Eine Kleine Nichtmusik

Witty and pertinent observations on matters of great significance OR Incoherent jottings on total irrelevancies OR Something else altogether OR All of the above

Friday, July 29, 2005

The beauty of the Scottish landscape


My friend George goes walking in Scotland a lot - I'll get the precise location and add a note as soon as I can - but I know he's been over Glencoe way recently.

This was too beautiful to not share with you.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Honestly, she isn't paying me....

April Winchell's blog is pretty funny too, especially the posts of new Internet acronyms (sadly not separately addressable so you'll have to scroll...but it's worth it.)

Personal favourites:
SBGO%^THB&
NEPMATMAE
BRBAOOOMCFMDP

Oh. My. God.

I was just over on Troubled Diva, voting for the Mud cover of "In The Mood" as Mike's podcasting theme tune. I mentioned another silly cover version by Ray Stevens (famous for "Everything Is Beautiful" and "The Streak" ) wherein all the parts are clucked by chickens. And then I found a downloadable version here (scroll down to "Chicken Songs").

And then I looked at the other stuff available on that site. Hindi cover versions of Abba, anybody? A Cantonese version of "YMCA"? The famous William Shatner verison of Hamlet's Soliloquy? Corporate songs that sound like something from the Trachtenberg Family, but without the slides? Peter Sellers ad Sophia Loren doing "Goodness Gracious Me"? The Chipmunks doing "Mr Tambourine Man"?

I'll stop now before I hyperventilate. It is a cave of wonders. Go. Check. It. Out.

I DEFY you to come away without finding something to make you giggle, boggle, or something-else-ggle.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

An ill woodwind that nobody blows good

A friend sent this to Hilary with the comment "Did you ever dream there was such a thing?"

No, we didn't. But it seems rather cool. Especially the thought of the world's largest ever bass clarinet choir.

Mind you, being married to someone who prefers playing her bass clarinet to playing the ordinary one does sort of rub off. Plus being a Wagner fan helps. (Have you any idea how many good bass clarinet tunes there are in Wagner? They're all over the place: Elizabeth's prayer in Tannhaüser and Sieglinde's motif in Die Walküre are perhaps the most outstanding examples.)

Also, I speak as someone who presented Hilary with a CD of music for solo basset horn (a sort of baby bass clarinet*) by Karlheinz Stockhausen the day our daughter was born, supposedly from Vanessa as a "Thank you for having me" present. So a certain bias in favour of wacky clarinetty stuff is there.

Should anyone consider that to be an excellent example of why I scored low on empathy on this BBC quiz they can get knotted.



*If you're a clarinet anorak and intend to post a comment about all the significant differences between the basset horn and the bass clarinet, don't bother 'cos I know. OK?

You may have noticed...

... the addition of a name on this blog.

So as Rob mentioned, that would be me, Lisa Rullsenberg, who will be blog sitting this little baby blog whilst Rob takes a bit of a break - wouldn't want the poor thing to be starved of attention? (Not as I think the coterie of visitors would dry up that quickly Rob!)

Anyway, I'll be dropping by here whilst mein host is tending his family in Ballater: I'll try and bring you a few homilies and snippets of life and living to keep you going.

And if you think I'm going to take over the site with racy talk of popular culture, panic not! I'll keep the truly weird stuff over at Rullsenberg Rules. Do not desert Eine Kleine Nichtmusik!

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

My son the actor

Last weekend was the culmination of a very busy fortnight for Ruairidh. He was taking part in a summer programme at the Lyceum Youth Theatre here in Edinburgh: to be exact, he was in The Tempest . This was an adaptation of the Shakespeare play which managed to retain all the original storyline, with Shakespearean language, while cutting it to around an hour and inserting it as a play within a play. The basic gimmick was that a party of school children were wrecked on a Caledonian MacBrayne Western Isles ferry, and washed up on a deserted Hebride (can you have just one?). This island exerted a magical influence which caused some of the children to adopt the characters from Shakespeare's The Tempest and to act out the story, while other children remained unaffected and formed a sort of humorous counterpoint to the central tale. It actually worked very well. Ruairidh was one of the children who got to do a Shakespearean role, specifically Sebastian. He got the script some weeks beforehand and learned it (with help from Vanessa who took on script-testing duties). Then he had two weeks of Monday-Friday rehearsals, culminating in performances last Friday and Saturday on the main stage at the Lyceum theatre. The acting was very good; to be honest, better than I'd expected. Vanessa saw both performances, while Hilary and I and doting grandparents went on Saturday. Apart from the generally high standard, Ruairidh was personally excellent,
showing (a) why he does well in drama at school and (b) what he's been doing on all those Saturday afternoons at the regular LYT classes.

Actually at one of those classes he did this recently, which pleased him no end, as you can imagine.

