Tag Archives: music

Well, Herr Hirschmann, was talken Sie about?

Those old neologisms in full.

cpo has just released Telemann, Grand Concertos for Mixed Instruments Vol. 1 performed by La Stagione Frankfurt. It came with a complete pdf booklet, which is fairly remarkable because most of my cpo albums have never come with any additional information (the cpo website does fill in some of the missing details, though). This booklet is a strangely large file, weighing in at 62Mb for a mere sixteen pages.

As I said above, the cpo website includes some information about each album. The translations from German to English appear to have been done by machine, perhaps with some post-production editing. The English is often a little odd – grammatical, but with German styling.

The few pdf booklets I have for cpo albums also employ the same slightly pompous, bombastic style, but the quality of the translations appears to be better. However, in the booklet which came with Grand Concertos, we have

Along with the motoric ‘perpetuum mobile’ of the Presto the pendulum again swings toward Italy.

I looked at “motoric” and wondered whether this was some adjective with which I was unfamiliar. My Concise OED didn’t have it, and looking up the German motorisch on line left me no more enlightened. However, according to the OED on my Kindle, the word is usually spelt “motorik”, which is used in music to mean “marked by a repetitive beat suggestive of mechanized action or movement”.

The other adjective of which Herr Hirschmann seems fond, “motivic”, was also new to me, but the meaning was immediately transparent.

Burnt offerings 2014

The return of Qingming.

Nothing kills of the anticipation of a long weekend like a pile of exam papers, and once again this year, there are piles to be marked in the after­math of the mocks this week. I’m already a little ahead on the marking, having dispatched the A2s’ reading papers in a day, although that’s not quite the feat that it appears to be. I also made deep inroads into AS1’s reading, and that is a feat because there are five texts, and the paper is a bulky, clumsy thing to handle.

The exam this time has also been different because we included a writing paper. Normally, to spare ourselves a good deal of bother, we set some recent text type as the writing so that we can mark it beforehand. Although I like splitting things in this way, such exercises are only partial tests of the students’ ability to produce the text type correctly because they’re only dealing with a single type and don’t have to do it under exam conditions.

Although I told the classes to focus on the topics which we have covered in class (Health and Cultural Diversity), A2(2) mostly chose the Cultural Diversity topic or the Science and Technology one. The popularity of the latter was because the text type was blog/diary entry, which is no doubt regarded as an easy option because of its supposedly amorphous nature. A2(1&3) split themselves roughly evenly across four of the text types, but had the brains to avoid Leisure, which was a pamphlet giving advice and thus something akin to guidelines or instructions.

AS1 favoured the nature vs. nurture question about homosexuality; the blog entry reacting to newspaper reports alleging that Justin Bieber is gay; and the review topic (“review the film of the book”, meaning To Kill a Mockingbird; answers – anything but). The other two topics got a smatter­ing of attention.


A musical interlude.

When I saw that the exchange rate had improved in my favour, I went on a music-buying spree.

