Archive for February 21, 2014

The National Student Survey: Feedback and Response

Posted in Education with tags , , , on February 21, 2014 by telescoper

So the 2014 National Student Survey is under way. The NSS is much maligned, largely because it seems to be regarded by the powers that be solely for the purpose of constructing meaningless league tables. In reality I think the NSS survey is actually rather valuable because it allows us to gather systematic feedback on things that we do well and things we do not so well so we can look to improve our teaching for future generations of students. This isn’t just a PR exercise, at least not here in the School of Mathematical and Physical Sciences at the University of Sussex. We really do listen. Here are our responses to last year’s survey in the Department of Physics & Astronomy:


and for the Department of Mathematics:


I hope the fact that we have responded to the feedback we’ve got will encourage more students to participate in this year’s National Student Survey, regardless of what they have to say; that way we can try to improve still further.

Jacques Loussier and the Pekinel Twins play Bach

Posted in Jazz, Music with tags , , on February 21, 2014 by telescoper

I heard a track by this combination on the Breakfast Programme on BBC Radio 3 yesterday morning and thought I’d include something on here; it’s basically the Jacques Loussier Trio, which is famous for its Jazz re-workings of the music of Johann Sebastian Bach with the addition of the identical twins Güher  and Süher Pekinel on pianos.

Apparently some members of the Radio 3 audience didn’t take kindly to Ian Skelly’s decision to play something by this combination, but I have to say I loved it; it really put a spring in my step. I’ve remarked before on this blog that many Jazz musicians are great admirers of Bach (who was himself a talented improviser).  It’s not difficult to understand why this is the case, particularly in the case of the keyboard works, because the music always has such a rich and compelling  harmonic progression built into it – just what a Jazz musician needs. Bach’s compositions are so well constructed that they can cope with being pulled around more than those of any other composer I can think of. Above all, despite the change of musical vocabulary and the addition of a rhythm section, the best Jazz versions still somehow manage to sound  like Bach….

From the following clips you can see that the twins play from sheet music – I think the arrangement was written  by Jacques Loussier – while Loussier’s contribution is largely improvised. In the clip they play versions of Bach’s Triple Concerto in D minor BWV 1063 (with Jacques Loussier) followed the Concerto for Two Keyboards in C minor, BWV 1060  (without Loussier)…