Tuesday, 7 January 2014


Waking up this morning was a little traumatic. A gale was rattling the windows, rain was splashing down the steps outside, and it was barely light. I literally had to use all of my will power to haul myself out of bed, and then I sat for long minutes in the bath, apparently unable to do anything but stare miserably at the taps, whilst my fingers turned into prunes!

Still, things picked up, and I completed another song for Brass, which took me, briefly, into the uncharted world of C flat major, which, for those reading who don't know a great deal about music, is a ludicrously complicated key, right on the edge of sanity! I don't know how I got there, and once I'd arrived, I made a hasty retreat with a snappy little modulation, which delivered me back into D major; a world which will always make far better sense!

I'm writing a sort of showstopper number: a big old ensemble song, with an internal narrative, which could be lifted out of the show and performed out of context. It strikes me that all good musicals have one of these numbers. Think Meadowlark in the Baker's Wife. Because they work independently, they're often the songs which become better known, but equally the first numbers to be cut when a show is too long!

Anyway, Billy Whistle, which is my song's name, is a bitter-sweet ditty about a soldier who likes to whistle. He whistles with the birds, and the steam train which takes him to France. He whistles in the trenches and all the other soldiers whistle back because his music reminds them of English summers. Unfortunately, the one whistle Billy doesn't recognise is the whistle of a whizz bang...

I got really quite upset whilst writing it. Obviously the song tells a sad little tale, and to make it as bitter sweet as possible, I'm trying to tap into a good balance of major and minor chords, to create the impression, musically speaking at least, that there's no hope without pain! There's also the knowledge that the particular characters who I've selected to sing the song will not necessarily survive to the end of the piece, and when you're basing a work on real people, this can be somewhat devastating.

I'm currently retuning from central London, where I had a lovely bite to eat with Ellie. We ate in Soho, and then I walked her to Queensway where she's staying in an hotel.

We met at Broadcasting House and, whilst waiting in the foyer, I bumped into a whole series of people I knew, including the lovely Tom Service, an old university chum, who now presents television shows about classical music, and my friend Ian, who produces current affairs shows. It struck me that the foyer of Broadcasting House is the ideal place to sit and network. I might take my computer there one day! This industry is all about being in the right place at the right time and popping into someone's consciousness just as they're thinking "I wish a really interesting project would present itself to me!" They're most likely to think that on their way to and from work!

Ellie and I walked along the top of Hyde Park and I was quite surprised when she said, "can't you just tell that this is one of those London places where bad things have happened?" She was talking, of course, about the Tyburne Tree, the location of thousands of public executions into relatively modern times, which stood forebodingly in that exact part of town.

Of course, as soon as she said it, the hackles on my neck started rising, no doubt simply because she'd put the thought in my head!

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