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Virgin suck; eunuchs rule.

My journey home should take about an hour and a half. That's rather longer than anyone would wish to spend travelling of a cold and frosty night anyway. And when Virgin cancel one train and delay the next, leaving you waiting for an hour in the dark and the fog, you tend to get a little annoyed. Especially given that I do not think I have ever experienced an on-schedule train on that journey, ever. And delays of an hour happen at least once a fortnight. Leamington Spa station has become like my own personal hell. And as winter draws in, it's getting worse.

Still, there are points on the plus account. For one thing, I got to use the word 'fuck' perfectly legitimately today in a lecture. Twice. The lecture was on literacy, and this came up in the context of graffiti around a brothel in Pompeii. The kids loved it, as I'm sure you can imagine.

I also inherited a discarded copy of the Guardian on the train, which had a Sudoku puzzle in it. I think I am just going to have to buy a book of those, as I'm frittering away quite a lot of money these days on newspapers which I buy primarily for the sake of their Sudoku.

But, most importantly, when I finally fell into the house at 9pm exactly, I found waiting for me the Alessandro Moreschi CD which I'd bought in a fit of excitement after hearing extracts from it at a pre-concert talk in Birmingham two weeks ago. So I'm listening right now to a voice recorded more than a century ago (some tracks 1902, some 1904) - a voice which had already been artificially shaped and preserved through castration by 1870.

Between the gulf of time made palpable by the crackly recordings, and the almost alien quality of the voice - not just in its pitch and range, but in the very different singing conventions of turn-of-the-century Italy, and the obviously Papal context of the music - it's arresting and astonishing. When I first put it on, I actually found myself sitting curled over into a protective, foetal position on the sofa, gaping in astonishment and slight uneasiness at the un-human (not inhuman) sound I was hearing.

I'm used enough to it to sit here and type now, but it hasn't lost its impact. To think I'd thought for years that barely 3 minutes of this existed, and now I have 52 minutes of it, here in my very house! I'm always going to prefer Robin Blaze and his ilk. But this has, yes, a very special beauty all of its own.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 21st, 2005 11:10 pm (UTC)
I hereby award you the Keith Hopkins Award for the Most Gratuitous Use of the Word 'Fuck' in an Academic Lecture.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:14 am (UTC)
I protest! It was not gratuitous! I can't help it if sated Pompeian brothel clients wrote, "Here I fucked lots of girls" on the wall now, can I?
Nov. 21st, 2005 11:43 pm (UTC)
Sounds amazing! I've always wanted to hear Venetian castrati singing since (I know, I know, I was 14) reading Anne Rice's Cry to Heaven. Even though this is different, it's as close as I'm likely to get. I demand you play me some when I get to Oxford!
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:15 am (UTC)
Of course. It is literally like nothing you will ever have heard before. It's still completely blowing my mind, and I'll probably be writing more about it later today.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 08:50 am (UTC)
You should have asked... I've had a copy of this for a while.

I'm rather un-fond of it myself.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:20 am (UTC)
I love it for its flaws. If it were sheer artistic brilliance, the potency of the fact that we have it at all would be so much the lesser, I think. It is like reaching out to catch a beautiful, rainbow-coloured bird, and getting nothing but a scraggy, brown feather from its backside while the bird itself soars gracefully away into the hazy distance. This is pressing my historical buttons in a big way, as well as my musical ones.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 09:43 am (UTC)
I had no idea there were any recordings of the castrati. I'd be quite interested to hear it out of pure curiosity, actually.
Nov. 22nd, 2005 10:12 am (UTC)
Happy to rip some if desired. Think "chicken".
Nov. 22nd, 2005 10:35 am (UTC)
wow, really?
Nov. 22nd, 2005 11:21 am (UTC)
I'll bring it to our Xmas gathering in December.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )

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