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Wednesday, May 22

Chung Clang - a Sense of Closure

If you've never listened to "I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue" then I recommend that you do. It's one of the nation's finest comedy programmes. It has a very high gag-rate, and it is diverse and interesting in its series of games. With a good mix of spontaneous and prepared material, and a great chief write (programme consultant) Iain Pattinson, it's just a text book in how to be funny.

One my favourite aspects of the programme is the musical rounds they have. These rounds involve Colin Sell, a fine pianist who is relegated to a lowly status, but who is equally if not more talented than some of the cast. One game is "Just a minim", a spoof of "Just a minute" where the panelists have to sing a song without deviation, repetition or hesitation. This frequently involves the song stopping as the other panelists buzz in. At some point, usually before the song has reached a conclusion, the round ends.

Often, mid-song, the end is declared and Colin Sell, unbidden, and sometimes even against the flow of what the presenter is doing, will play two chords on the piano to end the song. This chung-clang sound, which is most probably the dominant chord of the key (the one which takes you back to the main chord that defines the key) followed by the key's tonic chord (the one which says which key you're in). You'll be familiar with this sort of ending as it's one of only a small number of endings that songs have if they come to a hard stop.

Why does Colin play an ending?

I think it's all about closure. Everyone needs the story to end. Just fizzling out isn't satisfying. We need an ending. In life, you don't always get one.

If you want real frustration, try putting the ending before the middle of a story.

If you want disquiet, have no ending.

I think it's a good idea to give people the chance of an actual ending. It occurred recently that someone who worked for me, on his last day with us, worked later than usual. His end date had been chosen arbitrarily. Why work late, if he's leaving? I gave him a choice. I said he could drift out, or he could get the grand finale - complete the last task in the list and leave having FINISHED.

I'm proud of the guy. He took the "finish everything" route. I think it's a good way to move on.

I'm faced with the same situation myself now. I have five and a half weeks left in this organisation and then I'm moving on. Do I end on a bang? on a whimper? on a high? on a massive disgrace? In short, what are the last notes of my song?

I'm going for chung clang. Definitely.

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