How I spent my week

In the all-important and frightfully busy last week of the Cambridge term, I can now reveal the shocking news that at one frightfully important member of the music faculty hasn’t been entirely focussed on the job in hand.

Whilst checking through the music tripos syllabus for some details necessary to a few of my own students, I noticed that the third year courses include one on Jesuits and music, entitled “One world is not enough”. So when replying to an end-of-term party invitation from my former Director of Studies and one of the music faculty’s greatest assets, the legendary Dr Martin Ennis, I happened to enquire in a postscript whether we might expect to see any more James Bond puns in future courses.

I also gave him a list of suggestions, which were as follows:

For Your Reise Only – Schubert and Muller
On Her Majesty’s Second Service – Byrd and Elizabeth I
Dr? No. – Brahms and Cambridge University
License to Drill – the use of household objects in experimental music of the 1960s
From Russia with l’oeuf – Paul Kiang’s interpretations of Shostakovich

Thanks to my obsessive nature, the email took considerably longer to write than my busy, end-of-term schedule really allowed for, but I felt it was worth it for the depth and complexity of some of my immensely clever puns (the Brahms one certainly requires specialist musical knowledge, and the Shostakovich one is so specific that unless you are acquainted with Paul Kiang and his egg allergy it makes absolutely no sense at all). Besides which, I was fairly confident that I had done absolutely all of the musical James Bond puns there could be.

So the response came as a bit of a shock:

I’m glad to see that you’ve been able to remain at the cutting edge of musicological research. You may be interested to know that one of the Part II papers for next year is a detailed study of Scarlatti’s ‘Cat’ Fugue. I believe the provisional title is Octave-Pussy. As ever, M

Naturally I wasn’t going to let that go, so I spent some hours coming up with a fitting counter-pun.

Dear Martin, yes, I’d heard about the Scarlatti course – hasn’t it been suggested by the same person who’s thinking of doing a course based on an unreasonable prejudice against recordings of Stravinsky’s music made by the Acadamy of St Martin in the Fields – I think it’s called Never Play Neville’s Agon? James

This time Martin’s comeback was swift, but disappointing.

I believe that students of global warming are also interested in For your Ice only

Not only an extremely weak pun but one which diverges from the musical theme of the contest. But by this stage Martin was no doubt feeling the pressure of doing end-of-term meetings and running the music faculty at the same time as desperately googling James Bond films and consulting Grove’s dictionary of music, so we’ll let him off. In any case, it was a good excuse to slip in a weaker entry of my own, so I quipped that students of Bach are very much interested in The Man With the Golden Section – academically sound, but dull.

This time Martin came back with a blinder:

And students of Stanford will doubtless enjoy Thunderbore…

and I was forced to resort to:

Whilst people who end up studying the height of Farinelli’s success at the court of Philip V will be looking in depth at a Castrato Royale…

Martin’s slightly bizarre and again amusical reply was:

I believe the Welsh are very fond of Dai, Another Dai – it’s often exclaimed at christenings.

By this time I had stopped sleeping and I was spending every spare minute desperately flicking between my CD collection and wikipedia, determined not to be defeated. My own students were ignored and my important emails went on the back burner as I hunted for a pun on Tomorrow Never Dies that wouldn’t have to resort to Welsh christenings. Finally the answer came to me, appropriately enough, during Clare college’s advent carol service, and I dispatched the following before going to bed:

I’m currently undergoing a thorough study of Rutter’s* success with the working title Moneyraker.

*cf previous musings

Martin’s hasty reply this morning indicated that a pressing engagement conducting the Messiah in Japan would prevent him from making an appropriate response. I know – the lengths to which people will go to avoid making James Bond puns.

Still, there are a few titles left over and since I’m now off the hook I suggest it would make for brilliant Christmas fun if you fancy finishing off the list. You might also try finding alternatives for Martin’s two non-musical entries in the series. Let me know what you come up with!

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