Saturday, May 28, 2005

The Out-of-Towners


I just bought this CD today, and was driven to the keyboard by ‘I love you’ on track 3. DeJohnette strikes through here with an arrow-straight and taut solo for cymbals alone, and Jarrett caresses it with a couple of notes from the piano a minute before the end. It’s a nice touch, and the audience is ablaze by the end.

However, it’s not all arresting solos; this is a disc of ‘standards’ — that is, already popular melodies, presented but reworked — and although many more knowledgeable jazz listeners will instantly recognise them and what has been done with them before, I don’t, so this disc has a different flavour for me. I find the music has a traditionalist nucleus which I can’t quite discern, and the trio’s circling around it illustrates it by its absence in what they actually play. So it sounds old and new at once.

I still haven’t finished listening to the disc, so I’ll give you the blurb now and finish this later.

Balancing standards and jazz tunes with Keith Jarrett originals, the trio keeps the music in tight focus. There is spirited blues-based group improvisation in the title track, and shared joy as the musicians roar into “Five Brothers”, the old Gerry Mulligan favourite, or negotiate the blissful, enraptured melody of Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” At the album’s conclusion, Keith Jarrett returns to the stage alone — a rare moment in the trio’s recordings — to play a heart dilating rendition of the ballad “It’s All In The Game.” — so tender that it could easily have fit onto his “The Melody At Night With You” solo disc.

On preview: go buy.

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Friday, May 27, 2005

Words which irritate

Firstly, thank god I can’t remember which blog used this dastardly word, or there’d be a libel action waiting on my doorstep tomorrow. But somewhere, I saw a word which quite unexpectedly got me in a little frenzy of hate:


Don’t ask me why, exactly — because I just don’t know why this word irritates me so. Perhaps it’s because I think that wisecracker does just as well and is actually more precise, in the sense that a good joke can be an unexpected crack of the linguistic whip.

It certainly isn’t because of the word’s modernity. At first I thought that wisecracker might be older, as wiseacre is more conspicuously used in the USA than the UK, but:

Wiseacre: 1595, partial translation of M.Du. wijssegger “soothsayer” (with no derogatory connotation), probably altered by association with M.Du. segger “sayer” from O.H.G. wizzago “prophet,” from wizzan “to know,” from P.Gmc. *wit “know.” The depreciatory sense of “one who pretends to know everything” may have come through confusion with obsolete Eng. segger “sayer,” which also had a sense of “braggart” (c.1440).

Hmmm. Could that be the same phoneme, then, as wizard? No. Strange. But wiseacre’s hateful.

Postscript: I am so glad that Maciej over at Idle Words has quit his job — you’ll remember that a while back I was devastated he was deserting Vermont, but the end of his job has heralded lovely posts. Like this one. Mmmm, pizza.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Dates and haiku and windows

No, I don’t mean you to reach for the Medjool that you weren’t embarrassed enough to change your mind about in the supermarket. I don’t mean you to reach for your little volume of Basho. (Although you can, if you like. If anyone reading this also reads Basho.) I certainly don’t invite you in the slightest to muse on the wonders of Microsoft.

I mean you to take a quick click over to these corners of the web. The first is a Gothamist interview with Joel Derfner (Joel, you look lovely but your surname is as bad as mine) who has just published a book of gay haiku. The second is his blog, a rather snappish but entertaining affair all about... well, men. Variations on a theme. You almost expect him to stop in the middle of the street, cry “Oh why do I have to possess emotion?!”, and stride off, frustratedly, in search of coffee. Which is nice, but grinworthy.

Meanwhile, in London, Jonathan sees the extraordinary.

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Monday, May 23, 2005

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Superb classical label crippled by musicologist

Hyperion Records is a small but superlative classical record label, based in the UK. Discerning classical mag Gramophone regularly gives its releases the honour of a review or an “Editor’s Choice” and it has a superb catalogue spanning an extremely wide variety of repertoire. I have taken particular delight in its Renaissance output, as well as the complete Bach organ works, and the Organ Fireworks series.

