The Rambler :: blog

Friday, September 23, 2005

Ramblin' on holiday 

Right, y'all, I'm on holiday from about ....


I'm off to Croatia for a week for some belated summer hols; have a good 'un in the mean time. Everything in the sidebar is worth a few moments of your time while I'm away.

Manchester City 1-uh 

Just when we're all about to give up on the dratted game, this news comes in (via Assistant).
Mark E Smith's found himself so popular he's been asked to read the footy scores on BBC1.

A longtime football fan and supporter of Manchester City, Smith will read the results on BBC One's Final Score television programme on Saturday, November 17th.
All that remains between now and then is to imagine how many Fall titles could be slipped into the football results... As a starter, how about 'The Birmingham School of Business School' City?

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Underground Overground Underwater 

London geography obssesives (that'll be me, then) should take note of this first part of an account to be serialised (I suppose that's the term) on Londonist over the next couple of days of two bloke's journey by bike to all 316 Underground and DLR stations - used and disused. Oh, and randomly swims in London's 6 lidos at the same time. Day 1 (Chesham to Uxbridge) passes through the areas I was brought up in and has already had me yelp at the screen "I know exactly that road you're talking about" twice now. I suspect the section of the Northern Line that covers my current whereabouts will have a similar effect too...

A thought on British music and politics 

Here's a thing that occured to me late yesterday evening: 10-or-so years ago, everyone was sick to the back teeth of John Major's Conservative government. At the same time, the britpop, jungle and triphop scenes were flourishing.

Ten years later, everyone is sick to the back teeth of Tony Blair's Labour government. At the same time, the dubstep, grime and, er, britpop scenes are flourishing.

This suggests two things: 1) bad politics seem to foster good electronic/urban music in often unpredictable ways, but 2) the cycles of British guitar bands and their popularity is eminently predictable, and dull.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Gerald Barry: The Bitter Tears of Petra Kant 

Gerald Barry's new opera, The Bitter Tears of Petra Kant has been causing one heck of stir, featuring as it does that unbeatable combo of lesbianism, a giant purple kangaroo, and uncompromising music. For reasons of wallet and being out of the country all of next week I don't think I'm going to get to see it (although there are two shows left when I get back, so we'll see), but there is plenty of comment to tuck into nevertheless:

Independent: "'Do you like this kind of music?' asks Petra von Kant, who, inevitably, gets the evening's most knowing laugh. Gerald Barry's unhinged sound and fury is an acquired taste, but its singular mix of basic materials and extreme treatment, concise wit and ruthless logic, can grow alarmingly addictive."

Times: "the cumulative effect was strangely gripping. You began to find your way back into this bizarre world, bizarrely painted. Barry’s music might put you through the wringer, but you feel a palpable exhilaration, and not just of the hair-shirt kind." [not a review, more a preview piece this one]

Telegraph: "a repellent opera, stuffed with cheap contempt, arty pretensions and hideous music."

Guardian: "one of the strangest but most satisfying of recent operas"

Londonist: "the chatty, anti-poetic words, the aimless melodies... this is an atonal, lesbian Umbrellas of Cherbourg!"

On balance I think the opera wins. Plus, bonus points to ENO for [part-] commissioning something tough, original, and apparently worthwhile from a genuine composer, unlike some other well-known London Opera Houses.

More on relating your music collection 

Continuing from yesterday's post on the Pandora system, I spotted on halvorsen Duke Listens!, which has a bunch of links to very cool-looking systems for mapping - in 3D, no less - your music collection.

Monday, September 19, 2005

The music genome project 

Pandora media's music genome project has been around for a while, but a recent Independent article article ahs only just alerted my interest. I'm glad that there's a corporate role for 400 trained musicologists, but I can't help thinking that the tendency of all technology like this is to homogenise, to find connections and to keep people's music selections similar. Which is not at all how people actually listen to music - viewed from the perspective of 'if you like this, you must like this', most people have at least some surprises within their music collections. 21st-century technology, skills and marketing techniqes are being employed in the service of a particularly 19th-century idea: that there is one single key to unlocking the personality, tastes and style of an individual. Mapping one's music tastes under a single set of parameters is the same as reducing Stravinsky's oeuvre to a small collection of intervals in order to 'explain' how the same man could have written The Rite of Spring, Pulcinella and In memoriam Dylan Thomas. It's arbitrariness disguised as scientific enquiry. The best way to introduce new music to people (and, perhaps, to 'explain' the blips and ruptures in their CD racks) is to look at the tastes of people who they trust; if someone you trust hands you a tape and says 'you must listen to this, you'll love it', you will listen, and you probably will love. You'll at least give it a fair shout, even if you've walked past it on the racks of HMV a hundred times.

