Just incredible math

Miscellaneous musical notes:

My financial situation has improved from desperate to merely uncomfortable, and I’ve been able to finally make a few purchases that I’ve had in mind for years. For instance, I now have a grand piano. More precisely, I have a mathematical model of a grand piano in my laptop, Modartt’s Pianoteq. It’s no substitute for the real thing, of course, but I don’t have the space for a full-size grand, let alone the cash. Pianoteq sounds pretty good, and it’s much more “alive” than any sample-based instrument I’ve played. Add a pinch of reverb, and it would take a very sensitive ear to tell that it’s not an actual physical piano in a recording. If you have a velocity-sensitive MIDI keyboard handy, download the demo and try it yourself.

Because it’s not based on samples, the software requires surprisingly little disc space. Pianoteq is only 20 megabytes large. In comparison, Synthology’s Ivory II Italian Grand takes 28 gigabytes, and EastWest’s Bösendorfer gobbles 87. (They also need 7200 RPM disc drives, which means they won’t run on my humble laptop, where I need them. ((On top of that, they both require you to by an “iLok” key, a goddam miserable expletive-deleted dongle, and that is a deal-killer. (Q. What is the purpose of digital rights management? A. To punish the legitimate user.) I daresay that these are wonderful instruments, but I ain’t touching them.))) Physical-modeling synths such as Pianoteq do make heavy demands on the processor, but my laptop handles the load easily.


I’ve been considering finally buying one of the major notation packages, either Finale or Sibelius. I don’t need the full, all-the-bells-and-whistles versions, which is fortunate, because I don’t have the funds. However, the affordable intermediate version of each can be installed on only one computer, which is inconvenient. I think I’ll see how well MuseScore works.


I see that Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto (did I spell that correctly? Yes) has been licensed. I’m a little surprised. Although I enjoyed the first several episodes, I never did finish watching it, and I don’t recall that it was exceptionally good or particularly popular.

However, it does feature a good Yuki Kajiura opening song.


Josh, who prefers J.K. Rowling to Margaret Atwood, finds echoes of Kierkegaard in Talking Heads.

Politics, grammar and velcro

A few recently-spotted items worth quoting:

Being politically correct does not trump being grammatically correct…please fix.

Dr. J’s Gothic Literature teacher

But these days the wages of sin is boredom.

Res Studiorum et Ludorum

Well, I could argue that a proper understanding of punk and its inherent rebellion would have everyone becoming a libertarian or principled conservative …

Mollie Hemingway (in the comments)

The last is from a thread about the “Weirdest Band You Love.” It’s hard to pick the strangest of my many musical enthusiasms, but the Sons of Rayon might be the most obscure. The inventors of velco tap dancing (fiddler/guitarist Kelly Werts glued velcro hooks on the soles and heels of his shoes and danced on a patch of tightly-woven carpet, which was miced, creating sound when his feet left the platform), the Bill Monroe-meets-Robert Fripp trio was active in Wichita for several years around 1980. They released one cassette, No Velcro, which was one of the first items I digitized when I hooked up my computer to the stereo. Here is perhaps their loveliest song, written and sung by banjoist Paul Elwood and featuring Intergalactic Yodeling Champion Randy Erwin, “UFOs Over New Zealand.”

[audio:http://tancos.net/audio/UFOs Over New Zealand.mp3]

Continue reading “Politics, grammar and velcro”

Downright bodacious

I watched the first episode of Mouretsu Pirates twice in two days. The last series I did that for was Madoka a year ago. Pirates has a lot in its favor, including:

Space pirates.

Tatsuo Sato.

A meganekko with a hime haircut and a sailor suit.

A bunny, a ducky and a pink bobblehead pig.

An absence of in-your-face fanservice. ((No surprise, given that Sato’s Shingu featured an outstanding example of anti-fanservice.))

There are a few negatives, e.g., green lipstick, skinny ties and really bad haircuts.

