Sunday, July 09, 2006



We are playing Lully in Versailles. The parts are illegible and at the end of the day my eyes are pumping excruciating pain out through their sockets.

“This is typical seventeenth century writing. What’s the problem?” a colleague says when I squint at him.

Well, the problem is that the lines of the staves don’t join so the notes on lines sometimes find themselves in spaces; the semiquavers are not cleanly joined in happy posses of four, but blotched and pogoeing around on the page separately like spotty teenagers, and some of the quavers are missing their tails. It’s mostly a question, not of baroque script, but of a lazy copyist.

“We don’t really play this music in England” I say, trying to cover for my absence in half the chaconne.

“No, and there’s a reason. You play Bach and Purcell!”

True. But they play Rameau! Lully just ain’t up there with Rameau. He just ain’t groovey.

The day finishes in the tiny rehearsal room, my neck sticky from a chorist’s breath and my thighs bruised from the pokings of colleagues’ bows. Julian would HATE this, I think, as I walk, alone at last, to the RER station. People everywhere, smelly feet, sitting for six hours in a cloud of post lunch farting….

However, I am feeling pretty Zen. I am sitting amongst many tensions and not feeling I need to say my piece or BE SOMEONE. The meditation is working, perhaps? It’s simple: I just have to ‘be’….

However, this is new repertoire for me and I’m still on a learning curve. Can I maintain this sense of wonder next week when I will be handed a specific challenge in repertoire I know and have been playing for thirty years with the coolest and most cutting edge of chefs and bands….? Will I manage to maintain non-attachment for more than three seconds to the classical style which comes as naturally to me know as breathing in and out?

I used to call it passion and knowledge. I thought it was caring about the music, and in a sense it is. However, when I look at people squabbling about details in music about which I know as little as the average listener, I ask myself – does it really matter that much?

The answer is yes, it does matter. It matters alot, but perhaps, in the bigger picture, it doesn’t matter as much as peace of mind; as peace. There is nothing like agitation and judgement to create an unhappy desk/ section/ orchestra/ universe.

I get off at St Michel and walk along the river. The sky is blotchy with rain-clouds like our score, and posses of lovers are still cleanly joined in couplets on the banks of the Seine. I have pudding first – Berthillon ice cream on the Ile St Louis – then go for that ultimate felafel experience on the Rue des Rosiers, except that it is the Sabbath and every joint is closed. Except one. I should have known not to trust the only felafel joint open on the Sabbath…this one lived up to its name of ’Feelawful’. Mostly I feel awful about how fixed I was on the idea of felafel that I didn’t trust my instinct when I got there and stood in a queue of tourists making exactly the same mistake as me.

Aaaargh. When will I learn?

Probably not next week, but I will try.


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