Lost in Tranlston

So it turns out that one can make a pretty extensive start on a doctoral dissertation armed only with Google and some pretty obscure squiggles that may or may not be in German, written over 100 years ago. Anyone who can interpret the following will be awarded an amazing prize* because I have no idea:

What?

I think it says ‘Aowiw lz Oardanier’ but Google Translate says no and I don’t think it means anything in English.

*Despair* Suggestions are welcome. That aside, being without means of creativity and in a small room with a big box of M&Ms, I delve once more into the realm of my previous artistic endeavours in a feeble attempt to keep this blog’s head above water in these turbulent times.

Thence introducing Hannah, the talented author of Not All Who Wonder Are Lost, whom I sketched about a year ago. For the first time ever (excepting that rather ineffectual effort with Ella Grainger) I decided to take regular photos during the process in order to make a time-lapse progression. Without further ado.

Hannah

The final result being:

And FinalAh. It’s nice to deal with a tangible art form for a change. Poor Etruscans.** The original title for this post was “Never Look a Gif Horse in the Mouth.” I’d always assumed the phrase was a reference to the Trojan horse legend: meaning if you looked inside the Greeks would know you knew they were there and attack at once. Apparently the actual meaning is much less violent in that horse-age can be determined by the length of their teeth, so if you looked at the mouth of the horse someone gave you as a present you were trying to determine/judge the value of their gift.

*Seriously.

**The Etruscans’ language is basically extinct as of over two and a half millennia ago, or something like that.

Two Hundred Words Under the Sydney

SydneyCityofLifeCityofColourSydney.

It is a total relief to be back where sunny days are considered normal, pedestrian crossings are much less harrowing/ambiguous to deal with, and if you want to get alcohol you get to go to a separate non-grocery store. I heartily apologise for the lack of updates – it has been more than a little hectic resettling back in Australia, and while there have been many stories accumulating as a result, they are unfortunately only self-interesting when placed in the context that most people experience them upheaving to a new (or old) place. As of now I am piano-less, ensemble-less and inspiration-less.

In other words, a musicologist. :O

I considered saying something about how I’ve been institutionalised by my time in the UK and I’d probably be swinging under a ‘Brooks was here’ etching in a couple of weeks, but it wouldn’t be true at all. Perhaps fittingly, my last artistic endeavour in the UK was a Matisse-style single-line drawing of the stodgy Postman Pat photoshop job from a few posts ago.

Irony

Utter crap.

But as they say in gay Paris; Cat haute vitesse vaut attraper ver tôt!

Nine more words bring the word count to 200.

Morocco’s Modern Life

To set the mood:
Bonnies Poem
Good. Now that’s out of the way, to provide a bit of explanatory background…
.
It was the heat of the Moroccan summer. We were in Casablanca, heading for Milan. The plane was waiting on the hot tarmac, after a cramped bus ride. Fortunately the plane air-conditioning wasn’t working, and we had for company a family of four somewhat screaming children. There was a not-remarkable delay sitting in the cabin, but soon* we were on our way to the take-off strip. The runway if you will.
*relatively
.
I grabbed her hand as I am want to do during take-off and landing. The plane began to accelerate, faster and faster. We were about to lift off; starting to experience that surreal weightlessness when suddenly we began to slow down again. It took twenty minutes to limp back to the tarmac. The crew said nothing beyond that there was a technical error.
Some of the goats were ripe.

The Moroccan version of Newton’s realisation-of-gravity story is a lot more colourful!

The air-conditioning was still not working, which didn’t really matter as we were only a few degrees away from being at the closest possible point on Earth to the sun. We stayed there for three hours in that orange heat. The children grew ever more unruly and it was only later on finally leaving the plane that we were able to survey the true extent of their damage: including the floor of the plane covered with the shattered remnants of those airline safety cards, torn to shreds among a coating of various food crumbs. A coating we too shared. A rebellion was quelling among the passengers and various factions were forming, but before a coup could be attempted the crew announced the problem had been fixed, or that they were going to ‘risk it.’
.
In any case, it was a major fault with an engine that had to be solved because there were no other planes available and I admit it was not the most comforting experience re-lining up again to take-off. Having survived, Bonnie asked me to write this poem in the car in Milan, my normally illegible handwriting kept rigorously in check by the gloriously cool climate and surprised relief at not going down in a big fireball as I calmly expected.
Cat on a Cartesian Plane

Moroccan cats have genetically evolved to maintain their kitten form well into adult-hood. This leads them to become world-weary and apathetic towards human-cat interaction.

