The Smith's Journal - December 2006

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Rolf Hind performs at The Wigmore Hall

Fabrizia and I met up at London's Wigmore Hall to see a performance by pianist and composer Rolf Hind with The Duke Quartet. My primary reason to be there was because they were playing Alfred Schnittke's breathtaking Piano Quintet, one of the finest pieces of music ever written. They began the concert with this epic work, perhaps a difficult start as this is highly serious music of the most profound emotion, written after the death of Alfred's mother. I had brought the score with me (causing tears on the train journey there just reading it) to ensure Rolf didn't miss any notes, even the silent ones; he didn't, although I am always disappointed that people play it too quickly, having been spoiled by the somnambulent rendering by Ludmilla Berlinsky with The Borodin Quartet and my own soporific attempts of infinite duration. Nevertheless, after the charming In Tempo Di Valse, they effortlessly negotiated the darker central movements to emerge at the work's sublime closing Moderato Pastorale, whose lyrical melody decays into silence yet remains with one forever like the spirit of a deceased loved one.

The rest of the programme featured pieces composed within the past three years. Once it got into the swing, I liked some of the progressions of Jeremy Thurlow's The Will Of The Tones, and enjoyed the last of Naomi Pinnock's piano miniatures of icy crystalline delicacy. Shiori Usui demonstrated some stunning techniques and an intelligent approach to space in the premiere of her quintet Liya-pyuwa, which for once unified the piano and strings as a single entity, the strings often acting like early reflections and reverberations of the prepared piano textures, expertly realised. Rolf Hind's own piece The Eye of Fire ended the concert, a large-scale work based on yoga positions, nicely appropriate since Fabrizia teaches yoga, although we missed the earlier demonstration before the concert. Once again, Rolf spent much time inside the piano, teasing all manner of sounds from the strings with a variety of preparations.

Afterwards I should have given Rolf the score of my piano piece Message that he'd said he liked, had I finished notating it, but sadly I haven't yet. This would have been particularly appropriate here, as it was at the same venue that I had presented my piano piece Homage To Alfred to his wife Irina Schnittke after her concert here nearly seven years ago, a piece which features themes from the Quintet. I'm still searching for that elusive eighth day of the week...

[UPDATE: The concert will be broadcast on Radio 3's Hear and Now programme on Saturday 3rd February 2007 from 23:00-1:00.]


SCO Talk at Herts LUG

For this month's Herts LUG meeting, I came suited and booted and gave a 'demonstration' of/against the ultimate enterprise business solution...

Welcome fellow business leaders and high-tech gurus!

My name is Hubertus Bigend, president of Vile Corp Global. The subject for today's presentation is The Complete Solution for Internet and Intranet Information Servers.

[Somebody heckles: "Where's your swish PowerPoint Presentation?"]

Sorry, this is it; please excuse my hastily written notes that I scribbled down at the wheel of my X5 doing 125 on the M3 en route here - my chauffeur broke down so I was forced to drive myself for once. Damn those other road users, making me swerve and veer across all three lanes to avoid them!

Now I can tell by looking round the room that some of you might not yet run your own billion dollar global corporation. You may not even yet have your own helicopter, let alone a chauffeur to pilot it, but I can assure you that one day you will, and when you do, you'll need The Complete Solution for Internet and Intranet Information Servers [gestures to large silver briefcase on the table in front] to ensure a smooth transition to world domination as you step on the heads of your fellow competitors and exploit the market as you know best.

[Opens briefcase, pulls out another silver briefcase, and lays that onto the table next to the first, then opens it and removes... The Product...]

This product is a commercial distribution of Linux created by the SCO Group, that great bastion of high-performance enterprise UNIX big iron. Today we're gonna survey the marketplace to see how this system fares against similar tools available.

A bit of background: GNU/Linux is a free Operating System based on UNIX completely rewritten from scratch by Richard Stallman, Linus Torvalds and many worldwide IT wizards. Us high-fliers let these geek types get on with it, and then we come in and leverage our market share, as is our wont to do, by adding some yucky proprietary packages, and placing it in a nice box complete with gibberish manual and furry marketing spin. Hence SCO produces Caldera, The Complete Solution for Internet and Intranet Information Servers.

