‘The essence of music is punctuated silence’

Dave van Ronk with Elijah Wald, The Mayor of MacDougal Street: A Memoir, Da Capo Press, 2005/2006; p. 11


“That was a real education and I have spent the rest of my life working with what I learned on those Saturday afternoons at Jack’s place….I learned how to listen.”

“Jack taught me that less is more…Never use two notes when one will do. Never use one note when silence will do. The essence of music is punctuated silence.”


“Will do”. Interesting concept.



Layers within layers…

Mobile recording has its humorous side, too. A few months ago a recording car visited a well-known market to produce a follow-up story to a news recording made the previous day. Upon arrival the members of the team were confronted by a very irate shop-keeper who complained bitterly that he had been impersonated on the six o’clock news the evening before and that instead of using his recording as promised the BBC had produced somebody with a cockney accent to read his script. On being assured that his recording had in fact been used he became abusive, protesting that he didn’t speak with a cockney accent, and that the whole broadcast was a fake. The programme assistant tried to explain that on first hearing few people recognized the sound of their own voice. He then tactfully suggested that they should carry on with the next recording, after which they would play it back so that his friends could be the judges. This was agreed, and when the disc was played back two of his pals nodded slowly. ‘That’s you, Alf’, they said, and Alf subsided like a pricked balloon. He had a wonderful cockney accent!

Brian George (Recorded Programmes Director, BBC), “Recorded History”, in BBC Year Book 1948, The British Broadcasting Corporation (London), pp. 60-63; quote is on page 63.

He goes on to say:

Recordings of this kind – the voices of ordinary men and women discussing their experiences and reactions are no less significant than the orations of statesmen. They, too, are a part of recorded history.

Slapping the lads in the tavern on the back


By Ogden Nash

It is common knowledge to every schoolboy and even every Bachelor of Arts,

That all sin is divided into two parts;

One kind of sin is called a sin of commission, and that is very important,

And it is what you are doing when you are doing something you ortant,

And the other kind of sin is just the opposite and is called a sin of omission and is equally bad in the eyes of all right-thinking people, from Billy Sunday to Buddha,

And it consists of not having done something you shuddha.

I might as well give you my opinion of these two kinds of sin as long as, in a way, against each other we are pitting them,

And that is, don’t bother your head about sins of commission because however sinful, they must at least be fun or else you wouldn’t be committing them.

It is the sin of omission, the second kind of sin,

That lays eggs under your skin.

The way you get really painfully bitten

Is by the insurance you haven’t taken out and the cheques you haven’t added up the stubs of and the appointments you haven’t kept and the bills you haven’t paid and the letters you haven’t written.

Also, about sins of omission there is one particularly painful lack of beauty,

Namely, it isn’t as though it had been a riotous red letter day or night every time you neglected to do your duty;

You didn’t get a wicked forbidden thrill

Every time you let a policy lapse or forget to pay a bill;

You didn’t slap the lads in the tavern on the back and loudly cry Whee,

Let’s all fail to write just one more letter before we go home, and this round of unwritten letters is on me.


No, you never get any fun

Out of the things you haven’t done,

But they are the things that I do not like to be amid,

Because the suitable things you didn’t do give you a lot more trouble than the unsuitable things you did.

The moral is that it is probably better not to sin at all, but if some kind of sin you must be pursuing,

Well, remember to do it by doing rather than by not doing.


From p. 32-33 of The Face is Familiar: Verses by Ogden Nash, J. M. Dent and Sons Ltd. (which explains the “cheques” in this American author (or does it?)), at the Aldine Press, Letchworth, Paperback edition 1965, first published in Great Britain 1942, Revised and rearranged by the author 1954. So, war-baby and baby-boomer, and a child of the 60s, all rolled into one. Would he like that? We went to the same school, but then so did Barack Obama and I: I don’t think it confers privileged insight.



Digital Worlds: And yet what has changed?

“There are two kinds of preservationists: those who have lost data and those who will.”

Bogus, Blood, Dale, Leech and Mathews, “Minimum Digitization Capture Recommendations“, Association for Library Collections and Technical Services (June 2013)

A very useful publication.

Suggested elaborations:

“There are two kinds of human beings…”

“There are two kinds of cultures…”

Broadband is not water, not even electricity…

Living in rural England, where mobile phone reception is poor and wi-fi hotspots absent entirely, the BT line goes down: No landline, no broadband. “We’ll try to be out within three working days”. I work like mad over the weekend, but with the line down on Thursday, three days means at least five for BT; and all the calls to India bucked back to the U.K.; and all the deadlines, and all the questions, and all the necessary communications integrated into our daily working assumptions become amputated teasing phantom limbs of impossibility.

If our water was cut, it would be an emergency. If our electricity went down, there would be a sense of urgency. When our means of communication and livelihood break down, the utility offers recorded messages and ultimately people with no remit except to say “No can do”: at first politely, but by the third buck in terse confronting tones of non-apologetic apology: “Back off”. How odd that something so essential to our daily lives and identities is treated so leisurely by its gatekeepers.

The Unthought Known

Now I am depressed myself,” I said. “That’s why I never think about these things. I never think and yet when I begin to talk I say the things I have found out in my mind without thinking.”

Henry to the priest, in Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms,  Chapter XXVI