Three weeks ago I left my iPod on a train: it hasn’t turned up. So for three weeks I’ve been back in 2007, in the time before I carried my entire music collection and more besides around in my pocket. It’s shaken me a little from my well-established routines, but mostly not in a good way.
I’ve missed the times when I wake up early, and instead of getting up or trying in vain to go back to sleep, I listen to something quietly, warm, still in bed. I’ve missed having my iPod at the gym, where I could listen to whatever I liked, drowning out the noise of Kiss FM or The Hits! that inevitably seems to be blaring from the speakers. I’ve missed the serendipity of the Shuffle setting, when Bob Dylan can follow David Gray, or ELO precedes Boxer Rebellion.
Most of all, I’ve missed my favourite, regular podcasts; especially The Bugle, Filmspotting and This American Life. I’ve missed the introductory theme music to the first two, and Ira Glass’ laconic tones. They are my weekly routines, and with good reason. They are my friends, I trust them, I enjoy their company, I miss them when they’re not there. They accompany me to and from work every day.
One reason I’ve missed them so much is that, especially in the morning, the radio stations simply don’t cater for a 45 minute commute. The rolling news of BBC Radio 5 Live is just so much repetition and perilously close to the sort of What I Reckon phone-ins that inspired the title of my blog almost four years ago. Radio 4 features extended interviews with politicians that just make me cross, and after about 10 minutes I can’t listen to Chris Evans any more.
Nevertheless, a light in the darkness of most radio output is Simon Mayo. He has been one of my favourite radio presenters ever since the 1980s, when his personality and wit shone through despite some of the godawful trite pop he had to play on the Radio 1 playlist. His current drivetime show on Radio 2 carries on in much the same vein. He’s an excellent interviewer, he has a great team with whom he has a great rapport, and he is a terrific judge of people, able to speak warmly and freely with everyone.
I’ve also taken increased solace (at home – where we have digital radios) in The Joy of 6Music. Despite a voting mishap that led to Coldplay becoming its ‘best song of the last 10 years’ (don’t get me wrong, the Coldplay song is fine, but (a) 6Music simply don’t play Coldplay any more, and (b) it’s NOT the best song, not by a long shot…), this station is a music-lover’s paradise. Populated by presenters who really care and know about music, who aren’t afraid to declare their eccentricities or ‘uncool’ favourites, virtually every hour brings new treats and surprises. Of course there are things I don’t like, but almost everything is either new to me, or a long-lost gem I hear only rarely.
My last coping strategy has been the classical symphony. Sibelius has accompanied me in the car for the last few days, and it’s been an uninterrupted joy. The 5th Symphony, the violin concerto, Night Ride & Sunrise… all masterpieces of orchestration and control, of dynamics and tone.Having played several symphonies in orchestras over the years, I realise that generally it’s more fun to listen to than to play, as his compositions are often dense and abstract, richly layered constructions where ‘tunes’ are more like short motifs than anything you’d sing to yourself later. But they are wonderfully rewarding, and I love the way he writes for horns, with subtly shifting harmonies and chorales, and the triumphant call in the finale of that 5th symphony…
Sibelius’ music lifts my mood in a way few things can. I may well miss him while I catch up on my podcasts.