Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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Category archive: Radio
I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.
They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research. I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.
There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.
I have not read this essay yet. But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.
I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”. This seems like it will be closely related to that idea. Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music. But, I shall see.
One of the reasons I have such a pathologically enormous CD collection is that I fear the power that music holds over me. I fear being in the position of wanting to hear something, but not being able to.
This morning, on Radio 3, they played a piece of piano music which I liked a lot, both the piece itself and the playing, but did not recognise. I thought it was perhaps Mozart, played by Brendel, maybe. It turned out to be Haydn, played by Pletnev. I just dug around on the www, and here is Pletnev playing that same piece. Whether that’s the exact same performance I don’t know, but it is playing right now and it sounds pretty good to me. The piece is snappily entitled: “Variations in F minor”. Until now, this was not a piece I had paid any attention to.
But I hit the age of musical addiction combined with the money to feed the habit long before there was any www. For me, having music at my command doesn’t mean knowing about a link. It means possessing a shiny plastic circle, in a square plastic case. So, as soon as I had set the radio to record CD Review, as is my Saturday morning habit, I searched through my CD collection (subsection: Haydn), for that Pletnev performance. No show. But Amazon informed me that there is a Pletnev Haydn double album with Haydn piano concertos on disc one and Haydn solo piano music on disc two. I looked again, in the Haydn subsection (sub-subsection: piano concertos). Success. I possess the exact same performance thad was played on the radion this morning. So now, this music doesn’t control me. I control it.
The question of who is in charge of music and music-making is actually a big deal, historically. Beethoven’s career, and then later Wagner’s career, were all about Beethoven, and Wagner, being in charge of their music and of their music-making, rather than their patrons or their audiences. You can tell this from just listening to their music. Haydn, on the other hand, predated that era, and was dependent upon aristocratic patronage, and this shows in his music. He would probably not enjoy reading this blog posting, by this annoying and undeserving control freak from out of the future. But he would not have made a fuss. Or such is my understanding of his character.
Or, he might have rejoiced that he could have made recordings of his music, in circumstances completely within his control, and that I could then listen to them in circumstances completely within my control. For me, this is the best of both worlds, and it would be nice to think that it might have suited him also.
As I write, this game is boiling up nicely, following an England collapse at the start of their run chase. And then, in the midst of all the drama, there was this:
Ilanks: “Isn’t there a Ben Foakes being discussed as a potential keeper for England. If he’s selected, England could have Stokes, Woakes and Foakes in the line-up!” Yes indeed. And wouldn’t that be A Thing?
A Thing indeed. And if Chris Woakes was instead Ben Woakes, it would be Ben Stokes, Ben Woakes and Ben Foakes. An even thingier Thing.
Today Surrey had one of their best days of the season so far, given what a crappy season they’ve had so far. At the start of today, in their game against Notts at the Oval, Notts were 82-2, in reply to Surrey’s 323, following a very rainy day two. But this morning, Notts rolled over for only another hundred, and Surrey (who threw away a similar big first innings advantage in an earlier game) then built a big lead. If Surrey can do tomorrow what they did this morning, they could get their first win of the season.
I am becoming more and more of a Real Cricket Supporter, in the following sense: that my county doing well matters more to me than my country doing well. I would not have swapped Surrey’s strong position for a better England position earlier this evening, against Sri Lanka. I would still prefer a Surrey win tomorrow to an England win this evening. Although, now I think about it, an England loss would be easily corrected by a win next time, but a Surrey win would be far huger for Surrey. It could, as they say, kick start their season. So maybe I just prefer a huge win to a nice win. That could be it.
Ben Foakes, by the way, is the Surrey wicketkeeper. I knew you’d be excited. Plus, I heard indefatigable Surrey radio commentator Mark Church say yesterday that the best spin bowler in England just now, if England want a good one for their forthcoming tour of India, is Surrey’s veteran captain Gareth Batty. Batty’s bowling today: 11.4 overs, 3 maidens, 23 runs, 4 wickets. I know, I know, it’s almost too much excitement to take, in just one paragraph of one blog posting. You’d best have a little lie down.
That guy was photoed last Sunday, watching day one of the Surrey Notts game. I really should, every now and again, visit the Oval and support Surrey in person, having paid some money. It looks like I should just about be able to squeeze in.
LATER: Well. I just nipped out to Sainsburys for a loaf of my favourite sort of bread, and while there I consulted Cricinfo on my mobile, one of the few things that my mobile (as controlled by me) knows how to do non-contemptibly. (Don’t get me started on phone calls.) It revealed that England needed seven runs to win with one ball to go. So, that, I assumed, was that. But when I got home, I learned that Plunkett had hit the last ball for six, and it was a tie! As you will already know, if you followed the first of the above two Cricinfo links. Fan electronic bleeping noise tastic.
