Sonic backgrounds: Obloquy to the message.

I thought I would say something really important. After listening to yet another performance of Götterdämmerung, and I hasten to add lest already I have given the wrong impression, that it was a very good performance apart from the ‘Bravo’ hurled out at the end. The voice, by the way, which penetrated the air was very similar to that which resounded at a different, and much reduced, performance in the promenade concerts many years ago. It seemed that the utterer of that earlier bravo may have listened to the rebukes of his peers at the quite untimeliness of the oral intrusion of his voice on the earlier occasion, ah, but me! I have been distracted and consequently left unfinished, an error which my better grammaticastic friends will not let me forget, a sentence which now lacks both a subject and a verb. Let me start again with what I really intended to say. Just for the sake of distraction: Did you notice the importance of the second comma in this paragraph?

Whilst listening, or perhaps more accurately, watching and listening to an audio visual presentation I realised why I do so much dislike the presence of music in the background. It was that that prompted me to think of yet another performance the closing moments, well only about ten minutes worth actually, of the same opera. I remember reading many years ago of one man, Bruckner his name, who on going to the performances of Wagner’s operas only went for the background music. His biographer concluded that had Anton ever opened his eyes during a performance he would have never entered the theatre again. I understand that, I have a similar view, as good as the story may be in itself – and perhaps a few of them are but most can be summed up in three words two of which are power and money and the third is the only one needed for opera buffa – the story is only a hook on which to hang even better music, so when going to the opera, I take quite a similar view to Anton. Audio visual performances consist of two parts, audio and visual. Now whilst the audio part can be split into many tracks, it behoves the engineer to ensure that they produce a homogenous, appropriate and pleasing mixture. I need to return to the point.

Perhaps some, or even many of you, have been to a performance of St Anthony’s chorale, in one of its many forms, by a junior school orchestra. If so you will know exactly what perfect fifths should not sound like. If you have never been to such a performance, may I suggest you keep your ears open for one, or indeed any junior school orchestra concert for despite the impurity of the fifths, such orchestras are well worth the listening for the quality of the musicianship will still be appreciated and from which the real music shine, perhaps better sound. Technique can be learned and improved even by the long ears of Mozartian disdain, musicianship is much harder to obtain.

So, to the point, I remembered during this other audio visual presentation listening to a world leader speaking of the overcoming of the will, behind which Götterdämmerung was being played. Whether it was a particularly good performance is neither here nor there, Wagner is almost at his best in this work and the music is captivating even when played badly, more so than St Anthony’s. It was most interesting. It was really quite a clever marketing device, but there was a canny media director managing the public face of the government as one might expect. The music is quite engaging, which is perhaps somewhat of an understatement, but also quite provocative. The speech is also. What struck me though was that though I had been impressed I had completely missed what had been said. For all I knew it might have been a description of antics of the teddy bears at their picnic except that a few phrases did stand out such as ‘They must be careful’, which of course would be true if you are on a picnic playing near water and ‘Don’t play with trifles’, which again surely must be a warning both to those who would fill their bellies before they came to the picnic and to those who simply wanted a custard pie fight, or had already eaten far too much, like most ten year old boys at a picnic, and who really did want to eat the trifle but simply could not manage to swallow another spoonful. The use of background music had this rather unfortunate effect of distracting you from what is actually being said, which if you had heard, rather like Anton you would not want to ever hear again.

It was finding myself distracted by some very well performed, unlike the St Anthony’s, but completely inane, unlike the St Anthony’s, trivia to which my ears had become attuned and which as a consequence caused them not to listen to the words which then themselves became the background, it was that that reminded me of the matter of the overcoming of the will, and why background music is, well abhorrent. In some circumstances of course the use of this phenomena is completely intentional. If you listen to ‘Einstein on the Beach’ then you may realise after a time, if you ever thought that this was in some way akin to opera or rap where the words do have meaning, and so tried to listen to the words being spoken, despite the constant shifting of the repetitive patterns in Glass’s music, that the words are really quite inconsequential and a reading of ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ would have sufficed. We have in Einstein what is a wonderful inversion of the idea of background music, which gives the impression that the music is there simply to provide a foil for the words. The reality is quite the opposite. If you are a lover of Glass then you may, feel free to, disagree with my conclusion, I shall not be offended nor inclined to think otherwise for reasons which I have already set out.

In the audio visual presentation which is the subject of this report, it was the words that mattered, the music was merely incidental, and not incidental take note. Much incidental music is quite consequential as Midsummer Night’s Dream or the Peer Gynt suite, which are worthy works in their own right. The presence of the merely incidental sounds here, was both unnecessary and distracting. Now, it is as true that if one of the auditors was distracted then it must be the case that others were too, as it is that if in class you have a question someone else shall too, and therefore you need to speak out because the other person is too shy to do so. But it has become the ‘norm’, would that it were ‘Norn’ instead, to underlie many oral presentations with this kind of thing. Even news reports will be adulterated by background noise. I wonder whether the producers ask themselves whether the music that has been chosen for them is appropriate for that report. Prokofieff and Korngold may have been able to write background music appropriate for a film scene, but for a real life report? HItchcock knew the value of getting the music right. Do the even more ephemeral news reports have the budgets to produce just the right underlying sounds? If not, why add these sounds and alienate your auditors from what is actually being said, unless all you really want is for your auditors to have a good feeling about what was said, as in the overcoming of the will, and so return for more of your news.