We also went to see the senior LYT group doing The Insect Play, which had one of Vanessa's best friends in it. The difference in standard was very striking: the senior group were in no way inferior to an adult ensemble (I've seen much worse performances on the Fringe). We enjoyed the play too: all I knew about the Kapeks before Saturday was that they had given the word "robot" to the world in their play R.U.R.

So Ruairidh is coming down to Earth now, chilling with his sister. Hilary has been up at the Ballater flat decorating since Sunday (where that woman gets her energy for decorating I have no idea). She has now completely repainted five rooms (having regrouted our bathroom in Edinburgh before she went). While she was away I painted a radiator (not to be totally left out...)

We're all off to Ballater this weekend for two weeks of happy irresponsibility, walking, cycling, pottering about, eating scones, reading Harry Potter, whatever. But fear not - the lovely Lisa of Rullsenberg Rules has very kindly consented to be Blogmistress while I'm gone. My only worry is that she'll do it so much better than me that you'll all desert to her blog. Oh well. If it happens, it happens. Bring it on.

I'm still around for another couple of days so I expect I'll stick up another post or two before I go.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Wer wird aus den starken Stücken Notung, das Schwert, wohl schweißen?

This is a post about Questions from Hell. The title is the one which the Wanderer asks Mime in Act One of Wagner's Siegfried ("Who will weld the sturdy splinters of the sword Nothung?") *

I found a wonderful post on the topic (Questions from Hell, not armaments manufacture) on Girl's site here which I felt deserved a wider audience.

It reminded me of the occasion when I was babysitting for a neighbour with a daughter who was, IIRC, about ten or perhaps eleven. We were sitting chatting and she asked me "Rob...can I ask you something? Only I'd feel a bit embarrassed asking my parents."

Hmm. That sounded a bit ominous, but "OK."

"What exactly do lesbians DO?"

Pause for a second.

"I mean, I think I can understand what gay men do, but I can't work out what lesbians do."

Having assured myself by a searching look that this was not, in fact, a wind-up (and let me remind you of my high score yesterday on the identifying-emotions-from-looking-in-the-eyes test) I did, in fact, provide some kind of an answer (emphasising the importance of the whole cuddling thing for both men and women took me some of the way, I think). While it would have been easy to cop out I would have felt I was letting the girl down, and in any case the question wasn't unreasonable. I did point out that neither my gender nor my sexuality qualified me as an ideal respondent on this one, but she seemed happy enough with what she got.

There is also a wonderful tale of Sir Ralph Richardson at a gala evening at the National Theatre unwisely gushing to HM The Queen Mother about what a wonderful occasion this was, and how when the National Theatre had first been established she'd given a speech: "A wonderful speech Ma'am; I can still remember every word of it." With a slight twinkle in her eye the QM responded "Really? Do you think you could recite some of it for me now?" Richardson, after only a moment's horror, rose to the occasion with great aplomb and made up some splendid-sounding stuff about how the National Theatre would be a sounding-board of British drama for years to come. The QM smiled and moved on. Richardson leaned over to Peter Hall and whispered "That was a close one..."

* The answer to the Wanderer's question was of course "One who has never known fear". Siegfried fitted that description, but then he'd never met a ten-year-old girl, far less been asked about lesbian practices by one; and his mother's death in childbirth saved him from any awkward grilling about BDSM.

Pop goes the rucksack, and other London ditties

First and foremost, it's good that nobody seems to have been seriously hurt. Also good that the bombers' plans seem to have been frustrated, and that there's a good chance they'll be caught. My heart goes out to those still shaken by the July 7th bombings who were caught up in today's events: not what they needed.

As far as I know Omarion wasn't in town. That's good in so many ways.

A statement of the obvious from Sky News:

Hospital staff were told by police to be on the lookout for a man they described as 1.85 metres tall, wearing a blue top and with wires protruding from a hole in the back of his clothing.

Is it just me, or does it strike other people that someone matching that description might attract attention even without police encouragement?

Will Rob's feminine side please get in touch?

Over on Boob Pencil , Clare has been doing this online survey and I thought it looked fun. Here are my answers for what it’s worth. Somewhat to my relief I come out as more masculine than Clare.

Angles
Identify the angle of a line by matching it with its twin.
Your score: 19 out of 20
Average score for men: 15.1 out of 20
Average score for women: 13.3 out of 20

Spot the difference
Identify which objects changed position.
Your score: 57%
Average score for men: 39%
Average score for women: 46%

Hands
You said your left thumb was on top when you clasped your hands together.
Right thumb on top: Left half of brain is dominant.
Left thumb on top: Right half of brain is dominant.
Right-brained people may be better fighters and artists.

