Wrong notes

Nicholas Slominsky’s Lexicon of Musical Invective, a compendium of harshly negative reviews of composers from Beethoven to Varèse, is fun to browse. Years ago I based a little name-that-composer quiz on entries in the book. That quiz is long gone, along with the rest of my first weblog1, so I’ve compiled a new one. See if you can identify the composers and works from the following excerpts. In a few cases, the critic speaking is also noteworthy.

I’ll post the answers sometime next week.

1. Crashing Siberias, volcano hell, Krakatoa, sea-bottom crawlers.
Composer, composition

2. ____ was abominable. Not a trace of coherent melodies. It would kill a cat and would turn rocks into scrambled eggs from fear of these hideous discords.
Composer, composition, critic

3. It is mathematical music evolved from an unimaginative brain … How it ever came to be known as The Tenth Symphony is a mystery to us.
Composer, composition

4. The overabundance of dissonances and the incompetence in handling vocal parts in ____ reach the point where the listener can not be sure of the composer’s intentions and is unable to distinguish intentional wrong notes from the wrong notes of the performers.
Composer, composition

5. The ____ is filthy and vile. It suggests Chinese orchestral performances as described by enterprising and self-sacrificing travelers. This may be a specimen of the School of the Future for aught I know. If it is, the future will throw the works of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven into the rubbish bin.
Composer, composition

6. If the reader were so rash as to purchase any of ____’s compositions, he would find that they each and all consist of unmeaning bunches of notes, apparently representing the composer promenading the keyboard in his boots. Some can be played better with the elbows, other with the flat of the hand. None requires fingers to perform nor ears to listen to.
Composer

7. ____ sometimes sounds like a plague of insects in the Amazon valley, sometimes like a miniature of the Day of Judgment … and for a change goes lachrymose.
Composer, composition

8. It must be admitted that to the larger part of our public, ____ is still an incomprehensible terror.
Composer

9. If it were possible to imagine His Satanic Majesty writing an opera, ____ would be the sort of work he might be expected to turn out. After hearing it, we seem to have been assisting at some unholy rites, weirdly fascinating, but painful.
Composer, composition

10. As a kind of drug, no doubt ____’s music has a certain significance, but it is wholly superfluous. We already have cocaine, morphine, hashish, heroin, anhalonium, and innumerable similar productions, to say nothing of alcohol. Surely that is enough. On the other hand, we have only one music. Why must we degrade an art into a spiritual narcotic? Why is it more artistic to use eight horns and five trumpets than to use eight brandies and five double whiskies?
Composer

11. Cunning must be the coinnoiseur, indeed, who, while listening to his music, can form the slightest idea when wrong notes are played — its difficulties to the eye being doubled by the composer’s eccentricity of notation.
Composer

12. To hear a whole program of ____’s works is like watching some midget or pygmy doing clever, but very small, things within a limited scope. Moreover, the almost reptilian cold-bloodedness, which one suspects of having been consciously cultivated, of most of ____’s music is almost repulsive when heard in bulk; even its beauties are like the markings on snakes and lizards.
Composer

13. ____ always sounds to me like the upsetting of bags of nails, with here and there an also dropped hammer.
Composer, critic

14. ____’s symphonic poem ____ is not just filled with wrong notes, in the sense of Strauss’s Don Quixote; it is a fifty-minute-long protracted wrong note. This is to be take literally. What else may hide behind these cacaphonies is quite impossible to find out.
Composer, composition

15. The ____ has pretty sonority, but one does not find in it the least musical idea, properly speaking; it resembles a piece of music as the palette used by an artist in his work resembles a picture. ____ did not create a style; he cultivated an absence of style, logic, and common sense.
Composer, composition, critic

16. There is only one thing for a man like ____ to do if he desires to escape oblivion, and that is to plunge into the grossest materialism in music and seek to puzzle or shock you, because he cannot touch your heart.
Composer

17. ____ had not much to say in his Fifth Symphony and occupied a wondrous time in saying it. His manner is ponderous, his matter imponderable.
Composer

18. … I shall hot criticize this music; quite to the contrary, I will say that this is wonderful barbaric music, the best barbaric music in the world. But when I am asked whether this music gives me pleasure or an artistic satisfaction, whether it makes a deep impression, I must categorically say: “No!”
Composer, composition