A DAY LATER: Well, well. Yesterday morning, Notts went from two down to all out, for a further hundred runs. This afternoon they went from two down to all out, for less than fifty, and Surrey got their first Championship Division One win of the season. (Follow the second link above for the details.) Finally. This time, it was the Surrey spinner whom England are likely to take to India (because he has a big future (unlike Batty)), Zafar Ansari, who did the damage. 11.3 overs, 3 maidens, 36 runs, 6 wickets. Notts lost their last eight wickets for thirty eight, and crucially, went from 119-2 to 124-6, courtesy entirely of Ansari. Ansari can also bat. Moeen Ali look out, he’s coming for you. Ansari would already be an England player, had he not bust his
finger thumb at the end of last season.
LATER: Cricinfo agrees.
To you, yes, I hope that you had one, but actually what I’m saying is: I did.
England came belting back against Sri Lanka at Lords. After sampling the London weather last night, I had a feeling that might happen. It was not bright and sunny, more overcast and sweaty. It felt like swing bowler weather, which made SL’s reply yesterday afternoon (to England’s 416) of 162-1 rather strange. Dropped catches apparently. Well, this morning, order was restored and SL are now 218-6. Woakes, luckless yesterday, got a wicket with his first ball. England now look likely winners of that series 3-0. The longer the series goes on, and the more the Lankans get acclimatised (following seriously inadequate practising games), the more it counts beating them. The first game, where SL collapsed twice, meant nothing, I reckon. I’ve been following the score here.
Deep thanks to Michael Vaughan, who mentioned on one of the bits of cricket commentary I listened to that England were also playing Australia. At rugby. Aus 28 Eng 39. Must have been some game, and according to the BBC live updates, it was.
And before all that, I even managed a quick (they’re often the best) Samizdata posting, about something odd I heard on the radio, about the EU.
Here is one of the funner pictures I took while out and about last night, this one taken at the Parliament end of Whitehall:
Great reflections in her sunglasses, right? On the left, as we look, the two devices she is holding, and on the right, you can just see a tiny Big Ben. Is that red thing she is holding a charger?
Plus an elephant.
The onward march of mobile phones into photography continues apace.
I haven’t always been blogging here as early as I’d like to in recent days, but today, I did it.
If you had as good a morning as I did, lucky you.
As frequently threatened, this blog is going more and more to be about the process of getting old. Yesterday’s posting was about that, and so is this one.
I have spent the morning doing various household trivia, internetting, and then, in particular, come eleven o’clock, keeping up with county cricket. This really takes me back, to the time when, as a small boy, I was glued to my radio, keeping up with county cricket. Then as now, just the numbers were enough to tell me a lot of what was going on.
Second childhood is catered to by tradesmen with just as much enthusiasm as first childhood is, the difference between that we second childhooders now make all our own decisions.
When I was a child, a magic machine that trotted out not just county cricket scores but entire continuously updated county cricket scorecards would have been a marvel. Now, I have it, and just at the moment in my life when my actual life is winding down, and county cricket again seems like something interesting. Between about 1965 and about 1995, I paid almost zero attention to county cricket. I could not have told you who was winning or who had last won the County Championship during those decades. The newspapers and the telly had remained interested only in international cricket, there was not yet any internet, and above all, I had a life. But now that life as such is slipping from my grip, county cricket becomes an attraction again.
Notoriously, old age is the time when you remember your childhood better than anything else, or at least you think you do. And the things that had intense meaning then have intense meaning still. So it is that much of commerce now consists of digging into the manic enthusiasms that reigned six or seven decades ago, and rehashing them as things to sell now. On oldie TV, such as I was watching last night, you see shows devoted to the obsessions of the nearly (but not quite yet) forgotten past all the time, every night. As the years advance, shows about WW2 are succeeded by shows about 1950s dance halls or crooners or early rock and rollers, or ancient cars and trams and steam trains. Often the shows now are about how the steam trains themselves are being revived, by manic hobbyists who have just retired from doing sensible things.
I know the feeling. One of the best train journeys I recall from my boyhood was in the Cornish Riviera Express, driven by a huge 4-6-2 steam engine (for real, not as a “heritage” exercise) in about 1952, out of Waterloo. I can still recall leaning out of the window on a curve, and seeing the locomotive up at the front, chomping away in all its glory, gushing smoke fit to burst. I never quite turned into a full-blooded trainspotter, but like I say, I know the feeling.
A bit of a meander, I’m afraid. But don’t mind me. You’d best be going now. I’m sure you have more important things on your mind.
Given that I am not actually seeing any visuals on a screen, sleeping through the decisive passage of play of the latest test match in South Africa only made it more dramatic.
