mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
I have settled on three longer workouts per week, never on consecutive days: two on weekdays, one on weekends. They run for a round hour as determined by the duration of BBC Radio's playlists, especially Radio 2's Wednesday Workout and Upbeat. While those feature a good mix of classic and modern tracks it amuses me that the former is such that one is not surprised if something from, say, the soundtrack of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994) is played.

I am using Betron B-25 headphones that mostly stay in my ears and do well at blocking the mechanical clanking and squeaking from the cross-trainer so that I can use fairly low volume. The isolation is such that spoken-word audio would also be viable.

My power output is down to around 21½ of the machine's calories per minute but I think that suffices as I still work up a sweat and do not want to overly tax myself. Rather than aiming for particular performance I instead just check the readings every song or so and increase the resistance if I am drifting over 55 RPM, which typically happens a couple of times over the course of the hour.

The lively popular music and lack of performance target certainly help my workouts to pass somewhat pleasantly. If facing another workout requires little willpower then I am more likely to continue with them.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
I often pay some attention to church services, not least the brief Daily Service that has been broadcast on BBC Radio for many decades. I am occasionally amused by a surprise perhaps arising from not always paying full attention. A recent example was the minister's sermon apparently slipping into song lyrics until a moment's thought told me that the song that had come to mind had itself been quoting from the Bible.
mtbc: maze E (black-cyan)
We spent the evening at a local concert hall to attend the high school's annual prizegiving. The school's orchestra and choir performed. The orchestra was quite entertaining in that they were a little on the ropey side of being good but I suppose that in education one should push gently at one's boundaries. I realized that it has been years since I was close to any kind of orchestra.

The parade of children across the stage receiving their certificates and trophies and whatnot certainly underlined the variety of shapes and sizes in which humans come. Further, there was clothing variation. In my school prefects had a distinct tie but I don't recall much more differentiation. One of our children already has a different school tie than when they first started. The jacket sleeve cuffs appear to come with a variety of colored stripes: many children had none, but some had up to two gold stripes and I think I saw some with as many as a gold stripe and two purple. With my own children I inquired after the command structure; in responding they were somewhat vague. I think that the two-gold are the highest level of prefect and the purple is more about other kinds of helping out.

A further variation was shirt sleeve length. Boys simply had short sleeves or long. One girl appeared to have nothing worthy of being called a sleeve. Some girls had cap sleeves and some had a fifth length, extending only just beyond their elbow. The girl with the intimidating double bass had such half-length sleeves.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Glastonbury's back, giving me another source of easy live music thanks to the BBC. I don't know the annual festival calendar but I am happy to see them arrive; I guess Reading must still be coming. I think that Muse were my favorite Glastonbury set last year. While eating chicken balti with naan I am enjoying The Pretenders: Chrissie Hynde's still got it and the first several songs have already included my favorites. Like Muse, The Pretenders are one of the few groups to have generated many singles that I rather like. I don't recall catching television coverage of comparable American festivals when I lived there but perhaps I just didn't know where to look.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Of the hymns last Sunday in church I noticed that I most liked How Great Thou Art in preference to the more modern ones from Mission Praise. I got to thinking about older music. BBC Radio 3 has The Early Music Show and [personal profile] emperor used to present a great local radio show with similarly early music but I wondered how much further back we can go. For religious music, with my background in Christianity I naturally thought of the mysterious cantillation signs for the Book of Psalms. Some searching online finds me CDs by Esther Lamandier which perhaps I ought to investigate. I don't immediately find an easy way to sample them though I guess there are probably also other relevant artists.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
This year's Eurovision Song Contest was, of course, its typical mix ranging from the bland to the bizarre. For me there were not any especially outstanding songs. I may have been a little too sober for it all this year as I didn't fancy drinking any more after my initial large dark rum. The variety among the songs, and the direness of some, makes me wonder if it is more a contest of national selection procedures than national talent.

I liked the entry from Armenia. The one from Azerbaijan was okay; it might have seemed incoherently weird if not for being followed by the strange Croatian entry. I thought the Romanian entry fun, the Moldovan entry initially catchy, and the songs from France and Germany were reasonable; the German lady seemed to enjoy herself. I didn't find the UK entry pleasant: much of the melody seemed pitched a bit high for where the lady's voice was best and the subject matter appeared to require her to appear to be somewhat stressfully upset throughout. The Portuguese winner I found boring although somewhat improved in the reprise when the sister joined in: her voice was better for it and, as she wrote it too, she should have just entirely dumped her tedious brother.

Last year I wrote that I notice that I agree rather more with the vox populi than with the jury vote. I am not aware that the full split results are yet available but I am under a strong impression that again I am rather more with the public than the professionals, though of course not wholly so.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
I was recently listening to French radio again, FIP, and I heard a song that I didn't know that I thought rather good. It turns out to be Arcade Fire's Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) so hardly obscure, I had just managed to consistently fail to notice it before.