Links for the week 

Interesting links I've been clicking recently:

Ghetto fabulous

Observer article on Baile Funk

Woozy head music

Dave Stelfox on DJ Screw in the Telegraph

Classic albums given thumbs down in 'overrated list'

News of a BBC 6 Music poll to find the most overrated album of all time. Hmm - only read the submitted user comments if you fancy shouting at people who are apparently already deaf...

Reconstructing the Universe: A new recording puts Johnny Reinhard's reconstituted Ives score to the test

Kyle Gann writes on a new version of Charles Ives' Universe Symphony

A woman of no impotence

Interview with Kim Gordon

NewMusicBox article on the end of the road for Kalvos and Damian

One of the great new music websites and radio stations comes to a close

See my del.icio.us feed for more.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

U B U W E B : Film 

Thanks to Ben for the pointer, but this isn't happy reading. Boo, hiss, etc.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

U B U W E B 

... is back. Ah, sweet bliss...

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Carnival of Music: Ashes Edition 

Cricket and music. They go together like tea and toast, trust me. Most people agree that this Ashes contest has been one of the greatest Test series of all time - not least for the fact that we won it!!! - and so (with apologies for some tardiness) this week's carnival is an hommage to the best England team in years.

Opening partnership: the immovable Londonist opens with a post on the controversial selection policies of the Vienna Phil; they're partnered by the fluent Musical Perceptions with a post listing things opera can teach you;

Number three: the role of the flamboyant stroke-maker is taken by Prent Rodgers at Microtonal Podcasts, who presents Podcast1024: Maple Manytet by Bill Sethares, a microtonal take on a well-known Scott Joplin rag;

Number four: the role of gritty heart in the middle of the innings that-should-have-been-played-by-Ian-Bell is instead taken up by Fred Himbaugh, who blogs on the differences between perfect pitch and synaesthesia;

Number five: in a stark change of mood, Helen Radice writes movingly on the sounds of Auschwitz;

All-rounder: the majestic Riddim Method collaborative blog pulls out another big hit, on New Orleans and Clarence 'Frogman' Henry;

Wicketkeeper: some of the best music blogging on Katrina however has come from Hiphopmusic.com, here here and here;

Spinner: googlies, wrong-uns and chinamen are bowled by Music for Maniacs who turn a couple of tunes by a Polish Gameboy orchestra from out of the rough;

Fast bowlers: in the spirit of reverse swing, Aaron Wherry presents a selection of nice things said this year about terrible records; the fast bowling attack is led by aworks on what makes an American composer and Gutterbreakz whose latest edition of Gutterbreakz FM is self deprecatingly presented, but contains some excellent exclusive tracks.

12th man: and finally, Kyle Gann's Postclassic Radio turned one at the start of the week.

Chairman of selectors: John at TexasBestGrok. No one is signed up to host nhext week's Carnival, so visit the Carnival homepage to volunteer.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Astrodome Radio Station Blocked 

This story from Wired (via WFMU) on the opposition to a low-power FM radio station to provide regular information to those in the New Orleans Astrodome is basically another addition to the pile of belief-beggaring cock-ups in Louisiana, but it's particularly jaw-dropping for revealing the priorities of the emergency relief authorities. Food? Shelter? Medicine? All in good time, but there's no way in hell we're gonna let you listen to any of that nasty rap music:
According to KAMP, Rita Obey, a local official from Harris County Public Health Services, gave them a laundry list of prerequisites. The most notable of these was the command to procure 10,000 personal, battery-powered radios -- and batteries.

"She said she was afraid of 'people fighting over the radios,'" said Liz Surley, a KAMP volunteer. "She made us promise not to play any rap music, because she thought it might incite some of the evacuees to violence."
That one's for Jay.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Paris Transatlantic 

New edition of the magazine is out. Includes reviews of Shadowtime in New York, a new CD of Tristan Murail's piano music [wish list...] and Rip it Up and Start Again, as well as a short obituary for Luc Ferrari, and an Elliott Sharp. And some other stuff as well. Clicky clicky...