Empathising
Your empathy score is: 7 out of 20
Average score for men: 7.9 out of 20
Average score for women: 10.6 out of 20

Systemising
Your systemising score is: 19 out of 20
Average score for men: 12.5 out of 20
Average score for women: 8.0 out of 20

Eyes
Ability to judge people's emotions.
Your score: 8 out of 10
Average score for men: 6.6 out of 10
Average score for women: 7.6 out of 10

Fingers
Ratio of index to ring fingers.
Your ratios came to: Right Hand: 0.97 Left Hand: 0.93
Average ratio for men: 0.982
Average ratio for women: 0.991

Faces
Rating attractiveness of faces digitally altered to creates slight differences in masculinity/femininity.
Your choices suggest you prefer more feminine faces.

3D shapes
Ability to rotate 3D shapes mentally.
Your score: 12 out of 12
Average score for men: 8.2 out of 12
Average score for women: 7.1 out of 12

Words
Your verbal fluency.
Your score: you associated 2 word(s) with grey and you named 6 word(s) that mean happy. Your total score: 8 words.
Average score for men: 11.4 words total
Average score for women: 12.4 words total

Ultimatum
You have to divide £50 with someone. If they find your split unacceptable you both get nothing.
You said you would demand £25 (50%)
Average demanded by men: £25.80 (51.6%)
Average demanded by women: £25.50 (51%)

While most of the scores seem to be a fair reflection of my character, I have to say I was feeling uninspired when trying to think of grey objects and synonyms for happy. In general I perform very well on verbal tests. Inarticulate? I don’t know the meaning of the word. Ho hummmmmm.

I am reminded of an early Dilbert cartoon which adorns my desk at work. Dilbert is complaining to Dogbert that “I’ll never figure out how to get my invention to work”. Dogbert suggests “You’re being too logical. Try using the right side of your brain.” “Yes,” says Dilbert, “maybe I should call on my feminine side”. In the final frame he is holding his invention and saying “Now it doesn’t work and I want to cry”.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Keep It Simple, Genius

"Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." (Albert Einstein)

So as well as his other talents (oh yes, he was a vey decent amateur violinist) Albert came up with one of the all-time great one-line aphorisms.

And he had hair. I think I hate him.



Update: I've decided not to hate somebody who not only wore shoes without socks, he wore shoes without socks to the Nobel Prize awards ceremony.

The Late Great

It used to be said (probably still is) that "The only good Tory is a dead Tory". That may or may not be true, but tonight, at least, one more good Tory is a dead Tory.

According to the BBC, Sir Edward Heath has died. Although he was a Tory and I never voted for him, I remember him with a certain amount of affection for several reasons:

(a) he eventually managed to get us into the Common Market (as the EU was then colloquially known);

(b) while he had the bad judgment to appoint Margaret Thatcher as Education Secretary (though let's remember she was a mild-mannered pro-European in those days) he had the sense to loathe her passionately after she became Prime Minister, and not only because she supplanted him as conservative leader;

(c) he refused to retire gracefully into the House of Lords but insisted on remaining in the Commons where he regularly scarified governments whether Tory or Tony (almost Tory but the 'n' stands for 'new');

(d) he was actually good at things unconnected with politics - in his case sailing (in which he competed at international level) and music (OK, so Bernstein and Karajan were in no danger from his conducting, but he was perfectly adequate within his repertoire limits).

I have always rather liked it when celebrities (not only politicians) turnout to have serious talent in areas unconnected with their day jobs. I'm not thinking here about Ronald Reagan or Arnold Schwarzenegger, or even Clint Eastwood. They made use of their "day job " celebrity status to launch political careers. Nor of the considerable number of politicians who have written decent history books (Churchill, Jenkins, Hattersley.) No, I'm thinking of Geena Davis (archery) Woody Allen (jazz clarinet) or (turning it on its head somewhat) Iron Maiden's Bruce Dickinson (airline pilot), where there is a surprising contrast between the two careers. I suppose I find the idea of such a double life romantic. There are plenty of even better examples from the past. Eric Liddell, the Christian missionary whose double life involved winning an Olympic running medal (and became half of the story of "Chariots of Fire"). The composers Borodin (chemist) and Rimsky-Korsakov (serving naval officer). Rajiv Gandhi - another airline pilot. Pride of place has to be the Zurich Patent Office clerk who worked on problems in theoretical physics when he got home, until in 1905 he published three papers each of which changed science for ever, and one of which got him the Nobel Prize. It was, of course, Albert Einstein. (And the one he got the Nobel for wasn't even the Theory of Relativity!)

I think I'd be happy to be remembered for any of the four points (a)-(d) above. Of course Heath had his bad side: he was personally very rude to colleagues, and was PM at a time of almost unprecedented industrial unrest (the three-day week and so on) not unconnected with his policies. But his political legacy is mostly positive; he didn't start any wars; and as far as I know he never told outright lies either to Parliament or to the public.

He'll be missed.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Still a lazy blogger

More in the saga of blogging consequences being run by Mike.

