Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Not I

I sat opposite a man with tourettes in the cafe today. Watching the well-heeled people of Highgate trying to politely ignore his outbursts was almost as entertaining as the noises he was making. He was more of a shrieker than a swearer. Cat meows and geese honks seemed to be his speciality, but he was also a virtuoso when it came to random whistles; long-held notes which got louder and louder until everyone’s ears began to vibrate. They were playing havoc with my composing until I noticed that one particular pitch fitted perfectly with the bar that I was writing at the time, so I wrote it into the score! The whole episode reminded me of Beckett’s, Not I, and still, if I could turn back time and watch just one piece of seminal theatre, I’d choose to see Billie Whitelaw’s mouth, performing that play whilst hovering in a tiny spotlight, 20 feet above the Royal Court stage. I recently discovered the film of her performing the piece on You Tube. It’s extraordinary

I’ve just returned from a recording session in Limehouse where I was playing ‘cello on the new album by a singer songwriter called Simon Grainger. He’s a very interesting character who writes music which is incredibly dark and moody, but occasionally fizzes into rather extraordinary episodes of electro-pop. It’s an interesting combination... particularly when you add a sobbing ‘cello!

We’re currently sitting in Highgate Village with our close friend, Christopher Sieber, who’s come to stay with us from New York. He’s brought some glorious weather with him, but more worryingly, seems also to have brought a little slice of the American’s trigger-happy gun culture. Something awful happened in Cumbria this afternoon and many people have been killed by a rampaging gunman who shot at innocent people from behind the wheel of a taxi. It’s horrific. It’s occasions like this that always take me back to a rather surreal day in 1989, when a gunman rushed into our school and shot the Deputy Head right outside our classroom. Fortunately for us, it was January, and the windows were entirely misted over with condensation. I dread to think what we’d have witnessed if the lunatic had waited until the summer...

Pepys had a veritable heart-to-heart with Montagu on this date 350 years ago and took the opportunity to thank him for all he’d done for him over the past few months. Montagu was incredibly gracious and told Pepys that he hoped to do him a “more lasting kindness” if things with the King continued to go as well for him as they had been. His passing comment, which Pepys chose to quote verbatim, was thrillingly tantalising; “we must have a little patience and we will rise together”. Wow!

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