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Whilst there are a few works of Boulez I find to be very mediocre (Derive, Mémoriale, (“…explosante-fixe…”), both Incises and Sur Incises, and a few others), and I’m by no means convinced that various lush re-orchestrations of earlier works constitute an improvement, nonetheless he remains one of the most significant figures of the second half of the 20th century to me, and one whose work shows a greater consistency across the breadth of his output than, say, that of Stockhausen (who spent about 35 years mostly up his own arse, slowly going mad, with just the odd decent work).
All of this is to ignore Boulez’s seminal role as conductor, apologist for not just “new music” but for Debussy’s (for instance), Messiaen’s, Alban Berg’s, and a host of others. He established perhaps the most important institute for electronic and computer music research in the world, single-handedly petitioning a thankfully enlightened French Government in the late 60s/early 70s.
He renovated the repertoire, established a benchmark in certain conducting techniques (perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but it enlivened the world of the symphony orchestra and shook up the BBCSO), released superlative recordings of some of the 20th century’s greatest music, was politically active in supporting young composers, new music more generally, educational standards and notions of musical citizenship, and worked outside the box with the likes of the genius Frank Zappa.
Nigella Lawson has called in lawyers to deny claims that she bought “under the counter” foie gras at Selfridges in London.
The Queen of Gastroporn and Caramel Bukkake vehemently denied a newspaper report published at the weekend suggesting that she bought the controversial French delicacy from Jack O’Shea, a prominent butcher, at his former concession in the department store.
Although production of foie gras – made from the enlarged livers of force-fed geese – is banned in Britain, it can be sold legally and is stocked in a number of London shops.
Selfridges banned it on animal welfare grounds two years ago after a high-profile campaign led by Sir Roger Moore, the former James Bond actor. Mr O’Shea, however, continued to offer it for sale to a select group of customers who requested it using the code name “French fillet” (reminding me of the sinister butcher of Royston Vasey, Hilary Briss, from The League of Gentlemen). He who said he prided himself on his animal welfare standards, and was unrepentant after his dismissal from Selfridges last year. He said at the time: “I couldn’t give a damn, my conscience is clear. Stuffing a goose with grain is like stuffing me with Guinness.”
Before you read this, please bear in mind that I have drink taken.
I’ve never made a secret of disliking vibrato, or excessive amounts of it, in the human voice as an art form. One of the reasons Pavarotti was so esteemed was because his voice and high C’s were clear and direct, little warbling (if any) in most cases.
In the female soprano, or mezzo, it amazes me how many warblers there are. My point is, I would like to hear sopranos or mezzos with more of a crystal clear and direct timbre, a kind of sky blue clear Nordic sound, rather than flaunt the limitations and imperfections of their considerable throats.
However, I do find that with French opera I do like more vibrato than I do with other nationalities (of opera). Odd that, but then they did have some different traditions with regard to vibrato. But the use of vibrato is still somewhat controversial anyway. I would prefer less myself, though good singing is good singing.
The problem is worsened when some sopranos age too, so that whilst they may have been tolerable when young, their voice creates a beat or worse when they get older.
I know some blame often gets laid on Wagner’s doorstep, too, for writing parts that only one-in-a-million singers, like Birgit Nilsson or Kirsten Flagstad, can pull off without injuring the audience’s eardrums. I’m no singer or vocal coach, but that whole modern operatic method of vocal production (sort of like fluidly bellowing in key) strikes me as so unnatural that I’m amazed when singers do nail it.
(Interestingly, it’s been adopted rather successfully by some rock singers, like Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin, who ironically have no need to project like that since they’re amplified.)
Jean Paul Gaultier launched his brand new masculine fragrance in September 2011. The fragrance is named Kokorico, which is the French onomatopoeia for a rooster’s cry (“Cock-a-doodle-doo” in English).
Kokorico is designed as a powerful and explosive aphrodisiac, emphasizing woody and cocoa notes. Kokorico represents an olfactory cry, the boastful cry of a rooster, the conquering cry of a man-warrior, the cry of a young man filled with pleasure. Whatever …
The top of the composition features refreshing fig leaves, which provide energy, the heart is filled with raw cocoa, which stimulates (not the artificially sweet kind, but a natural extract), whilst woody notes of patchouli and cedar express their masculinity and power.
Black, red and feathers are flamboyant, cocky and dramatic elements of inspiration for the package and the campaign design. The bottle is shaped like a sculpture of a male head from one side, and it looks like a torso from the other perspective. The face of the campaign shot by Jean-Baptiste Mondino is model Jon Kortajarena.
Camille Saint-Saëns, someone said, was “The greatest composer who was not a genius.”
