Posts from 8th October 2003

8
Oct 03

THE VAMPYRE by Tom Holland

The Brown WedgePost a comment • 233 views

THE VAMPYRE by Tom Holland
Aka “The Very Secret Diary of Lord Byron (who is really a VAMPIRE do you see!!!!)”.

Dear diary.

Week 1: England does not have enough wenches. I am getting my grebt platonic chum HOBBHOUSE and going to lands where they speak in furrin. Have strange feelings of foreboding. Mmmm…. foreboding. Still a Lord.

Week 2: I keep having dreams about a warlock. Perhaps I am a gay. Also having strange desires for tomato ketchup which I didn’t even know was invented yet. Leant against a rock and poeticised feverishly. There appears to be a scratch on my neck. I hope it is not anything homo.

Week 3. Hurrah! Am undead! Fear my aristocractical pallor! Now I can really get to grips with my gothicity (tm LA Times)! Time to go bite some nexx0r as long as it is goats and whores. Not boys.

Week 4: Woke up in bed face down in ink and parchment. O most profound misery! Did not drink any scarlet nectar today. Oh Hobbhouse! You are still alive although my new VAMP mate called Lovelace wants to drink yore blud. I think he is a gay too.

Week 5: have not read that far yet. Less than 100 x pages to go THANK JAYSIS.

T. Holland has also written another book called SUPPING WITH PANTHERS. Apparently this features not only BYRON but also Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker and oh, Byron again. And Shelley. And Keats! I cannot think of any more romantic ORTHORS but I am sure if I get a Puffin “My First Wet And Weedy Peotrie Wot Rimes” book it would give me a full roll-call. Hurrah!

What I’ve Been Listening To

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What I’ve Been Listening To

I’m really intrigued by recent comparative studies

Proven By SciencePost a comment • 278 views

I’m really intrigued by recent comparative studies of music and language processing; it seems that linguistics has more in common with musical rules than was previously thought. There are a lot of links: language and music are both universal; they’re both composed of discrete units, hierarchical structures, and definite patterns. Another clue is that language disorders, like Broca’s aphasia, also seem to result in distinctive musical deficits. The interesting thing is that these deficits can be incredibly specific — for instance there are cases of people who are brain-damaged and then can read and understand music but not words; they can string together a song but not a sentence. Weird eh? (Here at the New York wing of Freaky Trigger Labs, I’ve been investigating syntactic processing in the ten rhesus monkeys I keep in captivity in my Manhattan studio apartment. After running them all through the functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner I have in my closet, the resultant brain scans were nothing short of mindboggling…)

There are a lot of interesting ideas coming from research into the developing brain: it looks like babies can distinguish pitch, timing differences, and rhythm almost as well as people who’ve been listening to music for years. The emotionalism of music, particularly when it comes to distinguishing the emotional resonance of major versus minor chords, doesn’t seem to kick in until about age six. Before then, there are ‘scary’ sounds and ‘nice’ sounds but it doesn’t seem like there’s widespread appreciation of ‘sad’ sounds. Then again my Russian piano teacher with crazy orange hair always used to berate me when I was about 12 or so for not fully comprehending Chopin’s existential misery when I was learning to play his various nocturnes. I was just too young, she said. ‘You can only understahnd thees muzeeek eef you have had your heart broken in halfff’ she would always say to me in a deeply tortured-sounding voice. Russians, they can comprehend pain better than anyone else on the planet, I think. Anyway, brains!

Guest Editor Wanted

FT + New York London Paris Munich1 comment • 2,420 views

Guest Editor Wanted: As you might know I’m getting married on November 1st, and I’ll be away for a couple of weeks after that. Popular will go on hiatus, and my co-editors will of course not be affected at all, so the other FT weblogs will keep rolling along, but NYLPM is my particular charge, and I thought it would be nice to let someone guest-edit it for a fortnight. What this means from you is a willingness to muck in and put some posts up when nobody’s done anything for a day or so (so you’ll need to have a fair bit to say). What this means for you is a fairly big audience in music weblog terms, plus it should be fun. Anyway if you’re interested drop me a line. The guest editorship would last from October 31st to November 15th.

Mathematics and the people who inhabit it

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Mathematics and the people who inhabit it: this is the beginning of a nice idea (portraits of three mathematicians each with their favourite equation), though the webpage resolution does the algebra no favours, and I wish artist Lynn Hughes had taken it a bit further, I don’t know how. It very much reminds me of how the old late-60s Time-Life books – the Mathematics volume in particular – were illustrated, the lighting in the photographs as much as anything. Equations make great wall-paper, whether or not you can interpret them: and the atmosphere caught here was as much a reason I chose this as my college subject as any gift I had for it.

