Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Saturday, 14 November 2009

I die, Horatio

Yesterday was lousy, very lousy. Woke up coughing (unproductively – arghh) knowing I would cough through Christmas to Candlemas. Weather squally. Went to French unable to crack Balzac’s phrase zéro au quotient. Muesli bought this week smelt mouldy. Emails kept me away from the novel. After a mere 150 words of the novel the weather, now a typhoon, blasted the electricity into oblivion. For two hours I wandered lonely like a (black) cloud on the upper floor of our darkened house because I can’t stand the smell of candles by which Mrs BB was doggedly reading downstairs.

Power back and I watched a TV programme in which Simon Russell Beale (Britain’s greatest actor) explained Allegri’s Miserere sung by Harry Christophers and The Sixteen (lauded to the skies on this blog a few weeks ago). Then the roof fell in.

Not literally. Just the metaphorical bit that keeps my ego dry. Here’s why. Several months ago I mentioned here Tallis’s a cappella masterpiece Spem in Alium. Because I hadn’t heard it for years I played the CD, bought twenty-five years ago.. On an adjacent track was Miserere which I couldn’t remember ever hearing. Played that too and was impressed. In a fatal gesture to the blogosphere I drew attention to this exquisite, if obscure, work.

Except, of course, as you all know it isn’t obscure. It’s a classical pop and David Willcocks' version in the seventies sold thousands. It was as if I’d said to a friend, “Yes I really loved Ticket to ride but did you know the group has also done something called Sergeant Pepper?” What you are seeing here is a modern form of ritual suicide.

Novel progress 16/11/09 (Working title: The ruined con-rod). Chs. 1, 2, 3, 3A (Interlude), 10,874 words. Ch. 4 - 3985 words. Comment: Note new title, courtesy Julia. It may not last but it's much better than mine. Discovery: Women haven't worn slacks since the Hepburn-Tracy movies.


Occasional Speeder said...

I thuink Gradson Boden would call you "a silly sausage"...

Rouchswalwe said...

There's no crying in baseball, BB!
(And please, no seppuku!! Would take weeks to clean the floorboards.)

Plutarch said...

That must be a samurai sword. Is seppuku something you do with samurai swords? The word is new to me, and by the sound of it, I am glas that that is the case.

marja-leena said...

Sorry to hear of the health and electricity woes. However, methinks humiliation is too strong an emotion for not knowing a certain musical masterpiece. Instead be delighted with the discovery and that there are so many more that it would take several lifetimes to find them all (not just music that I speak of). I used to despair of seeing all the art in all the great museums of the world.

Avus said...

I, too watched Simon Russell Beale explaining Allegri’s Miserere and I was so glad that my wife was out at her choir practice.
You see, I knew she would want to enjoy it so I recorded it. Now we have it permanently - one of those little gems of TV which can be so elusive and one always thinks, afterwards, "I DO wish I had recorded that!"
That glorious polyphony of Harry Christophers' "The Sixteen" needed to be heard first (with eyes closed) and then watched immediately afterwards.
I find that watching music performed lessens my actual aural enjoyment and involvement.

The Crow said...

Bummer, man!

However, because of your post, I found the BBC program on YouTube and was transported from the banality of my existence to the realm of the angelic. Lovely.


Barrett Bonden said...

OS: The consensus is that this post was grossly indulgent. Which means it wasn't in the slightest bit entertaining and thereby failed. Obviously I need to do the seppuku twice.

RW (zS): Floorboards? What's wrong with the bath?

Plutarch: RW (zS) is this blog's Japanese intermediary and seppuku is the cognoscenti's word for hara kiri. The sword, which looks cumbersome for the task, was taken from Google images. I'm not that depressed I keep it on the premises.

M-L: I knew the masterpiece; I didn't know that virtually everybody else knew it too. Imagine you'd mistaken a sable brush for a chopstick - it's that kind of humiliation.

Avus: As you say, a complete gem with tears imminent. My only worry is that Mrs Avus, being a member of a choir (as I once was), might lose singing hope when confronted with the tender professionalism of the Sixteen. Hey, what am i saying? Perhaps she's one of them.

The Crow: I'm delighted you followed it up. And what about that Welsh soprano, doing the high notes yet striving mightily to remain part of the ensemble?

Sir Hugh said...

Been away for the weekend therefore a latecomer to this roaming discussion. Sounds as though you're really enjoying yourself.

I agree with Avus about listening to, rather than watching music. I find isolated close ups of violin frets and oboe player's hairstyles off putting, although watching the conductors is definitely interesting.

Rouchswalwe said...

Facile? Doubtful!

My mind is at ease since seppuku is not possible with the long sword pictured (which is used by the second to lop off the head of the one who is disembowling himself with the short sword). Ideally, the second is trusted to do the lopping before the disembowler can dishonor himself by crying out in pain. Women get off easy by being allowed to simply use the short sword to punch through their throats.


The Crow said...

