hrj: (Mother of Souls)

...but a good novel is more like a symphony. Or an opera.

Musical metaphors for story structure have been somewhat on my mind while writing Mother of Souls. One reason, of course, is the centrality of music as a transformative force within the plot. But more than that, I've been thinking about all the different types of emotional structure that can work effectively in a large-scale composition. One of the reasons it's been on my mind has been the suggestion that Mother of Souls needs to come out of the gate with more drama, more peril, more tension.

Starting a symphony off with a bang can work really well. Think about those famous first four notes of Beethoven's 5th symphony. Grabs you, engages you. The piece backs off later only to return for a ringing finale. Another favorite example of mine of starting with a bang is Dvorak's "Carnival Overture". Grabs you and keeps going. I listened to the Carnival Overture a lot while writing the final chapter of Mother of Souls. I wanted the climax of the book to make a reader feel the way I always feel as that piece finishes up.

But not every great piece of music starts with a bang. One beta-reader mentioned that the "Prelude" chapter of Mother of Souls reminded her a bit of the opening of Smetana's "Vltava", which has a similar theme of the sources of a river high in the mountains. There was another example I wanted to include here but although I can hum the piece from memory, I can't for the life of me recall the composer or name! Driving me crazy. Starts really slow, Subtle modulations in the bass. Builds so gradually you barely notice until it's a pounding crescendo. Argh. If I ID it, I'll link.

Anyway. Sometimes you don't start out with cymbals and kettledrums. Sometimes it's cellos and a lonely oboe. You tease a little. Hint. Foreshadow. The kettledrums come out sometime in the second movement just briefly, then go back to counting measures of rest for a while. There's no one true shape for the music. Who wants every symphony to sound the same? Mother of Souls is not Beethoven's Fifth. I thought and thought and it just wouldn't work. But sit back and listen and I promise you, there will by cymbals.

ETA: The piece I was looking for was the 2nd movement of Bethoven's 7th symphony.

hrj: (doll)
For some reason, there's a ... well, I guess I'd have to call it a meme going around to post your "where was I when..." memories of the Loma Prieta quake. Not sure why it's a thing on this year's anniversary when next year will be the 25th anniversary. (Ack! 25 years since Loma Prieta? Where does the time go?) Rather than a reminiscence, I thought I'd contribute with the song I wrote afterward. Sorry for not pointing to a recording, but it never seems to have ended up in any filk collections. (Many of my best songs never did. Probably never will at this point.) Never ended up in any songbooks either for that matter -- no, wait, Google claims it was in the Concerto convention songbook in 1990. Good luck finding a copy. Which is a pity, because the lyrics are fairly free-form rhythmically, so it doesn't work nearly as well as a poem than as a song.

The Dragon and the Phoenix
(copyright 1989 Heather Rose Jones, all rights reserved)

The lower deck of eight-eighty -- it wasn’t the traffic so loud,
Series fans at Candlestick -- it wasn’t the roar of the crowd,
Five-oh-four on a Tuesday -- commuters out over the bay,
It wasn’t the wind that caught the bridge and made it buck and sway,

For the dragon woke and twisted with a sudden earthy sound,
And like in some child’s skipping rhyme, the bridge has fallen down,
A freeway cracks and crumbles with an awful roaring noise,
Concrete, cars, and rebar, like a heap of broken toys.

In the silence that follows -- the sirens and the screams,
Stark against the skyline -- the bent and the broken beams,
A smell of gas in the wreckage, a spark from a broken wire,
The silence again is broken by a rush of hungry fire.

And the phoenix screams in anger, as it beats its flaming wings,
Above the dragon’s roaring we hear it as it sings,
It’s singing out over the city, and it’s singing in our hearts,
We shiver, blink, and waken -- and once again time starts.

Someone goes back in a building -- helps an old man down the stair,
Someone’s directing the traffic -- waving them on with a flare,
Someone climbs up on a roadway, and starts to pry open a door,
Some people grab a fire hose, and run it down to the shore.

