‚But it was to the rugs that Tarrant’s eyes kept returning. They touched him with the same pleasurable melancholy as certain music, Les Préludes of Liszt, perhaps.‘
‚Tchaikowsky’s music swelled and faded. … The curtain swept down on Act I of Swan Lake.‘ [But Tarrant has arrived and Modesty does not stay for the rest of the ballet.]
In chapter 4 we learn that McWhirter knows his Gilbert and Sullivan, singing lines from ‚Is Life a Boon?‘ from Yeomen of the Guard when talking to Tarrant;s agent Grant.
‚I don’t get Sibelius meself,‘ Willie Garvin said quietly. ‚All noise and no tune. Now you take old Mozart. There was a kiddy who really knew how to write music with a bit of melody.‘
[But Modesty urges Willie to give Sibelius another try. Later Willie says he does not expect to become a Sibelius fan and adds,]
‚I get browned off with a bloke who makes me listen too ‚ard.‘
There was a pause, then a creamy-smooth announcer’s voice said: ‘And now, for all clean people … Music To Wash To.’
Her wide eyes filled with laughter. Still watching the box, she reached out and turned off the shower. The voice was Willie’s, one of the several he could produce perfectly when he cared to put aside his natural cockney. The next chords were from a full orchestra, the opening bars of Chopin’s Polonaise in A. But the fourth bar consisted of a perfectly-timed gurgle from an emptying bath.
Willie whistles Bert Kaempfert’s Swinging Safari, ‘an extraordinarily difficult melody to produce, and some part of Collier’s mind registered that it was being whistled beautifully.’
Later they put on a record of Jacques Loussier’s interpretation of Bach’s Fantaisie et Fugue in G Minor.
When Willie seduces Rita, he is appalled when she switches off Petula Clark singing Downtown.
Lucifer spends an hour in his room playing records of ‘pieces by Saint-Saëns and Pierné of which he never tired.’
A Taste for Death
Modesty Blaise sat in an armchair, the radiogram turned low, absently listening to the pianistics of Earl Hines in a running fight against drums and bass in Satin Doll.
The Impossible Virgin
[Modesty does gymnastic exercises to a Cole Porter selection. Meanwhile Willie expresses his dislike of ballet:]
He said, ‘Ah, now that’s the only sort of ballet I like watching, Princess. The jumping-about bit. With the rest of it, I always seem to laugh in the wrong places.’
She turned, smiled, pushed back a sweat-damp piece of hair and said, ‘I’m going to buy you a soul for your next birthday.’
He [Willie] went out, whistling a Chopin mazurka with remarkable accuracy.
The Silver Mistress
[Lady Janet has told the vicar that Willie can play the organ.]
“Play? That was at the orphanage, Jan. I never learnt any music, all I did was learn what notes to press for one ’ymn. Just one.”
“I know, but you told me it was a tune you could sing several different hymns to. What tune was it?”
“St Flavian. But—”
“How does it go, Willie?”
“Oh, blimey. Dee-dee-dah-dee-dah … With weary feet and saddened ’eart from toil and care we flee—”
“Just right for Mr. Peake’s congregation. I told him he’d have to find four hymns to fit whatever your tune was.”
[Modesty to Willie:] Why don’t you make yourself comfortable in the sitting room while you’re waiting? There’s a new Frank Zappa album on the stereo.
Willie smiled and shook his head. “If you don’t fancy exercise, there’s the best collection of jazz records in London, and a pretty good selection of classics.”
Last Day in Limbo
‘Let’s go in and listen to some music.’
Willie put a Sidney Bechet tape on the hi-fi, volume turned low, then took one of the big armchairs.
[Sir Gerald Tarrant, hiding in a wardrobe, recognizes Verdi’s La Forza del Destino overture.]
[At a carol-singing rehearsal:]
“Good evening, Miss Blaise. I just wanted to say how pleased we are to see you here with your guests.”
She smiled. “I bludgeoned them into it, Mr. Cranwell, just as you bludgeoned me when you called the other day.”
“Oh, come now. You were very easily persuaded, I’m glad to say.”
“That’s because I was counting on my friends. The truth is, I can’t reach either the high or the low notes, so I just have to mime all the time. So does Mr. Garvin.”
The Night of Morningstar
… they were alone in the carpark because they had left the concert during the interval, after the Beethoven piano concerto, being agreed beforehand that they preferred to miss the Mahler symphony and dine at a reasonable hour.
“I got one of those press-button phones, and the different numbers make different musical notes when you press ’em. You can play little tunes on ’em if you want. I mean, you press 951 and you got the first three notes of Three Blind Mice. I don’t know proper music but I can put any tune into do, re, mi, fa, easy. Tonic sulphur they call it, don’t ask me why.”