Further back in the 1980s was Jennifer Rush's The Power of Love which did far better in the UK than in the US. It may be simple and cheesy but, eh, I like it anyway. It is only today that I stumbled across a North American cover: apparently Celine Dion did well out of the song a decade later. I can't say that I immediately warm to her version.

I do seem to be quite good at catching up with music rather belatedly. I fill some contemporary holes by watching shows like Jools Holland's Later…; among its typical mix the latest episode was among the better. I think they said that the next includes Future Islands again who are always fun to watch. Lately the show has had the occasional French artist where they seem to take the visuals quite seriously (possibly they have been the same person and I didn't realize).
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
BBC Four shows a good variety of documentaries. Earlier this month they showed The Secret Science of Pop from which my impression now is that from the past few decades of popular music in the UK they were somewhat successful in doing some kind of feature extraction and weighting then using that data to derive a statistically predictive measure of success in the sales charts. They however failed to extend this to be able to adjust a given song to make it more likely to succeed commercially.

One discovery was that in terms of the extracted features the more successful songs tend to be those closest to the current mainstream. Today it occurred to me that the algorithmic research could be monetized without being able to adjust a given song to increase its likelihood of success. Instead, select songs that were not much successful and were some considerable distance from the mainstream at the time that they were released, but that are close to the current mainstream, then rerelease some version of them. After all, it is hardly unprecedented for an artist to have a hit with a song that had been released years earlier to considerably less fanfare.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Comic Relief has been raising money for charitable causes for very many years in the UK. To some extent it, or at least the idea and name, has spread to other countries, but here it is now an established institution. This year's Red Nose Day comes this Friday.

What their formal mission statements are I don't know but, broadly, BBC Radio 6 Music carries a wide selection of music, BBC Radio 1 carries plenty of popular music to which one might expect the youth of today to listen (as a teenager I liked the weekly chart rundown) and BBC Radio 2 carries a fair bit of older popular music, among other things. A number of voices on Radio 2 started out on Radio 1 and shifted over as they and their audiences aged. Radio 3 gets the classical music. These stations are available as online streams.

Sara Cox is a familiar voice, mostly from BBC Radio 1, and she also appears on various BBC television. She was born not far in time or space from where I was. At the moment, for Comic Relief, she is engaged in a 24-hour danceathon: Radio 2 plays music from the 1980s and she dances along, livestreamed online.

I like the music of the era and I haven't been able to resist watching Sara from time to time for a few reasons, including:

  • Fatigue is a powerful force: despite the ongoing scrutiny, I expect that after a while we end up seeing Sara much as she really is underneath. I also wondered how she would flag as the hours went on. However, at the time of writing, she is still doing well and seems genuinely nice: the more I watch, the more I am inclined to root for her.

  • As somebody to whom dancing is quite alien, I figure that somebody who engages in an unchoreographed 24-hour danceathon is quite the opposite of me: I get to see extended video of somebody for whom dancing comes naturally and I can study how they do it.

So far it all seems to have been a good idea and Sara comes across warmly and is probably doing plenty of good for charity. One thing I had not anticipated but have enjoyed is watching her react and adjust as each new song starts.

Update: The following morning Sara was still doing well and the danceathon raised over one million pounds for Comic Relief.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
At the best of times I play piano very poorly. Tonight I actually touched the keyboard for the first time this year: mostly using just one finger from each hand, I made my way through three tunes so slowly that they were unrecognizable. I shall take it as a small sign of tangible progress: a clear step even if far short of any useful end. Perhaps my productivity has increased slightly because our routine has not been perturbed lately: we are now well past the holiday season and largely caught up on chores.
mtbc: maze I (white-red)
I find it interesting how in my case others' efforts to ensure revenue often cause less of it. An early example was Napster. If I could listen to music a few times then I could find that I liked it enough to be worth buying; the music industry had Napster shut down. It is not as if promotion and reviews are likely to cause me to buy an album. The principal substitute I had for Napster was if I were lucky enough to live somewhere where I could first borrow the CD from the library for free (so, not Britain). At least these days it seems that a high fraction of tracks can be heard on YouTube.

A more recent example is newspaper websites that are increasingly hiding content behind varieties of reading quota or paywall. This teaches me not to bother visiting the site as the risk of disappointment is high; they then fade from my mind somewhat. The Guardian is taking a different approach: offering news and opinion for free but reminding us that it would be awfully nice if we were to pay them. Having previously been wealthier I already know that I do actually pay for such things when I have the money and for now The Guardian keep themselves in my mind and my good graces without losing out: I am not going to pay at the moment regardless of access to their content and someday if my financial circumstances improve then they are now among the more likely to share in that.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
My drive home, back up from the southwest to the northeast, went easily, with less rain and still no bad traffic. Unintentionally I awoke early both today and last week so left before dawn: driving down to Cornwall I was on the M5 by noon and today by noon I had reached Lancaster, not even driving among the faster cars.

