I forgot to mention that I saw some skywriting two days ago over Los Angeles that I took to be – of course – a celebration of the Compton effect. You know, when a photon scatters off a charged particle and loses energy? That. It’s so good to see physics being celebrated so exuberantly in the public sphere**.
**My wife, who I was with at the time, suggested to me that it was to do with someone called Dr. Dre, but I’m pretty sure that it was Dr. Compton who discovered that phenomenon, so I gently explained the discovery to her. Click to continue reading this post →
On the strength of Becky Unthank’s guest appearance on a wonderful and heart-rending song (“So to Speak”) on Sting’s fantastic 2013 album “The Last Ship”, I decided to hear more. Wonderful… It is impossible to properly describe Becky’s voice and the (sometimes terrifying) shivers it sends down my spine when she brings out certain aspects of it that somehow constitute a vocal embodiment of a warm sea breeze: rich, complex, open, vast, with shades of gentleness and power at the same time. I can’t explain it, which frustrates me since I am usually reasonably good at that. And Rachel’s voice is wonderful too, in a different way. And then the two together produce that other fantastic indescribable vocal phenomenon – sibling harmonies! See e.g. here.
And taken altogether (and with Sting’s album), they remind me fondly of the North East of England that I got to know for a while…the people of Newcastle, Durham, Sunderland and surrounding villages…Sigh*.
Mark (“Frosty”) McNeill gave us a great overview of the work of the dublab collective at last Friday’s LAIH luncheon. As I said in my introduction:
… dublab shows up as part of the DNA of many of the most engaging live events around the City (at MOCA, LACMA, Barnsdall, the Hammer, the Getty, the Natural History Museum, the Hollywood Bowl… and so on), and dublab is available in its core form as a radio project any time you like if you want to listen online.
[…] dublab is a “non-profit web radio collective devoted to the growth of positive music, arts and culture.”
Frosty is a co-founder of dublab, and he told us a bit about its history, activities, and their new wonderful project called “Sound Share LA” which will be launching soon: They are creating a multimedia archive of Los Angeles based […] Click to continue reading this post →
These three fellows, perched on wooden boxes, just cried out for a quick sketch of them during the concert.
It was the LA Phil playing Penderecki’s Concerto Grosso for Three Cellos, preceded by the wonderful Rapsodie Espagnole by Ravel and followed by that sublime (brought tears to my eyes – I’d not heard it in so long) serving of England, Elgar’s Enigma Variations.
On occasion I play this, one of my favourite songs, for my father, who passed away a few years ago. I’ll play it (“Song for My Father”) again for him, but now also for the composer/pianist who wrote it, Horace Silver, who died today. Thanks for the wonderful music.
This longer live version from a concert on Danish television in 1968. Horace Silver – Piano; Bill Hardman – Trumpet; Bennie Maupin – Tenor; John Williams – Bass; Billy Cobham – Drums: (Click below or here for the video embed – the still above comes from it.)
This is a good one from the Onion. (I’ve not looked in on them for a while, so this was a funny thing to return to see…*) The title says it all: “Top Theoretical Physicists, R&B Singers Meet To Debate Meaning Of Forever”. Extract:
[…] at the four-day symposium, where they grappled with extant questions regarding the concept of forever that remained unresolved, such as whether forever is better conceived as an infinite, four-dimensional expanse of space-time or, rather, what one second feels like when you’re away from your girl.
