Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Notes on YouTube comments

If Google is the biggest search engine in the world, YouTube is number two, and though it’s meant for videos, it’s also the biggest music streaming site in the world – something I’ve always found a bit strange seeing as you have to have something on the video screen to accompany the music. Why not just do away with it? Of course, it's free to listen to/watch, which is why it will always be more popular than Apple Music or Spotify, but most of the [full album] uploads by individuals are presumably illegal, so it's luck whether they stay up there or get taken down. (I'm guessing YouTube Music, which no one has ever heard of, is at attempt to get people to pay for their music, and do away with the video screen; much as I love homemade videos accompanying Bob Dylan bootlegs, it's probably for the best. There's something annoying about that video screen – even if it's just a shot of the album cover, I'll end up watching it for far too long, just because, I guess, I associate the screen with the sound in a YouTube context, as in a video or a film.)

I used to dismiss comments on the internet in general, and on YouTube in particular, as nonsense; badly-written, moronic and meaningless. However, with my music collection being in storage, I've found myself listening to albums more on YouTube and sometimes reading through the comments. I've found them amusing and insightful, sometimes poetical and once in a while surprisingly moving and personal. There's nothing really to compare with the emotional power of music, how hearing a certain tune can transport you back to a very specific time and place in your life.

In fact, I've found the comments on YouTube more meaningful than most of the self-obsessed drivel on, say, Facebook, which consists mainly of bragging. Commenting on a specific piece of music, people seem open and emotional; and perhaps the anonymity (whether they use their actual name or not, it's unlikely to be read by all their friends) helps with being open and genuine than they otherwise would. Of course, many comments are funny or flippant or stupid or garbage. This is democracy, right? My favourite ones are the stories and memories, usually drug-related, that people have chosen to share.

This is just a few choice ones I’ve come across out of, obviously, billions. I don't know why I've picked mainly jazz albums; probably because I'm pretentious – but I do like jazz. 

Stockhausen: Song of the Youths

"If I die and then hear this music I'll know I went to the wrong place."

"What the hell. I am scared to go to sleep now!"

Brian Eno - Thursday Afternoon

"I backpacked around South-East Asia for 5 months this past summer. I remember taking mushrooms for the first time in the mountainous fields of Vang Vieng, Laos. There was a mountain there that seemed to attract my attention throughout my entire trip . During the 8 hour long trip from daylight to nighttime, that mountain kept luring me in to its grassy fields as if it were pulling a string connected to my body. When I listen to this song and close my eyes, I can feel the rays of light shining brightly on my face and the rustling of leaves and the children playing in the fields and the galloping of horses nearby. And when I lay down on the grass near that mountain, mother nature manifested itself into a beautiful creature and took me by my arms and danced with me - away into that beautiful mountain. The distant yet audible humms throughout this song remind me of the mountains calling. I will never forget the serenity and tranquility of living as one with the present."

"Listening while my baby naps beside me."

"greetings my fellow sufferers of anxiety and panic attacks"

"i like the part that goes bloop"

"This sounds like transformers having sex or something"

Bob Dylan - Tangled Up In Blue

"Those eyes, can't get past his eyes. I'd tie the laces of his shoes."

"To those of you who are fixated with what's on Dylan's face , if you encountered Van Gogh on the street....would you bother him about his ear?  Try just listening to the music."

Max Richter - The Blue Notebooks

"i can't stand this music sometimes, it's so good it's like a mirror reminding me of the shortness of life, the beauty of the moment, but the tension from knowing that half the beauty is unreachable, or at best, fleeting. Months listening to richter, slept through the sleep premier, and always the same, a feeling life is capable of so much framed by a more uncomfortable feeling we can never accomplish all we set out to do. Thank you for posting, and thank you Max Richter"

"I just came here to offer a weapon"

Aphex Twin - Selected Ambient Works 85-92

"Friday nights in 92/92, getting the 18.36 Thameslink from Farringdon to Leatherhead with this on my Walkman. Beautiful."

"Apparently he wrote "I" when he was 14. I was a complete and utter retard at that age."

