The Rambler :: blog

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Music in London: September 

Haven't got round to doing a monthly round-up of the contemporary music scene in London for a while, but since the concert season is starting up properly again, here are my recommendations, culled from the bumph that gets shoved through my door:

22nd September

The BMIC's annual and excellent Cutting Edge series returns. At the Warehouse, Theed Street, as usual, the series starts with the Continuum Ensemble playing works by mostly established British composers.

29th September

A week later, at the same venue, the Fidelio Trio perform works with a vaguely rock feel - Nyman's For John Peel for example, and some composerly arrangements of Led Zep and Beatles songs. Also on the program, Jonathan Harvey is usually excellent, and Sciarrino is someone I'm anxious to hear more of.

These are all very well – and I'll be returning to the Warehouse throughout the year – but the most remarkable concert is on 27th September when the famously conservative Wigmore Hall plays host to works for cello and piano by Pärt, Mansurian, Schnittke, Kancheli and Ali-Zadeh. You would probably hear me drool from where you're sitting if, typically, this wasn't the week I had booked to be out of the country. Bah! is not the word. Someone please go and tell me what this is like.

And there's still time to book for the South Bank's Xenakis spectacular from 7–9 October. You know you want to.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Links for the week 

Not much to add links-wise for this week, except for this Independent article on Górecki's Third Symphony;

Music for Maniacs links to a funky free download album of ripped 60s/70s vinyl featuring Moogs and breaks;

and Bookish Gardener has this week's Carnival of Music.

Oh, and a final postscript to the already-stale piano man story: apparently he was just a sad attention seeker.
He was not popular with his classmates and appears to have compensated by becoming an attention seeker. Articles and letters published in the school magazine, Chamäleon, attest to his obsession with notoriety.

He reported every triumph, no matter how small. "On December 6 my voice was heard for approximately 20 seconds on the Czech radio station Cesky Rozhlas 7," he boasted in one edition.
He was even jealous of the 'effortless fame' of Big Brother inhousemates.
It's suddenly the fashion to shove people inside a container, pull them out one after the other and then turn them into pop stars for a week.
Seems we were all duped. See also.

A small Ashes point 

Woo-hoo! and all that, of course, but I'm beginning to regret my earlier jibe at Brett Lee's expense - Australia's man of the series so far, not least for his batting. Hope that one doesn't bite back too much at the Oval...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Sussex conference 

Thoughts (more or less) as they came to me on the Friday night train from Brighton

Thursday a bit odd. Didn't really take off as a conference I think, until Ian Pace's paper, polemically contesting the current discourse surrounding new music (the primacy it gives to ill-defined things such as 'well-made' etc.) ('discourse' in true Foucauldian sense for once), and the negative impact Pace believes this to be having on composers. The paper that followed (Claire Taylor-Jay) added to my personal concerns - where Pace attacked the mechanics of a discourse that seeks (artificially?) to impose unity upon a work, Taylor-Jay hauled up Barthes and Foucault to attack the principle of finding a consistent voice and/or style in a composer's work. See, eg., Stravinsky. I was worried by this - even though I've read the same articles myself - because a secondary effect of my Penderecki work hints at a unity within a work received as disjunctive (St Luke Passion), and a career equally so. Ended the day deflated, ready to pull up my work these past three years by the roots. Felt as though I have been intellectually poisoning myself: the two Thursday papers just held up an abrupt mirror to my condition.

Friday better - tonic/fresh water shower/antidote. David Toop's keynote lecture excellent, for all that it reemphasised some of the same intellectual concerns for radicalism over conservatism, canonisation, comfort. I feel better disposed towards Ocean of Sound, and may reread. Wolff session first thing prepared the ground well. Philip Thomas' paper in this the best. Rounded off with a performance (in dead acoustic, with rattling air con, on uninspiring upright piano) of Bread and Roses. (Music!)

Toop, then, tackled many of the recent concerns and obsessions of this blog - quoting from a few of the same sources as I have too. Interfaces of musics, the role of classic/contemporary, Ivan Hewitt's rift, Martin Kettle's 'Classical Rock 'n' Roll' (also letters | more letters | blogged).

