In one of those small-world coincidences with which the new music world seems rife, the Box’s very own Frank J. Oteri happened to be in my new home city of London last week with an opening in his datebook. He generously agreed to meet up with me for a pint at a local establishment that dates back to the 19th century—a former “gin palace” close to University College London dripping with elaborate woodwork, etched glass, and tile mosaics, suggested by Frank. It was my first time venturing into the “city” proper, and I can’t imagine a better introduction to old-school pub charm.
If you’re a NewMusicBox regular, you’re probably familiar with Frank’s worldview, his “Zen-like appreciation for everything,” and his particular affection for the old, weird, and history-encrusted. He explained his attraction to old bars as a desire to tap into the metaphysical stream of good communal vibes that flows through such places—a diachronic audience wave, so to speak, that connects him to the patrons of the past and future. I thought this image was really beautiful—it recognizes the numinousness of the crowd, the potency of shared social experience.
It might be the same kind of feeling that we encounter at concerts, if we’re lucky. I wonder sometimes how I’d perceive a performance if I were the only listener in the house: Maybe it would be just the same but with tangier high frequencies, or maybe it would differ enormously. I think I’d certainly lose the feeling of being “part of something,” of involvement in a sort of voluntary mass hypnotism. In that light, it’s good to be reminded of the necessity of music as a thing we do together, especially since composing music is something many of us do in utter solitude.