BBC Proms Diary 2018: Wagner and Sibelius from the BBC Philharmonic

I’ve pencilled in a few concerts next week I could attend in person. My comfort zone at the time of writing seems to be a mixture of iPlayer ‘catch-up’ and listening live. Today’s exploits were a mixture of Wagner/Sibelius from the BBC Philharmonic, and the organ Prom from Sunday.

The Wagner – the overture from Die Meistersingers – is defiant, proud and a triumphant kind of opening. Against all odds things are and will be OK. Here a performance not only accessed feelings but gave them a label.

Transparency is important here. At the same as listening to the Wagner, I was watching the Swedish activist refusing to allow a plane leave the tarmac so that a man threatened with deportation to Afghanistan had another chance at life. Tears rolled down my cheeks, just like everyone else who saw that footage I imagine. 

All of this was a much-needed release the ‘events‘ of yesterday had provoked a sense of panic (fuelled by a hefty dose catastrophisation). I’d spent most of the morning worrying about the future instead of focussing on the now. The irony? What was actually important was focussing now on what needed to be done in the future. 

This shift in thinking stands the best chance of happening when listening to classical music. It’s not that it promotes a relaxed state. It’s more to do with the way musical narrative provides focus.

In the case of Sibelius’ seventh symphony, it’s the quality of the sound and my connection with the notation, harmony and the texture and the resulting effect. By focussing on the emotional impact of Sibelius’ creation that the underlying thoughts and feelings reveal themselves.

What emerged listening to Sibelius 7?

Fear. Panic. The painful reminder that I constantly compare myself to others on the internet. Fuck knows why. It doesn’t help me at all. 

It worked once. It spurred me on to practice harder and secure my Grade 7 clarinet when I was a teenager.

But it’s a tricky drug to manage. Comparing yourself has a destructive effect if you don’t keep it in check. 

Sibelius 7 – tempestuous, sometimes agitated, at other times musical ideas are tossed around different sections, eventually coalescing around a sort of climax and then heading off towards something different. The resolutions are never resolute. That’s what makes Sibelius so brilliantly real and keeps me coming back for more. 

Social media relies on its audience comparing itself with its contemporaries. The thing that keeps the platform alive is the thing we should be on our guard about. 

What I do post on social media? Largely unflattering stuff – candid, open, brutal and authentic. Rarely pretty.

That’s valuable. If you’re going to spend time writing for no money, write something authentic and distinctive that cuts across the bullshit.

I need to remind myself to adopt the same reading social media as I do writing for it. 

Thanks Sibelius 7. You really helped.



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