During today's drive BBC local radio included the earnest statement that beavers excite strong opinions in people and BBC national radio played me the latest from Rag'n'Bone Man, Blondie and Future Islands, all of which seemed much as one would expect from them, though Future Islands really have to be watched. There was an amusing moment with commercial radio in which Frank Skinner told us an anecdote about a man vomiting much confectionery only for the show to abruptly cut to a commercial in which a lady wondered if we fancy a treat. My favorite CD from the drive back up was probably Joe Satriani's instrumental rock album Surfing with the Alien: I had forgotten how very good he is at playing electric guitar expressively.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
Being back in Cornwall at present it is interesting to be reminded of small details that I had forgotten: for example, at lunch in a restaurant today I was asked Where's your table to? in contrast to the Where's your table at? which fits what I sometimes heard after moving to Ohio.

I realized that driving down yesterday I spanned the extent of the British motorway network from its northeast to its southwest tip: from the A90 I entered westward at one end of the M90 near Perth and exited the end of the M5 at Exeter westward onto the A30. My radio listening included Alice Levine's show on BBC Radio 1. I also enjoyed Vanessa Paradis' Live album: I like Dis-lui toi que je t'aime and she does sound sweetly enthusiastic in covering Les Cactus.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
One reason why I value the BBC's content is how comprehensively subtitled their television shows tend to be. Though my hearing is good I have always found it a little challenging to decode sounds into human speech; in noisy rooms I often watch interlocutors' lips. The subtitles have especial value for the many shows in which the BBC coherently edits together archive clips of interviews and performances on some musical theme: I finally find out what the lyrics are.

My father had the same difficulty with listening to speech but was also dyslexic so subtitles ran far too quickly for him.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
The booklet summarizing the holiday season services at local churches contains some errors this year that caused us to be in the half-hour-late batch of congregants for a service last night. (I had tried to double-check online but All Saints' website's news section is yet to reach 2016.) A consequence was that we were unable to sit together: I sat directly behind some of my family, a fact that became an unexpected source of amusement to me: just as I entertain myself when alone by the noises I make when attempting to sing, I kept remembering as I sang that this time it was some of my own family right there taking the brunt of my hearty attempts. Afterward they kindly reported being quite untroubled by my emanations.

Caroling

Dec. 8th, 2016 10:25 pm
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
This morning I sang my first Christmas carols of the season at an informal jolly affair in a large indoor area of the research complex in which I work. There was a flutist and mince pies and the coworker I found myself standing beside sang strikingly well indeed. It made for a pleasant break from usual routine. We were joined by small children from the University nursery: they sat in a group and looked quite bemused.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
I have taken to simply skipping lower notes when they look to be a painful stretch away from upper ones. Still, today in trying to play Tell Out, My Soul (in my very slow, hesitant way) I nearly ran out of keyboard as there was a very low C♯ that took me a moment to figure out what it was. In some hymns I notice that a switch of staff seems to indicate that I should play the same note first with one hand then the other. It makes sense overall; perhaps I am just noticing it more now.

Update: I also spy a low C in Away in a Manger.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
When I awaken I quickly forget my dreams: indeed, if I keep a pen and paper by my bed, I can feel the memory quickly melting as I scribble down the details. This morning when I awoke, in my dream I had been hearing a fictional Christmas song by Billy Joel and I did manage to remember the line of the song from when I woke up. Dreamwidth doesn't seem to support even <svg> tags so I doubt it offers me an easy way to render music but I can provide abc notation that at least approximates the fragment of the song that I managed to recall:
X:1
L:1/8
M:4/4
K:C
G2 | d3 c B4 | d3 c B3 G | c3 B A4 |]
w:We | stole a kiss | un-der-neath the | mis-tle-toe
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
I discover some earlier East Asian music through the modern Western music that I enjoy. For example, it's through Blondie that I found Asadoya Yunta from Japan and through Jean-Michel Jarre that I found Fisherman's Song at Sunset from China. I wonder how well-known these works are in their home regions and what other popular older music we are missing out on in the West. I have some random albums from the East but I have no idea if tracks like Hungry Horse Rings A Bell at all represent the best of the genre.
mtbc: maze G (black-magenta)
A surprising result of Trump's victory is that I haven't been able to enjoy the light lively music that I often put on while I work. Today I discovered that I can still listen to Leonard Cohen: there is something wise and comforting and accepting in his words and voice. He died the day before the election, not long after his latest album came out. This year has seen all manner of significant losses.

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Mark T. B. Carroll

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