There’s not a lot to say about the Virginia Glee Club in the later 1950s, seemingly. The group lost one of its more influential directors, Stephen Tuttle, to Harvard in 1952, and saw two directors alternate during the remaining years. There were tours, sure; legend has it there were even panty raids on other campuses. But no LP survives from the period between 1952 for almost 20 years; no big commissioned work exists; nothing remains but a bunch of concert programs.
Except this. The image above is of an acetate recording that was made as a promo record and sent to radio stations. Seems that Donald MacInnis didn’t spend much time with his group recording because they spent time trying to get on live radio. We know they were broadcast on WTVR radio, probably as a result of this acetate.
(Aside: an “acetate” is actually made of aluminum—or, in the WWII years, glass—coated with a thin layer of lacquer. You could cut one live, and some did, but you could also copy prerecorded music onto it. It was common to use acetates for promotional recordings when the number of playbacks was unlikely to be high. You can see the aluminum under the black lacquer of this disk around the hole of the record.)
The repertoire on the disk is interesting, too. The Bach is pretty straightforward, but it’s followed up by a downright woozy version of “Careless Love,” and then by MacInnis’s own version of Tom Lehrer’s “The Hunting Song.” I’m trying to imagine that on a Glee Club program today. In fact, I’d pay money to see this paean to hunting, in which the protagonist bags 7 hunters, two game wardens, and a cow, on a modern day program.
It’s a fun recording, albeit short, at around 6 and a half minutes.
I’ve moved to page.ly, who seem on first blush to have the right balance between ease of use and security — at least they mention security in their service description, unlike some of the other WordPress hosting leaders that are out there. The transition has been interesting, and something I did with one of my plugins seems to have dropped a lot of my posts on the floor–the autoposts from FriendFeed, so nothing really lost there. But we’re up and running.
And maybe this will be the kick I need to start writing some more. I’ve got a lot to talk about, so stay tuned.
This has been building for a bit. I had more work to do on it, then I thought it was done. Then I heard the last two songs side by side and realized they were the perfect coda. So it’s a little longer than CD length. Oh well…
- The Empty Page – Sonic Youth (Murray Street)
- Rock And Roll – Led Zeppelin (Led Zeppelin Remasters)
- Don’t Care – Klark Kent (Klark Kent)
- What Difference Does It Make? – The Smiths (Hatful Of Hollow)
- Manta Ray – Pixies (Complete ‘B’ Sides [UK])
- Carry Me Ohio – Sun Kil Moon (Ghosts Of The Great Highway)
- Vengeance Is Sleeping – Neko Case (Middle Cyclone (Bonus Track Version))
- Back Of A Car – Big Star (#1 Record – Radio City)
- Just Like Heaven – The Cure (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
- Space (I Believe In) – Pixies (Trompe Le Monde)
- Lick the Palm of the Burning Handshake – Zola Jesus (Conatus)
- Gravity’s Angel – Laurie Anderson (Mister Heartbreak)
- Water Babies – Miles Davis (The Columbia Years 1955-1985)
- Working For The Man – PJ Harvey (To Bring You My Love)
- Lil Wallet Picture – Richard Buckner (Richard Buckner)
- In the Devil’s Territory – Sufjan Stevens (Seven Swans)
- I Don’t Recall – Lavender Diamond (Incorruptible Heart)
- Dawned On Me – Wilco (The Whole Love)
- Morpha Too – Big Star (#1 Record – Radio City)
- Kiss Me On The Bus – The Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
- Dauðalogn – Sigur Rós (Valtari)
- End of the Line – Sleigh Bells (Reign of Terror)
I wanted to use this for our Christmas card this year, but wiser heads overruled. So here it is for posterity. Physical card recipients, we’re a little late but should have cards out in the first week of the new year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
As these things tend to go, my Virginia Glee Club history project has ebbs and flows. Sometimes there’s not a lot to write about; sometimes there’s too much. Like this past week, when I nailed down the identity of a few presidents of the Glee Club and discovered one was a third cousin.
