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Category archive: Music

Sunday February 18 2018

I am not well, so blogging here today will be perfunctory:


See what I mean.  Photoed by me at Tottenham Court Road Tube Station, last Thursday.

Investigate this further, if you want to.

I’m off to an early bed.

Wednesday January 24 2018

Melissa Chen:

I like my music like I like my liberalism: Classical

I’ve had more nearly fifty years to think of that.  Why didn’t I?  Probably because, although the music I mostly like is classical, I also like other musics, so this doesn’t really apply to me.  But, very nicely put.

Monday January 15 2018

So today I was up to my neck doing other things.  Well no not really, I just forgot about doing this, until it was bed time.  So, here are some photos of people photoing a man playing a tuba with flames coming out of it:


Photoed by me, under Blackfriars Bridge (the one with a railway station on it), earlier this month.

I do not know why the man in the red and white hat was holding a bit of silver paper.  Something to do with food he had been eating?

This man is regularly seen playing his flaming tuba, all over London.  I myself saw him playing outside Embankment tube, not so long ago.  Also being worshipped by photoers.

Thursday December 07 2017



Opened in 2013.  Still very much open 2017:


Photos by me this afternoon, in St Albans.  Thanks to Darren and family for the hospitality.

LATER: Another blast from the past:


I remember liking that one a lot.

Tuesday November 28 2017

imageA while back, Instapundit linked to this piece, about some kind of Digital Guru.  The Digital Guruing sounded fairly average.  Far more interesting was that the Digital Guru played the bass flute.  And that there was a picture of him doing this.

I used to play the flute.  Basically because it was easier than any other instrument.  But when I discovered the gramophone, which is even easier, I pretty much gave up.  Certain flute pieces still traumatise me when I hear them.

A bass flute presumably sounds like a man blowing across the tops of a of a big crowd of bottles filled with varying levels of water.  Really well.  Or perhaps a conductor pointing at a big crowd of separate bottle blowers, each assigned to just one bottle.  So, progress.

The Cor Anglais, which is a bass oboe, was invented soon enough to feature in quite a lot of orchestral pieces.  The bass flute would have been a great idea, a hundred years ago.  I wonder what stopped it catching on when it might have got somewhere.

Once you know that something is a thing, with words attached to describe it, you can then google it, and waste several more hours of your life, investigating it further.  But, you have to learn about it first.  Or maybe just invent it, and then wonder if anyone else has.

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 classical CD purchases:


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?

Liking the sound that it makes
Dust – music – batteries – dust
Happy Halloween
Union Jacks having fun
John Croft: Composition is not research
Harley Davidson - woman playing gramophone records
I want to write more here about music
The sexiest statue in London?
Van Morrison
Early thoughts on the Rugby World Cup
Sorry!  No Photo’s!
A posh white van and a not so posh white van
Made-up London detectives in real London places
Big cat advert
Postrel goes for Gray
BrianMicklethwaitDotCom musical quote of the day
Cat photo and cat news
Something at Samizdata
A Sunday ramble
The colour of sound - I now get this because I just experienced it!
Bits of music at non-musical blogs
Quota crane and quota plane
David Byrne on the constraints of artistic form
Music classified
Sidwell (and me) on selfies
There’s a Communist in the White House
Friday link dump
A potential challenger for Gary Not-Obama
From a strange airplane propeller to the strange strings of a double bass
Alex Ross on Hollywood film scores
Questions concerning the death of copyright protection on downloaded MP3s
An after-echo of the creation of the world - Burgon recycles Milhaud
In other news …
God is killing cinemas!
Alex Ross on Sibelius
On Bernstein – and Previn
Dream magic that spoilt the magic
“… the idea is to remain ignorant of how dumb you look …”
Nigel Kennedy’s amazing Elgar
Cisco – fuck off and die
Me talking about the great twentieth century musical divide
Here it is Merry Christmas
A talk and a photo
A John Lewis cat and a John Lewis DAB radio
Lebrecht daily?
He likes it - but does he understand it?
iPods as the new CDs
The future of music
Other people’s photos (2): New architecture in Hamburg
Back to the future with the virtuoso violinists
Me and Alex talking Gilbert and Sullivan
What next for the virtuoso violinists? - Simon Hewitt Jones has some answers
More G&S - and some strange Times errors
USB rubberized roll-up piano
The Pirates opens in New York
Billion Monkeys photograph things!
The world now needs bad taste iPod docks
Pro-am music video
Singing Frenchmen in stripey T-shirts
Alex is too busy - Sting records Dowland songs
Debussy denounces Massenet but Puccini follows him
What it was only better
I don’t know the score
Thoughts after watching Abbado’s Lucerne Resurrection Symphony
Gay marriage
SOS from the 606