Last week we had possibly the most annoying tune in the history of music. Now here’s a candidate for the dullest piece of music ever recorded. It’s essentially just a single five-note chord, held for two minutes. (There’s a bit more to it than that, but not much more.) See what you make of it.
Advisory: Survivors of the Society for Creative Anachronism might find this post traumatic.
Here is a set of variations on possibly the most annoying tune ever notated, “Nonesuch,” from John Playford’s 1651 The English Dancing Master. It’s arranged here for virtual guitar, bass and drums.1. For the morbidly curious, the guitar is the AAS Strum GS-2 and the bass the String Studio VS-2. The drums are Logic’s Ultrabeat, augmented with percussion from the VSCO2 orchestra. As always, I’m not completely happy with this, but I want to move on to fresh disasters.
(Right-click on the tune title to download the .mp3.)
I’m alive again after an unpleasant two weeks. I’ve got a lot of cleaning and catching up to do, so I’ll continue to be scarce here.
A few things that caught my eye or ear recently:
I have a little list of words and phrases that tell me everything I need to know about the people who use them. So does J Greely.
Mozart and Chagall.
There’s a live-action version of Tonari no Seki-kun. You don’t need to know Japanese to follow the story.
Bonus link: Vulcanologist Erik Klemetti counts down his list of the ten most dangerous volcanoes. If you’re thinking of investing in European real estate, forget Naples.
I recently found a recording of the music from Girls und Panzer by the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. The OST to the anime in its various forms was probably generated in a digital audio workstation with sample libraries. It’s quite listenable, but virtual orchestras can’t compare to well-recorded real instruments played by real, living musicians. The bass drum alone makes the upgrade worthwhile, particularly if you have powerful speakers or good headphones.1 The only disappointment with the TSO CDs is that they’re missing “Yuki no Shingun.” 2
Incidentally, I ordered the CDs from Amazon.co.jp on a Sunday, and they arrived the following Tuesday. If you want the quickest delivery from Amazon, forget Amazon Prime. Order overseas.
Yesterday Charles Hill posted an instance of musical hybridization. According to iTunes, that particular song is the third-most-frequently-played tune in my collection. I’m surprised, too.1
For the heck of it, here’s my top ten, according to iTunes.
Here’s a MIDI file of Scarlatti’s Sonata in A Major, K24/L495/P80, played on a physically-modeled virtual harpsichord tuned to A = 440 Hz:
Here it is again, this time with A = 432 Hz:
Did the first recording make you feel “self-centered, narcissistic, materialistic and aggressive“? Did the second resonate with the Heart Chakra, repair your DNA and restore your spiritual and mental health? If so, I congratulate you on your acute sensitivity. (Be sure to wear protective headgear at all times.)
Or did the second just sound a little flatter than the first?
Even if there is a real basis to the paranoid theories — extremely unlikely; the rise of the 440 standard is so complicated that positing a vast international conspiracy is inadequate to explain it — the precise frequency of the “A” in a scale matters far less than the qualities of the intervals between the notes of the scale.
The preset used for the two recordings above does not specify the temperament, which implies that it is equal-tempered. Other presets offer different tuning systems. Here is the sonata again, this time at A = 415, using an unspecified “well tempered” tuning:
And again, at A = 392, using “Werckmeister III“:
Even ordinary human beings who don’t wear tin-foil hats might be able to hear subtle differences in the character of the music now.
Dan Hicks‘ departure from this world was lost in the lingering foofaraw over David Bowie’s.1 It’s a shame, because Hicks was to me the more enjoyable artist and much more fun to listen to. Would Bowie ever have written a tune like “How Can I Miss You When You Won’t Go Away?”
Back in ancient times, when there was occasionally something worth listening to on the radio, I heard this:
That’s Sandy Denny on vocals, Richard Thompson on lead guitar, and Dave Swarbrick on fiddle. Forget “Free Bird;” this is how to do an up-tempo extended epilogue. As soon as I could afford to, I bought Liege and Lief, the album this recording originally appeared on, and then all the rest of Fairport’s available albums. L&L is the most listened-to, most loaned-out and most worn-out record in my vast collection. I eventually replaced it with a new CD because the vinyl was becoming unplayable.
Swarbrick died once, in 1999. From Wikipedia:
For many years Swarbrick suffered steadily worsening health because of emphysema. There was considerable embarrassment for The Daily Telegraph newspaper when in April 1999 it published a premature obituary for Swarbrick after he was admitted to hospital with a chest infection. He is reported to have commented, “It’s not the first time I’ve died in Coventry.”
