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On Acheiving Respectability

Last night Matt and I braved the 6 o’clock crowds at Waterloo station and fought for a place outside Strada on the Riverside before seeking refuge in the Queen Elizabeth Hall for a night of Electronica With BBC Concert Orchestra. I should point out that orchestras are not normally our thing, but this particular orchestra held the promise of theremins, Moog synthesisers and something called an ondes martenot, and we love all of those.

One measure that you have achieved respectability may be when you are asked to introduce the BBC Concert Orchestra in concert. This was taken care of by a bearded and bespectacled Jarvis Cocker, sporting more brown corduroy than I thought it was possible for one man to wear, a walking homage to geography teacher chic. The same man who sang about e’s and wizz, who was arrested after he stormed the stage at the 1996 BRIT awards in protest of Michael Jackson’s self-portrayal as a Christ-like figure. Cocker looked a little out of place and his eyes were fixed firmly on his notes, and we were a little unsure about his pronunciations. Somehow, none of this meant that he wasn’t the right man for job. When he explained that the theremin is the only musical instrument that isn’t played by touch, and that it actually works by magic, no one argued.

Another measure of respectability may be your appointment as composer-in-residence by the BBC Concert Orchestra. This role has been taken by Jonny Greenwood, he of Radiohead, who, it turns out, already has an impressive resumee, creating soundtracks for films as diverse as Harry Potter and There Will be Blood.

Like Anne Dudley, you may have progressed from founder member of The Art of Noise to the BBC Concert Orchestra’s Composer in Association (winning the Academy Award for the Best Musical Score for The Full Monty somewhere along the way). You may be having your arrangement of Kraftwerk’s The Model for theremin and orchestra performed in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.     

Or perhaps, not satisfied with being one half of Goldfrapp, like Will Gregory, you may have written an opera. Actually, as son of an actress and opera chorus-line singer and trained in classical music at York University, perhaps you were always destined for respectability and became a little side-tracked along the way, but you have still persuaded a harp player to set aside her instrument of choice in favour of a Moog. (I still prefer you in shorts and with a beard.)

You may have no need to add to your credentials, being the niece of Professor Leon Theremin, the inventor of the instrument no less, under whose instruction you learned the art of perfect pitch and volume control. Not so easy when you consider there are no keys, valves, frets or finger-board positions to guide you.    

Me? I felt pretty respectable being part of an audience who weren’t drinking cans of Red Stripe, and recalling the days when I used to play timps (the really big drums) in the percussion orchestra at Fitznell’s School of Music in Ewell on a Saturday morning…