Miles Davis - In a Silent Way - 1969

"I'm old enough to remember when this and Bitch's Brew first came out. A lot of people didn't like it, especially Jazz fans. But that's the difference between a pioneer and a follower. Miles had such status, and street creds, that he didn't have to worry about who did or didn't like it. I used to live across the street from him, and I could see him coming and going on 77th and West End Ave. . He was a jazz man who dressed like Jimi Hendrix, and marched to his own genius drummer. He never allowed himself to get stale. As soon as his fans thought they knew him, he would metamorph into something new. That my friends, is the definition of a true artist (think Picasso}."

"who else is listening to this between 2 and 5 a.m.?"

John Coltrane My Favorite Things (1961) [Full album]

"I want a girl that's into this."

"Those commercials really tie this album together."

"When I think the world is ending, I come here....."

"I think this record could bring peace to the middle east."

Stan Getz & Joao Gilberto - Getz/Gilberto (1963)

"I still have my vinyl copy that I bought back in 1963 when I was 19, and living on a 50' sports-fisherman in Nassau in the Bahamas. We would play that album every day as the sun began its descent into the sea. Many friends in Nassau got to hear Antonio Carlos Jobim for the first time. Wonderful music brings back wonderful memories. Many thanks for the posting"

ST GERMAIN - Boulevard

"I bought this album 15 years ago when i was much younger. When i bought that album i also bought myself a new big glass pipe the same day. I hadn`t smoked for days. I was happy because delicious cheeba dropped that day.  When i arrived at home i threw on the CD and then i was hitting my new bong and BOOM this new pipe hit me so hard that i was close to a circulatory collapse. I staggered from my couch to my bed and laid me down.  I was superstoned and heard the whole album. Wow i was totally flashed by this music. This was like a LSD-Trip. I remember how that album and my new bong in combination send my outter space that day. Love this album."

Miles Davis - Kind of Blue - Full Album

"Rain outside, hot bath, a book and Miles davis. Life is good"

"Listening to this makes me wanna write comedies about a neurotic guy with glasses in New York."

 John Coltrane - A Love Supreme [Full Album] (1965)

"this something else than music is much more than that every time i hear this i cry at some point i really cant help it if i where to listen one final piece of music before my death it would be this one and also in my funeral "

"do not pray..except to this album!"

"This album got me sober, thank you Coltrane."

Thelonious Monk - Monk's Dream (Full Album)

"The great thing about life is, no matter how long it's taken you to come to someone like Monk your days thereafter can only get better - I'm looking forward to exploring more of his legacy.
You keep thinking he's gonna fall down the stairs, but he recovers like Chaplin on roller skates."

Monday, October 01, 2018

The China clay pits around St Austell

I arrived at St Austell train station around midday; looked around a nice record shop, Museum Vinyl, in the historic Market House, and, naturally, a few charity shops. Again, another Cornish town not exactly inspiring, with its best buildings boarded up and derelict, but with stunning countryside all around. Again, naturally, the beautiful countryside was devoid of people on a glorious Saturday afternoon whilst the ugly, homogeneous high street was heaving.

Enthusiasm having waned slightly on the copper and tin mine front (and no doubt having bored friends and family by dragging them around to see them), I moved onto the China clay pits with ease, like a breath of fresh air.

I arrived at the China Clay Trails possibly the wrong way – by walking miles along an uninspiring cycling track (running parallel to a road and what sounded like a river and waterfall, though I couldn't see them for the trees along the path – more of which later). Nevertheless, at some point I arrived at the Wheal Martyn Clay Works Museum for a coffee and Kit Kat break (I was in an extravagant mood, having not needed – by which I mean the ticket office was closed, the ticket machine was broken and no one on the train asked to see my ticket – to buy a train ticket, plus finding a fiver on the pavement).

