Friday, March 20, 2009

Stuck inside of Berkeley with the Macaron Blues Again

Macaroon day is finally here. Why am I not in Paris! Damn my lazy, non-planing-ahead ass!

This year the selection of Pierre Hermé includes the same-old same-old "Chocolate and Foie Gras", two different kinds of rose, jasmine, avocado-banana. Boring! But he's also started copying me by making one with safron and one with Campari. I'm sure his will be OK, but I did it first!

I'm still ahead of him, though. I'll be he's never made lavender-flavored, mardi-gras colored macaroons (with fleur-de-lys on top.) So there.

And oh, I just whipped up another batch for a French party tonight. Can you guess the flavor? Vanilla!

Thursday, March 19, 2009


Tuesday, I know I was supposed to be getting drunk on green beer, but somehow I took myself to a Chanticleer concert instead.

They are definitely great singers, but their normal repertoire isn't really my cup of tea. But this time they were serving up a three-course meal of young (only 30!) composers. There were pieces by Tarik O'Regan and Shawn Crouch, and they were fine, but still not getting me all worked up. And then the piece I was waiting for, Sirens by Mason Bates.

I've heard his work before twice at the Cabrillo festival. (One I loved, and one I didn't.) Both of those pieces involved electronics and orchestra. This one was pure voices. And lovely it was. There were bits with clusters of close-spaced pitches, like Ligeti's Lux Aeterna, for example:

and pulsing bits that reminded me of Reich's Desert Music

Then the movement in the Quechua language came from some other place entirely, with maracas and a bit of extended vocal technique. Overall, it was most enjoyable and I hope they record it soon!

Although the first piece was entirely in English (with text by Samuel Becket), I couldn't understand a word when I wasn't looking at the program. It could have been in Martian. I did only a little better with the second piece. But Bates set his text so clearly that I had no trouble at all understanding the English parts, and for the parts in other languages I could at least tell which language it was in. (Except, naturally, Quechua.)

I thought I might be able to go to an SF Symphony concert this Friday combining a work by Bates with the Sibelius 4th (a nice pairing), but I'm confusing March and May again!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Compuers Scare Me: part 2

I got an e-mail from e-music this morning asking me to check-out the new album by he group 0.43888888888889. What? It turns out the group is actually called 10:32 (don't ask me why) but the computer has interpreted the number wrong.

This sort of thing happens all the time with computers and it freaks me out. They control so much of our lives.

Even at this very moment my screen is blinking in and out.

Let us clear our heads with some music from a simpler era. Here is the B minor Prelude of Chopin.

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I knew it would happen sooner or later. Obama has disappointed me. At least it happened later that I thought. He sure lasted longer than Clinton, who disappointed me almost from his first day.

Despite claims that he wants to make government more open, he is refusing to release details of negotiations on an insane copyright law extension by claiming that to do so would endanger national security! Even if the proposed treaty made sense, and it doesn't, the appeal to national security is ludicrous.

Copyright is a useful concept, but it gets ridiculous at times. People who had no part in the creation of a work can fight for years over who can get paid for its use. Relatives of a deceased celebrity get to say who can or can not perform one of his pieces or can stick his name on a can of spray cheese, as may soon happen to Bob Marley. While at the same time living celebrities can do next to nothing to stop their image being plastered all over the place, and products like "Obama Fingers" can be legally sold. (I'm not sure why there were never any "Bush Nuggets" or "Clinton Balls".)

Now, for no particular reason, here is me playing "A Doll's Complaints", by César Franck. IMSLP claims it is in the public domain, if there still is such a thing.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Missing something?

Is your music missing something?

Well, if that something is cowbells or Christopher Walken, help is on the way. Through the miracle of modern technology, you can add cowbells to any song! Here, give a listen to Friend by Legendary Pink Dots.

 Make your own at 

This is seriously cool. Because before adding anything to the song, it has to be analyzed to find the beats and the sections and so forth. There is now an open-source api called EchoNest Remix that lets you do that sort of analysis. It is almost enough to make me want to learn to program in Python!