Tuesday, 12 November 2013

THE Bb TENOR KNEE PUMP with toe hold

THE Bb TENOR KNEE PUMP with toe hold


Since writing about a recentish encounter with a Bb Tenor Knee Pump, under ‘Mad Band Instruments’, I have done a bit of extensive research (clearly, an absolutely challenging iconic back story narrative impacting on the kangaroo in the room gaining traction before jumping through a robust window of opportunity at the end of the day going forward) which reveals the dynamic life and times of this most amazing instrument of instruments. . . . . .


The Bb Tenor Knee Pump is a rare and little known large instrument originally made by the nearly well known North West Norfolk Nossett Company in the late 1800s, and nowadays it can be very difficult to find on a Thursday. The most popular model amongst both collectors and musicians is the Mark 3 which has one toe hold, 36 valves giving 3 Octaves of 12 notes and a flange droppings filter bag which has to be emptied every few minutes.  However it’s still easier to play than the more modern Mellotron (of similar weight) which was designed to be played without a toe hold and with tape loops lasting only a few seconds.

            Although thousands of Mark 3 Bb models were made, there are hardly any left in circulation. This is due to the Ministry of Offence Requisitioning Officers (known as MOOROs) during World War II, forcing exhausted musicians in their pyjamas at 4am to hand over their knee pumps to make up for the shortage of heavy artillery and puncture proof bagpipes on the Western Front. The sound of massed bullet proof knee pumps played by young strong-kneed bomb deafened soldiers terrified Hitler’s troops and held back their advance until the Americans eventually arrived, slightly better equipped with heavy guns, hamburgers and big swing bands which could then easily finish off the fear-frozen Germans.   

Many cherished well oiled and polished knee pumps were also requisitioned and unceremoniously thrown into factory furnaces and melted down with rusty iron railings, old saucepans and horse mackerel to provide more metal and flux for the manufacture of much needed new tanks, guns, bullets and bombs.  But in his memoirs, Winston Churchill gives no credit to the Bb Tenor Knee Pump for the crucial part it played in winning the war, nor does he mention those brave musicians who sacrificed their knee pumps for King and Country. 

Some patriotic war veterans say “it’s worth remembering when the cuckoo crows louder than a klaxon horn after a late lunch on a rusty submarine stuck in the moon tide mud” that this dis-acknowledgement of knee pumps is a festering national disgrace – a pus-filled boil on the buttocks of British history.  Others say it’s a cast iron irony that the Germans and their Oompah orchestras retain great respect for the English knee pump, whereas the English don’t care two hoots.   

It is not so well known in certain circles that a musical museum in Minnesota now has the largest small collection of knee pumps in the world, after outbidding the King of Qatar’s sister and the Getty Foundation at a recent New York auction for one of perhaps only five surviving F# Baritone models ever made but hardly ever played. The mere sight of a formidable F# Baritone Knee Pump (with or without a fixed or fluid fly wheel) has made strong men cry and driven them to run up the north face of the Eiger without underpants, rather than rise to the challenge of conquering its 49 valves and double flange droppings filters.

Not to be outdone by the men, a few 20 stone strong women have stretched their legs and pushed hard on the instrument’s powerful piston and cylinder mechanism while fingering a few notes out of the massive melody pipe, but no-one with enough knee, thigh and buttock strength has yet come close to mastering its incredible seven Sevtave range.  With 7 notes per Sevtave (a total of 49 basic notes) a very strong dedicated musician could, with years of rigorous practice, sharpen or flatten a note with 3 degrees squeeze of the knees to make a possible 14 notes per Sevtave (98 notes).  But this advanced technique could ring consternational alarm bells and fear in the ears of other musicians in an orchestra who use the more mundane 12 notes per Octave in the winter months. 

So can the 7/14 note Sevtave be reconciled with the 8/12 note Octave? This question, leading to perhaps a series of questions, may have to be answered by today’s top young technicians at the cutting edge of modern technology, working in California and East Grinstead, who unsurprisingly have a somewhat covert romantic socially conditioned sentimental attraction to the good old days of great grandma’s belt-driven woolly knicker knitting machine.  They are also avidly interested in traditional acoustic man powered musical instruments, such as the Eb Foot Trumpet, the Piccolo Nose Piano and the C# Chinese Chin Saw.  With almost nepotistical knowledge of this available expertise and enthusiasm, if not with felicitous fecundity, the Royal Society for the Preservation of English Knee Pumps, RSPEKP – which by the way, is looking for two  highly intelligent young ladies with long strong legs to take up positions as personal assistants to the chairman and treasurer, in compliance with the new Women in the Workplace quota system – has  commissioned the young techno turks to simplicate and solutionise the aforementioned tuning scale problems surrounding the F# Baritone Knee Pump and orchestral instruments.  With the mentoring guidance of eminent Nobel Prize winning scientists and structural engineers, the results so far are as follows:

·     Change all the other instruments in the world to the F# Baritone’s 14 note scale (certain difficulties with the water-filled Ocarina here) or…

·     Fit two extra patina proof toe holds with re-surfaced escutcheon plates which could operate rubber flaps to allow 2 notes per Sevtave to escape – ♫ – thus leaving 12 notes almost in accordance with international standard tuning.  