Saltation had thrown out a challenge with a final sentence in post 8 which read "There I was, dangling from a cliff on a burning rope over a pit of tigers." Well, you know how I love a challenge. I could hardly let an opportunity like that go to waste, could I?

My second (and according to Mike's rules therefore final) contribution may be perused here.

A socially useful endeavour

Just read the following post on Mad Musings Of Me (the reason I haven't just linked directly to that post is that Googlebombing requires lots of links to the same site from the same link text on different sites, so I want a link to the target site here on EKN. OK?) .

++++++++++++++++++

Is Omarion a wanker?
Badly Dubbed Boy wants us to Google Bomb this nasty piece of work whose PR agency put out a Press Release last week
Omarion was in London during the tragic bombings that struck this morning ... He would like his fans to pray that he has a safe trip and a safe return home. He appreciates your support.

++++++++++++++++++

Feel free to join in....

Mony a Mickle Mak's a Muggle

We've been threatening Vanessa her all day that if she doesn't tidy her room we'll get up before her on Saturday morning (yes, I know, in my case an empty threat, though V doesn't do mornings either) and hide the freshly-delivered copies of HPATHBP (and if you don't know what that stands for, people, people, haven't you seen the news tonight about the Biggest Publishing Event Of The Year, which happened at midnight? Hint: the first P stands for Potter.) And yes, there will be three copies arriving, one for each kid and one for Hilary and myself. Though I think I shall have to re-read HPATOOTP (oh come ON, keep up!) before tackling the new one to maximise my enjoyment.

We've just been watching J K Rowling reading an extract from the new book, live on TV from Edinburgh Castle, and I have to say it does sound pretty good on the strength of that. Regardless of how well it's plotted, and whether it's concise or over-long, she really is very strong on the little descriptive details. The (commercially-available) temporary daydream which transports you to a virtual reality pirate ship with a hunky hero. (Duration 30 minutes. Side-effects: vacant expression, slight drooling. Not for sale to under-16s.) Or the toddler playing with Daddy's wand on the camp-site at the Quidditch World Cup, who enlarges a slug which Mummy then steps on while retrieving the wand (cue small child chanting "You bust slug! You bust slug!")

I can tell you the precise point in HPATPS (catching on?) at which I became a fan. It's where Ron Weasley is attempting to cast a spell on his pet rat Scabbers, as follows:

Sunshine, daisies, butter mellow,
Turn this stupid fat rat yellow.

I thought, the person who can dream up a line like that is OK.

Whether or not you like the grand sweep of the story (and I'm reserving judgement until she's done all seven) JKR is second to none in her command of the small detail and the throwaway line. And can be extremely funny.

I also liked Professor Dumbledore's card (in a set of Famous Witches and Wizards collected with some kind of sweet) which listed his interests as chamber music and ten-pin bowling. Now that's really cool.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Four hearts beating as one (plus/minus a bar or so)

Well, my mastery of the Sellotape (if not the violin) bore fruit last night with the first gathering of our newly-minted string quartet. I collected Elspeth (maths teacher, viola) and John (not sure what he does, cello) and we found our way out to Emma's (biochemist, violin) place with my bag full of music. We settled in, all a bit nervous (after all, playing chamber music is a bit like sex, only noisier and less messy), got ourselves tuned up. I suggested we begin with "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik", not in any spirit of blog loyalty but because it's easy to play and everyone knows how it goes. So we did that, running each movement twice to iron out the bugs. Elspeth hadn't played any quartets before; John, Emma and I all had but not for many years. We didn't have to stop at all, and our intonation got noticeably better on the second runs. At the end, we all looked rather pleased with ourselves (Yay! we just played a quartet!).

What next? I'd dug David Stone's Miniature Quartet No. 1 out of the library: played it when I was at school, remembered it as (a) charming (b) dead easy. Right on both counts, and again we ran each movement twice. Emma reckoned it sounded very rural-English, and she's right. There is a Miniature Quartet No. 2, which I will try to get hold of.

Every now and then when I looked across at Elspeth she was looking concerned. The trouble turned out to be a not uncommon one. We string players are flock animals, like sheep: we sit in our orchestral sections, bleating pitifully and looking to the head sheep for guidance. I exaggerate a little, but there is certainly comfort in numbers, and if you play something and nobody around you is playing there is a reasonable tendency to think you've screwed up. (Unless you're exceptionally confident, or deaf or - like one player I used to know - both). Emma and John are orchestral head sheep, leading the cellos and second violins respectively in the Edinburgh Symphony Orchestra. I sit directly behind Emma usually (outside second desk violin 2) while Elspeth is in the same place in the violas. Elspeth's experience being orchestral rather than in quartets, whenever she had something to play by herself she instinctively assumed something was wrong. We all made encouraging noises (more encouraging than the ones our instruments were making, anyway) and no doubt she'll get the hang of it.

