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The Glass Box for Olympic Friday.

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Eddie Mair | 09:12 UK time, Friday, 8 August 2008

Be your own radio critic! Tell us here, frankly, what you thought of tonight's programme. In the PM office we meet every night at 1800 in this Glass Box:


We talk about the content of the programme and try to give an honest assessment of what worked and what didn't...the things we missed and the places where our ambitions were not met. THIS virtual glass box you are looking at is where you are invited - indeed encouraged - to be your own critic. Comment on our hour by clicking on the comment link. Members of the production team will read the comments, and the editor should comment too. Click on The Glass Box link on the right of the page to read previous entries.


  • 1. At 09:20am on 08 Aug 2008, Mrs Effingham wrote:

    Eddie - get ready for a postcard or two!

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  • 2. At 09:22am on 08 Aug 2008, Fearless Fred wrote:

    MrsEff(1) I bet it's not my postcard ;-( I think I'll have to give up all hope of that appearing now

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  • 3. At 09:28am on 08 Aug 2008, David_McNickle wrote:

    FF 2, At least I got my wheelie bin on the forum.

    Are those really runners or people snorting coke?

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  • 4. At 10:53am on 08 Aug 2008, Stewart_M wrote:

    Is that false start I see?

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  • 5. At 10:56am on 08 Aug 2008, Thunderbird wrote:

    Dave (3), please get over the wheelie bin thing. You should know PM is an equal opportunities blog forum supplier and therefore in compelled (by law) to allow occasional silly entries

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  • 6. At 11:37am on 08 Aug 2008, mygloriousleader wrote:

    I tried snorting coke once,
    but the bubbles made me sneeze

    (other soft drinks are available)

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  • 7. At 12:03pm on 08 Aug 2008, mittfh wrote:

    A colleague is getting ready to flog cream teas in aid of Macmillan...

    ...so you'll find virtual equivalents on offer at the NC bar - this lunchtime only!

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  • 8. At 12:03pm on 08 Aug 2008, mittfh wrote:

    Oops, wrong thread...

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  • 9. At 12:27pm on 08 Aug 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    Less a racetrack, more a demarcation, I'd say. Top half for Carolyn, bottom half for Eddie. They ought to learn to live together (in a matter of speaking).

    "I'd like to teach the world to sing
    In perfect harmony ...." ;o)

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  • 10. At 12:34pm on 08 Aug 2008, David_McNickle wrote:

    Stewart M 4, One more and they are both disqualified. Off to filling wheelie bins for them.

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  • 11. At 12:59pm on 08 Aug 2008, Matterbooboo wrote:

    Mr Mair, more Mihir ... please.

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  • 12. At 1:24pm on 08 Aug 2008, thenicecatlady wrote:

    Are we allowed to chant and wave flags at the Glass Box Olympics?

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  • 13. At 2:14pm on 08 Aug 2008, Thunderbird wrote:

    puss, puss (12) The BBC isn't a vicious, evil dictatorship with lots of guns, you can do what you like.

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  • 14. At 2:25pm on 08 Aug 2008, tinybutterfly22 wrote:

    Having just watched the spectacular and awe inspiring opening cereromy to the Beijing olympics, who can now doubt that the 21st century belongs to the East.
    How wonderful it would be if the BBC could dig out of their archives the wonderful documentary series ,'Storm From The East' dealing with the rise of Genghis Khan ending with Kublai Khan who founded the Yuan dynasty and who set his fabulous court in what is now Beijing.

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  • 15. At 4:12pm on 08 Aug 2008, Fifi wrote:

    I refuse to contribute to a Glass Box named after the [expletives deleted] Alloverthemediapic Games.

    It's bad enough that the Beach has suddenly been infected by a rash of much more entertaining competitions!

    * storms off in another huff *

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  • 16. At 4:38pm on 08 Aug 2008, Big Sister wrote:

    Fifi: But you just did ;o)

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  • 17. At 4:41pm on 08 Aug 2008, Thunderbird wrote:

    What's up Fifi, not had a strapline for 48 hours?

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  • 18. At 5:43pm on 08 Aug 2008, Fifi wrote:

    Drat again. Have to comment on the GCSE Music story:


    What matters is the noise musicians make. If it's music, and it's of good quality, who cares whether they learned it off a page or by ear?

    This happens in ALL forms of music, not just jazz, by the way. The former guitarist in my band can't read 'the dots' but is one of the best folk players you'll hear.

    Another friend who plays blues guitar professionally doesn't do the dots either.

    I think the only 'restriction' on a non-dots-reader is not being able to work in an orchestra, or sit in with music snobs like your interviewees. Why would they wish to?

    Where was the balance in this story? Talk to ME next time... learning to play violin using the dots put me off playing music for over 20 years, till I discovered the much greater pleasure I could bring to people by playing guitar chords.

    If only someone had thought to teach me fiddle music instead of classical violin, I'd have stayed interested.


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  • 19. At 5:47pm on 08 Aug 2008, Ed Iglehart wrote:

    "Pencil stuck in memory?"

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  • 20. At 5:52pm on 08 Aug 2008, U11235707 wrote:

    Eddie the night-Mair and CQ in a new Olympic game of 'snorting the white lines'.

    On your marks... get set... sneeeeeeeze.!!!

