Please Mister Please

Thursday 13 March 2008

Tom Phillips, “Lesbia Waltz” Op.15 (1972). Andrew Ball, piano.
(2’13”, 1.34 MB, mp3)

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Thursday 13 March 2008


This is probably as good a time as any to lay off the Magic 693 posts for a while

Tuesday 11 March 2008

At last, Magic 6931278 has posted its final tally of the 500 Best Songs of All Time, as voted for by Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2006, You. The complete list can be downloaded in a convenient Microsoft Excel workbook.
Before doing so, take a little test and see if you can correctly rank the following ten songs on the list, from highest to lowest:
  • Bob Lind, “Elusive Butterfly”
  • Sue Thompson, “Norman”
  • Gene Pitney, “Half Heaven – Half Heartache”
  • Pussycat, “Mississippi”
  • Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, “Young Girl”
  • Franciose [sic] Hardy, “Only You Can Do It”
  • Crash Craddock, “Boom Boom Baby”
  • Vicki Lawrence, “He Did With Me”
  • Ferrante & Teicher, “Exodus”
  • Elvis Presley, “Old Shep”

Visualising Music

Sunday 9 March 2008

This was going to be a simple post with a couple of fun links to cool music with groovy visuals to help pass some time, but then I remembered an unanswered question by Jodru on that post about new music concerts I mentioned before:

Okay, picture this:
You are performing “Pictures at an Exhibition” and you project Hartmann’s original drawings while you perform.
You are performing some of Virgil Thomson’s musical portraits and you project an image of the subject above the stage.
You are performing Cornelius Cardew’s ‘Treatise’ and you project the score above the stage.
Are you guys certain that these are not sure-fire ways to increase your audience’s comfort level?

Those first two examples: still pictures, as backdrop? Maybe. Projecting the score to Treatise while it’s played? No. It may increase the audience’s comfort level, but it undermines the purpose of playing the music in the first place.
If you exhibit the score to Treatise while it’s played, why not do this for every piece played? A conventionally-notated score is equally illegible to non-musicians; Treatise‘s score is just cunningly designed to be illegible to musicians as well. Is it because Treatise‘s score is a beautiful object in its own right? Then the score is made to justify the music, when it should be the other way around. George Crumb’s music is equally beautiful on the page, but exhibiting the manuscripts during the concert would distract the audience from the music – surely Cardew’s music should be treated with the same respect.
An audience might feel more comfortable listening to Satie if the funny instructions were read out over the music, but they’ll be reacting more to the witticisms than the music.

So, after all that harrumphing, why am I now linking to these two neat little animations? Because they exist as works of analysis after the fact, not of aesthetic interpretation. Rainer Wehinger drew a “listening score” of György Ligeti’s electronic composition Artikulation nearly 20 years after it was made, using symbols to represent the recorded sounds. The snappily-named d21d34c55 has posted an animation on YouTube that syncs up the tape to the score, to show how music and image correspond.

The Rambler has posted a link to the pianist John Mark Harris’ website, which includes a fantastic page that combines a graphic representation of Iannis Xenakis’ punishing composition Evryali with Harris’ performance of the piece. The graph gives a clear demonstration of how Xenakis used aborescences to compose the piece.
Finally, just to complete the circle, d21d34c55 has another page on YouTube showing Xenakis’ 1978 work Mycenae Alpha, an electronic piece written on UPIC, a computer interface that translates images into sound. This time, the images came first, but were expressly created to produce music.

They Must Be Architects

Thursday 6 March 2008

Update! Alan Dempsey, one of the architects, has written in with a link to his informative team blog, which documents the history and progress of the Pavilion. Check the archives for the background on how the structure is designed and built.

Just around the corner from where I work there’s a strange construction going up in Bedford Square. At the moment, it resembles a temporary albeit stylish stage: the deck on the scaffold helps this impression. There were a few placards on the fencing explaining a little about the project, but not much too helpful. Some of the workers would occasionally stop and chat to curious passersby.
Its location in a square on the edge of a park suggests that it’s a piece of public sculpture, but its structure makes it look like architecture. A bit of googling of the names on the placard yielded this website, and it immediately becomes clear that it’s architecture.

First giveaway: the entire site is done in Flash, so the site is hard to read and navigate, overly fiddly, and impossible to quote whatever information the designers wanted to impart in the first place. Of course, plenty of art websites use too much (i.e. some) Flash, but they usually have some scraps of helpful information on them, or at least have a section in which they try to justify their existences. On this particular site, though, there is a complete lack of interest in explaining itself to the world. This is the second clue that this thing is about architecture.
According to the website, the construction is called either the DRL TEN Pavilion, the DRL.TEN Pavilion, or the AADRL TEN Pavilion, depending on which part of the screen you click. TEN may or may not be capitalised. There is no evident explanation as to what an AADRL is, nor of what if any function the Pavilion has. There seems to be an exhibition connected to the Pavilion, which has already opened, but there’s no information on what it’s about or where it is.

The Pavilion itself is announced as opening on 13 March. Judging from the state of the worksite it’s going to be a close thing.

Please Mister Please

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Kenneth Gaburo, “The Wasting of Lucrecetzia (Exit Music No.1)” (1965).
(3’48”, 3.75 MB, mp3)

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

HA HA! You're in Bedford.