He died again in June, this time permanently.
I couldn’t find this on YouTube, so here is the “Mason’s Apron” medley by the “Full House” line-up, digitized from ancient vinyl. The musicians are Swarbrick, Thompson, Simon Nicol, Dave Pegg and Dave Mattacks.
Accumulated odds and ends:
Is Obama Catholic? No, and Dennis McDonough is an idiot.
Is the Pope Catholic? That’s a much more interesting question. Edward Feser supplies some useful background, including notes about Popes Honorius, John XXII and Liberius.
Hyperplay will provide hours — well, minutes — of fun for the mathematically inclined and the easily entertained.
A fiddler/mandolinist friend of mine recently injured his left wrist and finds it painful to fret notes normally. However, he can still play harmonics. See if you can pick out “Whiskey before Breakfast.” Also, wait until after lunch before fetching the whiskey bottle.
A young friend of mine named Roger had a nice little racket going. He’d enter the old time fiddle competition at the Walnut Valley Festival in Winfield, Kansas, take second or third place, and go home with a shiny new fiddle. This year he goofed and took first. It will be five years before he can enter the fiddle competition again.1 Perhaps he’ll start collecting mandolins.
One of the many shows I don’t plan to watch this fall is ClassicaLoid. ANN describes it thus:
The story follows high school students Kanae and Sōsuke, who live in a provincial town that is trying to revitalize itself with music. One day, suddenly “Classicaloid” versions of Beethoven and Mozart appear in front of Kanae and Sōsuke. When the suspicious-looking Classicaloids play music they call “mujik,” it has a strange power: stars start to fall, and giant robots appear. Now every day is tumultuous. Eventually, more Classicaloids start to appear such as Bach, Chopin, and Schubert. What is the great power that the Classicaloids have? Are they friends or foe to humanity?
The show’s music will include pop, rock, techno, and other arrangements of famous classical works, arranged by well-known Japanese musicians. The official website states that the show will also feature “battles, slapstick comedy, heartwarming stories, and light love(?).”
It sounds dumb, and while you are welcome to do what you like with Liszt and Tchaikowsky, I don’t appreciate anyone monkeying around with Chopin.
One of the composers victimized is a certain Bądarzewska. I’d never heard of this person, so I did a little searching and discovered that the composer is presumably Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska. She wrote a piano piece called “The Maiden’s Prayer.” From Wikipedia:
Percy Scholes, writes in The Oxford Companion to Music (9th edition, reprinted 1967) rather unkindly of Bądarzewska: “Born in Warsaw in 1838 [sic] and died there in 1861, aged twenty-three [sic]. In this brief lifetime she accomplished, perhaps, more than any composer who ever lived, for she provided the piano of absolutely every tasteless sentimental person in the so-called civilised world with a piece of music which that person, however unaccomplished in a dull technical sense, could play. It is probable that if the market stalls and back-street music shops of Britain were to be searched The Maiden’s Prayer would be found to be still selling, and as for the Empire at large, Messrs. Allen of Melbourne reported in 1924, sixty years after the death of the composer, that their house alone was still disposing of 10,000 copies a year.”
The composition is a short piano piece for intermediate pianists. Some have liked it for its charming and romantic melody, and others have described it as “sentimental salon tosh”. The pianist and academic Arthur Loesser described it as a “dowdy product of ineptitude.”
The only current show that I’m following is Mob Psycho 100. Though less overtly comic than One Punch Man, it has much of the same sensibility, with a similar contrast of naiveté and cynicism, and with a similar satirical edge.
I gave up on Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress half-way through the first episode. Pixy stuck it out and reports that it is
Completely implausible. These people are so dumb the zombies would starve to death.
At one point in Summer Wars (recommended), a list of people who solved a puzzle in the movie is displayed. While rewatching the movie recently, I spotted a familiar name. You might find other names of interest, variously misspelled.
A reminder from The Political Hat:
I’m currently dealing with an excess of reality, and I will probably continue to be scarce here. While I’m away, you can listen to about 30 hours of music for piano and orchestra for 10¢ per hour, courtesy of Amazon.com, here, here and here. There’s ragtime here, if you’d prefer that. (The last includes some Louis Moreau Gottschalk, for no obvious reason.)
