More Moses reviews

Two additional Moses und Aron reviews. The Boston Herald review is effusive: Levine’s Moses is stunning, honest to God. T.J. Medrek writes, “But head and shoulders above all was the visceral, virtuoso performance of the Tanglewood Festival Chorus. Called upon to whisper, growl, shout and, yes, even sing, portraying everything from the Voice of God speaking to Moses, from a Burning Bush to orgiastic revelers worshiping a Golden Calf, the chorus excelled and reveled in each unusual opportunity.”

Contrast with this insightful post from Matthew Guerrieri at Soho the Dog, This is Cinerama:

The mob took a while to come into focus. The biggest casualty of a concert, as opposed to a staged, performance of Moses is the protean character of the chorus. In their first big scene, rumors of possible liberation race through the people, factions form and dissolve, and conventional wisdoms are settled upon and then cast aside. With the chorus a massed block at the back of the stage, Schoenberg’s careful delineation of the desperation and fickleness of each requisite group was largely a wash. Hearing the Tanglewood Festival Chorus this past summer in Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder, my sense was that they were struggling to adjust to Levine’s minimalist, undemonstrative conducting style. That uncertainty seemed evident in the first act of Moses as well; thrilling sounds (particularly from the women) were in abundance, but so were lagging tempi and blurry rhythms. But a few minutes into Act II, everything clicked into place, and the chorus suddenly began to peal forth. Their cry of “Juble, Israel” (“Rejoice, Israel”) at the initial appearance of the Golden Calf was filled with a sure beauty as well as a chilling fanaticism.

Who’s right, TJ or Matthew? If I’m honest I have to say Matthew. There were quite a few small glitches in the chorus, which are perhaps attributable to the cause Matthew suggests as much as to the incredible difficulty of the writing.

It’s an interesting point-counterpoint. While the review in the Herald does an excellent job of conveying the overall impression of the concert, Matthew gives a far closer reading and identifies both the true strengths and weaknesses of the performance. A good example of the value of blogs from focused individuals to dig deeply into unfamiliar subjects and provide more valuable coverage.

Flying with a cold

There’s only one thing I hate more than comment spam, and that’s flying with a cold. Partway into Saturday night’s performance, the cold came down like a big hammer and I barely sniffled my way through.

I managed to rally enough yesterday to finish our remaining kitchen cabinetry, a small pantry/desk area consisting of a 24″ IKEA wall cabinet modded with legs as the base cabinet, plus a wine rack and a 12″ wall cabinet above. It’s all done but the plinth and the countertop; pix forthcoming.

And our countertops for the rest of the cabinets have arrived and will hopefully be installed during the early part of this week… so we can get our sink and get our dishwasher installed.

Mr. Morton, take your neuroma back

I’ve had a lot of difficulty standing and walking this week; I woke up on Tuesday after a long rehearsal Monday night with very strong pain in the toes on my right foot and wasn’t able to put any weight on my second or third toes—meaning I couldn’t walk very quickly and putting on a shoe was torture. I managed to get around it through the remaining four rehearsals and Thursday night’s performance by pushing my foot over the edge of the risers on which we sing, so my weight rested on the back of the foot and the front was free. But climbing through the airports on Friday was murder, and things didn’t seem to be getting better.

So Saturday I took myself down to the Walk-In Clinic (yes, I know; the irony) at Mt. Auburn Hospital, where they indicated that no bones were broken. Instead, they think I have a Morton’s Neuroma, a condition where a foot nerve gets pinched between the toe bones and a shoe and swells, developing a growth that leaves you in more or less constant discomfort. Um, yay.

So now I have to hie myself to a podiatrist. I didn’t really think I was old enough for podiatry. Welcome to my thirties.

New mix: “like i had to see what I could lift“

Posted at Art of the Mix and iTunes. This one took a while to put together but mines some material from some recordings I’ve had forever—a benefit of going back to listen to all of my ripped CDs on shuffle is that tracks like the one from Shu-De surprise you. And then there’s “Red Clay Halo,” which might as well be a family anthem.

The overall may be a little heavy on what someone I know has called “moody man-rock,” but I think it works.