And the dragon stirs and grumbles, but we barely pay it mind,
As we search among the ruins for whatever we can find,
And where the salt bay water has quenched the fire’s glow,
A phoenix egg lies hatching, to wake, and fly, and grow.

Now we will heal the people -- the cuts and the broken bones,
We will repair the buildings -- the glass and the shattered stones,
We will respan the bridges, and we will bury the dead,
And we will banish the demons, that haunt us each night in bed.

And we will rebuild the houses -- on the mud flats and the sand,
And we will rebuild the freeways -- stacked high above the land,
And we will ignore the dragon, for as long as we can pretend,
But, like the phoenix, will we now rebuild -- just to burn again?
hrj: (doll)
Temple, Michele. 2001. The Middle Esatern Influence on Late Medieval Italian Dances: Origins of the 29987 Istampittas. The Edwin Mellen Press, Lewiston. ISBN 0-7734-7428-5

One of the benefits of being one of my SCA apprentices is that I will tend to keep an eye peeled in the Kalamazoo bookroom for something you might find interesting ... or challenging. (This isn't a guarantee, of course. I might not spot anything relevant. But I'll look.) So with my apprentice [ profile] kiria_dk being interested in dance and music (along with lots of other fun things, of course) my eyes lit on this book long enough to decide it could fall both in the "interesting" and "challenging" categories.

This book is a study of a set of Italian Istampittas -- a type of dance tune that evolved (like many dance genres) into more of an instrumental performance piece and that may in some cases also have had lyrics set to it. (See also French estampie etc.) But the author specifically explores what she believes to be Middle Eastern influences on the particular forms of this set of tunes, that set them apart from other tunes in the genre. The discussion and comparisons are copiously illustrated with notated tunes, which was one of the primary reasons I decided to pick the book up. (After all, reading about music is all very well, but what's the point without a chance to play it?)

Now, I'm well aware that we have no direct evidence for the steps of the istampitta/estampie, so the "challenging" part of the gift is fairly open ended: anything from "learn some of the tunes" to "take one or more of the tunes and do something else interesting with it" to "make your best imaginative stab (but grounded in research) at what an istampitta dance might have looked like".

Isn't it fun to have an apprentice to torment?
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We can just assume that on any given day (and especially on weekends) I will be getting work done on the novel revisions. I'm doing about three different revision passes simultaneously depending on work mode. If I'm commuting, then I'm doing relatively straightforward read-and-fix stuff on the iPad. If I'm on the laptop but not at home, I can do more complicated search-and-replace work, especially ones that involve going back and forth between the text and my various reference tables and lists, or things that involve jumping around a lot in the text. If I'm at home, then I can work on deriving my names and technical vocabulary. It's fascinating to see how the essential story remains the same even when the details of what happens get changed. There were a couple of POV-lets early on that had turned out to be about three times longer than what ended up being the typical length. And when I went to look at them, they also had notes about problems with the POV that needed fixing. So I tried swapping out the POVs in the middle to make 6 (alternating) typical-length sections. So for a third of the affected text, I'm completely reversing which character it's filtered through. It's ... interesting. I have to accept the loss of certain details because they went on in the other character's head. But other bits now become accessible. And most of it is still there -- just with a different spin. It's also interesting to see how the characters evolved. This is an effect of my "write start to finish with no going back" principle. I'm now rewriting those "first impressions" to catch up with how they eventually revealed themselves. The lawyer/estate-manager is a good example: he's still essentially the same person, but some of his habitual mannerisms have changed, and the ways that he interacted with certain other characters shifted into a slightly different angle. (I also eventually discovered more about his personal life which, though it's entirely implicit, adds depth.)

I also started a new sewing project today: cut out the fabric and lining for another gothic fitted undergown, this time entirely in linen for when I anticipate getting dirty. (Like cooking.) I'm hoping to have it done in time for the culinary symposium, although the lacing eyelets are likely to be the most time-consuming part.

