chrishansenhome: (Cartoon)
I looked at a Ray William Johnson YouTube video this evening after doing a lot of work today, including:
  • Repairing two Ikea drawers that had come apart at the seams. Four angle brackets later, they are good as new. The swearing was extra fun as I was trying to hold them together temporarily and they were not cooperating. But they finally succumbed, and we now have three drawers in our Ikea wardrobe, the way God intended.

  • Getting a wired connection to my upstairs Linux computer. I have been trying to do this for the longest time, and I had tried various bridges and other contraptions, with no success. I had tried a power line modem before, and it didn't work then. However, this evening I tried it, and it worked. Dunno why it didn't work before and it does now, but I'm not looking gift horses in mouths. I'm dead chuffed.

  • I emptied the wardrobe of T-shirts, which have been tossed every which way and stuffed, not folded, into the space. I have been rolling them up and deciding which ones to donate to the Good-as-New stall at church. I shall finish that tomorrow and get the ones I want to keep stowed away. Next come the shorts in the shelf above.

I feel quite accomplished. In addition to these items I cooked a chicken and rice dish for dinner and went shopping for food and for hardware.

Back to the video. The subject was "Comedians comment on EDM". I thought to myself, "What the heck is EDM?" I googed it and soon found out. ("Electronic Dance Music")

Now I'm listening to a Soundcloud mix of various EDM tracks. Strangely enough, although I'm not on drugs or dancing at the moment, I kind of like it, Gawd help us all.
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You may be sick and tired of "Call Me Maybe". You should not be so sick and tired of it that you refrain from listening to this arrangement. Believe me.

chrishansenhome: (Default)
Thanks to [ profile] chrisloup for referring me to this. An entire song consisting of quasi-mondegreens is a rare thing. Enjoy it.

If you want to read the original lyrics, they're here, although it asks you whether you want to download O Fortuna as a ringtone. I'd rather gnaw off my fingers.

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I am one of these people who rarely if ever wins anything substantial. Occasionally I'll win a few quid at the lottery, and once I won a draw after answering a software testing questionnaire and got £250 worth of vouchers. But lately my luck hadn't been very good.

Last week HWMBO and I went to a concert by his favourite English singer, Raúl Malo, at Queen Elizabeth Hall. The opening act was by a group called the Lucinda Belle Orchestra, headed by a beautiful harpist and singer named, natch, Lucinda Belle. I had never heard jazz harp before (and her harp is something to behold, decorated as it is with a saying and various other pictures) and she has a way of magnetising an audience into participating. You wouldn't think that a QE Hall audience would reply enthusiastically "Woo-ooo!" when the singer sang "Whoa-oh" but she got a very good response.

The only disappointment is that so many people were more interested in hearing Malo than in hearing his opening act: entire sections were empty. Those of us who attended got a card with a QR code to download some of her music. We then settled down to hear Malo (who is very good: this year we were much closer and could actually see him; last year we were in the last row and could only see a very tiny figure on the stage).

When we got home I duly scanned the code and got the music.

The music is quite good and well-worth downloading. After downloading, there was a competition: if you tweeted about the download and used a specific hashtag in your Tweet, you would be entered into a draw for a prize: free entry to Ronnie Scott's jazz club to hear Lucinda Belle. So I tweeted.

And we won!

So last night we presented ourselves at the door and got two seats at the bar. Now, to be honest, the seats were pretty uncomfortable, especially for me and my foot. The wine (I had two small glasses, and HWMBO had one) was pricey for what it was. But the gig was great.

The opening set was by a guy named Earl Okin. He's been around since Hector was a pup, it seems, and his website is, um, unique. He began with a few guitar and vocals pieces, and a few stories about people he's met and worked with at Ronnie Scott's. He's very witty, and when he went to the piano and gave a lesson on stride and whorehouse piano, he was not only entertaining but a very good singer. You may want to turn off Flash if you go to his website. He does need a website designer, desperately; however, he is a good performer.

