Friday, November 11, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

You can never have enough puns, right?

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Another interesting article in the Wall Street Journal: physicist Carlo Rovelli discusses how he discovered the music of Arvo Pärt:
“Für Alina” opens with the pianist moving tentatively along the keys, in an almost childlike way. Most fascinating are the pauses between measures. At first, I thought something was wrong with my radio. It was the piece, ruminating and catching its breath.
The song only runs about three minutes. It never explodes in crescendo but instead flowers with introspection. There’s something about its spareness that’s completely pure. Hearing the song that day, it was as if the light in the room had changed, leaving the space serene and magical, like a pearl.
Today, I never listen to the song while driving or working. I listen undistracted and savor it. “Für Alina” doesn’t help me write an equation or solve a problem. It connects me to my emotions and allows me to put life in perspective.

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Hardeep Phull at the New York Post has assembled the list of the 20 worst songs of all time according to their readers. A lot of the ones that made the list are no surprise: extremely catchy songs can get extremely annoying with repeated exposure. Examples include "Don't Worry, Be Happy", "We Are the World" and "Who Let the Dogs Out?"  One song that was both loved and hated was John Lennon's "Imagine", which I can certainly understand. But I was surprised that one song that made the list was Paul McCartney's "Hey Jude". Well, ok, that coda does go on. And on. But isn't "Yellow Submarine" even more annoying?

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Very sad news on Thursday: one of our greatest songwriters, Leonard Cohen, passed away. Here are some obituaries. Leonard Cohen was one of Canada's greatest and most creative musicians, but he started out as a writer, known as an outstanding poet before he ever took to songwriting. He was perhaps the only one to be in some ways the equal of Bob Dylan. I will always remember an interview he did once on Canadian television. The host mentioned that Leonard Cohen was very known for being a pessimist. He replied "a pessimist is someone who thinks it is going to rain--I'm soaked to the skin!"

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One of the things that bothers me about our culture these days is the fundamental assumption of the mass media and public institutions generally that we are all dim-witted dolts. It used to be that you could read or view a report on some science topic without distracting and inappropriate music. But no longer, it seems. Take for example this item from NASA on methane clouds on Titan. Watch the video and notice the weirdly odd Brian Eno style music that they felt had to accompany the time-lapse photography. Why can't the video just speak for itself instead of being pumped up with the music?

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Our envoi today has to be something by Leonard Cohen. This is my favorite of his songs, partly because of an extraordinary opening line: "Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin."

Let's have another: "First We Take Manhattan":

And one recent song, "Darkness" from 2012:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

RIP, LC! What an enchanting songwriter you were! Thank you for your art.