Monthly Archives: November 2005

The Rain-mate revisited


bonnetdepluie.jpg Little did I know, when Christopher Hampson and I went in search of the rain-mate 8 years ago (see this old entry), that of all the blog topics that might have inflamed the public interest, this would be the one. No less than five people have left comments about the rain-mate which is a massive figure, when you consider that commenters on my pages average about one a year, and that’s usually someone I know being kind.

The most recent comment made me determined to give it another go, and this time, I may have sussed it. It seems that they may not be called Rain Mates any more, though this 2002 painting of the same name suggests that it’s what many of us still call them. I tried every thing in Google – rain hat, rain hood, rainwear, rain friend and so on – without even a glimmer of success. The missing link, I now know, is the word ‘bonnet’. They’re called rain bonnets, even though bonnet isn’t a word that I or anyone I know uses. The makeupshop sells them for 99p, or you could import them from the Shuairimei Rain Gear Factory (website here). Francophones are certainly excited by the bonnet de pluie de grand-maman – “Ce vieux classique ne démord pas, il colle. Le bonnet de pluie se vend encore”, apparently. You could have fooled me. I have to point out that none of these look like the rain mates I remember – strange, concertina like things with strings, which never quite returned to the magical fold-up state that they began life in. As an alternative, I do like the look of this 50s inflatable sun/rain hat.

The reason I can be bothered to search for rain-mates, is because the limits of the web fascinate me. MSN’s recent attempt to get people thinking about MSN rather than Google, the MSN Search Supremo competition is a classic case of web hype – see what MSN and the web can do for you – here’s a question, now go search for the answer. The quizzmaster feeds you a load of football trivia questions which are pretty easy to answer from the web, even if you know nothing about football.

But this conceals the real problem with searching, which is that you need those darned key words to make any sense of the web, and the individual who’s just bought a computer & internet access doesn’t have partial trivia in their head, they have questions like “What was the name of that guy who was in thingy you know that programme that used to be on in the 70s or 80s looked a bit like your mate from work whatsisname?”. So it is with rain mates: even when you have a precise term in your head, if this term is not shared by the collective cybermind, you’re stuffed. I have to confess, most grudgingly, that the site which repels me most in the world, Ask Jeeves actually came up with ‘rain bonnets’ and ‘pleated rain bonnets’ immediately as possibly search refinements for ‘rain mate’. I should learn to be kinder.

Ljubjlana, Music & Dance & a Martinovanje


An old restaurant in Ljubjlana where I had lunch on Sunday Just back from the very beautiful city of Ljubljana where I was lecturing on a seminar on music for ballet teaching. On Friday I learned a new word, Martinovanje, which – to cut a long story short – is the day in Slovenija where they celebrate the day that all that grape juice starts turning into wine. My host said that we ‘have to baptise the new wine’ which sounded like a very good idea to me, and about 11.00 on Friday night, in a scene that could have been straight out of Giselle, we processed into an ancient wine cellar and did just that.

As part of the post-seminar proceedings, I’ve posted a page of useful links for teachers/pianists which, even if you weren’t at the seminar, you might find interesting.

Tchaikovsky & the pink oboe


I’ve been chastised for the lack of recent updates to this weblog by a person I might describe best as an e-colleague, who I met again recently at the Sound Moves conference in Roehampton. In a perfect world, such a conference would have provided the perfect motivation for a weblog entry, but the world, or my particular idiosphere at least, is not perfect, and the needs of my cats, work & other loved ones have taken precedence.

It’s not just that, though. Weblogs are about minutiae – petty annoyances, nagging doubts, itches that need to be scratched; news that doesn’t reach the news, tierces de picardie which colour the cadences of everyday life. Sadly, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, there have been too many grandes lignes and not enough passing notes in my life of late.

Until Sunday morning, that is, when something petty enough to be bloggable occurred. Drifting in and out of consciousness, I overheard someone speaking in reverent, hushed tones about a comparative study of repressed homosexuality in a potential gendered reading of Tchaikovsky’s orchestration.

‘Gendered reading’ is academic-speak for “That’s so GAY!”. Click here for an insight into the kind of thing I mean. Academics don’t speak like this, of course, because a) it’s too obvious what you’re saying and b) because it doesn’t have the right tone to be taken seriously. One might even say that it’s not orchestrated properly. What one needs in order to make a remark like this is to take the rhythm, accent and large tessitura away, score it for flute, clarinet, oboe and bassoon in octaves, and accompany it with light strings so that it sounds classical and austere, yet still a little cheeky. If doing ‘gendered readings’ of a symphony is ok, why not analyse the delivery of academic papers in the same terms?

Well, why not? The main reason, it seems to me, is because academics like to think of themselves beyond the reach of ‘performance practice’. Even though academics choose their words as carefully as a composer might choose orchestral colour, and cannot help but have those words modulated by their speaking voice, it’s only the content, not the delivery that gets evaluated. When they write a paper, or read one, there isn’t a gaggle of other academics waiting around the corner to pick over their sentence structure or delivery for signs of gayness

But yes, you guessed it folks, your taxpayer’s money is going to someone out there who’s looking for signs of gayness in Tchaikovsky’s orchestration, albeit phrased in a way that the taxpayer will be incapable of understanding, or at least find acceptable. Why? Answers on a postcard, please.