There I was, making sure I was awake and able to start the recording of Record (as they have now gone back to calling it (it had been CD)) Review, and then getting up for a piss and a cool down before getting back to bed again for a bit of a lie in, by which time England were all out 323, with a first innings lead of 10. Before dozing off, I learned that Sinopoli’s Cavalleria Rusticana was the winning Cavalleria Rusticana in a strong field, and then I surfaced again and was informed by my other bedside radio that South Africa had lost no wickets in reply and were ahead at lunch, and then I dozed off again, and then got up properly ... to learn from my computer that South Africa were 44-5, oh no make that 45-6, correction 46-7. Game over.
That pic is the last one of these.
A lot of cricket photos these days, including most of this lot, seem to be, not of cricketers doing great things, but of cricketers celebrating having just done them. The pictures of Moeen Ali’s broken bat are also fun, but again, what you really want to see is the moment when it broke. The above photo is a refreshing exception. It shows Broad actually taking the final wicket of the South African innings, with a diving caught and bowled.
One of the pictures in this.
Australia’s first innings, in this game, has got off to a shaky start:
. 4b W 2 4 W | . W . 4 1nb . . | . . . W . 4lb | . . . 1 1 . | W
Broad has four wickets. Wood has only one, and was responsible for that humiliatingly wicketless fourth over. Extras is doing the best for Australia.
England are clearly missing Jimmy Anderson. If he had been bowling first up instead of Wood, Australia could have been in serious trouble.
Australia, at the start of the seventh over, now 27-6. Clarke out to Broad, who now has five, with just nineteen balls. Before that, yet another wicketless over from Wood.
To be a bit more serious, this is the kind of blog posting I do for myself, to put alongside postings like this one, because goodness knows, there’ll be plenty of other people writing about this. File under: my heart, warming the cockles of. I missed the first two wickets on the radio, because I was having a quick piss. Happy day.
But here, as my Aussie friend Michael Jennings likes to say, ‘s the thing. When Australia smash England, they do it five nil. When England smash Australia, which is what looks to be happening now, it’s usually something more like three one. Have we ever beaten them five nil? Ever?
Meanwhile, more consolation for England fans like me. Australia now 33-7. Nevill bowled Finn. But, as has just been pointed out by the radio commentators, in his previous over, Broad, like Wood before him, just bowled an entire over without taking a wicket.
More than the usual number of cock-ups while posting this, I’m afraid, and I expect there’ll need to be further cleaning up. Happy day. So far.
LATER: One of those crazy taken-in-a-pub-at-a-crazy-angle shots of a big pub screen, showing the carnage inflicted upon Australia on Day One of Trent Bridge 2015:
On the right, Sky TV’s Ian Ward, I think. On the left, Broad, I know. 8-15. 8-15.
Australia 1st Innings: 60.
Playing? Yes. It’s like they think test match cricket is some sort of mere game.
Cricket, says Cricinfo’s George Dobell, is no longer like this:
A few years ago - 2004 if memory serves - an elderly spectator settled down to watch a day of cricket at Horsham before the 11am start of play and promptly died. It was not until 9pm that anyone noticed. Such was the character of the crowd, and the cricket, that one more silent, motionless man in a chair hardly stood out.
He’s right. The current England side is full of one-day cricketers. And when they tried to beef up their top order for their latest test match, all they could think of to do was to sack one of the top order grafters (Ballance) and bring in yet another one-day batsman, a one-day batsman (Bairstow) who has done well in county championship cricket this year, so in he came. Nobody will be surprised if they sack another grafter (Lyth), and I would not be surprised if another one-day belter (Hales? Roy?) came into the team to replace him, because one-day belters is all that there are to pick.
After all, if batting like Kevin Pietersen is what all the best batsmen do best these days, why try to find old-school grafters in the Boycott manner, if no such people exist of the necessary class? (By the way, a basic reason why there is no clamour for Pietersen to return to the England team is that he now has no rarity value. Bell, Root, Stokes, Buttler, Ali, all bat the way Pietersen does. So does Bairstow.)
One day cricket also rewards those who can bat, in a twist-or-bust sort of way, and who can bowl in a similar fashion. This doubles their chances of making an impact in a one-day game. They get to place two bets instead of just the one. England now have two such, Stokes and Ali. Plus, Broad can bat after a fashion, and Root can bowl after a fashion. Which means that England now bat, in a one-day sort of way, right down to number eight, where Ali now operates, and they now have five regular bowlers, because two of them are now Stokes and Ali.
Australia have the same feel about them. Mitchell Marsh is supposed to be a batter and a bowler. Mitchell Johnson is a dangerous slogger. They too are inclined to try to hit their way out of trouble, David Warner style, rather than to graft their way out of it, the way they used to in the days of people like Bill Lawry, Australia’s Boycott (i.e. the guy Boycott was England’s answer to), whom I remember from my childhood. Lawry grafted always, whatever the situation was. Now, Warner slogs, whatever the situation is.
