mm217: Potpourri — Romney, alternative energy, Stockhausen

December 9, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

When MUDGE can’t decide which of several topics he’s most interested in discussing with faithful reader, he doesn’t decide at all (leaving that to The Decider, I suppose); rather, he enters SASB mode:

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We’ve quoted Steve Chapman previously here at Left-Handed Complement (here and here, for example). He’s on the editorial board of our home town paper, the Chicago Tribune, and writes for Reason magazine.

Pretty conservative guy in a very conservative environment. But, left-handed as I am, I find myself agreeing with Chapman surprisingly often.

chitrib

Romney flunks a religious test

Steve Chapman | December 9, 2007

Mitt Romney is worried about religious intolerance. He fears religious and nonreligious people will unite to punish him because of his Mormon faith. He thinks it would be much more in keeping with America’s noblest traditions if Mormons and other believers joined together to punish people of no faith.

On Thursday, Romney showed up at the George H.W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas, to announce that even if it costs him the White House, his Mormonism is non-negotiable. That came as a relief to those who suspected he would defuse the issue by undergoing a Methodist baptism.

Like John F. Kennedy, who said in 1960 that the presidency should not be “tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group,” Romney said there should be no religious test for this office. “A person should not be elected because of his faith nor should he be rejected because of his faith,” he said.

Chapman continues by illustrating Romney’s misreading of U.S. history and the intent of the authors of this country and its Constitution.

He ignores evidence that the framers thought otherwise. The Constitution they so painstakingly drafted contains not a single mention of the Almighty—unlike the Articles of Confederation, which it replaced. A 1796 treaty, ratified by the Senate and signed by that very same John Adams, stipulated that the U.S. government “is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion.”

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Romney flunks a religious test — chicagotribune.com

Now, as much as MUDGE is likely to cast a vote next November for a Democrat, one imagines that Steve Chapman will not.

However, Mitt Romney apparently will not get his vote:

In the end, though, Romney accomplished what he set out to do in this speech. Henceforth, no one can possibly justify voting against him because he’s a Mormon. Not when he’s provided so many other good reasons.

shortattention_thumb2[6]

nytimes

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front

By WILLIAM YARDLEY | Published: December 8, 2007

NEWPORT, Ore. — Chris Martinson and his fellow fishermen catch crab and shrimp in the same big swell that one day could generate an important part of the Northwest’s energy supply. Wave farms, harvested with high-tech buoys that are being tested here on the Oregon coast, would strain clean, renewable power from the surging sea.

They might make a mess of navigational charts, too.

“I don’t want it in my fishing grounds,” said Mr. Martinson, 40, who docks his 74-foot boat, Libra, here at Yaquina Bay, about 90 miles southwest of Portland. “I don’t want to be worried about driving around someone else’s million-dollar buoy.”

A hot-button topic, alternative energy sources have appeared in this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© several times (wind power here, hydro power here).

The concept of using living natural processes (rather than fossilized ones) is intriguing. But, as seen in the wind power story we discussed, even the free wind isn’t free of costs, monetary and environmental. And the same goes for ocean waves.

“Everyone wants that silver bullet,” said Fran Recht of the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission. “The question is, Is this as benign as everyone wants to say it is?”

Accompanying the NYTimes story was this intriguing graphic:

powerfromthesea

So, will a forest of anchored buoys interfere with fish and migratory marine mammals? How can it not?

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Efforts to Harvest Ocean’s Energy Open New Debate Front – New York Times

Turns out that the concept of NIMBY (not in my back yard) is alive and well several miles offshore Oregon in the Pacific Ocean!

People, everything has a cost. At first splash, power generating buoys seems more benign than most traditional or alternative energy sources.

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Say “Karlheinz Stockhausen” to most people, and, depending on your conversation partner’s degree of social etiquette, you’d be met by responses spanning the scale from quizzical stares to a smack in the jaw.

Yr (Justifiably) Humble Svt’s interest in serious music has been documented in the space several times (among them: here, here, here and most hilariously, here).

Yes, Karlheinz Stockhausen was a musician, a composer actually, and there was a time in MUDGE‘s young life when I was quite smitten with his ground-breaking compositions.

He died this week.

nytimes

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79

karlheinzstockhausen4

By PAUL GRIFFITHS |  Published: December 8, 2007

Karlheinz Stockhausen, an original and influential German composer who began his career as an inventor of new musical systems and ended it making operas to express his spiritual vision of the cosmos, died on Wednesday at his home in Kuerten-Kettenberg, Germany. He was 79.

Stockhausen was a pioneer of electronic music, at a time before Robert Moog made it simple to generate the complex sounds that have, thanks to Moog, become a ubiquitous feature of popular sonic culture. When Stockhausen began to chart a new course in European serious music in the early 50s, electronic music was pieced together, tone by tone, channel by channel, an agonizing arduous process.

At one time, I had recordings of his music from that era, but I hadn’t encountered them for sometime before my vinyl collection was ceded to my musical MUDGElet No. 3.

The classical music radio station in my town (and how many people can say that phrase these days?) never ever played Stockhausen’s music. Of course, they are hard-pressed to play music written after 1950, except that of John Adams, the Gian Carlo Menotti of this generation (i.e., feet anchored more in the 19th century than the 20th or 21st). So it’s been quite some time since I visited Stockhausen’s music.

The obituary in the NYTimes tells us that his later life took a most Wagnerian turn.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Karlheinz Stockhausen, Influential Composer, Dies at 79 – New York Times

Anyone interested in the topic of serious electronic music can follow this link to the article in Wikipedia.

