How to find your own voice:
1) Listen to your thoughts
2) Write them down
How to find your own voice:
1) Listen to your thoughts
2) Write them down
John Man, a highly skilled practitioner of linguistic rumpy-pumpy, achieved fame in the early 80’s by inventing the now ubiquitous phrase “toi toi”.
Though initially intended for people to say to disobedient dogs or rogue goshawks, it soon became popular among artistic types to use before performances as a kooky way of saying good luck.
Sally McNally, musician and guerilla-knitter, has used the phrase for years. “It just rolls off the tongue,” she said, “like reflux, or a small ball for carrying messages inside your mouth. Without it I would have to go back to saying ‘good luck’ or something. I mean…what the hell?”
We asked Man if he had any theories as to why the phrase had become so successful. “I think it’s the combination of O and I that comes just after a T and is then repeated,” he said. “That probably has something to do with it.”
Now, after years of resting on his laurels, he has come up with another phrase, one that is set to become very popular amongst the bee-farming community. Though naturally guarded about the precise content of his new phrase, Man hinted that it was a tasteful allusion to the onomatopoeic ‘buzz’ sound typical of bees.
“Many people told me I was wasting time by randomly vocalising into a microphone for hours on end,” said Man. “But I always knew I was sitting on salutation gold.”
Bob Guy, dramatic actor comedian, is glad he does not have to say ‘good luck’ to his friends. “Those words really stick to the tongue,” he said, “like a desperate moisture-seeking alien or effective tongue clamp. Not like ‘toi toi’, which is like a Gatsby party for your teeth.”
We asked Man if he was afraid his new phrase might not take off as well as his first. “The public is so capricious with what it chooses to like! I really thought ‘chookas’ would go worldwide, but it only became popular with the bogans.”
Mr Busy-Busy-Stop-Stop, bee-farming vivisectionist, was confident that Man would once again craft a lexical delight for his permanent casual use. “I’m sure I will use it all the time,” he said, “so long as it does not magnify the adhesive properties of my tongue in any way, like a doughy clag lasagne. I hate those.”
Many of the world’s most unjustifiably famous classical musicians met this week for the most important event in the music world.
“As usual,” said Max Schaft, “the biggest item on the agenda was: ‘should we keep being a dick to anyone who doesn’t like the same music we do?’ Thankfully I settled this issue, and now I look forward to being a dick to everyone I meet.”
A minority of dissident voices at the conference were troubled by this outlook. “I sometimes wonder if being a dickhead is the right approach,” said Sally McNally. “Perhaps it might better not to be a dick to people who, for whatever reason, don’t like the same music we do.”
“Nonsense,” said Schaft. “That is the best part about listening to music with a long history of cultural authority: you can pretend that some of that authority is yours. Once you have that, everybody else becomes inferior to you. Feeling validated has never been easier.”
We spoke to John Man, inveterate piano toucher, who felt he should agree with Schaft but had his own opinion instead. “Musical preferences come down to taste, and that is always changing anyway. We shouldn’t take it personally when someone doesn’t like our favourite composer.”
“Nonsense,” said Schaft. “The music I like is universal, in much the same way that any highly refined culture with its own complex history seems universal to the people who grow up in it.”
Sally McNally left the conference burdened by a deep and abiding sadness. “I’ll just have to keep my musical tastes to myself,” she said. “It would be great if I could freely revel in the magnificent cultural bounty the past few centuries of creative endeavour have left us. Too bad I have to make sure I only like the ‘right’ stuff.”
“Victory!” said Schaft. “Now that I have won, I really see no reason to develop any empathy, tact, or sensitivity at this point; much better to promote the grace, nobility, and profundity of classical music instead.”
John Man, peripatetic music teacher and total legend, submitted an invoice to his local school yesterday in an attempt to keep starvation at bay for at least one more day.
“I was sort of expecting the incredible, arduous work I’ve done this term to be honoured in the typical way,” he said. “As in, with money. Please give me money.”
