Saturday, June 21, 2008

What's your gardening soundtrack?

Cleve West once remarked in his Urban Gardener column for The Independent that it was very difficult to find music that made a good soundtrack for gardening. When I read this, my first instinct was to disagree, but then I thought about it, and I realised that he might be right. Listening to music while you're LOOKING at a garden (while watching a television programme, for example) is a very different thing to listening to music while you're WORKING in a gardening.
I hadn't realised, before I read Cleve's column, that I very rarely choose to listen to music in the garden. For a start, there are so many other noises going on: birdsong, the sound of water from the pond, the rustle of the trees in the wind. To introduce music into that seems almost like an intrusion. For me, gardening is as much about trying to achieve a tranquil interior, or mental, space (hah!) as it is about trying to achieve a calm oasis outside. Most popular or rock music doesn't really fit with that, since it tends to be too emotional. In the same way, the great romantic composers such as Brahms or Tchaikowsky or even Beethoven are too distracting. Even the English composers who are always associated with celebrating the countryside, such as Vaughan Williams, or Delius, aren't suitable either, I find, as they make me want to sit down and gaze, rather than get on and grub about.

The garden this morning. Soundtrack: Birdsong, by The Greenfinches, feat. Blackbird and Robin

However, my daughter often practises while I'm gardening, so I do hear music drifting out from the living room. And I've discovered that for me, the ideal gardening soundtrack is Bach, particularly the preludes and fugues. There's something about a Bach fugue; the way he sets out the theme, then interweaves it in such an intricate web of counterpoint you think the pianist's fingers are going to tie themselves in knots, then brings it all to a beautifully satisfying resolution. It somehow suits gardening, particularly fiddly jobs such as tying in climbers, or trimming lawn edges, or fishing blanketweed out of the pond, or pruning the bamboo (the sort of jobs I do all the time). For the record, if you'll excuse the pun, my favourites are Prelude and Fugue No 9 in E and No 17 in A flat from Book I of the 48 Preludes and Fugues, and No 7 in E flat and No 14 in F sharp minor from Book II. I found a recording of the F sharp minor and you can listen to it below.
What's your gardening soundtrack? I'd love to know.

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