Soundscapes

The soundscape that accompanies Christmas is primarily that of 1950s America. All that Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Jim Reeves and Perry Como; supermarket aisles recast aurally as sleigh rides through winter wonderlands. Later “rock” anthems feel like an awkward commercial compromise – rebellion against the man stopping short of the mince pies and Yule logs. For over a month everything is covered in nostalgic tinsel – then it stops. The remaining merchandise is marked down like an embarrassing relative who has outstayed a welcome and normal musical service is restored.

On the day, twiddling between the radio stations (from 3 to 4 and back again – are there any others?) a Christmas service was going on and the vicar reading the lesson had one of those voices that’s 3 parts Alan Bennett to 4 parts Jacob Rees Mogg.

In London the lights were still quite magical – even people who hadn’t had anything to drink were saying so – and the buskers were playing an amplified acoustic soundtrack that was somehow elegaic. A battered looking musical veteran in the middle of Hungerford Bridge was picking out haunting versions of Scarborough Fair and Blackbird; while the young woman with a violin by Embankment tube was playing contemporary songs in a way that sounded wistfully Chinese and the bloke with a saxophone at Baker Street was heroically resisting the temptation to pay Baker Street.

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