Archive for the ‘music’ Category

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All happy families are alike

February 23, 2008

As I’m typing this, Anna Karenina is being downloaded to my computer as 712 mp3 files. (Part 156 coming down right now.) I bought it for EUR 12 from the site emusic.com where we buy a lot of excellent music. It’s a very good music store, with a LOT of good music, cheaper by far than iTunes store and without any limitations to how many devices you can play the music on (there’s two people in our family, we have one computer each at home, J has another computer at work, and we both have an iPod. This doesn’t exceed the number of times you can play an iTunes store bought track, but I think it comes close. And I like not supporting that kind of stupidity by buying from them, anyway.) And if a track you’ve once bought is lost for some reason, you can download it again from emusic.com without any extra fee.

This wasn’t going to be a sales pitch for emusic, though I do recommend checking them out, for anybody who is interested in music or audio books. I look forward to listening to almost 34 hours of Anna Karenina. I’ve never read it, as a matter of fact, just excerpts. An audio book is a very different animal from a regular book, not only for the obvious reason that it’s mediated by a person narrating it but also because there is no skimming, and the reading pace is set by another person. The narrator is very important, of course. As I wrote a few days ago, I wouldn’t want to listen to an American voice narrating Jane Austen – though that would depend on the person’s accent. Too-flat narrations are no good either, not if I’m paying money to listen to them, and I’m a bit sensitive to overly theatrical performances as well. A while ago, somebody read his own book on Swedish radio and it was just really painful to listen to, because he was trying to do various regional accents. Which is not a good idea unless you are a genious at accents.

There are enough excellent narrators in the world to keep me happy, though. Torgny Lindgren, as I mentioned before, and also my grade 7-9 Swedish teacher who taught us the history of literature partly by reading parts of the classics to us, making them come alive to us in a way that mere reading of the works wouldn’t have done (and I say this, who has always been fond of reading silently to myself.) Unfortunately neither of those gentlemen is available through emusic, which limits itself to English-language literature. I’m looking forward to discovering the best English narrators; I know of a few I like very much, but there has to be hundreds and hundreds that I would like if I’d heard them.

The download is complete and J is setting the table for lunch, so I’ll wrap this up. Keep listening to books.

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Choir boot camp

February 9, 2008

Actually, I think “boot camp” only refers to intensive training for new recruits, and this weekend is intensive training for the whole choir. I left a bit early today because I wasn’t feeling very well, and anyway I wasn’t staying overnight so I wanted to get home before it got too late – so here I am, dutifully producing another PeBloWriMo post. Of the things we are rehearsing now, I don’t like the Britten piece, God’s Grandeur: I can only manage to sing about half of it because the rest of the alto part is too high, but apart from that it’s just not the kind of polyphony I like to listen to or perform. Apart from that the current play list meets with my approval: Three Songs from Shakespeare by Vaughan Williams is fun and I think it’ll be quite good once we’ve learnt it properly, Rheinberger’s Cantus Missae is a piece I’ve sung several times over the last ten years and I like it immensely, and we’ll sing some early music as well. Oh, and we are rehearsing Händel’s St John’s Passion – yes, Händel’s, and no, we didn’t know it existed, either. The 2nd altos get to sing 1st tenor which is wonderful. I’m not going to be here over Easter however, so won’t get to perform it, but it’s fun enough to rehearse.

So right now the other choirists are partying and I have just had some Jansson’s Temptation and predict some DVD watching in the near future. And an earlyish bed. Hopefully I’ll be well enough to go back for the second day of choir boot camp, tomorrow.

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Popular Music

February 4, 2008

Jean-Michel Jarre is coming to Sweden this year. He’ll give one performance, in Stockholm, on April 4. Tickets were released today. Last time Jarre was in Sweden, ten years ago, I missed it. This time, I wasn’t going to. But the tickets had already sold out by the time I tried to book, just after lunch. This is very annoying. (But as Stina said – it’s cool that we are so hip! Or possibly hip – cool.)

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October 21, 2007

I am not a big movie goer, but this week I’ve been to the cinema twice. (Which makes it four times this year, I think.)

On Thursday, we went to see Stardust. It is, as you hopefully know, an adaptation of the excellent book by Neil Gaiman, which is a kind of fairy tale for adults. It has received very mixed reviews in Swedish papers, but it seems as if a lot of the reviewers had no idea it was a book to begin with, and it’s obvious they hadn’t read it. Big surprise there. Movies should of course stand on their own and be enjoyable to people who haven’t read the book (which is one reason why I think most books shouldn’t be adapted), but if you are going to get paid for reviewing a movie in a newspaper, it should be part of your job to find out the basic facts about it.

