There are eleventy million recordings of Peter and the Wolf, some of which are listed on Wikipedia. This one is from a disc called "Menuhin conducts Prokofiev", with the English String Orchestra, and narrated by Christopher Lee. I bought the disk solely for Peter and the Wolf, and already have other recordings of the rest of the stuff on it.
Christopher Lee can do no wrong. He is perfect. Everything he does is divine. I wish I could buy a tiny jar of his sweat, so that I could add just a drop of it to everything I cook, thereby making my cooking even more awesome. If he sweats, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if he is beyond such weak fleshy exudations.
He has a wonderful voice for narration - he speaks clearly but still with passion, conveying the excitement of the wolf chasing the duck, or snapping at the bird. This is the best recording I've heard of this work. Musically, others are better, but the narration is so important that I can easily forgive those decisions of the conductor with which I disagree.
So why only four stars? Simple. It should be paired with Britten's "A Young Person's Guide To The Orchestra", which should also be narrated by Lee, but instead shares the disk with a symphony and a violin concerto of Prokofiev.
The Brighton Early Music Festival (BREMF) runs for two weeks in October and November. Most of the programme is at least interesting, if not a must-see worth travelling from Civilisation to the south coast for. The one stand-out event for me in the programme was a performance of Tomás Luis de Victoria's Requiem Mass, written for the empress Maria of Spain, who died in 1603.
This is a beautiful work, to have been performed along with other works by Victoria and Cristóbal Morales.
And it was a let-down.
The choir appeared to be rather under-rehearsed. This manifested in at least three ways: first, the basses seemed rather hesitant on a few occasions when they were supposed to come in and start; second, they weren't quite singing in time with each other - many times when a syllable started or ended with a hard consonant you would hear t-t-t-t-t-t-t as people started at different times; and third the conductor stopped them twice in the "other works" section of the concert to start again. The first of those was particularly problematic - it was because they started far too fast, so they're not following the conductor's directions.
And that's their second problem. The conductor was very energetic, bouncing up and down from her knees, and lots of biiiiig movements. However, from where I was sitting it all looked rather vague and even a bit inconsistent - she had at least six different ways of making the choir shut up at the right time at the end of a piece! Now, of course, I didn't have the same view as the singers did, but it certainly appeared as if the conductor wasn't really directing them as well as she could have done, and bearing in mind that the Brighton Consort are an amateur choir who rehearse just once a week (neither of which is a bad thing in itself, of course), they need direction.
Finally, there was very little dynamic range. You could tell in several places where there was supposed to be a sudden change in volume, both from the music and from the conductor's weird gestures. But at best they went from f to ff when it should have been p to ff.
Nice venue though. St Barts may be an ugly great barn, with a hopelessly muddled interior, but the acoustic was perfect for this sort of music, and it's nice and easy to get to, being just five minutes walk from Brighton station. The church also has a very good programme of music at services, some of which make it actually worthwhile going along on a Sunday, and a programme of secular concerts.
OK, so this has turned into more a review of the record label than of the music. Deal with it :-)
I recently re-discovered Magnatune, the "we are not evil" record company. All their tracks are available online, and you can even download them for free, with a slightly annoying little speech at the end of each track saying where it came from - although Magnatune themselves say on their website that you can strip that off if you want. But for a trivial sum you can become a "download member", and so download as much music as you like, without the annoying speeches, and that's what I recommend.
But before you sign up, you should listen to this album by Robin Grey, as a sample of the sort of quality on offer. This is what Bob Dylan should have sounded like, if only Dylan could sing.
I need some Bluetooth headphones, can anyone suggest any?
Features I need:
works with iphone
sit on the ear, not stuffed inside the ear
band goes around back of neck, not over top of head
can be bought online
doesn't cost all the money in the world
USB charging strongly preferred
I don't care if it has a microphone and other jibber-jabber in it. In fact, I'd rather it didn't. I have already tried the Sony DRBT21GB, which only works in mono so is going back to the vendor tomorrow.
Posted at 19:50
by David Cantrell keywords: iphone | music
A couple of days ago I got fitted with my hearing aid. Which, incidentally, is green with sparkly bits. It makes a tremendous difference, I can actually hear people talking on my left side now, and when one of the lifts goes "ding!" I can tell which one it is without having to look at them all. Directional hearing is awesome!
Two of the features of all modern hearing aids are the telecoil and DAI (direct audio input).
The telecoil is a useless obsolete hangover from simpler days. I'm sure that back in the 1960s they were better than nothing, but these days primitive wideband receivers are unacceptable because they indiscriminately pick up noise from all over the spectrum. And there's a lot of noise around. For instance, it picks up 50Hz hum from the mains electricity supply, and computers spew crap all over the first few 100 Hz. We have better wireless technology now.