The latter option appears to be the simplest solution but it would imperceptibly change the character and timbre of the sound and, in some distemperate coastal concert halls, make the instrument even more difficult to play – unless a first assistant agile apprentice player manipulates the 2 note escape flaps from behind and swiftly empties the double flange droppings filter bags without being seen. This would allow a virtuoso soloist or a seasoned section player more freedom in his knee straps, toe holds, neck harness and leg irons, enabling him (or her) to play full length symphonies with 80 piece orchestras in all nine corners of the world, weather permitting.

It’s well worth remembering that in 1912 when an intrepid team of engineers and musicians were testing an early F# prototype, it was discovered that the cold damp conditions at night alternating with high and dry daytime temperatures in the central Sahara desert caused perishing of the soft pink rubber flanges on valves 11 and 47, making them very sticky very quickly – hence the smell, especially around tea time. The test engineers were puzzled by this but soon found that frequent applications of high viscosity extra virgin goose grease would keep all the valves working well into the night.  Another problem occurred when the musicians’ heavily soiled reinforced surgical trusses shrank and split when washed and dried in the Sahara sun, so the instrument’s endurance could only be tested by giving each musician a 10 minute shift in order to avoid an outbreak of burst bladder and sporadic heart failure in the team.

After several more exhaustive trials but with no further funding from anxious venture capitalists in London, the Sahara test programme had to be abandoned.  The all-male team returned to England in 1913 only to receive scant yet scurrilous reportage in the lost columns of Womans World Monthly – written by a militant pseudonymical authorette who was getting fed up with her best suffragette friend throwing herself under the King’s horse every other weekend.  The article is a brief but significant example of the abuse, neglect and disrespect that both Bb Tenor and F# Baritone knee pumps have suffered since the Saxophone (a mere toy) became popular with weak-kneed jazz musicians in the 1920s.

Returning to 1912, Igor Stravinsky was so inspired when hearing a rough cylinder recording of the F# Baritone’s phenomenal capabilities that he composed a major work for it.  But when unable to find a soloist with enough knee, thigh and buttock muscles, he decided to score the composition for full orchestra.  We now know the work as “The Rite of Spring” – named after the musician’s rite of passage earned by years of strenuous daily practice and eventual partial mastery, and the instrument’s large side-mounted central cast iron coil spring. But in 1913, Diaghilev hijacked the composition for his Ballet Russes in Paris. Here again, the instrument gets no recognition for the crucial role it has played in 20th century music.

More recently – despite the nowadaysical demand for same-sex marriage between lapsed taxidermists wanting the life-style choice to protect their borrowed children from bastardisation and being kidnapped to replace dead dwarfs at multicultural dwarf tossing tournaments – the General Synod has voted for Bb Tenor Knee Pump ensembles to play in churches, chapels and cathedrals across the length and breadth of Great Britain and the Channel Islands.  The Synod’s motion was carried by a majority of just one uncatholic bishop who is suspected of having vested investments, beyond the vestry, in a Chinese iron ore company mining in Africa planning to produce tons of cheap Tenor Knee Pumps, T-shirts, key rings and fridge magnets (subsidised by the Chinese government) to dump on the world market.  Such ruthless commercial exploitation of a quietly iconic instrument will dissipate its classic significance in English cultural heritage.  Its identity would be destroyed in the desperate maelstromic drive for globalisation – unless British manufacturers produce genuine British knee pumps, if only to ensure that cheap Chinese copies never enter the hallowed vestries of old England.

However the same, similar and other vexations keep cropping up, even at Interfaith Dialogue Conferences often held in exclusive 6 star luxury hotels on the flood plains of Dubai where the world’s top men of faith, fuelled by rich gourmet meals and copious quantities of the finest ecclesiastical sherry, start fighting in their frocks about whether female archbishops should breast feed their babies on buses, and about whether female priests of all faiths should be given a god-given right to bring Bb Tenor Knee Pump bands into their churches, synagogues, temples and mosques.  After several days of righteous consumption and holy homo-erotic frilly fisty cuffs, they all agree to disagree and then steer their stomachs in a homeward direction back to their warm and comfortable safer seats of status, money and power. 

Musical instrument maintenance and acoustic engineering are known by more than some to be not included in the training of religious leaders, who can therefore be forgiven for being unable to address the two following questions.  “Is a big building built by humble craftsmen and steepled in ancient man-made superstitious religious myths and conditioning, the best place for equally humble yet strong irreligiously sweaty sminking and droking musicians and their cumbersome knee pumps which are so sensitive to cold, damp and draughty conditions?”  And, “will the 6 second sound reverberation decay time bouncing randomly off and around lofty hard stone walls, pillars and vaulted ceilings, cause unbearable harmonic chaos and ridiculous dissonance every time an ancient or modern hymnal chord changes hands and knees?”

