Wednesday, 16 July 2008

His Master's Voice

Writing is a very lonely profession, especially when one is suffering from seemingly permanent writer’s block and spending endless days in front of a blank computer screen. In situations such as this, I often find that classical music plays a very important role and can induce a calming influence on an otherwise stressful experience.

July brings a favourite event of mine: the annual BBC Proms festival of classical music. As well as assisting with one’s inspiration, it is also a useful opportunity to stock up on one’s CD collection. So, after consulting my trusty Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music, I headed to London’s West End to find a specific recording of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony.

I am a firm believer that anyone doing a job should have some degree of interest, even pride, in what they do. Unfortunately, there are times when one meets with certain individuals who fall well and truly outside this category. On this particular day there was only one sales assistant working in the classical music department, a Jay-Z lookalike who was idly shifting bunches of Edward Elgar CDs from one shelf to another and then back again for no explicable reason.

The only recording of Shostakovich’s 10th Symphony on the shelves that I could see was not the ‘definitive’ one I was looking for. So I approached the sales assistant and gave him the details and label number, asking if it was in stock.

This is where I get confused about sales assistants. However much you tell them you can’t find the thing you are looking for on the shelf, it’s the first place they take you as though they have some kind of super-power in seeing things that customers cannot. The sales assistant handed me a copy of the Shostakovich CD on the shelf before I clarified that it was not the one I was looking for, so he took me to his computer to try and find it on the system.

I decided to make polite conversation and asked if he was looking forward to the Proms. He looked at me sternly and asked if ‘looking forward to the Proms’ was meant in a general classical music sense, or the fact that it would result in an inevitable increase in sales for a three month period. I said that I meant the former, to which he replied ‘no’ as he did not care much for classical music and was into reggae. He then ‘apologised’ that my recording was not in stock, but there’d be no point in ordering it as I could probably find it in another music store.

What is the world coming to when a classical music department is manned by a gangsta-rapper who probably doesn’t know one end of a conductor’s baton from the other? Maybe Shakespeare would’ve felt the same way about modern-day writers using keyboards instead of feathers.

No comments: