At the start of this tour if I found a nice spot to relax the first thing I’d do is pull out my book and start reading. Now, if I find a good place to chill you’ll either find me grooving on the spiritual vibes of my Jaw Harp, whistling, singing or alternately deep in thought, probably stroking my beard. I can’t be sure whether this shift away from other peoples thoughts and towards my own experience is temporary or not, at this point it really doesn’t matter to me. I don’t have time to miss literature and when I do, I’ll pick up a book. What does bug me though is that now my ‘What I’m Reading’ page is largely redundant, so things have changed… its now what I’m ‘Listening To & Reading‘. I know you’re excited!
In the ‘real world’ I always have a book on the go, an appetite reflected in the books I devoured in Alaska. Yet I haven’t picked up a read in a good few months. My only explanation for this is that maybe books have always been an escape for me. Right now I have nothing to escape from, I’m having too much fun. Constantly being bombarded with new sights, sounds and relationships, I’ve found myself thinking around them instead of being guided by books.
Now that my ‘What I’m Reading’ page is merely an advert for my lack of reading I’ve decided to expand it to include music that’s inspiring me. I don’t listen to a great deal of music when I’m riding as I like to hear the landscapes I’m moving through, but sometimes I do indulge. My Ipod is old, has very limited battery life and doesn’t work at all below 8 degrees Celsius, so my listening has become very pointed. It maybe inspiration, bordem or pure joy that prompts me to put the ear phones in, sing or whistle, but whatever the motivation music has started becoming a great instrument from which to suspend memories of various sections of the tour.
We all identify certain pieces of music with times and experiences so it probably comes as no surprise that I’ve developed theme tunes for the various parts of my ride. The music could reflect a time, such as my sodden ride down the Pacific coast when I regularly belted out Sam Cookes ‘A Change is Gonna Come‘ or Dorothy Moores ‘Misty Blue‘. Or, it could reflect a moment such as my recent impulsive rave up to the Rude Bwoy Monty tune ‘Warp 9 Mr. Zulu‘ in the Grand Canyon. Sometimes though it merely brings friends and loved ones closer to me for a while. If I listen to Joan Baez then my Dad is never far from my thoughts, I cruised down Route 66 with Jimmy Nail and my Mum by association, and when a bass lines makes me move I’ll usually have my mate Alex bopping away beside me.
I look for soul in music and tend to segregate what I like from what I don’t by my hearing the artists soul. Be it Donny Hathaway, Joan Baez, Jimmy Hendrix, Burning Spear, Ali Farka Toure or the more divisive talents of artists such as Kenny Ken or LTJ Bukem, they all float my boat for I believe they have the gift of soul. I look for a similar quality in the books I read; I won’t bother to read something that won’t ‘teach’ me something… this I regard as the soul of the literature. I think it may be this approach that is the crux of the reasons why I’m becoming divorced from literature as my love and need for music is being forever reaffirmed.
The upshot is that from now on I shall try to list the tunes and artists that have grown an association with times and places along the tour. Sometimes I shall dedicate them to someone who I associate with the music; it could be people I’m close to, have helped me along the way, I may have been thinking about at that time, or folks that simply hold a link to that particular tune. This almost certainly means nothing to you, but will prove a valuable record for me.
So now you know, I like reading but the need has left me, while music is still looming large; I sing, listen, whistle, hum and strum on my Jaw Harp for expression, escape and simple pleasure. The soul of a place can often be expressed through music, just as it can through words, but for me music has more room for subjectivity and that’s probably why I’m embracing it so.