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Why I Love... Standing Up

Paul Nagle
By Paul Nagle

Why I Love... Standing UpPhoto: Chris Barber

Whether it was playing synths, writing, watching TV, or doing one of thousands of computer-based activities, I've spent much of my adult life seated. And when I decided to retire, it was in the hope of reading more books, listening to more music, increasing my studio time and hanging around the garden watching birds and frogs. Unfortunately, the more I sat, the less I felt like doing anything — even making music. The crunch came after I began suffering from 'Twitchy Foot Disorder', which led to bouts of insomnia for me and my wife. I began to realise that my inertia could only end one way. So, in a rare fit of inspiration, I decided to take action. I stood up.

Newsflash: the world looks very different when you're upright. You need balance, muscles, coordination, headroom — plus a good reason to fight gravity in the first place. This last requirement kick-started a major rethink because, for decades, my entire studio had been optimised for the act of whizzing around on a chair, hands outstretched to meet well-placed synths or drum machines. I was basically Davros, but without the cool raspy voice.

Verticality has been such a revelation that I now no longer own a beanbag!

I set aside a small working area separate from my regular studio space and chose a handful of Elektron boxes and a single synth to play. I bought a tasteful wall hanging to make the place look more homely and cranked my keyboard stand to a previously untried notch. With just that simple setup (and not a chair in sight) I began a new daily therapy.

Within a couple of weeks, the results were veering towards the miraculous. My nightly foot twitches had subsided and I was sleeping soundly again. This had other benefits too: I went to gigs, got back into hill walking and even survived a trade show with barely a twinge in my lower back. Best of all, my appetite for making music returned tenfold. I know the simplified setup contributed but it was the standing up (and dad dancing) that made the real difference. Fresh tunes and grooves began to emerge — it felt like I'd rewound by 30 years!

Verticality has been such a revelation that I now no longer own a beanbag! Furthermore, my hips have started responding strangely to basslines and I can even manage a decent double horse stance without palpitations. Where all this is leading, I have no idea, but I recently discovered I can use a sustain pedal while standing, and create ambient music and drones without being hunched over a keyboard. Who knows what else is possible?

Perhaps my decline was a predictable by-product of a life spent gazing at screens, or in studios. Hopefully most SOS readers are far wiser and have taken steps to avoid such a sedentary lifestyle. But if you're a serial studio squatter plagued by haemorrhoids, Restless Leg Syndrome (its proper name, apparently), or just a general feeling of ennui, I can heartily recommend straightening those knees, raising your gear a few feet and standing up to play. It's my new favourite thing!

Published October 2019