  1. Garden of Early Delights (Pamela Thorby and Andrew Lawrence-King; Linn Records) – this is an album of early Baroque music which includes some fairly familiar pieces (in fact, the only name I don’t know is Johann Schop), and combines the recorder with the harp.
  2. The Nightingale and the Butterfly (Pamela Thorby and Elizabeth Kenny; Linn Records) – Thorby unites with a lutenist on an album of French pieces from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. This is mostly new music from composers who I have previously not heard of (e.g. Charles Dieupart, Louis Caix d’Hervelois) or who were only slightly known to me (e.g. Robert de Visée).
  3. Locatelli, Concerti Grossi, Op. 1 (The Raglan Baroque Players; Hyperion Records) – I don’t often go to Hyperion because they charge VAT regardless of your point of origin, but the exchange rate was a little more benign than it has been. I had previously had a single example of Locatelli’s output prior to this and bought several albums all at once.
  4. Locatelli, L’Arte del Violino (The Raglan Baroque Players; Hyperion Records) – This is Locatelli’s Op. 3, which is the composer showing off his technical skills with the violin. It is not, though, one of those works of this nature in which all sense of musical quality is abandoned in favour of some clever screechy sound which very few violinists – apart from Locatelli – could achieve.
  5. Locatelli’s Op. 4 (The Raglan Baroque Players; Hyperion Records) – This is a combination of six Introduttioni Teatrali which, according to the accom­p­anying booklet, have an obscure history. The remaining six Concerti are just as obscure with no clear reason why they were included in this publication.
  6. Locatelli, 10 Sonatas Op. 8 (The Locatelli Trio; Hyperion Records) – Like Op. 4, this is a mixed bag, being a combination of ten violin and trio sonatas which, as the notes say, was contrary to the usual practice of six or twelve pieces of the same genre.
  7. Marin Marais, Pièces de Viole du Second Livre (Markku Luolajan-Mikkola et al.; BIS Records) – Having quite liked Marais’ Pièces de Caractère, I thought it was worth trying some more music from him and filling in a gap in my musical arsenal.
  8. Marin Marais, Pièces de Viole du Cinquième Livre (Wieland Kuijken et al.; Accent) – This album includes a piece which was inspired by the oper­ation in which Marais’ gallbladder was removed (Le Tableau de l’Oper­ation de la Taille). I was listening to the album when I heard what sound­ed like someone speaking French. I thought it was coming from outside, but it was commentary accompanying the music.
  9. Rameau, Pièces de clavecin en concerts (London Baroque; BIS Records) – This is an album of six concerts which are largely character pieces, although it’s often impossible to tell who in Rameau’s circle they refer to. The first concert is probably a tombeau, a genre of which the French seemed to be particularly fond. There is some overlap with Rameau, Complete Works for Harpsichord (Trevor Pinnock; crd).
  10. Italian Lute Music G.G. Kapsberger – A. Piccinini (Konrad Junghänal; Accent) – Lute music always gives me a sense of warm summer afternoons when the sun is setting, the light is just so, and the world is quiet and comfortable.
  11. Telemann, The twelve Fantasias for Transverse Flute without Bass (Bart­hold Kuijken; Accent) – This is another album in which “fantasia” has been misspelt in the file name. Probably it’s just a typo, but it smacks of a lack of attention.
  12. Telemann, Trios & Quartets (Epoca Barocca; CPO) – What is says on the box. Unfortunately, the accompanying booklet (an occasional inclusion from CPO) is cut off at the end of the first page of the German section, which means there. The CPO website is barely any more enlightening. This seems to be chamber music for the musically inclined burgers of Hamburg to bash out of an evening.
  13. Telemann, III Trietti metodichi e III Scherzi (Parnassi musici; CPO) – These are light pieces which Telemann published in 1731. The CPO website says they are “full of dancy swing”. CPO must’ve been on a budget because the cover for this album is the same as the cover of Telemann’s Complete Violin Concertos Vol. 4.
  14. Hotteterre, Complete Chamber Music Vol. 1 Suites Op. 2 (Camerata Köln; CPO) – This is a very recent release from CPO and marks the first in a series of four CDs from Camerata Köln. I haven’t listened to the album properly yet, but it is very chamber music in style.

My attempt to acquire Boismortier, Flute and Harpsichord Sonatas Op. 91 has been unsuccessful. I downloaded an album from Presto Classical, but what I got sounded late 18th century. I then had a listen to samples of the album on line, which confirmed that what I had was probably something by Haydn. I’m waiting for Presto Classical to let me know when the actual album will be ready for download.


The Sekkereterry of Stayte for Edgercayshun.

Last year when the PISA report came out, much was made of the results which showed that Asian school children were geniuses and British school children were barely able to hold a pencil without stabbing one other person (including themselves). As was observed at the time, the quality of life for Asian children is generally dreadful and, in the case of China, the results were based on children in Shanghai. Michael Gove wants GSCEs pegged to results in China and other successful economies from 2017.

As I’ve observed in the past, Chinese school children are good at anything a computer could do, but rarely good at anything else. Maths – tick that box; Physics – tick that box; Chemistry – tick with less certainty; Biology – don’t tick it at all because the language is beyond them. Arts and Humanities subjects? Not likely.