In response to a point made that Martin Creed was front page news with his Turner Prize work, but classical music was not, I asked a rather garbled question around the fact that music had such a moment, 50 years ago with 4' 33"; and indeed, many of the references to the sort of 'contemporary' music we all wanted to have a higher profile had been to works 40/50 years old. What, then, would Toop be looking to? In asking a question like this, I was once again dredging up my own fears of conservatism; calling Alvin Lucier old-fashioned in a question from the floor is one thing; but to go home and study the tonal-harmonic structure of a 40-year old religious choral work is quite another. How had I ended up here, an not studying Wolff (say) or new complexity, or anything more politically, socially and musically complex than an overblown Bach tribute? (Which St Luke is very much more than, but I raving for a moment.)

I talked with colleagues after this, about the disconnectivity between the sorts of music nerds who are interested in contemporary avant garde music. There are those of us at conferences like this: we study this stuff, and Stockhausen, Henry, Xenaks etc are impossible for us to approach without the historical narratives we have been brought up on. How can we listen to Stockhausen without at least acknowledging the (concert hall) process that aborned him through Webern, Schoenberg, Wagner, Brahms, Beethoven, Bach. He is a product of that narrative, and is incomprehensible to us - he does not exist - outside of it. But there is a second group of music nerds, who listen in large part to the same composers, the same pieces (although crucially not entirely the same) but for whom that narrative is meaningless, damaging, incorrect, and for whom it is necessary to conceive Stockhausen in terms of an entirely different set of musical-historial imperatives. To see the difference, just look at the relative importance of, say, Kraftwerk and Boulez to each group.

In defining 'our' brand of music geekery (Type 1) so precisely, it was no surprise to realise, therefore, that four papers that had had most impact so far (including a lecture-recital by cellist Neil Hyde) all came from outside the traditional academic subset: three performers and one performer-composer-journalist-writer polymath. My concern became not so much that my research might be invalid - my worries here are eternal, but silenceable - as that my outpourings and impulses here - more instinctive and therefore more fundamentally honest, perhaps - tend toward the reactonary and conservative ('damaging' in Pace's formulation). Odd to be worried about personal ephemera, but there you are. More about how I am shaping my intellectual outlook - poison to the mind again? Also, the fact that I often try to position myself between the two worlds of music nerdery mentioned, when maybe this is wrongheaded. There has to be a way of bridging the two, but perhaps distinct personae are what is needed.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Flowchart for determining when US copyrights in Fixed Works Expire 

I'm off to sunny Brighton in a mo', so how about spending some time this weekend figuring this out. Glad that makes things clear...

[via The Standing Room]

Of course, I won't blame you if you'd rather follow TSR's link to this great bass clarinet quartet's page and download a copy of their covers of the Knightrider theme, and Radiohead's 'Creep'. Nice.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bye bye blackboard .... 

This exhibition of blackboards at the Museum of the History of Science, Oxford, is pretty cool. From the introduction:
All these guest blackboards have been prepared in the early months of 2005. The result is an exhibition about science, art, celebrity and nostalgia.
Musicians featured: Joanna MacGregor lecturing on Bach's Goldberg Variations, and my favourite Brian Eno. Tony Benn's is worth a look too.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Links for the week 

Aside from those things I talked about yesterday, there aren't many links for this week. That doesn't mean I've not noticed this disturbing story from Utah [hat tip: beepSNORT, including this video link]. Reminds me of the 'good' old days of the Criminal Justice Bill, except enforced by the military. A heavy-handed approach to people dancing? No....

Rather than me, you should probably look to Rob Musicircus for your link fix: he's hosting this week's Carnival of Music.

N.B. I'm gonna be at this [programme] Thursday–Sunday, so expect a lot of dead air from me until I get back...

Monday, August 22, 2005

Robert Moog 

I was sad to hear on the radio this morning that Robert Moog has died after being diagnosed in April with brain cancer. As well as giving his name to one of the most popular and durable of all 20th-century instruments, the Moog synthesiser, more significantly he introduced commercial, portable synthesisers to the world, and thus kick started a revolution in popular music from which the world has not yet looked back.

As J Smooth asks, "How many people ever contributed more to music, especially funky music?"

