Friday, 25 September 2009

Supermarket Music


I had a dream last night. I was in a supermarket, conducting an orchestra. I don't know how the musicians could see what I was doing, since they were distributed around the various aisles: woodwind down by the baked beans and dogfood, violins and violas bathed in the cold light of the freezer cabinets, brass at the back of the hall, with the alchohol and crisps. A solo cellist sat by the checkouts. In the dream, the music gradually subsided, leaving only the solo cellist whose melodic line rose and fell to the movement of my hands.

Something like it would, I decided, make a wonderful piece in real life. The listeners could come and go as they pleased: there would always be a cacophonous wash of sound in the background but they would hear the music played by the musicians closest to them in some detail. At any one time, some musicians would be closer than they usually are in a concert hall, others further away, mostly invisible. Various soloists could wander around. There could be multiple conductors.

As for the form and style of the music, in my dream the music was discordant and varied between the frenetic and the static. There was no sense of musicians playing together in strict time. Thinking about it today I decided the music could ebb and flow like a tide: what would begin as discreet sounds surrounded by silence would build into a rich, chaotic climax, only to subside, then build again, and so on. It could go on all day. In fact, if the musicians operated a discreet shift-system it could go on indefinitely.

No doubt such a piece could be composed and organised. This would involve a huge effort. However, I offer it here as a "thought piece", as imagining it requires virtually no effort at all!


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12 comments:

John Hayes said...

I love the idea! Eberle & I have half-jokingly tossed around the idea of offering our services to local supermarkets (as a sort of sub rosa attack on supermarket music, & as just plain fun). We've never worked up the nerve to actually make a proposal.

Totalfeckineejit said...

Interesting dream Dominic, could become a reality (I wish my dreams would) and little surprise that the woodwind section was near the baked beans.

Sandra Leigh said...

This sounds disturbingly like some choral singing experiences of mine - trying to stay together when we were out of each other's sight or hearing. Or maybe that was a nightmare. ;>)

On the other hand, considering the music that I've heard on recent shopping expeditions, this might not be a bad idea.

Rachel Fenton said...

This is a great dream/idea. I used to keep a dream diary and then I tried to paint my dreams...it's only when you try to make them static that you realise what makes them dreams!

Dominic Rivron said...

Thanks for these comments.

JH: People sometimes play outside supermarkets here, but not in them. It strikes me one could serruptitiously wander round in all sorts of places with something small (ukulele/ocarina/harmonica/etc). How would people react? (It wouldn't go down well in libraries). It says something interesting about the nature of music that we are sadly quite prescriptive -in law and social mores- about when and where it ought to be played.

TFE: Yes, and the brass near the beer.

SL: I think any such event would have to be based on a style of music that did not rely on counting and playing "together" for it's effect.
It would certainly beat muzak, which drives me crazy. They even have it at the doctor's here now. Argh!

RF: Absolutely - they often don't stand up in the cool light of day and it would be wrong, I think, to associate dreams necessarily with creativity. Having said which, Stockhausen often talked about dreaming pieces - e.g., Trans which he even made to look the way he dreamt it.

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh yes! Oboes in Waitrose! Vivaldi in Aldi! Librettos in Netto! Great idea.

Rachel Fox said...

Great idea for a film of some kind too.
x

the watercats said...

beats supermarket MUZAC any day!.. and what a great dream.. I only get killed in mine recently!

The Weaver of Grass said...

Hm - can't help thinking of all the screaming children that seem to be in Tesco at the same time that I am in there. Your dream of it all being a bit discordant reminds of the ukulele orchastra (I had coffee with wendy today) - they played twinkle, twinkle little star and at the end someone remarked how awful it sounded - they then found that one player had been playing a completely different tune. I think they really do need your services!

Titus said...

Dominic, I really like this and heard it virtually as soon as you started describing it. Which is fascinating to me.

Niamh B said...

This is a brilliant idea. I hope you turn it into reality, it could be toured very easily as well!! Please please make it happen, and bring it to Dubland. Fantastic.

Dominic Rivron said...

SW: Not to mention fiddle in Lidl.

RF: Indeed.

watercats: Weird. If we were to really die, we'd not know we'd died - we wouldn't be around to know we had. But we can dream that we've died or been killed. I suppose it's the wierd way that in dreams we're sometimes half being ourselves and half watching ourselves?

WG: Now, a ukulele orchestra playing in Tesco's... That would have me waking up in a cold sweat.

Titus: Pleased you enjoyed it.

Niamh B: An international supermarket tour - there's a thought :)
It did occur to me that the event could be entirely improvised by the performers and perhaps could be performed only by a small number - even so, sadly, I doubt I'll ever get round to making it happen! Part of me would love to.