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Category archive: Music

Thursday November 09 2017

I have started reading Music & Monarchy, by David Starkey and Katie Greening.  What the division of labour is between these two (Starkey is in larger letters thatn Greening on the front cover) I do not know, but it certainly starts very promisingly.  I have already encountered two passages worthy of prolonged recycling here, the one that starts the book (see below), and the bit that follows, about England’s profound medieval musicality.

So, to begin where Starkey and Greening begin, here is how the introduction of this book launches itself (pages 1-2):

Music or Words? Poetry and Drama? Or Anthems, Opera and Oratorio? Which, to personalise and particularise, is the more important in British history and to the British monarchy: the anniversary of Shakespeare or the centenary of Handel? The question almost seems absurd. Nowadays there is no doubt that Shakespeare wins every time. Shakespeare’s cycle of history plays, famously described by another maker of history, John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, as ‘the only history I ever read’, still shapes the popular understanding of English history and its murderous dynastic rivalries; while in their nobler moments the plays (re-)invent the idea of England herself before going on to adumbrate a larger, mistier vision of Britain:

This royal throne of kings, this scepter’d isle,
This earth of majesty, this sea of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-Paradise ...
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea ...
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings ...
This land of such dear souls, this dear, dear land.

Who could resist that? George III (1760-1820) for one, who confided to Fanny Burney: ‘Was there ever such stuff as a great part of Shakespeare? Only one must not say so!’ The eighteenth century more or less agreed with its longest reigning king. The bicentenary of Shakespeare, celebrated five years late in 1769, was a provincial pageant, which, despite the best efforts of the actor-manager David Garrick, made little impact outside the Bard’s birthplace of Stratford-upon-Avon and, thanks to torrential rain, was literally a washout even there. On the other hand, the centenary of Handel’s birth (celebrated a year early by mistake in 1784) was a grand national event the like of which had never been seen before: not for the greatest general, politician or king, let alone for a mere musician.  Fashionable London fought (and queued) for tickets; Westminster Abbey was crammed and ladies were instructed not to wear excessive hoops in their dresses while hats were absolutely forbidden. Even then, demand was unsatisfied and two of the events had to be rerun.

Thursday June 29 2017

June 30th (i.e. tomorrow): Barry Macleod-Cullinane is a Conservative local councillor, and as a libertarian of long standing he is perfectly qualified to speak about “Townhall Libertarianism”. 

July 28th: Leandro d’Vintmus is a Brazilian, and a musician.  And also interested in how political and psychological libertarianism interact and reinforce each other.  Very different from the usual sort of Brian’s Last Friday, and all the better for it.

Aug 25th: Nico Metten will speak about “Libertarian Foreign Policy”.  Nico is your classic unswerving libertarian, except that he talks rather quietly.  Insofar as, in this complex matter, there are distinctions to be made, subtleties to be teased out, hairs to be split, we can depend upon him to make them, tease them out, split them.

Sept 29th: Financial journalist Tom Burroughes (aka Samizdata’s Johnathan Pearce), financial journalist, will speak about the (in his (and in my) opinion) very bad idea of a “universal basic income”.

Oct 27th: Rob Fisher, who is a parent, will offer some reflections about that.

Also fixed: January 26th 2018: Tim Evans, Professor in Business and Political Economy at Middlesex University Business School, will speak about the business of higher education, which is one of Britain’s most significant export industries.  We libertarians are used to complaining about higher education for the bad ideas that if all too often spreads.  But what about the economics of the higher education business?

Plenty of food for thought, I think you will agree.

Tuesday May 02 2017

Speculation: every lover of music has a particular style of music-making that he likes so much that he even likes it when it is done rather badly.  He likes, that is to say, not only this particular sort of music, but also the mere sound that it makes.  The Sound That It Makes music is, by definition, a kind of music that only you and a few like-minded freaks like.  All it takes is an efficient market and suppliers of such music will bid down the prices of it, and thanks to amazon, that efficient market now now exists.  There are bargains to be had, and I do like a bargain.

Here are my last dozen amazon.co.uk classical CD purchases:

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Click on any of these if you want to take my word for it that this is nice music, but really, that isn’t my point here.