Tribute of the day comes courtesy of Disquiet, who link to a collection of 19 MP3s kept at the University of Iowa, archiving a 1979 demonstration of the Moog synth's capabilities.

I think the time is right to listen to a fav track by one of my all time favourite bands, 'Moogie Wonderland'.

Some listening for ya 

Making a bid to be one of my favourite mixes of the year is this dark monster over at Blackdown. According to the footer to his latest Pitchfork column, Blackdown's mix is "100% unreleased". It makes one hell of a change from most of the quickly cloying grime and dubstep mixes doing the rounds recently - rearranging the same minor anthems over and over. Blackdown does still include Crazy Titch's 'Sing Along', which at the moment is practically obligatory, and definitely annoying, but at least here it's in a mashed-up version of Blackdown's own making.

The rest of the mix though is the perfect antidote to indentikit Fruity Loops grooves: this is some seriously bleak music, sitting in the black, black hole where dub, UK garage, grime, bhangra, grime, techno, hardcore, jungle and triphop meet. It's a lot better than that too, and for once actually sounds like dubstep could sound - a place where East London and West Country and all places in between can actually exist inside one beat. The mix is littered with fragments of pirate recordings; a standout sequence collapses the crackle and rumble of Kode 9 and Spaceape's 'Correction' into a refix of mic warm-ups, background chatter and shout outs, which are then sprinkled over the top of Roll Deep's 'Me' and Target and Riko's 'Hands Up', easily the two biggest tunes in the whole hour. In a different mix these would be energizing anthems; for Blackdown they just increase the bass menace, kick the momentum. There are no sunshine tunes here, just lightning flashes in the night.

I downloaded this mix on Friday, fell in love with it on Saturday, and on Sunday it pulled me out of a pretty grim mood of my own. Like all the best downer music, Blackdown's mix works best heard in the dark.

Piano Man story has a happy ending 

Kudos to On an Overgrown Path for spotting this one: it looks as though the 'Piano man' story (previously | previously) has reached a happy ending - after breaking his silence he has been identified by the German foreign ministry, and was flown home over the weekend. For confidentiality reasons his name has not been released by the hospital where he was looked after. So now, the only mystery remaining is whether he actually could play the piano as a virtuoso, as claimed when he was first found, or whether he was "only able to play one note continuously" as reported in some papers. I suspect this will ultimately remain as much a mystery as his name; it was still a good story though.

The dumbing down of the average arts viewer 

Prompted by this latest article fretting over the state of the classical music industry (written by Meurig Bowen, head of programming at Aldeburgh Productions), I was led to look into the results of Newsnight Review's recent poll to find their 'quintessential viewer'. The results are a little predictable/depressing (delete for preference), since they show that viewers of one of the only arts programmes left in the regular terrestrial schedules are some of the most conservative, drab, unimaginative people alive. Never mind Bowen pulling up Newsnight for acknowledging classical music as dry, stuffy, elitist and uncool by omitting it entirely from its polling categories - judging by the results, most voters haven't read a book, watched a film or listened to any music since A-levels; and they certainly aren't put off by adjectives like 'dry', 'stuffy', 'grey' or 'old':




I'm glad that the weekly efforts of Mark Lawson, Tom Paulin, Germaine Greer et al aren't wasted, then. What that poll desperately needs is a living tradition to shake it up out of its indie/hippie/progressive-rock-in-amber torpor...

Friday, August 19, 2005

Current listening 

Thanks to a Dissensus tip I've been poking around the archives of WPS1, the P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center's internet station (you remember - I plugged its launch ages ago, but, as ever, didn't get round to listening until now). I can highly recommend Elliott Sharp's Sonorama programmes. Not all of them are available for listening, but among those that are, are gems such as this selection of early Xenakis electroacoustic works and the second disc of William Basinski's timely, accidental classic The Disintegration Loops. Both of which, oddly, have moments that remind me very strongly of Sonic Youth - 'Platoon II' (The Whitey Album) and 'Marilyn Moore' (EVOL) respectively.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Music-In-Print Series Publisher Directory 

So, I'm putting together a list of music publishers and their websites for Work, and I stumble across this fabulous directory. How pleased am I? Nice one.

UPDATE: The same goes for this too.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Say no to extending copyright in recordings 

This is important, y'all.

