Tag Archives: symphony

1749. A symphonic desire

Desmond had only one thing on his bucket list: to conduct a symphony orchestra. For over thirty years Desmond had been to every concert the national orchestra had staged in his home city. If only he could wave the baton for one minute! He would slow the orchestra down; he would speed the orchestra up; he would increase the volume; he would lower the volume. Such power at the tip of a little stick!

Of course, he would need to have the music and all the parts written out for each instrument. Desmond had a piano background from way back, so preparing the music was nothing. Selecting the piece of music was more problematic. In the end he chose to conduct Percy Grainger’s 1918 arrangement of Country Gardens. It was short and catchy, and had already been arranged for orchestra. Desmond need only get hold of the parts or write them out by hand himself. And he did that; he wrote the parts out himself.

And then tragedy struck. Such tragedy happens to most of us. The doctor gave Desmond sad news: you have but a short time left. Desmond had many acquaintances and friends, but only one knew of Desmond’s sole bucket-list desire. That friend wrote to the symphony orchestra. He already has the parts written out for Grainger’s Country Gardens. He’s been to every concert in thirty years. The piece of music is short. Perhaps he could conduct it at a rehearsal? But hurry! He has but a short time left.

The symphony orchestra scribbled a reply at the bottom of the friend’s returned letter: “Certainly not”.

935. An invisible epidemic


Octavia Pankhurst Gorring-Wilson had a mission in life. It was a calling; a vocation, if you wish. Octavia Pankhurst Gorring-Wilson was one of those relatively rare beings: a feminist musicologist. Her mission in life was to get banned every skerrick of music written in sonata form.

There was good reason for it. For too long Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and most composers since, had got away with blue murder. Not murder exactly; but they had disguised their misogynist bigotries in veils of invisibility.

Everything in sonata form – sonatas themselves, and most symphonies, concertos… – all followed the same course: they were designed for patriarchal subjugation and domestication of the feminine.

This may need a little explaining, but Octavia Pankhurst Gorring-Wilson delighted in explaining. A sonata has two tunes; each in its own key. The first tune is masculine and the second tune is feminine. BUT by the end of the sonata the feminine tune is in the same key as the male tune. The SHE has been vanquished. The female has been made to sing in the same key as the male. She has been made to stand henceforth at the kitchen sink. She has been cruelly subjugated by these composers who don’t and didn’t give a tiddlywink about women’s issues, but walk roughshod over the aspirations of half of society.

Octavia Pankhurst Gorring-Wilson was all for banning ALL music and starting again. Good luck, Octavia.

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