Schoenberg on the prowl

Back from a quick trip to DC (Crystal City to be exact), footsore and tired, but still pleased with what I found in the paper (online) this morning: BSO brings prowling Schoenberg opera to life. Key paragraph (emphasis added):

But of course what gives this parable its weight and power is Schoenberg’s bracing 12-tone score, some of the most urgent and vital music that he ever composed. The part of Moses is written in Sprechstimme, a vocal style between speech and song. Sir John Tomlinson was magnificent in this role, his somber declarations chiseled into the music around him. Aron was sung by the sweet-toned tenor Philip Langridge, who made the giant leaps in the vocal part seem effortless. Sergei Koptchak was a standout among the other soloists , but at the true heart of this performance was the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which brought this fiercely difficult music to life with riveting delivery and admirable polish. Levine led the proceedings with expert pacing. If the Golden Calf orgy did not pack the visceral punch of other performances he has led at the Met, he made up for it with a luminous ending that held the hall in a deep silence. After everything that had transpired, the moment had an eloquence all its own.

And the best thing is, the performance will only get better, since on Saturday we’re certain to get some of the uncertain entrances that marred last night’s performance from the perspective of those on stage.

Another review from blogger Vana Jezebel: “Last night I went to see Moses and Aron (Schoenberg) at the BSO and it was pretty crazy — an incredible performance.” I’d say that pretty well sums it up.

Schoenberg by the numbers

Boston Globe: BSO’s epic undertaking. The numbers the article provides are fairly daunting even from the outside. But here’s how those hours break down for me, as of this week:

12 rehearsals for the TFC… of which I had to miss four thanks to work, including two runthrough rehearsals.

5 rehearsals this week… one Monday night, one Tuesday, two today, one more tomorrow, constituting…

17.5 hours of rehearsal. This week.

5 product demos for work, to be done in the few remaining hours at the office.

3:45 in the morning on Friday, when I have to get up after the concert the night before to fly to DC for a meeting.

At this point liking the Moses und Aron is largely irrelevant. Surviving it is rather more to the point.

Son of Boycott Sony?

I’ve received an email urging me to comment on the recent claims by import company Lik-Sang that Sony has put them out of business. On the face of it, Sony’s actions—they got a UK court to bar Lik-Sang and other importers from selling the Japanese version of the PSP—seem anticonsumer and anticompetitive. So why aren’t I jumping up and down with indignation?

A few reasons why I might be a little indignant: first, region-specific products are evil, a scheme whereby multinationals exploit national borders as a convenient excuse to gouge customers in different countries and territories to the extent that the market will bear (and piracy is an even more transparent excuse). It’s wrong in the music industry, wrong in the DVD industry, and wrong in the electronics industry.

Also, the language that Sony is using to justify its actions, to wit, taking the moral high ground on personally identifiable information about its customers, seems kind of … ironic.

But there’s another side to the issue. One, for better or worse, Sony is apparently within their legal rights in enforcing the exclusivity of their distribution network. So sadly we don’t have a lot of moral high ground to stand on—just a generalized grumbling about Sony’s anti-customer mindset. And if we fight this, we need to fight region coding on DVDs, import-only record releases, and virtually every other aspect of the worldwide media industry. That way lies Cory Doctorow, who does a really good job of keeping up with these sorts of issues.

But the other thing, frankly, is that Sony is doing a great job of digging its own grave. Look at its recent profit projections… battery problems for its own laptops and othersPS3 shortages… Sony just doesn’t seem as threatening as it used to.


I have a running playlist in iTunes that was destined to be a mix, consisting of odd cover songs that actually work (or don’t). I was all excited to work on it this weekend until I saw the 66 Alt-Rock Cover Songs list on the iTunes Store, which took all the wind out of my sails. Not only did it include some of the covers I was already planning to use for the next mix, it also included some I didn’t know about. “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” by the Violent Femmes? “Everybody Hurts” by Dashboard Confessional? “Lithium” by the Polyphonic Spree? Oh, it hurts us, precious…

Around the ‘sphere: Thank U

Today’s link round-up thanks major players in our lives for working to make things better for us:

Not traveling

It feels weird to be in the office and have an hour or two to myself. I was in Baltimore Monday and Tuesday, and on the road a few days last week; the rest of the week is full of remote customer demos. And rehearsals for the Moses und Aron.