I’m not sure who said it, but I know that (from an early age) Saint-Saëns could do amazing things like play any of the 32 Beethoven piano sonatas from memory. That became his party trick. He was a child prodigy, and the great white hope of French music. I am not a huge fan of Saint-Saëns, I saw his Organ Symphony as a teenager and thought it was awesome, but now I think it’s boring. Tastes change (this says more about me than the composer). I think he wrote some pretty enjoyable music (like the fine piano concertos), and even some light and witty (very French) stuff like Carnival of the Animals. Early on, he was associated with progressive tendencies and was a good friend of Liszt, but later he became very conservative, booing at the premiere of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du Printemps. Edgard Varèse was a student of his, and they had a pretty uneasy relationship.
I’ve also heard that he simply walked out once he heard the opening bassoon line of Le Sacre du Printemps. Who knows what is apocryphal and what isn’t?
Its clear to me that genius is always applied to a particular creative quality (even a counterfeit one, such as the case of Andy Warhol, the charlatan who conned others into believing he was a genius) or personal force rather than a mere superior form of intellect, the latter being the contemporary definition.
Some people are polymaths, or Renaissance people, and do a number of things well. This does not make them geniuses. A genius in art: creates exceptionally beautiful and/or deeply meaningful works; and often changes the history of their art by the sheer power of their work and its making plain ideas which are floating unarticulated in the collective culture of the time. (Some other geniuses like Bach and Rembrandt bring up the rear, summing up the art of their time better than anyone else and may be completely out of fashion by their middle or old age.) Their ability to do arithmetic or trigonometry, negotiate a contract, fly a glider, make love, cook, garden, lead a political movement or whatever else, has nothing whatsoever to with their artistic genius. If a physicist were good at all the things I mentioned but only mildly important in his original work in the field of physics, would that rank him with Einstein as a genius in physics? Would all the other physicists and scientifically aware people who are looking or waiting for ways out of the conundrums that physics now finds itself in, care in the least about this guy’s ability to fly a glider or cook fucking pasta? If Beethoven could have done multiplication, would more orchestras play his symphonies than do now?
Leonardo da Vinci was a polymath, but is considered a genius not because he was a polymath but because he painted great paintings, on the level of genius, and changed art history. Without that quality he might be considered a very prescient inventor and a pioneering anatomist and geologist, but would probably not be considered a genius. The fact that he only completed less than a dozen or so paintings underlines the fact of his genius because it is unmistakable even from these few examples. It may also show that his polymathism – he could never keep his wandering mind on one thing for long, even a paid commission – actually possibly undermined his genius.
About thirty years ago I was in love with Gillian Moore when we were both students at York University.
Fuck. Look at her now. Harry looks better, and he’s 76.
Did you actually meet Messiaen?
Sort of, a couple of times. I sat next to him in Paris when they played my Triumph of Time. I think it was Colin Davis, I can’t remember, maybe it was Boulez. I think it was Boulez, yeah, it must have been Boulez, and they played a piece of his.
I am afraid that I struggle a bit with Milhaud. Most French music makes me feel slightly ill anyway.
It is not that I dislike his music. Far from it, I find most of it very pleasant, amiable, cheerful. Ultimately, however, I find myself unable to remember one piece from another.
He just seems to have written too much. I have, for example, all of the symphonies and all five of the piano concertos but there just seemed very little which was memorable about any of them. I did make the mistake of playing all of the piano concertos in sequence (which at least was not the mild torture of playing all of Malipiero’s piano concertos after each other).
He reminds me sometimes of Heitor Villa-Lobos. Composing obviously came fairly easily to him and compositions flowed from his pen but perhaps not always totally uncritically?
Maybe I am being unfair and maybe I should give the symphonies a second chance?
Nah, fuck it.
THE SUSPENSE IS OVER!
The Queen of Gastroporn’s new book “Kitchen: Recipes from the Heart of the Home” will be published on 2 September 2010.
There’s something intensely satisfying about cooking and eating, says the Queen of Gastroporn – whether it’s feeding family or snatching a greedy treat – and the kitchen, her ‘messy, ramshackle sanctuary’, is no place for guilt or self-denial. Here, introducing her new cookbook, she explains what the kitchen means to her, and why food is not just for body but for soul, too:
In everything I do, I try to beat the drum for the non-expert: I am not interested in some romantic idyll, but real life; call it making a virtue of necessity, but I declare myself, hand on cynical heart, the anti-perfectionist. But it appears that it’s hard to enthuse about the kitchen without either seeming to be whimsically nostalgic or bustlingly virtuous. I am neither. But still, the kitchen is my favoured space, my messy haven and ramshackle sanctuary – the place I feel most myself and yet most part of the world.
Maybe it is ungracious to admit this publicly, but I often feel that those of us who like cooking get an unfairly good press: we are hailed as loving, warm and nurturing. And it’s true that I am – to a fault – a feeder; there is scarcely a person who can leave my kitchen without something wrapped in foil to eat later, and just thinking about what I might cook for the next meal gives me a surge of absolute if greedy delight.
But sometimes I wonder if the interest I pay to what I might be giving someone to eat is more selfish than anything else. Of course, I want to give pleasure, but life in the kitchen is, for me, as much about personal gratification.
