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 your life better? Today, thinker, writer and lover of swords, Damon Young.
WHAT ALBUMS OR ARTISTS HAVE YOU BEEN PLAYING SINCE BEING CONFINED TO HOME?
I often listen to music while working, and my choice is suggested by what I'm reading or writing. While working on philosophy books like On Getting Off, I play a lot of classical: Giuliano Carmignola's Bach violin sonatas & partitas, for example. The melancholy austerity encourages me. While writing fiction, I often put on themed soundtracks: like Ramin Djawadi's Game of Thrones for fantasy or Ludwig Goransson's The Mandalorian for science fiction. This helps me get into the spirit. There was a month where I was writing about a Neoplatonic mage, and listening to little but a playlist of Greek Orthodox chanting.
WHICH HAVE BEEN GETTING MULTIPLE SPINS?
Everything! When I'm writing, I tend to have albums or playlists on repeat. The idea is to just set a mood, and allow that to guide my writing. But my most-played album has actually been Pusha T's Daytona. It's only twenty minutes or so, but it's an instant classic. Brilliant wordplay and swagger, backed by the best Kanye tracks. Distilled hip-hop, no filler. I often listen to this while making exploratory notes--or just to cover cafe noise, when I'm out of the house.
HOW HAS LOCKDOWN CHANGED THE WAY YOU CONSUME MUSIC?
I confess I sometimes use music to stifle the noise of our kids. Other than that, there's no radical difference. I don't typically go to concerts or buy vinyl (except for my twelve-year-old, who now has a player and expensive Lana del Ray records). Streaming music during the pandemic looks a lot like streaming music before the pandemic (except musicians need the royalties even more).
WHAT ALBUM FROM YOUR PAST HAVE YOU REDISCOVERED? WHAT DO YOU STILL LOVE ABOUT IT?
It's not so much an album, as a playlist: ‘90s rap. It's exactly the sort of stuff I would've once made a mixtape or CD from. Now I have it as my jogging music. This is tracks like Nas' New York State of Mind, Mobb Deep's Shook Ones Pt. II, EPMD's Da Joint, Dre's Still Dre (one of my favourites).
I like the driving rhythms, which push me to keep running; the grimy lyrics, often full of swagger. They also have some sick samples and no autotune - I enjoy the more analogue sound.
HAVE YOU FOUND NEW MUSIC – OR AN ARTIST OR GENRE - THAT WAS UNEXPECTED? WHAT’S EXCITED YOU ABOUT IT?
One of my lockdown discoveries was Duolingo, and I'm currently idling away inarticulately with five or six languages--the most recent being Spanish. Sometimes when I'm cooking dinner, I put on a Latin playlist and try to understand some of the lyrics. I recently had La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt) by Juanes in my head for a week. It's been fun to discover different kinds of Latin music, especially new performers like Lido Pimienta, a Columbian Canadian singer/songwriter. It also suggests summer nights when it's cold and dark here.
WHAT’S THE BEST MUSIC TO FLATTEN YOUR (ANXIETY) CURVE? Alongside the Bach, and Beethoven's piano concertos by Baremboim, I've been listening to La Serenissima/Adrian Chandler's spirited recording of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. This soothes me: partly the familiar melodies, partly the lack of angst or anger. I'm also calmed by the soundtrack to ITV's Sharpe series starring Sean Bean. It's not the anachronistic electric guitar that does the job, so much as what it announces: I'm soon to escape into Bernard Cornwell's nineteenth century. Damon Young is a philosopher and author. His most recent book is On Getting Off: Sex and Philosophy. www.damonyoung.com.au