The universal language

I wasn’t able to go to Winfield this year, so I only just now discovered that the winner of the International Fingerstyle Guitar Championship last Thursday evening was Akihiro Tanaka of Kyoto. He took second place last year, and I caught his main stage performance then.

Update: The international language II

Old-time music has its followers in Japan. Some friends of mine recently discovered one of their videos on this bulletin board. (See item #104.)

Fifteen in fifteen

Blame John Salmon and Terry Teachout for this.

The rules: Don’t take too long to think about it — choose fifteen albums you’ve heard that will always stick with you. List the first fifteen you can recall in no more than fifteen minutes. (These aren’t favorite albums, necessarily, just the fifteen that will always stick with you.)

Mahavishnu Orchestra, Birds of Fire

Chopin, Waltzes (I forget who played on the first recording I heard. It was a record I found in the University of Dallas library back in ancient times.)

Bach/Isolde Algrimm, Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I, first disc (This and the next were other records in the UD library that I frequently checked out.)

Songs by Tom Lehrer

Simon and Garfunkel, Bookends

Fairport Convention, Liege and Lief

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band et al, Will the Circle Be Unbroken?

Beethoven/Claudio Arrau, The Last Four Piano Sonatas

Dan Hicks and the Hot Licks, Last Train to Hicksville

Norman Blake, Whiskey Before Breakfast

Don Ross, Bearing Straight

Pentangle, Basket of Light

Mothers of Invention, Absolutely Free

Scott Joplin/Joshua Rifkin, Piano Rags (The first disc, with the green cover.)

King Crimson, Discipline

Blame the ducks

Specifically, GreyDuck and Wonderduck.

1. If you’d like to play along, reply to this post and I’ll assign you a letter.
2. You then list (and upload or link to the video, if you feel like it) 5 songs that start with that letter.
3. Then, as I’m doing here, you’ll post the list to your journal with the instructions.

So here are five tunes in the key of H. I’ll skip the obvious ones — you all know “Highway Star” and “Hardware Store,” right? And “Harold the Barrel” and “Happy Jack”? These you might not have heard before.

Ghost Hound was a major disappointment. I expected so much more from the Lain veterans. But the opening did introduce me to singer Mayumi Kojima. ((Some of her recent recordings can be found at, but they don’t show her at her best.))
Mayumi Kojima, “Himawari”


The Webb Wilder Credo: “Work hard, rock hard, eat hard, sleep hard, grow big, wear glasses if you need ’em.”
Webb Wilder, “Human Cannonball”

[audio: Cannonball.mp3]

Here are John Jorgenson, Will Ray and Jerry Donohue, and lots of guitar.
The Hellecasters, “Highlander Boogie”

[audio: Boogie.mp3]

To clear your ears, here is some finger-picking from a Winfield veteran.
Pete Huttlinger, “Hortensia”


Let’s finish up with a classic anatidian tune.
Raymond Scott, “Huckleberry Duck”

[audio: Duck.mp3]

Here’s a more recent recording by David Bagsby and Kurt Rongey, alias “XEN.”

[audio: – Huckleberry Duck.mp3]


Bonus H tune: What show does this come from?

[audio: H tune.mp3]

Want to play? Leave a note in the comments, and I’ll give you a letter.

Memo to every singer-songwriter who performs at open-mic nights

Passion and sincerity are cheap. If you want to hold my attention, show me craftmanship. Write lyrics that scan, fit them to actual melodies, and sing on key. Learn how to play your guitar, not just strum chords. Maybe then I won’t passionately and sincerely loathe hearing you.


Memo to everyone who enjoys old-time fiddle music: If you ever have a chance to hear Chirps Smith, drop everything and go.

Make chimpanzee noises and hide the otter

I recently discovered that John Stump, the composer of “Faerie’s Aire and Death Waltz,” wrote other pieces of music, including the “String Quartet in A Minor (Motoring Accident).” A tribute to Stump, with scans of his scores, can be found here.

More remarkable scores can be seen here, here and here. Some of them have been performed.

The Kabuki mullet and root-level physics

More than you ever wanted to know about the Japanese music industry.

(Via Anime Instrumentality Blog.)

Speaking of mullets


In case there is anyone on the planet who still hasn’t seen the grandest of all Pythagorean devices:

Here’s a story and some videos about it.

(Via Steven Riddle.)

Update: here’s another noteworthy contraption currently under construction:

(Via the Borderline Sociopath.)

The best soundtrack, and a new poll

I doubt that anyone will be surprised by the first-place winner in the best anime soundtrack poll. Cowboy Bebop received more votes than the second- and third-place winners combined. I had expected that Noir would take second, but it was eventually overtaken by FLCL and Death Note. Here’s the top ten:

1. Cowboy Bebop (18.0%)
2. FLCL (8.0%)
3. Death Note (7.0%)
4. Noir (7.0%)
5. .hack//SIGN (6.0%)
5. Vision of Escaflowne (6.0%)
7. Lucky Star (5.0%)
8. Haibane Renmei (5.0%)
8. Macross Frontier (5.0%)
10. Mushishi (5.0%)

The other nominees were Ghost in the Shell SAC (4.0%); Princess Mononoke (4.0%); Azumanga Daioh (4.0%); Aria (3.0%); Code Geass/R2 (3.0%); Neon Genesis Evangelion (2.0%); Simoun (2.0%); ef: a tale of memories (2.0%); The Twelve Kingdoms (2.0%); Mai-HiME (1.0%); and, Last Exile (0.0%)


So, who’s the worst character in anime? I changed the question to “most annoying” in the poll widget to make it clear that I’m looking for the most poorly conceived, pointlessly irritating or useless character, not the most evil. I added a couple more candidates whom I think should have been nominated, and I changed the representative of Sailor Moon to ChibiUsa, whom I had forgotten about.

Hate crime?

Some Roman Catholic churchmen, meanwhile, have said that the words “hokey pokey” derive from “hocus pocus” — the Oxford English Dictionary concurs — and that the song was written by 18th-century Puritans to mock the language of the Latin Mass. Last year the Catholic Church in Scotland, concerned that some soccer fans were using the song as a taunt, raised the possibility that singing it should be prosecuted as a hate crime.

I suppose I should take umbrage at Focus, too.

Dreaming meat

Not anime, but of interest to science-fiction and music fans: Frëd Himebaugh of the Fredösphere has composed a fifteen-minute opera using Terry Bisson’s short story “They’re Made Out of Meat” as the libretto. You can purchase it here for 89¢. See also Frëd’s earlier posts here and here.


In case there’s anyone who hasn’t yet seen it, here’s the best Touhou video I’ve seen in a while:


Catholic News Service apparently didn’t think to google the name they chose for their multimedia service.

Meat dreams

Frëd Himebaugh of the Fredösphere has composed a fifteen-minute opera using Terry Bisson’s short story “They’re Made Out of Meat” as the libretto. You can purchase it here. See also Frëd’s earlier posts here and here.


Here’s one of the more impressive videos I’ve seen recently. The characters and tune are from the vast Touhou project, but you don’t need to know anything about that to appreciate the phantasmagorical transformations.