Wednesday, March 30, 2016

... forgot to mention ... at the checkout at the local Carrefour on Place Keym I catch sight of the assistant's watch - a digital gold effect Casio. It's rather too large for her wrist & it occurs to me it might be a hand-me-down from her dad (or granddad?).

As I fumble with the bank card & try to focus on the keypad, I mention that I had pretty much the identical watch back in 1980. She laughs & says it's 'retro' - "très tendance" these days.

A true Prufrock moment.

I grow old ... I grow old/ I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled ...

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It would of course have been a lot simpler to have simply bought the CD on Saturday & have done with. Instead that stupid little thrifty voice of reason urged restraint & thus I have spent three days trying to recapture a sustained soprano note against slowly descending chords. 

No Mozart me - it's like trying to drink sunlight. 

Then as if in an act of mercy, plonk! a package drops through the letter box. 

I've just listened right through, mesmerised. Time dilates. At the end I had to check the track listings - the entire recording amounts to barely 30 minutes & yet the impression is of an entire morning. 

The texts are all derived from Shakespeare's Ophelia recombined & collaged (if I understand correctly) by Paul Griffiths. This, alone, would merit investigation. 

However, Abrahamsen's score ... well, this is impossibly beautiful music. Hannigan's voice feels its way through skull & skin into the very nervous system where it works that same strange magic that enchanted Caliban. I could make comparisons with Berio's Recital for Cathy, Gorecki's Third Symphony, Strauss' Last Songs ... but what's the point? This music exists. 

Listening is all. 

Gosh. 

Sunday, March 27, 2016

& then I discover that Barbara Hannigan is the soloist in Dutilleux's Correspondances - CD 5 of the box set I invested in late last year.

As usual the penny drops in slow motion.

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Britten's Spring Symphony & Hymn to St Cecilia (utterly ravishing) as a fitting way to round off Easter Sunday.

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"I have found my music in a common word,
Trying each pleasurable throat that sings ..."


G. M. Hopkins


Saturday, March 26, 2016


Lamy Studio & 1.1 Joy nib

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Here follows an unabashed advertisement for the Lamy Studio fountain pen.

There's a pleasing weight twixt finger & thumb. The ink flows well. The quirky twist in the clip is typical of the consideration given to design but also practicality.

I asked for the standard nib to be replaced with the 1.1 'Joy' - an italic cursive or 'stub' depending upon the calligraphese you speak.

A little more expensive than some pens (far cheaper than some others) but it will repay with pleasure every time you write.

(I'll post a picture separately, blogger seems to have reverted to type).


let me tell you

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(for some reason blogger is being awkward about this photo
so a separate upload is necessary)


Two weeks ago I discovered much to my chagrin that Ut Pictura Musica on the Sablon was closing - no reason given by the always less than chaleureuse assistant, that's just the way it is. Tant pis. It was a terrific shop to browse around on a sunny weekend morning - that's where I found the Cafe Zimmerman Brandenburgs & Til Fellner's Well-Tempered Clavier.

Imagine my joy then this morning taking a predictable wrong turn in Antwerp & stumbling upon Mark Sound. A brief glance in the window was sufficient to convince me that this is a little satellite of Paradise. Inside, the judiciously minimalist wood & metalwork perfectly suits the stock: Jazz & Classical & nothing else. Filling the space is - I discover on asking - Hans Abrahamsen's let me tell you (lower case intended) which I will surely investigate further when funds allow. For today I held back & purchased only the Kurtag duo on an ECM DVD & the first of Peter Maxwell Davies's Naxos String Quartets. However, the temptation to go beserk was strong - a fabulous (even exhaustive) range of music I would gladly fill my ears & days with.

I told the bloke at the till this shop would be perfect if only he'd a floor for interesting poetry on top. He agreed & then apologised for not having a World Music section. In true Billy Jenkins fashion I quipped back that all music was World Music at which he grinned broadly. Twins! as Emma would say. What a nice chap.

Turning over in my mind as we drove home how on earth he could keep the place going - the Sablon casualty fresh in mind - I have now discovered that this is one of three such outlets in Belgium. What a civilised country this is.

Friday, March 25, 2016


A consoling thought - George Best and Johan Cruyff kicking a football on the Elysian Fields. Imagine!

