iPad answers: file handling, PDF creation

  • This article answers one of the questions I had about the iPad, namely, file handling in iWork. New iPad applications will be able to indicate that they can support files and then you can drag and drop files for those applications while the iPad is connected to the parent computer. Plus support for registering apps to handle file types and PDF creation on the fly.
    (tags: ipad iphone apple)

Apple iPad: first reactions

Four reactions that I agree with (parts of) in response to Apple’s iPad announcement yesterday:

  • Doc Searls places the iPad in the context of vertical integration (apps all the way down to CPUs) and horizontal playing fields and says, “What you have to appreciate, even admire, is how well Apple plays the vertical game. It’s really amazing. What you also have to appreciate is how much we also need the horizontal one. The iPad needs an open alternative, soon.”
  • Dave Weinberger says that the iPad is the “future of the past of books” and says it’s missing interactivity and collaboration as key features.
  • John Gruber says that the iPad user experience feels like it’s all about speed, and says that Apple’s vertical integration play (the aforementioned Apple A4 chip) is responsible, and that “this is Apple’s way of asserting that they’re taking over the penthouse suite as the strongest and best company in the whole ones-and-zeroes racket” ahead of Sony, Nokia, and Samsung.
  • Michael at Cruftbox sums up the reactions of the rest of the world and says, “You’ll bang on about features, data plans, DRM, open source, and a multitude of issues. You’ll storm the message boards, wring your hands, and promise you won’t buy one till ‘Gen 2.’ The din will grow and grow as time passes. And then one day, in a few months, you will actually hold one and use it. And you will say, ‘I want one. Iwant one right now.'”

I think what disappointed me about the launch was not the device but the position it occupies. Jobs sees the iPad as occupying empty space in the consumer world between a PC (laptop) and phone. And there is probably room in that position. But the iPad seems also to be firmly positioned, at least for now, as a companion device. You sync it to another computer over iTunes. There’s no USB port or optical drive. It’s not going to be replacing anyone’s laptop any time soon.

And, frankly, that’s what I was hoping it would do. Because while it looks like it blows away its target use cases (web browsing, mail, calendar, gaming, music, book reading, even office apps), there are some very real use cases it doesn’t handle. And not just being a development platform. Like:

  • Preparing taxes (though Intuit could probably do a tax application for it)
  • Scanning documents (no USB port…)
  • Printing (ditto–though I wonder if it supports network based printing?)
  • Videoconferencing (no camera and no ports)
  • Organizing photos
  • Making a calendar or Christmas card

Additionally, I have question marks about some of the use cases that it seems to handle well otherwise. Like: can I point its version of iTunes at my 500 GB network drive and play music from there? How do the new iWork apps manage their files? (Remember, there is no user visible file system on the iPhone OS, on which the iPad is based.)

But, my quibbles aside, I have to confess that I’ve already talked with my wife about getting one. We’re pretty excited for the brave new iPad future. Because for most of what it does, it does beautifully.

1911 UVa Football Songbook

A quick post from the depths of Virginia musical history tonight. As part of a lot of miscellaneous University of Virginia memorabilia I got from eBay recently, I got an unusual item: a University of Virginia songbook that was handed out at football games. (Scans of the whole thing are available on Flickr.)  This particular instance dates from 1911, and probably from the November 4 game against Wake Forest. (The attentive among us will note that in 1911, six games into the season, Virginia was 6–0, while the uncharitable will note that the games were played against Hampden-Sydney, William and Mary, Randolph-Macon, Swarthmore, St John’s, and VMI.)

Football songs? Sure. All those fight songs and team specific songs that appear on Songs of Virginia really were current at one time, and sung at games. Even “Oh, Carolina.” (“They can manufacture rosin, but they’ll never, never score.”) Almost as much fun are reading the ads, for a bunch of businesses that are no longer around (the Jefferson Shaving Parlor, anyone?) As the house ad in the back exhorts, “remember the advertisers,” indeed.

The book was published “for the benefit of the University of Virginia Band,” and I suspect that—aside from contributing the text of “The Good Old Song” and maybe others—the Glee Club had nothing to do with the book, as all evidence is that the group was on hiatus in 1911. But it’s still fun to look at, and to imagine the modern attendees of Scott Stadium swaying as they sing 115-year-old words to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne,” never quite realizing the depth of the tradition that they are, however inadvertently, keeping alive.

Grab bag: MacMillan reviews

Grab bag: Google, good fonts, bad jokes

More MacMillan

There’s a fair bit of chatter about the MacMillan St. John Passion, so I thought I’d do a quick roundup. I’ll lead off with three other TFC bloggers, two of whom I’ve already linked, then include a few other notes.

  • Tenore (Len): Free tickets available. Len writes, “While some of it is tonally challenging and a bitch to sing, most of it is quite melodic and beautiful.” Which of course drew a comment from the composer (seriously).
  • Angelina Calderón: From the depths of Symphony Hall. Angelina writes a little about the rehearsal process.
  • Jeff, aka Just Another Bass, has a set of great articles about the process and the piece.

Then there’s all the other writings, some of which stem from the piece’s first round of performances, others are more contemporary:

  • The Guardian, James MacMillan charts the progress of his latest composition The Passion. Interesting diary in progress of the work. My favorite bit from the article: “The scene where Jesus is brought before Pilate is the work’s biggest movement. It’s pure drama. This is the first point where I’ve wondered if I need more soloists. Instead, I’ve decided to give the role of Pilate to the basses. His music has a particular colour – a desiccated, dry clicking sound, col legno strings, temple blocks with low bassoons and parping trombones. It’s a challenge to write this music for chorus rather than soloists; I’m trying to write what I feel the part needs while making sure it’s still manageable for an amateur chorus. I’ve just written a tricky F sharp up to F natural interval for the basses – the music has to prepare and help them in some way, so I’ve outlined the interval in the timpani which sets up a kind of context so they can feel more relaxed about it. They’ll still scream when they first see it, I’m sure.” (For what it’s worth, the TFC basses are doing just fine with the part.)
  • The Jewish Daily, Forward: MacMillan and strife: a new ‘St. John Passion.’ The article calls out the orchestration and the inclusion of the Reproaches text in leveling a charge of antisemitism against the work.
  • Boston Globe, An act of ‘Passion’. Good introduction to the piece for American audiences, including the perspective of Sir Colin Davis, our conductor for the run.

Grab bag: Free swing, faceted search, fun summer internship

Grab bag: Google hacked in China

Preparing the MacMillan St. John Passion

It’s that time of year again. My colleagues and I in the Tanglewood Festival Chorus have put away our Holiday Pops scores in preparation for tackling more sublime repertoire. This upcoming concert, the US premier of James Macmillan‘s St. John Passion, a joint commission by the BSO and the London Symphony in honor of Sir Colin Davis’s 80th birthday and under his baton, should fit that adjective nicely.

The Boosey and Hawkes catalog entry for the Passion dryly notes the choral “level of difficulty” as “5 (the greatest).” Other singers have noted some of the challenges without going into details. At the risk of going in over my head, I’ll take a shot at describing both the difficulties and their payoffs.

Voices: The Passion is not shy in its use of choral forces, leveraging a small “narrator chorus” to perform the role sometimes filled by an Evangelist solo in the Bach settings of the Passions, in addition to a large chorus performing the traditional functions (Pharisees, crowd reactions, and chorales) and some more dramatic semi-soloistic roles (Pilate and Peter), with only one role for a true soloist, Christ himself. That’s a lot of moving parts and a lot of work for the chorus, which is not unusual for any Passion. What is a little more unusual is the…

Vocal writing: The text of the Passion is Latin and English, with traditional liturgical poems added to the Biblical text. The narrator chorus is written with plainchant in mind, but is generally written in four-part harmonies that are miles away from traditional Gregorian forms and rhythms. The chorus’s parts are even more gnarly, with vocal effects ranging from Sprechstimme and eight-to-twelve-voice chromatic passages to simultaneous juxtapositions of the Stabat Mater text with an English-language lullaby inspired by the Coventry Carol. The vocal ornamentation and rhythms are unusual as well, with Christ’s muezzin-like melismas reminding us that the original Biblical setting would have been more at home with the vocal traditions of the Middle East than that of Bach. For a chorus like the TFC, used to memorizing everything from the old warhorses like the Beethoven 9 to modern works like the Bolcom 8th Symphony, the combination of all of the above suggested that having scores in the performance might be a really good idea. That said, there are substantial portions of the work that are now firmly lodged somewhere in my cerebellum and won’t go away. And that’s due to…

