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  • I began composing in earnest when I was about ten, when I wrote a song for piano called 'I Hear You Talking' ('I hear you talking, talking, talking, see you walking, walking, walking, hear you talking' ... you get the picture).

    Even earlier than that, I had shown an aptitude for improvisation. At age seven, during school orchestra practice the teacher, Mrs Solomon, left the room for a few minutes to deal with a child who had wet himself. I immediately broke formation, went and stood in front of the class, and with a startling degree of authority instructed them to play the particular section of the tune we'd been practicing to a new rhythm, which I confidently demonstrated on my tambourine.

    I made them practice it a few times and when I was happy everyone had got the hang of it, resumed my place between the triangle and the kettle drum. I felt rather pleased.

    Mrs Solomon reappeared, took up her baton, cleared her throat, and counted us in: 'One, two, three, four... '

    When everyone started playing something different from what we'd spent the past five weeks practising, she cut us off at once.

    'Stop!' she ordered, flapping her arms around like an agitated goose. She stared at us, dumbfounded. 'What on earth is going on? You're all playing it utterly wrong.'

    'No, Mrs Solomon', I piped up, 'we're playing it the right way now'.

    She reddened. 'Is this your doing, Jennifer?'

    'Yes, Mrs Solomon', I said proudly. 'It sounds a lot better now.'

    But Mrs Solomon was frowning. 'It's completely different from what you've all been taught'. She leaned in and glowered at me. 'I leave the room for two minutes and you cause chaos. You're a very naughty girl', and then, in a low and menacing tone: 'I'll be reporting this to Mr Hurrian.' She straightened up and in a louder voice, addressed the class: 'You will all go back to playing this piece the way I have taught you. No messing around. Is that understood?'

    'Yes, Mis-ses Sol-o-mon' the children chorused in that rhythmic, sing-song way that is customary for children of seven, and our immovable teacher counted us in: 'One, two, three, four...'

    And it was business as usual, the unfledged orchestra sounding once again like someone had scooped up an armful of random instruments and thrown them down the stairs.

    My creative vision thwarted, I resumed the innocuous, four-four tapping of my tambourine, zoned out, and daydreamed about the fairies living at the bottom of my garden.
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