I should have known that when I found someone named Frantz Hershey, he would turn out to be a relative. It turns out that not only do I know him, I have him in my genealogy. Ezra Frantz Hershey, Jr. was the president of the Glee Club in 1938–1939; he was also the son of E.F. Hershey, first cousin of Milton Hershey and treasurer of the Hershey Chocolate Company for over 40 years. Frantz is therefore my third cousin, twice removed.
As they say, you can’t make this stuff up.
I also confirmed Dan Vincent and Thad Polk as presidents of the Club in 1984-85 and 1985-86, thanks to a newly available Cavalier Daily article that showed up in Google News since the last time I checked. Surprisingly, even with those discoveries, I know less about the 1980s presidents than almost any other decade: I’m still missing information about 1980–81, 1981–82, and 1986–87. Always more work to do…
At that point the issue appeared to be faulty infrastructure, since the link was sometimes available and since you could hit the page directly if you bookmarked it.
Today, it looks like the page may be gone for good. I haven’t seen it in the store in several weeks, and the bookmark now returns a “Could not complete the iTunes Store request” popup.
While I’m not entirely surprised—the promotion has been running for what, four years?—I’m disappointed. Because this is what I see in my smart playlist that contains the old, “FairPlay” encrypted, DRMed iTunes Store downloads:
That’s right. 671 tracks, in about 178 albums, that were never made available for upgrade through the iTunes Plus page. I know, because every time something was made available in Plus, I paid the 30 cents per track or $3 per album to get my music out of DRM jail.
So my question to Apple is: what happened? Did the rest of the music never get “plussed” because of the labels? Or did you just forget?
I’ve read some speculation that iTunes Match is the new “upgrade to iTunes Plus”. If so, I’m still out of luck, because I have more than 25,000 songs in my library—all purchased legally, I might add, though some came from eMusic or Amazon, or were ripped from CDs or vinyl that I own.
So let’s see: I’m stuck with a bunch of DRMed music that I can’t unDRM, contrary to Apple’s iTunes Plus promises, and I can’t take advantage of the other legal path offered to me because I’ve been too good a music customer.
Is it any wonder that people just say “screw it” and download music for free?
One of the things that makes me nuts is when a product gets the default settings wrong and makes me do work to make it do the right thing.
This happens more often than you’d think. Example 1: the stereo in my new car. I love the GTI for a lot of things, including the ride and the compactness of it. But I am really growing to dislike the way they did the stereo. Why? The default behavior when I turn on the car. It should remember that when I turned it off I was listening to music through the phone (either Bluetooth or the dock connector) and go back to that channel. But it doesn’t. Instead, its logic seems to be:
- There’s nothing on the dock connector!
- There’s nothing on Bluetooth!
- So let’s go back to the other thing we were listening to–the satellite radio.
Except, the reason there’s nothing on Bluetooth is that it takes about 30–45 seconds to pair a phone with the car, and the designers surely knew that. So why wouldn’t they just have step 2 wait for a while? That way I wouldn’t have to fiddle with the settings every time I get in the car.
(Why don’t I just plug the phone into the dock connector before I start the car? That works for about 30–45 seconds; then when the Bluetooth connection is established, the phone gets confused and stops playing back through the dock connector!)
The problem with this scenario is that it’s not obvious when you look at any of these pieces that they’re wrong. When you consider the component level, any of a number of choices look like they could be the right one. It’s only when you stitch them all together, and think about how the user would use them, that the right behavior becomes apparent.
I’m pretty sure there’s a product management law that describes this principle, something like don’t make me do more work than I have to. But it’s astonishing to me how often people, and products, get it wrong.
My posting on this blog has deteriorated even from my low standards of the past few years. The blog made it to 10; it might not make it to 15.
I still love writing, and I’m not closing a door here any time soon. But I should probably acknowledge what is increasingly obvious: my energy, passion, and time are being spent elsewhere.
There’s a few reasons for that. My work at Veracode has grown increasingly to consume my better energies and thoughts. That’s good; where there were parts of it that used to be unrewarding, things are now at a point where I can take my whole energy and apply it and see a difference being made. I’m heading a group now and relearning the challenges, and rewards, of managing people as well as products.
The other big reason is my family. I have two kids now, and staying ahead of them means using my whole energy and intellect at home too. And that’s turning out to be rewarding in ways I couldn’t have dreamed seven years ago.