After the whorehouse piano lesson, he returned to the guitar and did some bossa nova with a Brasilian singer. I'm not an expert but his Portuguese accent was pretty good.

While Earl was up there, Lucinda walked by, sat on the barstool next to mine, and asked whether we were the people who had won her competition. I said that we were, and I introduced her to HWMBO. She is a very beautiful woman, with a lovely smile and a fabulous wardrobe.

Now we are lucky that we ate before we got there, as there was no place to eat where we were. But there were waiters galore, including one Hispanic (I believe) young man who was flirting with me whenever he went by. I expect it was just for fun, but it certainly warmed the cockles of my heart.

Lucinda Belle's Orchestra went on around 8:30 pm, and she proceeded to sing and play the harp so well that you would think that the harp was a natural jazz instrument. Her dress was a flouncy number with a leopard-skin print that just swirled around the stage as she sang.

What did she sing? One song was about Valentine's Day, which really got me as our anniversary is Valentine's Day. Later on Lucinda answered my thank-you email with: "I think you may have found your song for your anniversary..." and I think she may be right. Her harp is named "Diana", by the say, and she shlepps it around herself, at least until she arrives. The orchestra was more extensive than the one she led at QE Hall. There was a piano/accordion, a cello, a percussionist, a bass, a guitar, a clarinet/trumpet/flute/sax, and a trombone. They worked together really well in the space, and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the music. Her song about a couple who robbed banks (not Bonnie & Clyde) was a real roof-raiser!

She's signed a deal with Universal Music, and her album "My Voice and my 45 Strings" is out now, and, she says, available at iTunes (I can't find it at the moment). When I've got my iTunes sorted (it's a loooooong story) I shall download it.

Ronnie Scott's was new to me. I've known about it for a long time, of course, as it's just north of Old Compton Street in Frith St. in teh Gay Village. Normally admission is £20 or £40, and this just gets you a table (if you're lucky). The food looked and smelled pretty good, but I'm told in reviews that it's a bit overpriced for what you get. And I shudder to think of how much the tables in front of us (about 12 people) spent in food and wine. I enjoyed the ambiance, and would like to go again. As one of the flagship jazz clubs in the world, Ronnie Scott's deserves more than one free visit. But the prices are such that the only people who can afford to go are City slickers with more money than brains, or rich tourists who want a night out with some good music.

We pushed our way through the Friday night West End crowd, with me muttering about "Damned tourists!" and HWMBO trying to keep me calm. Got home and I must say I was uplifted and enthused about the evening, in a way that nights out haven't affected me for a very long time indeed.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
…comes from the University of Western Australia, where a very enterprising group of students have performed a "lip-dub" to Queen's "Don't Stop Me Now". It's really fun, believe me! And kudos to the students; choreographing this must have taken a lot of effort, and it paid off!

Thanks to Towleroad for this.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
What a wonderful idea! It's a musical flashmob in the Great Court of Macy's in Philadelphia. The largest pipe organ in the world and more than 600 singers present Handel's "Hallelujah" Chorus to a store-ful of startled shoppers, some of whom are joining in. Bringing music out of the concert hall and into the public arena is a great thing. I wish they had something like this here in the United Kingdom. It was organised by Random Acts of Culture, and if they have an event near you, go! Here's the video from Macy's (once Wanamaker's):

chrishansenhome: (Default)
You may remember the story and video of Liu Wei performing on China's Got Talent a while back. It's an inspiring story of a teenager whose arms were amputated at 10 after an electrical shock while playing hide-and-seek damaged them beyond repair. Instead of accepting his condition passively, Wei decided that he wanted to teach himself to play the piano with his feet. He was repeatedly told that he could not do this, and yet he persevered.

Well, now he's won the national TV talent show.

My question to myself, and to you, is this: in a similar circumstance, would you, or would I, be able to overcome a setback to produce such an inspiring life story?

