Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Site changes

If you still see google ads at the top of this site, then let me know in the comments, because there shouldn't be any anymore. I've removed the code from the site as far as I can tell.

Also, I encourage any interested parties to visit my website at If the page still says "NetFirms" at the top, then refresh the page and see what comes up. I'm now hosted on .mac because of google ads on NetFirms.

I'm no longer a fan of Google AdSense (if I ever really was).

Monday, January 28, 2008

A quote from Rowan Williams

The Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest rank in the Church of England, had this to say about Pullman's His Dark Materials in 2004:
If the Authority [who is killed in Pullman's novel] is not God, why has the historic Church so often behaved as if it did indeed exist to protect a mortal and finite God? What would a church life look like that actually expressed the reality of a divine freedom enabling human freedom?

A modern French Christian writer spoke about "purification by atheism" - meaning faith needed to be reminded regularly of the gods in which it should not believe. I think Pullman and Wright do this very effectively for the believer. I hope too that for the non-believing spectator, the question may somehow be raised of what exactly the God is in whom they don't believe.
For Williams, the Church of the books is a Church "without creation or redemption, certainly without Christ." You can read the whole article, which is in fact a review of the stage play, written by Nicholas Wright, based on the books, here.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I did some work today!

Just to update those who care, I worked on an expansion of a musical analysis that is in my dissertation. Being away from musical transcription for a long time meant that writing out a simple melody seemed to take forever. I can only assume that the next bit of the melody line will be easier since I'm now "in the zone" (of course, I'll be "out of the zone" tomorrow when I continue to do this work).

I'm going to now read a bit of a book that I'm to review for Popular Music, so that I can get a review out to them sometime soon. I just need to get back into it; I need to read to the end of the chapter I was on.

I'm also continuing Pullman's The Golden Compass. There's something that bothers me about the title, though. It has been published here as The Golden Compass, although the original title is Northern Lights. There isn't a compass in the book, although the althiometer is compass-like, and I can only suppose it's golden. But why do the publishers (or whoever) think that they need to change the name of the book for the American (or North American) audience? The same thing happened with the American version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (called ...and the Sorcerer's Stone in the U.S.).

I'd also like to start to read Nadine Hubbs' The Queer Composition of America's Sound: Gay Modernists, American Music, and National Identity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004). First step is to take it off the shelf.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A new camera

I've just put an order in for this:

It's a new Sony dSLR. We're using most of our points from our credit card to buy this (I have a Sony Points card), and only a bit of cash for taxes. I'm excited - I hope my pictures get less blurry with this camera!

Some might know that I am a notoriously bad photographer, but I always wanted to get a high quality still camera. This looks like a good choice. And now that Apple is introducing HD movie rentals over iTunes and AppleTV (which I have), I'm glad that I didn't jump into buying a Blu-ray player (although I'm sure "Cars" on Blu-ray would make me cry ALL OVER AGAIN). Even if HD rentals aren't available in Canada until later this year, I hope that this distribution system brings some sort of serious competition for next-generation disc-based video formats. I've said that this was coming, and felt that Blu-ray and HD DVD was silly in the light of future broadband distribution from companies like Apple (although it was really late coming - and, actually, it's not here yet, just announced).

I do like the MacBook Air, but I don't need one.

I'm really enjoying Philip Pullman's The Golden Compass. My Christian faith hasn't been shaken yet, nor do I expect it to be.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Almost done with that pesky proposal

The proposal is coming along nicely this morning, thank God. I'm done the basic part, but I would like to add a little bit about the importance of melody to the music of Feist. It seems that after her vocal injury (from decidedly unmelodic singing), Feist learned to appreciate melody through her learning of the guitar in the late 1990s. At least this is what she says in an interview from 2005:
"It was a dark time…being unsure of what’s going to happen is scary, but it motivated me in a way to learn guitar, because I had just been a singer up until then. I found a new way to understand [melodies] through playing guitar."
Seth Berkman, "Feist," Mote Magazine, 29 November 2005. Available here.

She says a similar thing in another interview:
“It felt like an exciting self-project to not speak. I wrote a lot of letters, bought a guitar and a four-track [recorder]. … I would have never approached singing in a quiet, melodic way when I was with [Placebo]. Once you're by yourself, you realize singing monotone won't cut it.”
Krissy Teegerstrom, "Venus: Feist," Venus Zine. No longer available online.

So, I suppose her music is now decidedly melodic. There is a certain quality that her melodiousness carries with it but, again, I'm having trouble putting it into words. Perhaps it's a European sensibility, or just an older pop sensibility (I have no way to back this up - these are just feelings I have). There isn't the same sense of melody in much of the pop or dance music available today. That's not really a slight against current popular music (or "pop" music in particular).

Leslie's use of melody seems to add to a certain sophistication.

In a more recent article from Venus Zine, Feist's music is described as follows:
her records gracefully unfurl like fading nostalgia, like the soundtrack to seductions, soft and lithe, mysterious and breathy. Both Let It Die and The Reminder ostensibly could come from a time when movies were black and white and when “romantic” wasn’t always attached to “comedy.” And much to Feist’s chagrin, there’s something inherently French about her songs that conjure up the imagery of a European café filled with aromas of espressos and cigarettes.
Arye Dworkin, "Feist," Venus Zine 31 (Spring 2007). Available here.

