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251206.jpgHappy Christmas. That’s the end of the 2006 Advent Calendar. I’m delighted to say that my aim in starting it last year has been achieved – if you search on Google for many of the names on here that are precious to me, but were only sketchy web presences last year, the Advent calendar entries are now frequently the first results that Google returns for the person in question.

There’s another side to it this year, though. As all the blog entries are necessarily but uncharacteristically (for blogs) anachronistic, I decided to do a parallel blog-without-words (as Mendelssohn might have put it), keeping a miniature photo diary of whatever caught my eye or occupied my heart or mind each day. I also intended to do the same with music – since blogs are often off-the-cuff thought pieces, sometimes improvisatory and unfinished but timely, I also started musiblogging, throwing together tiny mood pieces which reflected exactly how I felt at the moment I did them. This was an antidote to the self-enforced rubric of the advent calendar.

advent2b_small.jpgI kept up the photoblogging every day with the exception of 13th & 14th December, when I was just too tired & pre-occupied to get round to a photo before midnight, so I recycled two from 10th December. The pictures are the ones you see to the left of each entry, and if you hover over them, you’ll get a small clue as to what they’re about.

The musiblogging lasted about a week before my time ran out. I’d love to have carried on, but if you want to hear some hurriedly sketched bloggy musical ramblings, click on the question marks (?) at the bottom of the extended entries for 1st8th December 2006. They generally go with the pictures as a kind of scratch-and-sniff effect – in other words, the music tells me (and perhaps you) what I was feeling when I took the picture, or on the day generally. Alternatively, you could (if you’ve got 8’26” to spare) listen to those first 8 days compiled into a single file (MP3, 6.1MB)

All this may seem an odd thing to do, but I’m as fascinated by the 21st century blog-form as others are by the nineteenth century novel; fascinated by its apparent simplicity, directness and immediacy, but aware as a writer of the technical and writerly hoops that one has to go through to achieve the effect, and of the discipline it takes to do what you say you will do. I’m intrigued by the fact that we effortlessly and involuntarily perceive structure, form, unity and meaning into collections of disparate things which were assembled using routine, piecemeal operations, even when it was we who assembled them.

Lastly, I like the number 24. 24 days from Advent to Christmas Eve, 24 hours in a day, 24 Preludes and Fugues, 24 semiquavers in a 24/16 bar, and of course, 24 pictures on an old reel of 35mm film (plus that extra one you usually get at the end if you’re lucky). It’s the curious and satisfying paradox of blogging, enormous literary freedom within the most rigorous of forms.

Happy Christmas!

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Jonathan Still, ballet pianist