Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Chateau Dalkeith

midday on Dalkeith Road, in Edinburghs trendy bohemiopolitan Newington. By flick user Mr Pauly D.

No need for suncream: midday on Dalkeith Road, in Edinburgh's trendy bohemio-politan Newington. By flickr user Mr Pauly D.

Well, flying from Australian to the UK is never an exhilirating experience, but all things considered it was a remarkably smooth trip all the way back to Edinburgh. New things I tried during the journey include: the Travellers’ Lounge at Kowloon Airport, where for the not quite princely sum of HKD150 (= £13 = AUD28), one can shower and sit in comfortable armchairs looking at Google Reader; also, the Heathrow Express: at about £1/minute of travel it feels more like a taxi than mass transit, but it does live up to its name. However, I’m fairly sure that the Tube from Heathrow to King’s Croix (Piccadilly line to Cockfosters) costs the same amount as the tube fare from Paddington, where the Express alights. Is that wrong, or am I indeed being gouged by London’s trains?

Inasmuch as it is nice to go from 40 degree sun to 6 degree cloud, it is nice to be back in Edinburgh. Also thanks to my new flatmates for helping me move my stuff in expeditiously. Super-normal blogging to resume imminently, especially while jetlagged.

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Well, judging by the blog stats last night’s 20/20 live blogging was well-received, even if no-one wanted to leave a comment; I certainly had fun, so I’ll be repeating the exercise. Will try to get a bit more commentary in, as well as focussing inevitably on the conjugate problem of an accurate 20/20 bowling statistic.

Stumps up down at 6:30pm local time, which is 7:30pm in the more populous bit of the country and 8:30am in the UK.

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First, via The Beat, it transpires that Matt Groening drew wryly from the title of the Turangalîla-Symphonie when naming Futurama’s (Turanga) Leela. Minus one point from Berian for having been insufficiently attentive to spot that himself.

Perhaps more seriously, the Fredösphere recently excerpted transcripts from the Nixon administration:

— On May 18, 1972, Nixon talks to Henry Kissinger about the National Security Adviser’s meeting with Ivy League composers regarding Messiaen’s oratorio La Transfiguration de Notre Seigneur Jésus-Christ:

NIXON: “The Ivy League composers? Why, I’ll never let those sons-of-b—— in the White House again. Never, never, never. They’re finished. The Ivy League schools are finished … Henry, I would never have had them in. Don’t do that again … They came out against La Transfiguration when it was tough … Don’t ever go to an Ivy League school again, ever. Never, never, never.”

Apparently the interest in Messiaen was sustained over a number of years, so that would be not so much Nixon in China as just Nixon in the White House. One last non-Messiaen note of pleasure is directed toward the publication of the score for Pärt’s Fourth Symphony (‘Los Angeles’) through an extremely fancy online viewer, in advance of its first performance, which is this Saturday in the eponymous City of Angels. I will have to content myself with reading reviews of it for now.

(Generic hat tip to Alex Ross, who has more than earned a place on the blogroll.)

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Those who have spoken to me recently about such things will know of my advocacy of the iTunes movie rental service. Though their selection is limited, it is an excellent proof of concept for the general idea of how digital media should sensibly be ‘owned’. I know that the Internet is full of well-informed, passionate people with strong views on this and related issues, but I would just like to go on record noting that I believe it a quirk of history that we think of songs, albums, movies &c. as goods rather than services.


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ArXiv Filtering

While of course I endorse as diverse a reading of the preprint archives as is possible, we all know that there’s simply too much that goes on there for every paper to get even the most cursory of glances, let alone a proper viewing. My strategy has been to reduce the daily postings to a manageable number using a perl script that weights by keywords in the title and abstracts of papers. This is a technique first implemented by Richard Edgar, that was brought to my attention indirectly by R. J. Massey, when one of my papers appeared in his list, which was in turn linked from Google.

I have modified Edgar’s original script to bring it to what passes in my mind for being up-to-date. This post describes the filtering script and gives instructions for running it yourself, should that be desirable, or for modifying it to your own taste, should it not. (more…)

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Shocking news this morning that influential cosmology bloggers Cosmic Variance are shacking up with the Discover Magazine coterie, for reasons that simmer down to economies of scale. In the spirit of hyperbole, it seems sensible to link to Nick Carr’s recent post on the death of the blogosphere (h/t Sullivan), as well as Sullivan’s own short-form rationale for the blog post as a literary form.

I endorse independent collaborative blogging, which is not so much the half-way house between a single blogger and a community of diarists as it is that corner, best exemplified by Crooked Timber and aFoE, of the plane spanned by axes quantifying freedom of form and diversity of voice. It isn’t clear, though, whether the mock-deleterious effects of Big Blog are boon or bane to nodes like these; perhaps neither.

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Thirty-second iTunes samples for hour-long minimalist compositions. Thanks, chumps.

Music With Changing Parts

Later on, that is.

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Via O. X. Dive comes the following short feature:


I saw Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes a little while back at the Steve Reich Evening dance performance at the Edinburgh Festival. Another intriguing offering was used as an opener: a drum speaker is placed face up in the centre of the stage with two microphones suspended as pendula above it. The performers draw the microphones toward the horizontal and, after switching them on, let go. They produce two different frequencies of feedback buzz as they pass over the speaker; starting out in phase they diverge based on slight differences in initial conditions and the work lasts until both microphones have returned to rest.

Both this work and the Poème Symphonique test the patience of the audience a little. One has understood the idea after only a short time, and the rest of the piece is spent exploring the aural variations that emerge, which becomes tiresome once one’s concentration is exhausted. G. R. Mamatsashvili, with whom I attended the Steve Reich Evening, lent across to me at one point during the work and remarked, not really whispering, “Berian, they are trying to hypnotise us.” Indeed.

I look forward, therefore, to our one day attending a performance of Feldman’s String Quartet No. 2.

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So I am thinking that Steve Reich’s Electric Guitar Phase would be a great mobile ringtone, especially if you’re the sort of person who doesn’t answer their phone without it ringing for about fifteen minutes.

Electric Guitar Phase Fragment I

No, seriously, what I actually mean is that it would make a good ringtone if the phone picked a random starting point during the work each time the phone rang. Of course this could work with any song, but EGP is an especially good example because it relatively glacial rate-of-variation draws attention to temporal location more obviously than the usual verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus structure. Here’s another snap from near the three-minute mark (n.b. the difference in phase and also the exciting introduction of another guitar!):

Electric Guitar Phase Fragment II

Obviously, the phone needs to pick a point more than, say, twenty seconds from the end of the piece and perhaps there is a way to select particularly complete regions, e.g. by starting at a point where the waveform is close to silent (representing a pre- or post-chorus break, or the end of a motif, or something like that).

Maybe phones do this already? I am not ahead of the curve on this particular matter.

Also: Terry Riley’s The Book of Abbeyozzud is really superb; especially La Muerte en Medias Caladas Negras.

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