And then I BARTed over to Borderlands Books in SF for a reading by Jo Walton who I'd never previously managed to meet in person, despite us both having been active on rasfc back in the Before Times.

Finished the day off by processing some more dance music for the iPad reader to be ready for the Crosston Ball next Saturday. I'm experimenting with doing some cut-and-paste work on 2-page layouts to get them down to a single screen. It would be a different matter if I were simply singling out one line out of a 4 or 5 part arrangement, but I don't always know in advance which part I'm going to play on the harp (and for some tunes I like changing things up on the repeats) so I prefer to keep the full arrangement.

I'm probably due to write the first iPad review soon, now that I've had a chance to work through my favorite apps a bit.
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Certain answers to this are skewed by my use of workout playlists.

1. What song do you play the most?

Beatles: Yesterday. In fact, my top 12 most frequently played tunes are a subset of my Beatles workout set, resulting from a combination of being a really great groove and being the first single-band workout list I put together.

2. What song do you play the least?

Can't really answer that because when I transferred my music library from an external drive to the MacBook, it reset all my play counters. So only about a fifth of my tunes have a non-zero play-count at the moment. And about half of those only show a single play. In reality, I've listened to all the music items at least once (although that can't be said of all the audio books yet). No, I take that back, I have two items in my "new albums" folder that I haven't listened to in full yet (although I've mined them for workout tunes). So at the moment, "least" would be a 15-item tie between the majority of Chris Williamson's Real Deal album and one item on Heart's Bebe Le Strange album.

3. What's the last song you added?

That would be the aforementioned Heart: Bebe Le Strange album.

4. What's your favorite playlist?

Since I put together playlists pretty much exclusively for gym music, and the favorites tend to rotate with whether I'm getting tired of them, this changes from week to week. But at the moment I'm quite energized by my Tijuana Brass set and a classical playlist I titled "Chases and Forced Marches", which starts out with Fucik's Entry of the Gladiators and Khachaturian's Sabre Dance, works its way through several quick marches like Strauss's Radetzky (which comes in at a sweat-inducing 217 bpm), finishes up with Stravinsky's Infernal Dance of King Kastchei and the "chase" section of Rossini's William Tell Overture, and then has Von Suppe's Light Cavalry Overture for a cool-down.

5. What king of iPod or mp3 player do you have?

I've got an original click-wheel iPod (only recently deemed unrechargeable), the original shuffle, the 2nd gen shuffle, and an iPhone.
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I may yet get to that "start the year on the right foot housecleaning" thing, but in the meantime I've been playing in iTunes putting together some new exercise playlists. Just because other people might find this amusing (or even useful), here's a description of the sort of parameters I'm working with. This could get really boring if you're not into geeking out about exercise music. )
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I desperately need to put together some new exercise playlists in iTunes. Currently I have 12 half-hour sets -- that is, half an hour plus an additional cool-down song -- although not all of them are for everyday use. (The "marches" playlist is for light days, since I can't get a full 500-cal workout out of a 120 bpm tempo.) I don't like using the same set more than once a week, and even at that I tend to rotate them out of use after a month or so. It's interesting seeing which bands and performers fit my needs best. The Beatles come in three speeds: way too slow, right in my zone, and brief sprints only. The Carpenters are great: a nice variety of speeds within my overall required range (roughly 130-180 bpm) and a good solid beat (duh!), similarly Paul McCartney, also Simon & Garfunkel. ABBA has just barely enough to cobble a set together: mostly too fast or too slow. Carly Simon, way too slow; Eagles, alas, ditto. Elton John, solidly in the zone. Heart: a few at the slow end but nothing in mid-zone. Gordon Lightfoot, a couple in mid-zone but mostly way up in sprint territory. Queen has a nice range of tempos but I'm working mostly from a live album and the tempo consistency and intro material is a problem. Some favorite performers just never quite hit the mark: Steeleye Span is all at barely-warming-up speeds, Plethyn's all way too slow, any entirely too many great bands are enamored of constant tempo changes. Hmm, looks like I have enough tempos plotted out to put together a Beach Boys set. It's a starting place, anyway.
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Blackstone Audio (a producer of audio books) is hereby proclaimed a Good Company. One of the tracks on one of the disks of my 8-disk unabridged Histories by Tacitus (thanks for the xmas prezzie [ profile] cryptocosm) kept breaking iTunes. I described the problem and my attempts to troubleshoot it to the Blackstone Audio sales contact e-mail and they responded the next day with the information that they're sending me a replacement disk. (All I'd asked for was a downloadable copy of the one track.) If you are a fan of audio books, check them out.
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Having put together an entire exercise set this morning from a "Best of the Andrews Sisters" album, I suddenly noticed how gender-bending some of their recordings are when viewed from the right angle. Some cross-gender point of view is inevitable when you had an all-female group singing songs from the point of view of (at the time, by definition male) soldiers leaving/far from home, and especially the point of view of those soldiers addressing either their (female) sweethearts back home or occasionally women met overseas.

