March 9, 2012

A Visceral Response to International Women’s Day


Well, I’m celebrating International Women’s Day by . . . coming down with a stomach virus.  JOY. *  And here I had thought as I sat at choir practise tonight that my disturbing queasiness was merely the result of trying to sing frelling John Rutter’s frelling The Owl and the Pussycat.**

            There is, however, a certain artistic symmetry to the situation.  Is anyone else . . . hmmm . . . unwowed by the concept of an International Women’s Day?  Like women are some kind of special interest fringe group that needs to have a day named after us and dedicated to us to bring us to global attention?  Because no one will notice us and our bizarre, incomprehensible needs and wants otherwise?  What is the matter with this world?  


I wonder how many times Clara Schumann thought “I should have listened to my father”.

She didn’t compose anything after the age of 36, but she continued touring and teaching as long as she was able to, and is credited with both changing the repertoire for concert pianists and for developing modern piano technique. Not a bad record for someone who had to be married to a mentally ill man…. 

Her father was still a bullying hysterical control freak, even if it turned out he had a point about Schumann.  Apparently greed came into it as well:  he kept her concert earnings while she still belonged to him.  She was well out of his clutches by pretty much any means.  (I’ve got the standard Clara bio at home on my TBR shelf.  I want to know, among other things, about Clara’s mum, who, understandably, divorced her creep of a husband–but why did she leave her daughter behind?)  What I keep thinking about is that she went from the hands of one smothering madman to another:  very rough karma for a woman with fantastic talent.  (And we’ll omit comment about that total little tick Brahms altogether.)  If Robert (a) hadn’t wrecked his hand and (b) had stayed sane, I wonder how much of a career Clara would have had in any shape or form?  I don’t deny Robert’s fantastic talent—but he got to use his.  Clara had eight kids to raise, and a husband writing sweet endearments in their joint diary about how music was all very well but what he wanted his wife for was to be a wife. 

            I grant the injustice isn’t all in one direction:  it’s very nice and all that the bloke gets to engage with what’s in him to put into service—but he also has to because he’s got his useless wife and all their useless kids to support.  It’s such a stupid system.

            And yes, Clara revolutionised piano playing and had a career as a concert pianist into her 70s.  But perhaps because I’m a producer rather than performer myself, I can’t forget that she ‘lost confidence’ in her composing and, as you say, composed no more after the age of 36.  Have you heard what she wrote as a teenager, for pity’s sake?  Sure, people burn out young sometimes.  But I don’t think that was the problem here.  What-ifs are futile but yes, I mourn for the music that Clara didn’t write. 

             And now, if you’ll forgive me, I think I’ll go lie down. . . . † 

* * *

* And I caught it by email.  Unfair!  It wasn’t even an attachment!  But I missed a set-up-in-advance^ phone call a couple of days ago when I got an email from the friend in question saying that she had stomach flu and we’d have to reschedule. And here I sympathised, having NO IDEA she had coughed on her monitor and touched her keyboard with unsterilized fingers when she wrote to me.  So much for my internet security programme.  

^ Because the five hours’ time difference with east coast America is a ratbag, because my so-called schedule has no grounding in reality, because I never know where I’m going to be even if I think I know what I’m doing, and because I’m not going to hold a long international call on Pooka’s+ speakerphone++ out in the middle of a field.+++  

+ This aside from questions about iPhone battery life, the answers to which are ugly. 

++ Because I don’t care what the dubiously-funded tests say about safety, I am not going to clamp my mobile phone to my skull for long periods of time. 

+++ And no knitting available. 

** One of his Five Childhood Lyrics.  I believe I was complaining about Sing a Song of Sixpence last week.  Sixpence is a doddle compared to O&P.  Because I am a poor sad ailing thing with minimal brain for blog-writing or teeth-brushing and to-bed-going I have just wasted a silly amount of time listening to as many O&Ps on YouTube that I can find . . . with disappointing results.  The soprano-destroyer is the descant over the basses singing . . . Said the piggy ‘I will’. . . . when our line suddenly develops frantic wedding-march-itis for two bars, and then does it again a phrase later.  FRELL. FRELLFRELLFRELLFRELLFRELL.  And Griselda wasn’t there tonight.  It was a bloodbath.  But I can’t find a performance that does it justice—my impression is that this is through a combination of poor miking and the fact that the music is winning and the sopranos are losing.  If you listen very closely you can just about hear soprano-self-immolation^ going on in this one:

I will take it to Nadia on Monday.  It has a wholly gratuitous top A, but that’s not the problem.^^  The problem is the tuneRemind me why I wanted to sing in a choir. ^^^

^ Someone on Facebook a few nights ago—whenever I last used the word—said she enjoyed my blog for the vocabulary, and cited ‘immolation’.  Oh dear.  I consider that basic idiom, like hellhound, frelling and ARRRRRRGH. 

^^ At home, most nights, I have a B.  It wasn’t all that long ago that I only had a G at home.  After a glass of champagne.+ 

+ Champagne.  That’s what this stomach needs.  Yes.   

^^^ Because it’s too late to learn the violin, or some other your-body-is-not-your-instrument suitable for playing in groups. 

† But do have a cruise through these, some of which made me laugh out loud.  Which was kind of a mistake.  I merely highlight one that has bearing on the current topic.


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