These CDs almost all fall into two very clear and distinct categories.  1.1, 1.3, 2.1, 2.3, and 4.2 are all of music by famous, front-rank composers, namely: Mozart, Liszt, Rachmaninov, and Beethoven.  Big names.  Top music.  The sort of music that all lovers of classical music tend to admire.

But, 1.2, 2.2, 3.1, 3.2, 3.3 and 4.3 are CDs of music by much less well known composers.  Louise Farrenc, Ludwig Thuille, Ferdinand Ries, Franz Limmer (a completely new name to me), Hummel (the least unknown of his lower division bunch), George Onslow, Franz Danzi, and Florent Schmitt.  The first names are included because these guys are not so well known.

4.1 is a box of recordings by Martha Argerich and friends, at the Lugano Festival of 2015.  Three separate CDs, of chamber works, some by big names like Brahms and Beethoven, Schumann and Schubert, and others by somewhat lesser personages, including Ferdinand Ries.  (RIes was a close friend of Beethoven.)

But what all of these CDs have in common is that they feature the piano, and in all but one instance, other instruments, mostly in quite small numers.  The outliers are the solo piano disc of Liszt, and the concerto discs by Mozart, and by Mozart and Rachmaninov.  But even Mozart piano concertos are famous for having what critics call a chamber music “feel” to them, with important parts for woodwind soloists, who often dialogue as equals with the piano soloist.

This, then, is my favourite musical style.  Piano, and a few other instruments.  There is no other musical styles where I buy bargain performances of pieces by composers where the only thing I know about them is when they lived.  Do the critics not rate the composers?  Do they think the performances are lousy?  Don’t care.  This is my kind of music.

When I was a kid, I played the flute, and the most fun I had doing that was when me and my siblings played together.  My two older brothers both played the piano and my sister played the oboe, all very well and better than I played the flute.  Was this what got me started with this sort of music?  Is this why I love it so much.  Maybe.  Don’t know for sure.

What is you favourite sort of music?  Remember my definition.  You love the music.  But even if the music is rather mediocre, you love the sound that it makes.

By the way, yes, that is a swan in the bottom right hand corner of the cover of 1.3.  But this is part of why this CD was so very cheap.  All over the world, tasteful classical music fans said to themselves: yes, this is quite good playing, but I can’t have a CD with a swan like that on the cover.  And nor can I own a CD which, on the back, quotes the pianist saying:

“I was always aware that my first recording had to be a portrait of Lizst.  Only he would enable me to present as a unity the many aspects of my soul.”

Me?  I just think that’s funny.  And Khatia Buniatishvili can really play, so who cares about the embarrassingness of her mere words?

Tuesday November 15 2016

A problem stated is often a problem solved.

Problem: There is too much dust in my home and I need to do lots of vacuuming.  Problem: But I like to listen to music, of the sort that can’t outgun a vacuum cleaner.  These two things don’t go together.  Solution: I don’t vacuum.  But, problem: I don’t vacuum.

Solution?  A device that I can be watching while vacuuming, to amuse myself and vacuum.  Answer?  Google glasses, to watch movies while vacuuming.  Too expensive.  Too stupid.

No.  Answer: Headphones and a portable music box in one of my pockets, while I vacuum.  Good.  Problem stated, problem solved.

I find a music box.  A small plasicated discus-like object that will perhaps be persuadable to play CDs.

But, it needs AA batteries.  I have an abundance of AAA batteries, but cannot immediately put my hands on any AA batteries.  I believe I have plenty of AA batteries, but the places where AA batteries are likely to be found are mostly all covered in thick layers of dust.

Ah, the twenty first century and its problems.  Well, at least the problem of sticking something up here every day however ridiculous is now solved, for today.

Monday October 31 2016

Indeed:

image

A shop in Victoria Street, ten days ago.

I’m going to a Bonfire Night thing next weekend.  But, not so many commercial opportunities in Bonfire Night.  So, at any rate in London, Halloween is on the up and up and Bonfire Night is fizzling out.  I can’t say I mourn its passing.  All those random bangs that will happen this week strike me as just annoying.  I prefer the Germanic fireworks we now have, to bring in the New Year, if only because they all explode at the exact same time.

Also, Halloween probably now makes more sense because of all the movies there have been on those kind of themes.  How many Guy Fawkes movies have their been lately?  Most Young People These Days have probably never heard of the Gunpowder Plot.