A bit of shush

Tuesday 4 March 2008

Before I was interrupted, I was going to say something about the Elliott Sharp/Christian Marclay gig at the Luminaire a few weeks back. (Condensed review: it taught me that I don’t like Elliott Sharp.) Also a few weeks back, Jodru at ANABlog offered some sure-fire ways to build a healthy, regular audience for your new music gigs. A brief discussion ensued in the comments until I started thinking about VJs and the Red Mist descended; then the real world intervened and by the time I got back into the argument the thread had gone cold:

Really, what’s needed is a range of different experiences on offer, as you suggest. Noisy gigs where you can chat with your mates at the same time, “rigorous” listening-intense concerts, six-hour meditative events…

I hadn’t been to the Luminaire before, so when I came in I saw your typical “noisy gig” venue, complete with a packed bar along the back wall of the band room serving strong drink in plastic cups. Yet dotted around the walls were signs telling the punters to shut up and pay attention to the music. I don’t know if these are permanent fixtures, or if they were put up at the talent’s behest just for the night. Either way it was an incongruous sight; or rather it would have been if anybody paid any attention to the signs at all.

Personally, I neither minded that the crowd carried on, nor did I expect them to behave otherwise. This was simply the wrong sort of room for a “rigorous” gig, and the printed signs trying to impose a concert-hall atmosphere seemed like a misbegotten, foolhardy gesture.

At least two reasons why Jane Siberry has been frolicking in the surf of the oceans of madness all these years

Sunday 2 March 2008

I’d heard about Carl Wilson’s book Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, the latest in the “33 1/3” series of monographs about rock albums, in which he explores his “guilty displeasure” in loathing Céline Dion; but I must thank Dial “M” for Musicology for posting a brief meditation on the power of schmaltz, which pointed me to these quotes from Wilson’s book:

Early in the book, after a concise history of schmaltz (which he defines elegantly as “an unprivate portrait of how private feeling is currently conceived”), Wilson turns the notion back on its critics. “You could say that punk rock,” he writes, “is anger’s schmaltz.”

Countdown to Eurovision: the first battle is won

Saturday 1 March 2008

Dustin the Turkey has won the vote to become Ireland’s entry for the 2008 Eurovision Song Contest. Thus ensuring that they won’t, at least, come behind the United Kingdom this year.

Swings Like a Pendulum Do

Thursday 28 February 2008

Late Monday night the house swayed a little the way it does when a heavy truck rumbles past; only this time the peak vibration didn’t quickly pass. The house rocked up and down a little for five or ten seconds then stopped. I thought, “That was an earthquake, that was” (I’m getting down with the native speech patterns now) and went to bed….
Only to emerge from my house the next morning and witness TOTAL CARNAGE.

The Evening Standard, which is published three times in a day, pulled out all the hyperbolic stops. EARTHQUAKE HITS LONDON, it bawled, arrogantly trying to claim for the capital a geological event which actually happened in Lincolnshire! … It used the same agency photographs that were used around the world (none of them taken in London): a hole in a roof in Barnsley where a chimney pot had fallen through (I saw this on the front page of, I think, the Mail today); a woman in her dressing gown (“surveying the damage”, which mainly involved her standing on her own undamaged doorstep); some more chimney pots; and, er, that’s it.

But the best, most distinctly British reaction I’ve seen to the event has been this rather sheepish article, and the readers’ comments that follow it (“may I mention my bad cold in this context?”). I’ve been trying to discover what are the good bits of my British heritage to embrace. Part of this involves working out the fine distinction in nuance between Australian apathy and British cynicism, as seen on display in the linked article above:

When the bed shaking woke me up on Tuesday night I thought my boyfriend was in the throws [sic] of some kind of fit. Although having said that my concern did not extend to turning all the way over to check he wasn’t swallowing his tongue or anything so maybe on some level I just knew! I did however ask him if he was alright so I feel I can safely say I would have absolved myself of any guilt in the unlikely event of his death.

The former seems born of nihilism while the latter is of disillusionment. I am hoping my dual citizenship entitles me to both.

Please Mister Please

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Free Kitten, “Teenie Weenie Boppie” (1997).
(3’03”, 2.76 MB, mp3)

By “next week” I meant of course “next next week”

Wednesday 27 February 2008

I’ve finally moved properly into the new house, found my computer, found the computer’s power cable, gotten back online, gotten cut off, remembered to pay the broadband bill, and gotten back online again. Mind you, I also slipped out of town for a long weekend in Barcelona, so it’s not like I’ve been working. Barcelona’s a great city, but it has a dark side. Most particularly, every now and then I would come across a poster advertising an upcoming masterclass. By Craig David.
If life were an early ’70s sci-fi movie, you could destroy the evil supercomputer that had taken over the world by going up to it, showing this poster and saying “Craig David Masterclass”, then running for cover while it shouted “Er-ror! Er-ror! Does Not Com-Pute!” and self-destructed in an enormous, sparkly explosion. I figured this must be some mistake in translation, so I just googled for it:

The main purpose of the Masterclass in Space Movistar is getting artist and audience closer than ever, not only for fitness but also spiritually, as Craig David will answer questions from fans and explain what have been the sources of inspiration his best-known songs as “Walking Away” or his new single “Hot Stuff.”

I expect the source of inspiration for that first song was something to do with him walking away, yeah oh, to find a better day. Here’s hoping he does a masterclass in a country where the audience speaks English as its first language.

The mummified corpse of Jeremy Bentham reads inter-office emails.

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Ciao bella hguglaglhrgahuguggglblblb

Wharariki Beach, 18 November 2007

Thursday 14 February 2008

I’ve been packing all week, and because I screwed up my order matching reference code (not heard of it? neither has Google) the next post won’t come until some time later next week, I expect. Have fun without me.