The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Culture

Fri 01 Sep 2006

Voi perkele!

Language Log on how to swear in Finnish. We're not talking about singing Lapponia, either.

Wherever you go, whatever you do, look around you. It's elementary.

Further proof that Konnie Huq is the new Valerie Singleton comes with news that she'll be presenting documentaries for the Asian Network. Annoyingly, the reports will air at 6.30 on a Monday evening, opposite Huq's main job, Blue Peter. Still, there's always Listen Again...

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posted 01 Sep 2006, 19.48 +0100

Mon 04 Sep 2006

It's always Eurovision season
eurovision

Two pieces of Eurovision news.

1. Tatu has been dropped. The duo from Uckfield, who represented Russia in the 2003 competition, have been axed from Universal's record roster after pisspoor sales of their last album. Go on, do you know anyone other than myself who bought it?

2. Songs you don't expect to hear on Cube Radio, number one in a series. Je t'adore, Kate Ryan's entry for Belgium in 2006, which resolutely failed to get out of the semi-final, but still turns up on the planet's poppiest station.

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posted 04 Sep 2006, 19.13 +0100

Tue 05 Sep 2006

Pot con
sectus

Sectus 2007 will be a tenth anniversary conference for the academic side of the Potter fandom. It'll be in London during the third week-end of July next year, and there will be side-trips to other interesting places. £49 for early registrations.

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posted 05 Sep 2006, 19.15 +0100

Thu 07 Sep 2006

John Drummond

The death has been announced of John Drummond. He was 71. Mr Drummond had been the director of the official Edinburgh arts festival before taking the reins at Radio 3 in 1987. He centred the BBC's high culture radio station around a solid diet of classical music and plays; it's his era that the campaign group Friends of Radio 3 wishes to return to. After handing over the Third to Nicholas Kenyon in 1992, Mr Drummond became a staunch defender of the arts, often criticising the philistine British government.

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posted 07 Sep 2006, 19.20 +0100

Thu 14 Sep 2006

You love it if we fly
flybags

As one might expect, Norman Lebrecht has weighed into the cabin luggage debate. "The ones who are affected are the international premier class of violin and cello soloists and a handful of jazz musicians whose instruments are insured for upwards of half a million pounds or are so personal to the players that they cannot be replaced."

Estimating these people to be perhaps 200 in number, Mr. Lebrecht then suggests that this is the thin end of a wedge-shaped wedge. "Executives would demand to carry their laptops, nursing mothers their baby kits and would-be jihadis their special-mix drinks." Yet executives have been able to carry their laptops for all but about three days; nursing mothers have always been allowed baby food; and binary explosives make Radio 3's DAB signal seem a model of efficiency.

Mr. Lebrecht's monthly discussion programme, Lebrecht Live, returns this Sunday, asking why there's a tendency to apply nationalist criteria to abstract ideas. It is not clear if this week's programme will include the classified football results, as happened last time.

Back to the planes, and British Airways reports that the new hand luggage rules have cost it £40 million. The effect has been to cancel flights, reduce loading, make airports a bloody unfriendly place to be, and force potential tourists to seek alternative destinations. Already, I've kicked plans to visit Canada into touch, and replaced it with a week in Belgium. The government's restrictions have directly cost BA the £500 or so I was prepared to pay. Go on, Mr Britishairways, please take the Dotties to court over this money.

These new rules are nonsense measures, introduced in response to a completely made-up threat, and do no good and plenty of harm. Occam's razor demands that the red tape be cut.

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posted 14 Sep 2006, 20.23 +0100

Mon 18 Sep 2006

From farm to plate
food-news

Oi! Supermarket! Stop selling my produce. The maker of a rather nice packet of premium crisps has told a leading supermarket to take them off their shelves. Will Chase, the founder of Tyrrells chips, has refused to sell his product to larger supermarkets, but the store managed to source them via someone else.

School meals

On Friday, there was a brief story about some mothers who were running a take-away service to their children's school. One of the mothers is quoted as saying, "We get what the kids want. Today we've been delivering jacket potatoes and salad sandwiches. Everything. Children are locked up like caged animals inside there, starving all day." When term began two weeks ago, schools were subject to new standards for their meals.

A case of lower-class rebellion against the forced bourgeoisement of school meals? Hardly, as an interview on PM demonstrated. The head teacher has implemented a bizarre split lunch system, with children moving between 11am and 1pm each day; at 30 minutes, the lunch break may not be long enough to comply with relevant legislation. There are also suggestions that the quality of the meals served is particularly low.

