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A composer does not, of course, add bit by bit, as a child does in building with wooden blocks. He conceives an entire composition as a spontaneous vision.

(Arnold Schoenberg, Fundamentals of Musical Composition)

I once read an interview with a famous classical musician – I just can’t remember who it was – I want to say Arthur Rubinstein but I’m not really sure.

Anyway, one of the questions was “Do you have perfect pitch?” and the answer was “No, thank God.”

I have perfect pitch. I cannot recall a time when I didn’t know I had it. It is both a gift and a curse.

I cannot recognize A440 Hz (or Concert A) every time, although I can come very close when I actually sing it; you could only tell the difference if you compared it to a tuning fork, electronic tuner or other instrument. What I can do is to know at once what note, chord, or tonality is playing without knowing the music or seeing which key a musician hits. I can tell if it’s significantly sharp or flat too. Without comparison I couldn’t tell the difference between, say, the Vienna Philharmonic’s A445 Hz and the New York Philharmonic’s A440 Hz. (Unless I recognized the orchestras, which I certainly could.) But if it’s more, down to A430 Hz for instance, I could certainly tell something was off. That’s a real problem with period-instrument groups; most of them tune to A415 Hz or somewhere thereabouts, and they sound a semitone flat to me.

Out-of-tune orchestras are no more torment to me than to the average music-lover. But choruses can cause real difficulties. It’s not uncommon for an unaccompanied chorus singing perfectly in tune with itself to vary a semitone more or less as they sing. Jesus!

I have heard the theory that perfect pitch may be learned when very young. It’s possible, I suppose. In my case, I was surrounded by music from earliest childhood; my father played violin in a quartet and we had hundreds of LPs. However, that raises the question “Why do some children learn it while others in near-identical situations don’t?”



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Now if I dressed like these cats women would be all over me. I gots to get me a zoot suit.

(This post inspired by Blog Princess G. Here’s looking at you, kid.)



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A revolting recipe from the 1970s, courtesy of Good Housekeeping.

Please post a comment if you know where to get hold of a pig’s liver.

Ingredients

1 lb. pig’s liver
2 oz. butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
¼ lb. streaky bacon, rinded and diced
¼ lb. belly pork, diced
1 clove garlic
1½ tbsp concentrated tomato paste
¼ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp garlic salt
¼ tsp basil
¼ tsp salt
4 tbsp dry red wine
grated rind of ½ lemon
1 bay leaf
lettuce, cucumber and tomato for garnish

Method

Remove skin and any gristle from the liver. Melt butter and fry onion. Add remainder of ingredients.

Cook slowly for about 1½ hours. Remove bay leaf and drain meat. Retain liquor.

Mince meat finely, stir in liquor. Press into a 1½ pint dish. Cover with foil.

Cook in the oven at 350° F. for 30 minutes. Leave in a cold place.

To serve, turn out and garnish with lettuce, cucumber and tomato.

Top Tip

Make sure you are completely pissed.



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What has happened
to the pupils
of my eyes, Picasso?
Why do I deserve
such deformity?

(Grace Nichols, Weeping Woman)

I just bought some Twinings Earl Grey tea. It’s not bad. It’s the bags though.

Tea bags should not pass as tea, just like instant coffee should not as coffee. Tea should be boiled, even simmered for a while. If you do not have the means or time or patience to do so, you can get good quality tea leaves and a tea press (similar to a coffee press) and prepare it that way. In methods where coffee and tea are not in direct contact with hot water, the results will be less than satisfactory (e.g. freeze-dried instant coffee and tea bags).

I think it boils down to passing ground coffee/tea leaves through water, or passing water through ground coffee/tea leaves.

My uncle worked for a large tea producer and refused to allow tea bags into his house describing them as floor-sweepings. My young friend Melissa recently discovered that her sister only drinks hot water when she visits because Melissa uses tea bags. If she had asked for leaf tea she could have had it as Melissa has that too.



Arts

Never, never, never, never, never!

(William Shakespeare, King Lear)

In The Delicious Miss Dahl on BBC2, the former model merely parodies Nigella Lawson and there is no indication that her tongue is in her cheek. She even presents it from a kitchen which viewers are led to believe is her own. Well, so what?

The BBC messageboards and, inevitably, Twitter, became clogged with comments abusing the poor girl. Giles Coren, brother of the gorgeous pouting European poker champion Victoria, was quite insulting, and called the show a sickening sham. Or something.

Since Nigella years ago became an outrageous and unbeatable parody of herself anyway, I think Sophie is wasting her time.

The question is, do we really need another cookery show on television?



Arts

That’s it, baby, when you’ve got it, flaunt it, flaunt it!

(Mel Brooks, The Producers)

Jane Goldman exposed most of her ample chest at the UK premiere of Kick-Ass.