19. The Paleozoic Crawl, turned into tone with all the resources of the modern orchestra, clamored for attention at the Philadelphia Orchestra concert when ____ was given its first airing on this side of the vast Atlantic. It was the primitive run riot, almost formless and without definite tonality, save for insistently beating rhythms that made the tom-tom melodies of the gentle Congo tribes seem super-sophisticated in comparison … Without description or program, the work might have suggested a New Year’s Eve rally of moonshine addicts and the simple pastimes of early youth and maidens, circumspectly attired in a fig leaf apiece.
Composer, composition

20. The ____ threads all the foul ditches and sewers of human despair; it is as unclean as music well can be.
Composer, composition

21. I can compare ____ by ____ to nothing but the caperings and gibberings of a big baboon, over-excited by a dose of alcoholic stimulus.
Composer, composition

22. … if the crude expression be permissible, I should say that what was at the back of ____’s mind was an alarm of fire at the Zoo, with the beasts and birds all making appropriate noises — the lion roaring, the hyena howling, the monkeys chattering, the parrots squealing, with the curses of the distracted attendants cutting through them all.
Composer, composition

23. Again I see his curious asymmetrical face, the pointed fawn ears, the projecting cheek bones — the man is a wraith from the East; his music was heard long ago in the hill temples of Borneo; was made as a symphony to welcome the head-hunters with their ghastly spoils of war!
Composer

24. ____’s violin concerto sounds, in its brutal genius, in its abolition of all formal limits, like a rhapsody of nihilism.
Composer

25. (the amoeba weeps)
Composer

Update: The answers are here.

More than enough about me

So lovely

Medieval Otaku thinks I have one lovely blog and has tasked me with the following:

You must thank person who nominated you and include a link to their blog
You must list the rules and display the award
You must add 7 facts about yourself
You must nominate 15 other bloggers

Um, gee, thanks, I think, M.O.

Over the years, I’ve written about myself perhaps more often than is healthy, and it is difficult to find seven fresh facts worth mentioning. I’ll start with a little recycling. In the past, I’ve written

1. this

and

2. that.

There’s more about me

3. here.

What else? Let’s see….

Continue reading “More than enough about me”

Did we land, or were we shot down?

Miscellaneous links and nonsense:

David Bentley Hart, from the May 2014 First Things:

Journalism is the art of translating abysmal ignorance into execrable prose.

A look at brilliant, psychotic Joe Meek, who changed the sound of music.

Stereogram

Stereo pictures from WWI. A couple of notes: stereograms made for hand-held viewers use the parallel method of viewing, not the crossed-eye. I.e., the right eye focuses on the right image, the left eye on the left. It is possible to free-fuse the images, though it is easier done than explained. Let your eyes relax and drift apart until the images of a well-defined region in the pictures, such a the bright sky through the roof in the above image pair, start to overlap. Focus on that region until the images snap together, and you should then be able to see the entire scene in perspective. (You’ll need to sit back at least two feet from the monitor if you want to see the full-size images at the link in stereo.)

Continue reading “Did we land, or were we shot down?”

Only my life is chaotic

It’s been a while since I’ve done a silly quiz. Here’s one that’s currently floating around the internet.

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Ranger/Cleric (4th/3rd Level)

Ability Scores:
Strength-13
Dexterity-15
Constitution-13
Intelligence-18
Wisdom-16
Charisma-13

Alignment:
Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment when it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Race:
Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Primary Class:
Rangers are skilled stalkers and hunters who make their home in the woods. Their martial skill is nearly the equal of the fighter, but they lack the latter’s dedication to the craft of fighting. Instead, the ranger focuses his skills and training on a specific enemy a type of creature he bears a vengeful grudge against and hunts above all others. Rangers often accept the role of protector, aiding those who live in or travel through the woods. His skills allow him to move quietly and stick to the shadows, especially in natural settings, and he also has special knowledge of certain types of creatures. Finally, an experienced ranger has such a tie to nature that he can actually draw on natural power to cast divine spells, much as a druid does, and like a druid he is often accompanied by animal companions. A ranger’s Wisdom score should be high, as this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Secondary Class:
Clerics act as intermediaries between the earthly and the divine (or infernal) worlds. A good cleric helps those in need, while an evil cleric seeks to spread his patron’s vision of evil across the world. All clerics can heal wounds and bring people back from the brink of death, and powerful clerics can even raise the dead. Likewise, all clerics have authority over undead creatures, and they can turn away or even destroy these creatures. Clerics are trained in the use of simple weapons, and can use all forms of armor and shields without penalty, since armor does not interfere with the casting of divine spells. In addition to his normal complement of spells, every cleric chooses to focus on two of his deity’s domains. These domains grants the cleric special powers, and give him access to spells that he might otherwise never learn. A cleric’s Wisdom score should be high, since this determines the maximum spell level that he can cast.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus (e-mail)

