Thursday 18 February 2010
Road Songs (Special Edition)
I'm in a dilemma. I discussed the art of braking here and the beauty of bends here. What, then, should I call the ability to turn round a bend whilst braking (do you see what I did there? :-D) and letting the steering wheel slide through my fingers? Wheel-sliding? No, that sounds like an activity in which Dennis Hopper's creepy Frank Booth would indulge. Possibly with an oxygen mask on.
No, the manoeuvre I'm trying my best to describe involves the smooth process whereby a driver guides the movement of a vehicle as he or she turns a corner, for instance. Once the turn is accomplished - and you have neither cut the lane into which you drive nor gone wide into the opposite one either - you allow the wheel to come back to a straight position. However, how many of you perform this operation without barely touching the wheel, as you turn, I mean? It's almost as if you were letting this circular frame its own moment of freedom. There it is, shifting back as your hands act like a magnetic field, close to it but not on it.
When I was still learning how to drive, my instructor insisted that my arms' position was fundamental, not just in going on straight roads, but also turning around bends. My arms should neither be too tense nor too limp. This would enable me to negotiate any unpredictable hazards, like sharp corners.
What I also discovered was one of those untapped pleasures that linked directly to one of my passions: music.
In my first clip tonight you will be introduced to Camarón de la Isla, accompanied on guitar by Tomatito. These two legends of flamenco music are singing a poem originally written by Antonio Machado, 'La Saeta', and set to music by Joan Manuel Serrat (the gentleman at the beginning). When I began to write this post, this clip immediately came to mind because it encapsulates that feeling of freedom I am overcome by when the steering wheel of my car runs through my fingers without touching them. As further information, 'saetas' are compositions in their own right, commonly sung - a cappella - during Easter and other religious festivities. And you can feel the passion and fervour in Camarón de la Isla's voice. The song mentions both Christ (or Gypsies' Christ, to be more specific) and the Andalucian people. Enjoy.
And because this blog likes to celebrate all musical instruments alike, in the same way that it blows the horn for all aspects of driving, the second clip tonight has the bass guitar as the leading character. Often overlooked, a good bassist will render a band a solid foundation upon which the other members can build the remaining layers of a particular melody. Just like the joint triumvirate of driving around bends, braking softly and wheel-gliding (no, that name didn't work either, I'm still searching). In the meantime, Kings of Leon.
And to wrap things up tonight and kiss this section goodbye for good ( I actually did it a couple of years ago but brought it back after driving through northern Spain last summer, who knows? I'll probably revive it again some time soon) I bring to you Anna Ternheim's 'Girl Laying Down'. She - Anna, not the girl - is a Swedish singer-songwriter, who's had me tapping my foot ever since this song made it to Radio Paradise's playlist. It is dark and grim, but I love the piano. It reminds me of the firm grip on the steering wheel as you are about to turn a corner and the momentary loosening of it after both your hands slide down on either side of the wheel. Bliss. And if you have a funky, catchy name for that manoeuvre, do not hesitate to send your suggestions in (you can scribble it now on the palm of your hand, preferably bracketed with "lift Cuban in London's spirits"), it will be most welcome.
Next Post: 'Sunday Mornings: Coffee, Reflections and Music', to be published on Sunday 21st February at 10am (GMT)