I bought a music magazine this morning for the first time in years. I was wandering around the local stationery shop with Miss 13 – who had some money burning a hole in her pocket – and happened upon the magazine rack. While half-keeping an eye on her, I started flicking through the various magazines on display.

I used to buy quite a few magazines when I was younger. My college years coincided with the rise of Maxim, FHM and Loaded. I’m not sure if they still exist in the same form, but they were essentially Playboy aimed at the 18 to 25 market. There were no nude photo shoots, but there were numerous glamour shoots of movie and TV stars, accompanied by “insightful” interviews (har har). I still remember the Gillian Anderson edition of FHM now (and wish I had kept it – apparently it’s worth a LOT of money now). I think it’s fair to say they catapulted her from the X-Files into the stratosphere. I remember reading an interview with her years later, and she still couldn’t believe they talked her into the photo shoot in the first place. Let’s just say it sold a LOT of magazines.

Anyway. I’m getting sidetracked.

While looking through the magazines, I happened upon the BBC Music magazine – an offshoot of Radio 3 that concentrates on classical. It had a CD on the front with the BBC orchestra playing Elgar’s Enigma Variations. This is where I admit that I’m a bit of a classical music nerd on the quiet. Yes, I love pop, folk, and rock music – but I also love classical. Whenever I’m out and about and musicians are playing in the street – violins, cellos – that kind of thing, I can’t help but stop and marvel.

So – Enigma Variations. Even if you don’t know it, you’ve probably heard it. If you’ve seen the movie “Dunkirk”, you’ve definitely heard it. You know that soundtrack that Hans Zimmer had awards thrown at him for? He didn’t write it – Edward Elgar did in the late 1890s.

Here’s a performance of it borrowed from Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra on YouTube :

Nimrod is obviously one part of the Enigma Variations, but I think it’s perhaps the best. Not a lot of people know the variations are based on people that Elgar knew. He famously never described the meaning behind much of his music – leaving it for the audience to attribute meaning. I like to think that Nimrod might describe me in some ways – a quiet, steadfast person that doesn’t like the limelight, but catches others, picks them up, dusts them down, and sets them on their way again.

I’ve been listening to the track throughout the afternoon, and it’s served as a jumping-off point for a world of music I haven’t listening to for a long time. Venus from Holst’s “The Planets”. Sibelius’s Violin Concerto. I could go on.

Here’s that Violin Concerto – go make yourself a cup of tea, sit down somewhere quiet for a while and just listen…

Music is so powerful – it seems to tie directly into long forgotten memories, emotions, and feelings. I only have to see the cover of West Side Story, and I start to hum “Maria” to myself. When “The Sound of Music” plays on TV at Christmas, I remember sitting on the couch at my Nan’s house when I was little, listening to “A Few of My Favourite Things” on her record player. The opening bars of “Cats” take me both to my childhood, and the first HiFi my Dad bought. Any mention of Gershwin rips me to pieces – recalling Mr Holland’s Opus, and the story of a music teacher who considered himself a failure.

Anyway. Music. I feel like saying it surrounds us, and it binds us, but I think Alec Guinness once said that about something else entirely. Perhaps it’s no accident that people used to swap mix tapes with each other – perhaps they understood something that has been forgotten about the power of music – both to lift us, to help us understand ourselves, and to make sense of the situations we sometimes find ourselves in.

It seems to me that friendships forged through music seem to burn a little brighter than any other – I’m not sure why – I just know they do.

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