Grace Notes: How music helped me to settle in

I have been living in Sweden for just over two months and I’m now feeling pretty settled and normal, almost like I belong here. Even the language is becoming less of a mystery, and I’m starting to pick up bits and bobs of conversations in Swedish, although I have little to no chance of being able to form a reply yet…

However, I found the first few weeks here hard. Some days would be fine, but others I’d feel very far away from everything and a little lost. This was often because I’d seen a post on Facebook or Instagram from a friend back home doing something that had I not moved, I would be doing too.

Lodging in a flat means that I spend a fair amount of time on my own, and while most of the time I find it refreshing (and it’s nice to be able to put on pjs at 6pm and not be judged), sometimes I wasn’t able to shut off my brain completely and I’d get myself worrying over nothing and then stress out and not be able to get anything done.

The one thing that I found really made it easier though was listening to music. Every day I have a half an hour walk into faculty and I listen to my iPod the whole way. I don’t listen to things I am studying or pieces we are about to play in a concert, but tunes that I know really well and associate happy memories with. It also gave me a chance to really appreciate the beautiful scenery around me and watch the seasons change, without my mind being clouded with things I need to do, or was missing out on.

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Walking home in the summer evening

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Watching the colours change into autumn

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One of the first frosts (it got down to -4, but I’m told it’ll get much colder….)

For me these included tracks like ‘Ziggy Stardust’ by David Bowie, ‘Can You Forgive Her’ by the Pet Shop Boys, ‘Ballad of the Great Eastern’ by Sting, or ‘Comfortably Numb’ by Pink Floyd. These songs change on a daily basis, but if I was to choose a few things to listen to now, it would be the above tracks.

By giving myself that half an hour or so to and from college to shut off, let my mind wander and just get lost in the music, really helped to keep me from going crazy.

Even though I now feel pretty much at home here, I still have my walk and my music every morning and most evenings, and I really enjoy just being able to escape and let my mind wander wherever it chooses.

Grace Notes: Sounds of my Childhood

Last week was a very sad one. We lost two British greats, David Bowie and Alan Rickman. I’ve been fans of both of these men for ages. Alan Rickman as Professor Snape and Colonel Brandon captured my imagination and heart as a child and so I, along with many others, felt a huge loss when I heard the news. I have listened to David Bowie for as long as I can remember and his music played an integral part of my childhood. His music (along with a couple of other artists) has stayed with me through my entire life and I still listen to it today.

Growing up, I tended to listen to ‘older’ music, mainly what my parents played . On the rare occasion I go out clubbing, and a ‘childhood classic’ comes on, I don’t know it as my musical tastes were very different back then!

David Bowie, was (and still is) one of my favourite artists. Some of my favourite of his songs are ‘Ziggy Stardust’, ‘Golden Years’ and ‘Life on Mars’, although there are many others I love just as much. I loved the way that his style had evolved and it’s hard to imagine that ‘Golden Years’ and ‘Hallo Spaceboy’ are by the same person! A couple of days ago, my mum showed me something that her and her brother had bought with their pocket money in 1971. It was the single of ‘Life on Mars’. She still has it in the original sleeve and I can’t wait to listen to it when I’m next back in Cardiff! I will always be a fan of David Bowie and he’ll be greatly missed by so many people.

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The original Life on Mars single

Another musician that has remained a solid fixture in my life is Bob Dylan. I’ve mentioned before how I loved him when I was little, and named my doll after him! Recently I’ve been re-living my love for Bob Dylan, and have been listening to a lot of Nashville Skyline and Blood on the Tracks. I love his sound and the folk-like style of the music.

The third person whose music has been with me for as long as I can remember is Elvis Costello. There’s one album in particular called ‘The Very Best of Elvis Costello and The Attractions’ that we used to listen to all the time, especially in the car on long journeys. We used to sing along, and make our cuddly toys dance to the music (yes, me and my brother were a tad strange). One of our favourites was ‘Oliver Zombie’ (known to most people as ‘Oliver’s Army’…..) and to this day I can’t hear the ‘proper’ words for that song!

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Listing to any of this music makes me happy. I have so many memories associated with each of these songs and it’s great to be able to relive some of them.

Grace Notes: Soundtrack to sewing

Over the Easter weekend, I was at home in Cardiff having a few quiet days off. I wanted a break from the craziness of London and decided that I should try and make something over the bank holiday (I’ve always been really into crafts). Inspired by ‘The Great British Sewing Bee’ I decided to have a go at making a garment. I’ve spent the majority of the last three days in the dining room surrounded by scraps of fabric making a top. (I’m rather pleased with the end result if I do say so myself!)

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While I was sewing I’ve had music on in the background. Due to the fact I was sewing in my parents house, only their music was available to play. This however meant that I spent the weekend re-living the soundtrack to my childhood. Pink Floyd, Sting, Cerys Matthews, David Bowie and Leonard Cohen all made an appearance. When I was growing up I had rather strange tastes and mainly listened to music that my parents listened to, rarely stuff in the charts. On the plus side, I now have a very broad range of music that I like and know about, but there’s a rather large gap in my life where I don’t know any of the popular songs from the late 90’s, much to the horror of my friends!

Ever since I first listened to them, I’ve loved Pink Floyd. Their music is interesting and complex that you can listen again and again and notice new things every time. I particularly like the song ‘Echos’ as the tune and lyrics are beautifully haunting (when they eventually come in…!), but the introduction is great too! Those sonar bleeps and gradually fading in introduction ease you into (and out of) the song and leave you with an amazing sense of calm.

We have a collection of Sting’s greatest hits, which was great to have a sing along to, but my favourite Sting album is ‘The Last Ship’. I wrote a blog about it here. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to David Bowie. I am probably one of the few people my age who knows all the words the ‘Ziggy Stardust’ and David Bowie has been a permanent fixture on my iPod for a long time! I love listening to how his music develops as styles change. I have to say ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Space Oddity’ and ‘Ziggy Stardust’ are possibly three of my favourite songs ever.

This weekend was just what I needed. After a crazy term, I had a chance to listen to some of my childhood albums, and learn a new skill! I enjoyed the sewing (and I’m super proud of the top I made) and it was great to revisit some of my favourite albums! I wonder if you had a similar soundtrack to your childhood as me?…