There’s a great Tumblr blog currently doing the rounds called Composers Doing Normal Shit. We see photographs of Dmitri Shostakovich playing snooker; Aaron Copland eating an ice cream; Johannes Brahms having a sad picnic. Fans of the site will love Fiona Maddocks’s new book about birthday boy Harrison Birtwistle (he’s eighty in July).
Conducted at the composer’s kitchen table in Wiltshire over the course of last year, the series of interviews, threaded together to form a diary, are punctuated by a variety of domestic interludes: Birtwistle discussing how to make spaghetti vongole; Birtwistle eating a chocolate egg; Birtwistle in a kimono; Birtwistle with his cleaner. It infects the discussion. The organisation of notes is compared to the way frozen peas scatter when they fall on the floor or the movement of bubbles in a bottle of fizzy water.
My favourite composers-doing-normal-shit moment of the book involves an anecdote