Monthly Archives: November 2013

Operation safeway? On your bike, Met Police.


In a break from my usual wittering about music and stuff, here’s some advice to the Metropolitan Police, after watching them loiter around the junction of Upper Tooting Road and Garratt Lane this morning.

1. If you want to catch bad drivers, don’t stand at junctions in hi-viz jackets

My local pound store could tell you this. They have big cardboard cut-outs of policemen in the window, and around the store. The idea is that if you see a policeman, you’ll think twice about nicking stuff. It won’t stop you being a thief, it’ll just put you off the idea for as long as that image is in front of you.

If you put police officers at junctions in hi-viz jackets, and advertise in advance that you’re going to be doing so, anyone who was thinking about driving in the bus lane, jumping a red light, or texting while driving, isn’t going to do it, because you’re there. My guess is the number of offenders you’ll catch will be about 10% of what you’d gain by following my next piece of advice:

2. If you want to catch people driving/cycling badly, get on your bike yourself. 

You should try it, you really should. Here’s the science. From a cycle lane you’ll  see – as I do every day – all kinds of illegal things going on in cars. You’ll smell the marijuana from the open windows of vans (it’s usually vans). You’ll see drivers texting, with their head down, but still with their foot on the gas and moving forward. You’ll see drivers with in-ear headphones. They might be listening to the radio, they might be on the phone, but either way, they’re in another world.  You might even see, as I did the other day, a driver with a laptop open on her knee, looking down at it – map reading, perhaps, or answering an important email? – while driving up Upper Tooting Road. I noticed this because the driver swerved into the cycle lane without raising her eyes from the laptop, on hearing an ambulance siren start up behind behind her. Yes, that’s very common. Particularly when other cars want to turn right, and drivers use the cycle lane as a spare bit of road to overtake on the left with, or when a vehicle is too wide to fit between a traffic island and the outer edge of a cycle lane. Should have thought of that one, Boris.

Yes, you’ll see all of this and more, and the great thing is, they won’t see you first, because you’re behind them. There’ll be no chance of them modifying their behaviour so you can’t catch them. I promise you, if you have performance related pay, get on a bike and get cycling, because you could  be nicking people for texting while driving at least three times in every 20 minutes, if my regular journeys are anything to go by.

And even better, because the cycle lanes usually move quicker than the traffic, you’ll be able to cycle up and nick them before they can get away. That’s what’s so brilliant about cycling in London, except that as cyclists, we don’t have the power, like you do, to do anything about it. And yes, you’ll catch cyclists too, and you’ll be able to stop them doing really stupid things (which some of them do, I admit).

It would be better for you, too. You’d get some exercise, rather than just standing around the place, waiting for crimes to happen that you’re already averting by standing there. Yes, there’s some value in preventing them, but in a few days, once this particular media project is over, you’ll be gone, and frankly, for prevention, maybe a cut-out policeman would be enough – it seems to work at the pound store.

3. Look at culture 

It takes public discourse to get people hating cyclists. When I was learning to drive nearly 40 years ago, my driving instructor told me to give cyclists a wide berth, because they were prone to wobble and swerve (and this was before London’s pothole-ridden streets made cycling such a nightmare). It was gentle, considerate, and forgiving, and good driving instruction. It’s much more common now for cars to overtake you impatiently,  with only inches to spare, as if it would only be your fault if you happened to swerve at the wrong moment.

No-one wakes up in the morning hating cyclists genetically, it happens through the slow drip of daily insult, and the result is erratic, unreasonable and aggressive behaviour from motorists who are otherwise not natural born killers. There are two London radio presenters in particular who seem to despise cyclists, and encourage drivers to mouth off about them as a breed.

Writing is dangerous.  “Like many people”, wrote Rod Liddle in the Spectator recently, I am worried that too few cyclists are being killed on our roads each year.”  I complained once about Jeremy Clarkson, and got nowhere, except an instant and considered reply from the excellent Sadiq Khan, who forwarded my complaint to Boris Johnson. In brief, we should learn to lighten up, apparently, and take this on the chin, and laugh at it because it’s just humorous banter. Matthew Parris played the ‘it was meant humorously’ card  when he proposed a festive custom of stringing piano wire across country roads to decapitate cyclists.  Would he accept such an excuse from someone who suggested decapitating gay people because they found them annoying?  My problem with this ‘it was only a joke’ stuff is that it cultivates prejudice and hatred against a group of people, regardless of individual identities, or their right to existence. In other contexts, this is illegal, and it is recognised as inciting hatred – yet not even you seem to care about this when it comes to cyclists.