From their news page:

Hyperion Records is very sorry to announce that it has lost its defence of the copyright case brought against it by Dr Lionel Sawkins.

Dr Sawkins claimed musical copyright in four editions of the musical works of Lalande. He lost at first instance in relation to the recording of one of the pieces of music but won on the other three. Hyperion appealed with the leave of the trial judge.

Hyperion’s principal objection to the claim made by Dr Sawkins was its contention that a performing edition does not amount to a new and substantive musical work in its own right unless the performing edition is original, in the sense that it amounts to a new musical work. Thus, Hyperion contended that if an edition is an arrangement or interpretation of an existing musical work then it may obtain copyright as an original musical work. Dr Sawkins expressly made clear that he was not contending that his editions were arrangements of Lalande’s music.

Instead, Dr Sawkins made it clear that his intention was to faithfully produce the music of Lalande in a modern performing edition. Hyperion argued that an edition of Lalande’s music that is a faithful reproduction of Lalande’s music cannot itself be an original musical work.

Hyperion contended that Dr Sawkins had produced a modern performing edition and that the skill and labour that he had exerted in doing so gave him a literary copyright in the text. It did not give Dr Sawkins a musical copyright, as the sound was Lalande’s.

Basically, they lost their appeal on a technicality and the judgement has far-reaching consequences. It means that when a record label wishes to record a work where the manuscript or edition is out of copyright, they will still have to seek and pay for a licence before performing from an edition. Performers might also be able to claim musical copyright in a work they have performed, as well as performing rights.

For Hyperion, the consequences are severe. It will have to pay its own legal costs, as well as those of the grasping Dr. Sawkins, and the total liability will be around one million pounds. For a company which employs only 12 people, it’s a crippling blow at worst and will force massive and catastrophic cutbacks at best.

Sawkins is an utter bastard for not seeing the bigger picture and letting his case go when he still could, and the Court (as another blogger agrees) has made profoundly the wrong judgment and clamped down on copyright yet further, in a way which the Judge must have known would have a damaging effect on the classical recording industry. If there is any justice to be had elsewhere, I hope that Hyperion will pursue it. This is simply too dangerous a judgment to be allowed to rest.

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Sunday, May 15, 2005


I have never owned or worn a t-shirt with a hood, and I’ve never appeared in a court and been ordered to do community service for some minor misdemeanour or other. But I still feel nervous at the prospect of new rules governing both.

These new rules have been proposed by our disappointingly re-elected New Labour government (New by name as well as by status) which seems intent, in a kind of diluted Orwellian way, on eradicating from the State things the State doesn’t like seeing. Hoodies, for example.

The thinking behind banning the hooded top goes that you can’t see young people’s faces when the hood’s up, and young people are terribly worrying for older people, especially when they stand around and be young in youthful groups. Need I remind you that in the depths of insane America where hoodies come from, even the authoritarian bastards in charge there would laugh at such an unfair, finger-pointing, shallow scheme?

Amid echoes of John Major’s ill-fated “Back to Basics” campaign, a moral panic is in full swing. As one politician put it, ‘the morals of children are ten times worse than formerly.’

Those words, however, were spoken by Lord Ashley in 1823, suggesting the demonisation of youth by their elders is nothing new.

As Blair unveils a Queen’s Speech this week stuffed with measures to ‘restore respect’ the question remains: has he picked up on a genuine erosion of civilised values? Or is a Government that once entertained Noel Gallagher at Downing Street just getting old and square, as its members hit their fifties and sixties?

I feel even more nervous about the other unhelpful idea our wise Government coughed up recently — when someone’s doing community service on their own to pay their debt to society, make them wear a brightly-coloured uniform so that they’ll feel even more alienated and everyone will be able to ‘see justice being done’. Please, please, NO.

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Saturday, May 14, 2005

Normal service will resume shortly

Sorry there’s been such a silence at peripathetic lately. I’ve been building myself a new computer, which is now up and running but with the usual teething troubles that new computers have. I may have to return a component; I may not — but if I do have to that will mean another couple of weeks’ silence. I’ll try to get some decent posts in when I’ve had a chance to surf a little again.

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