Then it was on to the silly arrangement of Rossini's "Barber of Seville" overture. Terrific fun, difficult to keep a straight face, lots of notes, lots of accidentals missed. While we were doing that Emma's partner Simon came home. Amazingly he didn't instantly leave again...

Coffee break, general social chit-chat, say hello to Emma's cats, chat to Simon.

Another crack at the Rossini, and we agreed that it would be fun to take it away and practice the notes so we could do it a bit more justice. So, time fo a final dive into the music bag. Emma fancied something romantic rather than Haydn or Mozart. After a brief discussion we ended up with an early Beethoven quartet (Op. 18 No. 6). Not exactly romantic, but moderately demanding. Well, actually, pretty damn demanding. None of us had played it before, though both John and I had heard it several times. First movement: loadsanotes for me, brought off not too badly I thought for a first attempt. Slow movement, some interesting counting and tricky rhythmic stuff, which kept bringing us to a stop. The scherzo - ha! OK, for the non-quartet buffs out there, the Op 18 No 6 scherzo is one of those places where Beethoven obviously decided to have some fun. The individual parts look innocent enough, a bit syncopated perhaps, but not specially difficult. But when you try to fit them together it's like trying to close an umbrella while holding three bags of shopping and a toddler. Nothing wants to stay where it should be, and you lose all your points of reference if you're not careful. We admitted defeat in that one until next time, when I shall come with a minidisc so we can all hear how it locks together. The last movement, pehaps fortunately for morale, went very well. And then it was time to go.

So. I think it went pretty well for a first rehearsal, and even Elspeth thought she'd enjoyed it, nervousness apart. We've got a couple of things to work on to keep us motivated, and plenty of stuff to go at for "drive-by" sight-reading. No plans for any public performances, not for now anyway, so no pressure. Nice to be back doing the quartet thing again after (thinks....) 27 years.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lance (as in Armstrong) rhymes with France (as in Tour de)

I've just been watching the (taped) highlights of today's Tour de France stage, having been watching the live coverage until I had to go to work at about 15:45. A fairly amazing day, with just about all the people who could have prevented Lance Armstrong winning a seventh successive TdF victory (and a final one, as this time he's really retiring) being blown away by his team's tactics.

What is it about the Tour? I watch Olympic cycling, but only the same way I watch Olympic boxing or weightlifting, not in a fanatical way. But the Tour really captures my imagination, and that of both Hilary and Vanessa (Ruairidh not so much).

Vanessa was being amazed today at the way individual glory is totally submerged in the drive to get the team's main man into the best position possible. Also by the degree of sportsmanship shown by the riders (for example, when Lance Armstrong collided with a spectator two years ago, his main challenger waited for him to get back into the saddle before continuing - and then lost to him).

Is it just the Armstrong effect? One visible figure to identify with; the same effect that Muhammad Ali had on boxing's profile. Could be: I began to take an interest in football when I watched a programme of highlights from the week's Italian football which included the (famous if you're into that sort of thing) run by George Weah which enabled him to score for Milan against Verona from a Verona corner kick. (For the non-fans out there: this is difficult, seeing as how it required him to run the whole length of the pitch overcoming defenders on the way.)

I think our interest will continue after Armstrong retires, but would we have become fans without him? I don't know.

Lazy Blogger

You remember the game of blogging consequences that Mike is running? Well, it's started, and I've just made my first/only contribution here.

Enjoy.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Quartets on tape, yes. But tape on quartets?

When I was but a lad (1971, 1972, 1973) I attended a chamber music summer school at what was usually a girls' boarding school: Downe House, near Newbury in Berkshire. You could tell it was a girls' boarding school, because the graffiti in the toilets were even more off-colour than those in my own (non-boarding but all boys) school. We found a piano in one of the practice rooms with I WANT TO GO HOME scratched into its lid. Ah, the joys of private education.

So. I went, three years running. First with most of the string quartet we had going at school. Our cellist couldn't make it, so my teacher fixed us up with an innocent teenaged girl substitute. In fact we all got along just fine, having a similar sense of humour as well as being well-matched in ability (or lack thereof). The next year, our whole quartet went. Finally, just my fellow-violinist and I went, getting assigned a violist (a German girl called Angela) and a cellist ( Hannah Ginsborg , now professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, and one of whose school friends eventually married me).

