consider our interrelations with other people and perhaps we usually neglect to think about our intrarelations. Sometimes, we have easy, good relationships because the intrarelationship is almost intuitive and requires no effort, in other relationships the intrarelations are difficult and often are the real cause of a relationship to break down. People fail to recognise their need to help others and instead prioritise their personal ambitions.

So, what are intrarelations? These are the decisions we reach that occur outside of communication. Indeed in long term relationships they are discussed, but this is something we only engage with with those closest to us, or when things are not working out. A large part of these decisions are about what we do as people to achieve a balance in our lives. This balance is between our own inner lives and our social lives.

I don’t believe in altruism, the idea of acting for no personal gain. If we do something for the benefit of others we also gain, from fulfilling our needs to play a role socially and be useful, so helping others helps ourselves and our society.

There are things we really want to do and there are things people want to do with us. Sometimes we are really lucky and what we really want to do will also be what our loved ones also want to do; these are often the very best times in our lives. Often we choose something we quite like doing with a group of friends to something we want to do more by ourselves because doing things together socially has it’s own rewards and adds enjoyment. However, most of the time we have to make decisions about whether to do what we want to do or engage in a social activity. Often we prefer to do something involving other people to something by ourselves, because we are social animals and we thrive from social activities. However over time we start to get increasingly niggly about doing the thing at the top of our list that we never seem to get around to doing and start prioritising it. conversely, after some time doing what we really want we may then desire to something we are not terribly keen on, just to be with a particular person or group or to experience something different. So interrelations are perhaps all those decisions about balancing our individual priorities.

Occasionally there are conflicts, we are all different and have different needs. For example introverts tend to need more time by themselves, whilst extroverts need more social time. So, it is easy to understand how an introvert and an extrovert may have conflicts. Having said that some very strong bonds can form between these two opposites, when each party is prepared to listen and compromise and find a way for both of them to be happy.

So in a relationship there needs to be some way of ascertaining what the others persons feelings are. Usually we ask indirectly and gauge the answer, for example “Do you fancy coming to the pub with me tonight?”. Possible answers are:

1- “Yes, I would love to go out with you tonight” [Highly affirmative]

2- “Yes, why not, but I probably shouldn’t stay too long” [Affirmative, but not the others priority]

3- “No, I have other things to do tonight, do you need me to come?” [Negative, but will do so as a favour]

4- “No, I don’t fancy it tonight” [Highly negative]

Another spectrum! , the answers 2 and 3, in effect ask a further question of the other person’s priority in doing the activity and their need for social activity.

Such a system is open to abuse and manipulation and often this causes friction in a relationship. It is easy for the person wanting to go to the pub to encourage the other to join them, however repeatedly forcing the other will eventually go beyond their desire to compromise. Sometimes people will inflict their own personal priority systems on others, for example an extrovert may feel that the introvert would be better off socialising more, rather than staying at home, but this is wrong and dangerous. However there are times, when a person will be better off for doing something that are not inspired themselves to do, but you need to know each other well to do this.

Essentially, a good strong relationship, is where both parties have a healthy balance between their social and private desires.

It is possible to explore wider types of relationships from the standpoint of achieving this balance. When community relationships are explored, as the social net becomes wider, the intra-relationship is at risk of not being maintained by social convention.

Markets

In Wales, as in much of Europe, we used to do most of our everyday trading locally, I was lucky to grow up in such a community. We would know personally our local ‘butcher, baker and candlestick maker’, we would meet and form friendships within our communities as we wandered the market doing our shopping. Traders, would learn what our preferences were, indeed such relationships were good for trade. However this gentle manipulation was appreciated, for example often the butchers recommended cuts, would mean we enjoyed our meat more. The relationship was maintained as the trader wouldn’t want to rip-off or off load bad meat onto a customer, who they would then lose future trade with. Hence mutually supportive relations were established between customers and traders. Often people lament that such economic relationships don’t happen anymore. Indeed, so many of us no longer even have a local butcher, baker or local market. Instead we travel, often long distances,  to large multi-national supermarkets, where we have practically no relationship with the seller of our goods. The effect of this change is that shopping becomes more of a chore and we lose out on social interaction within our communities.

In place of this social interaction we have the phenomenon of marketing. Rarely nowadays, do retailers provide for the needs of their customers. Vast amounts of research and study of numbers have been done, simply to find ways of maximising profits. These ways of maximising profits have little to do with satisfying peoples needs and wants, but generally work to increase profits, essentially by manipulation and finding artificial ways of making people feel satisfied with their shopping. Having worked for a supermarket myself, I appreciate how easy it is to become institutionalised and  of serving the commercial needs at the expense of the staff and customers, it is so easy to allow the compromises of the job to become a new normal and accepted.

Romantic Relationships

A desire most people have is to find a partner, someone to share most of their life with. This usually isn’t easy, indeed we invest a lot of time in wishing for such successful fulfilling partnerships. However, like in marketing, a plethora of research has been done and people have found ways to manipulate generalities to increase their success in finding partnerships where the relationship can be exploited to maximise an individuals priorities at the expense of doing things for the other person. However where manipulation doesn’t occur and true compromises are reached is often the recipe for a successful relationship.

It isn’t hard to find people who are game players, who have worked out how to have relationships that satisfy their personal ambitions, to use general rules at the expense of establishing truly mutually beneficial relationships or fulfill their need to support someone else. It isn’t hard either to find doormats either, who only want to make their partner happy at the expense of their personal needs. True fulfilling relationships perhaps does only come from achieving a good balance.