There is serious talk here in the UK of extending the copyright on sound recordings from the present 50 years to a much longer period - maybe as much as 95 years. The EU, bless them, have already rejected the idea (yay!), but that doesn't look to be enough to stop the big BPI firms continuing to campaign for tighter control over their Beatles' recordings, and there is concern that they might get their way still (boo!). This is bad news for so many reasons that I've covered before (making a further mockery of what copyright was invented for in the first place included); but one that is significant to classical music is that it could well spell the end of the historical reissues industry (already under fire as it is). Such an industry doesn't really exist in the USA, where longer copyright terms have prevented it from developing, but in the UK we're world leaders, opening up large areas of previously neglected or unavailable music up for public enjoyment and academic research: institutions from Naxos to the Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music (see their giant collection of historical Schubert song recordings online for a taste of how great this is) will be seriously affected.

In determining what the government decides on this, public response will be important, and anyone interested in music should be wary about extending copyright again, moving IP closer and closer to the principles of physical property law. If you want to have your say, please consider writing to James Purnell MP, Minister for Cultural Industries [website | out-of-date campaign blog | contact details | blogged before] and/or your own MP (through WriteToThem.com (was FaxYourMP.com)).

A suggested form letter, as written by Nicholas Cook and offered for distribution and/or guidance follows:

I am writing about the suggestion recently reported in the press that copyright on sound recordings may be extended from 50 years to 90 or 95, in response to pressure from major record companies concerned that highly commercial rock recordings from the 1960s will soon enter the public domain.

For other music, particularly classical music, such an extension could be a disaster. One of the major developments of the last 10-20 years has been renewed interest in early recordings and performance styles. The major record companies, whose business models are based on high unit sales, have shown little interest in reissuing their ex-copyright back lists. Instead, small specialist companies such as Naxos, Nimbus, and Pearl have taken the lead, and in doing so have created a new industry in which the UK is a world leader. They have created a new market of listeners and invigorated the classical tradition, bringing to life a cultural heritage that would otherwise be gathering dust in the archives. Moreover the study of early recordings has changed the way music is taught and studied at schools and universities, as demonstrated by new, high-profile initiatives such as CHARM (the AHRC-funded Research Centre for the History and Analysis of Recorded Music).

All this flourishing activity could be brought to a halt by the proposed copyright extension. I hope you will press for the retention of the current 50-year copyright term, which is a sensible compromise between encouraging creative industry on the one hand and ensuring public access to our musical heritage on the other.

Yours sincerely,

I'm sending mine now - you should too.

Links for the week 

Clicky clicky clicky...

The diaries of Franz Kafka, 1910-1923. This is the same kind of idea as the famous Pepys Diary, publishing a famous diary as a blog. Everyone's favourite entry is here. (Hat tip: DJ/Rupture's Mudd Up).

I love this elliptical post at aworks.

Alex Ross is back (hope Canada was good for you), with a few great Schoenberg links, plus an article on classical music and recording (longer version also in the New Yorker, but I can't find a link to it online thanks to Greg in the comments, who points me here).

Mwanji has some more jazz links for y'all.

Lynn at Reflections in D minor has this week's Carnival of Music.

In the papers, the New York Times bigs up composers outside the contemporary canon;

and Public Enemy diss 50 Cent and the Game.

And last but not least, here's an outstanding post from Wayne & Wax on reggaetón, Fruity Loops and snare samples.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Arts and Communism redux 

The Guardian's sub-editors have done it again:
It pays to be poor

Sofia Gubaidulina's 'music of poverty' was born of Soviet repression and censorship - and was all the richer for it.
I've blogged before about how uncomfortable these lazy conclusions make me feel. I mean, yes, the picture of a censored artist struggling in abject poverty against a state which censors her work is a good story - no less so for being true - and stories are what make the world go round; but there's always the risk of letting a good story get in the way of what actually matters: the music. It's possible to have both - essential even. Drawing dotted lines between stories and sounds is what music writers (should) do after all. The problem is that the story about the composer struggling under communism has become so hackneyed and inviolate that whenever - as is possibly the case with Shostakovich, say - the evidence starts to suggest a less friendly, more complicated story, we prefer to angrily deny it, to the detriment of everything. So when the same kind of story is dragged out (simply substituting 'post-communism' for 'communism' when the dates stop adding up) over and over again, it demands to be held up to the light. You see, the musical works are what make the story - they're not incidental characters in the plot of Communist oppression, touches of local colour; they are the story, or at least one story, the story that Sofia Gubaidulina wishes to contribute to. I'm intrigued, therefore, to know why she might have ended the interview so abruptly:
Suddenly, Gubaidulina made it clear my visit had ended. I was kindly but firmly shown the door. Before she shut it, she poked her head out once more to where I stood on the landing: "Goodbye! Compose well and live intensively!"