This summer school was very laid back. Mornings and late afternoons were spent playing music. This might be in your own ensemble, or with other people, but somewhere in there you had to work on a piece you were receiving coaching in. Typically you'd get through a couple of pieces in the week, maybe a Schubert quartet and a Haydn quartet. There were a number of coaches but the main ones (to whom we graduated by our second year) were the members of the Alberni String Quartet (at that time Howard Davis, Peter Pople, Berian Evans and Gregory Baron). They gave us a half-hour lesson each day which were always interesting and often completely inspiring. (If somewhat wacky: Gregory Baron had us practising the first movement of Mozart's Quartet in A K.499 with our bows held by the wrong end, so when we played it with them the right way round it would seem very easy. Actually it's not as daft as it sounds....) Most of the afternoon was free time, and evenings were free too. We used to go down the local pub (The Castle, a Courage establishment in the old days when Courage was a decent brewery). For those of you checking, yes, I was under age. Actually I attained legal drinking age on my last Downe House visit. We also played some some odd bits of music before/afer the pub trips. I remember playing sonatas for two violins by Handel and Purcell, played by me, my second violin Ben, and a bassoonist Wendy Phillips . To judge from her web page, Wendy is still as lovely as ever, though a third of a century older and with different hair. Some people have all the luck.

After I left school I carried on doing some chamber music playing as a student, and when I got to London I went along to Saturday morning classes where we got a quartet together, but I never again had a regular quartet. In recent years I've played odds and ends at the Edinburgh Music Club (including a performance of Martinu's "La Revue de Cuisine" which I had first encountered at Downe House in 1972). But nothing regular.

A lot of my orchestral colleagues seemed to be already sorted out with quartet partners, in many cases probably at a technical level above mine. (Not that strict
technical level necessarily counts for all that much; it's more a question of confidence and general musicianship, which comes from playing together a lot.) Well, after a concert back in May I approached a few of my colleagues (carefully picked to be at about the same standard as me) and we tentatively decided to form a quartet. Basically playing for fun, with an option on performing in public if there's something we fancy giving an airing to (and with the music club as a not-too-stressful environment for doing it).

My fellow violinist Emma (microbiologist and Calista Flockhart lookalike) has offered us the use of her house. I'm providing the music. I own the first set of Beethoven quartets (and have since 1972!). there is also the public library to go at. Then there are also the wonders of the modern age, which are the free downloads of all the Mozart Quartets, as well as the paid-for downloads of some Schubert, Dvorak and Rossini (an arrangement of the "Barber of Seville Overture" to save you puzzling). Also, I copied a CD-Rom with all the Haydn quartets on, and have ordered all the other Beethoven and Brahms on CD-ROM. How cool is that? The click of a mouse and you have a set of quartet parts.

These downloads etc come as .pdf files, which can be printed off. The fun then comes in turning a pile of (double-sided) A4 sheets into playable parts. Printing takes attention to detail, or you end up with page turns that don't work (you need a pause of a couple of seconds to get a page over if you've nobody to help you). Having sorted out which pages have to go on the right and which on the left, it remains to wield the Sellotape and bind the sheets into parts. And that's what I'm off to do now. My preferred technique is to use about five little slivers of tape for each pair of pages, so you don't get big stiff areas of tape as they get old, and so any worn-out bits of tape are easy to replace.

The Rossini has page turns that don't work at all, so that gets to stay as separate sheets. Otherwise, I have so far printed one Schubert, one Dvorak, seven Mozart (including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik!) and three Haydn quartets. First rehearsal is on Thursday, and it would be nice to get them all done by then.

I'll tell you how it went in due course.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Rural Idyll

I've spent the last two days with the rest of my family at our country place (I really like the sound of that - we tend absent-mindedly to refer to it as "The caravan" before we remember this caravan has (a) no wheels (b) 18 steps up to its front door (c) a prime location in Albert Road, Ballater, instead of a muddy pitch on a caravan site).

Good weather - actually verging on the too-hot at night time. A couple of good walks, not too energetic but enough to feel we'd done something worthwhile, and with good views at the end of them. Good food and drink. I took my daughter Vanessa for a practice drive (I was about to link to the relevant guest post I put on Boob Pencil but Boob Pencil has left the blogosphere for now - I'll edit a link in when it reappears). She did her first reverse round a corner impeccably. I got her to drive me home as well (I took over for the motorway bit from Perth, and we changed back just across the Forth Bridge). There were a few white-knuckle moments; the road from Ballater to Perth has its share of hairy corners and we did round a couple of them on the wrong side of the line, but in my experience it isn't just learners who do that. She's doing OK.

My son Ruairidh starts tomorrow (or later today if you're pedantic - Monday, anyway) on a two-week summer course organised by Lyceum Youth Theatre. They're rehearsing an adaptation of "The Tempest" which they will be putting on a week next Saturday on the main Lyceum stage. When I say an adaptation, while several of the characters (including Ruairidh, who is Sebastian) get to keep their Shakespearean language, many of them don't. The story begins with the shipwreck of a Caledonian MacBrayne Hebridean ferry. It has various other, er, Scottish elements. Actually, it looks great fun and I'm looking forward to seeing it. Other groups from LYT are doing other things, including the Kapek brothers' "The Insect Play".

Further post coming on what I'm about to do when I log off. But - a good weekend.

