Bill Drummond: Welcome to No Music Day

Some years ago I walked into HMV Oxford Street. I wandered around the isles of rack upon rack of thousands upon thousands of cdís. There must have been every form of music that ever existed there. I wanted something new. Something that I hadnít tried and tasted before. Something that would make me go ĎYeah, this is it. Iíve never heard anything like this in my life.í There has been so many times when I have read a review of an album telling me how great it was, so I would go out and buy it, only to get it home to find it sounded like something I had already heard before. There was nothing to be found in HMV Oxford Street for me.

So I went back home and went online and searched every corner of the World Wide Web for something to download that would sound new, different, fresh, exciting. Something that would make me hear music in a different way. But even in those furthest corners I could find nothing that did this.

So maybe itís just an age thing. Maybe it is just because my pallet is jaded. So many men, and I guess women, who get to my stage in life are happy enough slating all modern music as rubbish, are happy to contend themselves with music that presses the nostalgia buttons. But I canít fucking stand that. And itís not ícause the new artists are shite, itís just, to my ears, that they all begin to sound like vaguely updated versions of something that has gone before. Do I just accept this as a natural part of the ageing process. No! No! and fucking NO!

This is not the first time this sort of thing has happened to me. When I was 18 back in 1971 I felt pretty much the same. Maybe it was in more of a limited sense. It was the music of my culture (white and alternative, basically what John Peel was playing at the time) that had become meaningless and pointless to me. I had to search outside what ever this culture was to find music that worked. It wasnít until punk started kicking in, in 1976 that I started feeling any connection again with music from my own culture. To a lesser extent the same thing happened again in the mid 1980ís before Jimmy Cauty and I started doing the things we ended up doing.

This time around, as in now, the equivelant to a punk or sampling revolution would have no affect for me. I am not interested in petty rebellion and anyway we all know how it just gets sucked in and exploited by the mainstream. It is not that I am looking for a different genre or even a brand new one, I am in need of a whole new starting point.

Although I stopped making music, for all intents and purposes, back in 1992 and even stopped listening to it for great chunks of time since then, I have never stopped thinking about music. I have tried different tactics to re-engage my emotions with music. In 2002 I decided to only listen to cdís made by artists who had never released an album before, as soon as a second album came out I would stop listening to them. Come the end of the year I couldnít hack this any more. I retreated into listening to the supposedly tried and tested.

While banging in some nails in my workshop in February 2003 with Pet Sounds by The Beach Boys at full volume, I decided that for the rest of the year I would only listen to music by bands, soloists or composers whose name began with B. I also assumed I would be working my way through the alphabet finishing off with A in 26 years time. Come February 2004 I had knocked that idea on the head. Instead, using a home made lottery system of a carrier bag containing a sheet of paper torn into 25 pieces and each piece with a letter of the alphabet written on it, minus B, the next years listening was decided. It was artists beginning with P. This year (2005) it is O. Although this has meant I have ended up listening to a lot of music that I would have never listened to without using these tactics, it has not changed my sense that something is missing.

I even tried not listening to any music for a week to see if there was any change in the way that I heard music when I resumed listening to it on the eighth day.

After the week was up there was no lasting change. That said I would recommend trying out all three of the above tactics, they do change something in the way you value music. I am still intending on working my way through the alphabet over the next 23 years, or as much of it as my span of years on earth allows.

It was in 2004 that I began to suspect that my problem lay not so much with the music as the way that music exists. The very fact that it is now all there for us to purchase from Amazon or to download whenever we want. And when we have got it we can literally listen to it where and whenever we want. We can have this non-stop soundtrack to our lives as we sit on the bus, do the shopping, watch the match. Whatever. And whether itís traditional music from Bali, Bachís Cantatas or the latest R&B, the experience is somehow the same. Yeah, I know we have had Walkmans for the last twenty odd years, but back then it seemed liberating, now it seems constricting. It has got nothing to do with the genre and everything to do with the fact that is just there. Maybe I am wanting music that is to do with place and time and occasion

As for the live music that has been available to me, it too, somehow has been having the same effect on me. The experience of it is very one-dimensional. You buy a ticket, you go to a place, you watch it performed on a stage, you clap, or even scream, you enjoy yourself, you get your moneyís worth, you go home. But you werenít part of the music, you were just consuming it in bite size chunks as defined by those who have decreed how these things should be done.

I know these traditions are as much decreed by the economics of bringing musicians from all quarters of the world to your local club or concert hall but that doesnít stop me from wanting more, something else in a different shape.

There were allsorts of other things going on in my head about music and experiments I wanted to take in the making of music itself in the hope that music might exist away from the consumerable formats of recorded music and away from the concert platform (and club stage, band stand etc).

These I have written about elsewhere.

What I decided I needed was a day I could set aside to do nothing but think what it was I wanted from music. And develop ideas of how that could be achieved. This day I would call No Music Day.

St Cecilia is the patron saint of music. I have no idea why she is and I am not interested to find out. But what I did find out was that her saints day is on the 22 November. I decided that No Music Day should be on the day before St. Ceceliaís Day. Using the same principals as having Halloween the day before All Saints Day or Mardi Gras on the day before Lent kicks in.

As with much of what I have been working on over these past few years, I have taken these basic personal urges and turned them around so they would also act as invites aimed at anybody who came across them to take part in. The main media for these invites are posters and websites. In thinking of the three mentioned tactics in terms of non musical, musical compositions. I have scored them as lists of instructions and in turn these three scores are published as posters. In some ways, this apes the traditions of the musical Avant Garde (Fluxus in particular). This aping didnít put me off.

I have also thought of No Music Day in the same way. The name of the composition is Decide. The score for it, that follows, is also published as a poster.

No hymns will be sung.

No records will be played.

iPods will be left at home.

Rock bands will not rock.

Conductors will not take the podium.

Decks will not spin.

The needle will not drop.

The piano lid will not be lifted.

Films will have no soundtrack.

Jingles will not jangle.

Milkmen will not whistle.

Choirboys will shut their mouths.

Recording studios will not roll.

Mcís will not pass the mic.

Brass band practice will be postponed.

The strings will not serenade.

Plectrums will not pluck.

Record shops will be closed all day.

And you will not take part in any sort of music whatsoever.

Then you will decide what you want from music.

To be performed on No Music Day; 21st of November, every year.

Visit and register the fact that you will be performing this score.

Even in my wildest dreams I donít expect this score to be followed by more than a handful of people. For me it is almost enough that the composition has been scored and published and people are invited to respond to it.

The website exists mainly as a place where they can register that they will be observing No Music Day and to document how they will be doing so.

At the same time as I was formulating and scoring the Decide composition I was invited to take part in a billboard poster exhibition in Liverpool. Artist Alan Dunn was curating this. He had invited six artists to take part. Each of them was given a two week slot to use a billboard as their canvas. The billboard is situated at the entrance to the Mersey Tunnel.

My billboard will simply read NOTICE in huge bold red letters on a white background. Underneath NOTICE in smaller black, but still bold, NO MUSIC DAY - 21 NOVEMBER and in still smaller letters PB BILLBOARD ONE - 2005 and NOMUSICDAY.COM.

Where this will lead to and for what purpose it serves I am still unsure. But from now on in the 21st of November this and every other year will be No Music Day. Take advantage of it.