Even the dimmest students here can still do maths with a reasonable degree of competence, but only a few of them are capable of doing Further Maths according to the Head of the Maths Department at school. While they may be good at maths, that doesn’t make them intellectual giants. Anything requiring imagination and creativity is beyond all of them unless they’ve been taught some sort of procedure for mimicking something just as they are taught procedures for writing TOEFL and SAT essays.

I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Gove’s favourite sci-fi characters are the Borg from Star Trek and the Cybermen from Dr Who, both races of soulless cyborgs who can solve maths problems in the blink of an eye, but haven’t got a milligramme of creativity or joie de vivre among the lot of them. The man seems to want Borg school children rather than human beings.


Bloody China Mobile.

I’m regretting the recent switch to China Mobile. The latest wheeze is that all .co.uk websites have been blocked. I’d been on Presto Classical the other morning, but couldn’t get on it in the afternoon without Astrill. The same block (or, impediment) seemed to be affecting music sites in general, but I found, for example, that The Register was also out of bounds. .org.uk sites seemed to be partly affected. At school, which I assume goes through China Telecom, there were no problems with any of these sites. Great­fire.org claims no blocking, either. I suspect this may be some sort of filter­ing cockup. Something to do with a DNS update?


But at the end of the day…

I need to get on with some marking.

The Sheen of Spring

It’s winter. It’s spring. It’s winter. It’s spring.

It’s just been February, which is not a month I typically associate with warm weather, and yet this seems to have been the warmest February since I’ve been in Wuxi. March has just started and already there is a shimmer of green on the trees alongside the canal. There are some flowers out at school, and in general spring seems to be shoving winter out of the way without so much as a by-your-leave. In my mind, the weather doesn’t really turn warm until about the time of the speaking exams in April, but my mind is being proved wrong this year.

Winter, determined not to to be bullied off stage by some upstart, has been fighting back. A couple of days ago a storm blew through, and yesterday the fantasy temperature was 12°; the actual high was 7°. This morning it’s absolutely clear (enough to see the line of the hill to the east) and sunny.


School news.

I learnt the other day that we’re getting a new CP on Monday. At the moment, I know little about him – Dan, American, has been in Vietnam. I suspect he’ll find he’s replacing one chicken coop of unnecessary dithering with another.

With Peter’s departure, the triumvirate of Peters has been broken, but with the new CP’s arrival, we now have a triumvirate of Dan(iel)s.

The first week of term has seen two changes to the timetable. I’ve now been lumbered with an eight-lesson Friday, but my Wednesday and Thursday are comparatively light. I lost two PAL 2 classes, and my PAL 1 class on a Monday, which was originally third period after lunch and then switched to the second, has now gone back to the third. In past years, the timetable with which I started has been the one with which I’ve finished. This year it must’ve changed at least four times. It’s also been my worst timetable.

For reasons that we cannot fathom, the school dog has been hanging around at the main gate for the past week. Sometimes she trots through when the gate opens; other times she hesitates. I’ve also seen Wayne the School Cat a couple of times. He seems well fed.


Blogging.

I’ve been meaning to write another entry, but have felt no compelling urge to write another. Topics which swirled around in my mind were why the Pope’s abdication was called a resignation as if he’s the CEO of Catholicism plc, and why North Korea’s Mr Sexy said “Someone set us up the bomb!” the very next day. (Bonus points if you can recall the meme.)

The story about China being a source of hacking also crossed my mind, but as the savvy punters noted, the Empire’s role in all this was being played up, and there are plenty of other state-authorised nuisances out there, the US not being the least of them.


Music.

I’ve been trawling my way through the Classics Online website looking for albums to go on my wish list there. I’ve been doing a label crawl, which is all right for some of the smaller ones, but Chandos has 1804 albums, and EMI Classics puts that in the shade with 5008.

My searches have yielded a couple of albums of music by Telemann which consist wholly of tracks which I don’t have. I suppose (given the huge size his output) that such a feat is not impossible since I only have 137 works altogether. [Only 137? –ed. 05.09.14. 293]

I’m also keeping half an eye on less well known composers such as the French composers, Marin Marais, Jean-Fery Rebel, and various Italians such as Castello, Marini, Picchi, and others. I have some of their works, but they tend to be scattered across various albums.

Shares in the company

Buy fireworks!

