When we traveled in Italy this summer, I was struck by a weird artifact in Apple Maps while we were planning a stroll around Florence one morning. It looked like a giant skeleton. I tweeted about it and then forgot about it:
Well, it turns out that it was, in fact, a Thing. And Apple was lucky enough to catch it in their 3D model.
The 2017 ‘Ytalia’ Art Exhibition at the Forte di Belvedere included a massive sculpture called “Calamita Cosmica” by the artist Gino di Dominicis. There were a couple of good contemporary writeups and other photos by bloggers including Aidan Doyle and Sue Jane.
Amazingly, it looks like the skeleton artwork is quite old; Dominicis passed away back in 1998, but his art is still touring the globe.
If you’ve read this blog for a while, learning that I’m sometimes a late adopter might come as a surprise. (Or not, given that the blog, and I, am now more than nineteen years older than when we started.) But I’ve held off on joining Apple’s various music-in-the-cloud offerings for a long time. Like almost ten years.
In June 2011, Apple introduced iTunes Match, a feature that would match tracks with your library to tracks already in its cloud based services and upload the tracks that had no match, allowing you to take your music library anywhere. Theoretically. In practice, the rumors abounded of mismatched songs, and even accidental data deletion. And then there was the pesky 25,000 song limit. So I basically forgot about it.
For about nine years.
Somewhere along the way, they raised the limit to 100,000 songs. But I had figured out how to live without the feature. Somewhere along the way, we also became Apple Music subscribers, but I really only used it to look up the occasional release and listen to radio stations.
Then The Girl started asking me questions about different kinds of music, and I really wanted to be able to share some South African music from the days of the battle against Apartheid. And I couldn’t. Home sharing no longer works on iPads, and there was no way to get her music on the Chromebook.
So finally, I took a deep breath and turned on iCloud Music Library. And you know, it actually worked. Want proof? Here’s a playlist I made in 1994, which just shows up in the browser when you check a box:
So once that was turned on, I took the other plunge and upgraded to Catalina, and said farewell to iTunes, in favor of the new Music app. It was surprisingly painless, once I realized that the app was very slow in copying album art. I also had to fix the AppleScripts that I use with iTunes, by copying them from ~/Library/iTunes/Scripts to ~/Library/Music/Scripts. And for some reason, though it found all my music on my external drive, it still wanted my library (“media files”) location to be on my hard drive. That was an easy fix (though it’ll probably take all day to update the library with the new relative file locations).
And now I wonder why I took so long! Having access to all the music, being able to share playlists easily… all good things.
It’s still Christmas, technically, until the Feast of Epiphany on January 6. That’s what I keep telling Lisa when she asks when I’m taking down the Christmas tree, and that’s what I’m telling you when I post this new Exfiltration Radio playlist of slightly askew Christmas (and Hanukkah) tunes and a few spoken word bits. Hope you find something in it to help ease back into the daily routine.
Did You Spend Christmas Day In Jail? (excerpt) – Rev. J.M. Gates (Lit Up Like A Christmas Tree – A Vintage Holiday Mixtape)
The Toy Trumpet – Arthur Fiedler;Al Hirt – Boston Pops/Arthur Fiedler (Pops Christmas Party)
Ring Those Christmas Bells – Fred Waring & The Pennsylvanians (The Sounds of Christmas)
Good Morning Blues (feat. Cécile Mclorin Salvant) – Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis (Big Band Holidays)
Please Come Home For Christmas – Little Johnny Taylor (It’s Christmas Time Again)
I’m Your Christmas Friend, Don’t Be Hungry – James Brown (Hey America)
Who Took The Merry Out Of Christmas – The Staple Singers (It’s Christmas Time Again)
Deck the Halls – R.E.M. (Gift Wrapped – 20 Songs That Keep On Giving!)
I Hate Christmas – Oscar (Sesame Street: Merry Christmas from Sesame Street)
The Little Drum Machine Boy – Beck (Just Say Noel)
Come on! Let’s Boogey to the Elf Dance! – Sufjan Stevens (Songs For Christmas)
Do You Hear What I Hear? – Chaka Khan (Do You Hear What I Hear? – Single)
Nutmeg – Stephen Colbert & John Legend (A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!)
Sleigh Ride – Dread Zeppelin (Presents)
Big Bulbs – Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings (It’s a Holiday Soul Party)
Silent Night – Bootsy Collins (Christmas Is 4 Ever)
Don’t Shoot Me Santa – The Killers (Don’t Shoot Me Santa – Single)
Christmas Island – Bob Dylan (Christmas In the Heart)
Fan Club Christmas Record – 1964 (excerpt) – The Beatles (Fan Club Christmas Records)
I did a lot of traveling this summer and fall, and not a lot of writing. But I read—almost all the Nero Wolfe novels, in order. And I was struck by how much I liked the character Fritz, Wolfe’s patient cook.