The positives greatly outweigh the negatives, and Mouretsu Pirates looks like, at the very least, a fun show. With Sato at the helm, there’s a good chance that the series will be a satisfyingly complex story and not just an excuse to put pirate hats on pretty girls.


A bit of music:

It’s not just for humans.

If French is the language of love, what is German the language of?

(The latter via John C. Wright.)


2011 is over. Good riddance. It was a thoroughly crummy year for me, ((2011 was a good year for volcanoes.)) and I am not going to compile any retrospective posts. If you want to know about the year in anime, see Ubu’s recaps here and here.

The triumph of dullness

Here’s a list.

Who’s missing? Here’s a name: Yes. Here are some other names: King Crimson, John Mayall, the Pogues, Deep Purple, Fairport Convention, ELP, Joe Satriani and Weird Al. I can add many more, and so can you. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame claims that “… musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction,” but are the Sex Pistols really better musicians than the band that recorded Fragile? In my lexicon, “critic” is a synonym for “idiot.” It’s nice that someone remembers the Small Faces, but induction into the R&RHoF is as meaningless an honor as the Nobel Peace Prize.

Not entirely unrelated: Twelve extremely disappointing facts about popular music.

(Via Professor Mondo.)

Bonus stupidity: Pearl Harbor? It was all America’s fault.

Miscellaneous notes

I discovered this downtown this past weekend. I’m not sure what it is, but because it is big, prominent and ugly, it’s probably art.

Some perhaps not-unrelated art news.


Chinese science education might not be quite as rigorous as thought.


… Studio 4C has taught me that, if it’s pretty enough, I won’t mind if it’s nonsense


Election notes:

I like his attitude.

End post-mortem discrimination.


For guitar aficionados, a proposition from a thread on Roy Buchanan and Danny Gatton:

Roy’s playing: like a funeral. Danny’s playing: like a carnival.

If Buchanan’s playing is funereal, it’s one hell of a service.

Bonus video: a twelve-year-old Joe Bonamassa plays Gatton’s telecaster.


The idea of a maid café is a bit creepy, but this one might be worth visiting for its name.

(Via dotclue.)


A couple of notes for volcano watchers:

There’s a natural jacuzzi near El Hierro in the Canary Islands.

Nyamuragira in the Congo is putting on a nice display of lava fountains.


Winfield notes

Guitarist Akihiro Tanaka and flutist Toshio Kishimoto
Guitarist Akihiro Tanaka and flutist Toshio Kishimoto

When the international market for anime collapses, Japan can export fingerpickers. Akihiro Tanaka took second place in the International Fingerstyle Championship at the Walnut Valley Festival two years ago, first place last year, and was a featured performer this year. Meanwhile, Tomoake Kawabata placed second in this year’s contest Thursday.

Tomoaki Kawabata
Tomoaki Kawabata

Continue reading “Winfield notes”

In the pink

This has been a brutal year (-17°F in February, 110°+ repeatedly this summer) and it shows in gardens. Yews and arbor vitae are badly damaged if not dead, hostas are shriveled and sugar maples have few intact leaves left for their fall display. However, the naked ladies, a.k.a. Lycoris sqamigera, spent the worst of the heat undeground and look just dandy right now.


I’m going to be away from the computer for a few days. While I’m gone, you can study the saxophone solo in “Tank!”

Recent discoveries

Stephane Grappelli as the cat in Peter and the Wolf.


“Just once, I’d like to meet an alien menace that wasn’t immune to bullets.”

(video removed)

An outstanding example of obsessiveness: a fan-made Doctor Who anime.

(Via Chizumatic.)

Update: And it’s gone, which is a pity. The video was an impressive piece of animation. The auteur’s site is here.

Update II: You can watch it here.