Monday, September 05, 2005

Carnival of Music 

And while I'm on the subject of the Carnival of Music, I've volunteered as next week's host. Please send submissions of the week's best music blogging to the email address at top right of the page, or to music.carnival@gmail.com and they'll be forwarded to me. More details at the Carnival of Music homepage.
The Carnival of Music is a celebration of all things musical - listening to or playing it, writing or recording it, analyzing or criticizing it. Music history, music theory, and composition are all welcome and encouraged in featured entries. I will not limit genres; classical, jazz, pop, rock, rap, country -- all are welcome here.
I'm gonna try to make this one nice and ecumenical.

Links for the week 

Odds and sods for this week:

Wayne&Wax awesome again on mashups and sampling at Riddim Method;

The Telegraph reports on orchestras going indie (thankfully with fewer whey-faced youths);

And Owlish mutterings has this week's Carnival.

But really, the thing you all want to see is Kanye West's balls of steel. Aaron Wherry has links and comment.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Two new perspectives on Hyperion/Sawkins 

A couple of new articles on Andante at the moment offering more thoughts on the Sawkins/Hyperion case. The first, by Bernard D. Sherman unpicks what this has to do with intellectual property in music - although he makes two oft-repeated mistakes: that all copyrights are the same, and that having ownership actually obliges you to charge for those rights. (Musicologists I've spoken to about this simply resent Sawkins for having the gall to charge for his work. Not the done thing, you see.) The fact is that intellectual property law is a horrible mess and doesn't do anyone many favours. Like every recent IP/copyright ruling (even Grokster) Sawkins v Hyperion is hardly going to be the last word on the subject. Take it all as a work in progress (that, hopefully, is going to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch one of these days). At least Dr Sawkins has added the voice of us humble musicologists to the debate. (Because you'd better believe there are people very happy to screw us.)

The other article - by Mark Perlman - is, I think, more convincing. Perlman is an ethnomusicologist, so questions of ownership, intellectual property and copyrights are a central concern of his methodology, and he lucidly argues for the similarity between what he does and what an early music editor does. And, praise the Lord, he is the first musicologist I've read to make that crucial distinction between one type of copyright ownership and another:
technically speaking, Dr. Sawkins doesn't own the Lalande motets which Hyperion recorded, in practice he owns the only paved road leading to them, and those who wish to drive there (so to speak) will have to pay his tolls. Intrepid backpackers who have the time (and musicological expertise) are free to scramble through the metaphorical brush to make their own performing editions, but few will try. Though if Mr. Ross knows a public-spirited musicologist specializing in the French Baroque, perhaps he can persuade her to make her own edition and post the PDF files on the Web for all to use. I think the domain name "freelalande.org" is still available. [emphasis mine]
That is precisely the point. The 'ownership' that Sawkins legally makes claim to is for his work on preparing an edition of the score required to produce Hyperion's commercial recording. It is not on Lalande's score itself - this has long been in the public domain, even if most of us wouldn't be able to play from it. What's more - so long as direct plagiarism is not involved - any one of us can prepare a performing edition for ourselves. (Although frankly I'm glad someone else does that kind of work.) And, what is even more, we can hold the rights to that edition and the legal framework exists for us to insist that our edition remains available to all and distributed only for free. Yes, that seems like an over-complex solution, but Creative Commons was developed precisely for the very reason that IP law is a bloody mess. It's a bit of a hack, but until we rewrite the statute books from the very beginning once more, it's the best that we've got. And, hey, even musicologists who want to keep their work freely available, non-for-profit, can do so with CC because the law now recognises their rights to do so. And for that, Sawkins has done them a favour.

Case closed.

Not ignoring, but speechless 

Scanning Daypop and Bloglines of a morning - wow: natural disasters, thousands dead, tens of thousands looking Death in the eye, hundreds of thousands with everything lost, a great city ruined, a racist media, an incompetent President, a shameful administration, a breakdown in law and order, people firing guns at the helicopters come to rescue them, the folly of war, global environment change, we-told-you-so; these things make really, really tempting copy, don't they?

Not here. There's news and the reporting of horrors unimaginable, and then there's a pointless, insulting babble of opinion. Do the right thing.

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