Knowing the roads

2nd August 2010 | Daily Life, Musings, Travel | 5 comments

Chatting with a friend about how long a certain car journey would take, I guessed that it would take x hours, and my friend replied, ‘Well, it only takes me y hours, but then I know the roads, so I whiz along.’

People often say that kind of thing, and I never really understand the link between ‘I know the roads’ and ‘I whiz along.’ There are plenty of roads that I know well, too, but it doesn’t make any difference to how fast I drive, which is determined by other things, like traffic conditions.

It strikes me as a bit like saying, ‘I know the music well, so I play it faster.’


  1. Gretchen Saathoff

    Hi Susan,

    What about minor considerations, such as speed limits?

    There is ample evidence of “I play it fast because I CAN” on recordings. “Children’s Corner” comes to mind… I thought music was intended to be comprehended by an audience, not played so fast that no one can hear the pitches.

    And in “Jimbo’s Lullaby,” I’ve heard it played so fast, the poor baby elephant would fall out of the cradle! “The Little Shepherd” turns into a professional flutist. “The Snow is Dancing” sounds like a blizzard. And the first movement is now a competition piece!

    Interesting post.

    Take care,


    • Susan Tomes

      Quite right, Gretchen – I should have mentioned speed limits! I suppose a composer’s marking of ‘Allegro moderato’ , ‘andante’ or whatever is a kind of musical speed limit.

  2. Nigel D

    reminds me of a comment made by a friend of mine who, when asked would he prefer red or white wine, answered “white please, I’m driving”

  3. Steve Zade

    Daniel Barenboim thinks that going slow or fast is not important per se. “The decision on tempo is last. Only at the moment when I comprehend the piece, the content, the sound – consequently everything that belongs to it – do I ask the question,’what tempo suits this?'” (‘Everything is Connected – the Power of Music’)

  4. Gretchen Saathoff

    Susan, speed limits and tempo markings bring to mind those useless tempo indications permanently affixed to some metronomes. It’s as if “Allegro” must always be 120 beats per minute!

    Beginning students ask about this all the time. It can be quite confusing!

    And Steve (#4), thanks for posting Barenboim’s comment about tempo! I’d not heard that before, and will certainly take it under consideration.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

La Puerta del Vino

La Puerta del Vino

Debussy's Prelude 'La Puerta del Vino', from his second book of Preludes for piano (written 1912-13), has been one of my favourites...

read more