Disc Jockeys

In this age of on demand digital media, the demise of the traditional radio Disc jockey (DJ) has been predicted. There is the idea that we don’t need someone to sit in a studio playing records for us, when we can do it ourselves and choose the music we like. Yet, arguably now is a golden era of the DJ. A good DJ will not merely play records they like, though this   is what they do, they create programmes. Radio programmes are an attempt to collate things we are interested in in interesting ways, they enhance our listening to music. A good DJ achieves this in a number of ways. Firstly curation, a good DJ will spend a lot of time discovering music for themselves and their listeners and becoming highly skilled at this. Indeed searching for music on the internet, or even developing a decent algorithm for  selecting an internet stream isn’t easy, so having a professional helps. The music is then blended together, so pieces of music flow and provide interest and a story through the order in which they are selected. Finally a good DJ will chat with the listener, creating warm feelings and making the whole process of listening a lot more personal. A good DJ does their job for other people, and may even play a piece they don’t like, but feel that their listeners will find it interesting in it’s context. A DJ listens and makes compromises with their audience. Really, the good DJ fulfills their personal needs and their social needs.

In contrast, there continues to be a plethora of commercial radio, which is truly awful. Many radio stations simply use the model of playing the most popular pieces of music of the day and the aim of the game is not to provide good programming, but manipulate their audience in to staying tuned in for the next set of advertisements. It is often so soulless.

Politics

It is perhaps in the arena of party politics, where the this disconnect demonstrating the failure of modern relationships to achieve healthy balances occurs.

The job of a politician is simply to make good decisions. In a democracy, the politicians are elected, so should demonstrate to the electorate that they are good decision makers by making it clear what they base their decision making on.

A politician is also someone whom is interested in politics, so will have personal goals they wish to achieve in helping create the kind of thriving society they want to see. However, they are entering into a relationship with their electors, so compromises are required, to find solutions that work for the community.

Really it doesn’t matter if a politician is of the left or the right-wing as long as they make good decisions and achieve a good balance with their own ideals and the good of the society they serve, for then good decisions are made.

However as the political sphere becomes ever more centralised, the direct relationship with the electors is lost and the role stops being about serving the community. In consequence being a politician becomes more about personal achievements at the expense of social achievements.

Being a member of political party and having done some canvassing for elections (Plaid Cymru), I have become interested in the welfare of the party, rather than the society it aims to serve. These days, party politics is notorious for rules for saying and doing what works to help the party gain votes and win elections, often at the expense of losing sight of improving the economy and society. I was with a candidate who was asked a question on the street and they gave a very grod ‘politicians’ answer of not saying anything. I knew he had good answers, but was concerned about saying something that would be misinterpreted by a potential opponent at the end of a long tiring canvassing session (Remember you have been saying very similar things to lots of people for several hours, so your brain starts turning to cardboard by the end!).

The famous example being Tony Blair’s government, where the government became a slave to focus groups and engineering policy to win elections, rather than doing the right thing. Winning elections became more important than improving the economy. Blair was good at compromising, he was a master at it, he was a failure in my eyes because he didn’t really make any progress his own convictions to improve  society, I don’t even know if he had any, he seemed merely to want to win the game.

I recently read ‘The Greasy Poll’ by Mike Parker who stood for my party in the Ceredigion UK general election of 2015. In this diary of an election from the candidates view, a world was revealed of his words (that there are racists in Ceredigion) being taken out of context by the press (‘he said that all incomers are Nazis!’), which seemed to have led to him failing to win the seat. It seemed to him that ordinary people can’t succeed in politics because they can’t be themselves, for if they are, they are crucified. Perhaps only a slick politician who is very careful to say nothing that could be misinterpreted is successful.

However now we are in the Brexit/Trump era, where people have got fed up with politicians not being honest with their views and opinions, that mavericks such as Trump and Farage get the votes, by appealing to this discontent but just using a different set of words to do it. Instead of the glib “We are going to make things better, don’t listen to the other lot as they want to make things worse!”, this new breed say “The other politicians don’t say anything, so listen to my populist rhetoric of finding scapegoats for our problems instead” What a politician says has become far more important than what they do. It seems we live in a world where a soundbite that resonates is more important than a deed that actually helps improve something. Where are the politicians who have sound personal ambitions and the ability to make decisions that work for the whole of society?

Take the current leaders of the two largest political parties in the UK. On one side we have Jeremy Corbyn, a socialist campaigner, who has thus far failed to convince the population as a whole that he is able to listen and find a workable compromise with those who are socialists. On the other side we have Teresa May, a right-wing authoritarian, who only seems to serve her ideological ambitions and in real terms has yet to do anything to genuinely serve society. She is able to say that she cares, even when she does nothing at all to act on these cares.

It seems that you have to play the game to be proficient at succeeding in the party political game, to rise to senior position where you can actually achieve something, yet by that point they are so distorted by the game to be unable to do anything positive at all. So perhaps all politicians have a broken relationship with the the people in their society. Such politicians do not help society, nor make progress in advancing their individual cause, they only win the game of of politics. In the same way as the ladies man may rack up lots of partners, but never achieve a deep meaningful relationship. An executive business person, may achieve success for their company. career, but not any real tangible benefit to society, or any real achievement, outside of the corporate game.  A popular DJ, may rack up millions of listeners listening to them in the background, whereas the good DJ can seriously touch peoples lives and change people’s thinking with their selection of music.

I wrote last time about what is an achievement. I do just believe that making a real difference to society, or forming a mutually beneficial relationship is an achievement. Whereas winning an artificial game is much no achievement at all, in any game someone has to win and someone has to lose, the winner has not really achieved anything. Perhaps interrelationships are passing fun, but intrarelations are where true success can be achieved.