Talking of craftsmanship in words and music, here’s Bill Bailey:
Of many classic lines, this is brilliant:
The duck lies shredded in a pancake
Soaking in the hoisin of your lies.
He’s a fine pianist too. It would be even more fun to play Mozart piano concertos with him than with Bob Levin—here playing Mozart’s very own piano:
Gosh—I’m even playing there too, a stay in Salzburg making a pleasant change in between fieldwork trips to Hebei.
Coming out of Goldhawk road tube late on a rowdy Friday night, the station speakers regale me with the moment where the sun clouds over near the opening of the slow movement of Mozart’s 21st piano concerto.
I don’t linger, I have an onward bus to catch. Fortunately I’ve been accompanying the concerto for several decades, so I can fill in the tranquil opening and the whole progress of the movement; and it evokes memories of many performances over various stages of my life. So even that tiny fragment, in such an incongruous context, is full of meaning for me. It’s another of those pieces that can’t be ruined by their use in film music (in this case Elvira Madigan). But what if you don’t know the piece? The project wasn’t aimed at people like me.
Still, thanks, TFL.
The Police squad series builds on Airplane the way Don Giovanni builds on Le nozze di Figaro.
An idée fixe that often comes in handy during fieldwork (see also under Themes) is
In rural China the etiquette of exchanging cigarettes and lighting up for each other is an important skill for the fieldworker to acquire, confirming social bonds (my book, p.24). Generally, when two or more men meet they compete to be first to get their offer accepted. The first offer is vehemently rejected; the giver is then obliged to insist until the cigarette is reluctantly accepted. The word thankyou is never used. Some shoving may be involved. Then the two compete to be first to proffer a light; as the recipient lights up, he expresses appreciation by touching the lighter’s hand with the little finger of the hand holding the cigarette, and the man with the lighter takes care to keep the flame going as he lights his own. I learn to emulate Li Manshan’s ritual of reluctantly accepting a cigarette, his frown, his look of confusion—“What is this funny little tubular object that is being offered to me, and how should I react?”
Police squad also provides another useful idée fixe on the importance of local knowledge in fieldwork:
The Swedish subtitles inadvertently add a further Pythonesque touch. Though perhaps less so if you’re Swedish.
The first ever Spot the Ball competition…
taken two years after the supposed photo of Mozart’s widow, and nearly a decade before the birth of Li Manshan’s great-great-grandfather Li Xianrong.
Further to my Ravel page (under WAM):
Tanita Tikaram (where has she been all my life?), for her wonderful Private Passions, chose Michelangeli’s version, also very fine, of the slow movement of Ravel’s Piano Concerto.
Apart from Bach (including the amazing Lalo Schifrin) she featured the slow movement of Mozart’s A major piano concerto, with the ill-fated Clara Haskil.
Amidst all the hype surrounding Alma Deutscher, she is the only one talking sense:
“I love Mozart very much, he’s probably my favourite composer, but I don’t really like it when people call me ‘Little Miss Mozart’ because I don’t like being called ‘little’. I’m very big, and secondly, if I just wrote everything Mozart wrote again it would be boring.”
Another one for the T-shirt…
This is often claimed as a photo of Mozart’s wife Constanze (1762–1842), just imagine… Or is it? See
Historic photo, and a mystery: is this Mozart’s wife?
Many of us would like to give it the benefit of the doubt. If it is her, then it will be one of the most surprising things you will ever see. OK, it was taken in 1840, when he was long gone. Few wives outlived their husbands. As Munger says, she became the Yoko Ono of the 19th century.
If only we had photos of the Li family Daoists (and their wives) from then… Even the photo of Li Peisen and his wife from the 1940s is rare enough. Indeed, in a world where female members of a family are taken for granted at best, people remembered her as exceptionally able and intelligent too.