But… I still miss writing. So maybe I’ll start to make a little room at the edges for drafting my thoughts into words, maybe trying to make sense of some of the things I’m working on. It’s good practice for speaking sensibly and well, and it’s good to exercise those muscles more often. We’ll see.
Long time readers of the blog may be surprised to learn that, when it was time to purchase a new car, I got a new Volkswagen GTI. After all, I had a very poor experience with my 2003 Passat, which even before I drove it off the lot suffered from a broken windshield wiper and later experienced several ignition coil failures while I was driving.
But the company has come a long way in the last ten years, and I’ve been very pleased with the month (and about 1500 miles) I’ve spent behind the wheel of my new GTI. Specific notes:
- I’m too grandfatherly a driver to really appreciate how fast this thing can get off the line, but it definitely comes in handy when you’re trying to merge.
- I haven’t really tried “launch control” — the feature that lets you go from 0 – 60 in less than 7 seconds — but it looks like fun.
- The car is pretty comfortable. I spent sixteen hours in it this past weekend and was less fatigued and sore than after shorter drives in my Passat.
- Mileage is acceptable. I posted 30.9 MPG driving from DC to Boston in light Sunday traffic, and a lower 28.9 MPG in summer Saturday driving on the way down. In town I regularly get better than 25MPG between my house and my office.
- I love the convenience of integrated Bluetooth in the audio stack. It’s perfect for phone. However…
- …integrated Bluetooth for audio has some problems. Due either to a GTI bug or to my iPhone 4s, I usually only get one audio channel. So if I’m in the car for any length of time I plug it into the dock connector instead.
- Cargo room is pretty good for my needs. I remember my 1996 Golf being more spacious, but that’s probably just because I drove that car before I drove the Passat with its more capacious trunk. As long as I’m not taking a family of four on a long trip it’s just fine.
So yeah, I’m kind of glad I gave Volkswagen another chance. So far it’s paying off well.
I wasn’t expecting to do another mix so soon after the last one (the business), but this one was kicking around for a while. As always, I was throwing songs I liked to listen to into a temporary playlist called “next,” but couldn’t figure out how to link them all together. Then one day I heard a recording of Kenyan girls singing (like so much these days, it surfaced out of my library on shuffle), and I said “Hmm.” I threw a handful of short world music songs into the mix (from an album of Tuvan throat singing, an Internet-curated collection of African music, and a historic field recording of the Bera pygmies from the 1950s), shuffled them about until I got the right order, and before long I had something that seemed set to shuffle into the ear in the same way that the songs had wormed their way into my mind. An attic space overgrown (also on Art of the Mix) was the result.
- Chemirocha [Kipsigis] w/Chemutoi Ketienya & Girls – Kenyan Songs and Strings (Kenyan Songs and Strings)
- Strange – R.E.M. (Document)
- Rolling – Soul Coughing (El Oso)
- Vessel – Zola Jesus (Conatus)
- Bodhisattva Vow – Beastie Boys (Ill Communication)
- Right On – The Roots (How I Got Over)
- Yraazhy Kys (The Singing Girl) – Shu-De (Voices From The Distant Steppe)
- The Eraser – Christian Scott (Yesterday You Said Tomorrow)
- Harrowdown Hill – Thom Yorke (The Eraser)
- Jean-Baptiste à la fenêtre – Sonic Youth (Simon Werner a Disparu)
- Tshetlha Di Kae – School Girls In Kayne (Tswana and Sotho Voices)
- Half Way To Crazy – The Jesus & Mary Chain (Automatic)
- Infinity Guitars – Sleigh Bells (Treats)
- Staircase – Radiohead (The Daily Mail & Staircase)
- One Big Holiday – My Morning Jacket (It Still Moves)
- Skipping Song – Bera Pygmies (Music Of The Rainforest Pygmies)
- Antenna – Sonic Youth (The Eternal)
- Hikikomori – Zola Jesus (Conatus)
- Silver Rider – Robert Plant (Band of Joy)
- You See Everything – Low (C’mon)
- Moorestown – Sun Kil Moon (April)
- I finally heard the original version of “Strange” (on Wire’s Pink Flag) last year, and while I love it, it made me appreciate the R.E.M. version I heard in high school–bravura, loud, beery, and outré.