We spoke to a representative from the school who informed us that the process just wasn’t that simple. “The process just isn’t that simple,” said Anne Cillory, head of phone answering and clerical banter at Clumptime College. “I can see from my records that Man submitted his invoice on the 15th.” After an embarrassed, unhelpful pause, she continued. “But he should have submitted it on the 13th, obviously…I mean, we always consult the shaman on the 14th.”
Man reportedly did not understand who this shaman was or what his contribution to the proceedings could possibly be. “Even supposing they need him at all, why do I have to wait a month before they can consult him again? Can’t they just get another shaman?”
Cillory scoffed at this suggestion. “Get another shaman!? Preposterous. We consult our totemically garbed soul-warrior on the 14th, as I have clearly explained already. Anything else would be madness.”
Man resigned himself to waiting another month before he could be paid, because he had no other options.
Vienna, Austria– On Wednesday night, Sally McBrahmsFan made the traumatic mistake of attending a concert that featured a symphony by Anton Bruckner. “I was somewhat ambivalent about staying for the second half,” she recalls, “especially after Legendary Violinist gave a great reading of Obscure 20th-Century Piece That No One Else Wanted to Hear. But I had heard that the Famous Conductor is a Bruckner specialist, so I thought maybe he could make it listenable.”
But McBrahmsFan was wrong. “Basically I had forgotten how bad Bruckner is,” she explains, sipping a comforting cup of tea in her apartment. “Even in that historic hall with a great symphony orchestra, there was no saving the music from itself. I’d say Bruckner is a lot of ‘sound and fury signifying nothing,’ but that is too poetic a phrase for its sprawling expanse of Wagnerian brass clichés and proto-minimalistic repetitions of diatonic tetrachords. I almost died.”
McBrahmsFan considers herself a student of late 19th-century music history. “I can understand how some politically radical anti-Brahms people allowed Bruckner to gain a foothold in 1880s Vienna—but why is Bruckner still a thing?”
“At one point I caught myself thinking, ‘How did this man ever write four-part motets? He can’t even write basic soprano-bass counterpoint.’ The one time the bass did anything it was that tired descending line borrowed from Meistersinger, which created only a momentary interest of passing dissonance. And that trite scherzo – I spent the whole time wishing Mahler had written it.”
Amidst the long repetitive passages with no significant melodic or voice-leading content, McBrahmsFan found herself looking around the hall. “What were the white-haired Viennese concert-goers having orgasmic epiphanies about? It’s not even like Wagner, who at least has the whole operatic-mythological apparatus for you to contemplate.”
“Did I mention I had a standing-room ticket? I almost died.”
Asked if Famous Conductor had done anything for Bruckner’s music, McBrahmsFan frowned. “The piece should have ended about five times before it did. Why would you even want to conduct that in the first place? I just—sorry, I need to lie down.”
John Man is a classical composer with a distinctive style. Until recently he could sort of evoke it with a simple list of other composer’s names separated by the word “meets”. However, he now wants to be more unique than that, so he has officially redefined himself in some other way that makes just enough sense not to be wrong.
“I felt a bit lost because there wasn’t a catchy term to describe what I write,” he said. “I mean, what are people supposed to do? Listen to my music?”
Man says he hit upon the perfect way to express his music with adjectives after reading The Inner Game of Composition five times. “Many of my colleagues are just your run of the mill Post-War composers,” he said, boldly dallying with tonal harmonies. “Not me. I’m a Post-Plague composer. It just remains to be decided: which one? Probably bubonic, I think. But only posterity can decide that.”
One of Man’s colleagues, Bob Guy, found this definition to be ridiculous. “That was so long ago,” he said, avoiding the use of opus numbers. “How can he still be relevant, like me? I’m a Post-Perforated-Toilet-Paper composer, and we use that every day. How often do you use bubonic plague? Huh?”
Despite their irreconcilable and very important differences, Man and Guy both agreed that it was vital for them to define themselves according to things that happened before they were born. “We’re composers,” they explained in someone’s program notes. “Living is just something to get out of the way so that our work can be free of human corruption.”
