You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2010.

Bang Bang was written by Sonny Bono and originally recorded by Cher.

Mad Tony Benn

Politics live with Andrew Sparrow: rolling coverage

Ed Miliband … at last, a Labour Party leader with two mad eyes!

I think it is a fairly established view that although Schoenberg was the developer of serialism, others soon surpassed him as far as innovation goes, and Schoenberg is paradoxically one of the most influential and best known or notorious modern composers, yet his compositions are little known or played (but thoroughly analyzed scholarly). Personally I prefer his pre-serialist atonal expressionist period as in Pierrot Lunaire with the hilarious “Sprechgesang”. As far as serialism goes, I am more inclined to listen to Webern and Stravinsky, not to mention Stockhausen’s particular spatial electronic serialism and Ligeti’s micropolyphony, both somehow emerging from serialism.

Personally I think Schoenberg should have resisted the Germanic cultural impulse to systematize and bring “Ordnung” out of the Expressionist chaos.

I mean, I understand the impulse, but I remain somewhat sceptical of it. A composer of immense power like Karl Amadeus Hartmann evolved more out of the pre-dodecaphonic Schoenberg than from the “12-tone method”. So too did Alban Berg. Early Hindemith also shows the possibilities.

But allow me to contradict myself! I still like the Piano Concerto and the Violin Concerto is a fun work, not to mention Moses und Aron, and I can with difficulty agree that the 12-tone method allows you to sound Expressionist, and yet allow you to show some sense behind the sound.

The deeper question is: does it matter if you can show the sense behind the sound, if the finished product is … frankly … dull?

Pierre Boulez described him as an heroic failure. There’s a lot of truth in that description and it pretty much applies to Boulez the composer, too.

Unlike Boulez, however, Schoenberg was a very great man, a bona fide genius, and did something that absolutely had to be done. It took stupendous talent, courage, and strength of mind, and because of all this his life was blighted … such a very lonely path that met with incredulity and contempt.

His output is very mixed I think (I say that humbly) but there are magnificent things of the highest order.

Previously unseen images of Marilyn Monroe have been published in a new book, Marilyn: August 1953: The Lost LOOK Photos, which comes out this week.

The pictures were taken over several days when a sprained ankle prevented the Hollywood icon from filming “River of No Return” with Robert Mitchum in Alberta, Canada in the summer of 1953.

Photographer John Vachon took over 100 shots for a feature in LOOK magazine but only three were published in October of that year.

(Source: Independent)

I just had to get that off my chest.

Tom Service talks to Alexander Goehr about his last opera, based on King Lear, currently in rehearsal:

At 78, Alexander “Sandy” Goehr is one of the linchpins of the British musical establishment. He was professor of music at Cambridge University for nearly a quarter of a century; as a student, he was one of the Manchester School of composers, along with Harrison Birtwistle (“Harry”) and Peter Maxwell Davies (“Max”). Not that he thanks me for reminding him of his establishment credentials. “It’s all bullshit,” he says with a wry smile, somehow managing to make a cuss word sound cultured with his deep, resonant tones. “Nobody understood that I was a complete outsider at Cambridge. I haven’t even got a degree, let alone a doctorate – and I only got the job back in 1976 because the place was so clapped out they had to appoint a sort of academic doctor to sort it out.”

Promised End is at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House, London, on 9, 11, 14 and 16 October (box office: 020-7304 4000), then tours until 26 November.


Aerial images of landscapes and scenes around Britain. The photographs feature in a Royal Geographical Society outdoor exhibition, which will be in Bath city centre from 28 September until early 2011.

Shetland Salmon Farm

Buckinghamshire Linseed Crop

Perranporth Beach, Cornwall

(Source: Grauniad)

(Taken from Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home by Nigella Lawson)

This is perhaps one of the most useful puddings you can have in your repertoire. Not that it is the job of a pudding to be useful: a pudding exists merely to delight. Still, dinner does need to be made, even when there’s precious little time for it and that should be a delight, too.

So here’s the deal: there is pitifully little work to be done to make this berry-dazzler of a tart, and enormous pleasure to be derived from its consumption.

All you do is bash a few biscuits a day or so in advance and make the base – getting one course out of the way early is my way of managing – then stir lemon curd and cream cheese together, and use this cream to line the crumb-covered tart tin. I use shop-bought lemon curd here, but even if it comes out of the jar, it must be of good quality. And when it is whipped into the cream cheese, that cream cheese must be at room temperature, as should the lemon curd in its jar. The combination produces a layer of what tastes like cheesecake cream: light, lemony, luscious.

I used to put the berries on top of the cream pretty much last-minute, but then I found that a leftover wedge, after the party, looked inviting after being in the fridge overnight, and so I now finish assembling the tart ahead of time. But if you prefer to add the fruit nearer to serving, I completely understand. Don’t feel you must obey the fruit orders too literally: any mixture of berries (or indeed other fruit) would do, and you could well use a smaller amount and top the tart less extravagantly.


375g digestive biscuits
75g soft unsalted butter
2 x 200g packets cream cheese, at room temperature
1 x 240g jar lemon curd, at room temperature
125g blueberries
125g blackberries
125g raspberries
125g redcurrants or pomegranate seeds
125g small strawberries


Process the biscuits and the butter to a sandy rubble and press into the sides and bottom of a deep-sided fluted tart tin. Place in the freezer (or fridge if that is not possible) for 10-15 minutes.

In a clean processor bowl, process the cream cheese and lemon curd (or just mix by hand) and spread into the bottom of the chilled tart tin, covering the base evenly.

Arrange the fruit gently (so it doesn’t sink in too much) on top of the lemony cream cheese in a decorative manner (see right), leaving some of the strawberries unhulled, with their picturesque stalks attached.

Place the tart in the fridge, preferably overnight, though for at least 4 hours. It does need to get properly cold in order to set enough for the tart to be unsprung and sliced easily.

(Source: Guardian)

How did a groundbreaking production of Tristan und Isolde make it to the stage? With help from kneepads, booze, painkillers and video artist Bill Viola, reveals company manager Henrietta Bredin in her tour diary:

Back in 2004, conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen, director Peter Sellars and artist Bill Viola created the all-enveloping, sensurround Tristan Project. Their hugely ambitious version of Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde mixed Viola’s video art with Sellars’ choreography and direction against a semi-staging of the immense opera. The piece played in New York, Los Angeles and Paris, and Salonen began planning to bring it to London. Six years later, reimagined and retitled, Tristan und Isolde has been performed in Switzerland and Germany and is about to go to Birmingham, before finishing up in London’s Royal Festival Hall on Sunday. This new take brings the musicians out of the orchestra pit and on to the stage. Over their heads is a vast screen – 11m x 6.6m – on which Viola’s images, of fire and water, faces and reflections, moonlight and waves, are projected. The screen is in a horizontal position for the first two acts and then pivots on its own axis to a vertical position. The entire thing weighs 1,740kg, as much as a car, and has to be transported to and erected in each venue. At various points during the performance, singers and solo instrumentalists perform from different places within the concert hall, which produces an extraordinary three-dimensional effect, immersing the audience in Wagner’s music. I was brought in as company manager by the London-based Philharmonia, where Salonen is principal conductor, to put together a mini opera production team of technical director and stage managers, and then to look after the singers and keep things on track while the show went on the road. We started with rehearsals in London …

R.A.D. Stainforth is unwell.

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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