So, for example, the first-person voice of Apple Blossom Time -- though sung by female voices -- expresses traditionally male roles ("I'll be with you to change your name to mine", as well as the assumption that it is the singer's agency that will reunite the two). Although the focus on aspects of the expected wedding ceremony expresses traditionally female concerns, the song is straightforwardly a (heterosexual) man's song that simply happens to be performed by a woman's voice.

But although Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree has many of the same characteristics of the previous item -- 1st person POV of an absent soldier ("'Till I come marching home") addressing an overtly female sweetheart back home ("The girl ... fits you to a T") -- when the song enters the middle section we get the singer's gender overriding the song-POV-gender in the pronouns. The refrain is separated into a lead-and-echo with the lead voice retaining first person ("anyone else but me") but the echo-voices picking the line up with 3rd sg fem ("anyone else but her"). In the song's original temporal context, both military and social gender roles and available models of sexuality would have blocked the literal scenario that the song sets up (i.e, a female soldier addressing a female sweetheart with expectations of marriage as a goal), but listening to the song today, it's almost impossible not to have that scenario evoked as one of the natural readings of the text/performance.

A similar conflict in singer vs. POV gender comes when the intro to Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen sets up a first-person POV admiring a male addressee ("Of all the boys I've known -- and I've known some") in contradiction to the grammatical femininity of the addressee in the chorus ("I could say 'Bella! Bella!') and the social agency inherent in the POV voice ("I am begging for your hand") and perhaps the greater likelihood at the time of a man being in the position of wanting to court someone in a non-English language. Given that the grammatical gender issue with "bella" may slide by many listeners, the conflict here resolves (to me) more in the direction of a (heterosexual) female POV/singer appropriating male social agency -- but this may be because I find the gendered noun ("boys I've known") more intrusive than a gendered pronoun ("anyone else but her").

Hmm, I may have a future as a post-modernist after all! (Just kidding.)
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As previously noted, I won the traffic-time lottery last night driving into downtown SF and ended up with an extra hour to hang around before meeting my date for the concert. Fortunately, they had a bar and I had an iPhone so something mutually agreeable was arranged. Yoshi's has a confusing number of different spaces: the bar, the restaurant, the jazz club, and the small theaterish space where the concerts are (which also serves cafe food). It's nice and cozy -- no bad seats (except the ones right next to the party sitting next to us, who seemed to be annoyed by how much the concert was interfering with their conversation). It's small enough that you could even do acoustic music there ... if you could convince anyone that music can be pleasant at less than ear-blasting decibels.

Actually, only the initial set of songs was painfully overly amplified -- after that there was an interlude with vocal-and-piano and a more mellow feel, then a return of the rest of the band (all three of them) and more rockish arrangements but not at the previous volume. I suspect the backup band was a local hire for the gig because they all seemed to be very intent on their sheet music -- perfectly competent, mind you, but accompaniment rather than "a group".