Sally Mally, a female composer, doesn’t have to worry about this problem at all. “I have tried to define myself many times,” she said, quoting some obscure folksong unconventionally, “but I will forever be considered a Female Composer. I’m grateful that this is not incorrect.”
Man dreads the day when a much younger composer comes along and is able to define himself as a Post-GFC composer. “I hate that kid already,” he said. “What a poser.”
John Man, potential astronaut and watcher of advertisements, was extremely impressed with himself after managing to get out of bed early enough to vote in the recent election.
“It’s just so great that I voted,” he said, smiling. “I put my mark in that box and I gave myself a little treat afterwards.”
Man is a great believer in the democratic process, so we asked him whether he had tried to convince any of his friends or family to vote as well. “What? No, I’m just talking about myself,” he said, patting himself on the back. “I voted, and that’s great for the country.”
Man says he was very proud to have contributed in the electoral process and is satisfied that his voice could possibly be heard if it isn’t unceremoniously ignored completely.
When the results came through, Man was proud that a decision was made. “It’s such a relief! For a minute I thought we would descend into anarchy. Thankfully, I voted, so that didn’t happen.”
Though he was disappointed that his preferred party did not win, he was more than satisfied to think that when they threw his vote in the bin, it was still his. “Why should every voice count when mine might?” he asked.
John Man, pen pal and Tubby the Tuba fan, was overjoyed to learn that his local youth orchestra will once again be programming the classic symphonic suite Scheherazade in almost all of their concerts next year.
“There are so many pieces we could play,” he said enthusiastically. “We are playing this one. Again.”
Scheherazade depicts the story of someone telling stories to someone else in order to alleviate that person’s keen penchant for wife-murdering. Composed by the same guy who wrote The Flight Of The Bumblebee, it is even better than that piece in many ways.
“The composer, Riminimmy-Kasikov, was a real genius at painting a picture with music,” said Man. “Listening to this piece really does make you feel like someone is laboriously telling you one thousand stories of variable quality without efficiently resolving them. I can’t wait to play it. Again.”
We spoke to Sally Nally, who plays flute in the orchestra, and asked her what she thought of the advanced harmonic language and the pioneering orchestration in the piece. “I have a big solo,” she gushed.
The conductor, Bob Guy, expressed his enthusiasm whilst trawling through sewers in search of an innovative concert venue. “I really enjoy Rimming-Kussikov,” he said. “He was definitely a composer, and we are playing one of his pieces in our program.”
Though some have criticised the orchestra for performing the work so frequently, audiences have expressed their approval by promising to buy tickets. Many are keen to sit down for almost an hour before they can go home again, and are eager to agree with each other that the violinist is the next André Rieu.
Boris Noris, the horn player, was pleased to offer his view of the composer’s many other finely wrought orchestral and operatic works. “I have a really big solo!” he said.
In the past few years the orchestra has been trying to look more important, so they have now hired a board of directors. “That piece by Ramsay-Gordonof is really popular with the kiddies,” said one. “I have made a decision.”
We also spoke to the concertmaster, Nompty Dompty, about the enormous influence Scheherazade had on generations of Russian and European composers and whether the composer’s legacy should be defined by his compositions or his teachings. “I have the biggest solo out of everyone,” he said. “I am the concertmaster.”
Man is busy preparing for the performances by talking about them all the time and reading Arabian Nights on public transport in an obvious way. He has already invited friends to all the concerts he is in next year, and he is looking forward to the various after-parties in which he can breathlessly explain everything that went wrong in the concert as if that’s hilarious. “I have never gotten my solo right,” he said. “Classic!”
John Man, stereotype enthusiast and reveller, spent an uproarious evening at the opera house last night watching Smetana’s classic tale of plot development and vibrant digression, The Bartered Bride.
“My favourite part is when the village idiot stutters comically,” he said. “Now that I can’t watch blackface vaudeville anymore, I’m always on the lookout for hideously insensitive and unsympathetic portrayals of things I don’t understand.”