“For many years, the R&B community has posited the classic notion that forever is presumed to go on and on like our love,” said Edward Witten, a string theorist at the Institute for Advanced Study, who acknowledged that while time appears to extend unendingly, it is paradoxically composed of discrete moments such as a tender embrace or a single perfect kiss. “This assertion then raises a problem of even greater […]
When calling to mind the Los Angeles Philharmonic, everyone’s (and all the posters’) focus is on Gustavo Dudamel, (or, the Dude, as I call him), all unruly hair and visible enthusiasm and so forth, and that’s great. He’s an excellent conductor. However, one of the unsung (as far as I know*) visibly spectacular performers of the LA Philharmonic is the excellent principal viola player whose name I do not know [update: see below*] who puts on the most remarkable physical performance every time I go (and presumably those other times too). Actually, the violist who sits next to her is also remarkable, since she manages without being distracted by her neighbour to maintain a very upright and solid, firmly planted, legs wide stance, in part providing a canvas upon which the viola player I first mentioned can splash bright splashes of movement all over the place! She rocks, sways, jerks, and contorts (sometimes even during quiet slow bits)- doing the craziest things with her legs, head, and bow arm, and so much of the time looks like she is about to spectacularly fall off her chair and wipe out at least half the viola section! This is why her colleague right next to her is also remarkable, as she acts as this wonderful un-distractable “straight man” to the physical pyrotechnics helping make them all the more remarkable by contrast. Last night I tried to capture some of the energy of the hyper-energetic viola player in a quick sketch (during […] Click to continue reading this post →
Because I love classic Queen, and because I work on string theory, but mainly because he did such a great job on everything (writing, production, puppets, singing…) I had to share this video with you, made by Tim Blais at a cappella Science:
Wow! This is exactly the kind of thing I’ve been hoping to see more of! When the report on this started on NPR about having students do music and video about science topics, I groaned a bit (while making breakfast) when I heard the Watson and Crick mentions in the clip in the background, saying to myself that it is so unfair that once again, Rosalind Franklin is being forgotten and a whole bunch of kids will miss the opportunity to learn about the nuances involved in doing science, and miss that she did such crucial work on this most important discovery…. I continued making my coffee, listening to the report with half an ear…. and then! …more of the clip was played and a girl’s voice came on, singing a bit about Rosalind Franklin, and then I realized that this was exactly the story they were telling in the video*. The whole NPR report, by Adam Cole, is here, with a short video doc. It is about not just the Rap B.A.T.T.L.E.S. doing songs and videos about various science topics, but also about other programs as well, started by people such as Christopher Emdin at Columbia, and others. Excellent.
I’ve embedded the Franklin/Watson/Crick video below. It was made by students in the Bay area, guided by Tom McFadden at Stanford. I think this is great piece of work since they did a great job on production, particularly with casting and costuming everyone to play the principals, cutting in reaction shots and so forth… It’s a real film! And for a change, for a popular rap about science that a wide variety of young people might be attracted to, this time the music is actual contemporary rap (which usually means well thought out lyrics combined with rhythmic devices that are definitely post 1980s, and not just a bunch of lines recited over a corny background beat – see another excellent example at the end of this post) which is great! An amusing and poignant extract:
[…] Click to continue reading this post →
I went to see Wayne Shorter last night! He’s still one of my favourite composers, so it was great to go and hear the work he’s been doing recently. It was a series of suites that have his quartet (with John Patitucci (bass), Brian Blade (drums), and Danilo Perez (piano)) accompanied by the LA Philharmonic to bring out, amplify, and explore a wider range of harmonies than you’d get with the quartet alone. It was a great evening, enhanced further by the fact that on two pieces, he had as special guest (singing on one and playing bass and singing on the other) Esperanza Spalding (who I’d seen recently at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam – post here), who I’ve now learned has a stunning voice! Stunning. Remarkable […] Click to continue reading this post →
(Photo: Taken during the break in the back room at Howlin’ Wolf in New Orleans. The Hot 8 were playing late into the night – super loud and energetic in the tiny space – and it was great. A really classic New Orleans sound.)
Having returned from the (excellent) New Orleans trip (lots of food, lots of music), I started to turn my attention to things like the final preparations for the Science Film Competition – the submissions are due Monday and the showcase is on the 23rd – and preparations for the lecture course on Electromagnetism I’ll be giving, starting Monday. But then I got hit by a virus, and yesterday was lost to the violent swings between freezing cold and boiling hot that accompanies an intense shivering fever. […] Click to continue reading this post →
I’m in New Orleans for a few days. Exciting, as I’ve never been here before, but it has been on my list of cities to visit for a long time…
I thought I’d share with you the above photo of an important (to me) artifact that I visited in the old US Mint building, which has a number of exhibits. This is the cornet that, as a boy, Louis Armstrong leaned to play trumpet on!