Which famous historical figure is this actor portraying?
Hint: here’s a contemporary representation of him. He’s the one seated in the middle.
The answer is here.
I looked around for sheet music to the “Säkkijärven Polkka” featured in Girls und Panzer der Movie. Apparently no two musicians play it quite the same way. Most of the versions I found don’t sound much like the tune in the movie. However, I did find a simple piano arrangement that matches pretty well here. (I suspect that it was transcribed from the OST.)
I finally had a couple of hours to devote to Girls und Panzer der Movie. Quick reaction: If you liked the original series, you’ll like this. If you found the original too implausible to enjoy, this is no different. For those who haven’t seen the original: if the idea of watching high school girls engage in the recreational equivalent of war with real WWII tanks sounds like fun, check out the series here. If you like it, then track down the movie. You can watch the movie first, I suppose, but it will make less sense and you’ll miss the significance of the various characters’ actions. I don’t have time to write a proper review, but there are reviews here and here (beware: the latter has many spoilers that aren’t hidden).
As Steven guessed, one of the highlights for me was a lively Finnish polka with kantele and accordion in the soundtrack. The movie’s makers didn’t pick the tune at random; “Säkkijärven polkka” has a little history behind it. To make Steven happy, I’m placing the tune below the fold.1
Here’s a set of variations on a simple traditional tune, “The Bear.” Since this is played entirely on the white keys of the piano, the critter most likely is a polar bear. As usual, it’s my computer playing, not me.
Thought for the day, from Francis W. Porretto:
Silo Syndrome is one of the natural consequences of the sense that things are sliding down the slippery slope to Shitville, and there’s nothing one can do about it. The sense might be illusory, of course, but the consequences of it are nevertheless compelling.
The countermeasure is laughter, however administered or evoked. Jokes. Puns. Harmless pranks. General horseplay. Frivolity. Cat videos. The zany impulse indulged in an unguarded moment. Laughter might not be able to cure cancer, but it can make the chemotherapy a bit easier to endure.
Some vile ethnic humor, attributed to John Cleese:
The English are feeling the pinch in relation to recent events in Syria and have therefore raised their security level from “Miffed” to “Peeved.” Soon, though, security levels may be raised yet again to “Irritated” or even “A Bit Cross.”
The English have not been “A Bit Cross” since the blitz in 1940 when tea supplies nearly ran out. Terrorists have been re-categorized from “Tiresome” to “A Bloody Nuisance.” The last time the British issued a “Bloody Nuisance” warning level was in 1588, when threatened by the Spanish Armada.
Years ago I attended a performance of a John Cage piece. The musicians sat on the stage in black turtlenecks while making gurgling noises with conch shells and water to the accompaniment of a recording of pine cones burning. After 20 minutes, one of the performers stood up and blew on his conch for five minutes, at the end of which his face was purple. I’ve also sampled recordings of Cage’s prepared piano music; the sonorities are novel, but the music itself is hard to pay attention to for more than a minute or two. Cage himself was probably aware that his music would not be universally appreciated, which is perhaps why he insisted that auditoriums where his music was performed have easily accessible exits.
Cage’s political philosophy is more interesting than his music, which makes him unique in history of music:
Cage—most famous for his 1952 composition 4’33”, in which musicians sit in perfect silence for four minutes and 33 seconds—was a gut anarchist. Asked about the word ecology, the composer replied that whenever he heard that seductive word he knew he’d soon hear the word planning, and “when I hear that word, I run in the other direction.” He boasted that he never voted.
In addition to occasionally posting music at MuseScore, I also listen to pieces uploaded by other MuseScorians. The quality varies tremendously, but the best are very good indeed.
One composer whom I particularly enjoy is Tuukka Jokilehto, a.k.a. “Rivergrove.” Among other things, he writes many short, colorful pieces for beginning pianists, such as his collection of “skeleton” music. I recently ran his composition “Old Music Box” through Logic, using sounds sampled from an old music box.
Most of Hans Jacobi‘s piano pieces, while not of Lisztian difficulty, are nevertheless not for beginners, and I’m content to let the MIDI player perform them. He writes numerous modernist short pieces that embody his understanding of “wabi-sabi.” He has a subtle sense of humor that occasionally surfaces, such as when he imagines how Wagner would play the blues.
It’s another blasted Monday morning. Here’s a concert performance of music from Girls und Panzer to wake you up.