Here is an unusual pictures of Leslie that I found on my computer today which I forgot about. The picture shows her holding a cigarette, and comes from Teegerstrom's Venus article above. I am not sure if Feist smokes - strange to me if she does.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

By the way...

In case you were following, T.O. wants me to post a photo with the engineer's hat that I got for Christmas. Unfortunately (for you, but fortunately for me) the hat is not with me. It is with the train. And the train is not here. Nor is my train set (which is not yet available in North America).

When all the things come together, you will get your wish, me with the hat and pictures of the train up and running. In abundance.

Be careful what you wish for.

I'll probably be crying with happiness when that photo is taken, me in a hat with a train set running.

Boy, am I struggling...

Talk about staring at a piece of paper/screen/book. I'm trying to finish up this proposal (as I have been since we returned from Christmas break) and I just can't crack it. Maybe I need to do a bit of research, but I know what I want to do - I just can't seem to put it down on paper.

So, like I so often do (at the expense of you, my dear reader), I will try to flesh out my thoughts on this very blog.

By the way, right now I'm listening to Scott Walker. This probably doesn't help. He's a bit dark.

My whole idea focuses on Roland Barthes and his point that there is a kind of artistic expression that somehow externalizes "discourse." I'm not exactly sure what he's saying here, but I don't have to know right now. What he does say is that, in this externalization, there exists "bliss." Again, the exact meaning of his terms doesn't matter so much. He is talking about pleasure and desire - this is clear. So, there is a certain pleasure that comes from this exteriorization of discourse, and he calls this exteriorization of discourse "writing aloud," and he suggests that it finds its best representation in singing.

Except, for Barthes, melody is dead.

So, instead, he looks to cinema. But let's back up for a second. Who says that melody is dead? I don't. Our friend Leslie Feist is certainly melodic, and, compared to our other friend Steven Patrick Morrissey, overly melodic (active? masculine? different paper?).

I would like to explore Feist's über-hit "1234" and that melody for this "writing aloud" in order to get to the root of that elusive "bliss." We can also assume that this "writing" occurs in conjunction with the lyrics that she sings. So I would like to do a contour analysis of her melodic output, as well as a textual analysis of what she sings, and look at the result of those two things together. Such an analysis would be looking at elements of singing such as musical phrasing, word pronunciation and vocal timbre, too. As for analytical frameworks, I know one that talks about gender and inactive melodies (and, I'm sure, my readers do too . . . and are sick of reading about it), so I think I can try to leave it at that.

As for conclusions, I want to conclude that: 1) melody is not dead (at least, not in this song); and 2) "here" are the examples of "vocal writing" in the song.

Any feedback is welcome.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

I should add this while I'm at it

We also ordered one of these Procor tank cars from a store in Ottawa for the future train set, as my wife's grandfather used to work for the company, fitting the couplers. It should be very similar to the one below, except in black with white lettering.

I forgot

I also have a new book to read and review. The book is called Rock Music in Performance by David Pattie. It explores the assumption that live performance in rock music is a sign of "authenticity," as opposed to the mediated nature of "pop" music. Pattie argues that live rock performance is also mediated, and he goes on to explore the live experience of U2 and later talks about Morrissey, gender and performance. It seems that this book, released in 2007, is a good choice for me, as I am pretty familiar with all of these subjects. So that is also on my plate.

The bad thing is that I don't feel like doing any of this. I received a couple of rejection letters over the holidays. I'm a bit in the dumps.

On a lighter side, here's one of the train cars that my father purchased for me over the holidays. It's a VIA baggage car. Yesterday I mentioned that the colours were from the 1970s, but they might be a bit later than that.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Putting stuff in order

Now that Christmas is over (and that I am now 34 years old), and a new year has started, I thought I would sign in again and use this blog as a place for me to organize myself and try to get going on work I need to do.

For instance, I've been contacted by a prominent national magazine which focuses on a particular religious fellowship to write a short article (or articles) for possible publication. I've sent one and I've been asked to write another.

I have to rewrite my musical analysis, again for possible publication (I've forgotten about this over the holidays). There is a blog entry from before Christmas that gets into this.

I am developing a proposal for some conferences in the spring; one proposal is due this week and another before the end of the month of January. I'm again going to explore Leslie Feist as a singer, but now as one who successfully employs melody which, for Roland Barthes, seems to be a key to "writing aloud," a bodily "exteriorization of discourse."

I was telling my wife that I mentioned my current research to a couple of my academic mentors, that is, applying Barthes' notions of pleasure of the text to the study of the singing voice in order to try to figure out how to discuss the singing voice and why we like "it." These two profs both said something to the effect of "good luck with that." She laughed.

At me.

In other news, the train has been ordered. My father was kind enough to buy me a couple of VIA train cars circa. 1970s, which I'm happy with. My sister gave me some money for a locomotive, so I bought the one below, and got the nice people at the store to install a DCC chip in it, so that it would be fully compatible with the Hornby DCC set I've ordered. She also thought of getting me an engineer's hat, which made me cry at Christmas.

I am thinking about picking up a Blu-Ray player, now that the format war is pretty much over. I am considering a PS3, simply because it has full Super Audio CD support, and it plays games, all for the same price as (or cheaper than) a BD player. Or a 400 disc DVD player. Or a dSLR. Anyway, it has to be a Sony product. I have Sony points and I've decided that I no longer wish to collect Sony points - I want to get cash back on credit card purchases instead. Now, if there was an Apple card, that would be another matter.

Here's the locomotive: