links for 2008-08-22

The ineffable and the effable

Tonight we’re singing Beethoven’s Mass in C, which is one of those undeservedly underperformed works — at least, compared to the rest of the Beethoven corpus. Compared to the average early English sacred work, it’s practically ubiquitous.

It’s an interesting setting of the work for an interesting time. Beethoven wrote the work in 1807, and it’s hard not to hear the work through the filter of the political and cultural upheavals of the epoch. What role did the mass text have, what resonance and relevance, after revolutions ripped apart the old fabric of monarchies? You can hear some if Beethoven’s response in the setting of the Credo, which opens on an agitato string accompaniment and a low murmured “credo” from the chorus; as our director has remarked, it’s more question than declamation.

And yet there are oceanic passages throughout that speak to a deep tradition–the sacred chant and response of the Benedictus are probably the clearest connection to the old traditions. It is a work that repays close study, and performance.

Getting attention

There’s a cute comic up at WPLover that highlights an interesting UI trend: the rise of the speech bubble. If you don’t have a WordPress blog, you may never have seen this UI, but it’s pretty much as the comic strip shows it. In the dashboard UI, there are a series of tabs for common tasks–comment management, etc.–and if something needs your attention on one of those tabs, a “speech bubble” pops up with the number of things you need to address.

What the comic points out is that this makes perfect sense for comments (a speech bubble with the number of comments is a congruent metaphor). But indicating the number of plugins needing updates is a little different–should your WordPress plugins really be talking to you?

I think the first treatment of this concept that I saw was Apple’s new mail count in, but they didn’t treat it as a speech bubble (there was no “tail” on the little red badge showing the count). This treatment is probably the more portable UI convention.