Kindle Choir?

I’ve just logged on to ‘Spotify’ to listen to the G-minor mass, BWV235 by JSB; completely enchanting. I remember attending various choral concerts – The B-minor mass (B’ham Symphony Hall) or Vivaldi’s Stabat Mater in B’ham Cathedral, or Duruflé’s Requiem at Leicester Cathedral (John Comyn was in the choir, I seem to recall) or Bruckner E-minor at St John’s, Smith Square, or the Szymanowski Stabat Mater at the QEH on March 23, 1985 performed by the Orpheus Chamber Choir…..
And at many of these concerts, one is aware of the singers turning the pages of their scores all in unison like a flock of doves struggling to take flight; I wonder if nowadays, choirs are issued with Kindle e-book readers which automatically scroll through the music at the correct speed?
But these high-tech toys lack the personal dimension of a real printed score. There may be copies of choral works still in use which were handed down by grandmothers whose music teachers once studied with Holst or Britten. Brief notes in the margin evoke the presence of a great teacher, and carry a potent magic.

For many years I was a fan of the Jim Steinman school of classical music; longer plus louder equals better. I adored hefty pieces – Mahler 8, Bruckner 5, Berlioz’ Requiem, the 1812 and so on – and was convinced that serious music was there to overwhelm rather than to delight.
And I sometimes see this fondness for grandeur in the business policy announcements of some senior managers. One MD, several years ago, issued an order that our annual paint production was to be increased by a million litres per year. When my boss informed me of this, I snorted with laughter and said without thinking ‘But that’s twenty tonnes a week…’
I asked whether we had received orders for this extra output, and if we had enough production capacity to handle it; but he dismissed my questions, saying: ‘These are just trivial distractions which won’t actually help us to achieve this important goal’

Now, instead, I have learned to love the classical approach to music; lithe, crisp performances where the imposing splendour comes from phrasing, rather than decibels.  And perhaps business strategy could be viewed in the same way; rather than being obsessed by growth, firms could explore their processes in detail, looking for the textures and colours which are often lost in the deafening blare of EBITDA.

Journal Entry, May 2004:

Years ago I had a copy of ‘The Unspeakable Confessions of Salvador Dali’ in which he rambles insanely on about food, sex and painting. One chapter opens with an account of the events which make up his typical morning and includes the phrase “Three hippies and a guitar take their place on the sofa. The day is ready to begin”.

I always remember this line when I see the three company directors’ cars parked up against the factory wall.

Last night went to cinema to see ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’ starring Jim Carrey, a sci-fi romantic black comedy.

Title is a quotation from Pope; he was very classically educated and would have known all about Ovid’s ideas about overcoming love affairs. And did this quote inspire Wordsworth: ‘And in eternal summer lose our threescore years and ten’?



June 02

Journal Entries

24 July 2002: Went to the Thatched House (pub) in Stockport for South Manchester MAG meeting. Only three of us turned up: Tev (organiser), Chris and I.
We held a meeting; Chris was appointed Branch Rep, I became Treasurer.
(Notes: this was the first meeting following an attempt to launch new branches of MAG all over the NW region. Although there were a few hundred members in the area, none of them could be bothered to turn up even though individual mailshots had been sent to every listed address.)

25 July 2002: Today at work sent a memo to Norm, Rob, Steve and Phil suggesting that we might try just putting a list of SCD product range at the bottom of our C of Cs.
Steve came up to the office and was cautiously sceptical. No mention by any of the others.

Had mailshot from Tony Hart (selling nickel powders). Faxed him back, pointing out that I was now Dave Waring, so to speak.

In today’s ‘Daily Record’ newspaper: “Bad news for Scotland as Asteroid Discovered Heading for Earth!”
(Notes: C-of-C refers to Certificates of Conformity, a one-page document which we were obliged to fax to customers confirming that the batch of material they had just purchased was within specification. I would normally sign and send about twenty of these during the week. Since each one had two inches of clear space at the bottom of the page, it occurred to me that we could add a list of materials produced in the Surface Coatings Division and possibly generate extra business. The SCD range was never advertised anywhere since the firm’s main client base was the electrical insulation market.)

Thu 10 May: Yesterday at work Steve M was giving me more hassle about vinyl tower paint; ‘Have you spoken to anyone yet?’ He pulled out a paper with the name of someone who works at Akcros (suppliers of Lankroflex Epoxidised Soya Oil), so I rang them and it turns out that they regularly visit this firm to visit Sean but they were unaware that the SCD even existed.

