Sour Cream and Ch. Ives

Just briefly:

Sympathetic Nervous System

Did you know that in the second movement of the first violin sonata by Charles Ives (…No it is not on the YouTube yet sadly) there is a passage that has caused me much intellectual and emotional harm. It starts on the very first page. Near the bottom of it.

The piano predominates with large chords and melodic phrases starting out forte (loud), then building and building relentlessly until it reaches a bold fortissimo.

The violin on the other hand has rather fast and elaborate runs. But played extremely softly throughout.

The effect is almost that the violin need not bother.

But this is not where the harm comes from.

The real harm comes from the people who then try to interpret such explicit direction from Ives in the exact opposite way to which it has been written.

They say things like:

“The violin must always* be on top”

“It’s not really dynamics he means”

“You’ll drown the violin out otherwise!”

“Look at the state of your hair”

“It doesn’t make sense”

(*”Must always” A phrase I passionately hate, and is ultimately invariably wrong.)

Basically this attitude upsets me so for two reasons.

A diagram of the human heart. No pun intended or offered

Reason 1: People who say things like that are also the ones who are the first and loudest to chastise when a musician happens to do things outside of what is written in the score of say Mozart or Beethoven “Who are we to question Beethoven!?” (Actual Quote*). That makes them hypocrites. (*Fact of the matter is that many details of any scholarly music edition are just that – edited, or corrections/mistakes from copyists, making it someone’s impression of what Beethoven wanted, even assuming this god-like worship is justified. Unfortunately Beethoven died, making his deity status questionable, though I would like to see Ives’s reaction to someone saying the above phrases on his sonata.)

Reason 2: They are applying the ‘proper’ sensitive attributes of classical balance and other classical concepts and pasting them over music that does not always belong in that category. Taking into consideration the modern penchant for studying period instruments with the intention of playing Bach, et al ‘like it sounded,’ this attitude perversely does the opposite – making music which is relatively ‘now sounding’ sound like it would ‘back then.’

When I performed this, my teacher’s impression was that Ives didn’t mean it, and that the violin should be heard as the main voice. Reluctantly, I tried to reconcile this with what was written and performed it for a workshop. The feedback was interesting: the piano still sounded overpowering, just not deliberately so. It seemed I was being musically insensitive. So I told them what was actually written, and we performed it properly to good effect.

In my recital when I did this however, one of the examiner’s comments was that the balance was wrong in the beginning.


No Explanation. I like the colours though.

Extreme Collectors No.1: Manchester

Collecting is often seen as a hobby, a harmless pastime.

Not so.

"Snakes on an Ideal Plane." That is quite funny actually.

It can be taken to such extreme lengths that it becomes a sport. A science. An art.

So how does one become an ‘extreme’ (or X-treme as the young ‘uns would have you spell phonetically) collector? By going to extreme lengths: pushing boundaries (physical, geographical, legal and ethical are but a few), obsessively researching and aiming to ultimately hoard everything even remotely to do with your chosen subject or victim.

Let’s look at Manchester. The city. How does one ‘collect’ a city? The answer is simple: if you live in Manchester you probably own a house. A start to the collection. Maybe if you’re in real estate you may own a few rental properties, or a business. So logically the objective here is to acquire ALL the houses, ALL the businesses, ALL the infrastructure, and everything else imaginable, so that you become the only person in the world who has any reason to be seen in Manchester.

The Voice of Reason.

Yes, this would effectively turn it into a ghost town, and that of course local and federal levels of the British Government would probably frown upon such monopolising behaviour (NB: That last word used all five vowels, and almost in the right order), so some subtlety is called for, especially as there are many avid collectors out there looking to swoop on the kill. The following useful guide will be of great assistance in your new ‘hobby.’

Some Helpful Tips For Owning a City:

*Define Your Budget: It’s easy to overspend when collecting, so ask yourself just what will you classify as the city? Will you aim for just the Central Business District? What about the official city boundaries? Or will you simply go all out and aim for farthest point in any direction a full tank of petrol will get you? Don’t worry, there’s an ambition for every budget!