Music is in the category list because of all those miniature guitars in the shop window.  They aren’t Halloweeny.  They’re there all the time.

Wednesday October 12 2016

Indeed:

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Click at will, to get bigger, less square pictures.

Displayed in chronological order.  Taken between May 2011 and August 2014.  When I took that last one, of the bikini-wearing bottle openers, that got me collecting all the others.  That last one is definitely the one where the Union Jacks are having the most fun.

Saturday September 24 2016

I’m listening to chitchat on Radio Three about the origins of Radio Three’s previous and original manifestation, the Third Programme.

They’ve just mentioned an article by John Croft called Composition is not research.  I quickly found it on the www, and I want to hang on to it.

First paragraph:

There are, by and large, two kinds of composers in academia today – those who labour under the delusion that they are doing a kind of ‘research’, and those who recognise the absurdity of this idea, but who continue to supervise PhD students, make funding applications, and document their activities as if it were true. Composing, of course, might on occasion depend on research – how do I make an orchestra sound like a bell? How do I electronically sustain a note from an instrument so that it doesn’t sound mechanical? What is the best way to notate microtones or complex rhythms so that they can be accurately played? But none of these is actually the composition of music. Rameau’s harmonic theory was research, and it surely influenced his music (and music in general), but the Traité de l’harmonie is not a musical composition. The development of the pianoforte involved research and influenced music in profound ways, but it was not composing.

I have not read this essay yet.  But the point of this posting is not to say what I think of it, merely to make sure that I do read it.

I have long been interested in the rather misleading idea of musical “progress”.  This seems like it will be closely related to that idea.  Another related idea: music is not science, and new music does not replace old music.  But, I shall see.

Thursday September 22 2016

Continuing with snaps taken ten years ago, in Quimper and nearby spots, the French love their Harley Davidsons.  Here is one:

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And moment later, I zeroed in on one of this particular Harley Davidson’s details, a lady wearing a yellow top and blue trousers, listening to music, with evident pleasure:

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It’s not the first time I have photoed a Harley Davidson in France.  I still recall this photosession fondly, which happened five years later.

Monday May 23 2016

I keep wanting to write about music, but (a) it isn’t easy, unless both you and your readers know all the technical terms of your preferred sort of music.  And (b) whereas words go fine with music, words about music, especially if they are attempting to be descriptive of a particular piece of music, can be devilishly hard to contrive in a way that is comprehensible without being banal and superficial and generalised.

A specialist blog or website devoted to a particular sort of music, with musical illustrations supplied to click on rather than only descriptive verbiage, whose writer(s) and readers are united by their taste in that particular sort of music, that makes perfect sense to me.  I don’t read any such blogs, but it makes sense.  I do read old school paper magazines (I see that there is a new one of those out that I’ve not yet seen) exactly like this. But a blog about other things which from time to time goes musical, not so much.  I have no problem at all with my favourite bloggers (6k and Mick Hartley spring to mind) doing postings every so often about music that they happen particularly to like.  Their gaffs, their rules.  But I mostly skip such postings.  I possess a lifetime and more of music in the form of a vast CD collection that I already want to listen to.

So, I do not wish myself merely to do postings about bits of music that I happen to like, hoping - implicitly or explicitly - that others will be infected with my tastes.  I love Western classical music more than life itself, often a lot more.  But most people don’t these days, and that’s fine with me.  If I thought that western classical music was about to be completely expunged from the earth any time soon, I might feel differently about trying to infect others with the love of it, but it isn’t.  Meanwhile, this music is, for me, mostly a personal thing.  It is not an evangelical religion.  If I meet a fellow devotee, we exchange enthusiastic exclamations of love for this or that piece or performance, but I mostly refrain from inflicting such True Believer talk on non-believers.

I am evangelical and anti-evangelical about some things.  If you are not a libertarian, I want that to change.  You should become a libertarian forthwith.  If you are a Muslim, I want you to know, now, that I think you should stop being a Muslim, now.  But if you hate Beethoven and adore hip-hop, that’s fine with me, so long as you have no plans forcibly to stop me listening to Beethoven or to force me to listen to hip-hop.  If you merely want me to adore hip-hop, or even to stop adoring Beethoven, again, fine.  Just so long as you don’t recommend the use of sticks or stones to make those points.  Insofar as you do, then shame on you. But exactly the same point applies to people who force Beethoven upon those who resist Beethoven’s charms.  I am evangelical about that sort of behaviour also.  Are you threatening others with Beethoven?  Stop doing that, now.  Do you favour such behaviour by others.  Don’t even think that.

