COVID-19, R*(1-I) and the difficulty of making policy

Balance

Policy is a matter of values and the calculation of cost and benefit.

Take speed limits, for example. Increase the limit, and the severity and number of casualties will rise. Decrease the limit, freedom is curtailed and economic damage done (an economy can’t function at walking pace). Assuming today’s technology, the limit is unlikely to rise beyond 200 mph, or decline below 10 mph. Debate merely nibbles at the edges of the issue – vehicle safety standards, road safety standards and the availability of emergency services, the equitable and orderly provision of which is assumed. It’s hard to imagine any disruption to the ‘not uncomfortable’ equilibrium that current speed limits achieve.

COVID-19 by contrast, is disruptive and governments are struggling to develop policy. But whilst our values are clear (save lives, attend to the sick), the calculation of cost and benefit is both ethically tricky and technically difficult.

The facts are these:

  • COVID-19 is highly contagious. In the absence of social distancing policy the number of individuals (R) to whom, on average, an infected individual is likely to pass on the virus (in the absence of immunity), is almost certainly higher than 2. A value greater than 1 is bad news enough.
  • The proportion of the population immune to COVID-19 (I) is low (current surveillance (antibody) testing suggests it is lower than 0.1 even in countries where thousands have died).
  • COVID-19 is a life-threatening disease (the threat rising with age and ‘underlying health conditions’).
  • There is no cure (though there is hope that drugs might reduce the likelihood of death).
  • There is no vaccine.
  • However, there are treatments that reduce the likelihood of death – oxygen, intensive care, ventilation, etc. These are highly demanding in terms of resources (beds, doctors, nurses, drugs, machinery, PPE, etc.).
  • Those providing treatment (doctors, nurses, etc.) face a disproportionate risk of infection.
  • Reducing social contact lowers R.
  • Unless R*(1-I) is less than 1, cases and deaths will rise exponentially.

This rare and disruptive combination of facts has left governments with no option but to reduce R*(1-I), by means of ‘lockdown’ or ‘social distancing’ policy, to a level that will still enable the provision of treatment to those in acute need in an orderly and equitable manner.

Some individuals have argued that for COVID-19 the ‘cure is worse than the disease’, but for most of us it is unimaginable that treatment could be denied to those who might benefit from it, and that doctors, nurses and care workers should be overwhelmed and placed at high risk of catching the disease themselves.

Imagine if the emergency services could attend just one in every ten car crashes. Most of us (those of us lucky enough to live in a relatively prosperous country) would consider that an unacceptable trade-off of cost and benefit.

The difficult medium-term question (before the arrival of a vaccine and/or high population immunity (I)) is what level of R*(1-I) can be tolerated? How many new cases and deaths are we able to ‘accept’ on a daily basis? As many as our health services can treat? Or far fewer?

  • A value of R*(1-I) higher than 1 means an exponential growth in cases and deaths to a level likely to exceed the capacity of our health services
  • A value of R*(1-I) only just higher than 1 means, perhaps, a manageable growth in cases and deaths, such that, as they expand, health services might still provide treatment in an orderly and equitable manner to those who need it
  • A value of R*(1-I) at 1 means a stable level of new cases and deaths (and as I increases R can also be allowed to rise)
  • A value of R*(1-I) lower than 1 means a decline in cases and deaths, eventually to zero

Assuming that a vaccine for COVID-19 is a year away and that I remains low, most governments will attempt to formulate policies that won’t allow R*(1-I) to grow much higher than 1.

But the first question each government must address is an ethical one. How many cases and deaths averted can be traded for freedoms temporarily curtailed and wealth sacrificed? This isn’t an unreasonable question, even though it’s a difficult one. Just as with speed limits, there must be a ‘not uncomfortable’ equilibrium to find. Don’t forget that we accept a certain level of cases and deaths from seasonal ‘flu without demanding ‘lockdown’ or radical ‘social distancing’.

