Daring Fireball: “Courage
.” John Gruber takes a run at the other side of the argument for removing headphone jacks from the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus. Basically, the argument boils down to this: no one is outraged that the future isn’t coming fast enough
. As Gruber says:
When we think of controversial decisions, we tend to think of both sides as creating controversy. Choose A and the B proponents will be angry; choose B and the A proponents will be angry. But when it comes to controversial change of the status quo, it’s not like that. Only the people who are opposed to the change get outraged. Leave things as they are and there is no controversy. The people who aren’t outraged by the potential change are generally ambivalent about it, not in a fervor for it. Strong feelings against change on one side, and widespread ambivalence on the other. That’s why the status quo is generally so slow to change, in fields ranging from politics to technology.
Whether you like change or not, it’s important to recognize that there may be benefits that you will forgo by avoiding change. This is any technology product manager’s dilemma: when do the potential benefits justify taking a stand and being an advocate, against the outrage of the proponents of status quo?
I have run into this a lot with big decisions and small. One common version of this is browser support. In enterprise applications it’s historically been a big deal to end support for older browsers. Enterprises like their old technology, because it works just fine, performs its business function, and carries a cost to replace. Unfortunately, that was especially true for web applications that only worked in various versions of Internet Explorer. Thankfully, the industry as a whole got enough courage in the last few years to stand up and advocate for a future in which coddling a poorly behaved, insecure browser with no support for modern standards would no longer be necessary, which makes taking a stand as an individual easier. But when you’re the only one taking the stand it becomes harder.
Me? When I go to iPhone 7, I’ll be using the Lightning to audio jack adapter that comes in the box. I have a nice pair of B&W P3s that I’m not ready to replace yet. But I’ll be looking at wireless headphones the next time I am.
Make: John Edgar Park’s Ultimate Bitters Recipe
. I’m feeling pretty flush with the success of various attempts at “make your own pickles” (details soon). Maybe “make my own bitters” is next? Certainly could find many worse guides into this realm than JP
By special request, I bring the Random 5 back this week. Let’s see what craziness this weekend begins with.
The Cure, “Sinking”: In middle and high school I was aware of the kids who loved the Cure, but never became one until Disintegration came out. When I finally listened to The Head on the Door, I liked it fine, but I found it facile compared to the later effort. The highs were giddy, but the lows felt shallow when stacked up against the massive thundering tracks of “Disintegration.” I still feel that way about songs like “Sinking.” Robert Smith is trying to reach for that note of despair, and for most of the song he doesn’t get there—maybe it’s the keyboards that don’t work for me. But then there’s that bridge: “So I trick myself/Like everybody else/I crouch in fear and wait/I’ll never feel again/If only I could remember/Anything at all.” And then I feel the connection to the dark heart that the best Cure tracks touch.
Herbert von Karajan/Vienna Philharmonic, “Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem. I. “Selig sind, die da Leid tragen”: One choral masterwork that has become completely embedded in my soul. This recording doesn’t draw out the precision of some of the interior orchestral lines the way that Levine was able to on his recording with the BSO (on which I sang), but the way that the choir emerges from the void in the beginning, completely seamlessly, with all voice parts completely seamlessly blended is something to hear.
White Stripes, “Why Can’t You Be Nicer to Me?”: Back when the White Stripes were refreshing because of their relative lack of pretense and you weren’t sure whether they were brother/sister, husband/wife, or both, or what.
White Stripes, “I’m Bound to Pack It Up”: Proof once again that the iPhone’s random is really random, this second track from De Stijl sounds like the bastard child of “Going to California” and “We Are Going to Be Friends.”
Patrick Watson, “Big Bird in a Small Cage”: Ever run across a track that you’re not sure how it got into your music library? That’s this track. Wikipedia tells me it was a Starbucks Pick of the Week in 2009, which is probably where I got it—and the last time I heard it. But I like it. Sort of Devendra Banhart meets the Beach Boys and Dolly Parton.
New York Times: Johan Botha, Operatic Tenor, Dies at 51. I woke this morning to news of the great tenor’s untimely demise in my Facebook feed.
I sang on stage several times with Botha during the James Levine era at the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where he was on tap for the most heroic roles: Waldemar in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, Florestan in Fidelio, Walter in Meistersinger. His was a magnificent voice: as I wrote in 2007 about his Florestan, his voice could convey both sheer power and powerful emotion. His rendition of the “prize song” from Meistersinger has always stayed close to my heart for its sheer magnificence.
I think, though, that I’ll always remember him for his approachable humanity. He always was glad to see the chorus, and could be relied on to liven rehearsals, especially as he grew more comfortable: clowning during Don Carlo, or bringing beer steins onto the Tanglewood stage for himself and James Morris. (They drank water from them.)
And, of course, in this miserable 2016, the cause of death was cancer. It was just six weeks ago that he headlined a cancer fundraiser in South Africa at which he was prominently billed as a “cancer survivor” and having been given a “clean bill of health.” That performance now stands as his final bow.