Facing the Musik

OK, it's my own fault. As you will know if you read the last few posts, my profile picture is currently sitting on Clare Sudbery's web space. Which appears to have fallen over in a heap. Serves me right for being a newcomer and not having organised my own web space properly yet. Blah blah bah Luddite blah blah blah typewriter blah blah blah ZX81. Whatever.

So not only do Clare's comments not have her lovely face to adorn them, but my profile is piccy-less.

What you're missing (from mine, not Clare's): fat balding guy aged 49, grinning wildly against a backdrop of the Rhine gorge in a French T-shirt adorned with variously patterned cows..

I have recovered a copy of the picture on my own PC so if I ever get my own webspace organised I can spread my wings and fly away. Meanwhile, our broadcasts continue in text only.

Friday, July 08, 2005

I was planning to do a post all about the G8, and world poverty, and climate change, and stuff. But there are too many dead people on the news.

Actually that's a silly thing to say, because most nights there are dead people on the news: from Iraq, or Palestine, being blown up or shot. Why should British ones affect me more?

The amazing thing is that there are so few dead people, when you think about it. How do you bomb a bus and four tube trains (one bomb got two) and not end up with hundreds dead? Maybe they left it a bit late in the rush hour, but I like to think it's in part a tribute to the strength of the Underground rolling stock.

Funny feeling: the train which had most of the fatalities (the one between Kings Cross and Russell Square) was on my old commute to work, at about the time I used to travel. Maybe if I had ever commuted to work in Fallujah or Gaza I'd feel the same way about those bodies. I guess that's it.

Love and compassion anyway to all those affected, whoever you are.


(Off to the country place for a couple a nights tomorrow, so will post again when I get back.)

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Meanwhile, here's a blog someone else prepared earlier

I nearly forgot to say that I'm joining Anna (of Little Red Boat), Clare (Boob Pencil) and a host of other blogging stars in Mike (troubled diva) Atkinson's game of blogging consequences. Find out more about it here.

Needless to say, I shall founder in the manner of Anna's eponymous boat in such august company. But we will have fun. And it has to be better than battling with demented webpages.

chhhhhhhhhh-rchhhchchchch -kkkkkkkkkkchchchchchhrrrrrrrch........

Life's a website, and then you die

I thought, I'll add a picture to my blog header.

I thought, I'll upload some mp3 files to go with the list of music that makes me grin which I posted while guesting on Boob Pencil here.

And then life began to resemble that song "There's a hole in my bucket".

Clearly step one is to convert the .wma or .m4a files I get when I rip tracks from CDs into mp3 files. Ah - this requires additional software. So I Google for free downloads of what I imagine would be a pretty basic utility kind of program. What part of "free" do these people not understand? So far, every "free" download has turned out only to convert part of each file until you pay $$$. Screw that. I shall ask around my musical friends who will undoubtedly have a converter I can copy. Free.


OK. Before I can upload mp3 files, or indeed before I can include images in my blog, I need a webspace. (Before you ask, the nice piccy in my profile is currently sitting on Clare's space - thank you Clare!). So I create a webspace, noting that my normal email userid isn't allowed because it contains an underscore. OK. Webspace created under new alias. Then I need to create pages on it. This seems to require either Microsoft Frontpage at about £150 a throw or a downloaded FTP client. And none of those seem to be free. I ended up getting a copy of cute_ftp (free for 30 days) which seems to have created something. And it's allowed me to upload my picture to an FTP server. But nowhere does it tell me simply at what address my picture is now located so I can quote it for inclusion on the blog. So that's a lot of help then. I now have to read many many many pages of online help for the webspace and many many many pages of online help for the FTP program before I have the vaguest clue what I'm supposed to be doing. It ain't gonna happen this week, that's for sure.

See, this is why I didn't want to get involved in blogging. Oh, they said, it's all easy with Blogger, they said. And so it is. But if you want to do even simple things, you end up submerging in a sea of not-quite-free software and html manuals (on order). I could come to hate this.

So, for now, you'll have to imagine the first four bars of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (first violin part) as a graphic somewhere up there. And the music? Well, you'll have to hum.

In between all this I've been dodging in and out to watch the Edinburgh Live8 concert, which so far appears to have been wall-to-wall sh*te. Well, Youssou N'Dour and Neneh Cherry were OK, though "Seven Seconds" managed to feel like seven hours by the time they eventually finished it. Oh - Travis have just come on, and sound great by comparison with most of what I've heard so far.

Grump mump curmudgeonly mump. Bloody computers.

UPDATE: Graphic now sorted, as you will see if you look at the top of the page. Website managed, kind of, courtesy of Blueyonder's "Sitebuilder". More dragging of my head into the 21st century to follow. Thanks to Clare and Joe for advice and software, all of which will probably be used as I begin to mess around with this new toy.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Goodbye Rajesh

I was wondering what my next inspiration for the new blog was going to be, and while cooking dinner tonight to the accompaniment of the Dixie Chicks I got my answer.