In Rotterdam a couple of weekends ago, the North Sea Jazz Festival took place. It was an excellent event. Well, I think it was, based on my Saturday trip there with some friends – I assume that the other two days were at least as good. We were there from the start at about 4:00pm until about 11:30pm, when we went back (via trains, with an adventure story for another day) to Amsterdam. Seven and a half hours is a good amount of time for some excellent music to be heard and seen…
Turns out that there was great news for me right from the get go on this event. One of my favourite saxophonists from the younger generation playing out there these days, Joshua Redman, was the artist in residence for the event this year, and he did two concerts that day, in different configurations. (I say younger… I’ve been following his work for 20 years, since I first arrived in the USA all the way back (Princeton), shortly after his second album appeared. He was one of the hot new musicians on the scene at the time… But that was 20 years ago, so I suppose it’s time to use a different term…?)
I’ve seen him play a number of times over the years, on both coasts, in tiny clubs and in larger concert halls, and he’s always been great. This time he was probably the best I’ve ever seen him, and that’s saying something, since he’s usual so very good, along with the musicians he has in his bands. This time he’s part of a newer band called “James […] Click to continue reading this post →
So out of the blue the other day, I got an email with this photograph in it, and an explanation for its appearance. It seems that some old friends from my school days (who I’ve not heard from in a long, long time) were discussing it on Facebook, and one of the people reading the comments who lives near my mum in Preston, the town where I went to school, realized that I was one of the people in the picture…!! Since I am not on Facebook* (despite some misleading pages that sometimes send people astray – sigh) (**Update 27th Dec. 2014 – actually, now I’m back on FB as of 10th November 2014.) he contacted me the old fashioned way via finding my email address on my website. Nice and quaint, the way I like it.
This film is simply delightful, although in the context of the article I read about it* in (in the May 14th 2012 New Yorker, “Here’s Looking at You” by Nick Paumgarten – about domestic use of unmanned drones and all that is in store of us there), also a Click to continue reading this post →
This is a snap of a sketch I started while sitting in the Village Vanguard (New York) the other night while listening to the Mark Turner (ts) quartet play. On trumpet was Avishai Cohen, who was really excellent. This quick sketch, very incomplete, was assembled from several glimpses of him when he’d return to this pose, or more or less… Anyway, it was a fun exercise (I’d started another larger sketch of the whole band, but decided it went off balance after a while and so did not complete it). […] Click to continue reading this post →
Hurrah for excellent late(r) night live Jazz in LA! I’d been needing some live Jazz, so this came along at just the right time. My dear friend Patrice Quinn was singing at The World Stage in Leimert Park last night, with Jacques Lesure on guitar and Don Littleton on percussion. I went with a friend to see the second set, starting at 10:00pm. She was wonderful! I’d previously only heard Patrice sing privately (a mutual dear […] Click to continue reading this post →
Here’s a montage (by Alex Lozupone) of some of the clashes between some of the Occupy Wall Street participants and the police. It is food for thought, for sure. It is set to an evocative song (“Love, That’s America”) by Melvin Van Peebles from long ago that really catches the mood**.
[…] Click to continue reading this post →
Mozart and Mahler. An interesting combination, for sure. In any case, it made for a lovely evening on Friday night, with Jeffrey Kahane directing from the piano on Mozart’s 25th piano concerto, and then conducting (after the interval) the slightly enlarged orchestra in a performance of Mahler’s 4th Symphony. The latter was a surprise to me in that I enjoyed parts of it a lot. I’d forgotten it, not having heard it in a long time, and in fact I must say I usually don’t go out of my way to listen to performances of Mahler’s symphonic works… so either I’m getting old and more forgiving, or this one has fewer of those elements I usually am not overly fond of from the composer. Hmmm….
Anyway, there it is. A good evening. One other excellent aspect is that Kahane is a fan of big dramatic gestures, and so this means great shapes of his body and clothing as he stands on the podium. He had a jacket with stiff shoulders, and pants […] Click to continue reading this post →
Sunday afternoon. I was doing a bit of work down at the music tent (the Aspen Music Festival is on), sitting outside on the grass like so many other people do on the Festival Sundays.
