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Ironing: a story of the imagination

July 17, 2014

I’m not afraid to tell a story against myself, so I shall tell you how I was a private fool. I was listening to a CD of pieces by Frank Bridge last week. It included a piece called The Sea, and another called Enter Spring. I was thinking how well Bridge captured the mood of the ocean, with his wide orchestral sweeps, rich chords, and great variety of movement.

Then I checked the track list and – you guessed it – it was Enter Spring to which I was listening.

Well, you try. See if you think I was that far off the mark.

It’s not a short piece (about 20 minutes uninterrupted music), so if I were you I’d invent a chore that takes about that long to complete. Ironing usually works for me – and there’s an admission. It’s a safe one, though, because Mrs simonsometimessays rarely reads these remarks unless compelled to do so, or unless I play the “you never take an interest” card. So if there’s something I want to listen to I can usually find a shirt or two (that I am unlikely to wear anyway), and play something at a volume which might be actionable if we had a party wall. Of course if it’s something tricky, or something belonging to her, Mrs sss looks pityingly at me, wrests the iron from my resisting grasp and takes my place at the ironing board*; which gives me the excuse to sing back to her Dashing away with the smoothing iron – though not quite so marvellously as that DePaul A Cappella version. At such times Mrs sss probably feels much as I did when I came across the Ironing Board Blues as featured on an early episode of the Waltons.

(Just out of curiosity, I typed “ironing board” into YouTube, and came back with this delight: Ironing Board Sam singing Let’s StreakI’m not recommending any particular lifestyle, mind, but if you do decide to “streak” (as I used to understand the term) have this on your iPod when you are running across the football pitch sharing your all with nature, and your nature with all.)

Anyway, let’s, er, press on…

In Morland's "The Laundry Maid" Mrs simonsometimessays is seen relaxing on an idyllic evening

In Morland’s “The Laundry Maid” Mrs simonsometimessays is seen relaxing on an idyllic evening

Back to Frank Bridge, and my (forgiveable) mistake. I wonder how often it happens that the picture discerned by the listener to a piece of music is different from that intended by the composer? It must be a problem principally associated with instrumental music, because usually the words of a song or an aria give away the writer’s intention. It’s a bit like the Rorschach test: what you are prompted to imagine by the stimuli and events around you depends on your own intellectual construction, and on your previous comparable experiences. But if the inkblot has a definite image in it then your imagination is necessarily constrained; much as the words of a song tell you what you are meant to feel.

Of course, some musical images are incontrovertible, with or without words. You can’t listen to Love will tear us apart and make it triumphant and glorious, or the choral section of the Ode to Joy and envisage a young, stricken lover, even if you swapped the words between the two.  Incidentally, if that video of the Beethoven isn’t one of the most inspiring and, well, joyful things you ever see, then there is no hope and I deduce that you are a spambot.

However, as Talk Talk once said: Life’s What You Make It, which I take to mean that we have to accept some measure of ownership of our experiences and how they affect us. And who can manage how you are going to respond to the music in front of you and all around you? Only You Can*.

Have a good day, and may your ironing ever decrease. De-crease. See what I did there?

* The highly distinctive Fox were responsible for that one. Such a great song, but although it was released in 1974 I can find no sign of any cover versions. And speaking of covers, their other major hit – Single Bed – also appears to be coverless. Clever, eh? Fox were a talented collective, and deserved to do better and last longer.



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  1. So many ironing gags in one post! I believe Natasha Bedingfield once sang about a sole plate …

  2. I don’t know if this is good or bad, but I didn’t realise quite how funny that was until I obtained the assistance of the internet.

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