Brian Micklethwait's Blog

In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Category archive: Music

Tuesday August 26 2014

I’ve started reading Virginia Postrel’s The Future and Its Enemies, years after everyone else who has read it.  I haven’t got very far yet, but I am delighted to discover that one of the Enemies that Postrel takes several cracks at is John Gray, that being a link to a crack that I took at Gray at Samizdata a while back.

And I see that Postrel, like me, does not confine herself to analysing and criticising Gray’s arguments, but notes also the cheapness of the tricks that Gray often uses to present his arguments.

What disguises the trickery, at least in the eyes of Gray and his followers, is the air of profundity that is regarded as being attached to the process of foreseeing doom and disaster.  In truth, incoherent pessimism is no more profound than incoherent optimism, which is to say, not profound at all.

Says Postrel (p. 9):

Although they represent a minority position, reactionary ideas have tremendous cultural vitality.  Reactionaries speak directly to the most salient aspects of contemporary life: technological change, commercial fluidity, biological transformation, changing social roles, cultural mixing, international trade, and instant communication.  They see these changes as critically important, and, as the old Natinoal Review motto had it, they are determined to “stand athwart history, yelling, ‘Stop!’” Merely by acknowledging the dynamism of contemporary life, reactionaries win points for insight.  And in the eyes of more conventional thinkers, denouncing change makes them seem wise.

Seem.  Amen.  I’m still proud of this in my piece about Gray, which makes that same point about the seeming wisdom of being a grump rather than a booster:

He trades relentlessly on that shallowest of aesthetic clichés, that misery is more artistic than happiness, that any old rubbish with a sad ending is artistically superior to anything with a happy ending no matter how brilliantly done, that music in a minor key is automatically more significant than anything in C major.

There are plenty more Gray references in Postrel’s book, if the Index is anything to go by and it surely is.  My immediate future is bright.

Saturday August 23 2014

Perry de Havilland:

Is not socialism truly stranger than a chorus of singing penguins?

LOL.  I really did.

Just to add, as a memo to self, I have another musical-stroke-Venezuela blog posting to do at Samizdata, concerning something said by a BBC4 TV presenter at a Prom, following a performance of Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony by Gustavo Dudamel and his Venezuelan orchestra, about what a wonderful vision it was of the world for one bloke to be telling everyone else what to do.  I have the exact words (in addition to Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony) recorded, and I must dig them out.  They were truly spectacular, as in: spectacularly stupid.

The BBC worships all things Venezuelan, but has gone rather quieter about that now.

Friday August 01 2014

Trawling through the archives this evening, I came across this fine feline:

image

Photoed by me, in Battersea, about two months ago.

In other cat news, pet cats in Vietnam are being stolen and sold to restaurants.  And not because the restaurants want cats for their customers to mingle with.  Oh no.  This is Vietnam, not Paris.

Back here in evil Britain, hundreds of black cats are being abandoned by their owners because, according to the Daily Mail, these black cats don’t look good in SELFIES (their capital letters):

Today the RSPCA announced a rise in the number of black cats being abandoned by their owners, and attributed it to them not photographing well.

A spokesman for the animal welfare charity said that more than 70 per cent of the 1,000 cats in its care were black, and blamed the trend for people taking pictures of themselves with their phones.

He said: ‘There are a number of reasons for us having so many black cats, including the fact that black animals tend not to photograph as well as other cats with more distinctive markings.

Other cats are also easier to tell apart, he said.

The spokesman added: ‘There is a national problem with rehoming cats of this colour.

‘We really are puzzled as to why this still happens but we would urge people to never judge a cat by its colour and look at its personality instead.’

This story is everywhere.  I sense hostility towards digital photography, and in particular towards the evil practice of taking photos of yourself, an evil practice which now has its own word.

However, a selfie is when you take a photo of yourself.  Owners are including themselves in their cat photos on incidentally.  Often only the cat is in the picture.  These photos are not being taken by cats, so they are not selfies.

Cats don’t take photos of themselves.  If they had been caught doing this, on video for instance, I would definitely have learned about it and passed the news on to you people.  All that is actually going on here is that black cat owners are finding it hard to photo their black cats and are consequently abandoning their black cats, and obtaining other cats, more like the one in my picture above, that are easier to photo.  That’s a wicked enough story as it is, without misreporting it and put your mistake in capital letters.  Socks, Daily Mail.  Pull yours up.

Next up, an Italian shooting champion is on trial for using live cats as target practice.  I sense hostility towards shooting champions, but it may just be towards Italians.

Finally, Cats is being revived, in the Millenium Centre, Cardiff:

The highlight of the evening was the singing which included lots of harmonies ...

Which is what you want.  What with Cats being a musical show, consisting mostly of people dressed as cats, singing, and trying to be harmonious about it.