Indeed, some have argued that COVID-19 is no more serious than ‘flu and that the cure (lockdown of any kind) is worse than the disease. Few, I think, having seen the near-collapse of health systems in prosperous developed countries, even amidst lockdown, would make the same argument today, even if opinions may still differ as to exactly how the trade-off between disease and cure should eventually be made.

Assuming that exponential growth must be prevented at almost any cost, the next questions are technical ones. How, technically, can the ‘acceptable’ level of cases and deaths be reached, and how can R*(1-I) be kept close to 1?

On the whole, governments have taken the first step already. They’ve introduced strict lockdown policies to force cases down to an ‘acceptable’ level (though it’s also imaginable, in cases where governments have acted early, that they might allow cases and deaths to rise to their ‘acceptable’ level). But none, I think, can force cases and deaths down to zero, even if that were their aim.

Once they’ve achieved an ‘acceptable’ level, governments must then devise policies to ‘manage’ R*(1-I) at around 1 for a year or so without recourse to a vaccine. No government knows how to do that yet. Epidemiological theory might help, but only the experimental relaxation of lockdown policies will determine what really works and how, therefore, we are to lead our lives over the coming months. The Czech Republic, Austria, Norway – these countries are selectively relaxing policies. Another two weeks, perhaps, and they will be able to measure the effect on R. Surveillance (antibody) testing will give them the value of I.

The precise level of lockdown that will keep R*(1-I) at 1 may differ from place to place. Some of us may be free to roam, whilst others are confined to their homes. And whilst this is happening there will be those who will argue that R*(1-I) should be allowed to rise beyond 1, if not by very much, to protect the economy. Every government will be forced to answer these difficult questions, and every government will curtail freedoms and sacrifice wealth to some extent. The alternative, of disorder, disruption and the inequitable provision of treatment will always be unacceptable.

The sad thing about all of this is that faster action might have saved many thousands of lives. The stringent lockdown policies aimed at bringing the level of cases and deaths down to an ‘acceptable’ level were unavoidable from day one, but if they’d been implemented sooner (in the UK, or in the USA, for example) that ‘acceptable’ level might have been achieved sooner, and the second phase, of managing R*(1-I), might have already begun, as it has in countries with wiser (and occasionally more authoritarian) governments.

I suspect that countries that come out of this well will be those in possession of some or all of these characteristics:

  • Benign, decisive and mildly authoritarian, government
  • A relatively efficient bureaucracy
  • A well-developed, well-equipped public health service
  • A well-developed infrastructure for disease control
  • Respect for the value of the individual
  • A well-educated population, generally trusting of its government and willing temporarily to sacrifice freedoms and wealth
  • A population culturally capable of social distancing

 

One more note…

COVID-19 is frequently compared to Spanish Flu, when lockdown at the levels we’re currently experiencing wasn’t even attempted. But there’s one crucial difference, I suspect, between the early 20th century and now, and that is that whilst there were few treatments available for Spanish Flu, there are treatments for COVID-19. I don’t mean cures. I mean that intensive care units, ventilators, even if available only in limited numbers, can be used to save lives. Policy, therefore, can be implemented to ensure that these limited resources are available to those who need them. There were, of course, terrible choices to be made during the Spanish Flu pandemic, but they were subtly different ones. Viruses and the mechanics of contagion were less well understood. Treatments were fewer. Expectations of government and health services were lower. Government was less capable. If you caught Spanish Flu, your chances of survival mightn’t have depended so crucially on the treatment you could receive.

Cair Paravel

Boris Johnson’s vision of Albion reminds me of Cair Paravel, the turreted castle and court at the heart of C S Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis’s nod to a chivalrous past that never, of course, existed. Boris, naturally, is High King Peter, ‘head of the world’ at last, rousing his subjects to a frenzy of patriotism with talk of a new era, a new dawn, a new beginning (an old cliché).

Cair Paravel is lovely. Primary colour standards flutter in the breeze. Boys can be Kings, and girls can be Queens. Whether boys can be Queens too, or girls, Kings, is never made clear, but C S Lewis, I suspect, might have given short shrift to Diversity and Inclusion Policy, even if not to gender equality. Queen Susan, after all, is a dab hand with a long bow, though Queen Lucy must rush about the battlefield like a courtly Florence Nightingale with a tiny bottle of Chanel No. 7 that cures even mortal wounds.

