Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Westminster Shabby


In the style of my great hero, Pepys, I have walked today through all corners of London, starting bright and early at Westminster Abbey. I went there, essentially, to take a photograph of the plaque to Lewis Carroll in Poet's Corner, which features in the Requiem. Sadly, as I arrived, the first sign I saw informed me that photography was strictly banned and the place was riddled with offical-looking people, so that was £16 down the pan!

Nevertheless, I decided to stay and have a look around the place because I’d never visited Westminster Abbey before. I also used the experience to record a few blasts of atmospheric sound in the building. I became quite excited by the weird sibilant noises and echoey squeaks of groups of tourists trying to keep quiet.

It’s a funny sort of building. It reminded me of the John Soane museum. It’s like someone emptied a bag of enormous treasures into a building and someone just pushed them to the sides and stacked them up to the ceiling. It's like a hoarder's house; the various tombs, and smaller chapels make everything feel incredibly small and claustrophobic, add to that about a million tourists, and you've got yourself a problem. I didn’t like the place at all. It doesn’t have the majesty of St Paul’s.  It feels a bit pokey! I also HATED the tourists who were rushing through the space with me. None of them seemed at all bothered by the fact that they were in a place of worship and great historical importance. I'm not religious, but I do understand the need for silence in a place like that. I got a very strong sense that people were simply there because they felt it was a place to visit. The kids looked bored. None of the people in the space seemed at all interested in what they were looking at.

I walked from Westminster Abbey to the Thames, firstly to record the chimes of Big Ben, and then to record the sound of the Thames lapping at the beach on the South Bank. To me these are two of the true sounds of London.

From Waterloo, I went up to Kensall Green to stroll around the cemetery there, recording all the sounds I could hear; trains passing, helicopters juddering in the sky, and then sudden blasts of silence when all I could hear were the tweets of birds; blackbirds, robins, pigeons, magpies, and even parakeets. I became obsessed with the hundreds of little chimes hanging from the roses in one of the gardens of peace.

I went home via the dentist in Tufnell Park, where I was fitted for my new gum guard, which will hopefully stop me from grinding my teeth into oblivion.

The rest of the day has been spent doing admin... SO much of it, and I'm creaking under the pressure of it all. More musicians pulled out of tomorrow’s session, so I had to deal with getting information to their replacements. There were bad contracts to renegotiate, piles of manuscript to put into little folders, I had to text all the players for tomorrow's session to make sure they were okay, the first lot of texts I sent didn't reach some people and arrived 4 times in other phones. I'm in a panic about the fact that even my cousin doesn’t feel capable of helping me to sort out contracts to send out to the Requiem backers and performers.

350 years ago, Pepys’ diary entry went on forever. He didn’t say a great deal. Sometimes he used his diary to write down (in minutiae) things that he felt he might be quizzed on at a later point. He’d had a very long chat with Lord Sandwich, and pretty much wrote down every single word of the conversation.

He got home, to find his wife feeling a great deal better:

“Mr. Holliard had been with my wife to-day, and cured her of her pain in her ear by taking out a most prodigious quantity of hard wax that had hardened itself in the bottom of the ear, of which I am very glad.”

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