All posts filed under: Mullings

The sound of water

Walking is banal, everyday, inevitable. Walking is a necessary transportational utility for most people. It follows that few leave the house without headphones, myself included. I do not mean the kind of planned crusade or organised expedition into the woods. I like to think most people can enjoy that sort of thing. I mean the obvious walking from house to class to seminar, from library to Tesco. A lame walking that simply has to be done. When my phone broke three months ago, I felt not an ounce of surprise nor a hurry to replace the thing. It was getting old and I had been given a timely warning. My smartphone days were over and I felt a combination of relief and excitement. Then, however, came the absolute paroxysm of discovering that no phone meant no music en route. I reckoned that only a considerably valiant individual would be able to put up with this for long. I decided that I was not a considerably valiant individual. However, I did also decide to wait a while before investing …

Chords I’ve learned

“Oh I remember sitting back on my balcony, I was list’ning to the Rolling Stones. See I was waiting for my Dad to come home from work so I could show him all the chords that I learned.” Part Time Believer, Boy & Bear This summer I have had plenty of time to think about the chords that I’ve learned during my first year at Durham. Chords in a quite literal sense as a music student of course, but also figuratively – I’ve acquired skills, I’ve met people, I’ve learned about me. How many chords there are that I did not know existed! I’ve picked a few to share. Some of these are less instructive than they are a mere feeling, but there are people who believe that a chord, in all its multiplicity of forms, is meant to evoke a certain emotion or decision. You can decide on how to feel about, interpret, agree or disagree with the following extracts from a notebook I kept this year.   I’m spending a lot of money on …

Brahms and the philosophy in archery.

A violin cannot lie. Anecdotal experience tells me so. What I mean is that every light lift of the bow, its return to the string, and the shifting nuances of weight in the stroke, is audible. The musician’s conscious and subconscious impulses have nowhere to hide when it comes to the sound; it is almost as if the instrument is an extension of the body. It has now been four months since I sank into my seat under the roof of London’s Wigmore Hall, blissfully unaware of the heroic performance I was about to hear. With Alina Ibragimova and Cédric Tiberghien due to appear on the stage at any moment, my father and I debated over whether or not to wake the elderly couple who were dozing contently in the row just before us. As Cédric played the opening half-bar chords of Brahms’ Violin Sonata no.1, I thought that, if anything, these first few bars might lull the snoozing couple into an even deeper more peaceful sleep. Alina’s seamless first notes, however, distanced me so far …

The art of living light.

Discussing life with my Oupa is one of my favourite ways to pass time. He may have turned 83 this year but is just about as active as a 38-year-old; he is a working architect and artist, in his spare moments making films and travelling to far flung places like China with my grandmother. Talking to someone with such a positive quality of gentleness and quiet propensity to soak up experiences like a sponge is more of a privilege that anything else. One afternoon we were eating apples and mindlessly dangling our legs from the bench on which we were sitting. Oupa said something complex : “We all carry our own backpack through this life. We collect beautiful things along the way – like desert roses from Namibia or a post card from a stranger – but we also collect burdens.” Rather like receipts, I thought, or sweet wrappers that accumulate discreetly at the bottom of one’s backpack, taking up more and more space. “We have the liberty to unpack it, reorganise it and remove the …

Watching paint dry.

My primary-school art teacher liked to catch me deep in thought – to pluck me from oddly distracted moods on a weekly basis, always by exclaiming, “Elisabet! Are you watching paint dry?”. At the time, this would irritate me deeply. I knew she didn’t think me an idle pupil for I poured myself into the tasks we were set and I always looked forward to our two-hour classes. Yet her voice always caught me by surprise. Now that I am older (and, hopefully, wiser), I can finally say I think I know what she meant. Granted, she was telling me to get up and do something useful – scrub my paintbrushes with soapy hot water, flick through the Matisse book at the back of the room, draw something else inspired by previous years’ work on the walls; but I like to believe that she was communicating a deeper something, teaching me a little life lesson about creativity that has started making more sense as I’ve grown up. It was as if she was saying, “Do anything but nothing. Be …

Home is in cinnamon.

I have quite a nostalgic nose whether I like it or not. In that respect, returning to Qatar to spend Christmas and the new year with my family has been an interesting experience. I stepped into my old room like I was stepping into old mindsets. My desk stood as I had left it – scarred with ringed mug stains and the remnants of a bit of A-level revision tucked under a few books. My record player had acquired a fine veil of dust, a lone Neil Young album placed up against it. My double bed felt like an ocean and I was swimming in a very familiar washing powder. I resigned to feeling unapologetically tired and happy. The following morning I rediscovered cinnamon. To give my toast a light dusting in the morning or my hot chocolate in the evening used to be quite a religious experience before I left for university. Noticing the little peak of cinnamon – like a sand dune – on my cereal, my mum mentioned a verse from the …