Monthly Archives: August 2012

Beck to the future


This is possibly the most fun anyone could have in the music world at the end of 2102: Beck’s new album Song Reader will be released as sheet music only.

It’s ironic that I read this news (in a tweet from Ben Goldacre) in the middle of researching and writing about  about the relationship between performing, listening, notation, the recording industry, the origins of the concept of the composer, and so on.  In the light of all that, this is a wonderfully provocative and political act that challenges assumptions,  conventions and behaviours on countless levels.

Gymnastics, dance, difference


A stimulating article by Judith Mackrell in the Guardian about gymnastics and dance. I’m delighted that a dance critic is writing about gymnastics. The older I get, the more all these things just merge into one, and the louder I can hear the protests of those who want to maintain that they are fundamentally different.

I have been more moved by what I’ve seen in the Olympics recently than by many  ‘artistic’ performances I’ve been to. What moved me in both was the sight of a human over-achieving. I am more surprised by how much gymanastics there seems to be in ballet, than ballet in gymnastics. It may only be a matter of words, but Dalcroze originally called his classes ‘rhythmic gymnastics’. It is a later development to think of Dalcroze classes as a way to respond appropriately to Bach.

Comments on the article reveal how fiercely (and rudely) some people want to believe and promote the belief that there are irreconcilable differences between gymnastics and dance. It reminds me of two things – firstly, Kofi Agawu’s article ‘Contesting difference’ in the 2nd edition of The Cultural Study of Music, and secondly of Andrée Grau’s discussion of figure skating. Agawu argues for a musicology that searches for sameness, not difference, and Grau fulfils this in relation to sport and art, and in particular dance and figure skating, while giving a critical prod at those who want to maintain their difference. It’s a point of view, but a much more interesting one than mindless insistence on difference.

Eastbourne pudding, anyone?


Reading about the current search for the definite recipe for Dundee Cake, so that it can get a ‘protected name status’ from the EU, reminds me of a puzzle I think I’ll never solve. Does anyone still make something that my grandmother called ‘Eastbourne Pudding’, and where does the recipe come from? Does it have another name?

Eastbourne Pudding involved slicing a few large bananas (not too ripe) in half or thirds (depending on size)  then lengthways down the middle. You spread the halves of banana with raspberry jam and put them in a serving bowl. On top, you pour about a pint of white custard (i.e. sweetened milk, thickened with cornflour). When that’s cooled, you pour over half a pint of single cream on the top, and just let the cream find its way wherever it wants to go, but make sure you get plenty when you serve the pudding.

It’s so simple, yet I remember it being gorgeous – no-one should be allowed to eat single cream like this, but here you had licence. My grandmother (who was a domestic science teacher, and taught me most of what I know about cooking) said they called it Eastbourne Pudding only because they had it at a guesthouse in Eastbourne when they went their on holiday as children, so it’s not the Eastbourne Pudding in this old book.

So does anyone else have memories of this pudding in their family, in Eastbourne, or anywhere else? Is it just a name for something else that has a proper name? I have a feeling I will never know.

l’Après midi d’un Fön


Advert for the original Fön hairdryer (from ebay)

For language nerds only: hats off to the guy on reception at the Travellers’ Hostel in Prague. A girl came to the desk yesterday and said ‘Excuse me, I don’t have a phone’. He of course gave her a hairdryer, as I would have done. She smiled, said thank you, and went off to dry her hair. Both he and I both parsed the sentence as English except for its most salient word, but I think that’s pretty astounding if you’re Czech listening to an Italian speaking English.

Confused? Fön (borrowed from the name of the  warm Föhn wind, minus the ‘h’) was trademarked by the manufacturer Sanitas in Berlin, later taken over, trademark and all, by AEG, and is now a household word for hairdryer in German  and several other languages including Italian (fon) and Czech (fén). I’m trying to imagine how well this request would have been understood in the UK. It’s a terrifying thought.

The Olympic Park – photo gallery


Had a wonderful time on Wednesday visiting the Olympic park.  What’s really impressive is the amount of wonderful flowers that have been planted. It was thanks to Gardeners’ World preview of the park that I knew it was worth walking around the river banks. You can see these buildings a thousand times on TV and still not get a sense of how exciting it is to be there, how enormous the park is, the scale of the buildings, but above all, how friendly and upbeat everybody is. The volunteers have made this event into something more special than I’ve experienced in London in a lifetime. I would have loved to have got tickets to see something, but even just walking around and hearing the cheers coming from the aquatics centre was exciting enough.