Masonic Boom

"Crazy" "Oversensitive" "Feminazi" "Bitch" bloggin' bout pop music, linguistics and mental health issues

Monday, December 04, 2006


It's a bit ironic, me writing about this topic when I turned up an hour late (even for me) at my job. But that's why I have flexi-time here. I can't predict how late I'll be stuck here - plus I don't work as part of a team - so I need to be free to come and go as I please.

But with *anything* that involves other people - *especially* with music - I'm so punctual it's almost absurd.

Where did this come from? I can't *stand* to wait - which is why I'd rather eat my own guitarcase rather than keep anyone waiting. But it's more than this. Music implies a kind of a discipline to me... it's so much about timing, about a group of people in coordination.

It was easy in school. Your entire life was governed by the ringing of bells. One bell told you when a class ended, and if you were not in your seat by the time of the next bell, ten minutes later, the door was closed and locked from the inside, and you were marked absent. Music lessons were part of that regimented, organised life - chorus, glee club or orchestra. The music was its own reward for timeliness, the ritual of the "ma may mee mow moo" warm-ups giving way to the acrobatics of Mozart's or Handel's hallelujahs.

In college, things were different. The regimented bells summoning us to class were gone, and it was all too easy to sit for hours in the student centre, where the *real* action and debate was, and forget all about classes and lectures. With the relaxation of the rules came a kind of freedom, which some abused.

Except in one area. It was a legend around the art school - everyone knows someone it "happened to" though no one would own up to being the perpetrator. The cantankerous conductor with the passion for punctuality. *He* took attendence just by glancing at his ranks, and could spot a missing violinist at 20 paces. If someone was late, we just sat there, the tension building with the whispers.

When the offending student arrived, with the usual excuses, he turned on them with a withering glare. The lecture, delivered in the dryest of tones. "Miss Smith, you are late. Miss Smith clearly thinks that *her* time is more important than my time, and the time of the other 50 people in this chorus." A pause, no one even daring to cough. "You are ALL dismissed; there will be no rehearsal today."

It only happened once. It only needed to happen once. Perhaps it never happened at all, and my teenage memory plays tricks on me based on the urban legends of artschool. But I carried the lesson through the rest of my life.

It's not hard to be punctual. It takes a fairly minimal degree of organisation - it's certainly not even as hard as arranging a song for four voices. You wear a watch or carry a clock. You time how long certain journeys take, door to door. If you need to be somewhere at a specific time, you *must* leave the house that amount of time before you are due at your destination - my personal rule of thumb is to allow the journey time, plus fifteen minutes of "faff time" in case London Transport goes wrong - which it almost always does. If you're early, reward yourself with a cup of coffee, a magazine, or some other treat.

Better that, than to ever be that unfortunate "Miss Smith" whose face burned with shame as the entire orchestra and chorus filed past her, flicking their resentful glances at her.


Blogger Andrew Farrell said...

College students have changed since my day: I'm pretty sure we would have just ended up resenting the lecturer keeping us there when he could have let us go early. He'd have been entirely within his rights, of course, but when has that ever mattered?

1:54 pm  
Blogger Mistress La Spliffe said...

My professors in France were as a rule authoritarian about punctuality, to the degree that it was far better to miss a class than to be late. Once, the European Institutions prof grabbed and physically pushed a girl who was 10 minutes late out of the classroom.

2:34 pm  
Blogger Masonic Boom said...

Who the heck would have learned a thing from that?

The message is not "if someone is late, wheeee, you get to go home early" but "if someone is late, it inconveniences EVERYONE".

An orchestra or a chorus... or a *band* is not like a lecture that can happen whether everyone is present or not. It's something that requires the cooperation of everyone involved. There's no place for wilfull tardiness in it.

3:04 pm  
Blogger Andrew Farrell said...

Dude, we weren't there to learn anything. We were in college

3:15 pm  
Blogger Masonic Boom said...

You go to college to learn more things than facts. Skills like teamwork and, you know, time management?

Guess you were absent that day.

Besides, music is a freaking *elective* these days. I never met anyone who took it who didn't want to be doing it.

It's fine to be flakey in whatever aspects of your life people will let you get away with - but what if you went to a symphony, and they performed the entire first movement without their first violinist because they couldn't be bothered to leave the house on time? It just doesn't work that way.

3:20 pm  
Blogger Andrew Farrell said...

Dude, I'm not trying to convince you otherwise, I'm just saying it's striking the difference between the colleges we attended (Teamwork = Hahahahaha. Time management = off the lollometer!). One of the lecturers did send someone away from class for turning up 10 minutes late - all it did was turn even the studious class members against him.

3:32 pm  
Blogger ian said...

Teamwork is for losers who can't get it done on their own.

9:25 pm  

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