The video at the top is an audience film of the intermission bow from the 2006 Symphony Hall performance of Gurrelieder under James Levine, featuring Karita Mattila, Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson, and Botha. The latter two have been taken from us, both by cancer, and Levine himself will never again walk as nimbly as he does in this footage. It’s a sobering reminder that none of us are allotted much time.
Rands: How to Recruit
. A well thought out exploration of the challenges and rewards of being a hiring manager, and recommendations on where you should spend your time.
This coming weekend will mark the culminating celebration of the centennial of the Pulitzer Prize
, with a two day series of symposia and concerts at Harvard University. I’ll be singing on Sunday night, not coincidentally the 15th anniversary of September 11, as part of a performance of John Adams’ On the Transmigration of Souls.
The Adams work was commissioned for the first commemoration of the 9/11 attacks and was first performed September 12, 2002. It’s a powerful work that combines symphonic and children’s choruses, orchestra, and tape of voices reading names of 9/11 victims, fliers that were left, and interviews with families. From a performer’s perspective, the great thing is that the music is so rich and demands so much attention for pitch and rhythm that it’s very unlikely that we’ll get swallowed by the subject matter and become too choked up to perform—which might otherwise be a very real danger.
It’s going to be a very atypical performance for the TFC, as it is not a BSO performance and is held in an unusual venue for us—though not a new one for me, as I performed in Sanders Theater in 1993 with the Virginia Glee Club, almost 23 years ago.
Some free tickets are still available. It should be a hugely worthwhile event. I’m only sorry I won’t be able to see Wynton Marsalis in his part of the event the night before.
A few years ago I wrote about the tools I was preparing to use to digitize some LP records and get them into iTunes
. The software has changed a bit since then, and I thought it was worth a post to document my current workflow, which works either for ripping vinyl or for converting long form digital audio (e.g. radio broadcasts) into tracks.
- Downloading a radio broadcast is pretty straightforward. My tool of choice here is curl, and I output it to a single MP3 file, which then gets post processed in Amadeus (see below). Or…
- Rip the LP, step 1. To rip an LP, I play it back on my 1983 Denon DP-45F turntable, which passes through the built in phono pre-amp in my Onkyo receiver, then out through the tape out monitor into my vintage Griffin iMic. The USB end of the iMic then plugs into my MacBook Pro.
- Rip the LP, step 2. Step 2 means turning the LP sound into a digital file. To do this, I use Amadeus Pro from HairerSoft, which has been my go to sound file editor for over a dozen years. This is pretty simple; set the sound in to use the iMic, create a new sound file, click Record, and push play on the Denon. I’ve set the levels over the years to a level that keeps the input from clipping, which from experience is about halfway in the second to last region on the right. When the side of the record finishes, I stop recording and I have a music file, ready to post-process.
- Post process the music file. First thing is to trim any long periods of silence from the beginning and end of the track, including needle-into-groove noise. I then amplify the track by 4 dB, either once (for radio broadcast) or twice (for vinyl) so that playback from iTunes isn’t too quiet but the sound forms don’t get clipped. That’s usually all the post processing I have to do.
- Add album metadata. Anything that will be common across all the tracks, including album name, artist name, genre, artwork, etc., gets added here.
- Divide into tracks, using markers. This requires listening to the track, but you can almost always start by eyeballing the track and finding the periods of silence; they almost always indicate track separations. I use the song/track/movement name as the name for the marker in Amadeus.
- Save as an Amadeus file. Just in case.
- Split the tracks according to markers. Using the handy dandy Amadeus feature “Split According to Markers” option, this creates a separate file for each marker in the audio format of your choice. For vinyl I’ll usually use Apple Lossless encoding here, but for radio broadcasts, which start as MP3, there’s no point in using lossless encoding.
- Import into iTunes and clean up. Amadeus Pro does a pretty good job with the metadata, but track names are prefaced by numbers which I don’t like, and I generally have to fix the track numbers — it considers each side of an LP to start with “1.”
And there you have it. Pretty simple, and I’ve almost gotten to the point that I can process one side of an LP while I’m ripping the next.
Talking Points Memo: SCOTUS denies NC request to halt ruling blocking voting restrictions
The Republican strategy to win elections is to prevent blocs of voters from voting. That’s the conclusion one reaches by looking at the combination of photo ID requirements, cutbacks to early voting, elimination of same-day registration, prohibition of pre-registration of young voters, and other measures that the NC GOP engaged in. These were all strategies that were found by a federal appeals court to “disproportionately [affect] African Americans” and to target “African Americans with almost surgical precision.”
Without addressing the constitutionality or morality of such a plan,* the question one has to ask is, for how long does the GOP plan to win elections by disenfranchisement, rather than by addressing the issues of those voting blocks and bringing them into the fold? It seems as though the answer is: for as long as they can get away with it. And if they can’t get away with it, their candidate suggests, they should switch tactics to outright voter intimidation.