There were many “A or B” questions to which the accurate responses would have been “both” or “neither,” but those choices were not available. Other questions were problematic in other ways. The detailed results indicate that I’m as much a “lawful good elf” as a “neutral good human.” And contrary to the results, I ain’t got no charisma at all.

This was a revised version of an earlier quiz by “NeppyMan.” That one, which I suspect was more accurate, found me to be a “Lawful Good Elf Bard Ranger.” A truly accurate quiz would have determined that I am half elf and half Martian, or an Abh with hair dyed brown.

(Believe it or not, I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons. However, I spent enough time among D&D fanatics during my years in the SCA that I have a modest understanding of the game.)

It’s a trap! Or is it?

Newtype is the largest of the magazines in Richard’s box, both in number of pages and in physical dimensions. The pages are too wide to fit entirely in the scanner, and many of the best pictures are two-page spreads. It may take me a while to figure out the most efficient way to handle them. Until then, here are a handful of 1990 Newtype scans with a couple of puzzles.

RG Veda, again. Guess the sex of Ashura, the youngster in white, without looking it up. This is a CLAMP project, so don’t assume anything.

Continue reading “It’s a trap! Or is it?”

Oh yeah, anime

I used to write a lot about Japanese animation. I haven’t lately, partly because my obsessions vary with time, partly because I haven’t had opportunity to watch much of anything at all, animated or not. If nothing else goes wrong, ((While my luck isn’t Brickmuppet bad, the past 18 months have not been pleasant.)) there is a good chance that I will finally have my place back to myself again very soon, Then I will finally watch the rest of Dog Days and some more of Hyouge Mono, and see what else might be worth my time.

I don’t know if I will be able to afford maintaining an interest in anime, though. Katanagatari, a show high on my to-buy list, is offered in two Blue Ray/DVD “premium editions,” each containing half the series. These sets are available as “weekly specials” at RightStuf for $52 each. Katanagatari is good, but it’s not $100+ good. It wasn’t a Suzumiya Haruhi-level megahit, and I doubt that it will ever be released in an affordable DVD-only edition. Ditto Arakawa Under the Bridge, a series on my to-investigate list. Such prices seem to be what we can expect for most interesting series licensed during the next several years, until Blue Ray discs drive DVDs out entirely. When that happens, this might be what to expect. If so — well, good bye, anime.

*****

In other anime news, Dennou Coil remains unlicensed in America.

*****

Feline stroke of the week:

Gingrich, who would have made a marvelous Marxist ….

*****

You can read the grim details and take the quiz yourself, if you dare, here.

*****

Fear the Death Note.

Low-brow, violent and cynical

It’s been a while since I came across a quiz worth doing. Here’s one via former Kansan CapnFlynn:

Your result for Which fantasy writer are you?…

Lian Hearn (b. 1942)

-1 High-Brow, 11 Violent, 31 Experimental and 13 Cynical!

Congratulations! You are Low-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical! These concepts are defined below.

Lian Hearn is the pen name used by Australian author Gillian Rubinstein when writing theTale of the Otori series, beginning with Across the Nightingale Floor (2002). The trilogy (which has spawned a sequel and a prequel) was a great success, becoming bestsellers world-wide and being published in more than thirty countries. Part of the reason for the series’ success is probably that it is traditional fantasy but with a twist: The books are set in a country resembling feudal Japan, rather than some vaguely European environment. This setting gives Hearn a great opportunity to explore themes such as war, revenge, power hunger and clashes between cultures, all of which makes for an occasionally very violent tale, where nothing is ever coated in sugar. The books also feature at least one strong and very believable female character. While there have been japanese-style fantasy written by Westerners earlier (such as the Book of Years series by Peter Morwood), Hearn uses the brilliant technique of describing her world from inside, calling typical japanese phenomena by generic names rather than exoticising Japanese terms. Thus, swords are called swords, not katanas, we hear of wrestlers and realize that they are sumo wrestlers, characters eat bean curd rather than tofu, etc. All in all, Hearn has succesfully expanded the borders of what can be done within the genre, while still writing for a mass audience!

