All entries for May 2005

May 29, 2005

That music thing people keep doing

Total Volume of music files on my computer
(Shurely, "How many CDs do you own?" Ed) I buy CDs and some of my money goes to the artist etc etc. That said, let me go check…. about 2.5Gb. Ooops.

The last CD I bought was
Lost City by an Afro Dub/Jazz group called Soothsayers. I had just seen them this afternoon at the Coventry Jazz Festival (Along with Annie Whitehead, a trombonist, who was absolutely superb)

Song playing right now
Well, having just bought it, it's a track from the above album. So in order to illustrate things a little more, I'll mention that the previous CD in that particular slot in my player was Symponic Poems by Respighi (Pines of Rome etc)

Five songs I listen to a lot, or that mean a lot to me
What, only 5? You can even have 8 on Desert Island Discs! That's a thought - DID will become really outdated soon. They'll have to do Desert Island Ipod – which 8 tracks will you download before the ship goes down? Your book might be digitised soon too. Anyway:

1. Piano Quartet No 2 by Gabriel Fauré
Anna Davies mentioned a track that reminded her of a holiday, and this is my holiday piece. I first heard it on R3's Discovering Music, and it enchanted me from the very begining. I quickly purchased it, and off the family went for a lovely holiday in the Pyrénées. Wine, sun, walking, rafting, vineyards, swimming, more wine, concerts, and a splash of wine. And Fauré.

2. En Spectacle by La Bottine Souriante
Ok, so it's not that highbrow or anything, but it reminds me of Ceilidhs, going to see Bottine play, and it's just fun. For those of you who don't know, ie everybody, La Bottine Souriante a folk/jazz band from Québec. Their name means "the laughing boot" and the band is over 30 years old (I don't think it has any original members left anymore). As I said, just a lot of fun, foot-tappingly good stuff.

3. La Scala by Keith Jarrett
Keith Jarrett, a jazz pianist, has just turned 60. La Scala is a recording of a solo concert (I'll let you guess where) from nearly 10 years ago. It's not as famous as the Koln Concert, but I think it's just as good. The first section last 45 minutes, and is a little less avant garde than the second, shorter part. Tehre's a lovely Over the Rainbow as an encore. It's entirely improvised.

4. Tabula Rasa by Arvo Pärt
Many of you will be familiar with the name, which means "Blank Slate". It's essentially a double violin concerto, but I cannot begin to describe its power and importance, at least to me anyway. I found solace in it throughout 6th form, when I felt miserable for approxiamtely, well, er all of it. The first movement (of 2) doesn't actually stop, it just follows a descending pattern forever, until the violins have to drop out as they can play no lower, then the violas, and so until only the Double Basses are palying, and eventually they too disappear.

5. Alexander Nevsky by Sergei Prokofiev
Of all the concerts I've done at Warwick, this was the most fun. I mentioned it in passing to Colin Touchin, then Director of Music, in my first year, and then in my second year we performed it. Such an exciting piece, and I'm sure Paul would have something to say about the film if you asked him.

So that's that. Must dash, quiz to go to.


May 28, 2005

The RAG Quiz

"Has the RAG Quiz deteriorated in recent months?", is, I'm sure, a question on many of your collective lips. Along with some crumbs, if you're anything like me.

Ever since I took a few of my first-year corridor friends to it, I've gone nearly every week (At least 80%) with a variety of teams. The zenith was undoubtedly when the University Challenge team won about 6 on the trot in a period of such domination that:
a) We were half-heartedly asked to stop coming and
b) I had 17 litres of lager that I'd won. I think my mother still has some, as beacuse I'm not fond of Foster's and Carling, I gave it to her to make Gary Rhodes' lager batter for fish. We were happy with Kudos.

Of course, due to the electability of the quiz master, the quality could change year on year. In this academic year, Neil Faraday produced an excellent quiz, with interesting questions and some innovative rounds. Unfortunately, I beleive the quality has deteriorated with the new regime. Some examples:

A recent question asked "Which Balkan country borders greece to the South and Yugoslavia (Or was it serbia? It doesn't matter) to the North?" We naturally put down the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. Unfortunately, the given answer was Albania. Here is a map. Of course the problem here is that both are valid, and this is therefore a poor question (If anything, FYR Macedonia is a "more valid" answer, as the 2 parts of Yugoslavia that Albania borders have semi-autonomous characteristics).

