Mar 10

People who look at car crashes

Why does a celeb, posthumously, become a superhero?

I could name a few – who had varying degrees of talent (from ‘zero’ to ‘some’) – who have been raised to this state.

This is not really related to the Radio 4 Feedback programme itself, more to a programme that was played out this week featuring Jeff Buckley singing Dido’s Lament.

I’ve never seen a car crash in realtime, in fact I have never so much as seen a person get killed or even die.

Nor am I one of those people who slows down to look at the crash on the motorway. I believe it’s more dangerous to do so, besides, slowing down can have a knock-on effect on hundreds of people’s lives by causing huge tailbacks; those in cars behind you may be missing their plane, missing a crucial interview for a job, trying to get to the other side of the country to see their dying grandmother. A police cleanup operation is made ten times more difficult by the behaviour of the public.

If you slow down to look, you are contributing to the chaos for one reason only: to satisfy your sick curiosity. I abhor everyone who looks at a car crash.

The only way to help is to look straight ahead and ignore it. Tell yourself people die every day from their own – or others’ – stupidity and thoughtlessness, or by mere chance.

Technically, I should feel similarly about how we humans are morbidly interested in the dead.

I understand our human obsession with venerating people to cultural superhero status just because they died in unfortunate circumstances; there is a correlation between the depth of tragedy and the amount that we consider them a genius. I understand our obsession with venerating stars to cultural superhero status because they committed suicide; they were oh so fragile, society didn’t listen to them, they were victims of the modern world.

But celebrities? People in the pop industry? People who appeared on Big Brother?

Jeff Buckley appears to have been a reasonably talented person, however he does not deserve the veneration to cult superhero status that he has received. Apart from anything, he butchered Dido’s Lament. Here is a beautiful piece of music written in the context of a work of opera, which has been singled-out by a man who appears to be nothing more than slightly interested in gothic things, with no more than a modicum of talent.

From my above views on people who slow down for car crashes, you might assume that I would curse loudly, switch off the radio, move on.

Except I had to listen. The more I listened, the more enraged I became. The more confused I became about why such terrible singing could be seen as so brilliant by so many people.

The positive comments that flowed in to R4’s Feedback confirm this.

Regardless of whether you consider this person to have been a musical talent or not, I believe that either way this kind of veneration is like slowing down to watch a car crash.

There are hundreds of other cars on the roads, millions of other personal stories, thousands of other performances of Purcell that will make you cry.

Is Buckley’s rendition of Dido’s Lament considered to have the depth of emotion that it does, because we only hear it with the knowledge of how he died?

Sep 08

Ritooria Transcription for download

“Thank you so much.  Your transcription was truly both humbling and enlightening.  The section that begins at m.59 has, for the last thirty-some-odd years been one of my favorite passages of music.  It is sublime.  Screw all the “Down with transcriptions” people.  I, for one, truly appreciate your Herculean efforts [they were Herculean, weren’t they!?] regarding Ritooria.  Nu?  When is the next transcription coming up (he said, greedily rubbing his gnarled fingers together…)?”

– Peter at JazzTemple

[more jazz geek comments below]

As part of my undergraduate dissertation at Manchester, I set-about transcribing the works of Keith Jarrett‘s virtuosic improvised piano pieces. My first attempt is shown here: Ritooria.

Have a quick gander at these five pages taken from the transcription (to get an idea of what the score feels like), then download the full version in a zip file below these snippets:


A bound copy of the score, including editorial notes, was thrust into the hands of an ungracious Keith Jarrett after about 2 hours of waiting in the rain at the end of a concert in London a number of years ago.  (Ok, perhaps he was exhausted, but still.) It had my number.  I saw him shuffle through the score whilst being driven off in his chauffeur-driven limo but that was it.  I also called his then agent who was sadly a little curt and showed no interest.

Quite a few Keith Jarrett followers have now asked for this since I ditched my old website, and so here it is.

UPDATE 13th April 2009: The below download is back online.
UPDATE 27 July 2013: The below download is back online… again!

This is for personal use only. Transcription copyright pending.

Download the score (PDF), editorial notes (PFD), and original MP3 from which the score was transcribed in a zipped bundle here: Ritooria – Keith Jarrett – Sheet Music and Audio (5.8Mb)

From the old guestbook:

“Ciao Mat,
Thank you for you incredible transcription of Jarrett’s Ritooria!
I will study it real hard.”

– Rudy

“Incredible job on the Ritooria transcription. Quite a feat, one of the more complex pieces on the record, rhythmically and harmonically. Was this done as a labor of love on you behalf? As an ear training assigment? A sadistic challenge? Whatever your reason, thank you! I have been a Jarrett fan for many years, and “Facing You” is my favorite solo piano record of all time. I look forward to any other “Facing You” transcriptions that you tackle in the future. And I would be certainly be willing to pay for them. Thanks again!”

– Greg Laporta

“I’ve been looking for transcriptions from ‘facing you’ for a long time. Appreciate the effort you’ve made. Maybe I can reciprocate someday.”

– Robert Scurlock

“hey Mat,
Wow! Totally nice to get that transcription.
Finally I’ve just looked at it, but seems to be very well done work, perfect read-ability and looks like it took a lot of time.
Thank you for sharing it with us. You’ll get another comment, when I played some part of it.
Thanks once again!”

– Phillip Enders


Wow! I am much impressed. And I must concur with garthhudson 2000 who, at the Yahoo Jarrett club, posted the following comment:

“finally someone transcribed that dang thing.”

Though many a “purist” abhors the idea of taking one portion of a musical work out of the context of its whole, I do not. Mind you, I treasure Ritooria in its entirety, but the absolutely stunningly lush and beautiful passage from measure 59 (4:23) to the end has always held a special place in my heart for the entire thirty-some-odd years that I have been listening to Facing You.”

– [previously posted as Anonymous. Later comment given from Peter at Jazztemple.]