Rachel Howells continues:

Cats is at the Wales Millennium Centre until Saturday 9th August and includes many matinee showings so you have no excuses not to miss it.

Once again, we see the mainstream media getting their facts in a twist, this time because of faulty grammar.  No excuses not to miss it?  It would appear that, at least when it comes to their online content, the writing and/or editing at the South Wales Argus has gone to the dogs.

Wednesday July 30 2014

Nothing from me here today, but something at Samizdata (which makes a change), in the form of a remarkable song lyric from the 1920s by Cole Porter.  Pure libertarianism.  They maybe did not have the word back then (I don’t know), but they certainly had the thing itself:

Live and let live, and remember this line:
Your business is your business,
And my business is mine.

Indeed.

Sunday July 27 2014

I just heard someone say in an American TV sitcom (I love American TV sitcoms) that they’re not going to answer the phone without knowing who it is, “like it’s 1994”.

I still do this, with my old 1994 style phone, which I greatly prefer to mobiles, because when I am out and about, I don’t have to answer it, and because phones connected to your house with wire cannot be lost, and because I know exactly where it is when it rings, and because that ring never changes.

Quite often, when I do answer, it’s a junk phone call, offering to extricate me from a financial error that I personally have not made by urging me to commit another financial error, and as soon as I realise it’s junk, I put the phone down.  Does this constitute some sort of “success” for the junk phoning enterprise?  Look, they answered!  Because obviously they knew who we were, this not being 1994, and yet still they picked up the phone!  Hey, we’re getting through!

Much of life these days seems to consist of doing many futile things, but contriving for these things the appearance of non-futility.  These days?  I suspect all days that have ever been, with humans involved, and no doubt many other species also, both before and now during the human epoch.  Only the futile things and the means of contriving a non-futile appearance for them change from time to time.

I don’t mind junk phone calls.  If they were more frequent, they would annoy me.  As it is, if there is a pause in incoming phone calls lasting a few hours, it is soothing to be informed, even if only by a robot actor voice spouting nonsense, that my phone is still working.  The pause was because nobody wanted to talk to me.

When answering junk phone calls, I pause any music that may be playing.  I do not mind this.  There is a part of my brain (yours too?) where you remember the musical phrase you were listening to when you last paused the music, and when you unpause it you carry on listening just as you would have done normally.  I even suspect that pausing deepens my response to particular pieces of music, by fixing particular moments of them in my brain more firmly than might have happened otherwise.

Since I am now rambling like the really old person that I am rapidly becoming, let me ramble some more.  In connection with none of the above, here are the wheels of a big mobile crane that I photoed in Victoria Street a while back.  Click on it to get the crane:

image

I like cranes.  That one is, I think, the Spierings SK599-AT5.  I love how you can find out about things like this, these days.  And this time it really is these days, rather than all days. 

Here is a link to a toy version of this crane.  Do contractors use toys like this to plan their jobs, I wonder?  As well as just to decorate their offices or amuse their spoilt children?

It is now late morning on Sunday.  Are sermons like this, when the priest is getting old, but is too well liked for anyone to want to sack him?  With a blog you can ramble anyway, because nobody can sack you.

Sunday June 29 2014

Every once in a while I hear or read about someone who sees sound, as colour, different sorts of sounds as different colours.  (As you can tell from the links at the bottom of this, I just did this again, on purpose.) What the hell are these people talking about?  You don’t see sound, you hear it.

But, I have learned enough of the contrasting natures and nervous systems of different people to know that claims of this sort are probably true, in the sense that this is indeed what it feels like to those making such claims, even if the claims made no sense whatever to me.  (Here is another piece by me, about how different people differ, this time with respect to the notion that you (i.e. they) can decide what you (they) believe.  To me, what you believe is what you actually do believe, and you can no more change it with a mere decision than you can decide to grow another foot.  But other people clearly can change what they believe, in just this cavalier fashion.  What they actually, deep down, think is true doesn’t seem to matter to them.  To me: bewildering and bizarre.  To them: obvious and commonplace.)

So anyway, back to those bizarre and bewildering people who see sounds, different sounds as different colours.

I now understand these people much better.

Because, yesterday morning, for a fleeting instant, it happened to me.

Immediately after it happened, I hastily bashed some notes into a computer file describing what I had just experienced, and that is the file that I am now typing further and more considered thoughts into now.

What happened was that I awoke, to the sound of my alarm clock.  This alarm clock makes a high pitched beeping noise: beep, pause, beep, pause, beep, pause ...

And, I experienced this sound as ... white.

That is correct.  I saw the sound.  And the sound was just as white as the background colour of the file into which I am now typing, or the background colour of this blog posting as you are now looking at it. 

I never experience sounds a colours when fully conscious.  But it makes perfect sense to me that experiences I may only have during the weird moment when I am neither entirely awake nor entirely asleep, but am moving from the latter state to the former state, might be experiences that others may have much more frequently, even when fully awake.  Or, fully awake by their standards.