P.S. I completely understand that some countries have chaotic traffic/driving as the encouraged standard, usually with appalling fend-for-yourself conditions. However, perhaps the strangest thing about Casablanca was that the roads and lanes were exquisitely well-marked and signalled, yet everyone disregarded this and drove around like it was American Civil War Reenactment In Socks Night at a museum of waxed flooring.

The Page of Anxiety

What did two siblings get up to back in 2001 with nothing but an excessively large roll of butcher paper, a block of red plasticine, and a camera? Probably not a lot, but here was our eventuality:

Plastic-Jubilations3

Those were happier, simpler times. A time when you could effectively create a program of Monopoly on your TI-83 graphics calculator and when 10 megabytes was considered a lot of memory that you definitely would not attach to an email. Since then I have seen school-age children search for the ‘on’ button on an acoustic upright piano and toddlers attempting to touch-screen-swipe (I don’t know what the term is) actual books in order to get to the next page.

Anyway, there is something timelessly poignant about that rainy day when my sister and I lined the bathroom with paper and created this short, moving film (he’s vomiting at the end in case it isn’t clear; there was some rather graphic audio too, but it doesn’t translate to a gif and no doubt it would offend the internet’s delicate sensibilities). Hell, I’d barely even started piano then. I think ironically I spent more time trying just now to get the functional looping gif to work on this post then it did to create the thing all those years ago.

Oh look, it’s 1am.

Euston, we have a problem…

I like the London Underground.

Puppy!

Surprisingly, Alsatians are the world’s only venomous canine. The male possesses a poison spur on their back legs. Though rarely fatal, it can incapacitate an adult human.

Hailing as I do from Brisbane, where the train network is fundamentally sadistic, one soon develops an acute sense of fear relating to the reliability of the service. There, it is apparent there is a literal “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy relating to train failures, and a half hour journey can quickly grow into a four hour upwards ordeal while lumbering replacement buses are rounded up to wind themselves along the winding backstreets of the outer Brisbane suburbs. One learns the meaning of term ‘languish’ from the experience.

Verily, even if nothing goes wrong the bleak infrequency of literally every train line makes it costly to miss, (emotionally mainly). Between services fierce Alsatians are released upon those still on the platform who didn’t make the train in order to thin the numbers and discourage future tardiness.

They know the deal

Die in open air, the way nature intended. Ask your Druggist about Rat Bis=Kit today! IT’S PACKED IN BOXES!

The London Underground, for all its faults, is a fascinating creature. Two years since I first met it and it is still a pure joy to invariably have only two minutes to wait at most between trains and I always raise an eyebrow at the businessmen who come bounding down the escalators. They fling themselves wildly like a rat on a biscuit at the people-mass crowded into carriages, rather than wait a minute for the next train already approaching. It’s like a freaking conveyor belt, so calm yourselves!

In any case, I’ve wondered with all the stations so close together and with the time it takes to get from the street to the platform, at what distance it becomes faster and cheaper to walk. Furthermore, factoring in the fare costs saved (as well as when delays are in effect), there should be a rough solution to be found.

Some Assumptions:

  • £6.31/h is the UK minimum wage
  • £2.10 – Zone 1 (Oyster Card) trip on the Underground (£4.50 for a single ticket)
  • I’ll make walking speed 6km/h (5km/h is average but you technically need to do fast walking to equate to moderate exercise).
  • Time to get between the street and a station (a rough guess that varies considerably) 2 mins.
  • Time waiting for a train 2 mins.

So. Those are the values. So basically by choosing to walk and not paying a fare, you are effectively getting paid to walk, thus reducing the time-saving nature of the tube.

