Nonclassical: Listening to Place at the Barbican

I found out about this event from an email from ‘Cities and Memories’, and, as someone who is very interested in field recording I was keen to go along. Also as a Londoner I need little persuasion to head to the Barbican.

This was more than just a performance though. This was a whole day about field recording, comprising multiple performances and a panel discussion as well. There are a few details on Nonclassical’s site. Personally I was most interested in the panel discussion, which was interesting, but mostly because of the contributions of Robert Worby from the Langham Research Centre. He had some really useful insights into the practice of field recording. Food for thought.

The performance was a bit of a curate’s egg on the whole. Some very good pieces, some less successful in my opinion. I particularly liked the performance by Li Yilei which I thought integrated field recordings most successfully. Kate Carr’s work was also very good, but it felt like it lacked a direction, or at least it every time it felt like it was going somewhere interesting she changed direction. Just my opinion of course.

The Langham Research Centre was a high point for me and I’m looking forward to listening to more of their work in the coming days.

These kinds of events are few and far between, and for the most part I usually hear about them long after they’ve happened. So I was really glad to actually make it to this. I really enjoyed the whole day, and it was both interesting and inspiring.

Well done to Nonclassical and the Barbican for organising it.

Blancmange: Nil by Mouth IV and V

I have been listening to Blancmange since the 1980s. In recent years, I have found their (his) music much more introspective at times, and especially this series of instrumental albums ‘Nil By Mouth’. In this latest iteration, albums four and five arrive as a double album, and both live up to the previous quality.

I wrote about the first ‘Nil by Mouth’ back in 2015. I have bought all of them so far, and I expect to buy any that get released in the future.

When I was listening to these two (IV and V) I found, much like with the previous albums, this music seems to fit my mood very closely.

At some point, and possibly on a long journey somewhere, I might listen to all of them in one go.

The Southern Reach Trilogy

My interest in this book / trilogy began when I saw the film ‘Annihilation’ on Netflix. I thought it was an interesting story and I wanted to read the book, if there was one. Little did I know that the ‘book’ was in fact a trilogy called the Southern Reach. I decided to read it. In part because I found the film version fascinating, and in part because I love a good trilogy.

At this point it is only prudent to point out that if you haven’t seen the film or read the books you might not want to read any further. I don’t want to give anything away, or at least that’s not my intention, but you never know.

I really enjoyed the film. I had no expectations of it at all and no idea what the story was about, but after watching it I realised that it had some very interesting concepts. Hence wanting to read the book(s). Of course, as with any movie made from a book as the original source material, the book is often better, or at least adds a great deal of context. Even more so with the South Reach Trilogy. In fact, the books add so much that they make a lot of the story make sense. Having said that, in the trilogy, the story is complicated, or rather the core concept is complicated, or perhaps a better word is dense, or even impenetrable.

I think that I enjoyed reading the books. In a way they shed no real light on the film, and the film sheds no light on the books. The books to add a lot of context though. I enjoyed both. With both I am wondering what happens next. Perhaps that in itself is a good thing. Perhaps that in a sense, is the point.

Winchester Cathedral

Over the last weekend I was fortunate enough to visit Winchester Cathedral. I don’t think I have been here before, or at least if I have, I have no memory of it. Winchester is the oldest cathedral in England, and, when it was first built, the city was the capitol, which is a strange thought in itself. Winchester city is small. Not that that is a bad thing in any way. I quite like it.

The cathedral itself is rather beautiful. Whilst there I was lucky enough to go on two tours around the building. Both of these tours focused on the history and politics of the building, which, whilst very interesting, seemed to miss the essential purpose of the cathedral, as a place of worship. Now I understand that these kinds of tours are aimed at tourists, that’s a given, but I still consider that at least some mention of why it is there and what its core purpose is, would be not just relevant, but really quite essential.

Whilst I was there I also listened to a rather beautiful performance by a choir. It was only 20 minutes long, but thoroughly enjoyable. If you’re interested in it, you can find it on my podcast.

What else will Disney remake?

I noticed that Disney is making a series of the original film ‘Willow’, which made me wonder what else they might make. If I had any say in the matter I would want them to make ‘The Black Hole‘ again. It was an excellent film back in its day, and in fact it still is pretty good. I think it has stood the test of time pretty well.

The original film is on their streaming service. I had bought the DVD a few years ago, and even went as far as to read the book. Which was almost identical to the film of course, and gave no more clues to the ending (see my previous post).