Everything in Narnia is noble and nice, and everyone is gracious. The Royals speak with the clarity of a BBC English of the 1950s, with a sprinkling of ‘prithees’, ‘nays’ and ‘verilies’ to make it even nicer. No one squabbles. For spiritual and ethical guidance there’s a talking lion.

Everything is good and wholesome at Cair Paravel, even if just a tiny bit priggish and smug. There are sometimes battles to fight, against envious oiks who want what Narnia has, but don your cuirass, your sallet, your fauld and your spauldron, parry and thrust awhile, and the oiks, natural cowards that they are, will retreat in shame.

Puberty is as yet a distant threat at Cair Paravel. Indeed, nothing sullies the loveliness. No one counts the debits and credits, there are no interfering bureaucrats, no constraining regulations, no spending reviews, no deficits, no cancer, no garlic, no cocaine, no coronavirus. And whilst not everyone is equal (after all, you can only be royal if you went to a good school) everyone seems happy enough, banqueting and quaffing mead together in the great hall of the castle – only enough, mind you, to make them merrie. No one is drunk and boorish at Cair Paravel.

I loved the Chronicles of Narnia until I was about sixteen (far too long, you might say). The muscular Christianity, the moral certainty, the nobility of it all – the clothes, too, and the talking animals. But in reality it has all the verisimilitude of Katharine Hepburn as Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine in The Lion in Winter, make-believe nonsense that does a disservice to the multi-faceted, complex, competitive world we live in.

The oiks, after all, have their own point of view, their own moral certainties, their own talking animals, their own ‘good schools’. Is there anything as dangerous as righteousness, certainty or nationalism masquerading as patriotism? Better by far to compromise and cooperate, and to pool our sovereignty. We’re all of us oiks after all.

I dream of a time when the flag of the EU will once again flutter above the parapets of Cair Paravel.

Love is all there is

Brunnhilde

At the end of it all, after fifteen hours of rollercoaster music, words and drama, Brunnhilde gives thrilling voice to:

Siegfried! Siegfried! See!
Brünnhild’ greets thee in bliss

And spurs her horse, Grane, onto Siegfried’s funeral pyre, to burn in the arms of her hero.

Know’st thou now to whom
and whither I lead thee?
In fire radiant, lies there thy lord,
Siegfried, my hero blest.
To follow thy master, joyfully neigh’st thou?
Lures thee to him the light with its laughter?
Feel, too, my bosom, how it doth burn;
glowing flames now lay hold on my heart:
fast to enfold him, embraced by his arms,
in might of our loving with him aye made one!
Heiajaho! Grane! Give him thy greeting!

(Leipzig Opera projected a deliberately archaic 1904 translation by Frederick Jameson. Even those of us for whom English is a native language, struggled. Reck? Rede? Reft? Leman? Guerdon?)

Whatever – the hall of the Gibichungs then catches fire, the Rhine bursts its banks, and Valhalla, the fortress of the gods, burns and falls. Only the Rhinemaidens rejoice in the gold they’ve repossessed, stolen from them fourteen and a half hours earlier. We’re back where we started.

Was it worth it?

Well, for a start, it’s a different world. The Gods have perished, the world ash tree has become kindling, and the Norns (finally!) have abandoned their wretched spinning of Fate. Fate has been fulfilled, Fate itself is broken.

We must make what we can of that, and of what remains – a world redeemed by love. Amidst the chaos of World Order’s end the orchestra plays the serene and uplifting motif of Redemption. There is hope.

Most of Wagner’s protagonists wanted a different ending – untrammelled power for Wotan, and for Alberich too (neither is the other’s moral superior), five-star hotels and first-class travel, perhaps, for Gutrune, a comfortable married life for Siegmund, eternal life and youth for the minor gods – but power ended up corrupting its possessors, love proved insufficient, both as instrument and consolation, and possessions have proved a curse. Only love – intense, transient and fragile – has possessed true value. It might have been lost, thwarted or defeated, but at its most intense it was eternal.