With serene ecumenical ignorance of these essential questions, the Synod is still determined to follow through with its knee-jerk reaction to a situation brought about by hundreds of deranged power-crazed church organists (having pulled out all the stops) being torn from their organs by burly noise disposal operatives and taken away to safe and secure mental institutions.  Faced with such a shortage of organists, knee pump music is to be hastily brought into church services as a replacement for the wrathful, guilt-instilling, decibellion organ grinding used to terrify and subjugate the few faithful followers down on their knees in pews praying for peace twice on Sundays. 

Massed knee pumps were used, perhaps justifiably, to terrify German soldiers in a dark desperate time of war, but in the light of peace time English knee pumps must not be mis-appropriated as instruments of war to strike more fear and trepidation into the hearts and minds of the meek and mild already suffering from chronic Fear of God syndrome – known in polite philosophical societies as FOG.

But there is hope for the instrument yet. As we speak, ex-underwater aircraft engineers are hard at work developing contra Bass and Sopranino models (both with heavy duty neck harnesses made from the finest East African rhino skin) to satisfy the demand coming from overworked firemen and their wives wanting more exercise in the evenings.  This emerging revival of interest in knee pump music has stimulated the Department of Health to expand the recruitment and training programme for new knee pump players, by reducing the minimum weight limit of each player to18¾ stone.  So thousands of extra large unemployed people on welfare benefits will fare well by re-training, provided they can obtain an obesity certificate from a qualified doctor with well tuned weighing scales.

Furthermoreover, our present Prime Minister has persuaded the Chancellor of the Exchequer to allocate 50 Million Pounds of taxpayer’s money for the manufacture of replica knee pumps, with the proviso that they are made in abandoned British car factories. While this might keep some 8,000 workers struggling to pay for their foreign holidays, 2nd homes, conservatories, new kitchens and bathrooms, loft extensions, designer gardens, 4 x 4s and union subscriptions, there is still some doubt about their ability to reproduce an original instrument with such wide tolerances.  It’s just possible that the Prime Minister is only promoting knee pump playing in order to dumb down the political awareness of the Women’s Institute and Black Lesbian Feng Shui football hooligans, while at the same time playing up his virtuosity at playing down the inflation rate of bagpipe accents on English radio and television.  

Be that as it may, the long suffering innocent English Bb Tenor Knee Pump, after nearly 100 years of military, musical, religious, commercial and political abuse, is poised to take its rightful place in the orchestras of 21st century world music – to be heard above the rich harmony of the Arab sections, the smooth unison of the United Nations choir and infrequently augmented by the virtuoso voices of highly trained and well rehearsed Australian carpet fitters working near the North Pole at weekends.

No doubt in the fullness of time if not before infinity ends, other world events and the woman from the Post Office will further influence the ongoing saga of the Bb Tenor Knee Pump with toe hold.



Tuesday, 17 September 2013


            This week heralds the silly season of British political party conferences.  Having heard some of the speeches and also their ghost writers talking about the weeks of painstaking writing and re-writing that go into producing a heartfelt political speech, I feel it necessary to offer them and their ministerial masters a few more ideas.     




(clear throat before confident approach to lectern)

            How often from our earliest beginnings have we heard the words “it’s not fair”. As a small boy, long since before becoming an erected member of parliament, I was always campaigning for fairness in my family and fairness at school – and fairness is still my guiding light in political life today. Now as the Deputy Chief Political Advisor to the Under Secretary of State for National Economic Development and Financial Affairs – I’d like to focus on the fairness which has inspired the construction of this government’s robust raft of well-thought-through progressive policies which we are unpacking and setting out on our stall for greater transparency in the weeks and months ahead of the next General Election.

            Rest assured, I won’t allow your eyes to glaze over by talking about monetary policy, fiscal policy, the MPC, derivatives, hedge funds, the FPC, the CPSA, sovereign leverage, mirror holdings, the IMF, dark assets, the FTSE, short selling, acquisition modules, the PRA, the FSA, delegatory instruments, BOE financial horizons, regulatory resilience, retail investment firewalls, capital requirements, underlaps, prudential regulation, front loaded structural deficits, asset backed futures, the EFSM, interest rates, toxic holdings, the sub-prime market, collar credit swaps, liquidity, forward anchor indemnities, collateralised debt obligations and the shadow banking system, because we in Whitehall – who are responsible for dealing with the complexities of allocating billions of pounds of tax payers’ money to the various governmental public expenditure departments – are also very interested in simple common or garden fairness, and it’s this fairness that I want to talk about today.
            First of all, the previous government was and still is in a state of denial about the real causes of the banking crisis which left this country with a huge financial budget deficit. They tried to shoot the messenger who had gone the extra mile with the elephant in the room staring them in the face. And to make matters worse, they flatly refused to get out of the box and through a window of opportunity to see the bigger picture of what was leading them up the garden path. Absolutely no-one in their right mind would keep kicking the can down the road when they could stroll round the corner, lean on the lender of last resort and get some quick and easy Quantitative Easing from the Bank of England’s cash machine.