Congratulations to Wei, and may he go from strength to strength.
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Saturday night was the Last Night of the Proms. This is a more than 100-year-old tradition of closing the BBC Proms with an evening of some edgy new music, followed by patriotic songs of yesteryear, closed by the National Anthem.

As a transplanted USan, I can think of no national event in America that rivals the Last Night of the Proms. Imagine the Royal Albert Hall full of a mixture of revelers and people in formal evening dress. Many of them carry flags on poles to be waved during the last few pieces of the night: Union Flags, of course, but flags of nations and regions all over the world: English, Scottish, Ulster, Welsh, Pink Union Flags (for the gay contingent), Australian, New Zealand, Cornish, even a couple of US and European Union flags were seen. No vuvuzelas, thank God, but a few air horns that might be let off at suitable intervals. Then the (American) soprano, dressed as Britannia in a headdress and magnificent gown, emerges and sings Rule, Britannia, while the (Czech) conductor wields the baton. Unfortunately, she only sings the first two verses; I here reproduce all six verses of the original:

When Britain first, at Heaven's command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:
"Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
"Britons never will be slaves."

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

Thee haughty tyrants ne'er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves.

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown'd,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.
Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
Britons never will be slaves. "

No one today would hold that any of this patriotic song any longer has validity in our current national life. We no longer rule the waves: we are about to cancel a £5 billion program to build two aircraft carriers after more than £1 billion of contracts have already been let. The ships were to be built in Scotland, which is no-go territory for the Conservatives. Thus, £4 billion will be saved by scrapping the ships.

In addition, after all the nibblings away of our liberty by Labour, the line that "Britons never will be slaves" has a very hollow ring to it indeed.

After that, we have Jerusalem, the Parry setting of Blake's poem:

And did those feet in ancient time
Walk upon England's mountains green
And was the holy lamb of God
On England's pleasant pastures seen
And did the countenance divine
Shine forth upon our clouded hills
And was Jerusalem builded here
Among those dark Satanic mills

Bring me my bow of burning gold
Bring me my arrows of desire
Bring me my spears o'clouds unfold
Bring me my chariot of fire
I will not cease from mental fight
Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand
'Til we have built Jerusalem
In England's green and pleasant land

Now the terse answer to the first stanza is "No, they didn't, no, he wasn't, no, it didn't, and no, it wasn't." The Dean of Southwark, the Very Rev'd Colin Slee, has banned the singing of Jerusalem in Southwark Cathedral on the premise that it has become an anthem for the far right British nationalists. But reading the poem does make one think that there is something that can be done with our society if only we get the tools to do it. We can build a city of peace—even a country of peace; what we need is the will and the tools with which to do it. That is something that we may all do, together, as a country. So I love to hear and sing Jerusalem, His Reverence the Dean notwithstanding.

Then, we have Land of Hope and Glory—a more triumphal patriotic hymn one could hardly ever sing:

Land of Hope and Glory, Mother of the Free,
How shall we extol thee, who are born of thee?
Wider still, and wider, shall thy bounds be set;
God, who made thee mighty, make thee mightier yet!

Truth and Right and Freedom, each a holy gem,
Stars of solemn brightness, weave thy diadem.
Tho' thy way be darkened, still in splendour drest,
As the star that trembles o'er the liquid West.

Throned amid the billows, throned inviolate,
Thou hast reigned victorious, thou has smiled at fate.
Land of Hope and Glory, fortress of the Free,
How may we extol thee, praise thee, honour thee?

Hark, a mighty nation maketh glad reply;
Lo, our lips are thankful, lo, our hearts are high!
Hearts in hope uplifted, loyal lips that sing;
Strong in faith and freedom, we have crowned our King!

So God made us mighty, and we ask God to make us mightier yet? Hubris, I reckon. The days when the United Kingdom was mighty have, I'm afraid, long passed. This hymn was premiered at the Proms of (I think) 1905, and Elgar was extremely proud of the music. You have probably heard it at a high school or university graduation as it's formally called Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1, and was suggested to Elgar as a good fit for the coronation by King Edward VII. Of course, the second line is quite inappropriate nowadays, as many British citizens are not "born of thee" but are Brits by naturalisation or adoption.