However, more general postings about music (this one being an example) about the different ways we listen to it and enjoy it, how love of music spreads or should spread (that is what this posting has partly been about), about how those who contrive it contrive it, and so on, of the sort that all music lovers can read and tune into, even as they are hearing in their own heads quite distinct musical illustrations concerning whatever is being said, that makes more sense to me, and - memo to self - I want to do more of such postings here.

Thursday November 12 2015

Not to say the sexist-est.  Those Victorians often used to let their hair down in public.  It’s all around us, if only you are willing to look at it and see it.  It’s only a matter of time before the feminists start defacing such things, because they are already in a state of fluttering Victorian spinsterish hysteria about the sort of feelings expressed in this statue.

This statue is in honour of Sir Arthur Sullivan.  A while back, I and Alex Singleton did a recorded conversation about him, and about Gilbert of course.

So yes, In among yesterday’s picture archive rootling, I came across this amazing picture:

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That picture, like yesterday’s effort, was taken in 2010, by which time I was in the habit of photoing the bit on statues where it tells you what it is.  So I had no trouble learning more about this statue today.  The great thing about the internet is how you no longer have to do “research” when you write about something like this.  All that is required is a link, and all is explained, by somebody else.

And the somebody else at the other end of this link, “Metro Girl”, has this to say about this amazing statue:

Situated in the slimmer part of the gardens nearer to the north-eastern exit, it is located looking towards The Savoy Hotel. Sullivan and his frequent collaborator, dramatist WS Gilbert were closely linked to The Savoy Theatre, which was built by their producer Richard D’Oyly Carte in 1881 using profits from their shows. Gilbert and Sullivan’s last eight comic operas premiered at The Savoy Theatre, so it is only fitting that the Sullivan memorial is so nearby.

And, more to my particular point, this:

The monument features a weeping Muse of Music, who is so distraught her clothes are falling off as she leans against the pedestal. This topless Muse has led some art critics to describe the memorial as the sexiest statue in the capital.

Not knowing every sexy statue in the capital, I can’t be sure that this is indeed the sexiest.  But I’ve not seen anything to top it.

Wednesday November 04 2015

Indeed:

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For further information, go here, or here.

LATER: Van Beethoven.

Thursday September 24 2015

The platinum blonde woman who sings the introductory song sounds very unmusical and strangulated to me.  When she sings “A new age has begun”, it sounds like “Anewwayjazzbeegun”, with no breaks between words at all.  Very peculiar.  I now learn that I am not the only one to be unhappy about this singing.

My first observation of the actual rugby: lots of handling errors.  My impression is that the balls are bigger, fatter, lighter, bouncier, a bit like balloons.  So, when they hit your chest they don’t just stick there, they bounce off your chest and you’ve dropped it.

How good were Japan?  Yes, very good.  But.  But.  How bad were South Africa? Very, very bad.  There is a back story there, which the television commentators I am hearing seem extremely anxious not to discuss.  It’s all: the mighty Boks.  Apparently, they haven’t persuaded enough black men to play rugby, and racial quotas are deranging and demoralising them.  “Political football” etc.  Lawrence Dallaglio mentioned this stuff once, in passing, speaking of them “falling off tackles” (I think that was the phrase).  Of not really trying, in other words.  Other than that, nothing.  Japan got totally stuffed by Scotland yesterday, 45-10.  Okay, the Japanese hadn’t had much of a rest.  But even so, a bizarre result, unless Japan beating South Africa was at least as much because South Africa were bad as because Japan were good.  Scotland v South Africa might be … very interesting.

I really like London’s new Olympic Stadium.  Whenever I saw it before, it contained the 2012 Olympics, and I hate the Olympics so much that I couldn’t see how very nice the stadium is.  Now I can see this.  I think I now prefer the inside of the Olympic Stadium to the inside of New Wembley.  The only interesting thing about New Wemley is the big arch, seen from the outside.  That’s terrific.  One of London’s great new landmarks.  But the inside of New Wembley, which I have actually visited in person, is very dreary.  But maybe I was just in a bad mood, on account of it being football, and on account of this idiot jumping about in front of me whenever anything faintly interesting happened, so I had to either get up off my seat to see anything, or remain seated and in ignorance.