I think that this is a story that is just ripe for revisiting, especially as science fiction is very popular right now. I’m sure I’ll be wrong though. I have every expectation that this will never happen, but you never know. Stranger things have occurred.

Happy Birthday Tom!

Mr Baker is, without a doubt, the best Doctor Who ever. What is more I am amazed and totally delighted that he is still making new stories. Stories that I love. I am especially looking forward to the next set of stories coming out in March this year. It will be a bit of a departure, but I am sure it will be amazing.

Happy birthday Mr Baker, may you continue for many years to come.

I backed Thumby on Kickstarter

I backed this even though I really try not to back tech stuff these days. It always feels like I end up with a device that I really don’t need and then eventually sell it. However, this was reasonably priced and just such a cool idea. Plus, I had been thinking about devices that sit alongside your keys. This certainly fits that description.

Over the last few years I have pulled back from backing things on Kickstarter, at least backing technology projects. This is in no small part due to the experience of backing blocks smart watch, which failed to deliver anything at all, but also as I backed too many projects where I subsequently never used the final product.

However, I couldn’t resist Thumby. It is so cool that I have made an exception. I do expect that I will struggle to be able to use it. Especially with a screen of that size and eyesight that is less than great these days. But maybe it will be fun, and maybe, just maybe, it might even be useful. Although I am not holding my breath on that.

The device itself can be programmed using the arduino IDE, which is cool, and, whilst I am nothing like a good programmer, I am at least familiar with it. I doubt that I will write much original code for it, but I might amend something that others have written to make it suit my needs. Maybe.

According to Kickstarter it is due to be shipped later this month. When it arrives I’ll post something about it with some pictures I expect.

Brian Patten, Selected Poems

I bought this collection late last year after reading ‘Vanishing Trick’ again after decades. I enjoyed it so much I had to have more of his work, and I wonder why I haven’t read this sooner. His work is incredible, insightful, poignant and beautiful. Some of these poems just bring me up short, like they were written entirely to speak to me in the very moment that I find myself reading them. They are incredible.

In some ways I just want to read it all over again, but I should probably wait. Instead I might just buy more of his books and satisfy myself with those.

If you don’t know his work, change that.

Finding new uses for old technology (or not)

I recently read an article about people finding new uses for old technology. When I saw the article I was very keen to find out the what and the how, but I was sadly disappointed to discover that it was mostly about people using iPod Shuffles as hair clips. Which is not what I was after really.

For ages I’ve been trying to think of ways to make use of old technology. Uses for the technology that make sense, that are productive and interesting. I’m not really interested in using an old iPod as a hair clip. I don’t think it would suit me for one thing.

One thing I did manage to cobble together was using my old Pebble smartwatch as a key chain.

Not that it is a very useful device if I am honest. It is kind of useful to have the time on my keys, and some notifications are helpful there too, but aside from that it has not been the most successful of experiments.

So what else?

Ideally I would like to find a way to make real use of the old PDAs I have. Over the last couple of years I have sold off a lot of the old devices I owned, and I owned a lot. But I still have a few left that I feel unable to part with. Most of these devices don’t connect to the internet, and if they do they are painfully slow.

A few of them can be used for rudimentary music making, but that is really all it is though. So what could I use them for? That’s the question that is on my mind a lot of the time. Ok, not a lot of the time, but periodically and it is something that I seem to go back to on a regular basis.

As you can see I have used these devices in a variety of different ways over the years, and, whilst some of them have been interesting and fun, none of them have really had long term appeal or efficacy.

Most of the time I find that I need less technology these days rather than more, so finding a real use for any of these devices seems to become harder all the time.

To start off with I am reviving the Sony NX73V. This is a lovely device and one that I actually bought from new.

I found that there was a restore image on the memory stick from 2018, which is probably the last time I went through this process. Next I need to go through all the stuff that is now on the device from the restore process, but that is a post for another day.

Bristol Full Court Press

I was in Bristol over the weekend and had a chance to visit an old favourite. A coffee shop called Full Court Press. The last time I was there was in 2019, before the pandemic. The coffee was excellent back then, and yesterday it was still great. It seems to be so hard to find really good coffee where someone cares about how to make it. There is so much average coffee around.

If you ever find yourself in Bristol city centre and you like really good coffee, I can thoroughly recommend this place. It is superb. The picture is from their window, and it amused me.