“Oh I do like to be beside the seaside” sheet music online at last


One of the reasons I’ll never have a hit record with Non, Je ne regrette rien is because unfortunately, I do have one big regret. Coming home in the car from Potton Hall after the recording session for Studio Series 5, the one with all the singalong tunes on, I realised we’d Oh I do like to be beside the seaside: picture of beach in Corsicacompletely forgotten to record Oh I do Like to be Beside the Seaside. It’s a beautifully silly song, but it’s not just that it makes people smile during class, it also happens to have a very useful rhythmic template. It works for those grands battements exercises that have a huge anacrusis and slow rumpty-tum rhythm that sounds turgid in music, but is fine for legs. You can slow down Oh I do like to be beside the seaside and it doesn’t sound too turgid, because the words are light.

When I was researching the album, I was amazed  – considering how popular and well known the song is – that I didn’t seem to be able to find the sheet music online. In the end, I had to get a colleague to bring me in his physical copy of the music. I still can’t find a scan of the sheet music anywhere, which makes me wonder whether there’s some odd copyright issue lurking there. But in the meantime, thanks to Tony Wilkinson for uploading a new typeset version of the song to the Free sheet music archive. He’s done the world a service.

Links to the sheet music for “Oh I do like to be beside the seaside”

A little sensory history of ballet classes

Click on this to download the score. The bar shown is my attempt to recreate a pianist trying to 'follow', catastrophically.

Click on this to download the score. The bar shown is my attempt to recreate a pianist trying to ‘follow’, catastrophically.

A few months ago, a student interviewed me for her research into the live/recorded music debate for ballet classes and examinations. In the middle of the interview, we got onto the subject of how different things were back in the 80s when I trained as a ballet pianist at the Royal Academy of Dance. There were 6 (possibly 7?) pianists, and wall-to-wall classes from morning til night, six days a week, so we got to know each others’ styles and mannerisms very well. It got to the stage where one pianist could do a brilliant imitation of another pianist imitating another pianist.  We lived in a small room next door to the library on the 1st floor that had a squeaky door hinge. You could tell who was coming in by the way they opened the door.

I can’t remember which part of the picture I painted that surprised the student, but as we were talking, I remembered that I’d written this piece about the pianists there, back in 1986 – a kind of mini Les Soirées de Nazelles – that was like a musical portrait of what I was talking about. At the time, I’d been in bed for a week with flu, and my brain was fried from trying to make musical sense of this strange ballet world that I’d fallen into, and I wrote the piece as a means of passing the time and getting it all out of my system as my flu got better.

Although it’s nothing special as music, and makes more sense as something to look at than to hear, it’s interesting as a reminder of all kinds of things I’d forgotten – like the fact that classes all began at 9.15; of a tune that one of the pianists used to play for pliés that I’ve quoted somewhere at the bottom of page 2; that Ann Hogben used to eat Crackawheat for lunch. I’d forgotten how sick I’d become of particular ‘ballet cadences’ that were doing the rounds at the time, and of the dreadful things we’d do to waltzes in grand allegro to try to accommodate unmusical jumps. Nobody plays like that anymore. And I’d completely forgotten about my boss and his motorbike whose retreating sounds, as the piece suggests,  punctuated the end of every day.

There is a whole tale to be told from the little asides in (probably not very good) French à la Satie, but I feel that would be telling. If you were there at the time, you’ll probably know exactly what they all mean. And if you really want to hear it as well, click below.

 Click here for a free download of the piano score of Les très riches heures

Études (ballet) – the sources for Riisager’s score

Etudes ballet music: beginning of the ronds de jambe en l'air music

Ronds de jambe, Op. 355 No. 1, one of the pieces used in the Études ballet music

A commenter who’d read one of my posts about my searches for the Czerny sources for Riisager’s ballet Etudes (see this post, too) asked if I’d ever made a list of those sources. I don’t know why I didn’t do it before – but with one gap that I hope I can fill in soon (the tarantella), here’s the list. Scroll to the end for notes on the numbering/naming of the Etudes ballet music, and links to free downloads of the Czerny scores.

