online: 29 may 2003
modified 7 june 2003

26 may 2003 mechanically repetitive

19:35: A visitor to the heath is collecting litter. I've never seen any visitor do so - and then her dog, not sharing our aversion to litter, retrieves it from the litter bin and brings it to her. After which she takes it back again.

I've come to a part of the heath that I expected to be out of reach of the booming bass sound and an amplified voice from the fairground but I can still hear it over the hill about a mile away. Normally I am not irritated by city sound but this, being so mechanical and loud and invasive of the peace here, is annoying me tonight.

It's hard to reconcile with the sight of the oak trees before me, or with the bird sounds that it's almost masking. And this evening I notice a high pitched tinnitus sound that is generated within my ears and goes with slight deafness - is there a connection?... Normally I don't notice it.

It's the unending repeat of the mechanical beat that is irritating. I often assume that the present addiction to mechanical repetition in popular music is a political gesture of hopelessness in the generations that like it. If they or we saw a way out of bureaucratic and commercial enslavement I feel that popular music would reflect it. But they or we don't see a way. We give ourselves to conformity, consumerism, mechanical music, body piercing, political cynicism, negative self-namings and fashionable clothes apeing poverty.

I can perhaps see these as a healthy reaction, an effective parody of manufactured values - but I deplore the apparent absence of any new thinking or doing that is hopeful and determined to change things. Wherever I go I feel as if I am the only one with such intention. Am I blind to economic realities and is it indeed a dark time in which nothing positive can be done? I don't believe constructive action is impossible but I know that it's difficult in this culture.

And now I hear a cicada-like sound from some nearby creature - and it's as mechanically repetitive as can be... But now it's stopped and the sounds of the fairground take my attention again. And I've ceased to notice the tinnitus though it's still there when I think about it.

And now I stop wasting attention on these irritants and look around at the many colours of the flowers and grasses in the meadow beyond the oak trees - dark green and light, pink, yellow, white, and black shadow beneath the distant trees. Also the purpleish colour of some brambles and the greeny-grey of the tree trunks. I remember how it pleased me to learn that ancient Celtic writing includes frequent namings and descriptions of colours*...

...and now the cicada has restarted its repeating and I've stopped noticing the distant beat and the amplified voice from the fair...

*Two examples:
...of all the hounds he had seen in the world, he had seen no dogs the same colour as these. The colour that was on them was a brilliant shining white, and their ears red; and as the exceeding whiteness of the dogs glittered, so glittered the exceeding redness of their ears.
Welsh mythology become folk-tale, first written down in the eleventh century, the subject matter being 'very old indeed, coeval maybe with the dawn of of the Celtic world'. The Mabinogion, translated by Gwyn Jones and Thomas Jones, J M Dent & Sons Ltd, London, Charles E Tuttle Co. Inc., Rutland Vermont, revised edition, 1991, page 3.

Pleasant to me is the glittering of the sun today upon these margins, because it flickers so.
Irish, marginal note by an unknown scribe, ninth century. From A Celtic Miscellany, Translations from the Celtic Literatures, Kenneth Hurlstone Jackson, Penguin Books, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1980, page 177.

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© 2003 john chris jones

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