On the other use of a card

In the Torygraph, Philip Johnson is annoyed about the government's plans to know everything about everyone at every time. He touches on the pernicious growth of closed-circuit television cameras, the identity database, computerised medical records, and the ban on encryption.

Once you accept that the government has the right to know where you are at all times, to demand that you tell its agents when you move home or to render up your private musings at its behest, then you have changed the nature of the individual's relationship to the state in a way that is totally alien to this country's historic, though ill-defined, covenant between the rulers and the ruled. If enough people say "so what?" to that, as well, then Mr Blair really has left a legacy, and it is a pernicious one.
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posted 18 Sep 2006, 15.57 +0100

Sun 24 Sep 2006

Malcolm Arnold and Radio 3

The death has been announced of Malcolm Arnold, musician, aged 84. Never one to be pigeon-holed, Mr. Arnold composed the statutory nine symphonies, but most of his work was incidental music for the motion picture industry. He'll be remembered for his theme to The Bridge on the River Kwai, and for his groundbreaking work with Deep Purple. Mr. Arnold's style was quintissentially English, melding elements of traditional classical with folk styles, and always composing with a slightly mischievous sense of humour. His successors include the pop group Blur. Mr. Arnold was originally a trumpeter, and fondly recalls a meeting he had with Mr. Louis Armstrong, a jazz musician. By speaking to the masses, Mr. Arnold helped to make the obscure more accessible without compromising it in any way.

It's fair to say that Mr. Arnold encapsulated the culture of The Third Programme, which marks its diamond jubilee this Saturday. He was able to talk to the high culture audience, and to the popular culture audience, as though they were one and the same. In its original incarnation, The Third Programme was an esoteric mixture of high culture - music, lectures, drama, talks. Budget cuts in 1957 reduced the service's hours; the absolutely barking Broadcasting In The Seventies changes removed most of the spoken-word output, ensuring that high culture would become almost identical with classical music.

Birthday celebrations start with History Through the Ears (9.30 to-night), a discussion on how people have listened. Blood transfusion - another organisation celebrating its diamond anniversary this week - is marked in Night Waves (9.30 to-morrow). The big night is Friday, when there's a repeat of Joyce Grenfell and Stephen Potter's How to Listen, followed by a commission from Jonathan Dove, a talk from Mr. Tom Service - the Controller of New Music - and an exercise comparing and contrasting the culture of 1946 with that of the present day. The decennial out-takes programme is Between the Ears at 10.15 next Saturday.

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posted 24 Sep 2006, 15.06 +0100

Wed 27 Sep 2006

Arts news in brief

Charlotte Higgins is annoyed with box-office booking fees. And, more tellingly, that they are completely inconsistent from place to place (though The Place charges nothing).

"What's Tommy Pearson doing these days." is a question we're almost never asked. The former Music Machine presenter has been absent from Radio 3 for a little while, and has now turned up on the CBSO podcast, talking to the people involved with the orchestra.

Stale magazine lists the top 10 classical downloads. The chorus from Carmina Burana, Pachabel's Canon (twice, which is a bit much), Beethoven V, Fanfare for the Common Man, Bach's Cello Suite 3, the 1812 Overture. All to be expected.

But how come three of the top five places are filled with the pudgy meanderings of Andrea Bocelli, a man who wouldn't know a good note if it hit him. One performance - no, let me take that again. One song with Eurovision winner Céline Dion, and two versions of Con te Partio, one featuring the very moderate vocal talents of Sarah Brightman. If this is classical music at its finest, I'm a banana.

And if MTV's terms for playing videos are fair and equitable, I'm a cucumber. No Rock 'n' Roll Fun compares the Yankee behemoth to former British prime minister Mr. John Major. That's an insult to Mr. Major. I think.

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posted 27 Sep 2006, 19.40 +0100

Sat 14 Oct 2006

Choir of the Year

In the beginning, there was the Scala choir, a 60-strong female vocal ensemble who combined classical works with modern repertoire. Taste-makers across Europe picked up on the unusual combination and careful production, and the group is now promoting its fifth album in as many years. I've not (yet) heard the work, but I'm particularly looking forward to their interpretation of Every day I love you less and less.

Though the UK's alternative music station Xfm has given some time to Scala, the pop-classical station has preferred to bark up an inferior tree. Libera, a dozen boy sopranos, did have the advantage of getting in first, their debut album emerged in 1999. This year's release is their fifth, but third in consecutive years. Their work is primarily hymns and other uplifting music, set to an annoying drum beat and cheesy backing. It's karaoke choiring, and two albums was more than enough for anyone.

