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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Drive My Car - or: R.I.P., HSB

For a long time now I have been thinking I should write a blog entry on listening to music in the car. So here I go.

In the conversations I had in the past few years about music, one of the most musical places turned out to be the car. In the car people listen to their music; they copy CDs to do so, or have their favorite radio stations programmed in the presets of their car stereo. When they go on holiday by car, they sometimes sample a collection of 'holiday music' for the occasion - and that CD (or cassette, in earlier days) often stays a favorite for many years.

Et cetera.

With me it's the same: the car is an important place. When I am in the car with my complete family I don't often play music these days. But when I am in the car with one of the kids I often do, and we sometimes have a little chat about the music. (My youngest daughter used to ask for some time: "The Weatles?" whenever I played music in the car.)

And when I am alone, it's 'my music'-time. Mostly a CD; the past say two years I listened mostly to Johnny Cash (the American albums), Gillian Welch, The Dave Rawlings Machine, Bob Dylan, 16 Horsepower, Dolly Parton (her bluegrass CDs), Wilco. All Americans, and it kind of helped to get into a sort of imagined 'Route 66'-mood I have developed to like.

I would like to point out two things.


I have been thinking about my 15-minute ride from my home to the rehearsal site of my shanty choir, and the music I play while driving there. I love the trip, and I can easily sum up the orientation points along the way: driving through my neighborhood, leaving the village (checking for Great White Egrets in the fields), crossing the railroad track and the canal, passing the roundabout near the shipyard, turning left, then turning right past the sex club, following a bumpy road (nudge, nudge, know what I mean?), at the end turning right, et cetera et cetera - until I am there. Before I joined the choir, I imagined that I would be playing shanty choir music in the car as a preparation for the rehearsal. But I don't; I usually play Dylan. I was a bit puzzled about that, but I guess the fact that I play 'my' music in the car and then seamlessly switch to singing in 'my choir' actually indicates that the shanty choir has really become 'my' thing, just as Dylan is. It is so much 'my' thing I don't even have to play it - there is no need to 'get in the mood' for something you really like, I guess. So it's not playing shanties in my car that shows my attachment to them, in a way.


The past three years or so I played as a fiddler (and occasionally a mandolinist) in a band called the Hopskotch String Band. I had to learn to play American music - I was used to Irish fiddling and some surrounding genres (Breton, English, Scottish, Dutch - most of it played in an Evertian way, of course, I never had enough time, determination or interest to become stylistically knowledgeable in any way; basically I just do what I like). I think I never really got into it. I love the music and what I did was definitely useful for the band but again more Evertian than American. We did play a couple of nice gigs - outdoor as well as in several caf├ęs. I liked it; but what I liked best were the rehearsals. More and more playing music for me becomes that: rehearsing with a couple of guys you consider as friends, building up habits, building up ways of talking, ways of doing. Playing a concert is secondary and maybe only meaningful because it is an extension of the rehearsals we've gone through together.

So when HSB decided to stop, I was not afraid I would be missing playing the gigs - and I politely refused the idea of only rehearsing when a concert would be planned. I am not interested in rehearsing for concerts, I am interested in rehearsing, even without any concerts. I will miss the rehearsing, I will miss the gradual build-up of connections, the fluid change and development in our shared and contested ways of doing and talking. Playing music in a band is, basically, a microcosm of the essence of social life; and if you love this life, losing a band is a bit sad.

But there is something else I will miss. It is the trip to the rehearsals. You drive the car for 45 minutes, from your village past the Big Town up North through the meadows, past small villages; you see a small train somewhere in the fields, you see the sun going down or, in winter, the snow falling. And in your car, you play the Cashes, the Rawlings, the Dylans and the Partons part of this amazing world you live in. And you're happy, simply.

So: thanks for the rehearsals, guys; thanks for the concerts, yes, of course; but also: thanks for letting me drive to yet another rehearsal.

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