It’s been quite a few years since I was around for the Spring Festival. I’ve largely managed to avoid it by being absent for that particular week, but this year, not knowing that the Festival was in the third week of the winter holiday, I walked straight back into it and its attendant noise and air pollution.

But that was last week, wasn’t it? Fireworks should now be the punctuation which occasionally interrupt the day, shouldn’t they? But it seems not. No day since the official end of the Spring Festival has failed to start with fireworks sooner or later. It’s Monday morning as I type this, and still the fireworks are going off. I know the locals like their fireworks, but the Spring Festival is so last week.

I’m surprised Wuxi doesn’t have record levels of smog with all the smoke which must’ve been pumped into the atmosphere over the past week or so.


Dr Who, Series 6

I bought this when I was in New Zealand because it may not ever appear in the DVD shops here; or it might. This series was about the death of the Doctor and some pseudo-mystical nonsense about the first question, which must never be asked.

The overarching storyline was the child which Rory and Amy had, Melody Pond, who was, in fact, River Song, who was brought up as an assassin with one mission in mind – kill the Doctor. The opening episode started with the Doctor being killed by an astronaut emerging from a lake somewhere in the States, and the rest of the series led back to that point, and included a fake Amy, a fake baby, and Adolf Hitler.

It was a story on an epic scale, and yet the episodes felt a little same-y in that the Doctor would waltz in (capering), wave his sonic screwdriver around, babble, and the problem was solved. The solution was often deeply contrived and seldom seemed to require any real effort to achieve. The stories seem to have got a little too formulaic and phoned-in.


Musical dusting.

I’ve continued editing the details of all of my music as I try to bring some uniformity to my collection. There are still quirks which I don’t fully understand such as some details being partly omitted, or there being extra details, or WMP and Explorer don’t agree with each other.

My most recent purchases were Purcell, Complete Sonatas of Three & Four Parts, Pavans by the Purcell Quartet, and For His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts played by, er, His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts. I already had Purcell’s Three-Part Sonatas, but it was impossible to get the Four-Part ones without buy the former again.

I quite like Renaissance and Baroque trumpet (brass) music probably because of its mellifluous vocal quality. I don’t have a lot of it, or may have more than I realise, especially where the trumpet isn’t the main instrument in a piece of work.

However, it’s time for some more Heinz Ignaz Franz von Biber, who was a 17th century German composer roughly contemporary with Danish composer, Dieterich Buxtehude. I have Mensa Sonora, some trumpet music, and a Requiem, but not the Rosary Sonatas, Sonatae tam aris quam aulis serventes, or Harmonia artificiosa-ariosa. It’s also a good time to buy because the exchange rate is quite favourable again.

You turn your head away for a moment

And the next thing you know, the heir to the throne has vanished.

The prolonged disappearance of the heir apparent has resulted in Freegate being given a right royal going over this week. At best it works for a brief period of time before Nanny obviously swamps the server withe requests, thus preventing anyone else from getting through. There are rare occasions when a connection is made, but it seldom lasts. I’m writing this offline because I may only be able to access WordPress long enough for a copy-paste-post job before the shroud of ignorance reasserts itself. Until his majesty reappears and things calm down, activity here will be minimal for the foreseeable future. One thing I do note. The Internet seems to be whizzing along. Does this apparent increase in speed have something to do with Freegate being out of action? Is this indicative of just how many people are using Freegate?

There’s still no news about the old boy, There’s now been a sighting of Prince Frog Face, but it seems less and less like that some sort of back injury was to blame for his absence. As one story mentioned, the heir apparent might be back in the saddle tomorrow with not a whisper of why he was away. (As it now turns out, but I didn’t see the information until later in the morning, he’s back today, thus proving that tomorrow never comes; and after such a long absence, he’d better bloody well have a note from his mum.)

In other news, after seeing the exchange rate with the US dollar has been going seriously in my favour, I bought some more Avison: the Concerti Grossi after Geminiani and Scarlatti, and Opp. 9 and 10. The problem, though, is that the amount of information about the albums is minimal. There are covers and track listings, but no information about the date the albums were released (recent years is my best guess) or about their composition. I like to know something about the background to the works although my eye glaze over when it comes to the pretentious nonsense that the tracks often attract from some overexcited musical luvvie. (Phantasm, I’m looking at you.)