Land of Hope and Glory regularly vies with Jerusalem when the question of a National Anthem for England comes up.

Now why have I gone through all of this? The philosophical idea of patriotism implies exclusivity; that is, when you are patriotic you can be patriotic only to one country. But I am a citizen of two countries (though I live in England), and patriotism in the United States is on an entirely different scale than patriotism here. Normally we have a quiet sort of patriotism, with minimal flag-waving, very little singing of patriotic songs, and only a little kerfuffle on St. George's Day, the feast-day of the Patron Saint of England. There is no patron saint of the United Kingdom: each of the constituent countries has its own patron saint: Dafydd in Cymru (David in Wales, I mean), Andrew in Scotland, Patrick in Ireland, and George in England. Nationhood in the UK is confused with separatism and is somewhat suspect.

When I listen to The Last Night of the Proms, for some reason, I feel stirring in my heart the sentiment that, for good or ill, I have cast my lot in with the United Kingdom and her rich history and traditions. Jerusalem, in particular, puts me in mind of a better, brighter United Kingdom that is just out of our reach, but which we can grasp and make a reality with teamwork, and effort, and trust in ourselves and in God.

The National Anthem ends the Last Night of the Proms. There is no official National Anthem of the United Kingdom; as is the case of much of our constitutional arrangements, it's simply the convention that God Save the Queen is our National Anthem:

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter her enemies,
And make them fall.
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen

Nor on this land alone,
But be God's mercies known
From shore to shore:
Lord make the nations see
That men should brothers be,
And form one family
The wide world o'er

The second verse is not sung very much these days. The fourth verse is often sung instead of the second to conclude the anthem. I think that it's a beautiful sentiment, and perhaps needs more currency than it now gets.

Brits often express surprise that I know the words to God Save the Queen. I would no sooner forget the lyrics of my adopted nation's anthem than I would forget the lyrics to The Star Spangled Banner.
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This week's latest meme is to make a John Cage Memorial Playlist from your iPod: all the songs that are exactly 4'33" long, symbolically duplicating Cage's most famous work, 4'33", go into the playlist. Here's mine. There are more than 2 hours of music in this, and a more eclectic JCMP you will not find anywhere—I can almost guarantee it.

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By now you've all heard of the armless Chinese pianist who wow'ed 'em on China's Got Talent. Here's the video—it's all in Chinese but you'll find that it doesn't matter in the slightest if you can't understand Chinese.


Jul. 26th, 2010 11:39 pm
chrishansenhome: (Default)
A BBC broadcast tonight called Material World (a regular BBC Radio 4 feature on science) had a section on earworms, a subject that's come up in this blog before. Well, there is a research project going on here in the UK about it and, if you're quick, you can get in on a drawing for £150 if you fill out their survey.

I have a regular Tuesday earworm of one (only one, never more than one) hymn from the Sunday Eucharist. It doesn't repeat the next time I hear that hymn, and it doesn't start at the same time as the Eucharist. It's delayed by two days to Tuesday. I expect it'll start tomorrow morning. It usually lasts for a couple of hours or maybe a day. I don't get it if I don't go to church.

The last really annoying one I had was Marblehead Forever, the "anthem" of my home town. I don't want another one so I am sincerely trying not to replay it in my head.

In any case, Tuesday is only 23 minutes away and, sure as shootin', I'll wake up with some earworm from Sunday Eucharist playing in my head.
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Many of you have Nokia phones, I guess, and probably everyone has friends or acquaintances or office mates who have one. If you don't change it, the default Nokia ringtone is pretty annoying after a while.

Well, Vincent Lo has made it into an enchanting fugue:

chrishansenhome: (Default)
As a dual US/UK citizen, I have almost forgotten the lyrics to the US patriotic hymn "America" ("My country 'tis of thee/Sweet land of liberty/To thee we sing") as the lyrics I now normally sing to this tune are "God save our gracious Queen/Long live our noble Queen/God save the Queen!"