I loved Leslie's voice -- I'm always a sucker for mid-range, slightly husky female voices. (Some day I've got to find a music recommendation website that includes filters on features like vocal type.) You might think that a sixty-something woman basing a show around the tunes that made her a hit at sixteen would be ... um ... sad. (Especially such quintessentially teenage-disfunctional-angst songs like "It's My Party".) But she still owns the performances in a way that makes them timeless. I swear there were moments when I could see the sixteen year old still flickering through on stage. In retrospect, of course, the relentless lollipop-heterosexuality of her early material is ironic given Leslie's own sexual orientation, but then you toss in a song like "You Don't Own Me" and the picture becomes more complex.

More than half the show was an assortment of classic American songbook material, though -- so it wasn't entirely a nostalgia fest. On the other hand, I can't say that her renditions of that material was something worth going to hear without the contextual weight of her entire career. Still, I've put her new album Ever Since down on my shopping list as part of my goal to introduce my iPod to music written sometime after the '80s. Because I love that voice.
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Now I really and truly am all done with xmas shopping, even for the workplace Secret Santa and for 12th Night items. I've printed out the xmas card mailing spreadsheet so I can start addressing envelopes at lunch tomorrow. And I've realized that in addition to packing for the trip east, I should pre-pack for 12th night, since even with the best of scheduling, I'll be leaving for the event the same day I get back in town. (In worst case, I may barely get home long enough to switch suitcases.)

Concert Review: Chris Williamson & Friends at the Freight and Salvage Read more... )

Unrelated Rumination: On Flirting with Straight Women Read more... )

Well, duh!

Sep. 14th, 2008 09:23 pm
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Of course I didn't finish the class prep for Cuisine without Cookbooks last night. Like anybody really thought I would. I did claw my way through about 80% of the source material, leaving The Agrarian History of England and Wales -- Vol. 2 (1042-1350) for breakfast this morning and a final combing through for archaeological artifacts and useful manuscript illustrations this evening. (I'm primarily using Welsh examples for the presentation, but that won't work for the paintings and illustrations segment.) There'll be a couple of late evenings to get a handout and slideshow put together, but hey, I've got all week, right?

I saw that Janis Ian is playing at Yoshi's in SF on Tuesday -- anybody want to go? (2 shows, early or late.) I probably won't bother if it's just me, but if I have company .... (This is not a Blind Date Project event; no restrictions on gender, orientation, or availability.)

I went to a "meet the neighbors potluck" for my block this afternoon. One of the neighbors is taking some community disaster preparedness training and one of the suggested projects is to organize your block for self-sufficient mutual support in the case of emergencies. Things like knowing who might need what kinds of assistance; who has useful equipment and supplies; who has key skills (like medical training). It's the sort of thing I've thought would be good to look into -- I may see about taking the training courses myself. The potluck was also a chance to put names to some of the faces I wave to on a regular basis. I got to practice my (really horribly bad) social skills, seeing if I could accurately remember who to ask about how their car repair was going, who to compliment on their dog, who to ask about their kids. It's sometimes rather stunning how few of my neighbors I know by name considering I've lived here for 24 years.

No sewing accomplished. Ah well.
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No date-filter post this time because my blind date was still laid up with the flu I ended up going with Plan B, i.e., [ profile] thread_walker. And, may I say, I had as much fun as you can have on a date without it actually being a date date. We took off straight from work and ended up at Naan & Curry on Telegraph for dinner (mmm lamby goodness) and then had over an hour until concert time so -- since she'd never really seen the Berkeley campus before, we did an ecclectic tour of my favorite spots: cool statuary, elegant buildings, wooded paths across creeks, the basement of the Life Sciences building where they have the T-Rex skeleton.

