Thursday, 19 June 2008

Tranformative encounters with the arts at an early age

What triggered this train of thought was a journey to Tring this morning. I was listening to Radio 3, joining part-way through a refined and understated recording of Debussy's Suite Bergamasque (incl. Clair de Lune). This was followed by two pieces of Russian folk music, performed by the Osipov Russian Folk Orchestra - talk about a blast from the past!

This got me thinking about transformative encounters with the arts at an early age. For me, it began by hearing Rimsky Korsakov's, Flight of the Bumblebee, at the age of five, which clearly made an impression because apparently I gave a very detailed account of the performance to the rest of the family. I must have been about seven or eight when I took part in a concert playing Tallis' Canon as part of a recorder choir - the sensation of creating harmony by different groups of recorders repeating the same melody several bars apart was nothing other than sublime. And then the ultimate experience came shortly afterwards when I encountered for the first time the Ode to Joy from Beethoven's 9th Symphony. This was for me the most beautiful music in the world, and so for Christmas that year I got my first LP record which I still have. I was a very strange little boy!

I saw the Osipov Balalaika Orchestra on Blue Peter, and as a result, for a birthday treat, went to the Royal Albert Hall, my first visit, to hear them live. They were sensational - vibrant, dramatic, virtuosic, and oh so Russian. It was the first concert I ever went to, and again it was tranformative. And it's ages, probably years, even decades, since I thought about them. Until this morning.

I recall a conversation with a colleague of their experience of going to the National Gallery at an early age and encountering Turner's The Fighting Temeraire, and how it changed his life. And this is what's fascinating. I believe that these experiences of music were for me, life changing, and influenced the trajectory of my life.

It would be fascinating to hear from others about experiences of music (all kinds), dance, painting, sculpture, film, poetry, fiction, which at an early age had this effect. Over to you.

Just to add, I had another transforming encounter when I arrived at Tring, in the form of the most moist lemon cake I've tasted in a long time!

1 comment:

Catriona said...

It is always interesting to see where posts take our minds... and the word 'Tring' instantly transported me back to childhood train journeys from Northampton to Euston, most probably go to the museums at South Ken. which remain one of my favourite haunts if I am in the 'smoke.' Ah, the prickly seat covers and stuffy smell of the British Rail commuter trains and the endless recitations of R L Stephenson's 'From a Railway Carriage' that accompanied those journeys.

Not so formative, really, but I do recall watching the Last Night of the Proms (in glorious black and white)for the first time and resolving that one day I'd play at the Albert Hall. Never achieved that, but did get my Girls' Brigade Queen's Award and London University Presentation there, so I have trodden that carpet as a 'performer' twice.

As for early encounters with the arts per se, I think it was 'The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra' played on a prehistoric PA system in a small primary school - still one of my favourite pieces, probably because of its associations.

Thanks for stirring up many happy memories.