    And CQ is disqualified for blowing.

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  • 21. At 5:53pm on 08 Aug 2008, The Stainless Steel Cat wrote:

    Fifi (18):

    I agree completely. I was growling at the radio, then cheering when Eddie mentioned jazz musicians - exactly what I was thinking. I suspect the "balance" of the item was a deliberate decision by the producer, leaving Eddie to play (without notes) devils advocate.

    For myself, I was put off reading music by being told by the teacher to remember the note-things on the line-things as "Every Good Boy Deserves Football". Heartily detesting football, this was guaranteed to put me off.

    Later of course, I was put off learning the guitar by several dozen too many repetitions of "Mr Tambourine Man". *shudder*

    P.S. I love Abba.

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  • 22. At 6:56pm on 08 Aug 2008, David_McNickle wrote:

    SSC 21, Re jazz: Improvisation is hard to write down. I like ABBA as well. Was listening to jazz today, however.

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  • 23. At 7:00pm on 08 Aug 2008, David_McNickle wrote:

    Fifi 18, You should have contacted Stephane Grappelli. I have some CDs of his with Django Reinhart.

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  • 24. At 8:04pm on 08 Aug 2008, annasee wrote:

    I love Abba too. But I have to differ from Fifi and SSC over this one. Though I can quite see how being badly taught musical notation, or an instrument in "classical" style, might put you off everything to do with "classical music" for a long time.

    I just think that reading music is such a basic skill (certainly no more difficult to understand than reading and writing the English language ) that it is useful for everyone to understand the principles. Otherwise you get people who, for example, would love to sing in a choir, but are handicapped by their slowness to learn complex music, because they can't learn it from the printed page. Or parents who can't help their children with their music practice, because they don't understand what the dots on the page mean. It's not a fiendishly difficult foreign language - it's an incredibly clever and logical way of notating even the most complex sounds, so they can be accurately reproduced by someone else, even centuries later. Teaching someone to read music is giving them a really useful skill, not initiating them into some elitist system of secret signs designed to exclude the majority.

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  • 25. At 8:22pm on 08 Aug 2008, Chris Ghoti wrote:

    I'm very fond of the story about a jazzman who didn't read dots, and whose copy of the dots in front of him was found to have the words 'give it some wellie!' written at the top as the instructions he could understand for a tune he knew.

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  • 26. At 8:47pm on 08 Aug 2008, Fifi wrote:

    Anna (24) : It depends what you want to do with the music - which is why I found the PM story disappointingly 1-dimensional.

    If you want to play as part of a classical ensemble, or even as part of a seriously avant-garde jazz group, then having the grammar and vocabulary of the written music saves loads of time and misunderstandings.

    But if you just want to be able to join in with some raucous Frogger-style mucking about (as Mr Gillianianian and Fearless did) then all that is unnecessary and overcomplicated and can put people off.

    For those who are dedicated (as you are) to a music that benefits from 'knowing why you're doing WHAT you're doing' learning to read music is a tiny price.

    For plebs like me who really only care whether we like what it sounds like ... it's an obstacle.

    What's more, I have initiated my SO (taught piano via the dots) into how guitar chords work on a piano ... and he's entranced. It DOES work both ways!

    So, this is my question to you, Anna:

    How much better would that PM story have been, if Eddie'd interviewed Annasee and Fifi instead of Jermoloid-Webber and Precious Primsy?

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  • 27. At 9:24pm on 08 Aug 2008, Markaus wrote:

    There was a surprising discussion on PM at 17.45 on 8.8.08 about only 20% of a music exam mark being for reading music - so one could pass without being able to. The share of the exam mark should not be determined by how essential a skill is - many are essential and each of these cannot be more than 50%. The solution is to require a certain standard to be achieved in questions in all critical areas. Thus e.g. no less than 10/20 in reading, no less than another threshold of 10, 15 or 20 out of say 30 for another important set of questions, etc. In this way all areas can be tested and minimum standards ensured in all critical areas. QED.

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  • 28. At 11:30pm on 10 Aug 2008, gossipmistress wrote:

    Re the 'Reading Music' discussion, I missed it as I was away at a music festival, learning a huge stack of music in a very small amount of time in order to be able to perform it to a high standard with people who are far more musical and musically literate than myself. Without the ability to read music, I would never have had the fantastic experiences I have had both at this festival over the years and in many other musical situations.

    I too love ABBA, but have you ever tried to reproduce their harmonies? I wish they'd written them down (yes there is ABBA sheet music but I've never seen any contain all their 2-4 part harmonies). Learning complex music by ear, of whatever sort is incredibly time-consuming, and takes great skill. And it's really not hard to read music, after all, I can do it. SSC - a bad teacher doesn't mean the subject is boring, and it's also perfectly possible to teach the instrument/songs first, and add the dots once the child is inspired to play or sing.

    I do agree that performing music without the dots in front of you can be liberating and can produce more inspired performances, but I don't see this as any reason not to teach children to read music.

    It's much easier to learn when you're young and unless a child has a particularly musically-gifted parent to learn from at home they are unlikely to progress as fast without reading music as they have nothing to copy other than their teacher once a week.

    I really can't see that teaching musical notation necessarily puts you off playing it. Does being taught a foreign language put you off travel for life??!

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