Archive for music

Summer’s Ending

Posted in Bad Statistics, Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , , , on September 11, 2017 by telescoper

There’s no escaping the signs that summer is drawing to a close. The weather took a decidedly autumnal turn  at the end of last week, and though I resisted the temptation to turn the central heating on at Chateau Coles I fear it won’t be long before I have to face reality and take that step. I hope I can hold out at least until the conventional end of summer, the autumnal equinox, which this year happens at 21.02 BST on Friday, 22 September.

Saturday saw the Last Night of the BBC Proms season. I’ve enjoyed a great many of the concerts but I only listened to a bit of the first half of the Last Night as I find the jingoism of the second half rather hard to stomach. I did catch Nina Stemme on the wireless giving it some welly in the Liebestod from Tristan und Insolde, though.  Pretty good, but difficult to compare with my favourite version by Kirsten Flagstad.

One of the highlights of the season, just a few days ago, was Sir András Schiff’s late-night performance of Book I of The Well Tempered Clavier which had me captivated for two hours, until well past my usual bedtime…

However, as the Proms season ends in London the music-making continues in Cardiff with a new series of international concerts at St David’s Hall and Welsh National Opera’s new season at the Wales Millennium Centre (which starts on 23rd September). I notice also that, having finished his complete Beethoven cycle,  Llŷr Williams is embarking on a series of recitals of music by Schubert, starting on November 9th at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama.

Another sign that summer is over is that the last Test Match of the summer has ended. Excellent bowling by Jimmy Anderson (and, in the first innings, by Ben Stokes) meant that England had only a small total to chase, which they managed comfortably. Victory at Lord’s gives England a 2-1 win for the series over West Indies. That outcome is welcome for England fans, but it doesn’t do much to build confidence for the forthcoming Ashes series in Australia. England’s pace bowlers have shown they can prosper in English conditions, when the Duke ball can be made to swing, but in Australia with the Kookaburra they may find success much harder to come by. More importantly, however, only two of England’s five top-order batsmen are of proven international class, making their batting lineup extremely fragile. So much depends on Cook and Root, as I don’t think it is at all obvious who should take the other three positions, despite a whole summer of experimentation.

There are a few one-day internationals and Twenty20 matches coming up as well as three full weeks of County Championship fixtures. In particular, there are two home games for Glamorgan in the next two weeks (one against Northants, starting tomorrow, and one next week against Gloucestershire). Their last match (away against Derbyshire) was drawn because three of the four days were lost to rain, but weather permitting there should still be a few opportunities to see cricket at Sophia Gardens this year.

And of course it will soon be time to for the start of the new academic year, welcoming new students (including the first intake on our MSc courses in Data-Intensive Physics and Astrophysics and new PhD students in Data-Intensive Science who form the first intake of our new Centre for Doctoral Training). All that happens just a couple of weeks from today, and we’re having a big launch event on 25th-26th September to welcome the new intake and introduce them to our industrial and academic partners.

Anyway, that reminds me that I have quite a lot to do before term starts so I’d better get on with it, especially if I’m going to make time to watch a few days of cricket between now and the end of the month!


Elegy, by Coles

Posted in Music, Poetry, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 20, 2015 by telescoper

Last night on Radio 3 there was a concert involving music by Cecil Coles (among others). Coles – who, as far as I know, was no relation – was killed in action in the First World War, in April 1918. In fact he was shot and mortally wounded by a sniper while working as a stretcher-bearer trying to rescue injured soldiers from a wood, a task for which he had volunteered. He was 29 when he died and not much of his work as a composer survives. In the interval of the Concert I heard this recording of a work by Coles, which I think is very touching. It’s a setting of one of the Elegiac Stanzas (“Sic Juvat Perire”)  by Thomas Moore. Here’s the text:


When wearied wretches sink to sleep,
How heavenly soft their slumbers lie!
How sweet is death to those who weep,
To those who weep and long to die!

Saw you the soft and grassy bed,
Where flowrets deck the green earth’s breast?
‘Tis there I wish to lay my head,
‘Tis there I wish to sleep at rest.

Oh, let not tears embalm my tomb, —
None but the dews at twilight given!
Oh, let not sighs disturb the gloom, —
None but the whispering winds of heaven!