So that’s today’s potpourri. We all remain hopeful that MUDGE‘s standard attention span returns real soon now.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm185: Time for a classical music post

November 5, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

We’ll do this a bit differently today. Slate.com has an interesting dialog going on jazz and classical music, and what people listen to.

So, go read it (perhaps even taking in some of the Fray) and come back for MUDGE‘s take.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Alex Ross and Ben Ratliff discuss jazz, classical and pop – Slate.com

I grew up in a house where classical music was heard everywhere, on the radio, on records, on the piano in the living room. We were taken to concerts in the rarified atmosphere of a cathedral of the arts.

So I listen to classical music most of the time. Not all of the time: Constant reader will recall the frequent references to Pandora.

In the home my children grew up with, the radio that I controlled always had classical music playing, but, of course, there was more than one radio in the house by this generation, television was much more pervasive, and the piano in the living room (the same one, appropriated rather embarrassingly one remembers ruefully) was largely silent. Piano lessons were attempted, and dropped. Live concerts were usually way beyond the budget.

So those children listen (so far as I can determine; they’ve long since established households of their own) mainly to pop. Indeed, MUDGElet No. 3 is a musician of growing accomplishment, in the modern pop vernacular of drum machines and Pro-Tools.

And so the slice of the cultural pie populated by classical music grows smaller with each generation.

But.

As alluded to in the Slate dialog, there’s more going on here than generational taste.

And as mentioned in at least one of the comments, perhaps our definition of classical music has been allowed to become too narrow.

It is MUDGE‘s contention that for a very large number of years of the 20th Century, composers of classical music stopped writing for their historic audience. And this has to do, one could theorize, with the changed musical food chain.

As someone commented more or less accurately, for many hundreds of years composers had patrons: first, the Catholic church and later, well into the 19th Century, secular sources of funding: royalty and the wealthy.

Times changed, and composers had to find new safe havens, and found them: academia. So composers wrote to suit these new patrons, their fellow academics. And the broad audience was left out.

Schoenberg could be angry at his concert audiences (as noted in the Slate dialog), but his later works, and the works of those he mentored and influenced, seem to have been academic exercises and barely tried, and hardly succeeded, to connect to that audience.

So, no wonder the audience is apparently dwindling. Much as one might love listening to the “Three B’s”, and Mozart and Schumann and Mahler, and Handel and Berlioz, it’s old music, written for the clerics and the princes and the audiences of a time long past.

The most listenable of the composers of the 20th Century: Stravinsky (some), Prokofiev, Shoshtakovich (hmm, Russians); Copland and Gershwin and Bernstein; wrote in the idiom of an earlier time, and thus stretched the audience instead of confronting it. But still, by now, old.

Who is writing serious orchestral music for today’s listener?

A few have been successful. John Adams (who I confess I haven’t much appreciated); Philip Glass (who I do).

But Glass’s example leads to the second point I was about to make: many of his most successful and approachable works are music written for film.

Film producers and directors might almost be considered the successors of the churchly and princely patrons of music of an older age. And yes, at least one of the comments to the Slate story touches on this.

Early filmmakers even drafted European serious composers to add gravitas to their popular art, Korngold being for me the most potent example.

Hitchcock’s suspense would have been much less so without Bernard Herrmann’s scores.

Jerry Goldsmith; John Williams; the master, Ennio Morricone; Philip Glass himself; and recent upstarts like Hans Zimmer, James Horner and Danny Elfman: all wrote or are writing music that was commissioned to meet a specific storytelling purpose, but many of their scores provide wonderful entertainment listened to on disc without the film, and I’m certain entertains surprisingly well in the concert hall, if anyone is so bold as to program it.

Thus, the point. People in the millions are listening to classical music (i.e., music written using a most traditional tool — the symphony orchestra — to help tell a story) daily, only in the form of scores for films, in movie theatres and home theatres and on iPods and laptops.

So classical music hasn’t died, isn’t dead or dying.

It’s just made the journey to the 21st Century in order to reconnect with its audience, if not the academic establishment that held it captive for so many barren years.

And that makes classical music bigger than ever.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm161: Miscellanea, or, this and that, the sequel

October 4, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

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Short attention span blogging: Item 1:

It is disappointing, not to say tragic, that events in Burma seem to be shaking out in favor of the generals.

Last week (and here), the rest of the world was hopeful that, in light of the new channels of communication available in both directions, that the people of Burma would prevail in their demonstrations against the repressive regime.

Now, reality has descended, as have those hopes, with a bloody thud.

reuters

Myanmar junta sets Suu Kyi talks conditions

By Aung Hla Tun

YANGON (Reuters) – Myanmar’s military ruler set conditions on Thursday for meeting detained pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, as security forces continued to round up people and interrogate hundreds more arrested in a ruthless crackdown on protesters.

In the first official remarks since a visit by U.N. envoy Ibrahim Gambari this week, junta chief Than Shwe said he would hold direct talks with Suu Kyi if she publicly agreed to four conditions.

Than Shwe told Gambari that Suu Kyi must abandon her “obstructive measures” and support for sanctions as well as her positions that were “confrontational” and for “utter devastation,” state television said, without elaborating on how the Nobel laureate could meet the demands.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Myanmar junta sets Suu Kyi talks conditions | Reuters

It’s apparent that, even as we were beginning to feel optimistic toward the course of events, old fashioned thuggery was trouncing Web 2.0.

Wait until next year?

Short attention span blogging: Item 2:

From TechCrunch.com, the following interesting observation.

techcrunch

The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free

2007 is turning out to be a terrible year for the music industry. Or rather, a terrible year for the the music labels.

The DRM walls are crumbling. Music CD sales continue to plummet rather alarmingly. Artists like Prince and Nine Inch Nails are flouting their labels and either giving music away or telling their fans to steal it. Another blow earlier this week: Radiohead, which is no longer controlled by their label, Capitol Records, put their new digital album on sale on the Internet for whatever price people want to pay for it.

