Iain Cameron's Diary
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2006-09-17 - 7:03 a.m.

I drove down to Bath quite early to avoid the traffic and found a free parking space on Lycombe Hill walking back done the hill across the river to the shops for a coffee. I just missed Yvonne and Vita at the station and walked back up the hill to catch up with them at Ruth and Stuart’s house where they were saying hullo to Max the new springer spaniel puppy.

Ruth explained that the person I had studied with at school and who she had lived near as a child has effected a dramatic change of family circumstances in Dubai – this has surprised us all but seems to be part of a more general pattern.

After lunch we drove round the famous sites to show Vita and then stopped off in the shopping centre. I managed to escape the clothes shops and eventually ended up in Ducks, the music shop. I have a very good memory of having picked up a mini-score of JSB’s two and three part inventions in this shop ten years ago in the margins of some terrible away-day event when I was working in the ministry’s personnel division.

Not long after that, Paul and Betty decided to hold a musical revival evening for the lib-dems in Great Missenden and roped me in. I got the Telecaster refurbished and swapped the AC30 for a modern Fender combo. To get my chops back I committed to memory on the guitar one of the two part inventions. Then this summer I came across that very piece analysed in Dreyfus’ book about Bach and Cicero. So I could follow the analysis relatively carefully much to my benefit.

Ducks offered various exciting threads to pull – not least a 400 series Yamha flute for a grand. I have had a 300 series since Vita was a baby and a couple of years back added a Rudall-Carte of approximately the same standard. The 300 needs a lot of work but I cant get over the fact that its more fun than the RC – and indeed its what I used in Cambridge last weekend. Anyway I didn’t buy it but seed was sown.

I have been playing an old Yamaha keyboard in leantown – I think the patches ultimately derive from the DX7. I have been using some of the brass and string patches and thinking how much fun they are. My CZ101 needs some work and I am thinking of giving it to Lawrence to add to his increasingly wonderful collection of early 80s synths. I see that the prices of the new-ish Casio synths with electronic drawbars are beginning to fall.

So my Ducks purchase was the original piano realisation of the Tombeau de Couperin – Ravel’s swiss watch-maker memorial to fallen French musicians. I have started to read through – it reminds me initially of slightly retro piano duet that Debussy composed in 1913 – the same year as Syrinx - the old epigraphs. Well actually Debussy revived the core epigraphs from the Bilitis music. I suppose he must have been about 50 when he went back to a relatively pure impressionist style before launching into the more analytical etudes – and then the last 3 sonatas.

I studied the epigraphs very closely and even performed some of them as indeed I have certain bits of Ravel in this style. One of my last flute performances was a piano and flute arrangement of En Bateau which went down exceptionally well considering it has so many long notes. En Bateau is Debussy in the first phase of lyrical impressionism.

At the Cambridge event last week Michael Conley played the Eb movement from Bach’s Gm flute sonata – another piece with very long notes – which is very hard to do – harder than En Bateau I think. Michael had played Syrinx at the funeral, a piece I have also performed. Michael’s sound is immensely engaging – I thought I was completely fed up with the sound of the flute but perhaps not.

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