At a basic level by not paying £2.10 you are buying yourself 19 minutes and 58 seconds of walking time at minimum wage. This is 1996.83 metres!

Seriously. They will even die trying to seek water. It must not happen!

Seriously. They will even die attempting to seek water. It must not happen!

Okay, so that’s almost two kilometres. But remember, by not even going to the station you are saving a little more time. Lets combine the time it takes to get down there and up again and also the waiting time as 6 minutes total (at a rough conservative estimate of course, it depends on station layout). This costs £0.631.

That extra cost saved expands your walking range to 2596.86 metres!! (Taking 25 minutes and 58 seconds to complete)

Also, underground trains travel at an average of 33km/hour which also costs time (though about 5.5 times less than walking). Taking that into account costs £0.0191 per minute relative to walking. This will often be quite negligible and depends on where you want to travel to, but follows an exponential equation.

In the instance above it should take the train about 4.72 minutes to travel the distance you walked (£0.069). This allows for another 65.59 metres of walking. (2662.45 metres!) This additional walking distance buys you another 8.38 seconds for the train to catch up but lets not bother.

Zone 1 MapWith the above diagram; move the blue dot (and shaded red area) to wherever you are and if the station you intend to travel to is within the red outer circle you are financially and time effectively better off walking. Another way to look at it might be that if you’re going vertically in Zone 1 it’s usually cheaper to walk.

A few notes:

  • For delays: Add 31.67 metres for each minute. For instance if there are 10 minute delays on a line, your maximum radius expands another 316.67 metres.
  • If you need to change lines: (say another 5 mins involved including waiting) add another 833 metres to your radius per change required.
  • If you rather enjoy walking vigorously everywhere and cancelled your £40/month gym membership: (that you happened to be using to get your 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week) the resultant savings add about 1664 walking metres per day.
  • THUS: If you saved on exercise costs and had a line change in your intended route you can walk 5200 metres more efficiently overall than if you used the London Underground (basically the diameter of the original red circle instead of the radius).
  • This would: likely spill over into Zone 2 which would automatically give you another 665 metres due to the increased fare.
  • Finally: if you brought a ticket (£4.50) instead of an Oyster card, you could walk 4734 metres (and that’s just the base figure).
Tube

The London Underground Logo. I drew this left handed? Can you believe I’m not left handed?

There you go. I like the London Underground.

P.S. This is my 50th blog post!

On The Concept of Postman Pat

I mentioned the Improvisation on the Concept of Postman Pat a couple of posts ago and I think it deserves a little more of a mention/explanation as it’s a thoroughly remarkable piece. While the main performance went un-recorded in my rare and baffling observance of institutional rules, there was some rehearsal footage that survived (below). This one is a fragment from the second parcel.

But first … or second, to recap:

“The piece was ‘written’ by Brisbane percussionist Cameron Kennedy – a musical innovator and performer of rare humour and intellect. It was first entirely improvised for mixed percussion by Cameron at the 2010 Australian Percussion Gathering, and he wrote down the instructions at the request of Hugh Tidy, who performed that ‘version’ in 2011. Cameron then revised and expanded the instructions for this recital to incorporate the piano as the primary instrument.”

And so, dear reader, it is essentially a structured improvisation… on the concept of Postman Pat. And while it is entirely permissible for the original theme song to crop up thence and whence, (and it deliberately opens quoting said material), the postal element of the piece lies more in it’s structure – short individual ‘parcels’ featuring specific spoken fragments from the episode “Postman Pat and the Cranky Cows” (complete with various British accents) and a set of guidelines for each segment’s musical parameters. Thus involved are the emphatic shouting of things such as:

“Would you look at that Dorothy… They’ve started on me broccoli now!”

“The sheep have taken a liking to our green vegetables, Pat.”

“Is there a postman in the house?”

… all while manipulating electronic delay, a percussion battery of very flexible instrumentation and two or more pianos; one prepared in a rather germane* fashion (germane?! Oh no, I’ve become my supervisor!) with a copy of the very program note describing the piece.

My favourite instruction was from the somewhat liberal “Cameleoparcel:”

Mentally identify a member of the audience and create a musical representation of what you imagine their life to have been like thus far.