The economics of recorded music are fairly simple. Marginal production costs are zero: Like software, it doesn’t cost anything to produce another digital copy that is just as good as the original as soon as the first copy exists, and anyone can create those copies (meaning there is perfect competition and zero barriers to entry). Unless effective legal (copyright), technical (DRM) or other artificial impediments to production can be created, simple economic theory dictates that the price of music, like its marginal cost, must also fall to zero as more “competitors” (in this case, listeners who copy) enter the market. The evidence is unmistakable already. In April 2007 the benchmark price for a DRM-free song was $1.29. Today it is $0.89, a drop of 31% in just six months.

[Please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Inevitable March of Recorded Music Towards Free

The complete story above, and the potential for a continuing dialog around both sides of the argument, bear watching. An example of why TechCrunch has been all but a charter member of the L-HC blogroll2.

Meanwhile, MUDGElet No. 3 being a musician with hopes of earning a living practicing that art or some related element of it (i.e., studio production), the MUDGE of the family can’t help but be concerned about the concept of free music.

Of course, MUDGE has absolutely no difficulty consuming it. Thus joining the other 6.6Billion walking contradictions on the planet.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm145: Revelations from Pandora’s music box

September 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

It’s no secret to faithful reader of this nanocorner of the ‘Sphere© that we’re mammoth fans of Pandora.com (you can refresh your memory here, here, here and here to mention just the best instances — a Sequitur Service© of L-HC).

Today, an interesting interview turned up on CNET.com with Tim Westergren, Pandora’s founder.

The interview spans several interesting topics, including the state of musicians’ livelihoods today (not an idle concern for this writer whose No. 3 child knows that some day you’ll know his name).

newsmaker What will it take to create the middle-class musician?

By Candace Lombardi
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

Published: September 18, 2007, 11:50 AM PDT

It’s an idea Pandora founder Tim Westergren thinks about a lot.

Between 100 town hall meetings and several sessions for seniors at this year’s AARP conference, Westergen has been campaigning for more Internet radio listeners for both Pandora and musicians in general.

Pandora uses the Music Genome Project, a tool that compares musical genetic codes of songs, to create personalized radio stations. You tell it what you like; Pandora plays those artists and others that have songs with similar musical qualities. With music from both big record labels and independent artists, listeners get more selection and increased knowledge about music.

So read about its history, Westergren’s analysis of what it takes to be a self-supporting musician in this country (spoiler alert: virtually insurmountable odds against — sorry, MUDGElet No. 3 — better line up a terrific day job!), and the current battles with the music licensing organizations over punitive fees, being fought with the help of Congress.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Revelations from Pandora’s music box | Newsmakers | CNET News.com

This writer remains an enthusiastic fan (in the original meaning: fanatic) of Pandora (ya think? the links at the top represent only about half of the references I found just in our own nanocorner etc).

The selection, the sound quality, the thin footprint (Lastfm requires you to download and install an executable file that runs separately when you want to listen, whereas Pandora runs very nicely in a tab within my Firefox browser) have all combined to make Pandora this listener’s non-classical music source of choice. And, when am I not running my browser?

What I respect most is the entire Music Genome Project. Most web business enterprises are pretty XML and CSS draped over a very straightforward financial plan (okay, some more fanciful than others, but regardless, one can always tell that the $ and ¢ and € are never far away).

Pandora is wrapped around a serious intellectual process, where it has analyzed zillions of artists and their songs in order to truly deliver on their promise: You’ve told us you like A; so now, listen to B, C, and D. We’ll bet you like what you hear.

And you know what? In this closet-pop music fan’s case, it seems to work, more often by far than not.

I’ve had one glass of wine tonight — it would probably take the entire bottle to loosen MUDGE up enough to disclose how pop is his pop — so don’t ask what I’m listening to.

But, if you haven’t tried Pandora yet — why not?

I’m awed.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm125: It <is> a serious music trifecta!

September 2, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Have written comparatively little regarding music, until the past few days. Odd how concepts seem to cluster sometimes.

So, first it was that terrific review of that sublime recording of the Bach Goldberg Variations by Simone Dinnerstein, which recording was even excerpted on our local classical station today during their new releases weekly segment.

Then, found very randomly on someone’s blog, that hysterical (I’ve watched it several times and it makes me laugh each time) goof on the performance of Rachmaninov’s Prelude (“only the hands are small!”).

Later the day I posted that one, we went out to our neighborhood Blockbuster to find holiday weekend fare. Sometimes she picks the movies; sometimes I do. This time she did.

What did lovely spouse (emphatically not the serious music lover in the family; mainly the tolerator of the serious music lover in the family) choose first to listen to that night? Copying Beethoven.

copyingbeethoven

It never made much of an impression when it was released last year; just another of the thousands of releases that MUDGE would never venture out to see in a theatre. I guess I read a review or two:

i went to Copying Beethoven expecting, even wanting to like it. Some of it I did like. Immediately, Agnieszka Holland’s usually sure hand is evident in the magnificent opening scene. A closed carriage careens along a muddy road in the 19th century Austrian countryside, past poor trudging women who peer after it as they get out of the way, past fields and woods—past daily life—and beneath wheeling birds whose startled flight matches the passenger’s own urgency. It’s 1827 and young Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger), musical copyist and aspiring composer, is rushing to the death-bed of her “Maestro,” the renowned Beethoven (Ed Harris). But more than anything this carriage scene is about the vivid, almost overwhelming awakening of her senses. It’s chilly, and we are roughly thrown about in Anna’s careening coach along with her, catching flashes of sky and branch, nearly smelling the steaming horses, and above all, hearing everything. Every hoof beat, every crow’s call, every squeak of the carriage, every sudden brief lull, pant and rustle—all of it picked out clearly and then mingled with soaring music. Anna Holtz apprehends the world fully just as the man who’s shown it to her lies on the razor’s edge of death. You see, she has just grasped what he has to offer, barely in time to repay his gift by telling him so

Copying Beethoven – Movie Review – Stylus Magazine

Or this one, from London:

When writing this good can meet with indifference from the hand that feeds, it’s all the more galling to see a dog of a script being thrown filet mignon. The glossy Euro-production Copying Beethoven barks, rolls over, and plays dead for two hours. It is a great example of that time-honoured genre, the biopic so silly it plays like a spoof.