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Resonance FM podcasts 

Looks like the World's Greatest Radio Station That I Never Remember to Tune Into (and when I do it's always the 'Calling all Pensioners' show) has started podcasting some of its shows. Huzzah - there's a fair to middling chance I might end up listening more frequently now...

(Hat tip: Londonist)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

And when I was two... 

... I was nearly new - although A.A. Milne clearly wasn't talking about blogs, since passing three months marks you out as unusual. Actually, I completely missed my second birthday due to hangover and an afternoon in the cool dark with Willy Wonka (Rambler's verdict - not as scary as the original).

Still - here are some first posts to reminisce over; and a first anniversary post. Thanks to all crew on the right for links, content and inspiration.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Links for the week 

In the trough this week:

Roll On, Beethoven
Article in today's Independent about the impact of the BBC offering all Beethoven symphonies for free download.

Beyond the grave: Dudley's career is rehabilitated at last
News of a new play telling the Beyond the Fringe story from Dud's side. Glad to hear it! Take a poll of the best and most memorable Not Only But Also sketches - most of them are Dud's babies; I've always maintained that for all Peter Cook's brilliance, it was Dud who was able to make any audience laugh, from sophisticated urbanite to playground schoolboy.

Carnival of Music #10
solitude.in.music hosts this week.

New Music Box: Music Like Water
Essay by Gerd Leonhard on the theory of music-as-utility.

Music for Maniacs on an eccentric spamming composer.

Grime pays
Guardian interview with Lady Sovereign

Stockhausen to play concert in London

Is it really four years since he was here? He's gonna be playing Kontakte, as well as Oktophonie, from Dienstag, so well worth a look. See Frieze Art Fair for booking details (GBP35! Yikes!). Also see BBC news for further info.

the nonist: blog depression advice

Pamphlet on what to do if you get blog depression. Very funny.

As ever, see my del.icio.us feed for more.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Londonist spot-on in its assessment of Stockhausen:
Basically, he's the Michael Jackson of the post-war avant-garde.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Reader notice 

Just a quick note to reader Jim (for whom I have no other details) who has been commenting kindly on various Music Since 1960 posts recently - I've only just seen your comments, and have now replied to them all. Thanks!

Rudolf Maros: Eufonia, Eufonia 2, Eufonia 3, Five studies for orchestra 

Hungaroton/Qualiton LPX 11362

So far this is the earliest of the Hungaroton LPs I own and dates, I think, from around 1970 (earlier Hungaroton records weren't printed with dates of release). The recording I own was packaged in a French box set 'Jeune musisique hongroise', but this is really no more than an external repackage to three records that were already available. It's also worth noting that there is a much more recent CD release of Eufonias 1–3 available through Hungaroton these days [adds to wishlist], which might be worth hunting down.

