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Listen Up - Festival of Orchestras 2004Making Music and ABO
New Writing
Mario Petrucci
New Writing for Listen Up!
Mario Petrucci was Radio 3's first poet in residence during Listen Up! 2004.  He popped up in programming around Listen Up! performances with a poet's eye view on the secret life of orchestras, their audiences, and the wealth of orchestral music-making across the UK.

Poems from the Brink
Mobile phone keypad

Gentlemen and Ladies.
Tonight's performance
is about
to end.
Would you be so slick
as to turn on

your mobile phones?
Some fraud always forgets
and is caught
to music. Remember - this
orchestra has come

a mighty long way
to hear you. And the world
is broad-
into this very auditorium
in constant waves of blight

- how it craves
to know you are not
on the train.
we can turn this entire

into Porlock. So -
turn on your phones. Wait
for those same
few bright
bars. And in that mock tone
answer Yes? to your own

thin applause.


One matchbox. One sixpenny
crystal. One pancake coil
for coarse tuning. No

battery. A fortnight's
torture while the earphone's
mustard stopper dallied in the post.The soldering iron sent up its
tiny smoke signals. Then
I slid a thruppenny bit

by bit across that coil
in a brass on lead eclipse
to reel in the Radetzky March -

those cymbal-happy ranks of
sound far-off behind static
that could pass as Time.

Blue Danubes trickled
behind watersheds of hiss.
All summer they looped those

same few Strausses over and
over - that champagne of
waltz and polka going

flat as I watched (with
one ear pressed) the shadow
of our apple tree sundial the lawn

until shadow began to dissolve
into dusk. Which only made
the Strauss grow firmer.

Closer. As if that music
were the very first to enter
a garden. As though some fresh-

created body of water were being
brought home wave upon wave
like an ocean to its shell.


I'm a strange snail
for sound. I've got it good
all round. I'm not a tub
of lard. I'm hard.

I'm the tenor (not a fiver)
with two to six valves. Need
less puff than those catwalkers
of the orchestra who revel
in excesses and trumpet
their successes.

Join my band 'cause
where there's muck there's
brass - in silver or fibreglass.
I'm not waiting. I'm too busy
mutating - look. I'm vertical,
convertible, I'm downright
irreversible. But if you prefer
my sister you're not alonium:
just make sure euphonium
[to tell her you missed her]
and sousaphone you back.

So why this note
of doubt? Single-belled
or doubled, they're saying
I'm in trouble. All blown out.
Even when I'm lacquered they're
reckoning I'm knackered.

Check out how far I've
come - from bugle and helicon.
I even made the Romans pout.
Now rotary or piston-valved,
bell up or front, I'm still in
the hunt. A serpent or two
(I grant you) in the closet
and the Wagner we
won't talk about

but I know we'll go
far - we're so much more
than Oom-Pah-Pah. Don't
be the one who missed us -
let's have ourselves a merry
Tuba-christmas. Set me
on your lap and blow
me a raspberry
just like

this. Don't
look back. Go on -
give us a brassy hug.
Give us a chance. How
can you resist
my fat wet
E flat



I saw this guy once
work his cylinders so

hard the pistoned brass
seemed to drive some

massive axle only he
could see - grinding at

that same good yard of
track - his stalled truck

-load of jazz getting no-
where sliding on grease

yet charging up on itself -
charging till all our stacks

were leaning forward weak
with smoke: flagging for that

held-back stroke when
finally he'd give it


and notes (taking sudden
grip) would fling us

steaming with him out and
into tunnels down

glinting girdered rails
of sound

1.      Strings’ slow slung note
         makes the pit a French punnet
         of snailhorning bows.

2.      An octopus creeps
         behind the Orchestra: eight
         double bass scroll-ends.

3.      Twin bassoons drifting
         downriver: bamboo snorkels
         of spies underwater.

4.      Conductor:  From 1
         please.  From 4.  Again.  From
         1.   Those parts.  That sum.

5.      Pizzicato – tide upon
          tide.  Beached tuba yawns
          at Sunday supplement.

6.      Bassoon re-tunes its
         one brown note.  Door slides: streets hiss
         crisping sycamore.

{RHYTHMIC performance piece: eg Da-da-da, Da-da-da, Da-da Da-da, Da-da-da…}
Frosty  Frosty
Toast and Coffee
Hash Brown Honey
if I’m Lucky