In Wagner’s music-theatre love creates a world outside time, neither living nor dying. an ideal independent of embodiment, or knowledge or character. It has no future, no past.

It’s noisy, too.

And if that’s how it was for Wagner, he was a lucky man, though the rest of us would gladly do without the liebestod and the immolation, and settle instead for a milky drink at bedtime.

But even Philip Larkin, whose English blood flowed more temperately than Wagner’s, had this to say of an effigy of a married couple, hands clasped in death, on an Arundel tomb:

Time has transfigured them into 
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be  
Their final blazon, and to prove  
Our almost-instinct almost true:  
What will survive of us is love.

 

For more about love, power, redemption, music and musicians see gigglemusic.

Hard to love

If I were to come across Siegfried on a dating site (Tinder, I think, not Grindr), I’d swipe him left without a moment’s hesitation.

His profile might look like this:


 

Siegfried 2 (2)

Name: Siegfried von Walsung

Gender: Teutonic

Languages: German, Woodbird

Occupation: Swordsmith, dragon-slayer

Sexuality: There was a moment on the mountain top when I thought Brunnhilde was a man, but on the whole I think I’m straight…

Body type: Athletic (though can look paunchy and middle-aged)

Fetishes: Armour’s nice

About me: Uneducated, ungrateful and unfeeling. Also cruel and violent if crossed. Courageous (I feel no fear – does that make me brave?). Like older women, especially if they’re family (I never met a woman before I met Brunnhilde, and it was kind of exciting to discover she’s my aunt).

Looking for: Glorious brides


 

Nonsense aside, what’s there to like about Siegfried? He’s an oafish idiot, too stupid for fear (courage is surely the mastery of fear, not its absence). He’s only attractive if he can sing well, as last night’s Siegfried (Stefan Vinke) did (though not quite as well as Brunnhilde (Daniela Kohler)). The idea of Siegfried as the epitome of German manhood appals me, so let’s be grateful that the modern German adolescent venerates Conchita Wurst.

wurst

What did Wagner, and his devotees, see in Siegfried? The strong, free man, unburdened by expertise? The man of destiny?

Freedom lies in knowledge, in education and compassion, in the rejection of the seductive lies that underpin nationality. A proper fear of what can go wrong with the world is part of freedom too. Fear is good.

As it happens, Siegfried’s incinerated remains are buried beneath a monument on the outskirts of Leipzig. It’s a shrine to the marvels and mysteries of masculinity (vats of testosterone were mixed with the concrete used for its construction). The vast granite structure has lasted a thousand years. Some say Siegfried merely slumbers (members of the ADF on the whole) but they’ve waited in vain, so far, for his return. What’s more, his reassembly would be a harder task than Siegfried’s re-forging of his father’s shattered sword. There’s no more than an egg-cup of cinders. Wrest Nothung from the granite block in which it’s rested since the curtain came down on Gotterdammerung and you might acquire the mantle of heroism yourself.

On the other hand, better don’t try. We’ve had enough of heroes.

 

 

You need more than love

You Need More

Dexter Dalwood‘s You need more than love hangs in the hallway of my flat in Prague. It’s a realist’s take on the Beatles’ All You Need is Love. Party over, drumkit and flowers abandoned, the Summer of Love has given way to an Autumn of emptiness.

Wagner’s Die Walkure, which I saw last night in Leipzig, is another (though lengthier) demonstration of love’s insufficiency. We want to believe that love can conquer all. Fricka will encourage Wotan to help Siegmund defeat Hunding. Brunnhilde, Wotan’s daughter, will drag so many dead heroes back to Valhalla that the hall will soon be full of mead-swilling, sword-swinging louts. Wotan’s rule will be assured ad infinitum, just like Putin’s. Siegmund and Sieglinde will live and love each other forever, never mind who does the ironing. They’ll breed more Walsungs and wrest the ring from Fafner’s grasp. They might even return it to the Rhinemaidens, though I’m less sure of that – love doesn’t necessarily exclude megalomania. Whatever, they’ll all live happily ever after.

