Tick Tock Tuesday (10 December 2019) – Malcolm Arnold

I thought I’d create a new challenge. It is a challenge primarily for me, because I’m new to this platform, and because you don’t really know me yet, nor I you. As my name suggests, I am recovering from a stroke, and I like to push myself in all kinds of little ways… including getting to know the Wonderful World of WordPress. Although this is something I will be doing, I invite you, if this idea takes your fancy, to play along with me and share with me some of your own selections.

My plan is: each Tuesday, until I run dry, I shall post some piece of art with which I have some connection – which has helped to mould me, which makes me tick. Okay, a piece of art is a bit vague – it might be a piece of music, a movie, a book, a painting, or ???? – so my phrasiology is deliberate. It might be anything – I will play this post by ear, so I’m not sure what I’ll think of each week. And, I’ll keep posting on the theme weekly until I run out of ideas.

My rules? Well, I’m not big on rules! My choice will be something with which I feel a connection. That’ll be the important thing, just having some kind of fleeting affection for something probably won’t be enough, unless I’m using my choice as an example of something bigger.

It will be one choice per week – I’m aware that long posts can be quite onerous to read, and I’m in no hurry to complete this so if I have two ideas, I’ll probably hold the second until the next week.

In that same vein, I’ve created this block as a Reusable Block, which I intend repeating for every post on this theme. The block ends with a full-width separator, so if you want to skip ahead each week it doesn’t really matter.

I probably won’t post any lyrics, or any kind of analysis – if you like my choice, the information will be out there for you. But I will try to briefly explain why I feel a connection to my choice, just to try and enhance readers’ understanding of what makes me tick.

I will tag my posts TTT and I will go looking for other posts with that tag. If you’d like to join in, please do the same, or comment, or pingback to this post, and feel free to reproduce my graphic. Lastly, I look forward to reading about what makes you tick.

Last week I talked about a childhood film, but this week I am thinking a tiny bit older and back onto music. But classical music, so still a bit of a twist.

I guess we all have that age at school where we narrow a broad spread of subjects down to some in which we actually have an interest. In the UK it was age fourteen, for competitive exams at age sixteen. In my day, they were ‘O’ Levels.

My school was worried when one of my choices was music. Although in my pre-teens I had sung in a church choir (you can read about that here), this was not commonly known by the school, where it was most definitely uncool. I didn’t even play a musical instrument, so as far as the school were concerned, my choice was….er….unexpected.

In truth I liked music, what’s more I was pretty good at the practical side – composing, harmonising and generally analysing what I was hearing. But one area where I realised I might come unstuck was when we had a selection of classical pieces to study, in which we had to come up with an essay in the exam.

I remember it now. Six pieces. Six percent, per essay. Thirty-six percent overall. And essays? My whole strategy had been specifically geared so as to avoid essays! I made the decision, there and then, that I would give up on these essays, and do as well as I could otherwise.

The six pieces? Well there I lucked out.

  • There was Monteverdi’s Beatus Vir, memorable only because it was so tortuous. I have never listened to it again, neither do I want to.
  • Two others I have forgotten, they were that bad. Actually, I think the teacher took a punt to skip them to allow us to concentrate on the other four.

But, then the stunners – and bear in mind that I sat my O-levels back in 1984, so these pieces of music have stuck close to me for 35 years, totally voluntarily.

  • Gabriel Fauré’s Requiem Mass. Okay, a requiem mass is a very depressing piece of music – a funeral mass – but I have found that I like sombre music. What does that make me? But it is so sombre, not to mention around ¾ hour long. It does split into sections, but those sections follow a sequence so it is difficult just to jump in. Anyway, I want to keep these posts quite upbeat, so I’ll pass for today. Maybe another time.
  • Another piece was by Mozart. I shan’t say exactly which piece, since I want to keep the surprise for a later post. Mozart really was unique not just because of his age, but because a lot of the music he wrote was pretty much perfect, from a technical point of view. Believe it or not there are rules for writing music – combinations that work, combinations that don’t. Mozart got these combinations right most of the time, which is why people still find him aesthetic. But having built it up, that one is for another day.
  • Our last piece was by Malcolm Arnold. You might never have heard of him. An English composer of the 20th century (1921-2006) among his works are sets of dances. Scottish, English, Welsh, Irish, Cornish. I’ve listened to them all over the years, and recommend them to you, but our O-level study was his Four Scottish Dances.

So I present today the second dance of the four. Quite upbeat, it doesn’t really strike me as Scottish – but maybe you can hear something? To me it sounds more like something from a British movie of the era. Possibly not surprising, as Arnold was also responsible for over 100 movie scores of the 1950s and 1960s, including winning an oscar for the film Bridge on the River Kwai in 1957. In my choice today, you can tell that Arnold is having fun, because the same melody is continually passed to different instruments in the orchestra.

Oh, and the exam? Well, based on my tactic of learning as little of these set pieces as possible, I just about scraped an overall pass. Actually, pretty miraculous, I scored zero for the essays, then must have scored five of every six points available in all the rest. But I learned my lesson and steered clear of music again, except when listening for pleasure. If there is any irony here, it is that I refused to study these pieces as an academic exercise, yet have retained a lifelong love for them ever since. Surely, that was the real point?

This piece is around 2m30.

One comment

  1. I’ve seen the bridge over the river Kwai, not the movie but the actual bridge 🙂 Never seen the movie though.
    Sometimes it is no fun to study what you like and sometimes it is. I think I’m going to write a post on this topic in the future 🙂 Thank you for the inspiration!


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