Secondly, there’s absolutely no mileage in bashing the bankers – they are a national treasure, treasured by the treasury, and we won’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. The banks are the backbone of this country’s 76% service industry, and we need our banks and financial institutions to compete in world financial markets, or else we’ll end up at the end of the day. We cannot afford to lag behind in the league tables of world financial markets and leave the bankers sitting on their hands while small and tedium sized British businesses are going to the wall. This would be letting the economy fall into Elliotts Trap.

(use sincerity of talking to grandmother in care home for the following)

I was up and down the country the other day talking to a man in the street called Sanjeev, who said he was being kicked into the long grass by government cut-backs cutting his disability benefits. I said that hard work never killed anyone and he should get on his bike and get back to work. Sanjeev said to me that he’d been a coal miner for 43 years and now has chronic health problems. But despite that, he found a part-time job in a factory where he’d been run over by a fork lift truck. Fortunately the truck wasn’t fully loaded and he’s now back on his feet. This clearly goes to show that if low paid workers like Sanjeev at grass roots level can get their noses to the grindstone, then we can all do the same and pull together at the coalface of the economy, and get this country off its back and back on its feet.

We won’t get the job done by swearing hair shirts and sandals looking through rose tinted spectacles once in a blue moon. Make no bones about it – we are not pussyfooting around walking on egg shells. This government has been given a mandate by the British people to get all its ducks in a row, come hell or high water. By any stretch of the imagination, it doesn’t take being held over a barrel for a month of Sundays with two hands tied behind our backs to convince us of the benefits of cutbacks. We only need to open our hearts and minds to suffering some of the setbacks of progressive political policies – no pain no gain as they say – which in all fairness at the beginning of the day will ring fence our essential front line services, while at the same time reduce our huge financial budget deficit.

In these challenging times, the challenges we face will clearly be challenging as we bump along the bottom of a double-drip economic recession. Each and every challenge must be met with robust aspirations for outcomes. This is no time to stop and smell the roses, or go flatlining. We must leave no stone unturned on the rocky road to recovery, and we will certainly not move on by resting on our laurels with our heads in the sand, contemplating our navels about the outcomes of a chicken and egg situation. As a previous Prime Minister so wisely once said – “when our backs are against the wall, we must turn round and fight”. Fight for recovery, fight for growth and fight for fairness!

(calm down – then grasp lectern with both hands)

Some people say that fairness is rare in this unfair world of ours, and in my neck of the woods others say fairness is as rare as hens teeth. The fact of the matter is that in the final analysis, every challenge robustly challenged will provide an outcome – the outcome of which will be a fresh set of challenges to get our heads round and our teeth into, as long as we don’t bite the hand that feeds us. It absolutely doesn’t matter where you’re coming from, because we will give every man, woman and child down and up the country, the incentives to meet their expectations and aspirations for higher and higher standards of living.

We are now priming the pump to give everyone a fair crack of the whip without leaving the stable door open for the previous government’s wild horses to drag us back to a future on the old rickety roller coaster of boom and bust economics. And to be absolutely fair to rich and powerful people, we won’t push the brown envelope too far down their throats because we want them to stay in the UK and show us all how to get from rags to riches in one fowl swoop. However this could take time. After all is said and done, Rome wasn’t built in a day and it would clearly be counter-productive to count our chickens before they’re hatched.

The last lack-lustre lame duck government opened the flood gates for reckless private and public sector spending and borrowing which caught them like rabbits in the headlamps of the greatest British economic car crash since well before the King died. Who in the world would stay in their comfort zone when the writing is on the wall – only a government well past its sell by date! Furthermore, I believe it’s absolutely not rocket science to lay a level playing field without moving the goal posts. It goes with the territory to go right up to the wire and right round the ring fence (without cutting corners off the cutbacks) in order to give the British people what they deserve – fairness, fairness, fairness!   

            (bang fist three times on lectern for emphasis – but don’t knock over glass of water)

I passionately believe that the British people are not risk averse and are prepared to hedge downside risks by making a leap of faith and going where angels fear to tread in order to bring about a sea change across this land, despite some sharp showers. In point of fact, it’s these very same sharp showers that small and medium sized British businesses will welcome to water the green shoots of recovery. Clearly, we cannot afford to shit on the fence dangling a toe in the water when we can all roll up our sleeves and dive in the deep end, now that the political boot is on the other foot climbing the ladder of down to earth fairness. Fairness has got legs, and in the long run it’s those legs that will lead us to recovery!