 You are also a lot like C S Lewis.

If you want something more gentle, try Orson Scott Card.

If you’d like a challenge, try your exact opposite, Susan Cooper.

Your score

This is how to interpret your score: Your attitudes have been measured on four different scales, called 1) High-Brow vs. Low-Brow, 2) Violent vs. Peaceful, 3) Experimental vs. Traditional and 4) Cynical vs. Romantic. Imagine that when you were born, you were in a state of innocence, a tabula rasa who would have scored zero on each scale. Since then, a number of circumstances (including genetical, cultural and environmental factors) have pushed you towards either end of these scales. If you’re at 45 or -45 you would be almost entirely cynical, low-brow or whatever. The closer to zero you are, the less extreme your attitude. However, you should always be more of either (eg more romantic than cynical). Please note that even though High-Brow, Violent, Experimental and Cynical have positive numbers (1 through 45) and their opposites negative numbers (-1 through -45), this doesn’t mean that either quality is better. All attitudes have their positive and negative sides, as explained below.

High-Brow vs. Low-Brow

You received -1 points, making you more Low-Brow than High-Brow. Being high-browed in this context refers to being more fascinated with the sort of art that critics and scholars tend to favour, while a typical low-brow would favour the best-selling kind. At their best, low-brows are honest enough to read what they like, regardless of what “experts” and academics say is good for them. At their worst, they are more likely to read what their neighbours like than what they would choose themselves.

Violent vs. Peaceful

You received 11 points, making you more Violent than Peaceful. Please note that violent in this context does not mean that you, personally, are prone to violence. This scale is a measurement of a) if you are tolerant to violence in fiction and b) whether you see violence as a means that can be used to achieve a good end. If you are, and you do, then you are violent as defined here. At their best, violent people are the heroes who don’t hesitate to stop the villain threatening innocents by means of a good kick. At their worst, they are the villains themselves.

Experimental vs. Traditional

You received 31 points, making you more Experimental than Traditional. Your position on this scale indicates if you’re more likely to seek out the new and unexpected or if you are more comfortable with the familiar, especially in regards to culture. Note that traditional as defined here does not equal conservative, in the political sense. At their best, experimental people are the ones who show humanity the way forward. At their worst, they provoke for the sake of provocation only.

Cynical vs. Romantic

You received 13 points, making you more Cynical than Romantic. Your position on this scale indicates if you are more likely to be wary, suspicious and skeptical to people around you and the world at large, or if you are more likely to believe in grand schemes, happy endings and the basic goodness of humankind. It is by far the most vaguely defined scale, which is why you’ll find the sentence “you are also a lot like x” above. If you feel that your position on this scale is wrong, then you are probably more like author x. At their best, cynical people are able to see through lies and spot crucial flaws in plans and schemes. At their worst, they are overly negative, bringing everybody else down.

Author picture from http://www.lianhearn.com, used by kind permission.

Take Which fantasy writer are you? at HelloQuizzy

Pop quiz

After looking through this album cover quiz, I knew I had to put together my own. Here are portions of 51 covers from the age of vinyl. See how many you can identify. Most are progressive rock and British folk, but there are classics from other genres as well. Many were fairly well-known in their day; others may be challenges to identify. I’ll be astonished if anyone ((other than Steven)) gets them all. I’ll post the answers in a day or two.

Continue reading “Pop quiz”

Tagged …

… by TSO

Book Meme Rules
1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people

The stack of books nearest to hand includes titles by George Weigel, Thomas Craughwell, Fuyumi Ono and Robert Benchley. Unfortunately, the one on top was Warriors of Legend: Reflections of Japan in Sailor Moon, by Jay Navok and Sushil K. Rudranath.

The kuji incantation itself is a Buddhist war chant. A large, frightening figure appears on the screen during Rei’s incantation of this ceremony, and he is the god of war from Buddhist lore. Since Rei is a Shintoist and not a Buddhist (and according to one episode, considers the other religions her “competition”), the display of a Buddhist god is a contemporary example of the syncretism we discussed earlier, which blurs Shintoism and Buddhism for most Japanese (in this case, the anime’s writers).

Tagged: Kashi and the Wolf, Maureen, John and anyone else who wanders by.