I was thinking about instrumental music and whether it could truly be about something. I was thinking about how classical, jazz and the avant-garde often group music together under conceptual titles and themes. Isn’t a lot of this music about music itself? Isn’t instrumental music literally about the unspeakable, the indescribable?
My friend Dave says that he see no reason why wordless music should be any less about ‘something’ then lyrics or prose. I think he’s right, but I also know that some music that is titled and thematically labelled is nothing more than the beautiful sound of a musician trying to reach out; to evoke; to remember.
My name is Darren Hayman and I have made an instrumental album about Britain’s open air swimming pools; it’s called ‘Lido’. If I am known or liked for anything at all in my career then it is for my lyrics. I see words as incisive, accurate tools, when used correctly. I don’t want my words to paint vague canvasses; I want them to make detailed, forensic technical drawings. I am interested in specifics; my songs thus far have very much been about stuff.
In my own listening, however, I have moved more and more towards instrumental music. I enjoy the heavenly fog of the ECM label. I love following the unpredictability of John Coltrane’s reckless career. I adore roots dub reggae – it makes me feel safe and calm.
Instrumental music has given me something that has been missing from my listening for a few years. It confuses, frustrates and excites me, and in no way do I feel it a less erudite companion to lyrical music. The opposite is true, in fact: this music can often say more, I just love not being able to define what it is.
Cautiously, over the last few years, I started to amass recordings of my instrumental compositions. When I had five that I thought were good, I needed a title that might pull these sunny, open tunes together; I thought of ‘Lido’. From that point onwards I tried to think about what it would be to write music with a specific setting in mind. I tried to write the tunes in my head, while visiting the individual pools. I collected field recordings and buried them inside the songs. Some were audible but I wanted to link the music to the place in some way.
When it came to writing tunes about closed or destroyed lidos, I thought about absence and nothingness. I thought about disconnected music; tunes without formal structure or time signatures. I have not re-invented the wheel but this was a truly experimental record for me in that I devised routines and procedures that produced music alien to me.
I thought hard about Brentwood Lido, in my hometown. It closed in 1976, when I was just five. It is one of those places that have slipped past the internet. I can find only two grey, fuzzy pictures online. Do you have any pictures of it? I’d love to see them. My own memory of the place is also fuzzy: one of those early childhood memories that seems to be projected onto sunlight. If you think hard or try to grasp it in any way then it just melts. I can see a towel; there is a low wall or steps maybe? My mother is there… some other people... It’s sunny but then there’s nothing… there’s no focus or clarity to the memory.
If instrumental music can be about anything then surely it can be about this feeling; the sensation of fumbling, desperately, in the back of your mind. Looking for something beautiful that you know was there once. I wanted to make music that sounded half remembered but purposeful. I went to the road where the pool used to be. I recorded nothing but the faint rumble of traffic and put in my tune.
My album 'Lido' is about open air swimming pools and something else as well. It's just impossible to say what it is exactly. - Darren Hayman February 2012