Friday, 26 February 2010

Live in London

by Leonard Cohen
It’s been a long time since I stood on the stage in London... It was about 14 or 15 years ago. I was 60 years old, just a kid with a crazy dream. Since then I’ve taken a lot of Prozac, Paxil, Welbutrin, Effexor, Ritalin, Focalin... I’ve also studied deeply in the philosophies and religions, but cheerfulness kept breaking through.
I just started discovering Leonard Cohen for myself. Live in London, recorded at the O2 Arena on 17 July 2008, was the first album of his I heard, even though I knew many of these songs covered by other artists. So?

If I had a hat, I would take my hat off to Mr Cohen. Of course, a lot of credit should go — and Cohen gives it — to his amazing band. At times, I wish there were just a bit less backing vocals. Luckily, there is a chance to hear the “background” singers in all their glory: Sharon Robinson takes centre stage on Boogie Street, while The Webb Sisters give a spellbinding treatment to If It Be Your Will. Unencumbered by intimate (or, indeed, any) knowledge of chanteur’s previous albums, I say: this is one great record!

A riddle in a book of love
Obscure and obsolete
As witnessed here in time and blood
A thousand kisses deep.

Monday, 22 February 2010

The Crocodile

Now I learned how to create a simple song sheet using LilyPond.
  1. The dotted notes are created by adding (surprise!) a dot (.) after a note.
  2. The rests are indicated exactly like notes except with the name r (for instance, r1 for a semibreve rest, r2 for a minim rest, r4 for a crochet rest and so on).
  3. To add lyrics to the song, type \addlyrics followed by lyrics within braces, {type some lyrics here}.
  4. LilyPond will align one word under one note (presuming one word contains one syllable). To make alignment correct for polysyllabic words, insert “ -- ” (space, dash, dash, space) between the syllables.
Easy! I took the song that I am practicing on trombone, The Crocodile. For illustration purposes, notation for each bar is written on a separate line.
% ****************************************************************
% The Crocodile (traditional)
% ****************************************************************
\version "2.12.3"
\score {
 \new Staff
 \clef bass
 \key bes \major
  bes4 bes4 bes4 d8. ees16
  f8. g16 f8. d16 bes,4 d8. d16
  c4 a8. a16 a4 g4
  f2 r4 f4
  bes4 bes4 bes4 d8. ees16
  f8. g16 f8. d16 bes,4 d8. d16
  c4 f4 e4 g4
  f2 r4 f4
  g4 g8. g16 g4 g8. a16
  f8. f16 f8. f16 f2
  ees4 ees8. d16 ees4 f4
  d2 r4 d8. d16
  c4 c8. c16 ees4. ees8
  f8. f16 f8. f16 a4 f8. f16
  g8. bes16 bes8. g16 bes4 a4
  bes2 r2
 \addlyrics {
  One fine day as a la -- dy sailed a -- way
  on the back of a cro -- co -- dile,
  “You see,” said she, “he’s as tame as tame can be
  and I’ll ride him down the Nile.”
  The croc winked his eye as the la -- dy waved good -- bye,
  wea -- ring a hap -- py smile.
  By the end of the ride the la -- dy was in -- side
  and the smile was on the cro -- co -- dile!
Here’s the result:

One fine day

Sunday, 21 February 2010


a film by Hayao Miyazaki

Three good reasons to watch Ponyo in Arts Picturehouse:

  1. No trailers.
  2. It is screened in original Japanese with English subtitles, rather than dubbed.
  3. It is not shown anywhere else in Cambridge — can you believe that?
The film is obviously inspired by The Little Mermaid, but don’t let it put you off. A wonderful anime for all ages. Watch it now!

Saturday, 20 February 2010


by P!nk

As the title may suggest, Funhouse is a good fun. So What, Funhouse and Boring* are all great rock numbers. Don’t expect any profound — or, for that matter, especially explicit — lyrics here: it’s only rock’n’roll. I Don’t Believe You is the only song which is not fun and is clearly out of place on this otherwise very decent album.


* A bonus track on the UK version of Funhouse. (Why don’t they have it elsewhere?)

Go West, Hard Luck & The Scarecrow

three films by Buster Keaton

Go West (1925) is the best (and only one) movie about a friendship between a man and a cow. For the most part, it is rather slow-going. By the end, however, it becomes delightfully silly. Dressed as a red devil, Keaton leads a herd of 1000 cattle and quite a few policemen through the streets of Los Angeles.

In Hard Luck (1921), Buster tries to commit suicide — needless to say, he does not succeed. An oddly charming short film. At some point Buster promises to catch an armadillo; curiously, the said animal is never mentioned again.

At 19 minutes, The Scarecrow (1920) is the shortest and arguably the best of the three films here. The breakfast scene in the one-room house full of gadgets is incredible.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Kick the Animal Out

by Véronique Ovaldé
My name is Rose like my mother.

Not Rose b, not Rose II, or Rosebud, Rosalie, Rosette, Rosa Niña, Seven Sisters Rose, or Rosa Gallica. No, I’m just called Rose, like her.

When Rose, Rose’s mum, disappears, her fifteen-year-old daughter tries to reconstruct her parents’ past. The story Rose comes with is as improbable as her father’s ridiculous explanation but is so much better. It matters not that “it doesn’t hang together” — it certainly worked for me.

A strange and poetic novel, lovingly translated by Adriana Hunter. (I hope it is as good or better in French: to me, Déloger l’animal sounds better than Kick the Animal Out.) It is very sad and at times very funny.
Mr Loyal wore suspenders.