[unnumbered] 1. Overture (Allegro molto): Op. 299, No. 9 (possibly a bit of  Op 740 No. 1 too)

Exercises à la barre

[1] 2. Moderato (Tendus, grands battements, fondus, frappés)

  • Op 261 No. 23 (C major, thirds)
  • Op 740 No 32 (C major, repeated notes)
  • Op 740 No. 12 (D minor, theme)
  • Op. 355 No. 9 (C major, dotted rhythms)

[2] 3. Molto leggiero e scherzando (Ronds de jambe) Op. 355 No. 1

[3] 4. Andante (Silhouette barre):  Op. 335 No. 37

Au milieu 

[4] 5. Andante sostenuto (Adagio):  Op. 335  No. 20

[5] 6 & 7 Moderato (Port de bras et pas de badin): 

  • Op. 821 No. 4
  • Op 299 No. 27

[5a] 8. Moderato (Mirror dance): Op. 139 No. 54

[5b] 9. Allegro animato (Ensemble):  740 No. 45 (A flat major)

[6] 10. Andantino (Pas de deux romantique*): Op. 335 No. 39

[6a] 11. Allegro animato (Sortie): Repeat of  Op. 740 No. 45

[6b] 11a. Andante (interpolation) (Conclusion): repeat of Op. 335 No. 37

[7] 12. Allegro vivo (Pirouettes)  Op. 335 No. 16

[8] 13. Allegretto scherzando (Relevés) Op. 335 No. 35

[9] 14. Vivace (Piqués and grands pirouettes) Op. 740 No. 49 (Octaves)

       15. Allegro vivo  Op. 636 No. 17 [en diagonal]

[10] 6: Allegrissimo (Prima ballerina solo) Op. 299 No. 40

[10a] 17. Vivace (Coda*)  (Repeat of No. 12, Op. 740 No. 49)

[11] 18. Allegro (Small leaps) [“Hoppity hop”] 

  • Op. 335 No. 19
  • Op. 299 17 (F, trans. in E)

19. Allegro (Pas de quatre) 

  • Op. 740 No. 40

20. Allegro Op. 740 No. 16 (but possibly with something else mixed in)

21. Allegro (Brisés) [“Boys brisés] Op. 821 No. 89 (C# minor, trans. G minor)

[12] 22. Mazurka: Op. 355 No. 36

[13] 23. Tarantella  [“Jetés] (Missing source: – A minor, in 6/8, in (double) octaves) Update on 29th May 2014 – see this post  and a link to the score – but no opus number 

[14] 24. Vivace (Broad leaps) [“1st finale”]: Op. 740 – 37  (D minor)

25. Maestoso: [“Principals”]  Op. 740 15 (E flat major, transp. to D)

26: Vif  [“2nd finale”]  Op. 365 No. 45 (A minor)

Notes on the naming and numbering of the Etudes ballet music

  • Numbers in square brackets [#] refer to the numbering in the orchestral score
  • Secondary numbers after the bracketed numbers refer to the numbering in the piano reduction, and correspond also to the numbering in the inlay booklet for the Terence Kern recording with London Festival Ballet orchestra, Cat. No. 7243 5 69089 2 5). Please note that these numbers refer to the order of the score, they’re not track numbers. Score numbers and track numbers sometimes match, but in the case of 6 & 7, for example, which are both on one track, the score numbering gets out of sync with the track numbers. 
  • The first title (i.e. things like ‘allegro’ and ‘vif’ are taken from the Terence Kern recording (see above).
  • Descriptive titles in round brackets (tendus, pirouettes etc.) are taken from the Danish Radio Orchestra recording with Rozhdestvensky , and match with the titles in the piano reduction.
  • Titles in square brackets and in inverted commas [“First finale”] are what these sections are known as colloquially in rehearsal.
  • Information in round brackets after the opus numbers are just ‘notes to self’ for me, to identify which etude I’m talking about without having to refer back to the score.
  • The main source I’m missing is the tarantella. In the score it’s in A minor, but Riisager may have transposed it, as he has a couple of the other studies.
  • Riisager quotes bits and pieces from other studies within the orchestral texture I think, so I may well have missed other sources. For example, I think  there is a bit of Op.  821 No. 22 in there somewhere, but I’ll have to listen through again to see where I think I heard it.
  • All the sources are now available online, mostly from IMSLP – see links below. I am grateful to two commenters who directed me a) to a source for the tararantella and b) to a recent upload of book two of Op. 355 at IMSLP (for the mazurka).

Sources from the IMSLP and one from the Henselt Library: