I’ve been looking at intertextuality recently – how musical references from one piece of music can be heard in another and how listeners find meaning in those commonalities. On a totally unrelated matter, I found myself in a local Oxfam shop which has a great selection of old vinyl records for very good prices. I picked out a few, including a wild card purchase (who could resist this cover?!) by the English composer Albert W. Ketėlbey. Not one I’d heard of and neither had many others when the cover notes were written in 1963, for the author notes “you can search the standard musical reference books in vain for a mention … This typifies the strange reluctance on the part of musicologists to acknowledge the existence of anyone who attempts to write music in a popular idiom however extensively and however well he does it.”
For a sticker price £2, a great prėcis of Albert’s life and times and a host of evocatively entitled tracks including In a Chinese Temple Garden or Jungle Drums, how could I pass on it? (It turns out that Albert wrote tons of music, much of it aimed at the silent cinema pianist, hence the track titles.)
What’s this got to do with intertextuality? Well, it immediately struck me how the track Bank Holiday was so reminiscent of The Two Ronnies. Digging around I found this sketch – the Cleaning Ladies, with the orchestral accompaniment of Alexandre Luigini’s Ballet égyptien, Op. 12 (1875), often known as the Sand Dance and set with the Ronnies’ hilarious lyrics. And then discovered that Ballet égyptien is often paired with the music of Ketėlbey on album collections. Which in turn, led me to a whole new opening up of the British Light Music tradition. Just proving that one small, off-chance purchase can really take you in a new and unexpected musical directions!
Debbie, Notes from Last Night