In any case, I love the book, and I also loved the movie. It was fun, and beautiful, and although they had changed the story around a lot I didn’t feel they had ruined it; the actors were good, and as usual I didn’t recognise any of them, even the ones I’ve probably seen in other movies. An added bonus – for all of us in the theatre if not for anybody else – was the fact that the cinema was virtually empty. There were very few people there, and no children, which meant no loud talking or running around or kicking my seat from behind or any of the other things that tend to make movie going an annoying rather than an enjoyable experience. This experience was very enjoyable indeed.

Yesterday, we went to an afternoon showing of Bergman’s The Magic Flute. I have always loved the adaptation – we had it on four or five LP records in a large, square box when I grew up, and I read and re-read the libretto and listened to the records over and over. I thnk I’d seen the adaptation three times before, never on the big screen, and it’s been any number of years. So it was a good reunion, with equal parts nostalgia and re-discovery. The story of the opera is a bit thin and silly, but the film is much more than that; I hadn’t appreciated the meta parts of it before as much as I did this time. The film is about The Magic Flute being produced as an opera, with glimpses of the audience, the props and scenery very much belonging tto a theatre, and between the acts, we see the Queen of Night smoking a cigarette, Pamina and Tamino playing chess and one of Monostatos’ slave boys reading Donald Duck. And of course I love the music. There is nothing difficult or challenging about it, a child can appreciate it (as indeed I did as a child), but I’m not afraid of saying I like it all the same. A few of the arias, such as Sarastro’s In Diesen Heil’gen Hallen (I dessa helga salar) almost bring tears to my eyes, they are so beautiful (and Ulrik Cold’s voice is just wonderful). The copy of the movie was old and rather scratched in places, occasionally, between scenes I even think there were a few seconds missing. Which made me wonder if I’m ever going to be able to see it again. I should get it on DVD before it’s too late, perhaps.

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February 22, 2007

We spent last weekend in Helsinki, celebrating the wedding of Eemeli and Saijaa, two friends of ours from the Finnish science fiction fandom. Wedding parties are always fun; this one included the opportunity to come up with names for the twins who are expected in May, as well as the Finnish tradition (which I didn’t know before) of the bride being abducted and the groom having to perform and do various tricks until he has collected enough money from the wedding guests to buy his new wife back. (Eemeli can juggle pretty well, even with eggs. He cannot sing, however.)

One of the best parts was the performance by three of the four members of the folk music group Inehmo. They sang six or seven songs during the evening, and wow, are they ever good! Their site is mostly in Finnish, but the link “Ohjelmisto” leads to a page with a few sound clips. Here is a YouTube video of them, again only a short clip of about 30 seconds. I really like Finnish folk music, and I like that type of singing, strong voices without much vibrato. If I understood Tero correctly, one of the members of the group is an old friend of Eemeli’s mother, which is why they were hired for the evening. Their first CD (I assume — the site says “recording”) will be out in April. I think I’ll try to get hold of that.

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January 27, 2007

The Open Directory Project, where I am a meta editor, was down and out (for the editors if not for the public) from the end of October to the end of December last year. We couldn’t log in and edit at all, which led to a terrible abstinence; in fact, I went so far as to start editing intermittently in Wikipedia. I even discovered that I kind of liked it (although I was very happy when the ODP returned) and so I’ve continued to edit a bit there as well. This morning I wrote a short article about the fiddler Gås-Anders. It was nominated for the “Did you know…” section of Wikipedia’s front page, where interesting facts from articles written over the last five days or so are displayed — I am sure it won’t actually be listed in that section but all the same I feel quite pleased.

Writing that article and looking up facts for it also caused me to pick up my violin and play folk music for a good 45 minutes or so. I don’t know how many years it has been since I last touched the fiddle; the bow was in a poor state (and I don’t have a rosin), my fingers were unused to it and my fingernails are too long, and it did squeak rather a lot. But it was fun, and it sounded much much better than I had thought it would. Johan got home from his shopping trip while I was playing; when I went out into the kitchen and saw him he commented that I probably hadn’t heard him return because I had music on — that is, he’d thought it was a record playing! 🙂 Of course I haven’t played the violin since we married and possibly not even for as long as we’ve lived together, so hearing music playing he would naturally assume that it was a recording. But still, and anyway.

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January 23, 2007

I read in DN that the hottest single record of 2006 in Sweden, the one most sold in shops and most downloaded from the net, is Who’s da Man with 7-year-old Frans. OK, so I know I am not exactly with it when it comes to music, but usually I’ve at least heard the names of groups or artists. Not so in this case.

I am old.

(Looking it up I discover that it was apparently the official team song for the Swedish football team in last year’s World Cup, so there was good reason for me not to have heard it – but still, not even having heard the artist’s name… I am old.)