But that’s not how it goes, and it probably wouldn’t engage us as deeply if it did (though we’d be done in two days and it would cost us less). Happy endings are rarely persuasive. The runes inscribed on Wotan’s spear, Fricka’s responsibilities as Minister of Marriage, Wotan’s duty to punish the transgressions of his daughter, all conspire to thwart Wagner’s Summer of Love.  Compelling and irresistible it may be – some think it the supreme form of human bliss  though I prefer music –  love nevertheless isn’t enough, whether filial, conjugal, paternal or incestuously romantic (Sieglinde and Siegmund, after all, are siblings). It doesn’t protect. It doesn’t pay the bills. It doesn’t preserve world order.

That may not be good news but it’s true.

Find out more about love, music and musicians on gigglemusic.

You don’t need love

lucre

If you’re hairy, stubbly, shabby and malodorous, Wagner seems to say, choose lucre over love. It’s clearly the right choice for Alberich. Rejected by a trio of shallow, promiscuous Rhinemaidens, too lazy to find his inner beauty, and humiliated by their emasculating mockery, Alberich does the right thing, IMHO, foreswearing the complications and disappointments of love in favour of money and power.

Such a shame, then, that his blue-collar talents for physical cruelty and exploitation prove no match for the patrician white-collar wiliness of head-god Wotan and his mob. The world, then as now, belongs to the Establishment, to the idle, hypocritical rich and their retinues of legal experts, fixers and money men.

It’s not as if love gets a very good press. Wotan’s tired, tedious marriage to hoity-toity Fricka is no advertisement for long-term love. Frolic with the Rhinemaidens and they’ll drag you down and drown you. As for lucre over love, Fafner and Fasolt – lumpen, trusting labour at its most worthy – are on Alberich’s side, renouncing claims to the voluptuous Freia in favour of a large pile of gold – though they fall out murderously just a few minutes later. (In any case, it’s hard to imagine Freia in the giants’ front room at Riesenheim.) As for the other gods – smug singletons every one of them.

The human frailties of Wagner’s characters in Das Rheingold – folly, hubris, vanity, cruelty, greed and spite – are sympathetically exposed by a Leipzig Opera production that emphasises the human over the divine or supernatural. It’s easier to empathise with an Alberich who doesn’t snarl.

Wagner’s protagonists are an unattractive bunch and I wouldn’t change places with any of them. Though the corpse count as the curtain comes down is one, I don’t think things will work out well for the rest of them.

The music, as always, is glorious – the tragedy of human fallibility beamed directly and powerfully to our hearts and minds in a way that no one else has managed.

Find out more about love, music and musicians on gigglemusic.

Bach’s Bongs

I’m bothered by Boris’s boorish ‘Bung a Bob for a Big Ben Bong’ and all the other brayings of the British Brexiteers. They don’t quite cause me sleepless nights but when I woke in the early hours of this morning to the bonging of Bach’s bells from the Thomaskirche, near my AirBnB in Leipzig, it was a sweeter sound, to my ears, than any Bong for Brexit could ever be.

I’m in Leipzig for Wagner’s Ring, and a preliminary evening of Bernstein’s Candide. Pacing the well-ordered streets of this cultivated German city I sense that its citizens are happily Leipziggers, Saxons, Germans, Europeans and citizens of the world, without the little-England identity angst so many of my fellow citizens feel.

If Big Ben bongs for Brexit it will toll balefully for me.

 

The Great Composers

No one likes to arrive too early at a party. There’s no one to talk to and nowhere to hide. You can’t leave without being conspicuously rude.  In due course you find yourself talking about car insurance (or worse still, Brexit) with other new arrivals. Of course, there’s the decor to look at (paintings you don’t much like) and there’s the buffet, tempting but as yet untouchable.

As hosts, though, we’re always grateful to those who arrive early and get things going.