Try this: “My God, Beethoven, you’re even deafer than I thought!” says someone about one of the late string quartets.

Or this: “Beethoven mooned me!” complains his put-upon female copyist, Anna Holtz (Diane Kruger). You won’t struggle to guess which sonata he was miming.

Film reviews: Sparkle, Copying Beethoven and more – Telegraph

I have to say, though, that it made a better impression on us, watching at home ($4.29 vs. $18.00 never hurts either). The centerpiece comes in the first hour: the performance, chopped, hashed, sliced and diced as it was arrayed in the film, of the 9th Symphony. It was compelling, not for one looking for an authentic, complete performance (although it was taken from a masterful one), but for the film’s depiction of its emotional affect on the listeners.

There are moments in music that one would love to have a time machine available to go back to. And the first appearance of a massed choir is definitely one. Am I subjective about this? Of course. A lifetime ago, I sang in an amateur chorus (its amateurishness enhanced by my presence, alas).

  • The entry of the chorus for the first time (the fourth number) in Handel’s Messiah: “And the glory of the Lord.”
  • The near-whispering entry of the chorus in the last movement of Mahler’s 2nd Symphony (I’m certain that Beethoven’s 9th was Mahler’s inspiration).
  • And the triumphant entry of the chorus in the 9th itself. You see them there, and even if you know the music, when they enter… there are fewer more sublime moments in life, much less music.

Back to the film. Here’s what one of its writers, Steven Rivele had to say, on a site called Films about Beethoven: Copying Beethoven:

Our film begins in April of 1824 just before the premiere of the 9th Symphony. Beethoven has had a falling out with his copyist, Wolanek, and Schlemmer is desperate to find someone to replace him, to prepare the parts for the premiere. He sends to the Vienna Conservatory for their brightest young composition student, and they send, in return, our fictional heroine, Anna Holtz. (In fact, they sent two young men, but we asked ourselves: What if it had been a woman? This is what enabled us to create a film about the late Beethoven that could actually get financed.) Anna goes to work with Beethoven, helps him prepare for the premier, conducts with him from the wings, and then summons the strength to show him some of her own work. He mocks it, sending her into despair. Later he comes to apologize, and to ask her to help him with the composition of the last string quartets, his legacy to the future of music. In doing so, she learns the deepest meaning of music, and finds the strength to become a composer in her own right. There’s more to it than this, of course, but that’s the gist of it. There is a lot of humor, much soul-searching, a great deal of talk about the meaning of art and the role of musicians, and, of course lots of wonderful music.[…]

…We have had very lively discussions on our forum with regard to authenticity, and Mr.Rivele has explained just how difficult this is to achieve on a limited budget. For example, did the violinists use chin rests? Did the cellos have tailpins? Did the horns have valves? What music would have been played in the taverns?  There can be no doubting Mr.Rivele’s sincerity and desire to present a film covering the last years of Beethoven’s life as accurately as possible, but in order to create a viable project certain artistic licence has had to be taken.

Films about Beethoven: Copying Beethoven – Ludwig van

So, perhaps not the greatest film ever made with a musical subject (Amadeus, definitely an inspiration to the filmmakers, who respond with a similarly gritty depiction of 19th Century Vienna might get my vote), but atmospheric, weirdly (a female copyist?) believable, and often profoundly moving.

Definitely worth the renting. And definitely odd that we should end up watching a film with serious music as its theme. Clustering.

Then, in a rare DVD matinée, this afternoon we watched her next choice, the scenery chewing performances of Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett in Notes on a Scandal, which features a characteristically moody music score provided by another long-time favorite of this scribe, Philip Glass.

I have fond memories of driving my little guy to summer camp every day when he was indeed little, five or six years old. All he wanted to hear on the car’s stereo was Glass’ score to Mishima, a film I never saw, because, really, I’m just not that interested in a fanatical Japanese guy who commits hara kiri to make a point, but the music is wonderful.

So, it’s been about serious music for the past several days.

And, BTW, I do consider seriously composed film music serious music. I’d go so far as to say, much of it has more of the qualities that audiences for so-called classical music are starved for: emotional content, a story, tunes.

The Pulitzer-winning college professors who rule the roost in concert halls today (if you can find orchestras that play music written in the last 50 years), present their clangorous, academic, modern for the sake of modernity, scores composed for academic reasons (publish or perish, indeed).

And, naturally, their off-campus audiences stay away.

The film guys: Ennio Morricone, Jerry Goldsmith, Erich Wolfgang Korngold, even James Horner and Hans Zimmer, to slight very many others, speak to the audience directly and compellingly. And their best scores are eminently listenable, even if you never see the movie.

Immersed as I’ve lately been in the pop soup of Pandora.com, it reminds me of what I’ve been missing that Cyndi Lauper, Mike Post, Paul McCartney and the like just aren’t providing.