Further musical notes

I’ve been fortunate so far with Miku Hatsune and her ilk. The Vocaloid engine has not yet been ported to Macintosh, so I haven’t been tempted to spend all my evenings and weekends tinkering with vocal synthesizers. But my luck may have run out. There is now a Mac version of UTAU, the freeware/shareware counterpart of Vocaloid. If it’s possible for someone without Japanese to figure out — there is an English-language UTAU community online, so help is available — what free time I had this summer is gone.


Apparently the Madoka soundtracks will be available only as part of the Japanese BD editions. That presents a problem for those of us who can’t spare $70, or $87.99, for a half-hour of music.

Fortunately, the sheet-music people are on the case. Here’s a nice piano arrangement of “Sis Puella Magica!”, and there are other Madoka arrangements here (third and fourth from the bottom) and here. I hope to see more soon. Update: here’s another.

Update: This is seriously creepy.


Frëd has been watching Ghost in the Shell: Innocence, or at least the opening.


During the ’80’s, I quit listening to the radio entirely, focusing instead on building up my classical music library. This illustrates why. ((There was some great rock recorded during that decade: Steve Morse’s The Introduction, King Crimson’s Discipline, Steve Vai’s first two albums, Joe Satriani’s Surfing with the Alien, early Birdsongs of the Mesozoic, Djam Karet, Boiled in Lead, Adrian Belew, and more I’ll think of later. But most of these are primarily instrumental efforts, and it’s hard to write intelligently about music as music — too hard for Rolling Stone writers, who’d rather drivel on about politics, transgression and other nonsense than actually listen to the music they review.))

Notes, mostly musical

One of the 19th-century piano virtuoso’s stocks in trade was the operatic paraphrase, in which he took themes from a popular opera and assembled a fantasia with them, often highly elaborate. The practice fell out of favor in the twentieth century. However, if you substitue anime for opera, it is alive and well in otakudom. Here is a piece using themes from Yuki Kajiura’s OST for Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica:

Here’s a novel treatment of a theme from Madoka:

(Via Anime Instrumentality.)

I wonder if might be possible to make an opera out of Madoka. Perhaps not; it would take considerable ingenuity to condense the story to two or three hours and still have it make sense, and there are no significant roles for adult male singers — you could cast Kyubey as a tenor, but he would be cuter and creepier as a boy soprano. While a clever designer can probably think of a way to present the witches, the events of the last episode are another matter entirely.

Nevertheless, if it could be done, and done well, it would potentially be overwhelming. The composer would not necessarily have to be Yuki Kajiura, though I would be curious to hear if she’s capable of something as complex as an opera.


Not anime-related, but noteworthy: an arrangement of a Lady Gaga tune that bears listening:

(Via Darwin Catholic.)


Susumu Hirasawa, guitarist and singer of P-Model and composer of soundtracks for Satoshi Kon, has made a number of his pieces available for free download. I particularly recommend “The Girl in Byakkoya,” the ending theme of Paprika.


What is the greatest problem with the American legal system? Perhaps it’s that judges have lousy taste in music.


A problem with Windows computers you might not be aware of:

Many problems with Windows computers can be traced to spiritual infestations. Windows is notoriously vulnerable to attacks from the other side, and spirits may take over your computer in an attempt to break their old Pac-Man records. They may be very disappointed if they cannot find Pac-Man installed on your computer, and may use up most of your processing power looking for it. The obvious solution is to install whatever vintage computer games your spiritual guests desire to play. Alternatively, you may wish to abandon Windows altogether in favor of a more secure operating system, such as an abacus.

