Vienna in the time of COVID – Chapter 11

I realised that in my post about media, and more specifically the part discussing good media, I left out an important facet of this genre: Music.

I, like 99.8% of the population, enjoy music of one kind or another (I think the 0.2% is made up of people who were born deaf and sociopaths). Music is an outlet, a way of tapping the pressure valve and letting out some of the steam. And so in a time when the whole world seems tight with pressure and ready to burst, a bit of an outlet is no bad thing.

I generally listen to folk music about sad things and introspection that I think is beautiful and my wife finds depressing. She is more into upbeat music that puts a tap in her toes and a wiggle in her butt. While I greatly appreciate a good tapping toe or wiggling butt, particularly when the butt in question is my wife’s, I find that what really leaves me in a better state of mind is a song that is synchronised to some inner sadness, music that resonates with something that’s troubling me and by doing so, by being able to say “hey, yeah, that’s what it feels like”, I’m able to leave some of it with the music and walk away feeling lighter, with a spring in my step and a wiggle in my butt. 

A few people have made the point that now that everyone has some time on their hands, it is the perfect opportunity to learn an instrument. I play the guitar and I wholeheartedly endorse this statement. Playing an instrument for me is a form of meditation. My brain becomes so engrossed in the mechanics of it and the mental concentration that everything else just sort of falls away. And when the music spills out and I know that it’s my hands making it, it’s a wonderful thing. 

It is not always a wonderful thing for Alex, however, who has now heard the rotation of my six favourite songs so many times that sometimes her eyes dart between my head and my instrument in a way that makes me wonder if she’s planning to introduce the two in a more intimate fashion. She was kind enough to gift me the guitar, so really, a certain amount of the blame rests with her. 


Obviously, the ability to learn an instrument depends on what instruments you have at your disposal during your lockdown. Guitars and pianos are always good, and a violin played well is an uplifting thing. If, however, all you have at your fingertips is a recorder, the instrument of choice for primary school kids because whoever set the musical curriculum is an agent of evil here to make people suffer, then I’d probably recommend you leave it to the professionals. That’s not to say that with time and practice a recorder isn’t capable of making beautiful music, only that you will never get to that point as the housemate you’re socially isolating with will stuff the recorder down your throat long before you develop any sort of proficiency. Or whichever orifice of their choice.

One of my favourite musicians, a Bristol-born gentleman who performs under the name of Passenger, has seen fit during this span of dislocation to reach out from his own hideaway and provide anyone who is interested with a living-room concert. Given that all forms of live entertainment are currently under lock and key, being able to engage with an artist and enjoy their skill, to close your eyes and let go of some pressure, is a beautiful thing. He has been performing live for the last two Sundays, and is kind enough to put the recording up on YouTube for those who missed it.

As it is just him in his home and not a team putting together a production, the intimacy of the performance is ramped up. There are hiccups in the video where the wifi struggles, which I find charming as it really captures a facet of this time and this moment. In the future when the internet will be as stable and steady as any other utility and we’ll download movies just by thinking of them, kids will not understand the concept of lag, much as kids today don’t understand the pops and whistles of a record, or the concept of a record for that matter. 

But to me, this just adds to the authenticity and earnestness of the performance. This is no big-budget arena, just a man stuck in his living room like the rest of us, reaching out through the tools he has, a guitar, a laptop, and a low-speed internet connection, to try and infuse a little happiness and warmth into our isolation. 

Despite the limitations, his voice and guitar comes through pure and clear, singing his melancholy songs in a way that reverberates with me. And as an added bonus, he’s also quite funny, so you get a bit of comedy thrown in if the music isn’t enough of a draw.

Give it a listen, if it’s not your thing, or it doesn’t touch you, then that’s okay, it just means you’re dead inside and have the emotional range of a potato.

Whatever genre of music you like, be it k-pop or Norwegian death metal, I recommend turning up the volume, releasing some pressure, and of course, wiggling that butt.

Tomorrow: Language.


The combination of music and spoken word can be a powerful thing, as I was reminded when listening to a poetry performance by Shane Koyczan. The ability of the music to add weight to words, to add texture and ambience and scope, allows the recital to become something bigger than just speech, and falls into the category of performance.

With musical accompaniment words seem to resonate with meaning, the melody acting almost as an instrumental highlighter, drawing our ear to the powerful key phrases and stamping the evocative images into our brains. Music stirs something in us on a visceral level that words alone can’t always accomplish. It pierces deeper than the surface intellectual appreciation of the words we’re hearing and makes us feel them.

For this post I’ve taken a previous post, Whatever Helps You Sleep, and recorded it as a performance with my guitar playing to support it. Some may say using a previous post is cheating, but I say it’s my creative brain adapting it. It’s a loophole.

Listen below:

The video that inspired my own performance can be seen underneath. It’s also well worth checking out Shane’s video titled “To This Day” which can be found here.


Well, it’s Monday, and the whole world is in need of motivation on a Monday. With that need in mind, I’ve decided to dedicate this post to music. Hence the overtly clever title: Music Monday.

How does music fit in with a blog on the topic of writing? Let me introduce you to one of my favourite musicians: Passenger.

Passenger, aka Mike Rosenberg, is a British singer/songwriter; writer being the important verb in that sentence. While his musical talents are superb, for me it’s his abilities to sculpt stories and piece together poems within his chosen medium that make him outstanding. Mike tells stories from his own life, but infuses them with a greater depth and meaning that make them accessible to any listener.

Example 1:

Not only can he weave accurate observations and experiences into his songwriting, Mike is also a genuinely great performer. I’ve been lucky enough to see his live show twice and was charmed both times. With humour, talent, and sincere appreciation for his fans, Passenger’s shows leave you uplifted, awed, and developing a little bit of a crush for the man.

Example 2:

I have to hold back from listing a multitude of Passenger’s songs that demonstrate his plethora of gifts, instead check out his website here. Buy his music, and make your Monday better.

The second part of today’s post is a video demonstrating the restorative power of music. It also links conveniently with the nursing half of my persona. The people at the Music and Memory project have been doing incredible work bringing music to people with dementia. The results are outstanding. My words can’t possibly detail it. Watch and be moved:

The Music and Memory project’s website can be found here.

Hopefully you’ve lived through your Monday, been motivated by music, and, at some point in your day, read a good book.