Jul. 19th, 2012

holdthesky: (Default)
In the late eighties my school friends and I went on a cultural exchange to the USSR. Part of this was a three our long organ recital in Smolensk Cathedral. Us fourteen year olds were well aware of our representative status and were all well behaved, imitating reserves demonstrated by PoWs in "the cooler" in PoW camps. We would survive the trial with our heads held high and show the damn Ruskies what we were made of.

This being way back in the mists of time, and not having had too rarified an education, this music was all ski sunday to me. Now Smolensk cathedral is a high Orthodox kind of place, a bit like a pop-up illuminated manuscript, all gold leaf and lanky folk drawn in rectangular inserts near candles. I remember, to pass the time, imagining people slaloming around the candlesticks and binging on cowbells.

I have never really been interested in skiing, but Ski Sunday was actually quite listenable to, and it kind of resembled modern experimental music if you ignored the visuals. I used to put it on and read a book. Someone should do a score: one of those modern folk who invent notation. Here's how it sounded.

  • Introduction was that kind of pop-Bach jazz theme.
  • A middle aged man in a very bulky jacket said "Welcome to [somewhere you've never heard of]". These places always had wonderful names. Things like (these are made up) Øeglestad, Valerain, St Crecy's, Mont Kröglestein, La-mal du midi (cradle of The Angevin kings and Franz Kramer's famous La Coupe de Répend hat-trick in the early 1970s). Importantly this is about all he said and then shut up. There were no skiing Alan Shearers or Gary Linekers waffling away for hours on end.
  • Then there was the sound of an electronic thing like the pips but oddly more insistent and raspy: like the pips on twenty a day. Pip, pip, pip, Peep.
  • Then there was a lot of swooshing. The swooshing would come in waves (as swooshing should), it sounded a like the sea, but had an attack and decay envelope more like traffic. It was the noise that waves would make on a busy day were waves to have motorways.
  • Odd choirs of people would sing Oy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oy-oy, impossibly quickly and bang on cow bells.
  • About half way around the guy at the start would say "it's good" or "a tentative start" (and nothing else)
  • More swooshing, oying, cowbells.
  • A final, more expansive woosh and polite but enthusiastic applause.
  • The whole movement would repeat a dozen times with subtle development and variations.
  • The introduction guy would say "next week we'll be in ... [somewhere equally exotic]".
  • A recapitulation of the introductory theme to close.

Television was as bizarre when I was a kid as it is now, but didn't seem quite as willfully psychotic, more bumblingly deranged.


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