Man admits that he gave up trying to follow the plot of the opera as soon as he realised that nobody has ever cared about it. “It reminded me of The Phantom Menace, which is my favourite film,” he said. “Sure, they spend a lot of time discussing some elaborate legal business, but really I just want to see some sort of irritating oaf bumble around babbling in his stupid wonky way. Then I can clap.”
Though critics say that the opera is sexist, implausible, and anachronistic, Man says he couldn’t imagine it any other way. “I literally don’t have an imagination,” he said. “But I do love clapping.”
Man also says he enjoyed the music, causing everyone listening to our interview to gasp and stare. “It’s eerie how well Smetena captured the natural simplicity of song,” he said. “My five year old nephew often stomps around the house singing bits of doggerel and when he does I sometimes forget that I’m not listening to The Bartered Bride.”
Man enjoyed himself so much that he wants to see some of Smetena’s other operas, such as The Quirky Spastic or even The Hysterical Ethnic, an unjustly neglected gem of Smetana’s ouevre. “I just love clapping,” he said.
Thought of the week
Morality is less essential than awareness.
Music of the week
Though it is incredibly difficult to hear, this is a recording of the French poet Guillame Appollinaire reciting his poem “Marie.”
It has more than a little similarity to the Dylan Thomas recording I mentioned in one of my other articles. Fascinating stuff.
Fans of Unterweisung im Tonsatz everywhere received some incredible news this week when John Man, cardboard collector and wunderkind, discovered an unpublished manuscript by the composer Paul Hindemith.
“It’s another sonata!” he said breathlessly. “I found it in a box.”
Man was overjoyed to discover the manuscript, as it fills a great void in the Hindemith canon. “There was always the great unanswered question in Hindemith scholarship regarding his lack of instrumental music between the viola sonata and the seven pieces for three trautoniums,” he said. “Now we know that he wrote this magical little sonata for elliptical transverse crumhorn.”
Man said that after a studying the score in detail he was pleased that it was exactly what he expected. “It’s possibly the most typical example yet of exactly the same sort of shit he always wrote,” he said. “As I flipped through the score I dared to wonder: ‘will there be a fourth voice in this one?’ But of course there wasn’t.”
Man showed us his collections of Hindemith scores and rare cardboards. “I have the most varied array of cardboards ever gathered under one roof,” he said, sprinkling some salt into his Lapsang souchong tea. “Sometimes I chew on them.”
Man looks forward to a wonderful musical future full of even more Hindemith. “I can’t wait for two relatively unknown musicians to make serviceable recording of it,” he said. “Then I will be able put another cd on my shelf and look at it.”
John Man, lawyer and coffee cosy connoisseur, tried to describe a fascinating documentary to his friends at a party the other night.
“I think I captured the gist of it,” he said, “so that’s another night well spent for me.”
Man spoke for ages, trying to convey the insightful theories that had been so convincingly narrated to him against a backdrop of brilliantly edited stock footage and award-winning cinematography. “I must have mentioned a dozen times how some study suggests something,” he said, “so there were clearly facts involved. It was so fascinating.”
Friends tried to listen attentively, though many did struggle to remember what the documentary was about. “I was quite drunk,” said one friend, “so that must be why I can’t remember what the hell he was talking about. It definitely sounded meaningful, I’m sure of it.”
Based on the polite attention he received from friends and strangers, Man was reasonably sure that everybody at the party was as amazed by the documentary as he was. “People were fascinated,” he said. “They kept asking me questions like ‘what do you mean’ and ‘what did that study actually say’ and ‘what does that have to do with anything’ and so on. It was a real talking point!”
Man enjoyed talking about it so much that sources say he probably could have talked about it all night. However, he abruptly changed the subject when a new guest arrived who turned out to have a PhD in whatever the documentary was about.
“We had basically covered everything by that stage,” said Man, “so I let the conversation move on. I didn’t want to bore everyone, you know.”