Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Lost in music

New word for the day: amusia, a condition that renders sufferers entirely unresponsive, or even actively hostile, to music. Not just James Blunt either – any music.

Evelyn Waugh was notoriously indifferent to music, and admitted so in his Face to Face interview. And Ulysses S. Grant, great general, lousy President and amusing drunkard, is alleged to have said: “I only know two tunes: one of them is ‘Yankee Doodle’ and the other one isn’t.” And who was the king of England who had to be nudged when the National Anthem played?

But the great she-elephant of amusia has to be Quentin Crisp, who let rip in ‘Stop The Music For A Minute’, which flutters for its allotted 60 seconds (precisely) on the outskirts of Cherry Red’s seminal Pillows & Prayers compilation:

"I have been to bars in Soho, whose denizens have crossed social and geographical barriers to reach them. In one, I have seen a girl sitting amid musical pandemonium with a book open on her knees and her little finger entwined with that of her true love. Of course, she was not really listening, not really reading and not communicating with her friend in any way that required effort or style. It would be hard to say whether the jukebox caused the death of human speech or whether music came to fill an already widening void - but unless the music is stopped now, the human race, mumbling, snapping its fingers and twitching its hips, will sink back into an amoebic state, where it will take a coagulation of hundreds of teenagers to make up a single unit of vital force - which, once formed, will only live on sedatives, consume itself on the terraces of football stadia, and die.”

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