When she gets rid of overpaid overweight overgrown schoolboy Jonathan Ross, Jane could be the next Mrs Stainforth.

Related:

Fury as Mrs Ross’s shocker gets a 15 rating



Arts

There mid the dust of dying creeds
Christ starves, while Venus feasts;
She holds the people’s hearts and leaves
To Him – the mumbling priests.

(G.A. Studdert Kennedy, Idols)

My own experience with people who suddenly go the “born again” route is that it’s not possible to be open-minded and to lend a sympathetic ear to them, because for the first couple years after their rebirth, it seems like all of their interaction with those who aren’t born again involves proselytising. I simply won’t spend time with someone whose every statement is an effort to convert me.

However, once they’ve been born again for a couple years, they tend to calm down and understand that they’re alienating more people than they are converting by being so aggressive.

I lost a very close friend for a while because of this. When he calmed down after a couple of years, we were able to at least meet up with each other on occasion again, but things were never the same. He’s a better person now than he was before he found religion (he stopped drinking and is a better family man). So I’m happy for him in that respect. But I still just have a difficult time feeling close to him when I know in the back of his mind, he thinks I’m damned to an eternity of misery because I don’t share his beliefs, and that our value systems and societal views are from different planets (he now holds a very traditional view of women and will occasionally use the word “fornicate”, not to mention his views on homosexuality and other such topics – I just can’t identify with such a person). Actually, he was over recently and saw all of the Darwin/Evolution stuff I put up on my walls. I’m guessing he won’t be coming back down for a while.

So, should I have continued to spend time with the guy, sitting there and listening to him try to convince me that my ancestors weren’t apes, that the Earth is about 10,000 years old, and that I have to accept Jesus as my saviour?.

I don’t think that’s uncommon for people who suddenly go head first into a fundamentalist brand of religion for at least the first year or two after their conversion.

I’d rather spend my time with people I consider reasonable and rational.

This is the great man’s legendary 1991 appearance on pretentious Channel 4 chat show After Dark. When the drink ran out, he left.




The single most impressive musical development since World War II has been the astonishingly rapid and widespread dissemination of the practice of twelve-tone composition.

(George Perle, Serial Composition and Atonality)

It does really matter, when and where I am, when I compose. Some places are generally better to sit and compose than others. But one very powerful fact is that in the late evening or the early hours of the morning I’m much more productive than in the whole day. As soon as the dark comes and I’m getting tired, I can hear the music glowing in my head. Sometimes, when I pour a drink and start to compose, I have to refresh the music just for a moment, but in the late evening hours the music is always trying to refresh me. Wherever I go, I can hear the music all the time, and of course that’s only good for the productivity. But it’s just so irritating, that it starts when I’m too tired or drunk to write anything.

Sometimes I must hurry up from my warm bed to find paper and pen – I did that only two days ago.

Sometimes particular compositional problems will work themselves out in my dreams. And once, totally without any rhyme or reason, I dreamed about a chord … I saw it on the paper and it was luminous. As it glowed it sounded in my head as well. I woke up and wrote the chord down, which sounded almost as magical in real life as it did in the dream. I still use the chord frequently, particularly if I am referring to anything magical or otherworldly, though I also like it in abstract music.



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We’ve got to have rules and obey them. After all, we’re not savages. We’re English, and the English are best at everything.

(William Golding, Lord of the Flies)

When a fly lands on a ceiling for a very short portion of its flight and for a very short time it’s flying upside-down. That fascinates me.

Don’t they take off backwards too? I believe they do. I hate flies and all insects in general. Wasps are the biggest bastards of the lot.

I have a very good record as a fly swatter. I use my hands and it almost always works. The trick is not to look at the fly in the eyes.

My young friend Melissa tells me that the trick to catching a fly is to move jerkily, like a chameleon. It will surprise you how close you can get to a fly if you move back and forth and back and forth (but more forth than back). In fact, you could get close enough to eat it.



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Black Dogs Defined

This is the best of me; for the rest, I ate, and drank, and slept, loved and hated, like another: my life was as the vapour and is not; but this I saw and knew; this, if anything of mine, is worth your memory.

(John Ruskin, Sesame and Lilies)

Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not.

(Alan Sillitoe, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning)

This is my letter to the world, that never wrote to me.

(Emily Dickinson, This is my letter to the world)

Safe upon the solid rock the ugly houses stand:
Come and see my shining palace built upon the sand!

(Edna St. Vincent Millay, Second Fig)

R.A.D. Stainforth

I was born before The Beatles’ first LP and brought up in the reeking slums of Jericho. I am in love with a woman called Hazel and in love with her daughter, also called Hazel, both of whom I met at Alcoholics Anonymous.

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