Monday, 29 March 2010

Transposing in LilyPond

Now I always suspected that there is an easy way of transposing music. But with LilyPond, it is just ridiculously easy. To transpose from pitch x to pitch y one simply has to insert \transpose x y in front of the expression to be transposed. For instance, to transpose The Pink Panther Theme from E minor to A minor all I had to do was to add \transpose e a, just after \new Staff line. (If I type \transpose e a it works too but the resulting score is one octave higher than I want.) Voilà!

The Pink Panther Theme in Am

Roman mosaic

by Timur Kulikov

Yesterday, Timur spent a good few hours designing some “Roman mosaics” with the help of this website. (The orange and black designs look more like Greek to me.) Interestingly, you can save your mosaic (a) as a text string (b), and then regenerate the mosaic from this string.

Spiral
(a)
jjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjffffffffffffffffffffffffffffjjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjjfjffffffffffffffffffffffffjfjjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjjfjfjffffffffffffffffffffjfjfjjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjjfjfjfjffffffffffffffffjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjffffffffffffjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjffffffffjfjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjfjffffffjfjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjfjjjjjjjjfjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjffffffffffjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjffffffffffffffjfjfjfjjfjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjfjjfjfjfjffffffffffffffffffjfjfjjfjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjfjjfjfjffffffffffffffffffffffjfjjfjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjfjjfjffffffffffffffffffffffffffjjfjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjjj
(b)

Here are some more:

Double PathTwo spirals
Four spirals IFour spirals II
CerberusDiamond repetition

Saturday, 27 March 2010

The Pink Panther Theme

by Henry Mancini

To engrave The Pink Panther theme using LilyPond, I had to learn a few more useful tricks.
  1. To display upbeats, use the \partial command followed by duration of the interval before the start of the first complete measure. In the beginning of The Pink Panther theme, we have
    \partial 16 dis16( |
    i.e. the duration of the interval is 1/16. The semiquaver D♯ is followed by the enforced bar line | (after which, by default, bar lines and bar numbers are calculated automatically).
  2. Slur (or legato) is indicated with parentheses, ( and ), placed after the first and last note of the legato group, respectively.
  3. Similarly, phrasing slur is indicated with \( and \).
  4. To add staccato articulation, place either \staccato or its shorthand -. after a note. For illustration purposes, I used both in my source.
  5. Similarly, to add accent, place either \accent or -> after a note.
  6. To write a tuplet, one has to multiply the durations by a fraction. In triplet, the three notes have the duration of two notes, thus the fraction is 2/3. For example,
    \times 2/3 { e8 d8 e8 }
  7. To introduce repeat, use
    \repeat volta number of repeats {music expression to be repeated}
    For alternate endings, type
    \alternative { {alternative ending A} {alternative ending B} }
    In the example below, I repeat the whole theme twice (hence \repeat volta 2) and use two alternate endings.
That’s how the whole source thing looks:
% ****************************************************************
% The Pink Panther Theme (Henry Mancini)
% ****************************************************************
\version "2.12.3"
\score {
  \new Staff 
 {
  \clef bass
  \key e \minor
   \partial 16
   dis16( |
   \repeat volta 2 {
   e4\staccato) r8. fis16( g4-.) r8. dis16(
   e8.-.) fis16( g8.-.) c'16( b8.-.) e16( g8.-.) b16\(
   bes2( \times 2/3 { bes8) a8 g8 } \times 2/3 { e8 d8 e8( }
   e2.)\) r8. dis16( 
   e4-.) r8. fis16( g4-.) r8. dis16(
   e8.-.) fis16( g8.-.) c'16( b8.-.) g16( b8.-.) e'16
   ees'1(
   ees'2.)( ees'8) r16 dis16
   e4-. r8. fis16( g4-.) r8. dis16(
   e8.-.) fis16( g8.-.) c'16( b8.-.) e16( g8.-.) b16\(
   bes2( \times 2/3 { bes8) a8 g8 } \times 2/3 { e8 d8 e8( }
   e1)\)
   r4 e'8. d'16 b8. a16 g8. e16
   bes16\accent( a8.) bes16->( a8.) bes16->( a8.) bes16->( a8.) }
   \alternative {
    { \times 2/3 { g8 e8 d8 } e8 e8( e2)(
      e2.) r8. dis16 }
    { \times 2/3 { g8 e8 d8 } e8 e8( e2)
      \times 2/3 { g8 e8 d8 } e8 e8( e2)
      \times 2/3 { g8 e8 d8 } e8 e8( e2)(
      e1) }
    }
  }
}
And here’s the result:

The Pink Panther Theme

Ta-da!

Thursday, 25 March 2010

20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

by Xiaolu Guo

Dear friend, you get the picture by now: reading three books of Xiaolu Guo in a row probably means that I am getting addicted. But, really, it is not my fault: her books are simply too short!