Robin celebrates

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Robin celebrates the British media ignoring Nigella Lawson picking an Eminem track on Desert Island Discs. But Alexis Petridis says that people did make a fuss (and that it was a Dr.Dre track). Who will lead me through this web of lies?!? On the face of it I trust Robin – “rich white person likes hip-hop” is a non-story even in Britain, and the Victoria Atiken fiasco has surely raised the news stakes in the socialite/rap sector.

BILL HALEY AND THE COMETS – “Rock Around The Clock”

Popular18 comments • 3,763 views

#39, 25th November 1955

I can’t stop tapping my toes.

Is that because I’m enjoying “Rock Around The Clock”, though? Or because the way to move to rock and roll has got wired into my reflexes? This is the first song in Popular that I can’t remember not knowing, after all.

(My toes are still tapping to the song I am listening to right now, which is “Don’t Go” by Awesome 3. I like it better than “Rock Around The Clock”: it’s less shopworn for one thing, but also more comforting, closer to my idea of what pop is. A warning to new readers: Popular is written by somebody whose general belief is that pop music has improved with each decade it’s been around. This project may make me change my mind – we’ll see.)

I’ll try to be dry about the record, then. It’s obviously the Comets that make the performance – Bill Haley starts it with gusto but begins to run out of breath after about a minute, an old trouper already being left behind by rock and roll even as he was cynically cashing it into life. He promises that when the clock hits 12 he’s going to rock around it all over again and you can hear that his fingers have slipped off the baton – it’s an outright lie, he just wants a sit-down.

But the Comets! I don’t know anything about the Comets but they sound like they were having a lot of fun. Listening to it closely the drummer steps smartly out of history, his snappy fills at the end of each line bursting with good humour. Like the jokey little diving notes at the end of the guitar phrases, and the punchline ba-boom of the ending, it’s all very light-hearted, not that far away from Alma Cogan to be honest. Of course there is a difference – it’s the difference between the fixed smile of a hostess and the relaxed grin of a guest – but if the song was ever charged with a rebel energy, none remains today.

And even though this is something new at No.1 (it had been a minor hit earlier in the year; this was a re-entry) it’s also part of a trend: the records at the top of the chart had been getting sparser and sharper since the soupy days of 1953. “Rock Around The Clock” didn’t come out of nowhere.

Still though, you can understand how shockingly basic rock and roll must have sounded. The see-saw might have been tipping away from the tidy complexity of early-50s pop, but fat old Bill gave it a fairly decisive push. The indistinct pop market of the time – I’ve been imagining well-scrubbed young men buying ballads and roses for their best girls, but it might have been their fathers or mothers or grandmothers even – becomes something more focussed, familiar and celebrated. Not overnight, though. For now, rock and roll is a fad. And “Rock Around The Clock” is a fine, exciting pop record. And the toes keep tapping.

COMMENTARY CONUNDRA

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COMMENTARY CONUNDRA

COME DRINK WITH ME

Commentators: Bey Logan, Cheng Pei Pei, Marsha Yuen

Now here’s an example where there’s a brilliant commentary going on but jeez, the technical aspects! Logan’s a UK born Hong Kong film freak who has a deserved reputation in the West as one of the big popularizers of HK’s film history to an English-speaking audience, Cheng Pei Pei was the villainness in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon but has decades of film experience under her belt (this film being one of her most well-known efforts — its reputation as one of the best ever HK productions certainly seems deserved) and Marsha Yuen is her daughter, an aspiring actress in her own right. The whole feeling of the commentary is loose, relaxed, quite informative in both details and general scope, darting from noting the cinematographic qualities of a shot to the nature of HK film production in the mid-sixties, from filming things backwards to get them looking right on screen to why films were shot in what particular Chinese dialect at what particular time, from pronounciation lessons to the use of drums on the soundtrack and more. Logan’s a merry motormouth, quick but never so fast as to obscure his points, Cheng a font of information, considered but just as sharp as Logan, Yuen more generally appreciative than anything else.

But thus the problem! The way the commentary is miked is, simply, ridiculous. Yuen is the most forward in the mix, almost painfully up front — not that she’s got a bad voice, but the problem is that the volume has to be cranked to hear everyone else. Logan is in the middle, able to be heard and all but sounding distanced from the microphone, while Cheng is, sadly, barely audible…at least not unless the volume is really pumped. And then Yuen is horribly loud in turn, and since she’s adding the least in terms of relevant info (to be fair, she does have stories remembered from her mom as well as a variety of worthy observations on technique, both cinematic and in martial arts terms), the problem gets compounded. It gets all the more sadly comic when at one point the three joke about Yuen doing some exercises to keep awake a bit because she’s in ‘the corner of the studio,’ but why they miked the corner and not the center is one for the ages. A missed opportunity, there’s everything you ever wanted in a commentary like this but the ability to really enjoy this.