Is waltz a silly word? Well it does have a z in it. Gazebo; that’s slightly silly but not as silly as hub. No matter how you say hub it’ll always sound silly. And then there’s the word disgruntled. Any word with grunt in it has to be silly. Personally, I have great affection for the waltz. Strauss waltzes helped me into my love of classical music. I imagine most of us associate it with the elegant charm of a past age where dashing young men sweep around with noblewomen dressed in enough frills and petticoats to keep Darcey Bussel locked up for life.
Every new year’s day we can tune in to the traditional concert of Strauss’ finest work, wondering which member of the orchestra has the worst hangover.
We watch incredulously as the scene shifts from the polite wealthy audience to some bizarre balletic ritual played out by a troupe of fine ladies and men in tights flouncing around some deserted but immaculate stately home.
They would never do that down Whitehill.
But the waltz goes further than just a dance. A pertinent appearance in some larger work may invoke a multitude of emotions. My favourite is the waltz from Tchaikovsky’s sixth symphony.
Tchaik peppered his scores with a plethora of heartfelt emotions. In the sixth we sense the discomfiture of a man feeling out of place in the glittering palaces of pre-Bolshevic Russia. This waltz does not follow with tradition. It has five beats in the bar. No wonder his sweet yearning melody runs to our ears in a tumbling fit of over and under balance.
Strangely enough, the last time I heard it live, it was played by the Vienna Philharmonic. They didn’t actually play it very well. Was it an off day? Or was it the confusing guidance of that Putin puppet, Valery Gergiev. He was conducting sans baton and could easily have been shooing cattle from what I could see.
The Whitehill waltz starts in the morning. A chorusof little excited voices chimes with the innocence of childhood. I like being close to a primary school. I love the squeals around lunch time and the mass of cars parking as close as they can.
Some turn up twenty minutes before the end of school. They play their music and refresh their make up. I laugh at the futility of their fears. Rain does not harm you, walking does not harm you and a strong wind may give you a head of spaghetti but there is always a brush in your glove compartment. It may seem sexist to assume the gender but occasionally the fathers may be around to drop the little ones off in the morning. “Love and kisses Calypso, there’s no need to hold Horatio in that vice like grip whilst kicking him in the particulars. Let him be a horse on his own.”
Then there is always the traffic. My ritornello is the rumbling of the Brighton bus.
Up the hill, its lazy old engine emits the fart of the air brake while the downhill bus gulps with a change to a lower gear. Is it reassuring? The music of life is a constant cacophony of timbres and rhythms pounding at our delicate ears. Reassuring? No; it’s just bloody noisy.
Throughout the day comes the percusive stacatto of the deliveries. On my main road I live opposite an elctrical shop.
I love Southpoint. My flat is bursting with their goods. But that sharp metallic sound of a dropping tailgate and the whine of the motor goes into the realm of Webern. I pretend it’s not there. I turn round and feign sleep It’s hopeless.
It’s time for my own waltz. I do a wheelie waltz. Every so often I find myself spinning in a cumbersome pirouette as my brain loses the sequence of its performance:
“Milk? Tea? Pear? Nectarine? Cat food? What did I turn round for and why am I circling like a demented Davros?” (I may have used that term before but I rather like it.)
By the time I sit down in my sprawling chair, I’m observing an extended rest. The orchestra outside takes over. The music becomes less attractive. The functional spartan passages burble on with the occasional sforzando of the horn section. Car horns of course.
Occasionally a more unusual sound may emerge from the orchestra pit. It’s a tight, fierce sound; always loud, never disguised. I don’t know where they’re from or where they go but the unique sound of the farmer’s tractor with bales in tow, rattles through my castle walls.
American composer, Charles Ives wrote a sonata named after his home town of Concord. It’s a seething mess of discord and gutteral nuances. In amongst this visceral turpitude are some tiny germs of genuine sweetness. They are especially tender in comparision to what surrounds them.
My genuine Whitehill sweetness comes from the clip clop of the horse pulling a dear old lady, uttering soothing reassuring words of encouragement from her seat of the trap. It’s fleeting but treasured.
On the occasions when I venture out on the scooter, I hear a new style of music. It comes from restless vehicles behind me. It bursts into a rapid crescendo as they fly past as though their life depended on it. Very few actually pootle past. I make a point of saying good morning to everyone I pass. I’m usually met with an equally polite greeting. Only the ignorant and anally retentive blank me.
Like the parents scared of the rain, I must put the fear of God into these people. It’s their loss.
The last movement of Tchaikovsky’s sixth ends quietly. So does my masterpiece. The thumping of the car music fades and turns into an occasional flourish. The final passage is delivered in darkness. The squeaks and rattles of little human voices return once more. But these are not children. They are the sounds of intoxication. Couples and gangs shriek their drunken delights. I used to do that.
Thank you for reading.