synthetic authentic

Month: August, 2012


“It was when I was saying goodbye to my mum and dad.  {I saw in the Vendée Globe documentary afterwards} my dad kissed me on the forehead and I turned and walked away.  I had to go.  They looked at each other and that look was so telling.  And I thought to myself how totally selfish it is to sail solo around the world when you are achieving your dream but you leave others at home who can do nothing even when things go wrong – there’s nothing they can do.  And I thank them so much for that.  It hit me so hard that they just let me spread my wings and fly.”

Dame Ellen MacArthur – BBC Radio 4 Desert Island Discs – 4th October, 2009.

I admit that’s extreme, but it’s a great example of what parents are called to do.  To let your children go with your blessing to achieve their dreams.  It’s about trusting their judgement about what’s right for them, and not what’s comfortable for you.  Even when they fail.  Except that Ellen did not fail.  And she had the insight to see the sacrifice her parents made for her to spread her wings and fly.


“The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less.  The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met.  The expert met it so long ago that he has forgotten.  He sees the whole subject, by now, in such a different light that he cannot conceive what is really troubling the pupil; he sees a dozen other difficulties which ought to be troubling him but aren’t.”

C.S. Lewis.  Reflections on the Psalms.  Chapter 1.

How often have we been asked for help on something simple when we have launched into an unwanted “fuller explanation” only to exasperate our would-be pupil and waste their time – and ours too, of course.

Note to self: when little Johnny comes for help with his maths homework, just answer the question and remember that he came to Dad only because fellow pupil and best buddy Tiny Tim was unavailable.


“He is special, the musicians explain, not merely because of his clarity of vision, authoritative analysis or the mysterious energy of his gestures, but rather because of the way he listens.  He appears to live the music, inviting them to live it with him.

Players need to believe conductors understand what they are doing, and that their individual efforts make a difference.  Conductors, in turn, need to trust their orchestras to do everything possible to make the music happen in the moment.  The currency of trust is listening, and one of the most interesting pictures to emerge from this book is that of the conductor as a kind of chief listener.  Hand gestures, whether the baton-traced polygons of the textbooks or the mysterious finger-flickerings of Mr. Gergiev and Mr. Abbado, are construed less as specific directions than as signs of a kind of ultra-responsive listening, a listening which feeds back into how the players hear each other.”

From The Economist June 23-29, 2012 under “Books and Arts”.  A review of “Music as Alchemy: Journeys with great conductors and their orchestras” by Tom Service.

Too bad that our business leaders generally don’t understand the importance of listening and communication.  Instead we have insecure prescriptive tut-tutting school ma’ams who perceive any feedback as a threat to their authority.  No wonder our corporations are such insipid and soulless places devoid of real and meaningful communication.


Ennui – Walter Richard Sickert.  The Ashmolean Museum of Art & Archaeology.

“It’s all over for them, one feels.  The accumulated weariness of innumerable days has discharged its burden over them.”  Virginia Woolf

I found this picture strangely moving.  Virginia Woolf’s comment so perfectly captures the mood.


“I take sounds in the air and use them.  I write music that people will enjoy singing.  I’m not ashamed of that.  I am a magpie.  I think composers are divided into two types.  There are explorers whose destiny is to discover new sounds, and I think there are those like me who are very happy to use all the sounds and ideas that are there and to make a personal synthesis of them.  And so I don’t think I’ve trodden new paths, I’m afraid.  But people do tell me that my music sounds like me.”  John Rutter

I’ve wanted to start a blog for a while, as a place to collect my thoughts and to share them with friends and family – particularly my children.  What has stopped me from doing so is the certain knowledge that I have nothing inherently original to say.  By definition, everything I find interesting comes from something I’ve read or heard.

And then I came upon John Rutter’s liberating comment about synthesis.  That’s exactly what this blog is about – an attempt at an authentic personal synthesis of what I find interesting.  I trust that the thousands of posts that will hopefully follow this one will all “sound like me”.