Back in 2001-2002 I spent four happy months working for Xansa (my employers in those days) in India; specifically in Noida, which is a glorified industrial estate outside Delhi. I used to rouse myself in the morning with a combination of an alarm clock and a clock radio tuned to All India Radio, and one day I gradually emerged from slumber to the sound of the Dixie Chicks singing “Goodbye Earl”, which was new to me and which I thought very cool. (It’s a sort of musical “Thelma and Louise”, about two women terminally disposing of an abusive husband.)

It seemed especially cool in India, which though it may have had one of the world’s highest-profile female leaders is still a very patriarchal society. A society where a significant percentage of female deaths are in dowry-related “accidents” (oops, my wife of the insufficient dowry has burned to death in the kitchen). I don’t know what the gender pay gap is like in India but I would expect it to be huge. Although you see women doing jobs you wouldn’t see them doing in Britain (carrying bricks on building sites, for example) they aren’t much in evidence in white-collar work.

Indian society is full of the most unlikely contrasts. You see Indian politicians on TV talking about their space programme, or their nuclear power stations. Then you read about entire families wiped out by food poisoning because they’d eaten a dead rat they found at the roadside.(You know the most chilling part of that story? It was the father, ill but recovering, who said that he couldn’t understand why they’d got ill because they’d eaten plenty of rats before without problems.)

Plenty of Indians (of both sexes) speak excellent English, so one wonders whether “Goodbye Earl” sent Indian womanhood a call to homicidal action (oops, my abusive husband who whinges about his dowry must have been smoking in bed and set fire to himself) or whether the women will just have laughed bitterly and got on with making the chapattis.

I’m not seriously advocating murder, though the odd killing in self-defence wouldn’t go amiss. But in the same way that “Goodbye Earl” gave me a wake-up call, it would be nice to think it might give one to even a few of India’s put-upon women.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Eine What Whichthingy?

The title. Ah yes. It is of course a pun on possibly Mozart's greatest hit, the Serenade K.525 in G for strings "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik". It isn't, unfortunately, my pun. It comes from a very clever bloke called Peter Schickele. Peter has many claims to fame. He's a composer, with a lot of music to his credit. He wrote the soundtrack for Douglas Trumbull's science fiction film "Silent Running" (starring Bruce Dern). He provided arrangements for a number of Joan Baez's hit albums back in the seventies. He arranged and combined the Elgar's three Pomp and Circumstance marches for Disney's "Fantasia 2000". He used to form one-third of a wonderful ensemble called The Open Window: they produced one self-titled album and also provided the bulk of the music for "Oh Calcutta!".

If that’s the music to his credit, Peter Schickele is far better known for the music to his discredit. As his many fans will know, I am referring to those pieces supposedly composed by JS Bach’s oddest offspring, P.D.Q. Bach (1807 – 1742?). these include such gems as “Iphigenia In Brooklyn”, the “Bluegrass Cantata”, “Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice” and the “Missa Hilarious”. From time to time when creating P.D.Q.Bach recordings Peter slips in a piece in a similar vein but written under his own name. Such is “Eine Kleine Nichtmusik”, a piece for orchestra where (in essence) the strings play the Mozart original pretty much unaltered, while the wind and brass transmogrify it beyond redemption by the addition of quotations from all manner of other pieces. Brahms, Beethoven, Rimsky-Korsakov, Stephen Foster, Stravinsky…
Once you have heard the theme of the rondo turn itself into the “Apparition Of Petrouchka’s Double” or the horn theme from Till Eulenspiegel”, you are doomed to be unable to hear the original without giggling.

The combination of musical eclecticism and bad puns thrust the title upon me. And I hadn’t the heart to resist it
.

The Day The Music Was Born

Gosh, the beginning of an era. After the best part of a year of prolific commenting on other people's blogs, I've finally succumbed and started one of my own.

It feels like the birth of Radio One. I feel as though I should be playing "Flowers In The Rain" by The Move.

I'm just sitting doing crosswords in the bog
Watching the power of my blog
Making my inbox grow....

A-nyway.... it's all
Clare's fault. There I was, happily commenting away on her blog, when she asks me to mind it while she goes off up a mountainside for a week's writing retreat, creating the sequel to (The Dying Of Delight).

Then she goes and edits my posts to make them all html-y and point-and-click and generally makes me feel like a fifty-year-old Luddite. Huh. We seasoned IT professionals know all about code re-use (i.e. lift Clare's html, see how it works, adapt and adopt).

So be gentle with me guys. I'm newly moved in here, still tripping over cyberspatial boxes, wondering how to create a blogroll and where it will appear. (Which is why I haven't got one yet. Be patient.) I'll probably leave some default setting turned on for the first few months and be the blogging equivalent of the guy walking round with the cleaner's label still attached to the back of his jacket.

OK, a few last minute checks and then I'll turn this thing on so at least it shows
up in Blogger.