We especially want to see fairness for women’s legs in the workplace. For far too long, women have been fully stretched right up a career ladder, only to come up against a badly stained glass ceiling frustrating their desire for equal pay and top positions with their male counterpants. The upcoming round of talks between women’s frights movements, non-governmental organisations, trade onion leaders and Confederation of British Industry spokesmen will be coming up soon, and we hope this round of stalks will lead to the next leg of step changes going forward. We also hope that when they’ve tabled their motions they will not turn their noses up, but just open a window of opportunity for getting a grip on more women in the boardroom and more women sitting on standing committees. We can’t wave a magic wand to put this to rights, but we can say what’s good for the goose is good for the gander!

(pause for sip of water and whoops from women)

The opposition parties have got more hang-ups than a Christmas tree in thinking they can put the fart before the horse, trying to play the end game without going to hell in a hand cart. The previous government clearly made a big dog’s breakfast out of the British economy, and it came down on them like a ton of bricks. They killed the goose that laid the golden egg, and they’re still barking up the wrong tree without any robust policies that even come close to cutting the mustard of our huge budget deficit. They thought they could keep their heads above water by sweeping the deficit under the carpet, but that was tantamount to turkeys voting for Christmas. Without a leg to stand on, they used a wing and a prayer to get on the roof but then they refused to fix it when the sun was shining. However, the sun is now shining brightly on a robust and responsible government which is prepared to grasp the nettle of fairness and give it to the British people!

 Some might say you must be joking, your policies are counter intuitive – but we say when the going gets tough, the tough get going. Clearly, we can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear stuck between a rock and a hard place, so we won’t go there. And even if this country is on its knees and up to its neck in sovereign debt, we will give short shrift to those who think that our policies are not robust enough. The robustness of our well-thought-through policies doe snot mean that we are control freaks of top-down parliamentary party power games – the type of games that were played by the previous government’s executive to get bills passed without a second reading in the cold light of day. Where’s the fairness in that?

We believe the fairest way going forward is to replace the old party voting mechanism with a new free voting mechanism. Therefore, we will strictly restrict the party whips whipping backbenchers off their seats and into the lobbies forcing them to turn the other cheek, vote against their consciences, and vote against their constituency constituents’ best interests. In the past this parliamentary party game has led to a backlash with cries of “it’s not fair”, especially across the cross party back benches. So we will walk our talk for fairness in the lower chamber of the mother of all parliaments. If the other parties want to beat about the bush playing games in the House and with the British economy – then we say no way. We will only play a game if it’s called fairness!

(short pause – adjust  spectacles and look serious)

I’m pleased to say we are giving the go ahead for slowing down the rate of increase in the number of unresolved issues that have given rise to a backlog of pending decisions which are dependent on internal review bodies sorting out the chiff from the chaff in departmental administrative procedures. When the review reports are drawn up, we can then go forward to assess the impact of their findings and recommendations on our proposals for the analgamation of the complementalities that exist somewhere between the various departments’ traditionally mutually exclusive operations. However, these review processes do take time and include the time it takes to line up a timeline. After all, it would be a false economy to adopt a pelican approach when opening up a window of opportunity for down-sizing over inflated departmental levels of internal expenditure.

In the short term it’s not possible to predict the outcome of mid-term throughputs in the timeline - but in the long term we believe it is best practice to be open, honest, transparent and fair with the British people without being economical with the truth. The truth is, that the review processes regarding the long overdue decisions required for implementing the reforms and restructuring of departmental administrative operations will soon get up to speed, and then make recommendations for much needed efficiency savings in government back-office expenditure. These savings which are expected to be substantially more than just on pot plants and paper clips, can then be securitised by the Office for Budget Responsibility for the building of six new green ultra-safe nuclear power stations to meet our sovereign energy requirements for 2045. Despite all the radiation dangers, massive costs, decades to build and decades to de-commission, we believe nuclear power is fair for the economy, fair for the environment and fair for the British people.

(short pause for sip of water – hold glass between thumb and second finger to keep
first finger dry)

Now, I want to be absolutely clear about clearing up any outstanding lack of clarity regarding our robust economic policies, particularly in relation to the cross-party Treasury Select Committee Comprehensive Spending Review. The comprehensiveness of the spending review committee’s enquiries into all aspects of the economy is not just about spending, it’s also about savings, and above all – about balance. Firstly, we must balance the books – and not cook the books like a previous last chance Chancellor who turned his blind eye to the fire on the back burner in his overheated kitchen economy. Secondly, we will be taking the spending review recommendations into consideration as we keep in step with step changes towards a significant shift in public and private sector economic activity. This will in due course bring the British economy back into balance.

The Office for Budget Responsibility and the Comprehensive Spending Review Committee are standing shoulder to shoulder listening to representations from independent economic experts, treasury officials, non-governmental welfare agencies, business and trade bunion leaders and many other advisory bodies, who are all determined to reduce the increasing polarisation of differences between a multiplicity of derivational imperatives, all of which require transitional accommodation without disproportionate discretionary agendas over-egging the pudding.