I had Fritz in the back of my mind one weekend about a month ago as I was trying to balance Cardamaro and rye in a new cocktail. It was the 1/4 ounce of Maraschino liqueur that balanced everything, and it reminded me that while there is certainly a place for drinks that are equal parts and easy to make, there is also room for balancing carefully and just one more ingredient for something memorable.
Yes indeed! The mystery DATs were the master recordings from the 7pm and 9:30pm performances of the Virginia Glee Club 57th Annual Christmas Concert! Notable as the Glee Club’s first Christmas performances with conductor Bruce Tammen, the unedited tapes include the full range of a Glee Club Christmas, including audience carols, the eternal struggle between the Four Calling Birds and Three French Hens during the “Twelve Days of Christmas,” solo performances by Jayson Throckmorton, Craig Fennell, Eric Buechner and Bill Bennett, and some seriously moving renditions of favorites like the Gretchaninoff “Nunc Dimittis” and the Biebl Ave Maria. To say nothing of riveting announcements by Glee Club president Drew Cogswell.
I’m going to try to make the whole concert available somehow, but for now here’s a teaser: Club’s performance of the Marvin V. Curtis arrangement of “Go Tell It On the Mountain” from the 7pm show. Enjoy!
First, DAT players are more like VCRs than cassette tape players. Instead of moving the tape past a playback head, DATs (and VCRs) wind the tape around the playback head. This happens even when you are rewinding the tape.
Second, rewind is a little more complicated on a DAT and sometimes the player can stop the rewind. If you just press rewind again, sometimes the player gets confused. Then if you go to eject the tape, you’ll end up with the tape partly pulled out of its case.
Third, you can re-spool DAT tape with a pencil, but it’s slightly more complicated. You first have to push the tabs down on the bottom of the tape and slide the bottom back so that you can get to the sprockets, then use the tip of a pencil to do the rewinding. (You can’t push the pencil all the way through thanks to the clear plastic on the other side of the tape, meaning it’s a slower process.)
All of this is to say I’ll be able to hear everything on these DATs, once I figure out how to safely rewind them.
Sometimes life moves faster than even the makers of cutting edge technology can predict. This is certainly true for computer technology. It can be hard to realize, but the same is true for audio technology —the vinyl revival notwithstanding.
Remember DAT? If you were a consumer of music in the 1990s, probably not. But if you were a performer, especially in a small ensemble, you probably remember that one guy who had the DAT recorder. They seemed, for that small market, ubiquitous. All the small form factor of a cassette—but digital! Boy, you can almost smell the early ’90s, can’t you?
So what happened? In retrospect, the window between the advent of digital recording technology and convenient, low cost, high-capacity hard disk and solid state storage was pretty short. And DAT disappeared. As far as I can tell, no one is manufacturing the player/recorders any more. You can still find them on eBay, commanding a small premium.
Which is why I was grateful that my friend in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, Lauren, had saved one in her attic. And it works! Now I can listen to what’s on those four mysterious DAT tapes that I’ve had for six years.
Last Hackathon I made an hour long mix of Hammond organ centered jazz. In retrospect, while the listening was great, it felt like it didn’t go far enough into the different types of performance techniques on the organ, or different styles. So this time, I decided to do something a little more subtle, and focus on the bass.
It can be hard to appreciate what a bass player brings to your typical small group performance. But you can start to dig in just by considering the different choices available to the bassist: acoustic or electric? Pizzicato (plucked) or arco (bowed)? Holding down the root of the chord, or playing a counter-melody? There are a bunch of different bass players on this mix, and each of them approaches their role very differently. Enjoy!
Re: Person I Knew – Bill Evans Trio (Chuck Israels, bass) (Moon Beams [Original Jazz Classics Remasters])
Tale of the Fingers – Paul Chambers (Whims Of Chambers)
Caravan – Duke Ellington With Charles Mingus (bass) & Max Roach (Money Jungle)
Moment’s Notice – John Coltrane (Paul Chambers, bass) (Blue Train)
It’s that time again… time for a new Hackathon radio mix. The latest entry in the Exfiltration Radio series deals in spookiness and mystery, and lots and lots of black. It’s a gothic and goth-adjacent postpunk sort of set, and it’s a lot of fun even if you don’t wear black on the outside. Another one is coming soon, so stay tuned!
10:15 Saturday Night – The Cure (Three Imaginary Boys)
Bela Lugosi’s Dead (Official Version) – Bauhaus (The Bela Session)
Pink Flag (2006 Digital Remaster) – Wire (Pink Flag)
Not Great Men – Gang Of Four (Entertainment!)