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A depressing thought as the US elections descend into wife-shaming. Or ...

Let's Make America Grate Again.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Yesterday, as part of the build-up to the IB Paper Two I went through a series of 21st Century contexts - the kinds of current issues that are shaping our lives and which might offer contemporary parallels for the set texts. Fundamentalism and the secularisation of society was one which, in turn, led on to a discussion of terrorism and the shifting nature of modern war. I tried to explain to students how the old model of two opposing armies and a battlefield was no longer applicable. Imagine, I said, had you been walking down the street in Forest last week and suddenly found yourself in the cross-fire. The war zone is on your doorstep.

One of those teacherly off-the-cuff remarks you make in an effort to give force to an idea ... and then this morning's events take place.

There's really not much more to say right now.


Saturday, March 19, 2016

There was a good tribute to Peter Maxwell Davies on Radio 3 at lunchtime which sent me scurrying upstairs to locate the one ... two ... even three CDs I was more or less sure I had shelved somewhere or other.

Indeed.

One is an anthology of sorts with the Radio 3 Sunday Morning 'jingle' I remember waking up to back in the lonely & miserable Bristol Sundays. Yet for some reason I had never persisted sufficiently to hear a later track - Farewell to Stromness. I've listened to various versions on YouTube thinking to direct you accordingly but not one has the resonance of the CD version. You'll just have to find one for yourself. It's a disarmingly simple piece & shouldn't be criticised for that. PMD understood the power of folk melodies & the political weight such music can carry.

Another reevaluation underway.
Political punditry

As the saying goes ...

... beware the IDS of March.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

So utterly disenchanted with the rugby I decided to make my own ringtone. After an hour of trying I finally succeeded - the iPhone won't allow the kind of simple file transfer via Bluetooth I used to do with an old Nokia.

Then the irony hits me - all that rhetoric of being 'in touch', the world at your fingertips, seamless connectivity ... until, that is, you try to get one device to interface with another (even an iPad with an iPhone).

Not to mention 'lending' someone music you've purchased from the iTunes Store. (Why I remain staunchly in favour of CDs - something tangible to pass from
hand to hand).




Dismal, dismal, dismal.

Once again Wales play for about 30 minutes of an 80 minute game - & the last 30 minutes at that.

At times I wonder why I watch it - some form of self-flagellation?

It's "just a game" comes in handy at times like this.

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So utterly sick of the hype surrounding the appointment of a new football manager or multi-million pound transfer fee for a player, you begin to wonder what the world would be like were conductors and orchestras to be give the same level of media attention. The passing of Nikolaus Harnoncourt made a ripple or two & that's it. Reading the excerpts from the booklet that accompanies this - presumably - his last recording I'm struck by the wisdom & humility:

"There is no end to it all. You can never say: "Right, now I understand this piece, now I've finally made sense of it." 

(Which, incidentally, reminds me of Peter Gizzi's bewilderment when his students claim to have read a poem & exhausted it.)

I don't know the 4th Symphony very well - one of those you tend to relegate to the second division in comparison with the 5th, 6th, 7th, 9th. How silly. Sitting down just now to listen to the first movement of Harnoncourt's recent version - well, it's a revelation. What an opening! This will keep me going for the weekend.

And by the way ... if you're not familiar with the Andras Schiff Guardian lectures on Beethoven's sonatas, this link is a must:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/classical/page/0,,1943867,00.html

It's wonderful to hear such a calm & clear analysis of these pieces by another great musician whose very depth of knowledge has only served to make them even more astonished at the profundity of the compositions. 


Thursday, March 03, 2016






Title for this post: The Boot On The Other Foot.

The past few days it has felt rather like being part of a Guild in the Middle Ages. Younger Wafflette has been engaged on a book project for school requiring some kind of collage. One way or another we've all been dragged in to the process. (My contribution being to pull down from the shelves my Cornell collection & print off written drafts & various images).

That said, the overall conception has been her own - as well as some strenuous colouring & frequent tantrums. As I type the text part of the project is being finalised at the kitchen table (hence the raised voices).

As for the collage-object, well, it isn't bad & shows what can be done with an old Ferrero Rocher plastic cone (the bottom half of an hour glass, no?). Blue Peter sails on.

Anyway, my apologies go out to all the parents of my own students who must also have been pressed into labour over the years.