Some of you may have been following the recent show-trials of IBM versus SCO versus Novell. You may even be aware that Novell have just signed a mysterious patent deal with Microsoft which is viewed by many in the know as a potential threat to Linux IP. Check out for a seriously smoooooooooooth corporate website disguising discussing the benefits of such Treacherous Trusted Computing alliances.

Anyway, enough leftist zeal and lovey dovey idealism. Let's get down to it and see how interoperable Caldera is with some of the tools in use by the modern engineer today...

[Opens another briefcase labelled South African Airlines and pulls out a large clawhammer.]

Hammer. Now, I'm not about to start bludgeoning the reputation of SCO with a blunt instrument just because their stock value is hitting new lows and their management are begging for mercy. No - I'll use the sharp end.

[BAM!!! Violently beats the living daylights out of the software's box, unintentionally denting the vintage 1980's Jasper Conran silver briefcase it was placed on.]

I'd liken this tool to the sharp practice of the lovely Pamela from Groklaw fame, whose continuing five-year mission is to boldly go through boring legal documents with a fine-toothed comb and cut out the FUD in SCO's deranged arguments; also to Eben Moglen and all the other lawyers defying their profession and fighting on the side of Light in drafting the GPL version 3. In fact, let's carry on the analogies.

[Picks up hefty IBM Model M keyboard.]

Here's Big Blue. And here's SCO's wild claims:

[Pulls out a mirror and a cylindrical object the size of a cucumber, which alarms some members of the audience.]

A mirror..., and in case you don't know, this is a distress flare. When activated it will fill the immediate neighbourhood with enough orange smoke to be seen by coastguard or mountain rescue helicopters (or even my chauffeur if he ever gets here). So I'd best not set it off in here.

[Clicks open yet another briefcase and takes out a powerdrill, plugs it in and drills a hole clean through the Caldera CD jewel case, then removes the holy disc within to show the puncture wound.]

Oops, Health and Safety!

[Reaches into South African Airlines case and pulls out a gas mask, then puts it on and starts mumbling incomprehensively.]


[Realises nobody can hear him through the mask, he removes it and instead dons safety goggles. Then holds up a metal file (for woodworking, not bookkeeping), takes the Caldera CD and proceeds to viciously scratch the surface of the disc.]

And here we have the mysterious files that SCO claimed to have - some million lines of code stolen from 'their own' UNIX, which, correct me if I'm wrong, they only ever licensed from Berkeley anyway...

[Picks out some white stones and throws them across the desk.]

Next, some rocks that Darl is smokin'. And now we let Novell turn up the heat on SCO, by debunking their crazy case...

[Picks up a box of matches, strikes one and holds it underneath the CD until smoke appears.]

Uh-oh! Best not set off the smoke alarm in here. I guess we should clean up a bit:

[Takes an aerosol spray can of Magnetic Head Cleaning Fluid and sprays some on the CD, which emits a pungent aroma.]

OK, so now, I'm looking for a volunteer - does anyone have a PC we can install this marvellous product on?

[Awaits response from the audience, some of whom are by now quite agitated at the close proximity of distress flare, matches and flammable surface cleaner (!). Don't try this at home, kids!]

No? I was originally hoping to use these tools [gestures] on a working Caldera PC instead of just the disk box, but you know, fire regulations, Health and Safety and all. So my demo has had to be scaled back a lot. Anyway, I think it's plain to see that there is no room in the crowded IT market for such losers. As the chairman of Sun Microsystems so wisely pointed out about open systems:

"In a world without fences, who needs Gates?" :-)

Well, I think I hear my helicopter approaching, so I must be ongoing. I'll file a report on my blog with links to relevant articles. If you have any technical questions, ask one of my techies in their server dungeon, or you could view our company web portal online at double-u double-u double-u dot vile dash corp underscore global dot com dot us dot biz forward-slash website forward-slash content forward-slash html forward-slash newwebsite forward-slash index dot php question-mark squiggly-thing, er, oh - I forget the rest...

Thank-you, and it's goodnight from me...



