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Saturday, March 12, 2011

The rain it raineth . . .


It is not only raining, but also pouring.  This is not what I expect from Catalonia!  Especially not at a weekend!  And the weather for the rest of the week looks equally gloomy.

Perhaps my trip to the UK on Thursday will be to a better climate, even if the reason for my visit is not a happy one.  Still, it will be an opportunity to trade memories with the rest of the family to make sure that Aunt Bet has a gathering that she could be proud of.  She made chatting into an art form!

Amazon’s evil level must be fairly high.  Not content with ordering yet another radio by their individually directed blandishments I was further tempted by the side adverts that adorn the site to purchase a box set of re-mastered recordings of Sir John Barbarolli conducting Sibelius.
As one of the first generation Sibelius conductors he has something of an iconic status and I don’t have a single one of his recordings in my collection.  I do have many versions of the symphonies, but it is always interesting to listen to another interpretation.

I keep forgetting that my musical taste was formed with injudicious, indeed indiscriminate buying of budget priced LPs when they came onto the market: Heliodor, Marble Arch, Allegro, Music for Pleasure which became the snappier and more expensive “mfp” and a host of others that I have forgotten.  I remember Marble Arch records as quite chunky and vulnerable; they gathered scratches if you so much as breathed on the surface!  But they were 9/11 and affordable.

I can still remember the progression of inflation on budget LPs: 9/11 soon became 10/- then 10/6 then 12/6 then, oddly 13/4 and I rather lost track of the increases after that and I was looking to record shop sales (especially Boots the Chemist in those far off days) to increase my respectable music coverage.

And now all of those LPs are gone: given to the Pauls and then sold on by them after they found that the ceiling was beginning to bow after they stored them in the attic!  More than 40 years of collecting.  I can still remember the artwork on LP covers from so many of the ones I had.

But I also remember the scratches, hiss and other extraneous sounds as well as the fag of having to turn the bloody things over to get the final movements of symphonies.  And the various cloths and liquids that were guaranteed to get rid of the dust held like microscopic limpets by the power of static electricity to the surface of the LPs.  And they never did.  Fully.  Silence was never quite silence on a record!

And now I am told that CDs are only possible because of the compression of the audio signal which supresses the higher frequencies, which I can’t hear now anyway, so no real loss there.

The only loss is that not all of my favourite LPs have been transferred to CD and, as the records are now gone, I do not have the opportunity to use a special desk to get the analogue into digital form.  Ah well, more opportunity to buy – like the Barbarolli set of Sibelius mentioned above!

The rain has continued unrelentingly with the moisture pouring down from a sludge-grey sky.  It is the sort of day that drains initiative and produces a slump-like attitude that defeats even the desultory reading of the latest book to be attempted on the Kindle.

In desperation, after lunch with the rain still falling I resorted to traditional way of dealing with can’t-be-bothered wet Saturday afternoons: I watched television!

And saw, in bemused astonishment a 1953 film by Roy Rowlands (Stanley Kramer producer) called “5000 fingers of Dr T.”

This is ostensibly a children’s musical film (!) about a nine year-old kid with a tyrannical piano music teacher, a widowed mother and a spare plumber.  What it actually presents is a surrealistic, self-indulgent extravaganza of amazing sets, extraordinary props, Dr Seuss lyrics, unbelievable dialogue and delicious over-acting!
I looked up the review of it in the Time Out Film Guide and was particularly taken with the closing lines, “[there are] a couple of musical routines that come close to defining camp, [and] this awesome entertainment really does have something for everyone.”
The choreography of the imprisoned musicians in the lower dungeons has to be seen to be believed!

I am not sure that I would recommend this film, but as an oddity from the 1950’s it is worth a glance.

5000-fingers-of-dr-t.jpg
I might add that my particular god of the cinema, David Thomson, in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (4th Edition) says of Kramer (the film’s actual director, Roy Rowlands doesn’t even merit an entry) “Kramer is a hollow, pretentious man, too dull for art, too cautious for politics.”  His films are “middlebrow and overemphatic; at worst, they are among the most tedious and dispiriting production the America cinema has to offer.”  Of the films that Kramer made with Columbia (of which “5000 fingers of Dr T” is one) Thomson says, “There is not a good film in the lot.”  Never one to mince his words is our David!

Today, apart from the rain, has been wonderful as I have constantly forgotten that today is Saturday and not Sunday – surely one of the delights of having Friday off.

But Monday looms!
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