The people of this country have known for donkeys years that the proof of the pudding is in the eating – which means if we want to taste the proof in the pudding of fairness, all the different ingredients must be thoroughly mixed together and then put to one side before cooking at a high temperature. However, we can’t make a pudding or an omelette without breaking eggs. And it’s with this process in mind that we are gathering the ingredients for recovery. We are currently examining preliminary estimates and forward planning proposals for public and private sector capital investment in national infrastructure programmes, including positive discriminatory incentives to stimulate regional growth, without any noticeable negative impact on aggregate expectations for non-inflationary economic development. Clearly this will require the setting up of special dispensation mechanisms for the allocation of resources that may be required to counteract interim assessments of anomalies which could adversely affect the fairness of our cross-subsidisation objectives. All things being equal and with a fair trade wind in our sails, these simple measures combined with flexibility, patience and due process will leave the way open for securitising,  balancing and kick-starting the British economy for an export led recovery.

(short pause for recovery – then press on)

Returning to more immediate matters – cutbacks in the number of public sector social services employees will release money for the employment of many more Inland Revenue tax inspectors, to collect billions of pounds from off-shore tax havens. HMRC Recruitment is offering a valuable opportunity for wealthy corporate accountants to redeem their feelings of fairness, and achieve their ambitions for public spirited, all-in-this-together social status by working for the government – working for a charitable salary – and working for the good of the country. The prospect of doing a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay will incentivise these altruistic creative accountants to use their expert intimate knowledge of complex tax arrangements to reveal and recover the billions of pounds of uncollected tax oiling the wheels of big banks’ and major corporations’ double-dipping tax evasion mechanisms.

In a fair society all companies should pay their fair share of tax, but there will still be some small, medium and multi-national organisations that operate below the radar of national and international financial regulatory surveillance. This unfairness clearly means that we in Britain must find ways of carrying the can without putting a spanner in the works of the European Financial Stability Mechanism (aka Facility) whenever avoidable events occurring at home or abroad give rise to friendly fire and collateral damage to the sovereignty of our sovereign economy. Otherwise, our European partners in Brussels might say – “you British had it coming and now you’re a sprout short of a Christmas dinner stuck in the mud of monarchy” – but they haven’t got a clue about where we’re coming from with our sharp showers and green shoots.

(short pause for chuckles?)

In this absolutely challenging new age of austerity, I believe the great British fair-minded people nevertheless know which side their bread is buttered. They voted with their feet at the last General Election and kicked out a wild party parading under the banner of ‘tax spend and borrow as if there’s no tomorrow’ – a party that took tax payers’ money to fund unfair wars in foreign countries – a party now clearly suffering from chronic Post Traumatic Election Disorder. We, on the other hand, are offering jam on the bread of the British economy without fear or favour. So when they shout about outcomes – we talk about incomes – our outcomes mean incomes – and the outcome of incomes is of course – fairness!

(pause for applause)

I believe it’s absolutely fair to say that each and every one of us is on a journey through life with millions of other people who want to share that journey on the road to fairness, happiness and prosperity. So we must stand up and start singing off the same hymn sheet. We need everyone pulling together in the national interest for perpetually increasing economic growth and rapidly rising levels of consumption  – much more than make-do-and-mend. In the short term we are determined to raise our falling annual economic growth rate, and this drive for growth is hard-wired into our mid-term mechanism for upping the end game going forward with a new road map.

 The bottom line is – this country must rise to the challenge of competing with stiff competition coming from the turbo-charged BRIC countries and their soaring economic growth rates. Clearly, we must now throw caution to the wind as those countries begin to get too big for their boots. With no holds barred, we must take off the gloves and fight with all our might for fairness, otherwise we won’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of ever getting to grips with the real world.

(steadily raise pitch and volume of voice to oratorical level)

In the real world of fairness we must remember to update our reality checks, because at the end of the day we are all under the same duvet. The challenges we face at present are clearly challenging, and we will need an extra 120% commitment in order to face up to the challenges that lie ahead, head on, without missing the bus that takes us to the plight at the end of the tunnel. But no problem. This government is fit for purpose – it does what it says on the tin – and that is fairness. Fairness for the rich, famous and powerful – fairness for those on middle incomes and fairness for the financially challenged – fairness for those with a glass half full and fairness for those with a glass half empty – fairness from the top down and fairness from the bottom up. We want everyone in this great country of ours to have their fair share of fairness. What we are saying is – give fairness a chance!

(step back and to side of lectern for long standing ovation while party activists sing “what we are saying – is give fairness a chance”)


As children we have a natural curiosity about the world which leads us into learning by having to conform to adult systems of education and expectations of social and financial status. The more worldly, technical and knowledgeable we become, the more likely we are to lose contact with our innate innocence and openness.

Spontaneous music making is an opportunity to experience this innocent creative energy flowing through us, as if we are conduits – a more dynamic example might be like lightning conductors channelling cosmic energy down to ground.