*Start Small: Purchase your first house seemingly with the intention to live in it. Do not flaunt your obscene wealth. Wait to buy one at a reasonable price – preferably from an unremarkable suburb. If you choose Manchester this should not be too hard. If necessary for the sake of appearances, hire a family-worth of actors to move in and carry out daily activities. Have them express discontent to neighbours and provide tales of how much better life is elsewhere in the country. Repeat this in various places throughout the city.

*Business Foothold: Begin sounding out potential small businesses who may be interested in selling their business to you, particularly those who seem desperate or in financial hardship. Make what they would consider a generous offer, but withhold it on the condition that they relocate to another part of the UK, preferably with any extended family in the area. Any excuse will do. Under no circumstances buy the business anyway if they refuse – they’ll only use the funds to open up another business in Manchester which you will have to re-purchase later, and they may see a pattern.

*Public Servitude: Begin being an active figure in the community – be seen and be heard! Attend events and functions with local politicians, and let them know in passing that you’re think about a career in politics…

*Reduce Desirability: With the help of actors or a reliable (NB: reliable) army of imported bums, start a campaign of defiling the locality: an assault on the senses. Increase the concentration of derelicts, graffiti, drunken behaviour, swearing, etc in recreation areas, public transport, or any place that may potentially spoil a resident family’s day-out. Again, don’t over-do it and keep defecation to a minimum. The aim is just to plant the seed in the public mind that there might be better places to move to.


*Buy Up: Now the campaign can really begin! Start snapping up properties with the intention of renting them out. But don’t renew leases, or accept new tenants. Instead use actors, or use them to lure more bums from neighbouring counties. Don’t buy them all in the same place though! People will be suspicious. Meanwhile the population dwindles. Place your house selection more around businesses that aren’t owned by you. Supply the actors independently though.

*Get Elected: Become a prominent figure in politics. Immediately begin making popular but unwise and unviable decisions.

A Castro-nomical Idea!

*Incompentnce: Employ managers in various public services and allow them to foster a climate of incompetence in their employees, particularly those responsible for city maintenance, cleanliness and general safety. If you can get your mitts on some unruly youths in juvenile detention, create a ‘re-socialising program’ and let them run amok with minimal supervision, especially at tasks requiring power tools and small firearms. In general, lower your standards!

*Corporate Takeover: Start delegating minions to takeover the mid-level of business, franchises etc. Pounce on any new business offer and don’t make new ones. Still be competitive however – drop prices and make the locals dependant! Keep those already employed for now, in fact employ even more, but offer handsome opportunities for them to take up jobs at one of your other companies elsewhere. Don’t forget to buy their houses too.

*Mixed Media: Actively promote getting out of the city, by taking over small newspapers and radio stations. Prominently feature the now increased crime rate and lack of housing, as well as your own political blunders.

*The Big Step: The final takeover has to incorporate a push in each of the above areas all at once, bringing the area to its Event Horizon. People are moving out. Other business are failing due to decreased patronage. There are riots everywhere, that is, if you’re feeling creative and have enough actors, do this at every opportunity, no matter how trivial – I find whatever article is at the bottom of page twenty-two of the daily newspaper never fails to provide some inspiration. Today was something about seniors using social media. How dare they!

*Clean-up: People are leaving in droves with better opportunities and motivations to go elsewhere, business close (buy them up!), conglomerates withdraw, utilities shut down. You send the actors away and stop feeding the homeless.


*Aftermath: After a few days rest you are officially the owner of a city. You’ve collected the whole set! It must be worth something! Spend your days sitting by the motorways leading into the deserted town, cackle at any motorist that happens to be passing through. Let them. For there is nothing for them anymore.

PS: If you bought out everything within the radius of a petrol tank – say 500kms – then that motorist will run out sooner or later.

PSS: You could also allow wild dogs or bears or something to roam around in your ‘hobby’ to help with the stranded motorists. They were probably rival collectors anyway.