Shuffle mode

In lieu of a substantive post, here’s what iTunes recently thought I wanted to hear:

1. “Drug Train,” The Cramps
2. “Vingt Regards sur l’enfant Jésus: Regard du Fils sur le Fils,” Olivier Messiaen/Michel Béroff
3. “Hide and Seek,” Curved Air
4. “Piano Sonata in B minor, S.178 – Lento assai – Allegro energico – Grandioso – Recitativo,” Franz Liszt/Jorge Bolet
5. “Echo Sonata for Two Unfriendly Groups of Instruments,” P.D.Q. Bach
6. “3cm,” Yoko Kanno; Macross Plus OST
7. “Birds of Fire,” Mahavishnu Orchestra
8. “Sugar Plums,” Dometsch Ensemble/Elizabeth Poston/Felix Aprahamian/Lionel Salter/Eric Thompson/Peter Hemmings/Robert Ponsonby (Hoffnung Music Festival)
9. “A Quick One While He’s Away,” The Who
10. “Black Magic Woman (Live),” Fleetwood Mac
11. “I’ve Got a Feeling,” Pentangle
12. “Elephant Stomp,” Jennifer Batten & Tribal Rage
13. “Go Go Cactus Man,” Seatbelts (i.e., Yoko Kanno)
14. “Oh Well (Live),” Fleetwood Mac
15. “El Rayo-X,” David Lindley
16. “Sahara,” Sky
17. “St. Mary’s (12 String),” Adrian Legg
18. “Mizuumi,” Mayumi Kojima
19. “Next Stop Earth,” Steve Vai
20. “Sun Medley: Mystery Train/My Baby Left Me/That’s All Right,” Danny Gatton
21. “Concerto in A Minor for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 53: I. Allegro ma non troppo,” Dvorák/Southwest German Radio Symphony Orchestra
22. “Clarinet Polka,” Brave Combo
23. “Coal Boxes and Daisy Cutters,” Boud Deun
24. “My Monkey-no Satogaeri,” Mayumi Kojima
25. “Palladium,” Weather Report

That was fun, I guess. Let’s do it again:

1. “Taxicab,” Bunky and Jake
2. “Prelude #17 In A Flat, Op. 28/17,” Chopin/Martha Argerich
3. “Supercell Track 04,” Ryo (featuring Hatsune Miku)
4. “Yubiwa,” Yoko Kanno & Hajime Mizoguchi; Escaflowne Movie OST
5. “Is This Mexico or What?,” Stephen Bennett
6. “La Huida de Los Amantes por el Valle de los Ecos,” Leo Brouwer / Michael Chapdelaine
7. “Free Bird – Mahiru no tsuki heto,” Itou Masumi & Ueno Youko ((Not to be confused with the Lynyrd Skynyrd ode to masculine irresponsibility — this is an entirely different and much better song from an “image” album associated with Haibane Renmei.))
8. “The Guitar Rag,” Pat Kirtley
9. “Yoake Mae,” Yoshino Yuuji; Spice and Wolf OST
10. “Prism,” Ikeda Ayako; Dennou Coil OST
11. “Lovers Are Crazy,” Steve Vai
12. “Hunting Tigers Out in Indiah,” Bonzo Dog Band
13. “Truth Ola,” Steve Morse
14. “Hashiru,” Yoshino Yuuji; Spice and Wolf OST
15. “Searchlight Rag,” Scott Joplin/William Albright
16. “Bank On Me,” Yuki Kajiura; Madlax OST 2
17. “Piece Of Mind,” Curved Air
18. “Ab la dolchor del temps novel,” Camerata Mediterranea/Joel Cohen
19. “Kalamak Ya Habibi,” George Wassouf (from a sampler of Middle East music)
20. “Hikari Sake,” Masuda Toshio; Mushishi OST
21. “Chopin: Impromptu #4 In C Sharp Minor, Op. 66, CT 46, “Fantaisie-Impromptu”,” Murray Perahia
22. “Dancing In The Street,” The Mamas & The Papas
23. “Under The Double Eagle,” Asleep at the Wheel
24. “Idol Talk,” Yoko Kanno; Macross Plus OST 2
25. “Variations on ‘Annie Laurie’: Variation 3 (Alla gigolo),” Festival Ensemble/Gordon Jacob (Hoffnung Music Festival)

Just wondering: does anyone else remember Bunky and Jake?