- It’s a pity that Mike Doughty has disavowed the Soul Coughing discography, because tunes like “Rolling” were made for delicious cognitive dissonance–the luxury and assonance of the words and the thick beats…
- Zola Jesus was a discovery for me about this time last year. “Vessel” is the strangest arrangement of the album, with Nika Roza Danilova’s voice hocketing into the echoing void at the opening over a sort of middle-period Dead Can Dance accompaniment. And that’s just the opening.
- I miss Adam Yauch.
- “Right On”: Who knew that Joanna Newsom made such a good chorus for hip-hop?
- Christian Scott’s “The Eraser,” its strikingly original jazz arrangement of Thom Yorke’s original, has been in heavy repeat since I heard the album last year. The whole album is worth checking out.
- “Harrowdown Hill” gives you an opportunity to hear Yorke’s original glitchy percussion against the jazz acoustic original. Not as starkly tense as some of Radiohead’s earlier (or later) works, it feels a little more personal but still despairing.
- Sonic Youth’s final(?) recording, a soundtrack, carries enormous tension throughout it even if you don’t understand the cinematic context of the songs, which, um, I don’t. Still absorbing.
- I dug out “Automatic” the other day–still a great album all these years later.
- I found Sleigh Bells thanks to Molly Young‘s plug for the band (she plays the gum-chewing cheerleader in the video for this song). I like the second album better as an album but “Infinity Guitars” is still an astonishing kick to the head.
- Someday Radiohead will make a full album that “Staircase” fits into and I’ll be a happy man.
- My Morning Jacket’s It Still Moves was the last of the early albums and the one I love best, I think. This one reminds me of growing up in the South.
- Robert Plant’s cover of “Silver Rider,” from the underappreciated Low album The Great Destroyer, is both hypnotic and wholly respectful of the original.
- Low’s most recent album is the one I’ve liked best since The Great Destroyer. “You See Everything” is a great spotlight for Mimi Sparhawk’s voice.
- Finally we get to “Moorestown.” After the psychedelic wonderland of Ghosts of the Great Highway, it took a long time for Sun Kil Moon’s acoustic albums to grow on me. But this one had been waiting to find me, and today I realized it was the closer.
Finally, a note on mixes: Seems to me that I put them together to digest the music I’m listening to and to claim it before it claims me.
Amidst disappointing news from the University of Virginia this week, I received an unexpected pleasure in the mail today: a 1938 University song book meant for football games and boxing matches.
As with the 1911 song book I posted about a few years ago, this one contains the lyrics (but no music) to commonly known songs for the student body to sing at sporting events. Unlike the previous edition, 27 years later the repertoire had shrunk to just four songs: “Virginia, Hail, All Hail,” “The Cavalier Song,” “Hike, Virginia” (with the Carolina lyrics), and of course “The Good Old Song”–first and second verse.
The advertisers list had shrunk too. The sponsoring businesses were just two: Bruton’s Barber Shop (Charlottesville’s Finest!) and Valley View Greenhouses, both near what is now the Downtown Mall.
For me, as with the previous version, it makes me happy to think about generations past of UVa students singing these song at sporting events. The full photo set is on Flickr: enjoy!
Did you ever notice how many songs there are about the music business itself? I think the popular music industry is possibly even more self-referential than the newspaper industry (though not nearly as self-referential as the Internet…). I started hearing the connection a few years ago and began collecting examples in a playlist, and I finally have enough to share with you in this mix (see also Art of the Mix).
Of special note is the hip-hop section (coming just after Joe Pernice’s wry anti-anthem decrying touring, “We Love the Stage”), featuring “Check the Rhime,” origin of “Music industry rule #4080/record company people are shady,” followed by Steinski’s record industry slag off mix of “Hit the Disco,” wrapping up with J-Live’s epochal “Them That’s Not,” which features the most astonishing bit of tempo bending that I’m aware of.