New social networks have a hard time too. What’s the point of joining if no one’s there?

In gigglemusic, our new social network for classical musicians, we try to solve that problem by offering new users content that doesn’t depend on the community being large. We’ve uploaded the schedules of major classical music venues around the world (for the moment mainly opera houses).

We’ve also entered the ‘diaries’ of the world’s greatest composers – well, the greatest composers writing within the Western tradition or having some significant influence on it. By their diaries I mean their dates and places of birth and death (though many are still alive and kicking) and the dates and places of the first performances of their major works. Almost all of this comes from Wikipedia.

It may be a bit like trainspotting, but I, for one, find it mildly interesting to know where this or that masterpiece was first performed, and when.

To review a composer’s diary, start with People, open a profile, tap Diary and then scroll up to go back in time. Tap on an individual work to find out more. There’s usually a Wikipedia article to link to.

 

But who are the world’s greatest composers?

There’s no ideology behind the selection I’ve made, and no conscious exclusions (I’ve even included Carl Orff). They’re just the first 292 composers who came to mind, and for whom there was also a Wikipedia entry. I’m sure the assiduous researcher will detect unconscious bias, but if you do, please tell me who I’ve missed. There’s room for nearly everyone in gigglemusic.

Adam (Adolphe)
Adams (John)
Adès (Thomas)
Albeniz (Isaac)
Albinoni (Tomaso)
Alwyn (William)
Arne (Thomas)
Arnold (Malcolm)
Auric (Georges)
Bach (Carl Philipp Emanuel)
Bach (Johann Sebastian)
Balakirev (Mily)
Barber (Samuel)
Bartok (Bela)
Bax (Arnold)
Beach (Amy)
Beamish (Sally)
Beethoven (Ludwig van)
Bellini (Vincenzo)
Bennett (Richard Rodney)
Berg (Alban)
Berio (Luciano)
Berkeley (Lennox)
Berkeley (Michael)
Berlioz (Hector)
Berners (Gerald (Lord))
Bernstein (Leonard)
Berwald (Franz)
Birtwistle (Harrison)
Bizet (Georges)
Bliss (Arthur)
Blitzstein (Marc)
Bloch (Ernst)
Blow (John)
Bologne (Joseph)
Borodin (Alexander)
Boulanger (Lili)
Boulanger (Nadia)
Boulez (Pierre)
Bowen (York)
Bozza (Eugene)
Brahms (Johannes)
Brian (Havergal)
Bridgetower (George)
Britten (Benjamin)
Bruch (Max)
Bruckner (Anton)
Bush (Alan)
Busoni (Ferrucio)
Butterworth (George)
Buxtehude (Dietrich)
Cage (John)
Canteloube (Joseph)
Carter (Elliot)
Chabrier (Emmanuel)
Chagrin (Francis)
Chaminade (Cécile)
Charpentier (Gustave)
Chausson (Ernest)
Cherubini (Luigi)
Chopin (Frédéric)
Cilea (Francesco)
Cimarosa (Domenico)
Clarke (Rebecca)
Clementi (Muzio)
Coleridge-Taylor (Samuel)
Copland (Aaron)
Corelli (Arcangelo)
Cornelius (Peter)
Couperin (Francois)
Cui (César)
Czerny (Carl)
Dallapiccola (Luigi)
Debussy (Claude)
Delibes (Léo)
Delius (Frederick)
Dittersdorf (Carl Ditters von)
Dohnányi (Ernst von)
Donizetti (Gaetano)
Dorati (Antal)
Dukas (Paul)
Duruflé (Maurice)
Dutilleux (Henri)
Dvorak (Antonin)
Einem (Gottfried von)
Eisler (Hans)
Elgar (Edward)
Ellington (Duke)
Enescu (George)
Erkel (Ferenc)
Falla (Manuel de)
Fauré (Gabriel)
Feldman (Morton)
Ferguson (Howard)
Ferneyhough (Brian)
Field (John)
Finzi (Gerald)
Francaix (Jean)
Franck (César)
Gabrieli (Giovanni)
Gershwin (George)
Ginastera (Alberto)
Giordano (Umberto)
Glass (Philip)
Glazunov (Alexander)
Glière (Reinhold)