The only bright light I see is this reliance on disenfranchisement and intimidation seems like a de facto acknowledgement by the party that it is losing its ability to win elections legitimately. In the long run, if the GOP does not win the 2016 presidential election, it’s going to have to either confront this fatal weakness and change course, or dissolve. Buckle your seat belts. One way or the other, 2017 is going to be interesting.
* There are certainly other voices that have done that; see these notes on specific blunders North Carolina lawmakers committed that left smoking gun trails to point to the intent to suppress African American voting; memos sent urging the state to vote on the party line to restrict hours for early voting and keep polling places closed on Sundays, which are disproportionately when African Americans vote; and unexplained and unannounced changes in polling locations, among other issues.
UVA Today: More Green Space Planned for Ivy-Emmet Entrance Corridor
. Buried in the discussion, as it was when an early version of the plans were discussed over the summer, is the proposed demolition of the Cavalier Inn.
It’s no Ritz-Carlton, or even Marriott, but I’ve long had a soft spot in my heart for the old Cavalier Inn, slightly mildewy though it may be. It’s often the most affordable, and available, place to stay near Grounds. And I find it ironic that the proposed renovations may eliminate one of the few places close enough to Grounds to comfortably walk without taking a car, in the name of “green space.”
The BOV will take up the question of whether to proceed with the plan in December. Here’s hoping that enough data accompanies that discussion—like hotel vacancy rates and walkability options for visitors to the University—to set my mind at ease.
Virginia Historical Society’s Blog: What is a sublime landscape? What is a picturesque landscape? Where are they found in Virginia?
Nice survey of 19th century painting conventions and landscapes, beginning with Jefferson’s assessment of Natural Bridge as “the most sublime of nature’s works … It is impossible for the emotions arising from the sublime to be felt beyond what they are here.”
. A web-based walkthrough (using the Unity Player plugin) of the late great EPCOT “world of the future” attraction.
Last Sunday’s Tanglewood season ender was in some ways not out of the ordinary: a performance of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony. But there were some exceptional things about it.
First was the pairing of the work with Aaron Copland’s “Quiet City,” featuring some stunning playing from Tom Rolfs and Robert Sheena. Then there was the conductor, Andris Nelsons, marking (as the Globe’s Jeremy Eichler remarked) one of the first times in recent memory that the BSO’s music director has conducted the season ender. James Levine did it once, but at the beginning of the season, and otherwise left it to guest conductors. Maestro Nelsons was totally engaged. From the first movement there was an electric energy on stage. The announcement he made from the beginning that he would be in residence for a full month next summer didn’t hurt either.
Then, there was our performance. The Beethoven capped a month of work by the chorus with guest conductor James Burton, and his skill showed in our diction and attention to detail. It was the first time in my memory that the men of the chorus didn’t completely immolate the tenor soloist when we made our “Laufet bruder…” entrance, and overall the singing felt spectacular on stage.
The BSO released the clip above not half an hour after the concert ended, and I love how it plays out—although I wish there were a little more of the performance captured. Maybe when the radio clip is posted (update 9/6: here it is).
PS Confidential to Andrew Pincus: the chorus only numbered 140, not 200, and I think at no time were we in danger of covering the soloists.
It’s almost go time.
Tonight we sing a Prelude concert. A Tanglewood tradition, these are concerts by groups of musicians that are free with admission to a Friday evening main concert. Often in Ozawa Hall, they are an opportunity to hear different ensembles or repertoire than you otherwise would on the grounds. There are a lot of chamber performances—last week I heard the Messiaen Quartet for the End of Time. And once a summer, the chorus performs.
This is my eleventh summer at Tanglewood and the first time I’ve sung a Prelude concert. And my anticipation is high. The repertoire is a selection of settings of Shakespeare’s writings, including two settings of Ariel’s song from The Tempest.
Each time we perform the settings—either the Ralph Vaughan Williams or Frank Martin settings of the “Full Fathom Five” text in particular—I am reminded of the incredible depth of Shakespeare’s ownership of the English language and of his imagination. That this one poem could resonate with these composers, and also Eliot and Laurie Anderson…
Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
I have a new obsession: reading the archives of the Mesa Verde Times blog
. This pseudonymous walkthrough of a series of surreptitious behind-the-scenes tours of the late, lamented Horizons future ride at Disney’s EPCOT is fascinating as much for the old-school blogging as it is for the actual content. Which, don’t get me wrong, is plenty fascinating, as it consists of pictures of hidden areas of the ride’s sets and maintenance areas, Easter eggs left by the ride’s designers (you’ll never
guess what the designers hid in the fridge of the Desert Habitat Kitchen
, next to the sausages).
Start at the beginning and read up.
MacStories: Apple’s Presentation at Black Hat Now Available to Watch in Full. For those like myself for whom the stories were tantalizing teasers, the presentation is now available on YouTube. I love the illustration of the “physical one-way hash function.”