The Guthrie concert was superb. It was the perfect mix of old favorites (he did all the ones I was really hoping to hear), new songs, and assorted works by friends and family (including a couple of his father's song's, familiar and not). For all of his rather laid-back folksy performing style, I was struck by how technically impressive his musicianship is. (A typical example was a ragtime piece performed on the guitar.) The only technical flaw, in my opinion -- and it may be just a matter of personal taste, was that the handful of pieces done with the electric guitar had a guitar/voice balance so slanted towards the former that you could barely understand the lyrics even if you knew what they were supposed to be. (This wouldn't be a flaw in a rock performance, of course, but for a folk singer, I expect more intelligibility.) The audience sang along enthusiastically on the appropriate items: the refrain of Alice's Restaurant, the chorus of This Land is Your Land, and a very short and poignant peace song brought out as an encore.

This being Berkeley, it was a very loyal and sympathetic audience: laughing at all the in-jokes and '60s references, as well as being appreciative of how much of the old material was still politically and socially relevant. During the intermission, [ profile] thread_walker and I amused ourselves by leaning over the railing of the mezzanine lobby and determining (on superficial evidence) who and what various of the attendees were. The aging hippie who I decided had become a successful stockbroker. The Guy Dragged Along By His Date who was attempting to show he had a sensitive side. The angsty 20-something who thought it might be a good event for picking up chicks. The wiry community activist who wore her white hair in a long ponytail. The middle-aged couple who were reliving their transgressive youth by dragging their jr-high-age sons to the concert in hopes of making some emotional connection (and because the kids had to write a paper for school about some artistic performance). I should reiterate that, other than the physical descriptions, these characteristics were all purely inventions of our imagination. Did I mention what a fun date [ profile] thread_walker is?
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It is highly misleading to note that the high point of the performance was when one of the ushers pounced on the annoying guy with the digital camera at the edge of the balcony and confiscated it towards the end of the first act. Misleading, because no matter how excellent the performance, the resulting delicious mixture of self-rightious schadenfreude would have trumped it. (She pounced during one of the longer pauses for energetic applause, so the act didn't disturb anyone's viewing enjoyment.)

The Perm Ballet's Swan Lake was an enjoyable, if somewhat relentlessly traditional, take on Tchaikovsky's classic. In some ways, it reminded me of how much Odette tends to be the very archetype/stereotype of the classic ballerina, little white tutu and all. The swan corps' interpretations were heavy on graceful elegance, leading my date to recall wistfully a version she'd seen where a bit more of swans' aggressive nature came through, with the flock actively (but, of course, unsuccessfully) running interference for their queen. Overall, what we got last night was a lot of very excellent dancing -- particularly in the second act where the various "ethnic" dances fit naturally into the story-context of the ball. Two comments on the costuming. On the down side, the "little white tutu" was interpreted here with a very thin, extremely stiff effect that came off like a flat disk sticking straight out from the swans' waists. Didn't work for me. It was particularly unaesthetic on Odette during lifts, when the skirt tended to pop out sideways in peculiar ways. On the up side, the evil magician's cloak was absolutely droolworthy. (Slightly more than a full circle with feathered effect on the lining and stiffened extensions along the front edges to do wing/flying effects with.)


Jan. 27th, 2008 08:23 pm
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Met with the tree guy Saturday morning and he's going to do the whole batch: remove the broken apple, cut back the encroaching neighbors, remove the annoying fig, do a standard prune job on the almonds, take out the diseased juniper, and trim a couple other things. A chunk of change but a reasonable price based on previous tree work. He'll fit me into his schedule within the next couple weeks.

After that I packed up the harp and went down to the Crosston ball. I really need to organize my Renaissance dance music better so I don't have to work so hard every time I'm trying to put together the set list for an event. (Packets of music were provided, but that doesn't take into account all my various performance notes on which parts and arrangements work best on the harp for each piece.) It was a delightful event: good attendance and a delicious potluck where about 80% of the contributions were historic.
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1. I have the Tree Guy scheduled to come out tomorrow morning to discuss a quote for various tree-related operations. I really do get around to these things eventually.