- Radio Song – R.E.M. (Out Of Time)
- Legend of Paul Revere – Paul Revere & The Raiders (Paul Revere & The Raiders: Greatest Hits)
- Suits Are Picking Up The Bill – Squirrel Nut Zippers (Perennial Favorites)
- A Sermon – The Police (Message In A Box: The Complete Recordings)
- Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had A Deal – They Might Be Giants (Miscellaneous T: B Side / Remix Compilation)
- Radio, Radio – Elvis Costello (The Very Best of Elvis Costello And The Attractions)
- Do You Remember Rock ‘n’ Roll Radio? – The Ramones (Mania)
- I Bet You They Won’t Play This Song on the Radio – Monty Python (Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album)
- Hello Radio – They Might Be Giants (Miscellaneous T: B Side / Remix Compilation)
- Spirit of Radio – Rush (Permanent Waves)
- Formed A Band – Art Brut (Bang Bang Rock & Roll)
- Rock Notes – Monty Python (Monty Python’s Contractual Obligation Album)
- So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star – The Byrds (The Byrds: Greatest Hits (Remastered))
- Playing Your Song – Hole (Celebrity Skin)
- Left Of The Dial – The Replacements (Tim [Expanded Edition])
- We Love the Stage – Pernice Brothers (Goodbye, Killer)
- Check The Rhime – A Tribe Called Quest (The Low End Theory)
- Hit The Disco (Mc Enuff Mix) – Steinski (What Does It All Mean?: 1983-2006 Retrospective)
- Them That’s Not – J-Live (The Best Part)
- Pay to Play – Nirvana (DGC Rarities, Vol. 1)
- The Late Greats – Wilco (A Ghost Is Born)
I flew into London yesterday morning, and my arms aren’t tired. And surprisingly the rest of me isn’t either. I got almost ten hours of sleep last night, and while I did wake bolt upright at 4:30 this morning I’m still feeling pretty good and not particularly jet lagged. It’s been gorgeous here, much nicer than it was when I last visited twelve years ago (granted, that was in February).
Things I’ve done so far:
- Walked around the south side of Kensington Park, taking in the sights.
- Gotten lost in Harrods.
- Watched people queue around a city block for hours to go to the French Embassy to vote in yesterday’s election.
- Learned how much you can pay for unreliable hotel wifi.
- Evaluated several pubs in the vicinity of my hotel and found a keeper.
- Figured out how to navigate the Underground (or reminded myself) and to get my tickets for the National Rail Service.
And that was the first day. Should be a fun trip.
So there’s some party time stuff, both benign and wild; some funny tracks (I dare you to listen to “Bloody” with a straight face); and some contemplative stuff. There’s not a lot of deep digging (outside of the Tom Waits/John Lurie track and maybe “Amen Brother,” which features what must be the most sampled drum break in the prehistory of hiphop), just some really fun listening. Just right for early spring.
- River of Men – Tom Waits/John Lurie (Fishing With John – Original Music From The Series By John L)
- Getting Better – The Beatles (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band)
- Just Like Heaven – The Cure (Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me)
- Mondo ’77 – Looper (The Geometrid)
- Amen’ Brother – The Winstons (Color Him Father (Original Masters))
- In The Street – Big Star (#1 Record – Radio City)
- Happy Kid – Nada Surf (Let Go)
- Don’t You Just Know It – Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns (Don’t You Just Know It [EP])
- Pictures Of You – The Cure (Disintegration)
- Near Wild Heaven – R.E.M. (Out Of Time)
- Friends Stoning Friends – Mclusky (Alan Is A Cowboy Killer)
- The Ox (Original Mono Version) – The Who (The Who Sings My Generation)
- Head On – Pixies (Trompe Le Monde)
- No Hiding Place – Elvis Costello (Momofuku)
- Bloody – Golinski Brothers (The John Peel Singles Box)
- Do You Wanna Hit It? – The Donnas (The Donnas Turn 21)
- Yard Of Blonde Girls – Jeff Buckley (Sketches for My Sweetheart The Drunk)
- Codex – Radiohead (The King of Limbs)
- Steam Engine – My Morning Jacket (It Still Moves)
- Calling My Children Home – Emmylou Harris (Spyboy)
- Things behind the Sun – Nick Drake (Pink Moon)