Perhaps the ephemerality of the news reports is the only reason that no-one really cares. Tomorrow no-one will remember that all they heard was the background and the real message, as they say, went in by one ear and out by the other.

If the message matters, speak the message not something else. And of course, you will say to me, Physician, heal thyself! And quite rightly too for this note, article, post, report or whatever else you may wish to call it contains much that is neither relevant nor important, having nothing to do with the conclusion or message I wished to convey, and which you will no doubt not remember, so to conclude then with the message of the message:

If the message matters, speak the message.

From which what do you conclude about this message?

JWC WU WHS awards 2020

Where Coco first published this he was going to use the word kongratulations, correctly spelt of course, but something in the system insisted that it become a word of colour rather than an ordinarily coloured word in black ink. As Coco is the writer, he thinks that it should be for him not an editor with whom he cannot speak to decide whether a word required some form of emphasis, and in any event, emphasis in a sentence can often be achieved for a word simply by a repositioning or change of word order, so of something else Coco had to think.

To congratulate the gold awards winners at the JWC WU WHS ( awards ceremony would be insufficient, they have worked hard for what they have achieved, but not in order to win an award, but rather to further the health of men and women. We were reminded this evening that John prayed for the Gaius (3 John 2) that he should prosper and be well [in his body] as he is well in his soul. The winners of the awards are engaged in this work.

It is invidious to single any of them out, and who is Coco to judge anyway, but he shall, and in compliance with good statistical practice he shall declare a significant data selection bias, and mention the ILF (, where Professor Christine Moffatt CBE is a trustee, and UTokyo, where Dr Gojiro Nakagami works on BioFilms which as you will all know are even more scary than Hitchcock films.

Finally, Coco takes the opportunity to remind you that should you know any young people with lymphoedema who have not yet completed the QOL survey, please do ask them to consider the LYMPHOQOL ( questionnaire. PostScript: Whilst the official survey closed late in 2022, and the results taken for analysis, from which reports are expected early 2024, the questionnaire is still available and entries being monitored. You may find the questions useful and helpful. If you leave personal details then the team may be able to follow you up.

If you wish to jump into the video of the awards ceremony, then you will find Professor Moffatt at 2566 and Professor Nakagami at 3282.

The 2020 JWC WUWHS Awards: ‘The Olympics of Wound Care’
These awards seek to recognise the hard work done by health-care professionals in all fields of wound care over the four years since the WUWHS 2016 conference. As with the JWC awards, these will highlight the great contribution that nurses, clinicians, scientists, researchers and academics make to the development of wound-care research and practice.
The 2020 JWC-WUWHS awards are open for nominations now. The deadline is Friday 26 November, after which we will shortlist and ask our editorial board members and representatives of the associated societies to judge the top 5–8 nominees on a number of criteria. 
We also want to draw your attention to the Most Progressive Society award. This accolade is for the associated society who has made the biggest impact in wound care in the past four years.
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Offences, which do not like a joke – an open letter

Have you heard the one about the Yorkshireman, the Cornishman and the man of Kent? It doesn’t quite have the ring about it as an opening line as ‘Have you heard the one about the Irishman, the Scotsman and the Englishman?’ But if Coco used the latter, Coco would get away with the rest of it in an English public house, providing none of the English liberal elite were present, and might regret the long, but deserved, stay in hospital if Coco tried it in Clonmel. What the reaction would be in Aberdeen is as clear as whether Schrödinger’s cat is alive or dead.

But, in using the second opener Coco is not being racist, Coco is making a professional judgement; the joke needs something on which to hang the three preposterous remarks, and as we know a joke will not succeed if it is longwinded.

We all characterise others, and recognise characteristics in our own stock. Coco is a man of deep pockets and short arms, which says nothing of Coco’s wealth nor physical incapability, when Coco’s part of the country is the butt of the joke. Does Coco take offence at that? No, why should Coco, when Coco only need to take offence if Coco is insecure in Coco’s belief that all such characterisations are at the same time far from the truth and close to the truth. Schrödinger’s cat lives again.

Some people are though quick to take offence. The BBC, about whom you complained, ran an article some years ago which had a picture of whited up Nigerians. If it is appropriate to white up, then why not also to be able to black up? A more recent report suggested that one ballet dancer felt humiliated that she had been asked to white up in Berlin, but when you look at cosmetics in countries which are populated predominantly by darker skin colours than ours, how many whitening products does one find? Another aspect of the report referenced an idea that when you are on stage you can retain your own identity. Coco had thought that the whole point of being a stage actor was to take on the identity of the person you were to portray, which of necessity requires the giving up of your own. If Coco were to watch a spy film, Coco would not want to see Sean Connery but James Bond. Whiting up for the stage does not imply a loss of identity any more than it did for the Nigerian men, for whom it was probably part of their identity.

