Archive for October, 2011

Short ride, fast machine

22 October 2011

John Adams’ insistent piece ‘A Short Ride in  a Fast Machine’ popped up on my Shuffle this week, which reminded me of its fated history with the Last Night of the BBC’s Proms. ‘A Short Ride’ is a little over four minutes long, driven along at pace for most of that time by an urgent percussion which cuts through the orchestra.

It’s been scheduled twice for the Last Night of the Proms, and pulled each time. On the first occasion Diana died in a car crash just before the concert; on the second, the planes went in to the Twin Towers. The Proms planners held their nerve and it has been featured twice since on concerts for a younger audience, the Blue Peter Prom in 2004 and the Dr Who prom in 2010. But will  Fast Ride In A Short Machine ever be scheduled again for The Proms’ last night? Depends on how superstitious you are.

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Yellow jackets

8 October 2011

Publishers mostly believe – probably rightly – that their brands make little difference to book buying habits, because readers are more interested in authors. But this isn’t always true. There are moments when publishers break these surly bonds: one thinks of Penguin, especially in the days of their colour-coded jackets, of Picador in the ’70s, of Calder and Boyars. Design always has something to do with it.

I was thinking of this because I noticed some science fiction and fantasy reissues – in the distinctive Gollancz yellow – to mark the 50th anniversary of Gollancz. (They seem to have been out for a few months but I noticed them only because of the ‘serendipity search function’ of a bookshop window.)

I read more science fiction when I was young than I now care to remember, much of it from the library, and the Gollancz yellow jackets did for a title exactly what good branding is supposed to do; they acted as assurance in a market where quality was variable. A yellow Gollancz science fiction title was invariably worth reading.

The list of the Gollancz 50 reissues can be found here. I’ve written here about Pavane by Keith Roberts, one of the 50.

The pictures in this post were taken by Andrew Curry. It is published here under a Creative Commons licence: some rights reserved.