Glinka (Mikhail)
Gluck (Christoph Willibald)
Górecki (Henryk)
Gounod (Charles)
Grainger (Percy)
Granados (Enrique)
Grieg (Edvard)
Grovlez (Gabriel)
Gubaidulina (Sofia)
Gurney (Ivor)
Haas (Pavel)
Handel (George Frideric)
Harty (Hamilton)
Haydn (Joseph)
Head (Michael)
Hindemith (Paul)
Hoddinott (Alun)
Holliger (Heinz)
Holst (Gustav)
Honegger (Arthur)
Howells (Herbert)
Hummel (Johann Nepomuk)
Humperdinck (Engelbert)
Ibert (Jacques)
Indy (Vincent d’)
Ireland (John)
Ives (Charles)
Jacob (Gordon)
Janacek (Leos)
Jolivet (André )
Joplin (Scott)
Kalivoda (Jan)
Kálmán (Emmerich)
Khachaturian (Aram)
Knussen (Oliver)
Kodaly (Zoltan)
Koechlin (Charles)
Korngold (Erich)
Krenek (Ernst)
Krommer (Franz)
Kurtág (György)
Lalo (Édouard)
Lang (David)
Lauridsen (Morten)
Leclair (Jean-Marie)
Lehár (Franz)
Leifs (Jón)
Leigh (Walter)
Leoncavallo (Ruggero)
Ligeti (Gyorgy)
Liszt (Franz)
Loeillet (Jean Baptiste)
Lyadov (Anatoly)
Mahler (Alma)
Mahler (Gustav)
Marcello (Alessandro)
Martin (Frank)
Martinu (Bohuslav)
Mascagni (Pietro)
Massenet (Jules)
Maxwell Davies (Peter)
Medtner (Nikolai)
Mendelssohn (Felix)
Menotti (Gian Carlo)
Messiaen (Olivier)
Meyerbeer (Giacomo)
Milhaud (Darius)
Moeran (Ernest)
Monteverdi (Claudio)
Morricone (Ennio)
Moyzes (Alexander)
Mozart (Wolfgang Amadeus)
Mussorgsky (Modest)
Nancarrow (Conlon)
Nielsen (Carl)
Nono (Luigi)
Nyman (Michael)
Offenbach (Jacques)
Orff (Carl)
Pachelbel (Johann)
Paderewski (Ignacy Jan)
Paganini (Niccolò)
Paisiello (Giovanni)
Palestrina (Giovanni Pierluigi da)
Panufnik (Andrzej)
Parry (Hubert)
Pärt (Arvo)
Pasculli (Antonio)
Penderecki (Krzysztof)
Pepusch (Johann Christoph)
Pergolesi (Giovanni)
Piazzola (Astor)
Poulenc (Francis)
Previn (André)
Price (Florence)
Prokofiev (Sergei)
Puccini (Giacomo)
Purcell (Henry)
Quantz (Johann Joachim)
Quilter (Roger)
Rachmaninoff (Sergei)
Raff (Joachim)
Rameau (Jean-Philippe)
Ravel (Maurice)
Reger (Max)
Reich (Steve)
Reinecke (Carl)
Reizenstein (Franz)
Respighi (Ottorino)
Richardson (Alan)
Riley (Terry)
Rimsky-Korsakov (Nikolai)
Rodrigo (Joaquín)
Rossini (Giacomo)
Rota (Nino)
Rubbra (Edmund)
Saint-Saëns (Camille)
Salieri (Antonio)
Sammartini (Giovanni Battista)
Satie (Erik)
Scarlatti (Domenico)
Schnittke (Alfred)
Schoeck (Othmar)
Schoenberg (Arnold)
Schubert (Franz)
Schumann (Clara)
Schumann (Robert)
Scriabin (Alexander)
Sessions (Roger)
Shostakovich (Dmitri)
Sibelius (Jean)
Sinding (Christian)
Skalkottas (Nikos)
Smetana (Bedrich)
Smyth (Ethel)
Sondheim (Stephen)
Sorabji (Kaikhosru Shapurji)
Spohr (Louis)
Stanford (Charles Villiers)
Stenhammar (Wilhelm)
Still (William Grant)
Stockhausen (Karlheinz)
Strauss (Johann) I
Strauss (Johann) II
Strauss (Richard)
Stravinsky (Igor)
Suk (Josef)
Sullivan (Arthur)
Sweelinck (Jan Pieterszoon)
Szymanowski (Karol)
Tailleferre (Germaine)
Takemitsu (Toru)
Tallis (Thomas)
Tavener (John)
Tchaikovsky (Pyotr)
Tcherepnin (Alexander)
Tcherepnin (Nikolai)
Telemann (Georg Philipp)
Thompson (Virgil)
Tippett (Michael)
Tubin (Edward)
Turnage (Mark-Anthony)
Varese (Edgard)
Vaughan Williams (Ralph)
Verdi (Giuseppe)
Vierne (Louis)
Villa-Lobos (Heitor)
Vivaldi (Antonio)
Wagner (Richard)
Walker (George)
Walton (William)
Warlock (Peter)
Weber (Carl Maria von)
Webern (Anton)
Weelkes (Thomas)
Weill (Kurt)
Weir (Judith)
Widor (Charles-Marie)
Williams (John)
Williamson (Malcolm)
Wolf (Hugo)
Xenakis (Iannis)
Ysaÿe (Eugène)
Yun (Isang)
Zelenka (Jan Dismas)
Zemlinsky (Alexander von)

