Wednesday, 25 June 2014


I've been battling my way through the epic eleven-minute opening sequence in Brass today. It changes key and time signature so many times, and has the added complication that the first four minutes is only performed by piano, drums and trumpet. I find myself being more cautious in what I write for this particular reduced ensemble. I can't just empty a box of musical instruments over the score to paper over inaccuracies with a wash of sound. Neither can I nestle in the comfort and familiarity of string music.

Sometimes orchestration is a little how I imagine key-hole surgery to be. Often there's only one possible choice, which involves placing a delicate spot in exactly the right location on the manuscript. Stick the dot in the wrong place, all hell breaks loose and suddenly you've a bleeding carcass of a composition which needs urgent attention!

Anyway, the good news is that I finished the draft for this particular sequence at about ten o'clock tonight, which gave me time for a lovely hot bath. I shall celebrate by sitting on the sofa for an hour or so, with a nice cup of tea, looking for episodes of Storage Hunters!

My cold has settled into a rather nice woozy place with the added benefit of a productive cough which I'm finding most satisfactory. I went back to the gym again after lunch, but drew the line at walking up the hill to Highgate Village.

Guys, I'm really struggling to think of anything to write tonight! I've not spoken to a soul all day apart from Nathan and my Mother on the telephone.

I did learn a new word, however. Diaeresis. A diaeresis, for those who have not been looking at my Facebook feed, is a special sort of umlaut, which happens to feature in my mother's name, Noëlle. To quote my beloved school drama teacher, "a traditional umlaut changes the the pronunciation of the vowel it sits on top of, but a diaeresis tells you to pronounce the two adjacent vowels separately (and not as a diphthong.)"

So therefore my mother's name (with the aid of the diaeresis goes from Nole to Nowell. Simples!

There are a number of names, like Zoë, which also use diaereses, but only one regularly-used word in the English dictionary, which still has one... Naïve.

Nathan tells me we used to use diaereses a great deal more regularly, in words which, these days, we tend to spell with a hyphen. Top of the list: coöperation and reëlect. Bizarrely, The New Yorker publication still insists on using diaereses in its columns today. It's considered to be an incredibly quaint and old-fashioned practice, but I rather like it. I may try and use diaereses more often in this column. (Especially now I've learned how to do one on my iPhone.)

I'm still rather attached to my mother's name for a diaeresis, however; "my special umlaut."

1 comment:

  1. so love reading your pages ,each is so different and so rewarding ,I learn something each and every time ,