Celestial Terrestrial Commuters (originally posted 3/8/13)
By ProgBlog, Mar 28 2014 07:12PM
I lost my rail ticket last week. I wore it round my neck in a small wallet attached to a lanyard and I think that it became entangled with the strap of my rucksack when I took it off to put in the luggage rack on my way home. Losing it is more of an inconvenience than anything else. There’s a small financial loss (I can claim the cost of weekly replacement tickets if it’s found) but that’s not the end of the world. At least I didn’t lose my bag which contains my wallet and my MP3 player.
...The dreaded MP3 player. I’ve not got an Apple product, however well designed they are and however much they fit in with my Guardian-reading habits. I went for the original Walkman manufacturer, a 16Gb Sony NWZ-S639F, mostly because they’ve been making decent consumer electronics since the 1970s and they’re not tied in with the control-freakish iTunes. Forget the Sony headphones – I’ve gone for a pair of Sennheiser CX500 for a balance between portability and performance. Mp3 files are hardly the best format for music, but they are undeniably convenient and quite acceptable if not played too loud to be audible to people seated next to you, but loud enough to overcome the sometimes ridiculous conversations of fellow commuters. It’s also a decent medium for music while doing the weekly ironing, too far from the hi-fi and not likely to disturb my family. I like long-form tracks such as Grand Canyon Suite by Refugee, but this has been broken up into 5 subsections that come in awkward, seemingly random places that disrupt the flow of the music. It’s this irritating feature, cropping up on innocuous albums such as Dark Side of the Moon and totally destroying Contaminazione by Il Rovescio Della Medaglia that really make me doubt the suitability of mp3 files.
My commute to and from work lasts around 15 minutes each way – it’s hard to estimate accurately because of the congestion that can occur at London Bridge station – which makes it relatively difficult to choose which music to listen to.
So what examples are there that fit into the 15 minute commute? The rules are that I shouldn’t stop a track part-way through (that’s not prog!) and that a track should be started when on the train, not before, and ideally end as the train pulls in to the platform. The album should be played through in its entirety and in the correct running order. Bonus tracks are not counted, because I tend not to burn them to mp3 files as I’m a devotee of the original vinyl presentation.
A good place to start is the 6 track long album that should last three journeys (all the following are on my MP3 player): Ys by Il Balletto di Bronzo (which does include the bonus track La Tua Casa Comoda, but it does not take the album over 40 minutes); the first, eponymous album by Banco del Mutuo Soccorso; the pre-Goblin release Cherry Five; Mass In F Minor by the Electric Prunes; Emerson, Lake & Palmer’s first album; England’s Garden Shed and The Last of the Jubblies; Six Pieces by the Enid; Moving Waves by Focus; Robert John Godfrey’s pre-Enid solo album Fall of Hyperion; Greenslade’s Bedside Manners are Extra; A Scarcity of Miracles by Jakko Jakszyk, Robert Fripp and Mel Collins; Space Shanty by Khan; Islands and Larks’ Tongues in Aspic by King Crimson; Ars Longa Vita Brevis and Nice by The Nice; Pink Floyd’s Meddle; Fear of a Blank Planet by Porcupine Tree; Cook and The World Became the World by PFM; Ashes are Burning by Renaissance; Four Moments and Blueprint by Australian band Sebastian Hardie; Storm Corrosion; Milky Way Moses by Tasavallan Presidentti; Zero Time by TONTO’s Expanding Headband; Sombra y Luz by Spanish trio Triana; Danger Money by UK; Van der Graaf Generator’s The Least We Can Do Is Wave To Each Other and disc one of Present; The Six Wives of Henry VIII and Criminal Record by Rick Wakeman; Journey of the Yak by Yak; The Yes Album and Drama; and Hot Rats by Frank Zappa.
Many of the albums listed above have one lengthy track and five shorter tracks, so it’s a gamble playing them. The ideal would be an album comprising of 6 tracks of about 7 minutes each, but there are none in my list. Six Wives, A Scarcity of Miracles and Bedside Manners come close.
I actually have a 6 track album Essere O Non Essere by RPI outfit Il Volo that is only 30 minutes long. This, along with Mass in F Minor, fits neatly into the one album per day commute. If I continue to listen to music on an MP3 player for my daily journey to and from work, I can’t get much better than these two. A twenty minute journey would allow me to listen to a whole album between home and work and back again; half an hour really isn’t long enough. Perhaps I need to move further from work!