I’ve come to the conclusion that this is not such a bad thing. Of course, when you set it against the model of the ideal cook, that all-giving provider of good things, it doesn’t sound so great. But as I get older, I appreciate more and more that enjoying what makes you happy in the everyday is crucially important, and that self-denial (never my forte, let’s be frank) is not the path to virtue but to unhappiness.
So yes, for me the kitchen is not merely a room, but a pleasure palace, an interior garden of sensual delights – and all the better for it. While I could take the line that those who turn away from all that – whether it be the gorgeous, fatty richness of some long-braised belly of pork, or the melting intensity of a chocolate lime cake, dolloped shamelessly with margarita cream – must surely be blessed in their lives if they can so casually afford to deprive themselves of extra occasions of pleasure, I don’t really believe that; my admiration is sarcastic.
The joys of food are so great that I really do believe that those who cannot allow themselves to wallow in them have lesser lives. Of course, they have lesser dress sizes, too, and I can see that the trade-off works for many. It just doesn’t for me – or not that way around.
I know I eat a lot, but my refusal to bow down to the daily diet and all-round self-denial doesn’t mean I believe in indiscriminate gluttony. For me, it’s about savouring food without guilt or shame and not thinking that less flesh (either on your plate or your skeleton) is necessarily better.
Besides, I do think that enjoying food is a way of celebrating being alive. People often say that no one lies on their deathbed wishing they’d spent more time at the office and what I’d add is that I am sure that no one lies on their deathbed saying I’m so glad I turned down the bread, the cheese, the pudding, so thrilled I spent all those years on a diet.
We are all shaped by different things in our lives, but the memory of my perpetually dieting, self-denying mother saying – once she knew she had only a few weeks to live – that this was the first time she had eaten what she wanted and could enjoy it, is still shocking to me. She was such a fantastic cook and actually understood food and the joys it could bring, but the lesson I have learnt from her self-inflicted deprivation is as much a part of her legacy to me as is My Mother’s Praised Chicken, which is the fundamental, actually essential, dish to emanate from my kitchen, as it did from hers.
The joys that emanate from the kitchen are not just about consumption, however delectable, but creation, too. Yes, giving oneself the task of putting together some elaborate, I-must-impress dinner party would be absolute hell, but real cooking contains an element of play that I can’t help but delight in. Mixing up a cake or a batch of muffins is as near as I feel I can get now to the thrill of making mud pies. And I love the feel of food in my hands, almost as much as I like the taste of it in my mouth.
For as much as I find food interesting to think about – and as pretty much a food obsessive, I think about it a lot – what I gain most pleasure from is the fact that cooking is about touch and feel, occupying – tangibly – the realm of the senses.
And I think that is partly why, despite being busy, despite being short of time and despite being able to find a great range of food out there that is already made, we still cook. We need to feel involved in the production, not just the consumption of food; we need to feel that satisfaction that comes from making something to eat, and then enjoying what it tastes like.
But one last request: this isn’t about turning ingredients or cooking into some sort of fetish. I don’t feel guilty that I make my Slut’s Spaghetti more or less by opening a few jars; indeed I revel in it. I believe that the only unhealthy food is not real food, and I feel I eat very healthily, just a lot. So yes, I allow butter, cream and other unfashionable delights into my recipes.
I don’t eat cake every day, but when I do make one I don’t feel bad about eating a slice; having said that, even food that I can’t quite make a case for, such as crisps, I am grateful for. In the kitchen I may be more of an Italophile than a Francophile, but still I cleave to the French saying, ‘Everything in moderation – even moderation’. I may have immoderate appetites, but that gives me immoderate pleasure. And for that I am greedily grateful.
I must have sex with Nigella Lawson before I die. She eats, she writes, she cooks, she drinks, she fucks. The perfect woman.
Mais où sont les neiges d’antan?
(François Villon, Ballade des dames du temps jadis)
I’ve had some coffee for breakfast this morning. Takes the edge off the hangover and stops me trembling. For me, making coffee is a ritual. I have various machines to help me.
I think drip machines are a disgrace. You can never get the full flavour of the coffee from drips of water.
For long coffee, the French press method where you apply quite a lot of pressure draining almost all of the coffee’s flavour is my favourite way. Just press slowly.
For short coffee, Greek/Turkish/Lebanese coffee cannot be matched. The way to do it is to purchase double (even triple) roasted strong coffee and have it ground to a powder thin consistency. Most home coffee mills cannot grind this finely. Then you put 1½ teaspoons of coffee and 1 espresso cup of water, and sugar, according to taste, into the coffee pot. Leave that on very low heat constantly stirring it in the process. When the coffee is about to boil raise the pot away from the heat, pour the foam on top into the coffee cup. Repeat that process again, and finally pour the rest of the coffee and enjoy.
For full enjoyment you may need a cigarette with your coffee. I find it gets the bowels moving. Helena Bonham Carter taught me that.