Jeremy’s software



Across town on my vouwfiets to see Jeremy and to return one lot of software and borrow another. My bike normally lives in the attic (and that also doubles as my composing room when the neighbours are making too much noise).

Jeremy defies the laws of nature by getting more cute as he gets older. He looks about 28, though he is perhaps 40. Being so good-looking (especially now that he’s all bronzed from a recent cruise) and nice, and clever and well educated, and everything else that any reasonable person could desire in a partner, he naturally has boyfriend trouble……

We sat on the balcony and J. served lunch. I could see across to the Rembrandt Tower. It was a lovely hot day. I started to wear a straw hat, but that didn’t help. Truth be told, I don’t much like hot sunshine. But I did like sitting amongst herbs and pot plants. And being with him was so nice.

We talked a bit about the massacre in Virginia because it’s just happened. But all the issues have been gone through again and again, so there’s not much to say. The main thing I find is not to sneer at the U.S. and its problems. I don’t like that. It’s a cheap thing to do. J. didn’t do that of course. On the contrary, he’s researching into the problem.

Cycled back along the Baarsjesweg where they plan to build the new Westermoskee. If it happens it should be magnificent. Fantastic position there by the canal and they’ve erected a hoarding where you can see an image of what it will all look like. The whole project is controversial though……….needless to say.

Flag waving

Royal standard of Norway

Royal standard of Norway

Yesterday the train was again diverted via Hilversum, but this time it was due to necessary work on the track which will go on for several weeks. I was en route to give my last class for this semester. On Saturday the students do their Final, and then it’s over.

By chance, the journey via Hilversum gave me an idea. A very obvious one, but I have a peculiar ability to miss the obvious… Maybe because there is so much around that doesn’t appear to be interesting. We passed by some business premises just outside Hilversum – I don’t know what the firm was. There were flags flying there. Not nice national flags or, even nicer, a royal standard, but “company flags”. I was used of course to seeing these, but had always discounted them. In this case, they were truly risible. Along the tops of the flags, threaded into the border, was a thin rod, at right angles to the flagpole. So the flags were erect and “flying” even though there was no wind. It was stupid looking and, of course, part of the attraction of a flag is the way it furls and unfurls in the wind.

These stupid stiff versions are really advertisements, simply that. And then I thought that blogs, websites for composers, are similarly advertisements. Attention seeking.
On the journey back, I was thinking about the ways in which composers do this. The other day I received a publishers catalogue of what is, I think, quite a poor composer. There was an introduction written by a music critic. The prose was almost purple (violet? mauve?). And then I got the idea that the critic knew just how weak the work was that he was praising. The more “purple” he became, the more he seemed to be lying. (We never stop lying of course, but the insidious ones are the lies we tell ourselves).

So I think a website can be used to give out honest thoughts and feelings as well as cataloguing work. Trumpeting “success” where there is none is, well, lying. And rather transparently so in the case I mentioned. As to company flags – how dull is that?

The Royal Standard of Norway, shows how it should be done.

“Polyphony”……..and my new string quartet…..

Poulenc and Satie

Poulenc and Satie

One of the nice aspects of being a composer is that you are quite often at home and can therefore do several things at once. I have sometimes tried to see just how many simultaneous activities I can combine. On the way to the computer this morning (in order to gather some random numbers – I have a program for that), with a sketch in my hand for the new string quartet, I remembered to call the harpsichordist Gerard van Vuuren to apologize for not accompanying him to the movies yesterday to see a Garbo film. In the middle of that we got on to the subject of Poulenc’s La Grenouillere song which I like very much and which I am referring to in the quartet. He emailed me the text, which I couldn’t find. It’s by Apollinaire and Gerard is an Apollinaire fan.

Suddenly I remembered that I had to turn the onions in the kitchen, so I excused myself. In the end I got the random numbers I wanted and returned to my desk. So by my count, that was three tasks completed in a “polyphony” of activity.

My friend John at school, with whom I had a (sadly) brief fling-ette had an ambition to fart, shit, come, burp, spit, cough and pee all at the same time. That’s as impossible to perform as a Xenakis piano part, but it’s worth contemplating anyway. Once, at a School Speech Day, John told me about another fantasy of his. On such occasions he liked to imagine that all the dignitaries sitting on the platform were actually sitting on the toilet. We began to laugh and couldn’t stop. He-he.

Lunch in the Chinese quarter



We met up with a friend on Monday at De Waag op de Nieuwmarkt and ate round the corner at the Nam Kee on the Zeedijk.

We discussed Chendra’s video clips on YouTube. My favourite is Lamento de Pollux (Chendra is himself dancing in that one) with very effective music by Santiago Lanchares. It’s a work-in-progress, but already excellent. I told Chendra that the clip reminded me of Un Chien Andalou. But when we looked at the film later (and also at L’Age d’Or) he didn’t see any resemblance to his work and I couldn’t find the words to explain what I meant………whoops.

After lunch we went back to the Nieuwmarkt and sat at a terrasje drinking coffee. Spring has arrived you see.

Then we walked over to the Muziekgebouw aan ’t IJ and picked up a brochure for next season. I like that building very much and the positioning there by the water is just great.

Dinner at Jeroen’s house on Easter Sunday

Brilliant meal at Jeroen’s pretty house in a cute village situated on the river Vecht. Me, Ananda, Chendra, Jeroen of course (who was cook) and Iman Ahimsa, a photographer. They got on to the subject of China and then Feng Shui. I was just “taking notes”. A classical music station was was playing in the background, so Ananda and I were meanwhile enjoying recognizing things as they came along. It’s a good game. Some Star Trek music appeared (obviously scraping through into the classical music category) and then a marvelous choral piece by John Rutter which we hunted for when we got back to Amsterdam. The subject of Lounge Music came up and the Buddha Bar in Paris. So Jeroen put on a compilation CD released under their brand name. Nice, but, oh dear, I’m pretty sure that’s not on my list of “things you must like” – the one I mislaid several years ago.

Together with Jeroen Kohnstamm to Het Nationale Ballet

We went with Jeroen, a friend of Chendra’s, to the ballet in the Muziektheater. I like that theatre very much. Het Nationale Ballet is a really good company. I enjoyed the evening. Particularly an excellent electronic score by Jacob ter Veldhuis, who I’ve sometimes met at Roderik and Annelie de Man’s house.

Choreographers go on trying to work with traditional ballet vocabulary, just as we are still trying to do something with violins and cellos. That’s not an exact parallel, but….the point is you get that sometimes disconcerting combination of old and new.

Dinner at Dantzig aan de Amstel next door. Meat! Mmm!