I always thought: his shoulders are holding his pants up, and it fascinated me, this solidarity between different organs — the deficient waist supported by the fat carcass.
Then we ran to catch the bus — me skipping along and the circus manager making the surface of the globe shudder.
Kick the Animal Out

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Crow Coyote Buffalo

by Mama

I never heard (of) Sarah McQuaid before last Friday’s Concert for Haiti in Saffron Walden Baptist Church. The concert was organised by Joanna Eden and it was Joanna whom I really wanted to see live. Sarah McQuaid was closing the first half of the concert. The first song she sang — unaccompanied — was the best number of the whole evening.

In the interval, I went to the hall. Sarah McQuaid had three CDs for sale and I had enough cash on me to buy one. I had a little chat with her which was not very helpful because she said that all three are completely different. When Two Lovers Meet is mostly Irish songs and I Won’t Go Home ’Til Morning is a collection of traditional Appalachian folk songs. As for Crow Coyote Buffalo, this is a duo with Zoë Pollock, “I did not sing any of these songs tonight”. Right.

Naturally, Crow Coyote Buffalo won — I loved the design (black and white drawing on a 100% recycled cardboard sleeve) and there are no prizes for guessing the best album title. As for the music... indeed, it has very little to do with what I heard on the concert. But it is amazing nonetheless. “Folk duo”? Sure, in a way that Led Zeppelin were a folk band. I can imagine Robert Plant singing Pipe and Tabor and psychedelic-era The Beatles playing Dancing Girl. There is some mesmerising accordion and trumpet (both played by Andy Jarvis) on Liquid Sunshine, which could have been a Yes song. It is one of my favourites, together with The Lovers and the title track. Listen.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

An Atlas of Impossible Longing

by Anuradha Roy

I liked this tale of love and betrayal. Part III, The Water’s Edge, is told from the first person, and is a better read. True, both the story and the language are not flawless, but I guess it is no use to dwell on these. The setting is exotic enough so probably there was no need to over-spice it with Indian words — good thing there is a glossary in the end. (Also, I couldn’t help thinking of alternate ending, but then it would be more like Murakami’s book, and I am glad that this one is not.) Towards the conclusion, I was preparing myself for even more impossible longing, so the “happy end” for Bakul and Mukunda came as a nice surprise.

He scrutinised my palm for long minutes, and I looked with him, as if I had never seen it before. It was creased, untidy, crowded with crosses and wild strokes slashing it in two. I have seen palms that have scarcely any lines. Mine was not one of them, far from it. I waited as if for a verdict.
“A veritable atlas,” he said, his fingers tracing the longer lines on my palm. “What rivers of desire, what mountains of ambition!”
“I wanted to... I mean I was hoping...”
“Want, want, hope, hope,” the astrologer parroted, “this is what your palm says too, moshai, your palm is nothing but an atlas of impossible longings.” He poked my lifeline and said, “Nothing but longing.”

Sunday, 7 February 2010

More LilyPond

The LilyPond Snippet Repository (LSR) is a database created by Sebastiano Vigna of the University of Milano. It contains LilyPond snippets, i.e. “small examples, short and to the point, that show a particular feature or a hack”. For example, here is a snippet explaining how to add fingering to a score. Which is easy: you just place dash and a number of the finger after the note!

Unfortunately I have not found the “correct” way to indicate trombone slide positions on a score, but why not to use the fingering notation instead? Here’s a file for the B♭ Major scale:
\version "2.12.3"
\score {
 \new Staff
 \clef bass
 \key bes \major
  bes,1-1 c1-6 d1-4 ees1-3 f1-1 g1-4 a1-2 bes1-1
 \layout {
   \context {
     \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
     \remove "Bar_engraver"
When I run LilyPond on this file, it complains:
Warning: Fingering notation for finger number 6
  bes,1-1 c1
            -6 d1-4 ees1-3 f1-1 g1-4 a1-2 bes1-1
(apparently, it is not quite happy with finger numbers more than five), but I still get what I want:

B♭ Major Scale

Friday, 5 February 2010


by Patricia Barber
Many jazz fans have lost the ability to imagine the future, yet anything innovative in jazz vocals has taken place in spite of people lamenting the loss of Sarah, Peggy, Carmen, and Ella. People try to appropriate, copyright and own the music, but it refuses to be contained. In spite of the people who don’t want to see music change, it finds its way like water coursing through rocks.

She does not conform to any of “female jazz singer” clichés. Especially so on Verse. There are no “standards” — all songs are written by Ms Barber except for Dansons La Gigue (which is based on a poem of Paul Verlaine and sung in French). Barber’s own lyrics is miles away from the usual stuff that jazz singers nowadays (are supposed to) sing. In words of Matt Collar, “it could be considered serious modern poetry if only it didn’t rhyme.” And boy, can she play piano.

If I Were Blue
if i were blue
like David Hockney’s pool
dive into me and glide
under a California sky
inside your mouth and nose and eyes am i

if i were blue
like Edward Hopper’s afternoon
lift the sash to air the breeze
let my summer flush your cheek
lie supine beneath the soft and gentle season

would that this were that
this is more like black
dark as darkest indigo
sickly sweet and ripe
like nothing
smothering light

bring on the pelting rain
palpable sensual pain
like Goya in his studio
in the thick of night
absence is
dull and silent

if i were blue
a pale Picasso blue
as beauty is to sorrow
let me cover you in sleep
and in your melancholy i would give you peace
if i were blue

Monday, 1 February 2010

Drumming for LGBT History Month

Today, Arco Iris were supporting the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender History Month by playing at the Market Square, from 12:30 to 13:00. Alas, they did not wait for us to raise the rainbow flag over the Cambridge City Council — it was there already at midday.

Colourful celebration starts LGBT history month