20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth was originally written in Chinese. Ten years later, Guo started to collaborate with Rebecca Morris and Pamela Casey on the English translation of the novel. However, she ended up completely rewriting it:
Ten years on, I found I didn’t agree with the young woman who had written it. Her vision of the world had changed, along with Beijing and the whole of China. I wanted to rework each sentence of my Chinese book, and fight with its young author who knew so little about the world. Although Fenfang, the heroine of the novel, should still be desperate about her life, I wanted to convince her to become an adult.
Fair enough: I liked the result. However, now (that I read the Acknowledgements) I can’t help thinking about the “original” 20 Fragments. The only way to know is to learn Chinese.

I’ve been blessed with cockroaches in every place I’ve lived in Beijing, but it was in the Chinese Rose Garden that I was truly anointed. My apartment was their Mecca. They spent the entire time multiplying.
The thing about my cockroaches, they were very cinematic, like the birds in that Alfred Hitchcock film. I was under constant attack. Singled out, they were weak and destructible, but collectively they were unbeatable. Still, I wasn’t going to take it lying down. Once, I was stalking an enormous one when it made a surprise move and vanished into an electric socket. There was a crackle, a few sparks, and that was the end of that. Heavenly Bastard in the Sky, these cockroaches were sadomasochists, looking for the most painful way to die.
20 Fragments of a Ravenous Youth

Monday, 22 March 2010

L’Amande

by Nedjma

L’Amande is a book that is simply asks to be attacked: for being too explicit; for being not erotic enough for an erotic novel; for being a story of a sexually liberated Muslim woman, written by the sexually liberated Muslim woman. For not stopping the protagonist at “just” sexual liberation but liberating her — o horror — from dependence on men altogether. Nedjma meant to épater and succeeded at that. Yet, inside the shell, L’Amande hides a story of true love.

Any reservations? Reviewing L’Amande in The Independent, Victoria James said:

The writing is bold and ornate and probably sounded a whole lot better in French.
Yes, yes, and I do hope so.

The Arab woman is three quarters Berber and despises those who think she’s good only for emptying chamber pots. I, too, watch television and could have been a Stephen Hawking if they had told me about quantum physics early on. Or given a concert in Cologne like Keith Jarrett, whom I just discovered. I might even have been a painter and exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum in New York. For I, too, am stardust.

Friday, 19 March 2010

A Concise Chinese—English Dictionary for Lovers

by Xiaolu Guo
Passport typeP
Passport No.G00350124
Name in fullZhuang Xiao Qiao
SexFemale
Date of birth23 JULY 1979
Place of birthZhe Jiang, P.R. China

Zhuang arriving London, study English. English peoples even they read spelling of name Zhuang Xiao Qiao, they have no idea how saying it. Unprononcable Ms Z. having little Concise Chinese—English Dictionary, look just like Little Red Book. Is most important thing from China, but it not having all English words meaning. For example, properly. Or fart. Or homosexual. Ms Z. want write newly learned words, make own dictionary. So she learn English fast. One day Z. meet English man.

‘Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved’. All these specific tenses mean Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite. It only exists in particular period of time. In Chinese, Love is ‘愛’ (ai). It has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.

If our love existed in Chinese tense, then it will last for ever. It will be infinite.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

In the Name of Peace and Progress

by Klever

About four years ago, I came across the website of a (then completely unknown to me) band from St. Petersburg. Next thing I did was to download this album to my MP3 player and listen to it few times in a row. My, they are good. I’d say Клевер (“Clover”) are the best prog-rock outfit I heard since Godspeed You! Black Emperor. If they are still relatively unknown in the West, it is because — to quote Jordan Volz
the promotion coming out of Russia makes Japan look like MTV.
In the Name of Peace and Progress

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The Boat That Rocked

a film by Richard Curtis

Once upon a time, to be a DJ was a risky business. I mean, really risky. Also, more fun than nowadays. Those were the days.

OK, I admit The Boat That Rocked may be slightly disjointed and anachronistic: for one, we are treated to A Whiter Shade of Pale while Procol Harum did not even exist when Radio Rock sank. So what? It just shows that Radio Rock was ahead of its time. The DJs are sexy (well, some of them), the soundtrack is gorgeous, and the dialogue is classic Curtis:
‘So tell us Mark, now at the very end — what was your secret? How did you get all them girls?’
‘Simple. Don’t say anything at all.’
‘Nothing?’
‘Nothing. Then, when the tension becomes too much to bear, you finally, finally, you just say: “How about it, then?”’

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Lovers in the Age of Indifference

by Xiaolu Guo

Five emails from a woman to her lover, left without response.
Address Unknown
Several articles for the Beijing newspaper before and after its Chief Editor’s gentle touch.
Beijing Morning Star
Six emails to “undisclosed recipient”.
Junk Mail
A series of letters from a Berlin resident to five different addressees in Beijing, her hometown.
Letters to a City of Illusion and Hope
A love story told in SMS text messages.
The Third Tree
These are not your typical short stories. But they work — at least for me — brilliantly. I hope they will work for you too.

