Bumpy ride

Another old analog camera
Another old analog camera

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).

One of my father's favorite books
One of my father’s favorite books
Ooarai expects that every duck will do its duty
Ooarai expects that every duck will do its duty

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

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Ursine melodies

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.

Update: The score is here for the morbidly curious. You can right-click and download the mp3 here.

Miscellaneous nonsense, John Cleese edition

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.

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Music boxes, skeletons and ragtime

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.

Finally, there’s Cj Brandt, who composes piano rags. He’s from Wichita, and has even written a “Wichita Rag.”

Notes, mostly musical

Design partly influenced by Hyperdimension Neptunia

The French-Canadian company Plogue has entered the vocal synthesizer business. So far, no occidental virtual singer is serious competition for the Vocaloids, 1 but Plogue’s Alter/Ego shows promise. The software is free and runs on both Macintosh and Windows. (Yamaha’s Vocaloid software is still Windows-only, though Hatsune Miku and her family are usable on Macs with Crypton’s PiaPro software.) “Daisy,” the first Alter/Ego voice bank, is also free. It’s not particularly expressive, but its English is generally intelligible. Alter/Ego is also easier to use than Miku.

Recently, VoxWave announced ALYS, a voice bank for Alter/Ego, which is intended to be a French counterpart to the Japanese Vocaloids. ALYS’s languages are French and Japanese, but according to the CEO of VoxWave, “… we also ALYS to sing in English too thanks to an alias system” (sic). If ALYS’ English is tolerable, it might be worth considering when it’s released in March.

Wolfgang Palm’s entry into vocal synthesis also looks very interesting, and rather different from the other systems I’ve looked at. Then there’s Plogue’s chipspeech for old-style computer voices.


Here’s a list of common chord progressions with numerous examples from popular music. The site features partial analyses of a wide range of music. I was particularly interested in the many Touhou tunes.

If you’re interested in what’s going on in Beatle tunes, go here.


Marty Friedman, formerly of Cacaphony and Megadeth, got bored with metal, learned Japanese and became part of the J-pop scene. Here’s a brief, unsatisfactory but interesting NPR interview with him I recently came across.


See how many tunes you can identify:

(Via Dustbury.)

Odds and ends

Life is annoyingly busy, and I will have less time than usual for maintaining my websites until the middle of December. Expect even less activity here than usual. There might occasionally be posts of miscellaneous nonsense, such as what follows, but probably not much more.


Magical algorithm 1

Flickr recently introduced a “camera roll” feature that displays thumbnails of your pictures arranged either by the date taken or according to its “magic view,” which sorts them into subject-based categories. The algorithms for the latter need a little refinement.

Magical algorithm 2

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Definitely not Jeeves

Black Butler

I watched the first episode of Black Butler years ago and decided that it was not for me. Nevertheless, I’d like to attend tonight’s performance of OperAnime, which combines the peculiar anime with an opera from 1880. Unfortunately, the event is being held outdoors, and it is likely to rain all evening.


I may need to watch this week’s episode of My Little Pony. What would Ranma’s cutie mark be?

MLP-Friendship Is Anime

Japanese dream

Roger, who is spending the current semester in Japan, recorded a theme from Someday’s Dreamers, playing both the piano and fiddle parts. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to embed Facebook videos on my site, but you can listen here.

Update: It’s on YouTube now.

Update II: Roger with some of his Japanese friends playing a different sort of music:

Susan and friends

Occasionally an obscure tune that caught my ear back in ancient times pops into my mind. Last night it was “Susan,” by The Mauroks from 1969. I guessed right on the spelling of their name and found it quickly on YouTube. It’s no classic, but it has a nice garage/psychedelic sound and a good groove.

Other curiosities I’ve unearthed include The Damnation of Adam Blessing and very early Nils Lofgren. There are more here.

Decline and fall, with peaches

On October 10, 1969, forty-six years ago today, three noteworthy albums were released simultaneously: Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats, King Crimson’s In the Court of the Crimson King, and the Kinks’ Arthur. To celebrate, here’s a tune from each, though not necessarily the version on the record.

This is the tune that persuaded me that Zappa was more than just a clever novelty act with a dirty mind.

Court indulged in science-fiction and fantasy, with lyrics so profoundly meaningful they’re silly. The music was pretty good, though.

While King Crimson did F&SF, the Kinks took their inspiration from recent British history and culture in lyrics blending nostalgia and cynicism. Musically, the Kinks were the least interesting of the three acts, but Ray Davies at his best was a formidable satirist.

Suite in B

2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the discovery of P.D.Q. Bach by Peter Schickele. (Strictly speaking, the above isn’t P.D.Q.B., though it is from one of the early albums.)

Here’s another approach to Beethoven. (Via the Borderline Boy.)

1965 also saw The Baroque Beatles Book of Joshua Rifkin.

According to the liner notes of a reissue, Schickele was the first choice to write the arrangements, but he had just been signed to a different label, so Rifkin got the job. Incidentally, Rifkin sang in the first performance of P.D.Q. Bach’s “Iphigenia in Brooklyn.” A few years later, he would jumpstart the ragtime revival with his Scott Joplin recordings.

Here’s a more modern approach to the Beatles.

Glorieux’s Beatle recordings, which range stylistically from Bach to Bartok, are out of print, but you can find them on YouTube.