The overall effect: MacMillan has a lot of forces and tools at his command, and he uses them to move the narrative of the story through to its inexorable conclusion with a lot of jaw-dropping effects along the way. Peter’s triple denial of Christ, sung by four-part men’s chorus, trips over itself singing, “I am not… I am… not,” dropping an octave down from vehemence into a piano unison in a strong psychological portrayal of the shame of the lie. The chorale on Judas’s betrayal of Christ (“Judas mercator pessimus”) begins gangbusters with a condemnatory declamation before improbably melting away to a jewel-like setting of his request of a kiss from Christ for the second sopranos and second tenors, then  sets the “Melius illi erat” (“It would have been better if he had never been born”) as a Renaissance motet accompanied by fast recitation of text (an effect not unlike the library scene in Wings of Desire). The Crucifixio employs the classic cross vocal motif as a starting point (a four note melody moving down and up around a central tone), suspending Bach chorale harmonies on long whole-note phrases that decrescendo into a stunned silence.

But it’s the Stabat Mater in part 7 that really brings home the genius of all the moving parts of the work, with narrator chorus describing the fate of Mary, the inner voices sing the Latin poem in a breathtaking melismatic canon of fourths and fifths… and the outer voices (soprano and bass) sing a gentle lullaby to the deceased Christ, all at the same time–before closing on a quote from Bach made utterly personal: “Your sacred head is wounded.” It’s one of those moments outside of time that don’t come along too often in symphonic repertoire. I’m looking forward to continuing to journey into the work. Hopefully some of you can be there for the performance with me.

Grab bag: Woody, Al Gore, and Super Mario

Glee Club history Friday: New directors on the Wiki

I’m going through the backlog of blog posts I have about Club history and translating them into articles on the new Virginia Glee Club Wiki. It’s going to take a while, but slowly but surely things are getting filled in. This week I created new articles on J. A. Morrow and the Virginia Music Festival (referencing past posts here).

I’ve also had some time for new research. Today we spotlight four previously unknown directors of the Virginia Glee Club. None of them, as far as we can tell, served for a long period of time, but all had unique contributions.

Cyril Dadswell (ca. 1906). Dr. Dadswell was one of the individuals who turned up when back issues of the Cavalier Daily (and its predecessor College Topics) showed up on the Google News archives. Dadswell was the director of the Dramatic Club, also known as the “Arcadians,” and his vision for Club seems to have been shaped by dramatic considerations, with a stated intention to focus on light opera. That Club was a second focus after the successful Arcadians might have been one of the reasons that Club diminished in visibility (or disappeared entirely) between this time and M. S. Remsburg‘s renewal of the group in 1910.

Erwin Schneider (ca. 1917-1918). A naturalized German citizen, Dr. Schneider was an associate faculty member who appears in the University of Virginia Bulletin as a piano and violin instructor in the summer school program. There was a good deal of enthusiasm about his directorship in the fall of 1917, but the timing could not have been worse for him as the whole University was about to buckle down to support the war effort the following year. There’s no further information about his connection with the group, and indeed no news about Club at all, until Fickenscher took it over in 1920 with the beginning of the Music Department.

Henry Morgan (1947-1948). Morgan was a UVA music professor who was acting head of the music department and Glee Club director in 1947-1948; my best guess is that he took over while Stephen Tuttle was on sabbatical with his Guggenheim fellowship. Not much is known about Morgan’s directorship, save that he conducted the ninth annual Christmas concert in 1948.

James Dearing (1974-1975). Dearing was like Morgan, a UVA professor who took over directorship of the Glee Club during another’s sabbatical, in this case for Donald Loach while Loach was on sabbatical in Italy. We know a bit more about Dearing, though: he had a good deal of involvement with Virginia choral music, including directing the University Singers and founding the Virginia Women’s Chorus.

I was especially pleased to find the information on Dearing, as it shed light on a period of Club history that we know very little about, and it came from an alumnus who commented on the wiki. It should go without saying, but I’m always grateful for the contributions of other alums to this project. Keep ’em coming!