Shadowplay – Joy Division (Unknown Pleasures)
Gathering Dust – Modern English (Mesh & Lace)
In the Flat Field – Bauhaus (Swing the Heartache: The BBC Sessions)
Halloween – Siouxsie & The Banshees (Ju Ju (Remastered))
Somewhere – The Danse Society (The Indie Years : 1983)
Love Like Blood – Killing Joke (Night Time)
Lucretia My Reflection – The Sisters of Mercy (Floodland (Deluxe Version))
A Short Term Effect – The Cure (Pornography)
Song to the Siren – This Mortal Coil (It’ll End in Tears)
This is an even bigger deal, arguably, than last year’s Both Directions at Once, which I liked but which was ultimately a little … unmemorable? The title track of Blue World is a burner that reminds me of “Equinox” and other great John Coltrane Quartet classics. Listen now:
I’ve written before about University of Virginia student songs, including (infamously) “From Rugby Road to Vinegar Hill” (once or twice) and “Glory to Virginia,” the student song often performed with “Rugby Road.” As I noted in the latter case, many of these student songs follow the traditional pattern of oral transmission of ballads and other songs, in which old melodies gain new lyrics and vice versa.
This morning I found another example, in a most unlikely place. I’m working through a project to rip all the vinyl in my possession, which includes records that I’ve bought on purpose and that have been lent or outright given to me by friends and family members. One was an awful “Sing Along with Mitch” record. I rip the things so I can share them back to the donors if requested, and in the odd case I find some tracks that are meaningful or really good. In this case, it was a medley on the B side of “A Bicycle Built for Two” and “Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet.” And the latter song is the melody of “Fill Up Your Old Silver Goblet,” which is titled with and without the “old,” but is always sung with “Rugby Road.”
So I started writing the Glee Club Wiki article on the song, and as I went I found more and more examples of alternate versions of this song. “Red Sweater,” from University of Montreal and University of British Columbia, is almost identical in its first verse to “Silver Goblet.” Then there’s a lame Brown University version from an alumni magazine — so lame that one wonders if a more foul version was in play among the students. (Speaking of foul, don’t click that University of Montreal link — the song is cited among other student drinking songs, many of which are completely and astonishingly obscene.)
It just goes to show you: don’t look down your nose at old records, even “Sing Along With Mitch.” You never know what you’ll learn.
It’s another Hackathon at Veracode, and time for another playlist. This time around we get an hour of jazz and jazz-adjacent Hammond organ, for your ass. This is not your ballpark organ music, he said, glaring sternly at the interrogator; it’s something that should be deep in your soul.
There’s lots of Jimmy Smith on this, as God intended, but there’s also Groove Holmes and Ronnie Foster and Jimmy McGriff and Dr. Lonnie Smith and James Brown and the latter-day Delvon Lamarr and… just listen already!
Iron Leg – Mickey & The Soul Generation (Iron Leg)
The Cat – Jimmy Smith (Talkin’ Verve)
Finger Lickin’ Good – Jimmy McGriff & Groove Holmes (Dueling Organs)
I Want To Hold Your Hand – Grant Green (I Want To Hold Your Hand)
Top Going Down, Bottom Going Up (Live) – Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio (Live at KEXP!)
Mystic Brew – Ronnie Foster (Two Headed Freap)
The Bird – Jimmy McGriff (Groove Grease)
Sagg Shootin’ His Arrow – Jimmy Smith (Root Down)
Devil’s Haircut – Dr. Lonnie Smith (Boogaloo To Beck)
Grits (Extended Version) – James Brown (Grits & Soul (Instrumentals) [Expanded Edition])
We were due to sing with the great Venezuelan conductor Gustavo Dudamel in a concert of music by Venezuelan composers. Our piece was to be the Cantata Criolla of Antonio Estévez, a fantastical piece that combines Venezuelan folk music and stories, a singing duel with the Devil, high modernism and Gregorian chant into one spectacular cazuela gaucho.
And then, after a weekend in Boston conducting Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, among other works, Dudamel aggravated a wrist injury and was unable to conduct. Two of the works, never performed in Boston and little known, had to be removed from the program as there was no way to adequately prepare them in time. But James Burton, the TFC’s current conductor, had been working closely with us on Cantata Criolla for about six weeks, and was tapped to conduct the piece so that we would preserve at least some of the original plan for the concert run.
The first concert was last night and was incredible. James got incredible colors out of the orchestra and chorus. The attack of the cicadas was actually frightening. And I’ve never heard an orchestra produce a sound like steel drums before, but Estévez’s orchestration and the precision of James’s conducting brought out a distinctly festive flavor to parts of the singing duel between our complero protagonist Florentíno and El Diablo. It’s a fun work and I’m looking forward to a few more performances.
One of the things I missed most about Veracode while we were part of CA Technologies was the company kickoff meeting. Starting around 2010 we brought all our employees together at the beginning of each fiscal year to check in on the state of the business, get excited about what was to come, and reconnect with our colleagues. There wasn’t really a budget for us to do that last year as a CA business unit. But this year, as a newly independent standalone company, we brought everyone together, all 700+ of us.
And it was pretty amazing. It was great to see all my coworkers from London, San Francisco, Singapore and Prague, to spend time with old friends, and blow off a little steam. But it was especially good to be reminded that what we do as a company matters deeply for our customers and their customers and that we are making a difference.