Another week of school has gone by. I like PAL 1. They’re a lively bunch who are interested and get involved. PAL 2, on the other hand, is like PAL 3 a couple of years ago with a solid core of immature boys on the right-hand side of the classroom who are unable to concentrate or sit still. Once again I say, “Do exercise three” and they hear, Lark about. Don’t mind anyone else. Yet if it wasn’t for them, I think PAL 2 would also gain my unreserved seal of approval.

We had some horrifically heavy rain at lunchtime a few days ago. I thought I’d go to Subway to get something for lunch, but by the time I got out, water was beginning to stream down the steps into the the Parkson building, and there was a curtain of water at the entrance. The streets were a combination of lakes, rivers, and springs. There were some huge and very deep puddles (the biggest I saw being on this side of the intersection where 县前街 meets 解放路); at one place there was so much water in the drains that it was bubbling back up through the manhole cover; and in several places there were swift-flowing streams. The surface flooding was extensive and even if the city had decent drainage, it probably couldn’t have coped.

Since then, the weather has been predominantly grey although the sun is shining at the time of writing. I shan’t be at all surprised, though, if the cloud comes over sooner rather than later.

The latest supercar sighting was a white Aston Martin just up near the bridge. A Vantage, I suspect, but I passed it by too quickly to see. I also saw the Panamera called Connie again a couple of days ago. If you’ve got the money, why buy a Panamera in the first place and why call it Connie? The car is ghastly enough as it is, but giving it a name like Connie just makes things worse.

The free orange bikes have continued to appear around the city apart from outside 远东百货 where everything is in place apart from the bikes.

Term, gentlemen, please

Everybody out, again.

I didn’t rush into school yesterday, but spent the morning buying more music. This time I added to my tiny collection of 18th century English composers who are not called Handel. My sole representative of the period had been Boyce’s Eight Symphonies (Op. 2) to which I’ve now added the complete trio sonatas. In addition to that, I bought Arne’s Trio Sonatas played by Collegium Musicum 90 (he’s Mr Rule Britannia, I believe), and Opp. 1 and 5 to 8 by Charles Avison played, but not ironically, by the Avison Ensemble. Boyce seems to be the most Baroque of the three whereas Arne and Avison have hints of the galant style even although the three were of the same generation. Bits of the latter pair’s music will suddenly sound like the Bach Boys (who wrote California Girls [What a fine example of the academic quality of this blog. –ed.]) Haydn or Mozart in short bursts. That’s another reason for buying this music. The style is slightly different.

I also bought an album of sonatas for violoncello and basso continuo by Geminiani, who was in London at the same time as Handel. I don’t think I’ve ever had anything by him before.

I went and bought lunch and then went to school where I watched people playing musical desks, a game which I played early, but almost no one joined in. I can understand why we should be grouped by department, but I liked things mixed because it gave the office variety.

And then it was time to go and babysit PAL 2. Well, that didn’t happen. I got up to the classroom to be told by their form teacher that she’d told them to go and play outside. I’ve been trying to get them to do that for the past two or three months, but at the end of each class about 95% sit there inertly. We ought to have them move from one room to another between periods although that’d just be an invitation for the dim bulbs to forget to bring anything each time.

The temperature and humidity have soared over the past two days. We’ve actually had some blue sky and sunshine, which is a relief after weeks of predominantly grey weather. But even as I write the haze and cloud is building up and we may yet have the thunderstorm which qq originally forecast.

The orange bike scheme which has appeared around Wuxi does seem to have been being put to use although I’ve yet to see anyone riding one. There are bikes outside Walmart, but the scheme hasn’t got as far as Baoli. I noticed that outside Houcaller, someone had parked their electric scooter beside one of the orange bollards to which the bikes are locked. I’m expecting other people to follow suit until the orange bikes have been displaced by scooters.

I’ve never really surveyed the park outside Baoli, but I note that the vast majority of vehicle parked there are electric bikes and scooters. As for bicycles, I’d say they’d count for less than 5% of everything in the parking area. What will happen when clowns on their electric scooters graduate to cars?