Film rounds usually have links at the end. One recently was "A Bridge Too Far", and my team correctly answered this. However, as the answers were being read I overheard another team comiserating themselves for discounting this fine war film, as it had been a link within the last couple of months. They were correct, it had been.

Music rounds are getting more obscure. I freely acknowledge that "popular" music is not the speciality of myself or my team, and it is usually our poorest round. However, when you look at the the scores, the music round is probably the lowest scoring round, with the majority of teams scoring badly, and only a few – who happen to know and like the particular music being played – doing exceptionally weel compared to the mean.

The accumulator question is an exciting new innovation. However, when there is £24 at stake, innaccurate answers are even more likely to make my blood boil. Recently, the accumulator question was "How many States of the USA end in the letter 'a'?". An excellent question, as virtually nobody will know for sure, but many will be able to make an educated guess. My team vastly underestimated, but when the answer was revealed as 21, I was suspicious. Sure enough, when I checked (with a little more that a minute available) the real answer turned out to be 18.

So, has the quiz lost its way? I don't think it's as good as it could be, but I'll still attend anyway. What do you all think?

Lastly, a little thoguht about what, to my mind, makes a good quiz. I've been to many and written a couple, and here are my thoughts.
I think a good question works on 2 levels. Firstly, there is the actual knowing something. Obviously, if you know the answer it's easy, as Mr Tarrant likes to say. But, more importantly, there's being clever, skillful and logical and being able to work something out.
A question which says "Who did such and such?" is dry and boring, and requires one particular bit of knowledge. If you know it, you know it. If you don't, you sit there, bored. A question along the lines of "Which (nationality) profession (eg scientist) did such and such in (date)?" is far better for a couple of reasons. Somebody with a real general knowledge can have a decent attempt at working it out, as there are several clues. The answer's been narrowed down to a nationality, and a time and a profession. This doesn't have to make the question easy – facts can be easily found to slightly mislead the quizzer but still guide them to the answer. For example, perhaps the subject wasn't best known for that profession, or nationality.
This also cuts out that tedious thinking at the end of a round, when somebody's there trying to remember a particular name or date from just one fact, which, if you haven't remembered already is very difficult. If you have more pieces of the jigsaw, no matter how small, the process becomes a bit easier, and more rewarding and fun.

The actual selection of the question is important too, for the same reasons. Take a recent sport round at the RAG quiz. There were two questions I remember, both of which had people as their answer. One asked you to name a tennis player based on a Wimbledon result a couple of years ago (I forget now, but it was something like losing finalist). That's actually quite tricky for a casual observer, as past final merge into one through the mists of time, years get mixed up etc. Another question was about Rugby Union, and an English hat-trick scorer in a particular World Cup match. A little thought, and you realise that anyone who scores a hat-trick in Rugby Union is most likely one of the back 3, and sure enough the answer was Full-back/Occasional winger Josh Lewsey.
Obviously, neither of these discriminate against those who simply know the answer, but whilst the first may leave those with a general knowledge of tennis scratching their head sifting through a dozen or so successful tennis players, the latter allows those with a true general knowledge to make a decent educated guess at World Cup winning back.

Think for a moment about the questions on University Challenge and Mastermind. They are riddled with sub-clauses and little clues, titbits of information which allow the participant to deduce the answer, or in the case of the former, allow the sharpest and most knowledgable competitors the chance to buzz in extremely quickly. That's why they're the best quiz shows on television.

So, quiz-setters, not just here, but the world over, let's have an end to boring questions with one route in, and better rewards for those who can think about, rather than recite their answers.


Coventry Jazz Festival

Writing about web page http://www.visitcoventry.co.uk/jazz

About time I blogged, I think.

I would like to draw everybody's attention to the Coventry Jazz Festival, which started on thursday and continues until Monday.
So far, it's been excellent. On Thursday afternoon I spent a pleasant afternoon in Priory Place near the Cathedral (Although what isn't near the Cathedral?) listening to the festival launch which featured The Avon Big Band, a local funk/jazz group called One Nation (who were extremely good) and Warwick's own Pretty Small Band. All this whilst drinking Wiessbeer…

Later that evening, it was the turn of EST. EST, or the Esbjorn Svensson Trio are one of the most exciting acts around at the moment, and they gave a typically intense performance at the Belgrade Theatre. Afterwards, Esbjorn himself was kind enough to give me an interview for RaW, and thoroughly lovely he was too.

