My new book A Contradiction of Sandpipers is now available. I thought it was worth taking a few moments to think about my reasons for spending years writing it. You’d think as author of the thing it would be clear to me what I was trying to say, but writing is one thing – thinking about it afterwards is another.
So, the book is set in Victorian London, but is really about the sort of popular music that burst upon the world in the 1950s, and then went on a wonderful rampage through the 1960s and 1970s, and is still going strong into the twenty first century. That music has always been an important part of my life.
In the past, music with strong rhythm and beat was not the fun thing it is now. For centuries this sort of music was largely functional, whether it was coordinating the effort of oarsmen in galleys, seamen pulling ropes, soldiers on the march, or farm workers toting bales or picking crops.
The Industrial Revolution, in many ways, dragged people further into a working life of relentless rhythm, in factories and mills. Nineteenth century society more than any other, saw the dark side of mundane, repetitive labour. And yet the music that once accompanied backbreaking effort evolved from an aid to hard work, into something to be enjoyed for itself. The movement it tends to encourage, which we call dance, is not a march, or an accompaniment to rope hauling, but an expression of freedom.
I suppose that is what I was after. The book is an attempt to capture the feeling of coming home after a mundane day of putting yet another brick in the wall, and then listening to the sort of music which makes you feel like you could jump right over the wall.
That is the contradiction underlying A Contradiction of Sandpipers.