My current favourite music, and what it does to/for my brain

6 Jan 2020, 11:30 p.m.

Today's January meme prompt was from Fox: "current favourite piece of music, what it feels like and what it does to/for your brain?" (There are still some empty days for prompts!)

I thought yesterday's prompt was difficult, because it meant writing about fiction by people much better with words than me. Today's is far harder! Not only am I musically ungifted, but my music-listening habits are idiosyncratic, so that I'm not really sure what my 'favourite' piece of music (even currently) is.

Most of the time, I can't listen to music with lyrics in a language I speak and concentrate on anything else, for example work, writing or even reading. I do find background music helpful, though, for drowning out (a) distractions from the world and (b) my own pernicious brain. That means I've built up a pretty good library of Chinese/Russian/Danish/Inuktitut/etc. and instrumental albums for working to!

On the other hand, when I'm at home with partners or housemates, it feels antisocial to listen to something on headphones. Generally, the only time @zarkonnen and I play music out loud is while doing domestic things together. Oh—this might actually be a downside of having moved all my music consumption to the computer! If I'm using my laptop, it's usually because I either am doing something or feel like I should be. When I'm reading, otherwise hanging out, or have retreated into the bedroom to be Very Quiet by myself, I don't have the computer open and thus don't play anything.

What this means is that I don't really have a good time for listening to lyrical music, though that covers so much that I love. Perhaps I need a longer commute? There's a brand-new Alex Reed album and I'm going to have to listen to it... somewhen soon!

Anyway, as I haven't been at work for three weeks (and spent today in meetings), I've not been listening to much music lately. Here, though, is a song I love, which I discovered while almost alone in the office just before Christmas a couple of years ago. I spent that time going through a masterpost of Arctic music and noodling away by myself; it really wasn't so bad.

This is Ukiuq by the Jerry Cans, a band from Nunavut. The song is in Inuktitut—there's an English version too, with a lovely animated video, but I much prefer the translation of the original lyrics over the English ones.


When you find yourself traveling in the Arctic
While the wind blows
Remind them of me
Remind them I used to love them

If you travel through a blizzard
During the time when the river freezes
In the early fall
Make sure to dress warm
Make sure they are warm

I used to love them

In all the Jerry Cans' work, I love the combination of the fiddle and accordeon with Inuktitut singing and Arctic, indigenous, Inuit themes. Ukiuq is particularly haunting, the violin calling out alone before weaving back through Nancy Mike's rhythmic throat-singing lines, a sound that's captivating and clearly human but, to my ears, less familiar than the strings and drums. There's so much energy here for a song about relationships lost to time and migration, so many human voices raised together for a song about the blizzard and the frozen river. I challenge you to listen to this and not find yourself joining in, if only to yourself: Nalligilaurakku! I used to love them.

(For something more light-hearted, check out the video for Mamaqtuq! CN: seal hunting.)