The present malaise about racism has much which is unforgiving in it. An elder of a church said recently that these movements have much for which to answer. For years we have had people coming in and out of our church of a huge variety of hues, and all I have ever seen are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ who want to love, serve and worship him. Now I am asked to take note of whether they are black or white – with nothing in between?

Racism is thinking about race as marking someone else different to (and probably also implied less deserving than) me. But this gentleman, and probably many thousands like him, had never had race in his thinking in his dealing with others. Your reported comments suggest that you are probably one like him. Anti-racist sentiment however forces us to think in racist terms. It is not something that either you or Coco want to do.

Recently Coco complained that a professional institute had set up a black section. Coco asked that as it would be considered inappropriate to have a white section, why did they think it appropriate to have a black section. The response did not address the question, but merely referenced the usefulness of the section to the minority group. Coco has no doubt at all that the section is useful, but Coco still considers that it is an inappropriate use of the funds of the organisation. Such a view as Coco has is however unpopular.

The recent mantra that ‘diversity is required for the prosperity of our company etc’, seems to forget that the UK and its companies were at their most prosperous when the very opposite was true. It is not a message that people want to hear today. [For reasons other than diversity Coco would not want to return to those days.]

In Coco’s view you were right to point out that there was a lack of diversity in the Gospel Singer of the Year. Coco was not aware of the event, and Coco has not troubled his own self to find out any more about it yet. It does not really however surprise Coco to hear that the finalists were all black. It is nothing however to do with race but rather with culture and skill. The culture promotes a particular style of gospel singing which is popular today. Coco quite understands that and in some settings quite enjoys listening to it*. There are other styles of gospel singing which probably, due to the preferences of the present day, would not get past the first round. How far would George Beverly Shea have got today? Perhaps even Graham Kendrick or Stuart Townsend would not survive many rounds. A presbyterian a cappella precentor would probably not even have been allowed in the first round, but it seems to Coco that the precentor is much more of a gospel singer in terms of what the Scriptures require than any of the others.

Whilst the organisers have no control over the line-up of finalists, it is difficult however to understand what wisdom the organisers saw in not ensuring that there was ‘diversity’ in the other members of team, judges, presenters etc. unless they wish to say there was diversity as they had representatives of several different racial groups such as Shona, Zulu, Igbo, Fulani, Ethiopic, Somali and the hundreds of others whose names Coco has never known. But would that sort of diversity not in itself be an acknowledgment of racism in their thinking?

Coco is sorry that you were taken to task for merely pointing out the obvious. There are times when the emperor does not wear his clothes and it does no harm to others, but there are times when it does do harm and it behoves us to mention it in the most polite way that we possibly can.

A difficulty we have though is that we know that by speaking in apparently anti-cultural [unpolitically correct is close but not quite right] ways we shall become objects of opprobrium. We can hope however that those that take offence at our words do so only because they have not fully understood what was said, and have not yet understood the contradictions in their own position. Coco is glad to have read that you have discussed the matter you raised with some of these groups of people and are willing to continue to do so. The report on the BBC seems to show that they have failed to understand what you actually said. Coco hopes that does not also reflect an unwillingness to understand, and that by discussion they will learn.

Racism is a problem, and some people are hurt by it. Racism is however not just practiced by white people. You could say that the Atlantic slave trade, for which we are still vilified even though we abolished it, was driven by racism within West Africa. The slave trade across Africa to the east clearly shows all the signs of racism. But it is rife worldwide: the dominance of the Han in China, the endless in fighting between tribes in the African republics, the Iberian dominance in South America; Coco is sure you know of many other specific examples and far more than Coco knows.

For some however it is a tool that can be used for advantage: a complaint is made by A ‘You didn’t choose me because I am a different colour than you’. The complaint is not entirely unfounded. A was not chosen because A was both not the right person for the job and secondly because A is racist. The employer believes in diversity and does not want to employ someone who thinks that race matters and should be brought into the considerations for a job.

But race does matter. You are an Irishman. Coco has often offended an Irishman by saying we are all British here forgetting that my friend is from the south. She is still a friend. Coco cannot enter into the cultural secrets of a Japanese family any more than a South African can understand how a UK business planning meeting works. Where it matters we must recognise it and allow for it, but where it does not we are all equal before a sovereign God to whom we must answer for the way we treat those who have also been made in his image.

Let the world do as it will. If it wants to promote racial differences under the guise of anti-racist sentiment, let it do so. Let us present the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in whom there is neither Jew nor Greek, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, male nor female. Let us not regard any man by the flesh, but according to whether they love the Lord. In this way we shall be truly anti-racist whilst celebrating the diversity of culture that God has given to us. The gospel of free grace, an incarnate God and a crucified Saviour has more offence in it than any offence of which the world is capable to the pride of man.

The grace of your Lord Jesus Christ be with you

Sources: BBC news articles 1 and 2