I HATE to mention the singer Taylor Swift and a foghorn in the same sentence, but no disrespect is intended. I know little about Swift, except that she seems smart and is certainly successful.
Her voice, from what I’ve heard of it, is pleasant enough, so why bring up the foghorn? I blame BBC Radio 4’s Today progamme. This morning there were two separate items in which sound was a theme. There was no connection as such, other than the fun to be had in spotting a possible link for these fleeting thoughts.
Swift is in the news for taking a stand against Apple, which will now pay royalties to artists during a three-month trial for its new music service, Apple Music. The singer is credited with being the tipping point in a row between independent labels and musicians and the mighty Apple. In a blog post titled To Apple, Love Taylor, she called on the company to drop its plans not to pay artists during the trial period. A man called Eddy Cue, who is Apple’s senior vice president for internet software and services (bet that doesn’t fit on a name badge at conferences) announced the U-turn on Twitter, saying that Apple would always make sure artists were paid, adding “We hear you Taylor Swift”.
Well, good on Taylor Swift. It’s good to see a superstar singer using her muscle to support others in her industry. She probably doesn’t need the money herself, but it is important that artistic people should be paid for what they produce. It’s never been easy for people who create things to earn a living from their art, and it’s even harder nowadays in this internet world. To mangle an old lyric from Dire Straits, now it’s: “Nothing for money and your kicks for free.”
After the trial period, users of Apple’s new service will pay a monthly fee to listen to streamed music. Now I have jumbled-up feelings about this, streaming being one of those modern things I haven’t got around to doing yet. I can’t see myself wishing to pay for that, when all I have to do is pull a CD from the shelf.
Yet it is thanks to Apple and my now-ancient iPod that I could listen to the Rolling Stones while out jogging (yesterday’s Man On Ledge) and can listen to music in our old Volvo, through a mock-cassette thingey that links to the iPod. And being able to cart so much music around in such a small device is certainly a marvel.
As for the foghorn, Hawsker Bull used to send out its mournful bellow from the Whitby foghorn station, but has been silent since the 1980s. The Today programme resurrected that sound this morning (forgivable as it was time to get up) in a report on a new National Trust initiative to record the sounds of the seaside to be stored in an audio archive.
What a great idea, as the seaside has so many sounds, from the gulls to the sound of the sea itself; from the wind in the riggings to the noise of a port, and so on. And then there was that scream. The one on a beach in Jersey, when a seagull swooped and stole an un-licked ice-cream cone from a woman’s hand, leaving her to cry out in shock and amusement.
Today people are so obsessed with taking pictures of everything from what they’ve just eaten onwards that it’s good to consider storing aural memories too.
The seaside noises will form an archive, and some of sounds submitted by the public will be used by Martyn Ware, a founder member of The Human League, to create a piece of music for release next February.
And Taylor Swift won’t be anywhere near it, I guess.