DAI is a standard interface for plugging audio devices directly into the hearing aid. Although when I say standard, I do of course mean "standard but with a funky connector". A *really* funky connector. The obvious uses for this are to plug a bluetooth thingy into it so I can use a phone through the hearing aid, and to plug my ipod into it.
There is just one bluetooth thingy made, and it's quite expensive. But ho-hum, small market etc, so I suppose that's to be expected. However, the DAI socket is a bog standard analogue affair, so there's really no reason for there not to be loads of things to help me plug my ipod into it. But no. There aren't. There are a few for people who have two hearing aids, but not for people who can hear just fine on one side so need one DAI thingy and one normal earphone. Grrr.
Fed up with waiting for Palm to release their shiny new phone which has been promised for ages but doesn't actually exist yet, and being impressed by some of the apps available, I decided to get myself an iPhone 3GS. Over the next few days and weeks I'll post several short reviews of various bits of its functionality.
First up, the "iPod" functionality. Apple claim that the iPhone is also an iPod - "it's a phone, an iPod and an internet device in one". I suppose this is the first and most obvious lie I've found in all their blurb about it. It quite clearly can not be used as an iPod, because it doesn't have the capacity to store all my music (unlike an iPod) and has no "shuffle albums" feature. So I'll need to carry an iPod as well. Not that that's a problem, I knew I'd have to do that because of the very small storage capacity, but having no album shuffle is a serious design flaw. I'm sure that the sort of achingly hip people who work at Apple don't realise this, because they only listen to "hip-hop", and so 99% of their songs sound exactly the same. But it's kinda important for those of us who listen to actual music. It is important to listen to a symphony from start to finish before automatically moving on to the next work.
But good news on the ipod front, having an ipod-like device with a big screen has made me realise what podcasts are all about. My journeys to work for the next few days are going to be enlivened by Mr. Deity.
Last weekend I went to Finchcocks musical museum with my parents. It was dead good. They have all kinds of weird (and not so weird) keyboard instruments, which visitors are encouraged to play with. I perpetrated photography.
My parents recently went to a performance of Karl Jenkins' Stabat Mater and bought me a CD. I have mixed emotions about it. On the one hand the music really is good, but ... and it's two really big buts ...
Jenkins mixes "ethnic" music into his compositions so often that it's beginning to get a bit hackneyed and cheap. These sections don't fit well with the rest, and give the impression of only being there to be "right on".
A far bigger "but" concerns his treatment of the text. For a meditation on the desolation of a mother at the brutal torture and execution of her son, the music is, at least in places, far too light and catchy. What is more, although the CD liner notes provide a translation, the setting doesn't seem to pay much attention to the actual meaning. For example, the verse:
Cuius animam gementem / contristatam et dolentem / pertransivit gladius.
ends with the last line repeated (fair enough, this is common and doesn't detract from the meaning) - but then the last word is repeated, and even worse is repeated in a major key in a way that makes it seem heroic and triumphant! So what's actually being sung is:
Through her weeping soul, / compassionate and grieving, / a sword passed.
a sword passed.
a sword! Hurrah!
The treatment of the very first verse ain't great either. It's as if he came up with a fantastic tune and only later tried to set the words to it instead of writing the music for the words. Because he runs out of syllables a bit early, the opening verse:
Stabat mater dolorosa / iuxta Crucem lacrimosa, / dum pendebat Filius
comes out as:
Stabat mater dolorosa / iuxta Crucem lacrimosa, / dum pendebat Filiuuu-uuuuu-uuu-uuu-uuuu-uuuus
Oh dear. 7 out of 10 for the music, but as my Latin masters used to say, "3 out of 10, must try harder". Overall, a mere 4 out of 10. The seeming ignorance of the text spoilt it terribly for me.
How terribly remiss of me! A couple of weeks ago I went with three other Daves (Dave Hodgkinson, Dave Dorward and Dave Mannsåkker) to see Burial at Thebes - a new opera, libretto by Seamus Heaney, music by Dominique Le Gendre, a Carribean composer - at the Globe. It sets to music Heaney's well-regarded translation of Sophocles's Antigone. It's splendidly tragic.
I enjoyed it. The professionalreviewersdidn't. They didn't like the music. Probably because it didn't use a vast orchestra and a hundred wailing sopranos all wobbling frantically in a doomed effort to find the right note.