06/07 June 2002: LK rang last night – am I going to visit for his birfday? I said no, but still have to liaise with Andy.
At work, Steve asked again if I could contact Akcros to see about adding high levels of soya oil (epox) to our vinyl paint. Did some DSC work; alkyd paint (teensy weensy peak at 250oC), vinyl paint (huge peak at 220oC).
In the news: special government adviser has sent an e-mail asking for details of the political leanings of Paddington Rail Crash survivors group members.
Today, while everyone else at work was gathered round portable TV sets watching England beat Argentina 1-0, I was emptying out dozens of small retain tins of paint.
Such a rewarding career I have here.
Rob was in this morning but made no comment on the DSC traces I left in his pigeonhole.
So far at work I haven’t:
– been given training in how to use analytical equipment
– been given training on computer system 6000
– been issued with a named labcoat
– been give the keypad number codes for the office doors.


Out of Touch

The tiles on the laundrette floor are
Patterned with a mottled grain; someone
Has laid them carefully so that
The streaks go first along and then across
The axis of this narrow room.

The washers are gleaming – nice grey steel,
Not too polished but just enough
To hold the weeping portholes fast,
A line of seven sisters watching
My aimless shuffle through the working day.

The washers are friendly: every word
In lower-case with rounded corners,
Nothing harsh or intimidating, instead
Delighting in the bland instructions
Repeated like seven murmurs in a line.

And yet these machines look so sci-fi
One almost feels that garments could become
Clean simply by being locked inside
These austere perforated chambers
Together with the sacrificial soap.

I wander back and forth, remembering
Faded wallpaper, fluorescent tubes, a
Dirty lino floor; and all around the
Rhythmic plashing of the turning clothes.

Time itself is being washed away….
            (08 Aug 2002)





This morning we went down the road to The House of The Lord – a tin warehouse (on a bleak industrial estate) converted into an evangelical church-cum-drop-in centre. As well as a chapel this place has a number of conference suites, and it was one of these that we had arranged to use for our Strategy Meeting.

The meeting itself consisted of a cascade of motivational slides declaring that we were committed to growth and innovation and efficiency. From the ground floor below I could hear a steady ‘clack – clack’ sound which reminded me of the LP ‘Tangram’, and when I looked over the balcony I saw a woman walking slowly back and forth, her calf-length boots echoing on the tiled floor. The steady rhythm of her steps continued, and I began to generate in my head the missing synthesiser melodies from that piece of music. I wonder if Messrs Franke and Schmölling had been contemplating the tiled floors at Düsseldorf airport when someone walked slowly past, creating the same pattern of hollow shots in the canvas of 1979.

Growth and innovation and efficiency: my brain cells recoiled at this appalling mantra and hurled themselves into the squishy grey swamp of oblivion. Do I need to sit and listen to the contents page of a GCSE Business Studies manual?

I’m not really an expert on music – I’ve seen the Brandis Quartet play Beethoven 15 and the Cleveland Quartet play DSCH 8 and the London Phil play Dvorak 8 and the CBSO play Bruckner and I’ve seen the Swedish Youth Radio Orch play Mahler 1 and Boulez and the B-minor Mass (in B’ham and Leicester) and MeatLoaf in B’ham (thrice) and I’ve seen  Messiah (in B’ham and in Derby) and the Rocky Horror Show (in W’hampton, B’ham and Wimbledon) and I’ve seen Kiki Dee and I’ve seen the Tiger John Blues Band…and years ago, when a new young band called ‘Take That’ were on tour performing the nightclub circuit, I had the chance to see them but I told my friends ‘Nah, can’t be bothered; in six months’ time everyone will have forgotten all about them’.

But it wasn’t until May 2007 that I saw a sixties group called The Zombies when they played the Bridgewater Hall.

I remember going to a car boot sale and seeing an album called ‘Moving Home’ by Rod Argent and being intrigued. I wasn’t very familiar with his music, but I knew vaguely that he was a talented keyboard virtuoso. So I decided to buy this LP and took it home, where I quickly discovered that he had a rare gift for songwriting. Most modern pop ‘stars’ are (like their music) meticulously crafted to appeal to a wide audience and generate as much revenue as possible, usually by impersonating an existing success story.
But ‘Moving Home’ is another beast entirely. Each of the ten songs is different from its fellows, mainly written in a jazz-flavoured rock idiom with no hint of disco or punk, the two storms which raged over popular music in the late seventies.

And after recently having my hearing examined by a specialist in the audiology clinic, it appears that my enjoyment of all this musical stuff has been flawed; for the tests revealed that my hearing is badly impaired, and I have no idea what music sounds like to people with ‘normal’ ears. Nor do I know what the high-pitched whine was which so annoyed my colleagues when they used a computer with a five-inch floppy disc drive. ‘Can’t you hear that?’, they would exclaim, wincing in agony.

Fortunately, no.