And here is the setting by Cecil Coles:


We have a Beautiful Cosmos

Posted in Music, Poetry with tags , , on April 27, 2015 by telescoper

On the bus coming up to campus just now, I was looking through the Brighton Festival (which starts on 2nd May) and found that there is a show called The Beautiful Cosmos of Ivor Cutler, which is on at the Theatre Royal. As a devout fan of Ivor Cutler I’ll definitely be going, but in the mean time here is the title track (set to video…)

And here be the lyrics:

You are the centre of your little world
and I am of mine.
No one again we meet for tea
we’re two of a kind.

This is our universe…
cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

What do we talk of whenever we meet:
nothing at all.
You sit with a sandwich,
I look at a roll.
Sometimes I open my mouth,
then shut it.

We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

You are the centre of your little world
and I am of mine.
No one again we meet for tea
we’re two of a kind.

This is our universe…
cups of tea.
We have a beautiful cosmos,
you and me.
We have a beautiful cosmos.

200 Years of Sax – Anniversary Poll

Posted in History, Music with tags , , , on November 6, 2014 by telescoper

Today is the 200th anniversary of the birth of famous Belgian Adolphe Sax, inventor of the saxophone. To mark this occasion I thought I’d undertake a bit of audience participation and get you out there in internet land to vote on the greatest proponent of said instrument. I’ve populated the list with people I consider to be likely contenders, but feel free to add your own if your favourite is missing!

Jim Europe’s Society Orchestra

Posted in History, Jazz with tags , , , , on April 30, 2014 by telescoper

More than a few people have commented on the fact that my musical tastes are a little old-fashioned, but here’s a piece that’s a bit old even by my standards. It’s by a band from the immediately pre-Jazz era called Jim Europe’s Society Orchestra. Led by James Reese Europe this band pre-dated the much more famous Paul Whiteman band in popularity, playing at the Carnegie Hall for example long before Whiteman’s ever did which, for a group of black musicians, was quite remarkable at a time of racial segregation in the United States.

When World War 1 started, Jim Europe enlisted in the 369th Infantry Regiment, which fought with immense distinction on the Western Front. The regiment, comprised of African-American and Puerto Rican soldiers, was dubbed the “Men of Bronze” by the French army and as the “Hellfighters” by the German army, on account of their legendary toughness. In the latter stages of the war, Jim Europe formed a military band to which he gave the name “The Harlem Hellfighters”. He died in 1919, after being stabbed in the neck by one of his own musicians.

This particular record was made over a century ago, on December 29 1913. As you might expect, the recording quality is not particularly good (to put it mildly) but it always strikes me as absolutely amazing that we can hear anything at all that was recorded so long ago. The line-up is very unusual by modern standards: two pianos, five banjo mandolins, three violins, clarinet, cornet, and a drummer. That’s on this particular tune. No personnel information is available except that it is certainly Jim Europe himself who delivers the encouraging shouts.

It’s pretty basic stuff from a musical point of view, in that everyone plays in unison and there’s no improvisation or any other development of the tune, but it’s certainly a performance full of energy and fun as well as a valuable piece of Jazz prehistory. The tune is Downhome Rag, which was written sometime in 1913 by Wilbur C Sweatman, is still performed by traditional jazz bands today. But not like this!

Duet for Violin and Subatomic Particles

Posted in Music, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , on August 8, 2013 by telescoper

I received an email this morning about this video and thought I’d post the clip here. This short documentary is about the performance of the composition Cloud Chamber (“Duet for violin and subatomic particles”) in San Francisco at the California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park. The video was produced by Patrick Haynes, Adam Behrmann and Chris Whitmore, and features commentaries from , e.g., Hitoshi Murayama, Professor of Physics at Berkeley and Director of the Institute of Physics and Mathematics of the Universe at the University of Tokyo (the commentaries start at 16:10). It is introduced by Professor JoAnne L. Hewitt, Head of Theoretical Physics at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory, Stanford University. There’s a longer description on the Youtube page if you’re interested in learning more about this interesting project.

Me and my horn….

Posted in Biographical, Music with tags , , on January 6, 2013 by telescoper

How will I amuse myself when I’ve got no TV or internet connection?

Here’s the answer…


..although I’m not sure the neighbours are going to be very happy about it!