At some point I became distracted from my scribblings in my notebook when I realized that suddenly I had all these people around me sitting helpfully rather still (relatively speaking) as they listened to the music. (Prokofiev’s delightful 5th Symphony was on at the time.) Perfect quick-sketch subjects! And as it is a target-rich environment, you can pretend to be looking at someone else which drawing someone, so as to not make them suspicious… (I’m not interested in spoiling people’s enjoyment of the concert, after all…)
I only noticed this late in the day, but had to point it out! There’s a Les Paul tribute on the google home page today. If you go there, you’ll find that there’s a set of playable guitar strings there… You can strum them, pick them, etc., and even hit the record button below it all to record your experiments. Then it gives you your own URL with your result! […] Click to continue reading this post →
Yes, I went with some friends to see His Purpleness last night, at the Forum. Remarkably fun show, with tons of great music. He played and played and played, including some long James Brown style jams where he channeled much of the master’s moves and stylings, and – yes! – brought on Maceo Parker as a guest for a lot of the evening’s proceedings. (Who is Maceo Parker, you ask?! The familiar also saxophone soloist on a lot of the famous James Brown hits…) He did so many of his songs, including some of the great hits known to all, and some of the songs that he’s written that have been made famous by others, such as “Nothing Compares 2 U”**.
…And he kept coming back for more… leaving the stage entirely, with people setting off to leave, and then returning for another long jam. He did this three times into the […] Click to continue reading this post →
Before getting up in the wee hours to prepare to jump onto a plane on Friday morning, I was out seeing some live music at the Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. I find that I need to go and get some of that from time to time, and the Hotel Cafe is a favourite of mine for that…
I had my notebook and a nice vantage point for grabbing a quick sketch or two of people at the piano. It was a nice challenge to do a couple of fast sketches – in almost darkness – to see if my hand and eyes were still “in”.
Mum’s upstairs packing to leave after her lovely visit of a month and I’m already upset by this. It was such a great time, and I’m so very sad to see her go*. But I can’t keep her all to myself. My sister and brother will no doubt be expecting her back by now, and so I must give her up. This blog post is a lame attempt to distract myself from her packing activity, which is a bit sad for me. On the other hand, a rather sweet aspect of it is that I can hear her in the distance singing along to songs from Queen’s A Night At The Opera** and other albums while doing her packing. This makes me smile from ear to ear.
The last few days had lots of activities, including more picnics by the seaside, walks, cooking, shopping, visits to some old favourite haunts (including a surprise Sunday […] Click to continue reading this post →
So, as usual, all of a sudden lots of things that I want to go to occur on the same week or so, and I find myself dazed and confused. Here are just a few of them (I’ll spare you the rest):
Last Wednesday saw me dashing off to the West Side after a late meeting on campus to get to UCLA’s Royce Hall to see Ornette Coleman in the UCLA Live series. It was not a bad show, although about 1/3 of the way through I realized why it all felt familiar. I’d been to see him in exactly the same series in a similar seat in the same hall some years back and decided then (but obviously forgot) that I really would not see him in such a space again. It is the usual Los Angeles Jazz problem. Rather than come to a small(ish) club and be resident for a few days, the mode for LA seems to be to try to pack a big audience into one night. This misses a huge point of the whole intimacy and communication of jazz that is more prevalent in a small space. But LA audiences and concert organizers seem to miss this fact and Jazz limps along lamely in this city, time and again, because nobody seems to want to support the smaller club model much. (Yes, there are one or two small clubs where the touring players come […] Click to continue reading this post →
You might not know the name Maurice Murphy, but I am certain that you are likely to know – and maybe even be very familiar with – his work. His is the principal trumpet playing the lead themes in very many films with music by John Williams. I have for a long time been very impressed with how so many of those themes trip so easily off the tongue (physical or mental) and seem to fit together so well (just hum the Star Wars theme, and then follow it by the Superman theme, then the Indiana Jones theme, and so on). A lot of this is due to the fact that Williams (like most good composers) is a master at recycling and modifying, creating a cluster of much loved (deservedly) themes that accompany some of our favourite movie-going memories, but I now think that the other reason is that you’re hearing them all played by the same voice! That voice is the playing of Maurice Murphy, the truly wonderful trumpeter who Williams would specifically request to play the lead on recordings of his film music. Murphy died recently, and you can dig a bit more about him and explore what I’ve been telling you further by going to the London Symphony Orchestra’s site devoted to him […] Click to continue reading this post →