So, that’s the serious if not totally classical music trifecta. It’s been fun. Maybe we’ll do it again.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE


mm123: Classical music II — one more time, with wood

August 31, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

So, I was cruising the blogs at BlogExplosion.com and I found this one, courtesy of YouTube, via Subbie.

When I’m all by myself, I seldom LOL. This video, I did laugh out loud.


YouTube – Rachmaninov had big Hands

So, last post, somehow I left Rachmaninov off (no, I’m not stuttering) of my desert island list. Inexplicable. What a genius.

The music, by the way, his Prelude, Op.3 No.2 In C Sharp Minor. Here’s a great recording performed by the incomparable Vladimir Ashkenazy.

Anyway, this video made my day. Pretty good for a couple minutes, huh?

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Non-commercial Note!: the link to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,


mm122: Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations. – By Evan Eisenberg – Slate Magazine

August 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Danger! Western Cultural

Treasures Content!

Run Away!

Did you ever read a novel, a newspaper or magazine article, a blog posting and say: “Wow, I wish I could write like that!”?

I had one of those WIWICWLT! moments the other day, when I encountered this outstanding music review in Slate. And, I don’t usually read music reviews, in Slate, or anywhere else.

Evan Eisenberg absolutely made me want to get out there and buy the music CD described. And believe MUDGE when he tells you that purchasing a classical music CD is probably the least likely act he might have been tempted to commit in these budget constrained times before reading this story.

Move over Glenn Gould, here’s Simone Dinnerstein.

By Evan Eisenberg
Posted Monday, Aug. 27, 2007, at 3:54 PM ET

Goldberg Variations

slate

The year was 1955. Three things happened: Albert Einstein died, and Glenn Gould recorded the Goldberg Variations.

It is difficult to describe the impact of the second event, in part because I was a fetus at the time. (The third event, of course, was my birth.) But I will try. For those of us—beatniks, philistines, fetuses—who thought of classical music as something powdered and periwigged, that slab of vinyl struck with the force of a meteor. The stegosaurs who played Bach as if he were Lawrence Welk sniffed the heady, pomade-purged air and keeled, metaphorically, over. The Cretaceous Age of Music had ended. The Age of Gould had begun.

We hear a lot about meteoric careers, but Gould’s—his concert career—really was. In 1964, at the height and breadth of his fame, he renounced the stage to devote himself to making records. Two years later he set forth the method to his madness in an essay in High Fidelity titled “The Prospects of Recording.” In prose of a puckish fustiness as distinctive as his playing, he made three predictions: One: that recording would supplant live performance. Two: that much of the real action, musically speaking, would take place in the studio. Three: that, as technologies of sound manipulation got better and cheaper, the line between artist and audience would be smudged and maybe even—in a distant, Gouldtopian future—erased.

During the course of the lengthy read (well worth it) there are several illuminating recorded samples (I just love the the linking capabilities of the web! But you know that about me — you haven’t forgotten about the sequitur already, have you?).

Please read and enjoy.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

Simone Dinnerstein plays the Goldberg Variations. – By Evan Eisenberg – Slate Magazine

My current Pandora.com addiction notwithstanding (and, I do mean an addiction — it was on all day at work, and on now as I write this; find out more here and here and even here), I am, have been, and always will be a classical music person (listener — not performer!).

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler: my desert island fare. And, Glenn Gould was a god.

Everything else is commentary.

Sounds like the topic for a future blog post or 60.

Anyway, open up your mind and listen. Soon as post this I’m heading over to Amazon to buy the reviewed Simone Dinnerstein recording of the Goldberg Variations.

And isn’t Evan Eisenberg one hell of a writer?

Another thing: One feels that Dinnerstein was, from the start, playing for someone—unlike Gould, who played for himself and maybe, if he was in a sociable mood, Bach. Gould was one of the first classical musicians to master the mode of phonography I’ve called “cool”: Rather than reach out to the listener, he lets the listener come to him. Dinnerstein’s performance is anything but cool; it glows with a warmth that I will, with difficulty, restrain myself from calling maternal. Yet it has its own profound inwardness. Dinnerstein sheds some light on this: “When you’re pregnant, you’re aware of having somebody else there, but it’s also very much you. In a way, the most playing for yourself you could possibly do is playing with a baby inside.”

WIWICWLT!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

Note!: the link to Amazon.com used above is for the convenience of faithful reader and represents no commercial relationship whatsoever. Left-Handed Complement should be so fortunate as to ever collect remuneration of any kind for this endeavor. I can link, so I link. It’s technology. It’s cool. Deal with it.

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mm091: The Future of Internet Radio – John C. Dvorak

July 30, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

Written recently and not so regarding Pandora.com, MUDGE’s radio of choice these days. And, I do mean choice, since anytime I’m sitting at my home PC, I’m choosing what to listen to, sans annoying commercials, jingles or DJs.

Here’s one of my favorite reads: John Dvorak, a pioneer in the business of all things personally computational, an amazingly well-informed person, and who (and I say this in the most complimentary way) makes the average curmudgeon such as yours truly seem like a cock-eyed optimist.

He’s got this to say about Pandora and its ilk:

The Future of Internet Radio
07.17.07
Will the success of Web radio spell the end of traditional broadcast radio?

Dvorak

By John C. Dvorak

Over the past month or so, there has been a heated battle between the music industry and Internet radio about rights and fees. Actually, over the past decade, there has been nothing but trouble surrounding Internet radio. I think it’s one of the reasons that podcasting emerged as an alternative to Internet radio. Look closely at podcasting, however; with the exception of the advanced auto-download via RSS aspect, it’s actually just more Internet radio.

[Per L-HC’s reformed process, please click the link below for the complete article — but then please come on back!]

