"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Friday, January 18, 2008

"The trick to education is to teach people in such a way that they don’t realize they're learning until it’s too late." - Harold Eugene “Doc” Edgerton

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Mondo 2000: Brian Eno - Ambiguity, Yams & Ju-Ju Spacejazz

PZ: You played a long time ago with the Portsmouth Symphonia. And I was thinking about...

BE: Another great hit band. [laughter]

PZ: ...And I was thinking about the fact that you've often referred to yourself as a non-musician, and I'm just curious: when you played with the Portsmouth Symphonia what instrument did you play? And how did you do?

BE: Well, I should explain to the audience first of all what the Symphonia was. Gavin Bryers, who's an English composer, was teaching at Portsmouth School of Art. At that time in England - this was the late 60's - the only place that actually gave modern composers jobs were art schools. The music schools had no idea what they were doing, were just interested in teaching people to play violins and so on. But because of the [John] Cage tradition, because of what had come over from America, there was a strong sense that this music had a lot to do with what the visual arts were doing. So Gavin was teaching at Portsmouth under the guise of teaching painting or something, and he formed an orchestra called the Porstmouth Symphonia. Now a lot of people think that that orchestra had only nonmusicians in it. That's not true. Anyone could join. And so actually the composition was much more interesting than if it were just nonmusicians. The rule was that everyone had to come for rehearsals and people should try not to sound silly.

PZ: They should do the best they can.

BE: The point was, it was most funny when people were trying hardest to get it right.

PZ: But the literature was all the standard classical pieces.

BE: Oh yeah, we did every great classical piece. We just did the bit that was a hit. [laughter] We had a show at the Royal Albert Hall once that was really the apex of our career as an orchestra. I played clarinet, by the way, to answer your question. And what used to happen with the Symphonia was musically very interesting and I think really profound. The fact that it was funny was a bonus.

What was really interesting was that you got - if we're playing like the 1812 Overture - you got the average of the 1812 Overture. Because even if you can't play an instrument, you kind of know how to make it sound higher and lower, don't you? So everyone knew the tune: [sings a fractured sample of the melody line] [laughter] And when you have 80 people doing that...And it had this other interesting thing. Instead of getting a single line moving or a few single lines moving together, you got clouds, clouds of sounds. I'm making it sound funny, but it was absolutely beautiful.

PZ: Did you use a score? I mean did they try to read a score or did somebody conduct it and you played it by heart?

BE: Some of the players did, yes. [laughter] We had a conductor called John Farley. Our great Albert Hall Concert attracted thousands of American tourists because it had every known classical hit. [laughter] I don't know how long they expected the concert to be. We were playing about 20 symphonies in there.

PZ: You would just do Ba-bap-bap-baa. Bum-bum-bum baaa. [Beethoven's 5th] And then on to the next one, right?

BE: That's right. The good bit, yeah.

PZ: And you performed John Cage's Four Minutes and 33 seconds?

BE: That's right. Also a short version of that: just the hit part. [laughter and applause]


This is the best thing since Florence Foster Jenkins!

Also see:

File audio - Brass Playing Mishaps
[Addendum: This has a Mozart's Tuba Mirum which Frigid Girl proclaims is "that fucked up version that you let me hear "]

Hilarious Trumpet Bloopers (and Other Funny Things)
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