Too facile? I doubt it. Some writers write their novels in their heads long before they get to paper/computer, then they go at it hell's-a-poppin'. Seems you might be one of those.

Lawrence Block would tell you just let the words flow. You can edit later, and will.


Julia said...

Miserere is not Pachabel's Canon, and even if it were, the more people write about classical music the better!

Hope that cough disappears. And was Balzac speaking of division or something quite different?

Barrett Bonden said...

Sir Hugh: I agree about hearing rather than seeing and so did Sir Thomas Beecham. When told that concerts would start appearing on telly he disapproved: "You'll see the trombonist draining spit from his instrument; how can that be enlightening?" However, the Miserere programme was done perfectly and the Welsh soprano who did the high notes was, in any case, gorgeous.

RW (zS): Well that's terribly reassuring. As it happens we have a selection of knives called Kitchen Devils and I'm sure there'll be something suitable among them. Congratulations on really widening out the subject.

The Crow: I approach individual sections of the novel with the sequence planned. However I have in mind Henry James' exhortation to himself "Dramatise! Dramatise!" by which he meant create tension and see things clearly. As a result I break off, spin round in my rotatable chair, contemplate the ceiling, play Solitaire; as I said before I distrust the Elizabenth Barrett Browning's celebration of the "The first fine careless rapture". It's more fun at the moment - I'm writing about a woman.

Julia: Too true. I meant it's pretty well known but it hasn't reached the status of the Dvorak that's used on British telly to accompany commercials for Hovis (bread). The cough is an essential element in my literary genius: think of Keats. As to zéro au quotient it seemed my French teacher, an extremely gentle Quaker lady, wasn't too sure either. It was used by someone searching an apartment to find money to pay for some pharmacy purchases and it can be taken to mean "there was nothing anywhere, nothing at all".

Julia said...

Dvorak is even more blasted here, as you can imagine. I love him, but no longer attend concerts if he's the principal feature on the bill, as all the musicians on stage tend to be nodding off in boredom when it's not their turn to play. (I like watching musicians myself. For example, you can unravel years of orchestra politics by watching the first violins' bow directions and seeing who follows whom and which violinist looks most likely to stab his stand mate with his bow over slow page turns, etc.)

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: If I wasn't aware of how busy you are I'd say: more, more of these professional observations. Chucking in my two-pennorth, have you noticed how often brass players tend to have working-class faces. Except for Christian Steele-Perkins, of course.

Julia said...

Good point on the brass players, I'll have to canvass them next concert and see if this holds true in Prague as well (could it be a brass band miner tradition in the UK? Intriguing!). In the States the brass players tend to be the good ole boys of the orchestra. Only bass players come close to their nonchalance and beer drinking habits ;-).

herhimnbryn said...

I think you should go back to my blog and read the gorgeous comments left about you on the latest two posts.

The Crow said...

Hepworth? A contraction of Hepburn and Hayworth?


Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: I visited, was duly flattered, and have left my spoor. As I said once before, the only way I can hope for blog-acceptance is by not posting a photograph of myself. It is a salutary thought that I could reduce comments to this blog to zero by so doing.

The Crow: I could have been referring to Barbara Hepworth, a gnarly sculptress who was a contemporary of Henry Moore. But I wasn't and that's why I restored the rightful surname to the divine Katherine.

ArtSparker said...

Um...this may be taking figurative self-flagellation to an extreme.

But we're all sensitive plants.

I like the idea of doggedly reading.

Barrett Bonden said...

ArtSparker: And what's wrong with figurative self-flagellation? Some people read Dan Brown. Despite being born in the north of England I am horribly sensitive and have taken to wearing a mask when speaking to my neighbours. If my wife could swim she would doggedly read underwater.

The Crow said...

Between you and Google, I just might get a liberal arts education yet!


herhimnbryn said...

I think the BB 'groupies' fanbase is now converging on my site! ;^)

Lucy said...

You and Joe are obviously both prone to this kind of embarrassment.

That simon Russell Beale series was so good wasn't it?

When I first knew of the Miserere, I saw a flyer saying it was being performed in a church in Torquay. We rushed along, only to find the soloist was a very mediocre lady soprano of a certain age, when it should really be left to pre-pubescent males. Every time that glorious high note came around we ground our teeth and held our heads, begging that they wouldn't make her do it again, but she went through every round. Torture.

Once upon a time no one was allowed to hear it or know of it outside of the Vatican. Mozart nicked it and wrote it down from memory. I expect you knew that and now I'm the one teaching my grandmother to aspirate ova.

Barrett Bonden said...

HHB: There's no doubt it's lowering the previously high moral tone. I'd offer to swap blogs but you take better photos.

Lucy: I know it's terribly elitist but I've always avoided amateur performances of great musical works. Given the cock-ups professionals are capable of I've never dared expose myself to something where the risks of depravity are that much greater. In the meantime you are as ever my egg-sucking professeur and long may you continue in that unpaid but necessary post.