Sunday, 24 June 2012

The joy of the unknown

I went to Highgate cemetery with my little recording device at midnight last night, and sat, sheltering from the rain, under the eves of the church which backs onto it. I managed to catch the clock chiming midnight, and also, rather curiously, a number of inexplicable "noises off," including a fairly audible ghostly sigh and the sound of murmuring just before the bells struck, which, for some reason was carried to me from heaven knows where, over the sound of the splashing, pattering rain. 

The entire experience made me somewhat uneasy. I was genuinely quite scared, and rather enjoyed the sensation. It struck me that life is genuinely made more exciting by those things we still can't quite explain. I strive to give my music an air of mysticism, and have always found myself drawn to legends, standing stones and strange atmospheres in buildings. I turned my back on organised religion, not just because I think it's deeply corrupt and damaging, but because what it's offered in 2000 years is pitiful compared to what organised science has offered us in 100. That said, I refuse to turn my back on the thought that everything can, will or even should be explained. 

Only last week, Nathan, the biggest cynic of them all, returned from a gig in Guildford saying he'd seen "what people would probably describe as a ghost." He was using the loo in a hotel room and saw someone walking through the room out of the corner of his eye. If a ghost is an unexplained presence, then a ghost he saw. 

I suppose one of the biggest mysteries of them all is music. Why is it that certain intervals work? What gives some people the power to play or sing a melody with such exquisite beauty that people gasp? What is it about a musical suspension which makes a grown man cry? Yes, of course science will attempt to answer these questions, but the answers will always be speculative. And that's how it should be. It's what makes us tick. It's what makes us know that we're alive. 

350 years ago Pepys was starting to reap the rewards of his new-found diligence in all things work-related. He was even beginning to feel more knowledgeable than his seniors. As the most junior figure in the office, and the only non-titled officer, he was also the man who people tended to pick on when they wanted an easy ride. A man called Edward Field, for example, had major beef with the Navy office and slapped a number of subpoenas specifically on Pepys' head, which our hero was forced to fight in and out of court, until a 1664 act of Parliament, specifically brought about  by the business, gave the Navy board the power of magistracy within the City of London. Take that Mr Field!

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