The Future of Internet Radio – Columns by PC Magazine

Dvorak points out that Internet radio has manifest advantages over broadcast: reach, on demand, and best of all, low cost:

The death blow, though, always comes down to money. The expense of streaming over the Internet is a fraction of what transmitter-based broadcasting costs. There is no big antenna, no transmitters, no special studios. Nothing within reason can change this metric.

For these $500 ears (a sad story for another time), the sound of Pandora.com is nothing less than superb.

And, as I’ve said at the top: no jingles, no “SUNDAY! AY! ay!”, no 20-minute blocks of clatter and clutter, no drive-time shenanigans from weasels trying to be Howard Stern (sui generis, which Latin phrase in this context means, “top weasel”), just music (of the non-classical variety) that I like to listen to.

I love Pandora.com! Let’s hear it for internet radio!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm073: 22 ways to overclock your brain- Thomas Holloway’s Blog on Vox

July 18, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

And now for something completely different…

I only wish I could follow that line with anything remotely Pythonesque, but it’s MUDGE here, not John Cleese (my hero!), so it will just be some mundane self-help stuff.

But, actually, it’s not so mundane. I found this posting at Thomas Holloway’s blog thanks to Technorati blogroll2 as I looked to see what other links regarding Pandora.com were posted at the time I posted mine.

Humor me…

22 ways to overclock your brain

I just found out that the brain is like a computer.
If that’s true, then there really aren’t any stupid people. Just people running DOS.

The brain is a three-pound supercomputer. It is the command and control center running your life. It is involved in absolutely everything you do. Your brain determines how you think, how you feel, how you act, and how well you get along with other people. Your brain even determines the kind of person you are. It determines how thoughtful you are; how polite or how rude you are. It determines how well you think on your feet, and it is involved with how well you do at work and with your family. Your brain also influences your emotional well being and how well you do with the opposite sex.

Your brain is more complicated than any computer we can imagine. Did you know that you have one hundred billion nerve cells in your brain, and every nerve cell has many connections to other nerve cells? In fact, your brain has more connections in it than there are stars in the universe! Optimizing your brain’s function is essential to being the best you can be, whether at work, in leisure, or in your relationships.

It’s simple, your brain is at the center of everything you do, all you feel and think, and every nuance of how you relate to people. It’s both the supercomputer that runs your complex life and the tender organ that houses your soul. And while you may run, lift weights, or do yoga to keep your body in good condition, chances are you ignore your brain and trust it to do its job.

No matter what your age, mental exercise has a global, positive effect on the brain. So, here are 22 ways to boost your brain power:

1. Run Up Your Brain Cells

Research suggests that people who get plenty of physical exercise can wind up with better brains. Scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., found that adult mice who ran on an exercise wheel whenever they felt like it gained twice as many new cells in the hippocampus, an area of the brain involved in learning and memory, than mice who sat around all day discussing Lord of the Rings in Internet chat rooms. The researchers weren’t sure why the more active rodents’ brains reacted the way they did, but it’s possible that the voluntary nature of the exercise made it less stressful and therefore more beneficial. Which could mean that finding ways to enjoy exercise, rather than just forcing yourself to do it, may make you smarter – and happier, too.

So, play a sport, train for an event such as a marathon, triathlon or “fun run,” or work out with a buddy to help keep things interesting.

2. Exercise Your Mind

It isn’t just physical exercise that gets those brain cells jumping. Just like those head-pumped cabbies and piano jockeys, you can build up various areas of your brain by putting them to work. Duke University neurobiology professor Lawrence C. Katz, Ph.D., co-author of Keep Your Brain Alive, says that finding simple ways to use aspects of your brain that may be lagging could help maintain both nerve cells and dendrites, branches on the cells that receive and process information. Just as a new weightlifting exercise builds up underused muscles, Katz says that novel ways of thinking and viewing the world can improve the functioning of inactive sections of the brain.

Experience new tastes and smells; try to do things with your nondominant hand; find new ways to drive to work; travel to new places; create art; read that Dostoyevsky novel; write a buddy comedy for Ted Kennedy and Rush Limbaugh – basically, do anything you can to force yourself out of your mental ruts.

3. Ask Why

Our brains are wired to be curious. As we grow up and “mature” many of us stifle or deny our natural curiosity. Let yourself be curious! Wonder to yourself about why things are happening. Ask someone in the know. The best way to exercise our curiosity is by asking “Why?” Make it a new habit to ask “why?” at least 10 times a day. Your brain will be happier and you will be amazed at how many opportunities and solutions will show up in your life and work.

4. Laugh

Scientists tell us that laughter is good for our health; that it releases endorphins and other positively powerful chemicals into our system. We don’t really need scientists to tell us that it feels good to laugh. Laughing helps us reduce stress and break old patterns too. So laughter can be like a “quick-charge” for our brain’s batteries. Laugh more, and laugh harder.

5. Be A Fish Head

Omega-3 oils, found in walnuts, flaxseed and especially fish, have long been touted as being healthy for the heart. But recent research suggests they’re a brain booster as well, and not just because they help the circulation system that pumps oxygen to your head. They also seem to improve the function of the membranes that surround brain cells, which may be why people who consume a lot of fish are less likely to suffer depression, dementia, even attention-deficit disorder. Scientists have noted that essential fatty acids are necessary for proper brain development in children, and they’re now being added to baby formulas. It’s possible that your own mental state, and even your intelligence, can be enhanced by consuming enough of these oils.

Eating at least three servings a week of fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel and tuna is a good start.

6. Remember

Get out an old photo album or high school yearbook. Your brain is a memory machine, so give it a chance to work! Spend time with your memories. Let your mind reflect on them and your mind will repay you in positive emotions and new connections from the memories to help you with your current tasks and challenges.