Andy's singing party

I went with Ruth and Fabrizia to a party at Andy's, for which he had asked that we come early to rehearse some songs to be sung later when other guests arrived. We were already in high spirits when we arrived, and after meeting some new faces, Andy took our voices for a spin, starting with an improvisatory warm-up, extemporising harmonies over a repeated bassline. This surprised us in its funkiness, so we tried some more, revelling in the sound. It's great to be with a group of good singers, all confident with their voices and themselves. Next we turned to some traditional songs of England, Africa and beyond. It was through his African harmony workshops that I'd first met Andy, and he soon had us learning multiple parts to create a vibrant tapestry of voices. I naturally got bass duties, although I do like to hit the high notes too in stratosperic falsetto realms :-) Some djembes appeared and we played along with some swinging percussion.

A few more folk arrived, who were also singers, but no actual audience to speak of, so we just carried on learning more songs; whether this was the plan or maybe the other guests were just scared by the fog, we'll never know. Whatever, we had a fabulous time, and hopefully his neighbours enjoyed the music, and weren't standing on their doorsteps perplexed, looking for invisible carol singers.


New Home

Well, they said it could not be done by a single man, but I have almost finished moving house, taking three weeks, just in time for Christmas. Many thanks to the piano team and to Mama's invaluable help in the final two days. Having witnessed the meticulous degree of planning involved, the M.O.D. have been headhunting me to direct their future operations, but I refused to work with them since they changed from a Ministry Of Defence to a Ministry Of War.

I now reside in the wilds of Bedfordshire, in a land with no parents, and no boys, as usual... At last I live somewhere without neighbours to inhibit me :-) Who knows what may happen next - just be careful and remember to Expect the Unexpected, folks. Dada lives...

Moving all my records and music gear was quite a task, and my arms are now longer than they should be, but the exercise is good for morale :-) I think that nobody has more worthless possessions than I - my cardboard box collection that I discovered lurking under the stairs would rival a small mail order company! (Hmmm, maybe I should start one...) I shall address this tomorrow when I intend to stop procrastinating... This is why moving house took much longer than it should have, also because of my secret obsessive collections of:

So now I can spend January sorting out my new place and making optimal use of all this space. Peace and quiet is wonderful, and being able to practise the piano at any time of day or night without disturbing anyone is heaven sent, heralding a new chapter in my musical life. Indeed, the house will become a sanctuary for my own music which I have somewhat neglected in the past few years, while busy doing other things. Just reacquainting myself with old friends is proving very rewarding and bodes well for the year ahead. The main plan is to redesign my studio, which at last has the luxury of its own room. From here, the whole house will be wired for sound, with microphones rigged up for multi-room recording. My drums live in the study, shared with a few computers (although the old ones live in the utility room out back). The piano has a prime place in the lounge, and the spacious kitchen has a wonderfully live acoustic for recording voices. There is also a Room of Bowls, where I sleep, perchance to dream. A friend's children, when they visited my house, remarked: "But - the Music Room is... everywhere!" :-)



Bizia's party

I went with Ruth and Joni to Michael's Folly to party with Bizia, Jane, Melissa, Lina, Chele+Alberto+Bruno, Bruno+wife, Ana+Alphonso, Malcolm, Sarah, Paul, Andy and Patrick+Naomi. I setup my bowls in The Strawbale Studio on their new magic flying carpet, and suspended my large gong precariously from the rafters! After greetings and eatings upstairs in the Loft, Jane and Ruth and I started the musical proceedings with Native American Indian flute, bowls and percussion, before everyone else arrived to play music for many hours. This was free improvisation done right, accompanied by some equally free-style experimental dance and movement. Once we began we didn't stop for the first hour and a half! And then there was only a shocked silence, nobody daring/needing to speak for some time. A few minutes of gathering ourselves together, and the music began again. This went on late into the night, with some stunning solo performances from Bruno on cello, bandoneon and voice, some great violin from Malcolm, a tender troubadour ballad from Paul on guitar, and Fabrizia treated us to a spiritual Indian song. I gave a rendition of Brian Eno's Music For Airports played on Tibetan singing bowls. As people got tired and started to lie down, we ended up with a mass bowl therapy session! Ruth then played her two new songs to an audience now suitably chilled :-) Sadly there were no pictures taken in the dim candlelight, but imagine a mixture of other similar events.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike v3.0 Licence © The right to copy is left with the user copyleft Malcolm Smith 2006-12-24 - last updated 2006-12-26