Yesterday, I breifly checked out local guitarist Simon Hayden at a small bar named the Tin Angel, at the end of the Spon Street. He seemed good, but I had to dash to see Claire Martin, whom I spoke to over a plate of complimentary artists' dinner and a glass… which turned out to be of water, even though she had mentioned having some wine. That was the only disappointment, as her concert, with the Laurence Cottle All Star Big Band, was an absolute smash – the most fun I've had at a concert (on my own) for a while. I then went to the late concert in the Belgrade Theatre's café, which was the Karen Sharp Quintet – also excellent.

I don't think I'm going to go to anything today, as I'm spending time sorting out my recorded material for RaW, and a lttile bored of going to things on my own :-( However, don't let my absence deter you! There's plenty going on today, particularly the main concert which is Jazz Jamaica. Tomorrow's highlight for me is Annie Whitehead (12.30pm Castle Yard), but I've heard lots of good things about Trilok Girtu. I especially recommend him if you usually go to the RAG quiz, as this will increase my chances of winning.

Anyway, to hear my day 1 report/EST interview, tune into "The Eclection on RaW 1251AM this coming Monday at 11pm. Claire Martin will follow next week.


May 10, 2005

On Eddie Mair

Writing about web page http://www.radioawards.org/winners05/win05.htm

I swore to myself I wouldn't blog when I got back, and just produce an OHT for my GCSE class tomorrow, but I couldn't resist.
Tonight, the Radio 4 broadcaster Eddie Mair won the Sony Gold Award for News Journalist of the Year. And quite rightly.
Nearly everything he says or does is radio at its finest. He perfectly balances serious discussion and detailed questioning with sharp wit and intellectual refinement.
Today, on PM, Radio 4's afternoon news programme, he introduced the main stroy with this line (or somethig similar):
"Tonight, the knives are out for Mr Blair…." A standard phrase, you think, and then:
"...But some MPs come out to praise him" (Cue Jack Straw calling him a genius)
At once, Mair sets out the story – The labour party is divided over Blair – whilst subtly alluding to Julius Ceasar. Simple, subtle and intellectual.

At times, he's just downright silly/cheeky/funny whilst fronting one of the flagship R4 programmes. A couple of weeks ago, he signed off from Friday's programme thus:
"Dan Damon will be here tomorrow at 5…
…Assuming there's any news"


May 09, 2005

Tonight's Ministerial appointments

So, Tony Blair announced his final cabinet appointments tonight. There are 2 things I'd like to comment on.
Firstly, I see despite only hanging onto his seat, Leamington and Warwick MP James Plaskitt has secured a position as Parliamentary Secretary in the Department of Work and Pensions.
Secondly, what do people think of the appointment of an unelected policy advisor as a Minister, by virtue of a swift appointment to the Lords?

The Eclection

Writing about web page http://www.radio.warwick.ac.uk/show&showid=10

Hello Bloggers.
Anyone who regularly reads my blog is probably lying, as I don't seem to update it much. I may redress this later in the term, but for the time being, with nothing much better to do, I shall plug my radio show.
The eclection primarily features jazz, world and folk music. Quite often there will also be the odd (And I mean odd) piece of "classical" music as well, the sort of thing we don't usually play on RaW Classics (Wednesday 7pm).
If anyone does listen either tonight or in the future, please email the show, just to say hi – It can get very lonely sometimes (This, though, is usually remedied by popping to Top B for a bit), and I'd like to know somebody's listening.

Here's an example playlist (tonight's actually):
Eliza Carthy & The Ratcatchers – Scan Tester's Country Stepdance/Lemmy Brazil's No2
David Krakauer – Dusky Bulgar
Miles Davis – Concerto De Aranjuez
Kathryn Williams – Swimmer
Keith Jarrett – Book of Ways 12
David Krakauer – Waiting for Julian/Sirba
Grier Tviett – Selction from Suite 1 of "A Hundred Hardanger Tunes" – RSNO cond Bjarte Engeset
La Bottine Souriante – A Travers La Vitre

If any of that takes your fancy, tune in at 11pm to 1251AM on campus, or listen online at www.radio.warwick.ac.uk

Also, support your local radio station by voting for us (In various categories) at www.webradioawards.com. Ta.

Oh, and the picture will be changed soon. And I HADN'T just killed anyone.


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