I’ve also heard, but cannot confirm, some story that the Metro may never see the light of day because of instability in the vicinity of the 360 building. Why Wuxi even needs a Metro is beyond me. If it went out to Tesco, Auchan and Metro (the German supermarket) in the New District or out to the airport, it might be useful. But as far as I can tell, it’s merely going to circle the centre of the city.

In the end I bought Faarlund’s Syntax of Old Norse and Volume 1 of Ringe’s A Linguistic History of English. From Proto-Indo-European to Proto-Germanic for my Kindle. I decided that two reference works were better value for money than a bunch of novels which I’d probably never read again.

I note that I’ve ended up being disappointed with quite a number of authors over the past ten years. Stephen Clarke’s Merde series wore a little thin when he seemed to depart from the semi-autobiographical stuff into the world of pure fiction. Stephen Hunt should never have been published. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series stopped being any good two books ago (and, sad to say, I see another volume will be out soon). George Martin also lost the plot and his compass. Brandon Sanderson dragged on so much that it made Martin look like a model of succinctness. Alexander McCall Smith, I can take or leave, but would generally leave. Arturo Pérez-Reverte has never ultimately sustained my interest in the Captain Alatriste series.

I do need to see the inside of a real bookshop to have a decent look at what’s available. Trying to browse Amazon is a painfully slow experience and a lot of the time I’ve scanned the titles before any of the cover images have even appeared. I suspect that the usual Forces of Darkness are to blame for the tardiness of the site because opening channel D does seem to speed things up.

The recent news about the puerile fuss about the girl in the see-through dress on the Shanghai Metro puzzled me. As I’ve noted before, a large proportion of the female population is now in short skirts, shorter shorts and prostitute shoes. This doesn’t seem to excite any comments from the pundits, but some twentysomething in visible granny knickers does. Linda noticed a lot of staring when she was here, and, by coincidence, I’ve seen quite a bit of that over the past few days.

I’ve been reading about the reddening of the South China Morning Post over the past week or so. I like the SCMP – or did –, but there’s something distinctly unsavoury about the paper’s apparent shift towards Beijing and the way in which a respected, award-winning journalist was treated. I didn’t know the SCMP’s owner was Malaysian, either. The recent news from Hong Kong seems fairly gloomy, but is that because of the imperial government’s interference or because of economic problems or some combination of both? Several years ago I concluded that the fifty-year period of grace after Hong Kong was returned to the Empire was not because the latter would become more like the former, but rather the other way round. One morning the people of Hong Kong will wake up and find that much of the Internet is unavailable because it upsets the feelings of the Chief Executive; that the maternity wards are full of mothers from the Mainland; that the posh shops won’t admit locals; and that all the signs are in simplified characters.

On being decisive

If only I could make my mind up.

Last Friday the A2s had their graduation, which meant I found out who’s going to which university. We got two into Cambridge this year, and one is going to Melbourne, but most ended up at US and Canadian Universities. We didn’t have to wear gowns this year although the students did.

I was stunned to see one of the mob of nitwits had got into Rutgers, which is frankly a travesty, and surprised that the fat and skinny nitwits had both got into US universities. I also noticed that the fat nitwit was escorted from the lecture theatre just as we were running out of students to congratulate. He then returned with his robe in his fat hot hand as he walked across the theatre in front of the stage. The skinny nitwit was nowhere to be seen. The third member of that triumvirate of idiocy, who had been shipped off to the States last year, appeared at the main gate while the group photograph was being arranged.

My long weekend was interrupted by interviews of prospective students on Sunday. The aim was to assess their level of English. There were some very good ones, but also some immature basketball boys. Whether anything I say will’ve made any difference to their prospects, I don’t know. Most of the students were from a school in Zhangyi. My list also included a Chinese American girl who’s native speaker of English. He problem is going to be her Chinese because she’s probably a semi-speaker at best. The other problem is that we have nothing to offer people like her since we do first language Chinese on the IB programme and English B; she’d want Chinese B (or some foreign language) and English A. There was also meant to be an Australian girl, but like the Chinese student I saw, there was little point in interviewing her.