7. Cut The Fat

Can “bad” fats make you dumb? When researchers at the University of Toronto put rats on a 40-percent-fat diet, the rats lost ground in several areas of mental function, including memory, spatial awareness and rule learning. The problems became worse with a diet high in saturated fats, the kind that’s abundant in meat and dairy products. While you may never be called upon to navigate a little maze in search of a cheddar cube, these results could hold true for you as well, for two reasons: Fat can reduce the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your brain, and it may also slow down the metabolism of glucose, the form of sugar the brain utilizes as food.

You can still get up to 30 percent of your daily calories in the form of fat, but most of it should come from the aforementioned fish, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Whatever you do, stay away from trans fats, the hardened oils that are abundant in crackers and snack foods.

8. Do A Puzzle

Some of us like jigsaw puzzles, some crossword puzzles, some logic puzzles – it really doesn’t matter kind you choose to do. Doing puzzles in your free time is a great way to activate your brain and keep it in good working condition. Do the puzzle for fun, but do it knowing you are exercising your brain.

9. The Mozart Effect

A decade ago Frances Rauscher, a psychologist now at the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh, and her colleagues made waves with the discovery that listening to Mozart improved people’s mathematical and spatial reasoning. Even rats ran mazes faster and more accurately after hearing Mozart than after white noise or music by the minimalist composer Philip Glass. Last year, Rauscher reported that, for rats at least, a Mozart piano sonata seems to stimulate activity in three genes involved in nerve-cell signalling in the brain.

This sounds like the most harmonious way to tune up your mental faculties. But before you grab the CDs, hear this note of caution. Not everyone who has looked for the Mozart effect has found it. What’s more, even its proponents tend to think that music boosts brain power simply because it makes listeners feel better – relaxed and stimulated at the same time – and that a comparable stimulus might do just as well. In fact, one study found that listening to a story gave a similar performance boost.

10. Improve Your Skill At Things You Already Do

Some repetitive mental stimulation is ok as long as you look to expand your skills and knowledge base. Common activities such as gardening, sewing, playing bridge, reading, painting, and doing crossword puzzles have value, but push yourself to do different gardening techniques, more complex sewing patterns, play bridge against more talented players to increase your skill, read new authors on varied subjects, learn a new painting technique, and work harder crossword puzzles. Pushing your brain to new heights help to keep it healthy.

11. Be A Thinker, Not A Drinker

The idea that alcohol kills brain cells is an old one, but the reality is a bit more complicated. In fact, a study of 3,500 Japanese men found that those who drank moderately (in this case, about one drink per day) had better cognitive functioning when they got older than those who didn’t drink at all. Unfortunately, as soon as you get beyond that “moderate” amount, your memory, reaction time is all likely to decline. In the same study, men who had four or more drinks a day fared worst of all.

Just as bad is the now common practice of “binge drinking,” otherwise known as getting hammered on the weekend. Research on rats found that those who consumed large amounts of alcohol had fewer new cells in their brains’ hippocampus region immediately after the binge, and virtually none a month later. This suggests that the alcohol not only damaged the rats’ brains, but kept them from repairing themselves later on – in human terms, that means you shouldn’t expect to pass the Mensa entrance exam any time soon.

12. Play

Take time to play. Make time to play. Play cards. Play video games. Play board games. Play Ring Around the Rosie. Play tug of war. It doesn’t matter what you play. Just play! It is good for your spirit and good for your brain. It gives your brain a chance to think strategically, and keeps it working.

13. Sleep On It

Previewing key information and then sleeping on it increases retention 20 to 30 percent. You can leave that information next to the bed for easy access, if it is something that won’t keep you awake. If you are kept awake by your thoughts, writing everything down sometimes gets it “out of your mind,” allowing you to sleep (so keep a pen and paper nearby).

14. Concentration

Concentration can increase brainpower. Obvious, perhaps, but the thieves of concentration are not always so obvious. Learn to notice when you are distracted. Often the cause is just below consciousness. If there is a phone call you need to make, for example, it might bother you all morning, sapping your ability to think clearly, even while you are unaware of what is bothering you.

Get in the habit of stopping to ask “What is on my mind right now”. Identify it and deal with it. In the example given, you could make the phone call, or put it on tomorrow’s list, so your mind is comfortable letting it go for now. This leaves you in a more relaxed state where you can think more clearly. Use this technique to increase your brainpower now.

15. Make Love For Your Brain

In a series of studies by Winnifred B. Cutler, PhD and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania and later at Stanford University it was found that regular sexual contact had an important impact on physical and emotional well being of women. Sexual contact with a partner at least once a week led to more fertile, regular menstrual cycles, shorter menses, delayed menopause, increased estrogen levels, and delayed aging. Brain imaging studies at UCLA have shown that decreased estrogen levels are associated with overall decreased brain activity and poor memory. Enhancing estrogen levels for women through regular sexual activity enhances overall brain activity and improves memory.

In Dr. Cutler’s study the occurrence of orgasm was not as important as the fact that sex was with another person. Intimacy and emotional bonding may be the most influential factors in the positive aspects of sex. As a psychiatrist I have seen many people withhold sex as a way to show hurt, anger, or disappointment. Dr. Cutler’s research suggests that this is self-defeating behavior. The more you withhold the worse it may be for you. Appropriate sex is one of the keys to the brain’s fountain of youth.

16. Play With Passion!

You can’t do great work without personal fulfillment. When people are growing through learning and creativity, they are much more fulfilled and give 127% more to their work. Delight yourself and you delight the world. Remember what you loved to do as a child and bring the essence of that activity into your work. This is a clue to your genius; to your natural gifts and talents. da Vinci, Edison, Einstein and Picasso all loved to play and they loved to explore.

