December 2022

Soapbox: Don’t Tread on Your Punchlines

soapboxThere’s a particularly annoying thing that happens every so often to a stand-up comedian: you’ve delivered a set-up and are leaving a beat of silence for the audience to absorb it before giving them the punchline, and some ‘wag’ in the audience (as in person who considers themselves funny, rather than your wife or girlfriend) shouts into the gap. Sometimes they guess your punchline, sometimes they make up a different one, but either way, they take all the comedic potential energy you have carefully built up and discharge it so that whatever you do next will fall flat.

Today’s soapbox theme is not to inveigh against them, as, although there are things you can do to reduce the chances of it happening, or to cope when it does, you can’t fundamentally control an audience’s behaviour.

Instead, I am going to be opinionated about people, in particular vocal ensembles (since that is mostly the social world of this blog), who effectively do this to themselves.

New Technical Term: Canute Passages

There are those who attempt to make music theory into a fully-rational and systematic endeavour, but those of use working at the sharp end of music-making* know that it is messier than that. Yes, you can organise a lot of it into logical patterns that help you generalise and draw inferences, but a lot of music theory is about finding ways to identify and make sense of stuff that happens in real life.

So, from the Concrete-Experiential school of music theory that brought you the Icicle 7th (Karri Quan), the Phnert (Lori Lyford) and Swooshythroughiness (me), I bring you the concept of Canute passages.

On Milestones and Skill Level

I noticed as I entered my most recent arrangement into my master list spreadsheet that the one I’m working on next will be the 250th row. I’d not been consciously counting charts, not least because it’s always a little ambiguous which ones to count. My master list doesn’t include some of my earliest efforts, nor a handful of throw-away pieces done for specific occasions (though it does include others throw-aways, such as the ones NoteOrious sang on Radio 1). And of course it doesn’t mention all the ones I started and never got round to finishing. But it does include quite a few that I don’t make available for various reasons (copyright complications, or simply that I don’t like them any more.)

But anyway, now that I’ve noticed the milestone, it sounds like quite a big number. I guess that’s what happens when you keep doing something for a lot of years.

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