            The joyful reality for free spontaneous musicians is that no matter how wild, dangerous and risky their musical expression – no-one gets hurt. Whereas in many other human activities, wild and dangerous behaviour can cause serious harm and might result in a prison sentence or a visit to A and E. When my children were young and going out to play, I often said to them: “safety first – fun second”. But when embarking on 21st Century musical adventures I say: “fun first – safety last”.

            Music is a combination of invisible sounds, vibrations and scientifically measurable frequencies which resonate with human thoughts and feelings. There is music that conveys shock, horror, anger, sadness, grief, violence, aggression, melancholy and countless other negative emotions. There is music which is technical, dense, intense, complex, commercial, intellectual, primitive or sophisticated. And there is music which is simply sublime and evokes our sense of beauty, peace, awe and wonder. Worldwide there is music available for all levels of awareness. But there seems to be very little music which includes our human sense of humour, wit and fun, or even mischief and satire – or just happiness.

            Why is it that so much music is so serious? For me, this remains an open question which can only be partly addressed by being open to humour, wit and sheer fun to flow freely through Mad Band music as well as other projects including writing a collection of essays on the madness of man.

I’ve always enjoyed music that contains moments which make me smile, chuckle or laugh out loud. A few obvious examples are Frank Zappa, Spike Jones, Harry Partch and the Portsmouth Sinfonia, and also Bob Dylan’s words and the keyboards on the classic ‘Blonde on Blonde’ album. Musicians are known to have a dry acute sense of humour in the bandroom and at the bar, but there is little evidence of it in their music – is there some unspeakable self-censorship going on in the studio and on stage?

One of the best unexpected compliments about a live Mad Band concert came from a woman in the audience who said afterwards, that our performance was like 5 schoolboys having fun with musical instruments and playing with found sounds. To me her comment was spot on in terms of 5 grown men having a healthy relationship with their innocent inner children.

When we allow man-made walls of conditioning to crumble, so much is revealed about our existence. We don’t need brute force to break down these walls – we only need the benign power of awareness to see and be and make music above and beyond conformity, convention and compliance with commercial rules and regulations. It feels good to shed the heavy weight of accumulated knowledge and travel light with no expectations when exploring unknown areas of the musical universe.

We are only human beings, albeit with big brains capable of much internal self-delusion combined with a passive acquiescence to external illusions conjured up by our fellow men. However, I am fascinated by the unlimited possibilities of making music without smoke and mirrors, and without armour plating.

21st Century turbo technology and global economic systems are increasing our separation from innate human instinct, wisdom and a sense of well being. But there is also an increasing minority who want to eat wholesome, healthy, organic food – so I hope there is an equivalent move towards wholesome, healthy, organic music.

Whether such music is pre-meditated or spontaneous doesn’t matter that much. What does matter to me is how many music factory processes the original musical life force is subjected to. There is a strong tendency in live and studio performances, for written music to become highly organised and disciplined which automatically reduces a musician’s freedom to be himself – he must only play his part as written and rehearsed – with the exception of a pre-planned and often overblown solo to relieve some of his frustration and show the audience a small token of his humanness, before being put back in the cage a few bars later.

But with free spontaneous music, including the Mad Band, no-one knows what will happen next. There is no need to take a solo on top of the other musicians churning away on a chord sequence, because all the musicians are instinctively listening and responding to what everyone else is playing – it’s freedom and democracy in action. There is no leader, no front man, no backing group. All the players are equal and sharing. One musician may lead for a while, until another player has an instant idea that moves the music in another direction. It’s as if there’s no beginning and no end – it’s all transient.  But we do start somewhere, possibly where we left off at the last performance which of course was silence. We do also end in silence by some magical mutual telepathy, usually after a complete surprise at arriving somewhere we’ve never been before.  

While extolling the joys and virtues of free music making, I am aware of what could be called ‘flat spots’ where almost nothing is happening – but are these spots really flat?  Maybe they are beauty spots or intriguing pregnant pauses which draw the listener in. They are definitely natural rest periods which allow fresh ideas to emerge. In these valuable voids of stillness we only need to resist the temptation to force something to happen out of embarrassment, anxiety or a feeling of failure.

In nature when a sailing ship is becalmed by no wind, no amount of anxiety will blow the ship along – so why not enjoy the calm, stillness and silence before the next natural burst of energy. We might well do well to go along with nature rather than fight it, force it, change it or try to conquer it.

Silence is the canvas on which music and sound are painted – so all silences, even short spaces between notes and beats provide the context for playing and listening to music. This is why dense continuous loud music with no dynamic range, and no spaces or reference to silence can be so tiring. Music needs time, space and silence in order to breathe. Miles Davis is an excellent example of this awareness in action.

Music making by humans is as natural as all the other sounds that nature makes. However, human intelligence has devised systems and technology for making music as well as industrial mechanical noises which are far removed and separated from what we call the natural world. Humans including musicians are a part of nature, and nature continually begs us to integrate with its immense power.

As only one human musician, I feel happy and free to join in with, go with the flow of, and be guided and inspired by nature’s life force and universal energy. Indeed, who am I to refuse when there are so many joys and wonders available and beyond strictly conventional systems of making music.