Last year, the Cantamus Girls' Choir appeared on the scene. We tried to visit their website, but it was broken, which is rather apt. The group is a third-rate copy of Scala, performing modern repertoire in a choral setting. Where Scala treads lightly, bringing out hitherto unseen facets of the songs, the CGC goes in with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It's as if they were a 50-piece rock band. The Cantamus Girls' Choir should not be confused with Cantamus, a travelling choir based in the Home Counties.

To-day's Universal Daily Registertab reports that the bottom is not in sight: Simon Cowell is wading in. His group, six young choiristers, is called Angelis, and they threaten to do for choirs what G4 has done for light opera. (For those fortunates who haven't had to listen to Classic FM lately, G4 has done for light opera. Finis.) According to the UDRtab, "The Angelis repertoire includes modern arrangements of traditional hymns, [...] and updated versions of pieces previously sung by Enya and Eva Cassidy."

And there's more: there's also going to be a group called All Angels, threatening to do "classical, choral, opera and pop". The UDR also threatens us with a Welsh male-voice choir, which would at least make a change.

In addition to their superior talent and better arrangement, there's a technical reason why Scala wipes the floor, at least with Libera and the CGC. Scala's albums have been produced as classical pieces, with the bare minimum of audio processing. The loud bits sound loud, and the quiet bits do actually sound quiet. The other albums have been worked on by the pop sections, and the over-use of audio compression forms a wearying wall of sound - there are no quiet bits, for everything is louder than everything else. Mr. Cowell's track record with G4 suggests that he'll allow the same failure here.

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posted 14 Oct 2006, 11.05 +0100

Sat 11 Nov 2006

A brief history of silence (IV)

Following up a post from last July, and previous entries.

I believe the list below to be a complete list of silences observed by a sizable portion of the British public since the start of 1995; do write in if you have further information. In particular, I'm still seeking confirmation of the length of the British Legion's armistice day silences in 1995-7; whether the Legion officially called for a silence on D-day + 60 in 2004; whether there was significant observation of a silence for VE-VJ day + 60 in 2005; and if I've missed a silence entirely.

In the list, ? denotes a time believed to be correct; "circa" is an approximate time, as sources differ.

08.05.95, 8.08pm, 2m, VE-day + 50
20.08.95, circa 9.28pm, 2m, VJ-day + 50
11.11.95, 11am, 1m, Armistice
12.11.95, 11am, 2m, Rememberance
17.03.96, 9.30am, 1m, Dunblane
10 and 11.11.96, Rememberance and Armistice
06.09.97, 12.07pm, 1m, Diana Windsor
09 and 11.11.97, 11am, Rememberance and Armistice
08 and 11.11.98, 11am, 2m, Rememberance and Armistice
11 and 14.11.99, 11am, 2m, Armistice and Rememberance
11 and 12.11.00, 11am, 2m, Armistice and Rememberance
14.09.01, 11am, 3m, Septembereleven
11.11.01, 11am, 2m, Rememberance and Armistice (combined)
15.02.02, 2pm?, 1m, Margaret Windsor (not widely observed)
09.04.02, 11.30am, 2m, Liz Bowes-Lyon
24.08.02, 3pm, 1m, Soham (unofficial)
11.09.02, 1.46pm, 1m, Septembereleven +1
10 and 11.11.02, 11am 2m, Rememberance and Armistice
15.02.03, circa 3.30pm, 2m, Anti-war march (unofficial)
09 and 11.11.03, 11am, 2m, Rememberance and Armistice
15.03.04, 11am, 3m, Madrid bombings
06.06.04, 9.30pm, 1m, D-day +60 (?, not widely observed)
11 and 14.11.04, 11am, 2m, Armistice and Rememberance
05.01.05, 12pm, 3m, Tsunami
10.07.05, 11am, 2m, VE-VJ-day + 60 (?, not widely observed)
14.07.05, 12pm, 2m, London bombings
11 and 13.11.05, 11am 2m, Rememberance and Armistice
07.07.06, 12pm, 2m, London bombings
11 and 12.11.05, 11am, 2m, Rememberance and Armistice

(Changes from previous list: the VJ date, and the times of Dunblane and Diana have been confirmed.)

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posted 11 Nov 2006, 09.44 +0000

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