2. Pursuant to an exchange with [ profile] anotheranon I think I know what sewing project I feel like pulling out and finishing.

3. I decided not to try to brave the Tahoe traffic to daytrip to do some skiing this weekend (especially since there may be active snowing going on), but I've put in a bid with [ profile] scotica to do a ski weekend in February.

4. Given #3, I think I will do my best to get to the Crosston Ball to play dance music. This is credit towards the "play more music" irresolution.

5. Must make sure I have all the presentations, handouts, and materials in order for the classes I'm teaching up in An Tir next weekend. This is Sunday's assignment.
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(Some readers will know what 25th anniversary the subject line makes allusion to.)

Last night was installment 2 of the Cal Performances date nights. (You have to be on the Date filter to read that aspect of the evening.) The performers were the Tallis Scholars doing 16th c. sacred vocal music. The venue, rather than the larger on-campus Zellerbach Hall was the First Congregational Church, two blocks south of campus. Now, keeping in mind that the Big Game (Cal vs. Stanford) is today, and that the game itself is at Stanford, I didn't expect any serious traffic effects, although I imagine there were various spirit activities planned last night. But when I turned up Durant from Shattuck and got within a couple blocks of Telegraph, traffic abruptly came to a halt. There I was, waiting at the light at Dana (one block west of Telegraph) when suddenly the Cal marching band comes down Dana from the left, commandeers the intersection with strategically placed tubas, and turns in formation to march up Durant. I then decide to turn right and get to the Durant parking garage via Channing, one block over, but just as I've positioned myself for the turn, the band does an about-face, comes straight back at me, then swings to continue down Dana in their original direction. Unbeknownst to me, their original plan to continue up Durant was stymied by the enormous traffic snarl at Telegraph caused by a patchwork power outage. (I thought the flashing police lights were simply extra traffic control around spirit activities or the like.) So I get to the Durant garage and the lights are all out and the entrance is blocked by a city pickup truck. This is annoying, but I know all sorts of other possible parking strategies. The problem is, my date (who, by cell phone report, was about three blocks behind me) doesn't necessarily know them. So I phone her, let her know the deal and tell her to find whatever parking she can and I'll be waiting in the coffee shop as planned. While I am sitting in the coffee shop, the power goes completely out in that building. The staff explains that there's some issue with a cable or a transformer ... ah, here we are. Random buildings in the vicinity have power, others don't. My date shows up, we share a sandwich, then head down to the FCC for the concert. The FCC doesn't have power. The pre-concert lecture (which I skipped) is being given by the light of the candles on the altar and there's emergency-exit lights, but they tell us they can't, in good conscience, continue with the concert if they don't have full power for safety reasons. If the power doesn't come back by 8pm, we'll be offered refunds or ticket exchanges. As the deadline approaches, a new possibility is offered -- on the spur of the moment, they've been offered space in the Presbyterian church a block over, which does have power. I think if the performers had been anything other than a small a capella group the transition might not have been possible (and since we had to change to open seating, if I'd shelled out big bucks for premium tickets I might have been peeved), but the acoustics were perfect and the space was, if anything, even a better layout (semi-circular pew area so more people were closer to the performers) than the original space. An extremely enjoyable concert. (I may review it in more detail later, but other than saying "gosh, cool" I'm not sure I have the technical knowledge to evaluate it.) People in other parts of the country can say what they like about "Berkeley values", but folks, these too are "Berkeley values" -- you see a problem, you have a solution available, and you say "let's go for it", and an entire hall full of concert-goers take it cheerfully in stride. No doubt there will be various after-the-fact negotiations regarding the hall-rental revenues, but considering all the barriers that could have been thrown up, I was quite impressed at the smoothness of the operation. (It is, of course, possible that the two venues have had some sort of pre-existing relationship regarding emergency space-usage, but I definitely got the impression that this was an on-the-spot solution rather than a pre-existing backup potential.)
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For a house project I tackled the last lump of books that haven't been sifted, shelf-checked, and reorganized: the music books. I got as far as sorting through everything, categorizing it, and organizing it in a logical fashion on the shelves, as well as verifying that all the items that are already in the book catalog are actually present and accounted for. I didn't feel mentally up to sifting through and identifying material for discard -- I figured this out because I found myself not wanting to part with some stuff that really solidly belongs in the category of "I have never used this; I am not using it; I am never likely to use it." I pulled a few items (old issues of Sing Out and a few books on handcrafting musical instruments) and then decided to wait for a time when I'm in a more ruthless mood. I don't want to complete the cataloging until I've done the sifting. And besides which, I need to decide whether I really want to catalog all my sheet music and exercise workbooks. There isn't a bright line dividing the reference books from ths music books, but eventually you get down into the folders of xeroxed sheet music thrown together for a particular performance set and then it starts getting ridiculous.