It’s easy to make decisions when we know what we want to do. I knew that I wanted to use some of the money which I acquired when age took its toll again to buy Balbastre’s Pièces de Clavecin Book I, Biber’s Mensa Sonora, Buxtehude’s Opp. 1 and 2, and Telemann’s Sonates Corellisantes and Canonic Duos. Those decisions were easy.

I’m not faring so well with my Kindle because I’m not sure what to buy. I’m not going to buy A Dance with Dragons. I’ve done with Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series because One of our Thursdays is Missing should’ve stayed missing along with First among Sequels, and I dread to think what the next Thursday Next book might be like. I also think Stephen Clarke has done his dash in the merde. I’m vacillating on the subject of Arturo Pérez-Reverte’s Captain Alatriste series which has felt long on promise, but been short on delivery.

On the other hand I stumbled across a recent book on the syntax of Old Norse, which interests me because when I did Old Norse as part of my MA, I felt that knowing Old English was little or no help. Old Norse was determined to be vexatiously quirky with its baffling array of þar, eigi/ekki, at, er, etc. Thus I’m curious to know what the language was getting up to because it couldn’t be said that EV Gordon’s Intro. to Old Norse was exactly helpful in matters of syntax. But is it worth me spending the money on it? I haven’t done any Old Norse in a very long time. In fact so long that children have been born, grown up, and graduated from university, and the last of these to them is now just a fond memory. It may be fifteen years since I last taught in a university, but I just can’t quite shake off the spirit of academic enquiry.

Perhaps I should be looking at books on music since that is my current principal interest. Music in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuriesin the Oxford History of Western Music series might be of interest although the review is not complimentary. Oh well, perhaps not.

I also read just recently that the introduction to Old Norse by Valfells and Cathey, of which I have a copy, is not longer in print. (On Amazon UK, a paperback copy is currently being offered for £188.94. Seriously?!) I never got round to having a good look at the book, but it appears to be highly regarded. I brought Michael Barnes’ A New Introduction to Old Norse Part I Grammar back with me to the inGlorious Motherland. The book is quite detailed in its 258 pages and has all manner of handy hints and tips which would’ve been useful for me nearly 25 years ago.

Finally, the weather is being absolutely appalling this morning: dull, grey and very wet, and showing no sign that it’s about to stop. I will almost certainly have to wear full dress uniform when I go out; and by the time I get back, I will be nicely stewed. The other day I happened to be on my way to Carrefour when the city was struck by a mini monsoon, half of which went up my nose and the other half into my eyes. I needed windscreen wipers.

Where people have strange-shaped heads

And they speak an unknown language.

After a degree of dithering, it has been decided that the start-of-term conference will be in Chengdu. Now, when I say “in Chengdu”, I’m being rather generous. “Near Chengdu” would be more accurate and about as accurate as “Wuxi is near Chengdu”. I suspected that we might get dispatched to 石室的 North Lake School, which, I’m informed, is a long way from anywhere; and it seems that my fears were right. We may be in a five-star hotel, but it’s a five-star hotel out beyond the fourth ring road, which places us so far out of the city that I think the area is known as, er, Tibet.

Although the conference won’t give us much time for larks and frolics regardless of our location, I was hoping at least to make the pilgrimage to High Fly, but it seems that the heathens have deprived the faithful of such a chance; and anyone who was hoping to see the sights of Chengdu won’t be seeing much at all.

The weather had reached that uncomfortably humid phase as it goes greenhouse on us. Yesterday morning the cloud was grey but thin enough to reveal the disc of the sun and let the heat through. By some time in the afternoon, the cloud had thickened along with the haze, and the light had turned a dull yellow. It’s done something similar today although at the moment the dullness is less extreme. I’ve decided to go to Ajisen for tea tonight and will not be surprised if it starts raining around the time of my departure. It’s the sort of weather which makes me feel like snoozing.

Recent supercar sightings include a white Lamborghini Gallardo parked down outside the Olympic Museum yesterday, and an Audi R8 on 解放路 at lunchtime. What joy there is in my heart to see such a gross disparity in the distribution of wealth in the Empire. Now I know for sure that it is “the advanced nation”.

