There is currently a show on Channel 4 called Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Composers. First up in the series are some men I like to call John and Paul, Ritchie and my dear George. Of course, he’s concentrating on Lennon & McCartney, but Georgie has turned up in the section about Indian music. I’m hoping he’ll also mention Frank Sinatra’s favourite Lennon & McCartney song, ‘Something’ (think about it, my darlings).
Anyway, it’s very much like the stuff we saw in music lessons- your key changes, modulation and that. It’s nice to see at seven o’clock on a major TV channel on a Saturday night- and I completely understand why they’ve opened the series with my boys. Howard Goodall clearly comes down on the McCartney side of the Lennon/McCartney question, but that’s not a bad thing. He’s singing the songs a little too much himself with an organ/piano, but that’s really the only way to demonstrate a lot of the points he’s making for the uninitiated.
So anyway, I’ve got a GCSE in Music. I spent two years learning for it. I’ve had about seven/eight years of lessons in both keyboard and guitar each, as well as a few in violin.
And I still don’t get it. I don’t know if it’s that I never paid proper attention to the mechanics of it (I didn’t) but I don’t. I know that a minim is two crotchets, two quavers are a crotchet and four crotchets make a semibreve. Or at least, I think that’s how I remember it- I can read music but it’s so long since I did theory that explaining it is hard.
But I still don’t get it. I don’t really get modulation or keys and scales and modes and everything that music is. I’d like to tell myself that it’s just a lack of knowledge, or my inability to really understand numbers without needing to think. But I don’t think it is. I just do not get it. I didn’t get it six years ago when I managed to scrape a C grade in GCSE and I don’t get it now.
I know that certain notes work best with certain chords, and I know a lot of chords. But I don’t know which chords really work best together and I don’t understand fifths and thirds and pentatonic scales and all the other things. I don’t know how to put music together. I don’t know how to take it apart and change it around and put it back together again.
Now, none of this would matter if it weren’t for my utmost desire to be a musician. I don’t imagine I’ll ever be John Lennon or Paul McCartney or George Harrison. I won’t be Cole Porter or Irving Berlin, and I don’t even want to be Beethoven or Mozart. But if I don’t understand, how can I even hope to match Jim Morrison or Philip Lynott? Or Mick and Keef? How can I do anything but the most basic, dull, repetitive bollocks we hear in the chart right now?
Oh, I do understand looping. That makes me feel so much better.
I want to be able to affect people. I want to make people laugh and cry and inspire them. How can I do that if I just don’t get it?
Right now, I’m really hoping two things: 1: that my brother is learning and understanding this stuff in his classes at uni. 2: that he’ll help me for the rest of my life.
PS. I don’t imagine my American pals will get this show, but look out just in case- it really is fascinating.
PPS. I love the Beatles, and I will love them forever.