When John asked me to write a little bit every so often for Mezzic.com I was excited to offer something fresh and exciting from my experiences as a producer, DJ, photographer and student living in Dublin. Yet it was quickly clear that there is very little separating us all these days. What I am listening to is not very different from any pair of ears in London, New York, Chicago, Sao Paolo, Tokyo, Paris… sure, as soon as I mention anything here it is global and it is no longer just an “Irish” thing.
So I wonder what modest offering I could possibly provide… and all I end up with is a journal of what goes on between my ears on a monthly basis. So here it is, an offering from a Dublin brain sitting between two music beaten ears…
I study in a University at the heart of Dublin city where not minutes from my library is the hum of the city streets; sirens, jack-hammers, over-flowing trash cans, and every kind of human being – young, old, poor, rich, skimpy and sweaty – you learn to let it all wash past you in an instant, immune to the deafening cacophony of it all. The mind is filled with colour as it passes through your head, every sound a new sensation. I see sound as shapes and colour – sometimes harmonious, sometimes not, but always an event in which there is an otherworldly unity between everything you hear.
It is this “harmony” that I want to discuss.
Sometimes I want to completely shut my ears off from the world, jack my iPod up to the max and block it all out without any regret. But sometimes, when the volume is not quite past 70% the city bleeds into the music, and all of a sudden a song which you have heard a million times takes on a completely new significance. It can be as simple as the beeping horn of an angry taxi-driver.. or the cackle of a ditsy blond on her mobile phone… but it changes everything you can hear in the music… it can magnify the emotion, giving you a whole new appreciation of the sound and a new significance to the song.
The same is to be said about the unique spacial atmosphere of the city. The way light becomes interrupted and fragmented, shadows stretching across city streets, dappled shafts of light between leaves on the trees in summer.. the smokey air as you pass a line of traffic… the constantly altering skin of the city as its inhabitants swirl about each other like a liquid, everyone with their own trajectory and destination… some with none, simply letting the current take them into the city’s heart. It can all shape the way you hear a song, or a sound… and by simply lowering the volume the tiniest bit all of these elements can alter the way you enjoy music completely.
Dublin is not the biggest city in the world, in fact it is probably one of the smallest Capital cities, but there is a unique character to every city that can have a huge effect on the way you experience anything. One of our most musical streets, Grafton Street, plays host to a multitude of performers and musicians looking to make some money and perhaps a new career (if they don’t get moved along by the police that is) but busking on Grafton Street is a tradition in this city that feels like it has existed forever. Some have gone on to become big stars (like Rodrigo y Gabriela – who weathered a very Irish winter and gradually became world famous with their inventive Mexican guitar skills) while others have simply given up. But what exists is an acoustic quality to the music that can only exist on that street, with that hum of people walking by… that beep of a horn or that drunken hobo who wont stop hassling the audience for their spare change… The city is a unique instrument that plays it’s part in the music, in the same way that it can bleed into your own music as you listen on your headphones – and it is a beautiful thing. Check out NC Lawlor
I have recently been looking for good mixes and songs that are designed specifically for the Flâneur – he or she who spends their time observing this sea of urban events. One great DJ who has caught my ear is a guy called James who goes by the alias JWALK. He entitles his mixes “Walk Music” and from my experience road testing them on the street they manage to capture many unique urban elements. Of course I am sure there are far more other environments in which they would sound great but if you are also a city dweller looking for something nice to walk to I encourage you to check this guy out!
WalkMusic // Chapter 2 by JWalk
Another nice selection of mixes that have really done the trick lately are those to be found on the mixcloud page of Headphone Commute. There you will no doubt find something ambient and spacial to which the city can no doubt ad its character… sometimes it takes something simple and minimal like this to really make the sound of the city resonate in your head and effect you deep down. I especially recommend the soundtrack mix called “Dream Scores” which instantly starts pulling heart strings as you walk amongst the waves of the city.
Of course the city will not always sound so perfect, but i feel it is worth it for those few rare moments when everything sounds right, and just as the chorus kicks in, you step out of the shadows and into the sun on the side of the street, the city in constant movement, and you wait for your chance to jump into the mix…