England look okay to me, but okay presumably won’t be enough to win.  But then again, most other teams seem only okay also.  Except the All Blacks of course.  How will they contrive to lose this tournament, I wonder?  They usually seem to find a way.  Last time around, they did win, but only by one point.

Friday August 14 2015

That’s not my punctuation.  That’s their punctuation:

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This is sort of a wedding photo, in the sense that I took it just before the wedding of Ayumi and Richard, last Saturday, just outside the Church, where there is a market.

There was nobody manning this particular stall, selling miniature pub signs.  And I have a rule about signs that say No Photos, or for that matter No Photo’s.  That rule is: I take a photo of all such signs that I encounter.  Their rule: No Photos.  My rule: Photo of their rule.

I’m guessing that what they mean by a photo is a carefully composed photo of just one of these signs, so I don’t believe that, in the unlikely event that they find out about me posting this photo here, they’ll care.  Besides which, maybe they have discovered that if they exhibit all their signs for sale, and stick “Sorry! No Photo’s!” in among them, they get free publicity from photographers like me.

I didn’t really compose the shot.  I just grabbed it, on my way into the wedding.  But I do like how it says “Queen Vic” and then “England”, right at the top.  And, top left: “London”.

This had to go up today, because as you can see, cats are involved.  And my rule about sometimes having stuff here about cats on Fridays has mutated in my head into a rule that says that I may only mention cats on Fridays, otherwise they’d overrun the entire blog.

Speaking of cats, I also recommend this video, which I found when I visited, after long absence, Norman Lebrecht’s site, this morning.

And see also: Fossils reveal felines drove 40 species of canines to extinction after arriving in North America.

And: An actual exhibition about cats and the internet, just opened in New York.

Wednesday June 10 2015

I continue to photo white vans.  The poshest white van so far is one I photoed today.  Here’s the basic photo:

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But, this being a posh enterprise, the graphics are a bit thin and polite, and my photo doesn’t help.  So here’s a close up what it is:

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And here are the services they offer.

Earlier in the day, I also photoed this white van, which also seemed rather posh:

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Again, for the same sorts of reasons, here’s a close-up of what it is:

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But, although “piano people” suggests people who play pianos, or at the very least tune them, all that these piano people do is move them from place to place, carefully.

There really are a lot of white vans out there.

Thursday April 16 2015

Around ten days ago, I took lots of rest (the medical term for sleeping) during the day, and then couldn’t sleep properly at night. Since then the lurgy has persisted and I haven’t really got back to sane hours.

In the meantime, what did not help - did not help at all - was the latest from Madame Harry Potter, who now, some of the time, goes by the name of Robert Galbraith.  I read the first Cormoran Strike tale when it came out, and a few days back I was awake all night reading number two.  It was daylight when I finished it.

One of the many things I like about Cormoran Strike is that he operates in London.  His lair is a flat on top of one of the shops in Denmark Street, which is London’s pop musical instrument street.

Here is a clutch of Denmark Street photos I took recently:

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Lots of amateurish reflections there, in among the occasional deliberate ones, but what the hell?  I am an amateur.  (Spot the selfie.)

That grey-blue front door (on the right of the picture bottom middle) is how I imagine/presume Strike’s front door to look.

Having kept up with all the Rebus books, I found it much more fun actually knowing a lot of the places haunted by The Detective.  And with this in mind, I have now started on this first crime novel by Tony Parsons.  All this searching has just told me that it is the first of three.  This is (these are) also set in London.  This morning I was reading about The Detective visiting something called Westminster Public Mortuary in Horseferry Road, which is a five minute walk away from where I live.  (The Tony Parsons detective is called DC “Max Wolfe”.  Why can’t fictional detectives ever be called something like Colin Snail or Brian Sludge or John Watson?)

“Robert Galbraith“‘s Cormoran Strike is a freelance, but Max Wolfe is regular police, so he often visits New Scotland Yard, which is not much further away from me than that Mortuary, another five minutes walk in the same direction.  Here is a photo I took of New Scotland Yard from the roof of my block, in 2006:

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London possesses roof clutter arrays that are denser and more voluminous, but none that I know of is more elegant.