Category Archives: music

Vivaldi’s Four Seasons

Went to see this programme at the Town Hall. It was simply wonderful. I’d never been to the Town Hall before so didn’t know what to expect from the acoustics but in fact the sound was wonderful and the venue was all the better for its intimacy. What David Le Page can do with his violin is astounding.

New Order

I’d always wanted to hear Blue Monday played really loudly. It’s not my favourite New Order song but I just knew it would be fantastic played at full volume. I never imagined I’d hear the band play it; I thought I’d hear it in a club or something. But no, I heard New Order play Blue Monday at a gig at The Ballroom, Birmingham and it was every bit as good as I had hoped. Good thing too; my clubbing days are over.

It was a fantastic gig and all the better for the company – my school friend N who organised the tickets. The music took me back to those crazy teenage years and the joy of discovering soaring electronic pop. It also reminded me of how excited I used to be about Manchester. I still get that feeling when I watch Cold Feet.

I didn’t take my camera and anyway we were at the back but I found some pro photos of the gig on Flickr. This is my favourite:

Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana

I get tired sometimes. This leads to my becoming irritable and, before too long, mildly morose. Experience has taught me to force myself to seek something to lift my soul out of the gloom, something that will instantly deliver a moment of pure happiness. Tonight that something is the beautiful, soaring Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni. I think I’d heard it before but it first made its impact on me when I heard it in the excellent film Raging Bull.

Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony

We went to hear The Organ Symphony (the only one as far as I’m concerned). I knew it would be wonderful but I hadn’t expected its effect on me to be so visceral.

I had wanted to hear the organ at Symphony Hall for a long time. I’m not fond of the sound of the organ as a rule but I wanted to experience its power. Its part is just right in the symphony. For a start, it only appears sparingly and doesn’t overpower the orchestra however, on the rare occasion that it does take centre stage, it is suitably dramatic. The final movement of the symphony is my favourite and it brought tears to my eyes. As a bonus, and I’d never seen this before, there were two encores, the second of which was Les Toreadors from Carmen Suite No. 1. That’s in the film Babe, as is the last movement of Organ Symphony, which makes me wonder whether the first encore was also from Babe. It was certainly familiar…

I didn’t take my camera so I snapped the organ on my iphone as a memento:

The Planets

Went to see CBSO perform tonight. Due to a mix up with the tickets we sadly missed La Péri but we did see the main event: The Planets. I’ve had the CD for years and I love it but to see CBSO performing it at Symphony Hall was something else. I was completely blown away. To feel rather than only hear the music made everything else seem unimportant. To be entirely consumed by the sound and its emotions, which came together so effortlessly, and yet I felt I could hear each note completely separately…was wonderful, heavenly even.

Super Smart Animals

I’ve enjoyed this series so far. I liked this dog in particular:

Also in this episode, during the cooperating elephants feature, there was a song that I recognised. It drove me mad trying to remember what it was. Finally something stirred in my brain: it was something to do with an Apple advertisement. Much later I realised it was from the ipad2 video. Bloody Apple, finding yet another way to drive me mad. Anyway, this is the song:


I watched Control last night. Given the rave reviews it’s received, especially on Rotten Tomatoes (which usually I find to be very reliable) I was disappointed. The film is beautifully shot in black and white, but it’s very slow moving and even boring at times. I may have found it so because I’m already very familiar with the story, in no small part due to watching The New Order Story documentary on TV.

I recorded that documentary back in the nineties and I watched it over and over again. It showed the real Rob Gretton, the real Tony Wilson and real band members. To be completely frank, the real people were far more likeable and entertaining in the NO Story than the actors in Control. The anecdote about Ian having a fit in the car on the way to the gig for instance was brought to life far better in the documentary than the film.

One of my favourite films – 24 Hour Party People – tells the same story but intertwined with with everything else that was happening and again, it is far more absorbing. I suppose it is a bit unfair to compare the two as Control is a biopic of Ian Curtis who was never that much of a cheerful soul and 24 hour is a portrait of the Madchester scene.

Anyway, to return to Control, I’m not sure whether it was deliberate but the women in Curtis’ life are annoying to the extreme. Why does Debbie put up with so much? She has such an awful, pathetic voice. Why does Annik accept being the bit on the side when she wanted more? Annik’s voice is even worse, not only pathetic but she talks in half whispers so you can barely hear her. I found myself shouting at the TV ‘Speak up!’

The two redeeming features were the music (I can’t think of any other band I’ve heard who is quite as haunting and hypnotic and yet still punky) and Sam Riley’s utterly captivating performances as Ian Curtis on stage. I could barely believe that he wasn’t the real deal. So I’ll leave you with a sample of that awesomeness:

Stuff, excess of

I found this essay about stuff by Paul Graham last year. It struck a chord at the time because we were packing to move from a bigger home to a smaller one. We gave away a lot of stuff but still brought a fair amount of it to the new place. There is now a room full of still packed stuff because it can’t be unpacked until the loft has been insulated and prepared as a storage space. So I have to wonder, if we haven’t touched all that stuff for 13 months, do we really need it? Do I even remember what it all is?

I dislike clutter. Whether PG’s theory about parsing is right or wrong I don’t know but I do know that, in my own home at least, I’m far more relaxed in a clean, tidy room than a dirty, cluttered one. So I’ve gone paper free with as many of my bills as possible and I’ve gone digital as far as possible. I download books to and use the Kindle app to read them on the iphone. I haven’t bought any CDs for quite a while, instead preferring to use Spotify. I realise that you can’t find everything on there but I find about 90% of what I want to listen to and that’s a good enough trade off for me. For films I use Sky Movies. In the rare case that I find a film that I’ll want to watch over and over again I will consider buying the disc but it’s more likely that I’ll just watch it again on Sky.

Christmas and birthdays are the worst times for accumulating things I don’t need. Specifically for these occasions I have a wish list on Amazon but sadly Kindle editions of books aren’t available as gifts yet. (Mind you, I do like ‘real’ books. I don’t class them as useless stuff, after all, they are useful when I need to save the iphone’s battery and, unlike digital editions, I can lend them to people. Anyway some books, such as cookery books, have to have a decent physical form to be of any use.) I don’t mind if people go ‘off list’ to buy me a gift provided that it’s something they’ve thought about. I have one dear friend who likes to introduce me to new books and it’s rather lovely. But on the whole I’d rather not have presents because I have everything I need and want.