 

Ding Dong

I loathe this carol. The lyrics, fay and falsely medieval, were quilled in the 1920s, though the tune comes from the 16th century (see Wikipedia).

Ding Dong! Noun or verb? I prefer to think of it as an imprecise exhortation, rather than a description. Do what you will, as long as it’s fun.

Inane as it may be, it’s a difficult carol – that drawn out (and mercilessly repeated) ‘Glor-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-or-ORIA’ is a well-known graveyard for the amateur choir. Breathing, timing and tuning – all pose their challenges. Leave it to King’s, if I were you.

In younger (even) crueller days I’d ask the village carol singers to Ding Dong on the doorstep, and they’d hoot joyously like a flock of demented owls.

If you’re eager to Ding Dong, do it on gigglemusic, the new social network for classical musicians. No mince pies.

And look for my gigglemusic discussion group – Ding Dong – Carols that Make you Cringe – if you feel like adding to the list.

God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Three years have passed, but here I am again – three years in which I’ve written an, as yet, undiscovered novel (a satire on corporate diversity policy), continued to manage and design software for systems@work, semi-retired from LLP Group, and with my husband, Petru and my brother Jonathan, designed and developed a new social network app for classical musicians – gigglemusic.

gigglemusic came to me in the forests of Costa Rica. At the beginning of 2018 I began to practise the oboe again after nearly thirty years of a somewhat occasional and undisciplined approach to music making. I now play for an hour a day at least, inspired by my Prague-based teacher Jan Thuri. I play mostly on my own, with the doors shut, or with my friend and pianist Seva, and when practising assiduously at a sweltering resort hotel on the west coast of Costa Rica in March 2018, it occurred to me how pleasant it might be to find musicians near me – a pianist, a flautist, a violinist, perhaps even another oboist, with whom I might do musical things.

gigglemusic is the result. It lets you find nearby musicians, nearby musical events and groups you might join. It lets you contact and befriend other musicians.

It needs users, of course. We released the product just three days ago, so it’s early days. But if you want to play with me, find me on gigglemusic.

Otherwise, in case you want to know where this carol comes from, gigglemusic tells me I’m approximately 4,930 km from the birthplace or Toru Takemitsu, 7,070 km from the birthplace of Percy Grainger, and 8,140 km from the birthplace of Gyorgy Ligeti.