If you're an actual musician, with a broad mind and catholic tastes (hell, there's even a litle bit of rapping in here, when King Creon talks about the duties of the individual and the state - so it's the good kind of rapping, as opposed to illiterate shouty shit) then you should go and see this if you get the chance. It was planned to also play in Liverpool and Oxfnord after the two London shows, but because I've been so goddamned slack, those shows have probably already been and gone. Ah well, it's bound to surface again at some point. Perhaps in twenty or so years when the fuddy-duddies currently getting paid for writing reviews have had the good manners to Fuck Off And Die.
update: It seems that the Independent's reviewer hated it a bit less than the others. He still gets it wrong though - for example, he praises the singing of the Minister of the Admiralty (who was good) but doesn't praise the singing of Creon (who was better). But particularly of note is that he says "the orchestral score was deft and atmospheric", so at least we have one reviewer with a musical Clue. This guy's main criticism is of Derek Walcott's direction. I didn't think it was too shabby myself, but I can see why he would think like he does. So, maybe just another 15 years to wait for a re-run instead of 20.
This website is made of awesome. It's just pointer after pointer after pointer to bands who are giving some of their music away in the hope that you'll buy some of their stuff. Much of the music is crap, of course, but some is really good. Well worth the price of admission.
I just installed a Thing on my phone that lets me use MP3 files for ringtones. This is getting dangerously close to me being chav scum. Thankfully, unlike chav scum, I actually have pleasant tunes on my phone. For callers who are in my address book, it will play the Soviet national anthem. For those who aren't, Dueling Banjos.
But, even though I've not really descended, please keep an eye on me. If I ever start wearing jackets made of artificial fibre, or don't wear my hat straight, you have my permission to stab me in the face, to put me out of your misery.
Posted at 23:40
by David Cantrell keywords: music | phone
The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust
I bought another album online. This time it's "The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust" by Saul Williams. It is apparently hip-hop. Coulda fooled me, it sounds more like music. Not great music, it's true, but still enjoyable, and well worth the derisory 5 yankee-dinars that I paid. In fact, if they'd let me set my own price like Radiohead did a few months ago, I'd have paid more.
And yes, I did torrent the album first. Having torrented it, I decided that it was worth buying. If I'd not been able to "try before I buy" then I wouldn't have bought, precisely because it was erroneously classified as hip-hop - ie, as crap. Far from taking food from the mouths of Saul Williams's children as the music industry would want you to think, bittorrent enabled that sale to happen.
So anyway, it's not great music, but it's worth $5. Buy it.
Radiohead have released their new album "In Rainbows" online, with punters being asked to pay whatever they think is appropriate. Even though I'm not a fan, I'm getting a copy - without the record company mark-up, it'll be cheap enough (I'll pay three quid) to see if it's any good, and then if it is good, I'll pay more for their next release, or go to a gig, or something like that.
Shame that the web site interface is a bit broken - some images don't always load, including those used for form buttons; use of images to display text with no text equivalent; confusing user interface for buying the bloody thing; use of idiotic non-word "pre-order".
OK, so that last one isn't a webby bug, but I see it all over the fucking place and IT MAKES ME WANT TO SET PEOPLE ON FIRE.
Update: meh. It's not musically offensive, but nor is it particularly good. There's certainly nothing original there. I'll probably never choose to listen to it again, but if my iPod randomly picks it for me I won't skip straight past it. Ho hum. Even so, the three quid I paid means that more goes to the band from my purchase than would have done if they were owned by a record company, which is good. And because I downloaded it from them, they had no manufacturing and shipping costs.
And finally, I owe the hip-hop community an apology. I have previously dismissed all their work as "illiterate shouty crap". But now Baba Brinkman, a Canadian student of Mediæval and Renaissance English, has set the Canterbury Tales to music. It's still shouty crap, of course, but illiterate it is not.
While I would be the first to agree with you that the music of Mr. Dave Mustaine and his troubadour friends "Megadeth" is jolly fine stuff, I don't really think that it's suitable listening for monks attempting to follow in the footsteps of the Enlightened One.
A few days ago, someone was arrested for listening to the wrong sort of music. He wasn't listening to Skrewdriver, or to the Greatest Hits of the SS Brass Band or anything objectionable. He was arrested for listening to Led Zeppelin and The Clash. And he was arrested because a taxi driver didn't like the lyrics. I suppose in a way that I should be glad that the government's terror campaign (that is, their attempt to terrify everyone into being good little pod people by playing the terrorism card) leads to so much police time being wasted and so will ultimately be counter-productive. But it must suck for the polices' innocent victims like Mr. Mann.
Mr. Mann received neither compensation for his missed flight nor an apology. Which just goes to prove that the police are rude and inconsiderate (as well as being obviously stupid and racist) in Durham as well.
I might withdraw that last bit if the officers concerned are fired and then prosecuted for wasting police time, but until then I have to assume that their bosses think they did the right thing, and that such behaviour is encouraged.