Like the Mineral Tramway Trails, the 37.5 mile network of paths exploring Cornwall's tin and copper mining heritage, the Clay Trails around St Austell are a series of walks traversing the China clay history of the area, taking in pits, dams, peaks, historic mines and lovely scenery and wildlife, with large parts of the area feeling like a martian landscape. The surreal and towering white-peaked clay tips, which are large hills made up from the mining waste, are known affectionately if ironically as the Cornish Alps. Some part of me, briefly, wanted to make a model of them out of Sainsbury's instant mashed potato, similar to Richard Dreyfuss doing the same with Devils Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Similarly surreal and incongruous, the dams and lakes in the discarded pits are a gorgeous, luminous turquoise colour, making them look as inviting as a beach in the Maldives – though they are full of chemicals left over from the China Clay mining. Combined with the lush vegetation which has sprouted up all around the pits (actually a lot of it purposely planted, a local horticulturalist told me), there's an otherworldly, almost Jurassic-era feel to the area.

I started walking one of the clay trails proper, from the museum to the Eden Project. I didn't make it all the way to the Eden Project, partly because I was already shattered, but mostly because I found the two things I'd wanted to see about halfway along the four mile trail: Baal pit, and opposite, the Great Treverbyn Tip.

Baal pit (pictured above) is a massive disused China Clay pit, partially flooded with the turquoise lakes, and teeming with wildlife. It has a fence all around it, and I asked a local dog walker if it was okay to go through the fence. She was guarded at first, asking me why I was here, but after I told her I was just here to take photos and look around, she said it was okay to go over the fence. Then she told me about the proposed 'eco village' plans for the pit. I thought it sounded a good idea – I imagined a giant dome, Eden Project-style, covering the entire pit, the poisonous lakes transformed into safe swimming pools with beaches, and people living in pod-like eco homes with palm trees and mangoes growing in the tropical environment. Eh, anyway, it's just going to be a bunch of houses and offices.

The lady was very opposed to the eco village, and said it would completely destroy the area, which had become a nature reserve, with plants, trees and many species of birds, some endangered, flourishing. I went through the fence and explored the pit. It was certainly a beautiful, peaceful area. I stood looking over one of the lakes, watching a flock of birds flying over it.

An elderly couple had also climbed over the fence and came walking my way. We greeted each other, and I checked with them too if it was okay to be walking beyond the fence – it felt like I’d stumbled onto the set of Stalker – and they said it was okay, just to say i hadn’t seen them and they hadn’t seen me. They walked back towards the fence, only to reappear again five minutes later. I tried engaging them in conversation. The man had been a miner in this very pit. He'd worked there every day, seven days a week, for a decade, up to its closure in the early 1990s.  I told them how beautiful and peaceful it was. Try to imagine it as working mine, with the pit completely white, the woman told me. Hard to imagine, I said. In the 1970s an episode of Dr Who exploited what would have been a far more alien landscape than what it is now. The couple were also opposed to the eco village. I knew why. I've been all for regeneration in recent posts (here, here and here) but that's been for abandoned buildings, not flourishing nature reserves.

Mist was closing in. The couple went on their way, joking as they went, ‘I hope you know your way back’; ‘No!’ I replied in earnest; but they merely chuckled and went on their way (the opposite way they’d come). I took some more photos then attempted to follow their route back, which cut across the pit, avoiding having to walk all the way around it again.

I followed them down a steep hill of rubble, not sure how they’d managed it, then slipped all the way down, cutting my hands on the stones and covering most of myself in white chalk. I got up, brushed myself down, then suddenly the place felt a bit eerie, and I wanted to leave. I heard strange noises. The plants all looked artificial. Mist was still closing in. The couple had completely vanished.

From the pit I walked a more direct route back to town, along the road. I'd looked on my phone for anything else to see in St Austell, and found a lovely-looking waterfall in an area called Menacuddle Well, not far on the other side of town. Well, I got ridiculously lost in a run-down housing estate, even whilst using Google Maps, and wasted an hour or so. Then about a mile away from it, my phone went dead. Still, I recognised the area. I was walking along the road parallel to the cycling path I'd walked hours ago. Then I heard the waterfall again and walked off the road, down into the small woodland area completely shattered and bathed in sweat. But what a beautiful spot. Completely secluded and tranquil, it's an ancient sacred site, said to be haunted. The holy well itself is in a tiny 15th Century chapel (seen here), which abuts into a stone wall. There's also an ancient bridge and 'druid's chair', a seat carved out of stone.

I was done. I hobbled back to the train station, got the train home. Collapsed. Pie and instant mashed potato was for dinner, for sure.