Yesterday morning, for that fleeting, bleeping instant, some sort of weird connection was being made between my ears and the bit of brain where colours get processed and reflected upon, a place where all incoming messages are interpreted as colours no matter what they were originally, a connection that doesn’t normally occur, or perhaps which continues to occur when I am fully awake, but so weakly compared to the connections made between my ears and and the sound processing part of my brain as to be undetectable.

All I have to believe, about those strange people who see sounds as colours all the time, is that they experience what I very briefly experienced yesterday morning, but much more strongly than I did and do.  This is not now hard for me to imagine, not hard at all.

A very quick skim-read of this wikipedia article about chromesthesia (which is the particular sort of synesthesia that turns sound into colour, as opposed to just something into something else) did to tell me that chromosthesia can happen particularly when you are waking up, but that could be wrong.

However, I did spot (at the other end of the chromesthesia link above) this:

However, all studies to date have reported that synesthetes and non-synesthetes alike match high pitched sounds to lighter or brighter colors and low pitched sounds to darker tones, indicating that there may be some common mechanism that underlies the associations present in normal adult brains.

So, I am not alone in associating a high pitched bleep with a very light colour, in my case the lightest colour of the lot. 

Friday January 31 2014

I have my favourite bloggers.  Mick Hartley, 6k and David Thompson being my most regular visitees.  Two of these three (see those two links) often put up clips of their favourite bits of music, which I pretty much always ignore.  Often, when confronted by other people’s favourite musical snippets, I already have music playing, on my separate music box which is nothing to do with my computer and which therefore works when I most need it, which is when my computer is not working.

I tend not to do stick up bits of my favourite sort of music, which is classical.  Partly I’m lazy and am not very clever about putting up Youtube clips here.  But I could put up lots of links (one follows below) to classical stuff.  But, I tend not to.  There are enough reasons for people to strike this blog off their weekly-read list or whatever, without me putting them off even more with bits of classical music.

Now, first off, I have no problem with bloggers posting whatever they like.  Their gaff their rules.  I put whatever I like (as in like to put) here, and they can put whatever they like to put at their places.  But, am I the only one who almost always ignores music at other people’s blogs?  Most of us like lots of random bits of pop music, old and new.  In my case, there’s also a ton of classical classics I like a lot, and others also have their favourite genres that they know all about, adore some of and like a huge proportion of. 

I mention this because, entirely for my own selfish reasons, I particularly want to be able to remind myself of this clip of someone called Yulianna Avdeeva playing Chopin, particularly well to my ear.  And maybe that’s it.  Bloggers use their blogs as personal filing cabinets, just as I do.  They put up bits of music because they want always to be able to get hold of that bit quickly, and now they know they can.  The readers can just wait for the next posting, and pick up where they left off.  (That link, by the way, is to a bit of classical music at a blog that specialises in classical music.  Quite often I do play the clips she features, because her kind of music is my kind of music.  What I’m on about here is musical clips at blogs which are mostly about non-musical things.)

I think another point being made with these bits of music is the point I make with my occasional Friday cat blogging, which is that a lot of the appeal of blogging in particular and life in general is pure enjoyment.  And music, perhaps more than any other art, and especially when no words are involved or in the case of the more upbeat and silly pop tracks, is all about pure enjoyment.

By the way, when I started writing this, I thought that David Thompson also featured occasional pop snippets.  So I went looking for his latest pop snippet, but found that actually he does not do this, or not lately, hence no link to any music at his blog in the second sentence of this posting.  But I did find this talk, by Greg Lukianoff, about the growing menace of the I-Am-Offended industry on American campuses.  Quite long, but recommended.

SInce I started on this posting, Mick Hartley stuck up another pop clip.  Again, I have not listened, and probably won’t ever.

Monday January 06 2014

Taken on Christmas Day:

image

What I like about the crane is that, in this photo, it looks rather sinister, more like a tower in a Nazi prison camp in a war film than a regular crane.  It’s the barbed wire square, about half way up that does it, I think.  Plus, the slightly spooky light.  It doesn’t look like actual getting dark light.  It looks like getting dark light in a movie.  Blue instead of grey, in other words.  Cameras turn everything blue if given any opportunity, unless they are black and white and nothing else allowed cameras.

Of course, this effect would be greatly enhanced if the plane was not so obviously a very post-WW2 jet.  It should be a plane like the one in the opening credits of Where Eagles Dare, one of my most favourite movie sequences, because of the visuals and because of Ron Goodwin’s music.  In my opinion, nothing else in this movie is as good as this opening.

See also this earlier photo here, also of a big crane and a small plane.  I found out about this earlier posting when I tried to load the above photo with the name “Crane+Plane”, but was told that this photo title was already taken.

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
SwivelCam
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