Maros was born in 1917, and was an important teacher at the Budapest Academy of Music; as a composer, his career and style went through a number of distinct phases. Like most of his contemporaries in the 1940s and 50s, he composed music that was heavily influenced by the Bartók- and Kodály-inspired use of Hungarian folk music, and there are moments in the Five studies (1960) which – although not at all folky – do resemble bits of 1940s Bartók. However, in the 1960s Maros introduced more avant-garde and experimental elements into his music: his later works frequently employ 12-note serialism, for example. For a time, Maros occupied similar territory to his expatriate Hungarian colleague, Ligeti, and the Polish sonorists, writing in a style that placed primary emphasis on the interaction of timbre over melody, harmony and rhythm. Listening to Euphonia 1, for example, it's impossible to believe that Maros hadn't heard Ligeti's Atmosphères or Penderecki's Threnody. The three Eufonias for orchestra, written in 1963, 64 and 65, are his most important works in this style. They're quite surprising works, because this sort of timbral composition was generally considered the preserve of the Polish avant garde; a great deal of Hungarian music in the early 1960s, and certainly most of what was finding its way to the UK, is comparatively unadventurous. Maros is also a relatively senior figure – older than both Ligeti and Kurtág for example, as well as many of the Polish generation of Górecki and Penderecki& ndash; and with his greater experience he was able to bring some compositional maturity to his works. This results in varied and imaginative approaches to sound and orchestration, but a steady eye on his responsibilities to form and pacing; unfortunately, some of the risks of the Polish timbral composers are flattened out, and Maros can't help using more or less conventional gestures to help shape his works – the long orchestral crescendo that closes Eufonia 3, or the timpani roll used to round off a cluster chord in Eufonia 1. The vocabulary might be up-to-minute 1960s, but the rhetoric can't quite get away from the 18th/19th century; it's a misfitting that I find in a lot of post-Stalin Eastern bloc music, borne of a genuine conflict of identity, of being assured in how to use one particular set of tools, but no longer confident of their place.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Music Since 1960: Rzewski: The People United Will Never be Defeated 

Forty years of modern composition and what this music means to me.

Index here.

Thema: With Determination I'll admit it. This has been a tricky piece for me to tackle. It made the list because I needed something for 1975 and this seemed right at the time. Truth be told, I've hardly (knowingly, although it's not uncommon to hear snippets here and there) listened to it since I was an undergraduate, so what follows is something of a reorganised, hyperlinked investigation of my own, a collection of things on and around Rzewski and his piece, redistributed to mirror the form of the piece itself. Hope it's useful.

Variation 1: Weaving; Delicate But Firm
Variation 2: With Firmness
Variation 3: Slightly Slower, With Expressive Nuances
Variation 4: Marcato
Variation 5: Dreamlike, Frozen
Variation 6: Same Tempo As Beginning
Variation 7: Tempo (Lightly, Impatiently)
Variation 8: With Agility; Not Too Much Pedal; Crisp
Variation 9: Evenly
Variation 10: Comodo, Recklessly
Variation 11: Tempo I. Like Fragments Of An Absent Melody - In Strict Time
Variation 12
Variation 13: Tempo = 72
Variation 14: A Bit Faster, Optimistically
Variation 15: Flexible, Like An Improvisation
Variation 16: Same Tempo As Preceding, With Fuctuations; Much Pedal
Variation 17: LH Strictly – RH Freely, Roughly As In Space
Variation 18
Variation 19: With Energy
Variation 20: Crisp, Precise
Variation 21: Relentless, Uncompromising
Variation 22
Variation 23: As Fast As Possible With Some Rubato
Variation 24
Variation 25: With Tempo Fluctuations
Variation 26: In A Militant Manner
Variation 27: Tenderly, And With A Hopeful Expression
Variation 28
Variation 29
Variation 30
Variation 31
Variation 32
Variation 33
Variation 34
Variation 35
Variation 36
Cadenza (Optional Improvisation)
Thema: Tempo I So there you go. 36 variations, 36 links, plus one recommended recording. Enjoy exploring!

Links for the week 

Interesting links I've been clicking recently:

Shards, Fragments and Totems: Tense Nervous House Music
Paul Meme on the Disco/House/Paganism crossroads.

be.jazz: Jazz and blogs: a sad case of mutual neglect
Mwanji links a whole bunch of jazz blogs - and laments that there aren't more of them.

New live music rules could halve number of gigs
This whole licensing legislation confuses me, and seems I'm not the only one - to the possible tune of hundreds of live venues.

Now That's What I Call Indie Covers! volume 1
An album's worth of indie cover versions available for download.

Boot Camp
Beginners' course in making bootlegs and mash-ups.

Musical Perceptions: Carnival of Music #9
Scott Spiegelberg hosts this week.

The Standing Room: TSR Wears 2 Dork Hats Simultaneously
Is this the greatest and/or cheesiest ringtone ever?

See my del.icio.us feed as they come in.

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