Lovers in the Age of Indifference

Friday, 12 March 2010

Floodplain

by Kronos Quartet

Another pointless addition to the Kronos Quartet catalogue of pretentious concept albums. Or: another masterpiece from those wonderful Kronos guys. It depends. Personally, I never was a fan of KQ, finding them too hoity-toity for my taste. Floodplain is different. I liked the first three tracks the best: Ya Habibi Ta’ala (Egyptian tango); Tashweesh, a collaboration with Palestinian hip-hoppers Ramallah Underground; and traditional Lebanese song Wa Habibi. After that, I thought the album lost its momentum a bit. (Mind you, I am listening to it for the third time and may change my opinion on that; it is difficult to give the uninterrupted attention to almost 80 minutes of music.) The final composition, ...hold me, neighbor, in this storm... by Aleksandra Vrebalov, sounds like a score for a short film.

You can listen to the entire album here.

Floodplain

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Adams, Barker & Camara @ The Junction

“Small but perfectly formed”, as Justin Adams said about his band — or was it about the audience tonight? I thought calling tonight’s gig “Justin Adams & Juldeh Camara” was unfair to the remaining one third of the trio, Martyn Barker. Throughout the two-hour set, he did an excellent job on cajón, drumkit and assorted percussion instruments. Justin Adams — who looks like a time traveller from the late 1950s — plays a mean guitar, I really liked his style. I was not as impressed with his singing though. However, Juldeh Camara was a true star of the show. His command of riti (a one-stringed fiddle) is truly phenomenal. He is also singing, dancing and playing some other instruments I know no name. Nor do I know the names of the songs they played, except for Ya Ta Kaaya (you may wonder why is that).

There are many ways of playing blues, but these guys do it in a way I never heard before. Thoroughly enjoyable.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Cam Bridge Peace Event

Today is the International Women’s Day. To support Women for Women International’s Join me on the Bridge campaign to “build the bridges to peace and development”, Arco Iris were drumming at the Magdalene Bridge at 1 pm. In a nice touch, Caffè Uno staff presented us with a bunch of helium balloons! More pictures to follow.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

Willing Slaves

by Madeleine Bunting

You’d think that by now everybody should know that working long hours is a sign of poor time management and low productivity and is generally bad for your health and your family. Especially if you are not paid for overwork. Why are we doing it then? (“We” means people in general, although Willing Slaves mostly focuses on Brits who, surprise surprise, work the longest hours in Europe.) Greedy corporations, government’s fixation on targets, low union membership, technological progress and, naturally, transatlantic influence all play role here. Jolly good; but shouldn’t we also look at ourselves and, instead of just grumbling that the country is going to the dogs, try to change and reclaim our lives back?
This kind of paralysis is common: those endless conversations with friends, colleagues and partners which go round and round searching for some accomodation or some way out of a situation which seems unbearable and inescapable; the job change which never quite comes off; the postponed dreams of a different life.
Willing Slaves was first published in 2004. Is it outdated by now? In the last chapter, the author expresses cautious optimism as she sees the alternative work ethic finally emerging in Britain:
We’re getting there; it just needs a big kick in the right direction, and in a decade we’ll look back at the overwork culture as we now look back at the power-hunger, flashy wealth and shoulderpads of the eighties generation, as an emotional dead-end.
Alas, there is no indication that the overwork culture is going away. According to the recent post from workSMART,
With many employers and staff agreeing to reduce hours in order to avoid job losses, it seems the reduction in working time has had a knock on effect on the number of people working paid and unpaid overtime. So whilst this <£27.4 billion in 2009!> is a record value for unpaid overtime, the number of people doing it is actually down by 168,000 on last year, meaning the 5.07 m remaining are putting in even longer hours.
Are you working long hours? Do yourself a favour: read this book.

Willing Slaves: How the Overwork Culture is Ruling Our Lives

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Poison Sweet Madeira

by Sophie Solomon

Tonight, Yuri and I went to the parents consultation evening. As we were waiting in the school hall for one of our appointments, Yuri suddenly said in a solemn voice:

The night, the street, the lamp, the chemist shop.
Which, of course, was a quote from a famous poem by Alexander Blok, but, more immediately, from A Light That Never Dies.

The only drawback of Poison Sweet Madeira is that it is way too short. But that makes every second of it precious, and every one of the nine tracks here is a wonder. Listen how effortlessly Sophie Solomon shifts from tango to waltz to gypsy dance to fugue on I Can Only Ask Why. And could there be a better song to close the album than Pin Pricks & Gravy Stains? Listen and play again.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Thaw

by Fiona Robyn

Ruth’s diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Ruth’s first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.

Thaw These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.
Continue reading tomorrow here...