About which: I have to say, this is the most challenging piece I’ve ever done. Conceptually, the chorus in this work is supposed to “humanize” Schoenberg’s twelve-tone music, but it’s difficult to be convincingly human when you’re a little terrified of the music.

I’ve written about the challenges of the piece before, but after six weeks of rehearsals they appear no more surmountable than they did before. Vocal lines wander according to their own logic without reference to other musical parts, choral or instrumental, meaning that all the clues you have as a singer to find your pitch are absent; you basically have to memorize every entrance and every melodic line. And it’s a long work. (For other perspectives on preparing for the piece, check out fanw and Eryk, whose open letter to our conductor is one of the funnier things I’ve read recently.)

Tis a gift to be simple, tis a gift to … write code?

Hooblogger Luke Melia shared this Shaker proverb that has applicability to software:

If it is not useful or necessary, free yourself from imagining that you need to make it.

If it is useful and necessary, free yourself from imagining that you need to enhance it by adding what is not an integral part of its usefulness or necessity.

If it is both useful and necessary and you can recognize and eliminate what is not essential, then go ahead and make it as beautifully as you can.

— Shaker saying (Shaker Built: The Form and Function of Shaker Architecture (This origin is dubious)

I’d love to get the actual origin of this, but it’s starting to get some circulation in the software community.

IKEA hacking for kitchens and dogs

getting comfortable

A little more work on the kitchen this weekend. I installed the molding strips under our wall cabinets (check the master kitchen renovation photoset, starting here, for the details), which was slightly more complicated than I expected. Cutting and mitering the strips was a cinch thanks to my miter saw, but I had to shape them around the molding strip on the back wall (visible in this photo) and that took a little longer. Fortunately the jigsaw made relatively quick work of that step, and I was able to get clean cuts along my rough penciled cut out lines.

The final step, mounting them, also proved challenging. We bought the molding strips upwards of three months ago, and I could only locate hardware for one set of molding—not nearly enough L-brackets to finish the job. (Note: for some reason, the molding strips I got did not include hardware in the box, but apparently the newer ones do). So I made a run down to Stoughton (where we needed some other things anyway) and got the returns department to give me eight of the brackets I needed to finish the job. The nearly final product (still awaiting caulking) is in the photoset, along with two filler panels at the end of the cabinet run. (That part gave me fits until I figured out that I could simply use construction adhesive to connect the filler panel to the cabinets.)

Along the way I found time to have a little fun for our dogs. We got two 27 inch long Värde wall cabinets from IKEA which were originally intended to form part of a butler’s pantry, but we didn’t like the way they looked. Fortunately, Lisa had a brainwave and suggested we take the doors off and put beds in. Originally we tried doing this with the cabinets stacked atop each other, but fortunately for all concerned we figured out a bench layout would be best. So I connected the two cabinets together with four of the connecting screws that IKEA thoughtfully provides in just about every box, put six Capita legs underneath, and slid some spare beds inside. The dogs seem to like it, as evidenced by the photos. The final step will be to cut up the butcher-block countertop that is currently temporarily resting on part of our cabinets and screw it on top of the bench as a seating surface—probably with a cushion. Maybe when that step is completed I’ll send this into the IKEA Hacker Blog.

Route 2 with a view


Lisa and I took time off work yesterday to recuperate from the past few weeks (she had a product launch last week). We drove west along Rt 2 to see what the leaves looked like. It was a little early still but nice, as the photos hopefully show.

Our stops included the French King Bridge and Gould’s Sugar House. While the former was mostly a sightseeing post—one of the few along the road—the latter had pancakes. And syrup. And really, after a morning driving along the leaves, what more could one ask? Well, among other things, a tractor called “Lord,” apparently.

In addition to lunch, we picked up a few things from the sugarhouse, including both Grade A and Grade B syrup. (For the uninitiated, Grade A is thought of as “table syrup,” and generally runs lighter in color, but to my mind Grade B is more interesting. It’s produced at the very end of the sap run, and can have a really spectacular, slightly spicy flavor.) Between that and the 25-cent maple-syrup flavored soft serve ice cream, we were pretty well sugared up for the drive back.