And now, all wicket-keepers can bat up a storm, ever since Gilchrist created that template, and actually, before that. I remember am England chap called Parks, who could bat better than he could keep. Now everyone picks the wicket-keeper who bats best, and they then give him extra tuition with a wicket-keeping coach.
The most memorable old-school test match I can remember was this one. Six hundred played six hundred, and that was it.
For me, a turning point was Kevin Pietersen’s innings on the final day of the final test of the 2005 Ashes series, at the Oval. England were 126-5, with Warne threatening to finish them off and leave Australia needing 150 to win and with plenty of time for them to do just that, and level the series and go home with the Ashes. So, the one surviving front-line England batsman, Pietersen, had a match to save. There were two ways for him to do it. He could try to bat for a long time and make no runs. Or, instead, he could try to slog lots of runs and thereby get England too far ahead, which is what he actually did. Meanwhile, Paul Collingwood batted for about an hour and got next to nothing, which was also useful, but nobody except me remembers that. Giles was spared having to bowl, but batted very capably instead. I remember at the time how the commentators said, after Pietersen had just hit another six, that this was a strange way to save a match, but save it he did, and rather quickly, because England were suddenly way beyond Australia’s reach.
The most one-day thing of all about the current England v Australia contest is the way that these supposedly five-day games have all so far finished early, with one, one and then two entire days to spare. At one point that most recent game looked like it might end with three days to spare.
Also very one-day is that all three games have been won, by whoever happened to win them, by large margins. One team just happens to slog or bowl its way into a dominant position. The other team tries to slog quick runs or take quick wickets to get itself back into the game, and, as teams doing this usually do, they fail, and the dominant-from-the-start-to-the-finish winner wins by a mile.
England crushed Australia in the first game. But then, after they were crushed even more crushingly in the second game, everyone said, oh, England will now go back to grafting. But no. They didn’t. They couldn’t. They didn’t have the players to do that, even if they had wanted to. And they won the third game by eight wickets, and only right at the end was Boycott a happy commentator, because the Australian tail in the third innings, and then the England top order in the final innings, both did a bit of “old fashioned” Boycott-type batting, or as close to that as modern batters can now manage. This was why the match lasted a whopping three days, instead of a mere two.
Phil Tufnell paints cats!!!
Ed Smith on sporting maturity – Burns and Henriques collide – Secretariat and his jockey
England crush NZ (and Surrey beat Leicester)
Going from knowing a piece of music to also knowing what it is
Pete Comley talking about inflation on Friday February 27th
Tower Bridge glass shattered by beer bottle
Pavarotti could not read music (very well)
PID at the Times
Something at Samizdata
Sacred architecture and profane roof clutter - a speculation
Green screen blue screen
Quite a morning
Doing libertarian business at the Libertarian Home social
A (slightly delayed) Happy New Year
England squeak through against Scotland
Davies and de Bruyn get promotion for Surrey
On the rise of Bishop Hill
Thoughts on England not just keeping the Ashes but winning the series 3-1 (with asterisks)
Australia so nearly 55-0 (plus thoughts on the impact of Twenty20 cricket)
Mozart might have become a criminal
Boxing Day morning at the MCG
And it resumes …
First blood to Australia
English will not last for ever shock
The long and short of conversation - Hitchens on YouTube
Which just goes to show that stuff gets around
Lucky we didn’t go to Lords
Why David Hepworth is wrong about podcasting
Those angry Americans
Cricket talk tonight
Scrounging Englishmen and stories too good to check
When Cricinfo doesn’t supply the info
Llyr Williams and Llyr Williams play Bach
More recorded cricket chat and some further Oval hindsights
How the BBC ignored the problem of how to pick two from three equal-ish teams
England and me both upset
Ingrid Fliter has a problem with the piano
Handel in London – and an angelic tenor aria
On not seeing Schoenberg’s Variations for Orchestra
“Who are you going to sell it to if we don’t buy it?”
The Rite of Spring sounds to me like technology rather than nature
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Rain stops Murali
Taking the recording studio into the concert hall
The UK is not crowded
Humphrey Searle’s Hamlet is the worst Shakespeare opera ever
Ramprakash at his level of competence
When inimitable means very imitable
Test match special
Depressed about the Windies
Surrey crash to earth
“A fitting end to a very badly organised tournament …”
A double cricket surprise
A John Lewis cat and a John Lewis DAB radio
Dutilleux piano music on Naxos
You can have everything
Alex and Brian’s latest classical music mp3 – Saint-Saëns etc.
Patrick and Brian talk about the War on Terror - thoughts about podcasting
Armando Iannucci on going to classical concerts - and me on not bothering
Listening to Peter Briffa’s first podcast
iBrian may be coming but I promise nothing
Why I liked John Peel