This point puts me in mind of the discussion I had with Marie in London about alcohol. She agrees with me that a whisky doesn’t give you the same immediate kick as a gin and tonic. I always order a g+t on planes so that I can relax. After downing that, I don’t care how much the wings bounce up and down or even whether they break off entirely and we nose-dive into the sea. In fact, I sometimes think that might be a good way to end this nonsense called life. Now that Marie is getting forgetful in her old age, she doesn’t remember that she has shared a bottle of bubbly with me in the morning for elevenses, so later in the day she tells me off when I suggest we drink something before Magic Hour arrives (6 pm, according to the late Queen Mother). I only ever had one friend who drank at breakfast. He is dead now, God rest his soul. He was an even more irritable bugger than I am.
Anyway, as I said, I was irritated at having to write this tune down, find the pitches and see what the metronome mark was. Irritatingly it was 124. And I’m thinking “fuck you, why aren’t you just 120 or 100 or something less fussy”. As I’m still writing my Songs of Parting (*) I think “oh, I can use this”. Then, of course, irritatingly, I can’t remember any of the texts, so I look at the list and identify “Jealousy” as the only one that can work with this new idea. But then it can only serve as a counter melody, because the words don’t fit it. Irritating! But I think “what the fuck, it’s about time I made the texture of these songs a bit more complex”. Anyway, now I will have one song with a bit of (primitive) polyphony going on. I like polyphony, though my favourite textures are pointillist.
Having noted down the tune, I start to read the newspapers. Something about the Loch Ness Monster. Something about Hillary Clinton playing the gender card after her poor performance in the debate the other day (her campaign has made out she was being bullied by the male candidates). Why do I dislike that woman and her smug husband so much? Anyway, irritatingly, whilst I am reading, the melody goes on developing in my head. This is always happening to me.
When I go along on the tram an idea occurs to me. I write it down. Five minutes later it is there again in my mind, but varied – something added to it. Then I have to get out my piece of paper again. And damn me if five minutes later, the bloody thing doesn’t alter some more. Out comes the piece of paper again. I don’t know why I bother, as when I get home I mostly stick these ideas in a pile somewhere and forget about them. Almost as irritating is overhearing music as I go around and never knowing what it is. I am for ever asking people “who’s that singer, what’s the title of that song?” One day taking a siesta I left the radio on and suddenly there was some exquisite orchestral music there. I wrote to the broadcaster to find out what it was but I got an “out of office” reply. Yet, here again, when I DO succeed in finding out what pieces of music are called, I note down the information and then just lose it amongst the million other pieces of paper in my apartment.
Another curious thing. Why is it now that I am so much attracted by all sorts of music? Why am I so open to influence? When I was young, no overheard music interested me. Nowadays however, even noises I hear on the street catch my ear. I want to notate them. Possess all of them. Frankly it’s nuts. Where is the calm I would like to have? Gone for good I guess.
Mentioning street noises reminds me that I’ve been irritated for some years by this idea that music is organized sound. It is not. Last night the sentence came into my mind – music is not the art of sound, music is the sound of art. If I am attracted by a noise on the street, it is because it has already become music and is no longer noise. In view of my many irritations, I should just stay drunk the whole time, like Stravinsky did in his old age. That’s what Philippe Entremont (the solo pianist in Stravinsky’s recording of his Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments) told me anyway – he said that S. was drunk even first thing in the morning at rehearsals. Can you fucking blame him? God bless the saint of St. Petersburg.
(*) It was my friend Hamish who found the title Songs of Parting for my new piece.