There was one delightful moment: I discovered that I do still have a copy of the barbershop quartet arrangement of Biotech Fantasy (or as I'm wont to call it: the barbarous shop quartet arrangement. I haven't laid eyes on that for years and was afraid I'd have to try to recreate it from scratch if I ever wanted to use it again.

Didn't manage to get the bike tuned up ... I hauled it all the way up to the shop and succeeded only in getting an appointment to get it tuned up. But the guy did tweak a few things that should lessen the gear skipping problem for the nonce.

'Zoo Day 2

May. 12th, 2007 11:05 am
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Memo to self: If you plan to use the Treo as an alarm clock to get up in time to hit the treadmill before breakfast, remember to turn the ringer back to "audible" after the last session of papers.

Fortunately, I did wake up in time for breakfast on Friday. Friday's sessions were all DISTAFF all the time. (DISTAFF is the organization that sponsors textiles & clothing sessions, including the one my paper was in.) I'm trying to remember specific details at this point. A lovely paper on changes in high fashion reflected in ivory writing tablet cases, combs, and mirror cases. My mind's going blank on the rest of the papers in the other sessions, but I shared the last session with a presentation on hook-and-eye type fasteners in medieval Scandinavia, and one on a set of embroidered Sicilian undergarments. I got several compliments on my paper and did a boisterous show-and-tell session after the papers were over, pulling out my various engineering experiements on the different styles of shepherds' purses and showing how I used them to try to interpret the artistic representations.

Dinner was a great mass of DISTAFF folks going out to a Middle Eastern restaurant, then we adjourned to a room party with much computer geeking, squeeing at books and pictures, and consumption of alcohol. The party lasted long enough for people to wish me happy birthday (and sing various incompatible celebratory songs). As I was wandering back to my own dorm around 1am, I heard the sound of singing wafting out through the night air from one of the conference rooms. Through the window, a circle of people were sitting around a guitarist, energetically (and in many cases, drunkenly) belting out "Yellow Submarine". Now, it's not at all unusual to stumble across people singing or playing music at the Medieval Congress ... medieval music, that is. But this was more along the lines of "ur-filk" -- that stage when people gathered for another purpose are just singing for the sake of singing together and running through whatever repertoire the guitarist and most of the singers have in common. In this case, the source music seemed to consist of the entire Beatles inventory, significant quantities of blues and gospel standards, and a good sprinkling of '60s folk music. I stayed and sang for the better part of an hour before toddling off the rest of the way to bed.
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I think I may have to come up with an official dream-symbolism correspondence for the motif of flutes for sale. And then there are the squirrels. )

About the same time I was dreaming about gouts of fire falling from the sky, a gasoline tank truck exploded about 2 miles from my house, destroying two sections of the "Macarthur Maze" freeway intersection. (No deaths reported.) It's quite possible that the sound woke me up, but I'm so used to waking up randomly at that time of the morning that it would never occur to me to look for a cause.


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