Joined: Aug. 2004
||Posted: Sep. 28 2004, 16:08
I've been listening to Tubular Bells, on and off, for 25 years now; and although it's a groundbreaking work of genius and I'd never be without a copy to hand, it never moved me in the way that some of his subsequent music did. Purely in terms of personal response, TB2 soared far above it, for instance.
So when I heard about the TB2003 project, it didn't excite me. I didn't rush out to buy a copy on release. But a few weeks ago I had a bit of spare cash; I'd come across some of the controversy surrounding it; so I thought I'd buy one and have a go. Even then I didn't even play it for several days - it just lay around on the shelf. But there came a time when I popped it into the player, sat back with eyes closed, and listened.
I was entirely enchanted. I spent most of the time unaware of my surroundings, lost completely in the world of the music. I wasn't consciously comparing it with the original version; I was just listening to this for its own sake. Sometimes there were tears. And after it ended, I sat in silence for some time. My thoughts (I'm trying here to gather them up in an intelligible and coherent way) went something along these lines:
'Here I am, and here you are, Mike Oldfield - present in this music. And all these years have passed, and it's 2004 now, and you wanted to go back to this original piece of inspired genius, and rework it. (And why should you not? Who can possibly know better than you what next step your art should take?) And what a fantastic privilege it is for me to be able to sit here, and listen to the outcome of that adventure. And the marvel is that I'm still here (albeit nursing more than a bruise or two), and you're still here (with your own set of bruises I expect), and this music is still here, connecting us in this special way that only art can manage, allowing us to revisit our earlier selves. As T.S.Eliot said:
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.'
That's the best I can do as a kind of summary of those afterthoughts.
Two of Britain's greatest painters were Turner and Constable. Even as mature artists, they both continually referred to the sketchbooks they'd filled as young men, reworking in new ways ideas that had germinated long before. In continually revisiting Tubular Bells, Mike is only doing what many great artists have done before him. So I don't feel ripped off; I feel inspired. I don't think TB2003 sounds tired or synthetic; I think it sounds marvellous. I don't care whether it's 'better' or 'worse' than the original version, because I don't have to choose. I have both.