Three-cup minimum:
Cretan Tea –
Red Top White Top
Blueberry Raspberry

Seas of Coffee
and a single Ciggy

Crunch Nut Horn-flakes
Cheetah’s Chutney

Muesli  Bran  Muesli  Bran
Muesli  Muesli  My
Old Man

Touchy Originals
Cheddar Cathed-erals

Two Croissants

A good old-fashioned
Home Fry – Anything

English  Full
English  Full English
Egg n Chips –

Fried –

Soda Bread
and Sunny-

Suckling Pig

No Figs

I drink peppermint.  Try
to be late.  Meditate on that
sound I made at fifteen.  I shut

my fly – twang my neighbour’s
G-string.  Play with the mute.
I think lipstick.  Country

antics.  Shopping.  Someone
hot in Sardinia.  Old teachers.
I wash hands.  Clean teeth.

Polish shoes.  See my baby
son – a stuffed pig jostling
towards me in the auditorium.

I pray.  In Tesco.  Sainsburys.
To the patron saint of lotteries.
An empty Devon beach in

Plaistow.  Touch wood – that
bluebell wood in Spring.  Yoga.
A No. 9 bus.  They always run.

These are a few of my particular
lakes in Sweden.  We envisage
The End.  The 18th tee.  I beat

my desk partner in the garden.
My mobile phone.  I watch the
alarm on the face of my watch.

I shave whiskers.  Sacrifice
the cat.  Drink red.  Have a pee.
Then go to Broadmoor.  Go

to the wrong place.  I warm up
slowly.  Smoke cigarettes.  It’s all
about control.  See Old Jack

practising scales – scratching
his chin and laughing – What’s
for Supper?   My children.  I make

mistakes.  Do laundry.  See
grandpa dead.  A friend who
died prematurely.  I look out

and notice one person.  Wonder
what their story is.  Imagine it’s
private.  Imagine a hotel room

walking in the Alps.  That
wakes them up a bit.  I curse life.
Never change.  I think cold beer –

a beer with my name on it.  I
think dangerously away from this
moment.  Even to a Lager.  Any

where but here.


She’s different today.  Clothes
striking but not quite tasteful.
Loves motorbike leathers –

creased T-shirts.  Wet.  They
swap around.  He blows her nose.
Wears sandals.  Paints toenails

various shades.  He’s a veteran
with breasts.  A Just-got-out-of-bed
designer with Wild West hair.  And

always that wide smile between
the legs.  Forever smiling anarchic
perfumes.  He shouts ‘Gyertcha’

after each good bit.  Constant
moaning.  General fitness.  A tan.
An air.  Belly – fat with negativity.

Nothing.  Difficult to say.  Plays
better than I do – rotates in pre-
faded jeans and straight

jacket.  Eyes so huge they drink
your tea.  Wooden shoulders.
Photocopied parts.  G-string

shows.  Moves a lot.  The rest
is spiky.  Always changing.
Not appropriate.  Not



Your five-fibre muscle –
home for knots

of notes.  Yet in
hands of players you

flex – make of air an
unnaturally long-

toothed comb
whose tangled hair I am.


Each sulcus in my brain
becomes a satellite Fjord
secreting steep-sided
                             Let the music ship come –
                                              let that long ship
In waters smoothed or
rough – mast-high or peri-
scoped I ahoy the waking

                           A many-handed crew
                                         attend – and many hands
                                                    make light

I turn blind ears to
smuggled sound – ease
my borders      Find you

                         Just let them through – let
                                       all the cargoes and
                                                   the ballasts
Mario's work spans a huge range of subject and style including serious formal verse and more experimental performance . His most recent book 'Heavy Water' is a powerful response to eyewitness accounts of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Look out for his commissioned poetry on the Radio 3 website.
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