Yes, of course we need a few instruments, objects, sound sources, a studio, a stage and a bit of technology and equipment – but these are only the physical means by which we transform and transmit our musical ideas to other people who may have very little access to, or knowledge of those working practices.

Does an audience really want to know about musical training, qualifications, years of practice, technical problems, composition time, rehearsals, travelling arrangements, financial costs, record companies, damager managers, accountants, roadies’ agendas, sound men, lighting rigs, stage sets, bandrooms, hotels, airports and the motives, intentions, ambitions and expectations that go into recording an album and a live stage performance? With the exception of a few genuine enthusiasts for behind the scenes information, I don’t think I’d be wrong in assuming that most audiences want to enjoy hearing musicians who are honestly communicating via their chosen music, whether it’s plugged in, completely acoustic, entirely composed and rehearsed or totally spontaneous.

Part of the excitement of a spontaneous Mad Band performance for us musicians as well as an expectant audience, is not knowing what will happen next – or if the performance will crash and just become self indulgent lack-lustre ‘noodling’.

Composed and rehearsed music provides a strong safety net for musicians, only allowing the tiniest of ‘dropped stitches’ to slip through, hopefully unnoticed. But spontaneous Mad Band music with no computer back up is completely vulnerable, naked and exposed – at the mercy or enhancement of all positive and negative forces. So what happens during a live studio or stage performance is entirely dependent on each musician’s state of awareness and instinctive response to being in the moment with no safety net. Although this is fast moving, there is also an opposite effect of time standing still – as if past memories and future expectations are diminished or disappear under the bright light of the present moment. To enter and make music in this relatively unknown zone of heightened awareness is a rare and valuable experience. It inspires me to do it again and discover more about the heights and depths of human consciousness.

Even though the dubious security of childhood conditioning pushed me towards where I am today, it has paradoxically caused me to become more aware of the restrictions of that conditioning. So it’s a pleasure to take spontaneous music breaks away from it, let go of it, transcend it and feel free to explore the vast unknown musical universe. Whatever the results, they speak for themselves, they are what they are – I’m not exactly responsible – I just happen to be there enjoying being a part of something going on in the moment.


“The void, the unknown, the nothingness, is where all energy begins”

Monday, 5 August 2013


Friday, 2 August 2013


By somewhat nowadaisical demand it is internetally enjoyable for me to make some mention of the following:

featured on "The Adventures of the Michael Giles MAD BAND" CD

Omni Gong - Eb Syncora - Metaspheres - Prepared Drums - Contra Metallatron - Slide Bass Vibrator - Slide Manankas - Akahorn - Hydrobone - Collavox - Octaneum - Tenormonica - Bondola - Bass Shakatoms - Sun Tam - Earth Drums - Percussion - Ambivox - Drums - French Panicon - C# Servalum - Stingpan - Prepared Nokkadrums - Crushed Percussion - Finger Bells - Decibell.

Harmony Horn - Vollatoms - Slide Hammer Harp - Piccolodeon - Metaflex - Percussion - Table Harp - Ambitam - Vollatoms - Fellato Horn - Barichordian - Steel Percussion - Bondolin - Polar Horn - Nokkadrums - Scratch Percussion - Aerophone - Krakatoms - Ambivox - Lidibow - Electric Turbo Horn - Decibell - Prepared Clusterlodeon - Electric Delirium.

Electric Guitar - Dressed Electric Guitar - Tone Looms - Pedalion - Altomonica - Electric Hammer Guitar - Wire Treatments - Loops - Layers - Nuns Finger Harp - Narratorvox - Wired Asbo Lute - Circular Fretelectrum.

n o t  featured on "The Adventures of........."

Although the Bb Tenor Knee Pump with Toe-hold is listed on the MAD BAND website as one of our armoury of instruments, I regret to inform expectant music lovers that this powerful instrument was not played during the recording of "The Adventures of".

We were unable to play the Pump due to the serious injuries we sustained while getting it off the lorry and up the stairs, and then finding that the instrument was beyond our control.

As we were painfully removing the Knee Pump's iron sack, it began rocking wildly, broke free from its mooring chains, fell off its Jacobean oak pallet and broke the neck of our much cherished 17th Century Side-Strung Minstrellux.

Some days later when the Pump had calmed down we attempted our first practice session, but we suffered further injuries caused by the Pump's ill-fitting hip harness, twisted leg irons, buckled neck brace and a thick sticky patina on the toe-hold.

So now both the Knee Pump and the Minstrellux are undergoing extensive repairs and restoration in workshops somewhere up North, not far from where Stanton Burke may have met Murkel von Hassenbloch on one of his early entrepreneurial journeys.

Nevertheless, in the fullness of time we hope to feature at least the Knee Pump on future Mad Band recordings, when our injuries have completely healed and our bespoke protective underwear is fitted.

I will endeavour to keep eager Knee Pump devotees informed of the situation as it develops, on my blog pages.