Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Separated at birth?

Friday, May 25, 2007

Why this is hell, nor am I out of it

I just joined Facebook, thus dragging myself a little further into the hideous mire of online networking, the fashionable alternative to having real friends. By a strange coincidence, having heard John Humphries sneering about "Face Back" (sic) on the radio this morning, I checked my mail to discover I'd been added as a friend on the place. I wavered, then typed in my name and created an account, partly out of that horribly British sense of social embarrassment that demands I say yes to things for risk of offending, but also partly to annoy John Humphries.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


I am Berlioz

I don't even like Berlioz. I am disturbed.

You scored as Hector Berlioz.
You're OCD. You may think you want something...
but think again before you move land and sea to get it.
However, you are very talented.

Hector Berlioz
















J.S. Bach










Which classical composer are you?
created with QuizFarm.com

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Classical Brits, or, Big Mac and Fries.

Do you think I enjoy this? Two and a quarter bloody hours of this? Of course not. But I must do this, because even if it is ultimately futile to make the gesture, a stand must be made. Because this will not do.

Here we begin, with Katheryn Jenkins looking pretty and blonde as she squeezes Holst into a 4/4 meter, with added bongos, male voice choir and a key change so unsubtle it could be in Eurovision. Here's Joshua Bell, who ought to know better, posing his way through Vivaldi in that "exciting", highly charged" fashion previously associated with Vanessa Mae. Why doesn't he stick a wet T-shirt on and be done with it?

Oh look, here comes Sting with his lute. Is there a bigger, smugger twat than Sting? (Well, yes there is, but we'll let that pass for now.) I should be glad he's bringing Dowland to a wider audience, I ought to applaud the fact that he does these songs straight, without the sort of knobby "crossover" bollocks you'd normally get with this sort of enterprise, but when I see his smug face all reason leaves me, and I want to punch him repeatedly in the mouth while shouting "You didn't invent Dowland, you fucking smug twat!" Oh look, he's bunged some close harmony singers in halfway through. Twat.

Ooh, here's Katie Derham presenting the Record of the Year award to Simon Rattle for the Planets, she must be annoyed at losing the presenting gig to Fearne Brittain. Some bunch of actresses calling themselves "All Angels" croon their way through "Nimrod", robbing it of all dignity and subtlety in the process. Still, they're fit, eh? So that's all right, then.
Mrs. Sting pops up to award George Fenton the award for soundtrack for Planet Earth (or was it Blue Planet? No, that was last time). I suppose I should be grateful that John Adams won the contemporary composer award rather than Karl Jenkyns and his dreary new age toss.

And on and on it goes, culminating in the award of Classical Album of the year to Paul McCartney's new "Classical" work, another bit of trite rubbish that soils the genuine legacy of his work with the Beatles. I have a horrible feeling he really believes that this insipid nonsense is better and more worthwhile than "Helter Skelter" or "Penny Lane".

It's not that it's bad as such, it's that it's relentlessly average. I can't report that it was badly presented or that there were any terrible howlers (although it was edited terribly, shoddily), but the whole thing reeks of mediocrity. Music can be exciting, dangerous, provocative, heady, all-embracing. But the Classical Brits, and the industry they celebrate reduce it to muzak. It's not bad because it pushes crossover and TV soundtracks over more serious work. It's bad because it neuters the music, it removes all ambition and reduces it to a cheap bauble. The Classical Brits have the same relation to music as pornography to sex, or MacDonald's to a restaurant. They tell their audience that they should limit their horizons, that they're too stupid to cope with anything more than the scraps they're thrown, that they shouldn't above all make any effort to try and understand. That they don't deserve anything better, and neither should they aspire to anything better.

They diminish us all. This is what will kill music: the insistence that mediocrity is not just acceptable, but desirable.

Now go and listen to someone who understands what music can be.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Idiot Joy Showland

Ever heard the opinion voiced that stupid people shouldn't breed? Well, apparently that's no longer a problem, judging by this poster I saw on the tube today.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


There are many bands who wish they were the Fall, and Meat for a Dark Day are another one. Impressive facial hair, though.

Death Vessel turns out to be one man (although we weren't entirely sure about this, and I can only state this definitively having looked at his website). Our first thought is "Hey look! It's Neil from the Young Ones!" but he wins us round with some very impressive guitar picking and a distinctive, androgynous voice. The material maybe doesn't always match the performance, but nevertheless, this is someone worth keeping an eye on. Although I maintain that "Death Vulture" would be a better name.

People say Low are slow, and miserable. Only slow in the way an iceberg is. There's a driving power in their music that belies their steady tempi, and while they don't address the audience much at first, when they do there's a wry, dry humour that puts the miserablist tag into perspective. They're certainly not the sort of band you're likely to wave your hands in the air (like you just don't care) to, but they're a compelling live presence, and not too removed from rock 'n' roll theatrics to make us wait for encores that they clearly are going to play.

Slava V

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Sound vs. Noise (4)

Regular readers will be aware of the constant stream of verbal diarrhea that plagues my working hours. Just because I haven't mentioned it recently, don't imagine that it's gone. Oh no. A long weekend is of course a very pleasant and welcome thing, but it leads to a heavier heart when you have to haul yourself out of bed on Tuesday morning to go to work, and even the prospect of a 4 day week can't quite lift the spirits. The mood is as grey and dark as the sky, and the babbling that assaults the ear seems to ricochet around the skull. Meanwhile, the seconds, minutes, hours slip away, and stifle the ideas and thoughts that are, or might be. The clouds stretch across the whole sky, imposing and oppressing, and the light feebly scratches through.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Slava IV

Friday, May 04, 2007


One of the collateral delights of cycling through London is the music that appears unbidden in the mind. This week I've found tunes from Bill Callahan's new album popping into my head, as well as bits of The Rite of Spring and Carmen. Both these are understandable - I've been listening to the album a lot, and KSO is currently rehearsing the Stravinsky and Bizet (in arrangement by Shchedrin) and for our next concert. This evening, though, I suddenly found "Mack the Knife" running through my mind. Why should Kurt Weill suddenly pop into my head this way? Once these things get into your consciousness, they linger. I briefly wonder if the appearance of these old tunes will interfere with my own composing - a pre-existing idea in the head must make it harder to think of an original one, I conjecture - but I decide not to worry and enjoy the moment. It is a holiday weekend coming up, after all.

Slava III

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Something you don't see every day...

...is the second performance of a piece of contemporary music. Well, I'm pleased to announce that I'll be bucking this trend later this month, when Le tombeau de Feldman receives its second outing. Toby Deller once again plays (and sings), coupling it this time with Bach's Cello Suite No.4 (on the viola, obviously). It's at St. George's Bloomsbury (near the British Museum) on Sunday 27th May, and entry is free! A bargain if ever there was one.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Slava II