"Well that's the Ted Glenn Automatic Sheep Disperser"

“Well that’s the Ted Glenn Automatic Sheep Disperser”

And that’s the great thing about the Postman Pat: the hyper-flexible and practical approach it lends to performance: There are no wrong notes or musical decisions, at worst just unconvincing ones. Whether or not it will go down well with an audience is another thing, but ultimately that is down to the performer. In any case, many thanks are due to Cameron for the fantastic music/concept.

*appropriate or relevant. I learn one new word a year and that was 2012’s.

Manchester, or a Study in 7ths and Other Things

I look forward to Saturday. Not only will it contain my last performance in the sunny old England but also my final visit to Manchester (though I will be briefly passing through it to the airport later next month). This final concert features George Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the North Cheshire Wind Orchestra and me/I, and it is a strange coincidence that I played the exact same piece with wind orchestra in my last concert before leaving Australia in the first place. Then I return to London and eventually after a few months back to Australia 😀

Made using pebbles

‘Map of the World’ made using glass pebbles from a beach in Sicily! Not to scale and sincere apologies to Cuba and Spain. The second pebble from the right (the orange one) represents Norfolk Island.

***Disclaimer***

While I find the Rhapsody great fun to play – it is to be brought to the attention of anyone who reads this far that Gershwin’s later Piano Concerto (albeit scored for symphony orchestra) is objectively a dwarfing-ly superior work in ALL regards. The only thing it doesn’t outperform the Rhapsody in is popularity. And even then it should. Go and listen and update your aesthetics.

***End Disclaimer***

In any case, it will be particularly interesting to hear two equivalent-quality (Zoom) same-concerto (Rhapsody) recordings of my playing on either side of this whole England jaunt. I almost succeeded in doing so with Carl Vine’s piano concerto in 2008 and 2010: the first performance had a good recording but the latter (at the Queensland Conservatorium) was of somewhat bizarre audio quality. One must assume the trained monkeys they normally used had smallpox™ that day and so they brought in Plan B – the music technology students.

Cohort of '09

Mutech Cohort of ’09

The ‘Mutechs,’ as they are ‘affectionately’ known, are a special breed. Part heavy metal enthusiast, part computer nerd, and equipped with no practical musical experience or knowledge. Only the most inexperienced first-years were ever allowed to participate in the concert-recording ritual – once they matured or showed signs of competence they were taken off this duty and, well, we never saw them again. There were rumours that a select few managed to survive up on the Conservatorium’s third floor, but I’m sure that colony would have died out (much like the smallpox virus in the late 1970s) when that floor’s vending machine broke in 2011.

On this occasion when miking the auditorium, one of the Mutechs widely interpreted the term ‘piano’ as ‘glockenspiel’ – they both look kinda similar after all – and so miked the crap out of it. Secondly, they somehow acquired a consumptive nonagenarian for the concert, gave him a microphone to hold and asked him to sit at the back of the hall and cough regularly into it to make sure it worked. No other mikes were deemed necessary. Ah, good times.

Anyway I digress. Digress from what? Oh yes, last trip to Manchester. I’ve been getting to know London intimately and for the last two days have spent an hour-and-a-half weeding (or de-weeding?) this overgrown Mill Hill backyard, to the bemusement of a neighbour’s cat. You don’t really get to know a place intimately until you spend a lot of time doing menial tasks and thinking up blog ideas in it. Such is life*.

"What

“What a nice little garden”

*Fact: not actually Ned Kelly’s last words. According to Wikipedia his execution morning dialogue went thus:

“Such is life” -> “What a nice little garden” -> *mumble* -> death

So in summary you can update your general trivia that A) Gershwin wrote a piano concerto THAT IS NOT Rhapsody in Blue(and for that matter several other solo/orchestral works), B) smallpox no longer exists and C) the next time you’re praising someone’s landscaping prowess, try and retain Ned Kelly’s sense of existential resignation.

It is late so I must leave you there. One last thing: extra points if you know what quasi-famous and surreal London monument this is a terrible photo of?

To be confirmed

To be confirmed…