The exchange rate is improving again as the cost of music downloads from Presto Classical falls slightly, and the price of some downloads from the Classical Shop or Hyperion Records is getting quite competitive as sterling sinks alongside the Euro. Even so, I’ve stopped buying music for the moment partly because of the price and partly because I’m trying to assimilate what I’ve bought so that I’m not always thinking, I know I’ve heard this before, but…

Do we have an answer?

Winamp.

Winamp is the popular alternative to Windows Media Player. I had a version of it many years ago, but never kept it long for reasons I no longer recall. I think it might’ve been annoying in some way. It also seemed to be more famous for its skins than for much else at the time.

After Real Player turned out to be a disappointment, I thought I’d try Winamp again out of curiosity rather than hope.

As it turned out, once I’d rejected all those extras which are only of interest to the developers, who, as usual, assume that everyone lives in the States, Winamp returned immediate rewards. Among the albums listed by WMP was some jazz thing, which I thought was one of the pieces in the Sample Music folder. Not having any particular interest in such things, I’d ignored it. But Winamp revealed this was not just a single piece of music, but a whole album. When I investigated further, I found that it wasn’t some album of jazz music by Stan Getz, but actually Monteverdi e suo tempo by Capriccio Stravagante and Skip Sempé.

Subsequently, Winamp has forced me to tidy other things up such as the album artist. Because of the diversity of this information even within the same album, albums were getting split into parts, and as a consequence I’ve limited each one to a single artist as far as possible. It mostly works. The extra artists have gone into the contributing artist section.

So far Winamp has been doing what I wanted. In effect, it’s like Windows Explorer for music and doesn’t appear to have WMP’s more annoying habits..

Speaking of WMP’s annoying habits, I had a look at the album section in it again and found that Telemann’s Wind Concertos Vols. 1-7 had been broken up into three parts for no reason I can identify.

Also not pleasing is the exchange rate, which has already resulted in the cost of albums from Presto Classical going up to NZ$14.00; and if the price is pegged to the US dollar, then it could hit NZ$14.50 in the next 24 hours. It depends on how often Presto Classical updates its prices. This shift in the exchange rate is also why I’ve gone a little mad buying more albums because it seems better to get them while the price is more favourable.

However, I found Classics Online yesterday, which is part of Naxos and based in the States. The prices are American, too, which means that the album which costs £7.99 (US$12.72) from the Classical Shop is a mere US$7.99 (£5.02) from Classics Online. Another case of rip-off Britain. I actually saved myself a goodly sum by buying Telemann’s Paris Quartets Vols. 1-3 from there even if the exchange rate is worsening for me.

Music and computers

Two for the price of one.

With Freegate apt to conk out sooner rather than later, I’ve decided it’s better to type up an entry in a text editor so that I can paste it to WordPress during one of those short-lived occasions when I can get access to it.

With the start of the exams today, we enter that period when apart from invigilating, we have little else to do once the relevant exams have passed into history. As a consequence, I’ve started reading A Game of Thrones in earnest at long last. My initial impression of the book is fairly positive, but can Martin sustain my interest for another 630 pages? We’ll see.

As my journey back into the world of Baroque music continues, I happened to stumble across the Deutsche Grammophon website where it’s possible to download quite a few older albums by groups such as Musica Antiqua Köln, The English Concert, and The Academy of Ancient Music.

Meanwhile, I’ve been editing the metadata that comes with quite a few of the albums I’ve downloaded. I’m still having to replace Beethoven, Roland Dyens, and Turlough Carolan as the composers. I’ve been editing down windy titles and wouldn’t mind more succinct file names. (The Classical Shop, I’m looking at you.) I spent the May Day Holiday tracking down the catalogue numbers for all the works by Telemann which I have, and actually succeeded in finding all of them.

I’ve also learnt one or two other things from editing the metadata. I was puzzled as to why I was only able to search the file names for albums from Hyperion Records and why the title and other information vanished in the search results. I tried stripping out all of the personal information from one file and then adding it. When I searched for the metadata, the file duly appeared, leaving me wondering what the difference between the copy and the original was.

It was when I looked at the file attributes under the Advanced button that I discovered that the files were only being indexed by file name and nothing else. I ticked the box and all was well again.