He was full of bugs, he said, when we saw him last, at the house of some friends who had invited us for the evening. Only just recovered from flu or something.
His friends couldn’t help pulling his leg about the medication he had probably had. He must have been not only full of bugs, but full of…that trace element which according to him practically everybody is short of and the administration of which works wonders with a malfunctioning nervous, metabolic and any other system. He has no hesitation to prescribe it from a distance to anybody suffering from depression. One case unfortunately was terminal cancer. Of course, he couldn’t know that. No harm in trying.
He told us they had been to a concert and forced to listen to Henze’s 7th symphony. How outrageous. And there were people applauding. He was totally out of sympathy and called them cranks. That wasn’t music. There was no harmony. Had it been called “chaos” he would have understood. But there wasn’t even a name to it. The first movement was supposed to be a dance. There had been no trace of rhythm in it. Just as there are no tunes in Wagner’s works which send him to sleep.
What is music, somebody asked. The definition given by the OED was read aloud.
How about Benjamin Britten, somebody challenged Aldous, knowing full well that Aldous loathed this composer. The answer was surprizing: Benjamin Britten is heaven!! Is it all relative then, was the next question. He answered there was absolutely nothing aesthetically pleasing in Henze. A cacophony of weird sounds. Hurtful more than anything, so hurtful, he couldn’t have borne it much longer. Is “aesthetically pleasing” part of the definition of music? Personally I have no idea. It might be a subject for an interesting discussion. In a larger context. Art in general… For Aldous things were clear. He knew what music was. Anybody with a different view, like those applauding youngsters, must be an idiot. He looked determined and we dropped the subject.
Aldous’ wife passed onto the Royal Wedding. Asked for my opinion, I told them it had made me laugh, because everybody had taken it so seriously. Aldous’ wife certainly remained serious, saying with rapture it was the most beautiful bride she had ever seen! Having discussed the Bride’s dress and one or two others, we passed on to the real people. What a wonderful Royal Family we have! Not terribly academically inclined, I learned. They did have one son in Cambridge at the moment, however, people say… There was a tactful silence. Somebody asked: “Not very intelligent – is that what it means?” Nobody answered the question. Aldous and his wife thought “academic inclination” is not even desirable for them. In their job, I heard, they want to be down to earth, relate with the people.
Aldous’ wife made a few patronising remarks about the groom united with the previously mentioned beautiful bride. She obviously didn’t care too much for him, but put this in a nice English way. To me the person in question looked like a monkey. His younger brother, Aldous’ wife said, looks nice. And his elder brother! Aren’t we lucky to have such a marvellous future king. So serious. So involved. Making known his ideas. He had pleased Aldous very much by criticizing the proposed extension of the National Gallery. “A hideous place of architecture,” Aldous complained. Apparently nothing pleasing about it at all. The Prince had prevented these plans from being carried out. Good for him. A good man. I reminded Aldous that the Prince was also into organic agriculture and alternative medicine. Did he still approve of him? Aldous made no comment.
Instead he professed his lasting disgust of the new address for ladies : Ms.
This had been in use for some time and most people have accepted it, because used to it by now. Not so Aldous. He refuses to bow to habit when he doesn’t like it. What about the new pound coins then? People had accepted them in the end. He said he wanted the pound notes back, looking at me invitingly. But I didn’t take the bait. Somebody commented it wasn’t juicy enough.