I can’t remember learning to read texts or music, so phonics means little to me. I do remember that different headteachers made us learn to write with different styles, with the result that my handwriting is completely illegible (“That’s not a signature,” stormed my first bank manager, “do a better one!”). Were it not for the PC, the gutter in which I am begging would be rather more modest.

(I’ve worked with quite a lot of illiterate musicians. One band of loutish Caribbean peasants had learnt tunes by playing along with a cassette recorder which slowed everything down half a tone. This, combined with their complete lack of understanding of the acoustics of the cheap Chinese horns purchased for them by their patron, a local union cacique, meant that they played everything in fiendishly difficult keys and using the most unlikely slide positions and valve combinations. I came to the conclusion that the solution was not to teach them to read, but to buy them a new cassette recorder.)

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