17. Cycles Of Consciousness

Your consciousness waxes and wanes throughout the day . For most it seems to go through 90 minute cycles, with 30 minutes of lower consciousness. Watch yourself to recognize this cycle. If you learn to recognize and track your mental state, you can concentrate on important mental tasks when your mind is most “awake”. For creative insight into a problem, do the opposite. Work on it when you are in a drowsy state, when your conscious mind has slowed down.

18. Learn Something New

This one might seem obvious. Yes, we capitalize on our brain’s great potential when we put it to work learning new things. You may have a specific topic for work or leisure that you want to learn more about. That’s great.

Go learn it. If you don’t have a subject in mind right now, try learning a new word each day. There is a strong correlation between working vocabulary and intelligence. When we have new words in our vocabulary, our minds can think in new ways with greater nuances between ideas. Put your mind to work learning. It is one of the best ways to re-energize your brain.

19. Write To Be Read

I am a big proponent of writing in a journal to capture ideas and thoughts. There is certainly great value in writing for yourself. I continue to find that my brain is greatly stimulated by writing to be read. The greatest benefit of writing is what it does to expand your brain’s capacity. Find ways to write to be read – by writing things for your friends to read, by capturing the stories of your childhood, starting your own blog or whatever – just write to be read.

20. Try Aroma Therapy To Activate Your Brain

One day, as I was falling asleep, while listening to endless speeches at a conference, my brain suddenly perked up when I caught a whiff of lemon from someone’s cologne. I immediately felt alert and found it much easier to pay attention to the presenter. I discovered aroma therapy really is useful and I have used it ever since revitalize or to relax.

Energizers include peppermint, cypress and lemon. Relaxants: ylang ylang, geranium and rose. A few drops of essential oils in your bath or in a diffuser will do the trick. You can also put a drop or two in a cotton ball or hanky and inhale. One caveat for the workplace; make sure no-one is allergic to the oils before you use them.

21. Drugs To Increase Brainpower

Coffee and other drinks containing caffeine help students consistently score higher on tests. Since caffeine restricts blood vessels in the brain, it isn’t clear what the longer-term effects may be when it comes to your brainpower. So instead of coffee breaks try gingko biloba and gotu kola herbal teas. Ginkgo biloba has been shown to increase blood flow to the brain, and improve concentration.

22. Build A Brain Trust

Surround yourself with inspiring people from a wide variety of fields who encourage you and stimulate your creativity. Read magazines from a wide variety of fields. Make connections between people, places and things, to discover new opportunities, and to find solutions to your problems.

Remember that no matter what your age or your occupation; your brain needs to be constantly challenged to be at its peak in terms of performance. Whether it’s doing logic puzzles, memorizing lines from Shakespeare, or learning a new skill, keep your brain busy, if you don’t want it to rust away like a car in a junkyard.

Posts – Thomas Holloway’s Blog on Vox

Not a lot that’s new, but an interesting spin makes much of it seem new. I try not to pay much attention to this New Age Zen and the like stuff. MUDGE is a “man of business” after all, and, of course, a curmudgeon. But this post stopped me cold, which is why you see it here.

I hope that you agree that I’m writing to be read (no. 19). The rest I’ve got to work on.

Absolutely worth the read, and the reflection.

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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mm070: Machinist: Web radio stations win a last-minute stay of execution – Salon

July 17, 2007

MUDGE’S Musings

From the Machinist blog blogroll2 at Salon.com comes, coming to you slightly late as I work off my backlog, this excellent news:

2007.07.13 • 14:16 PDT

Article removed at the polite request of the copyright holder

Machinist: Tech Blog, Tech News, Technology Articles – Salon

This is wonderful news for those of us who have become addicted to internet radio. Longtime reader may recall that I waxed poetic over Pandora.com early on in this blog’s history (way, way back in May of aught-seven). My love and respect for this service has only increased since then.

You’ll recall that Pandora, part of an organization titled the Music Genome Project, builds “stations” for you based on music that you tell it you like, in an effort to open you up to new or long-lost sounds. It has worked for me, for whom “popular” music has never ranked anywhere near more serious, classical music.

I haven’t had too much luck finding classical music stations on the internet that are decent quality, either artistic (too much “light classics” and short works all too commonly heard), or technical (streams get broken, even with a broadband connection all too frequently). And most suffer from way too many commercials — just what I’m trying to avoid by getting away from over-the-air.

So, Pandora is commercial free (of course there is advertising on the web page itself, but no spoken ads, thank goodness!), the sound quality is exquisite (when I listen via headphones at work, the channel separation and fidelity seem first-rate, at least to these elderly ears), and I’m exposed to popular music I may have only rarely heard, if at all.

When one “station” gets too repetitive, I switch; I must have a lot. Okay, I’ll count them, since I ask… 56! Whew! But plenty of variety, limited by your imagination. Because when you listen to a song you like, you tell the system, and it will play it again sooner. If you indicate you don’t like, they lose it. And you can take a song from one station and build an entire new station around it.

My taste in popular music is strange, and old: Beatles absolutely, and lately Beach Boys, which is where I started. Now I’ve got a Dr. John station, a Herb Alpert station (sorry!), a Walk Like an Egyptian station (now I know you’re doubled up laughing). But there is something very sexy sounding about those girl bands of that era, that’s fun, especially at work.

Anyway, free internet radio was threatened, per the above story, and I for one am thrilled that it lives on. Oh, yes, what am I listening to right now? Pat Benatar’s We Belong, on the Orinoco Flow station. Try Pandora.com before you laugh at me any more!

It’s it for now. Thanks,

–MUDGE

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