Most of us are locked in, all of us have lost the chance to socialise, to meet and drink and talk and eat and see music and work out and enjoy things outside the house. But music doesn’t have to stop and The Great Confinement has opened up a chance to explore at home, to dig up old favourites and find new pleasures.
In this series we ask: what music is making you happy. Today, academic and former politician Cheryl Kernot.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
I’ve been playing Leonard Cohen, the DVD mostly, his Live From London because it reminds me most of the Sydney concert which I think was probably the most moving concert I’ve ever been to. I could probably play it forever, but I find at the moment that because there is so much in it, so much depth and richness in the lyrics, I find that songs like Anthem – “there’s a crack in everything” - and Democracy - “Democracy is coming to the USA” - I find those things give me a bit of hope that he’s seen it, he’s been around, so there must be something there. I find the extra layer that’s in his lyrics compared with many others satisfying and I have it on in the background a lot.
But also like to look at the twinkle in his eye and I particularly love the way he acknowledges each of the individual members in the band. I love the way that without words, through his gestures, his doffing of the hat, his kneeling and smiling, it takes me to an acknowledgement of collectivism. Yes, he is the front figure and the lyrics are mostly his, but the actual beauty of it all, the final product that we are hearing that is so magnificent, is really the collective action of all of them.
I also like the humour of Closing Time, and every time I hear Tower Of Song - “Hank Williams hasn’t answered yet” - I laugh.
I also listen to some relaxation music. After travelling many, many times from London to Sydney when my father was ill, it was a long way and I wanted to get there in a hurry and the only way I could make the time pass was to try and listen to Sounds Of Spa, which was the most meditative, relaxing music: waterfalls, birdsong, the surf. I just listened to that on a loop for hours on end.
And the other one is Gurrumul. I find that, for these times, is a mixture of sadness, the strength of kinship, and understanding. Even though I can’t understand the language, the actual beauty of the tunes and his phrasing, everything about it, is particularly moving. I find it contemplative.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
Leonard got a lot, I have to say, but I have been playing a lot of Buddha Bar 5, which I found in the glovebox of my car when I was looking for something else. I’d completely forgotten about it but it’s such a clever mix:, not just the fusion which I think was way ahead of its time, but the balance between a kind of bounce and the thoughtful. I wanted to hear it all again several times because so much of it came back to me.
And I have this compilation tape of female singers, with Adele, Amy Winehouse, Sarah Blasko, Lily Allen and Katie Melua - four or five of my favourite tracks of theirs. It’s wall-to-wall women, and I play it over and over. It taps into a visual memory that I have of a particular time in my life when I was living in London.
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
I rediscovered Janis Ian’s Between The Lines.
I discovered the lyrics in a book I was teaching once, and then I went out and bought the album. I used At Seventeen teaching secondary students because it has the most magnificent use of poetic devices without seeming like it. Also because 17 was a time they were either approaching or were, and being ugly ducklings or missing out and school dances, notions of love, all of that. It was a sneaky way to teach poetry, but it worked.
I have not kept up with her since then but it’s just an iconic one-off that I rediscovered when I was cleaning up and looking through things.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
I’ve not found new music. I’m not even the slightest bit interested. But one that I’m very conscious of is Despacito, which my grandchildren, including the three-year-old, ask Google Home to play. Often. But it’s a great family singalong and jig-along, and such a happy song, and a really good thing to have right now as it’s brought a lot of laughter to us these past two months. Though I can’t even tell you who sings it.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE?
Linda Ronstadt. Different Drum and You’re No Good. There’s something about the beat, the purity, memories of the time - I always feel good when I hear those. And to be more conscious retrospectively that she was a pioneer for women in recording is a bonus. And I might chuck on Abba Gold occasionally. When I used to be on the Council For Reconciliation we had our first ever celebration party, a few years in, and people weren’t happy with the music that was on, so I drove home to my Canberra unit, grabbed Abba Gold and came back and I have a very good memory of that night. That gives me an upbeat happiness. I love Pavarotti. It’s not always happiness but something about that is very satisfying.
Cheryl Kernot is “still a work in progress because I cannot let go of my passion for a corruption-free participatory democracy. And a media that enables Leonard’s ‘light’ to find the ‘crack in everything’. To balance my current deep frustration & anger I am balancing this preoccupation by reading heaps of fiction!”