However, at the end of the 19th Century the American composer Charles Ives, as an 18-year-old organ prodigy, wrote Variations on America, which took the old tune as an inspiration for a tango, among other musical genres.

In honour of both my citizenships then, I found this video which presents various American images to the music of Charles Ives. Enjoy, and Happy Independence Day to all the USans among you.

chrishansenhome: (Default)
As HWMBO will testify, I get grumpy when hearing endless repeats of hackneyed old Christmas songs. It probably stems from my youth when I tried to get a carol-singing group of kids together and we failed miserably at singing carols.

However, the MadPriest has been collecting examples of Christmas music to uplift (your lunch) and here is the best one so far (from Padre Mickey's blog):

chrishansenhome: (Default)
A kid in the US has recently been fined $700,000 for downloading fewer than 100 songs. I don't suppose that he'll be able to pay that off very soon. Pirate Bay people in Sweden are convicted of intellectual piracy for file-sharing.

However, we are all aware of the viral video of the moment, the terpsichorean wedding entrance which is set to Chris Brown's song Forever. The couple used the song without permission (I don't believe permission would have been needed to play it in the church) but also put the video up on YouTube.

Most artists and music publishers would have sued the wedding dress, veil, and tuxedos off any newlyweds who did that. However, the people behind Forever are not just any artists or music publishers.

BoingBoing tells you what happened after the video was published. Ladies and germs, THIS is what the future monetarisation of the internet looks like. And as much as the older dinosaurs in the music industry hate it, they'd better get used to it.
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I was tipped off by @jonk about the Complaints Choir of Helsinki. I watched, and it was hilarious.

I thought it was a one-off until I looked at the suggestions sidebar. There was one from Birmingham, UK, one in Chicago, but the best one I listened to was from Singapore!

As usual, I am the last one to hear of the Complaints Choir movement. There does seem to be one in London, but there's been no movement on the performance that I can see and there isn't any link to a YouTube video of it. I suppose we are just too British and polite to bother complaining.

The Singapore Complaints Choir was refused permission to perform in public unless all non-Singaporeans were barred from the Choir. As some will be aware, Singapore has become the home of many non-Singaporeans who do jobs ranging from housekeeper and nanny up to CEO of the national sovereign wealth fund. But, since those people were barred from performing publicly, the entire choir decided that it would perform in private, tape the performance, and put it up on teh intarwebs, where the Singapore gahmen couldn't ban it. It's really funny (to those who live there or who have some knowledge of Singapore) and the back story makes it even more poignant. Do watch it—I've embedded it below.

chrishansenhome: (Default)
Widor's Toccata from the Fifth Symphony is a popular organ showpiece for the technically proficient organist. It's a popular recessional at weddings and always gets a big round of applause.

Well, for those who think that the accordion is only suited for "Lady of Spain" and badly at that, here's proof that's not true.

Thanks to [ profile] trawnapanda for the link via soc.motss.
chrishansenhome: (Default)
Thanks to BoingBoing for this one.

chrishansenhome: (Default)
I may have referred to Cameron Carpenter before; I had seen a video from Trinity Church Wall Street of a concert he gave there, and this was the finale. I am a sucker for "The Stars and Stripes Forever" I'm afraid, and I think that his rendition is perhaps the best organ rendition of the march that I have ever heard. He is definitely the next Virgil Fox (whom I met twice in my high school years and who was the same type of flamboyant showman that Carpenter is).

Turn the volume up and let 'er rip!

chrishansenhome: (Default)
Ice cream trucks usually have some nauseating version of a children's song piping away as they lure the children to their eventual deaths from extreme obesity and diabetes. However, this ice cream truck has a song that is memorable and maddening. It sounds like some Olde Englishe folk tune, and has overtones of a British military march whose name I forget. However, it's not that. Do any of my musical lj-friends have a clue as to what this is?

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