Free concert in NYC: The Bad Plus play the Rite of Spring

For readers, if any, in New York City today, definitely check out jazz trio The Bad Plus playing their arrangement, "On Sacred Ground", of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.  It's free and outdoors at Lincoln Center at 8:30 PM.  The Brandt Brandauer Frick ensemble, with which I am not familar, opens at 7:30.

If you're wondering to expect, at WBGO's The Checkout you can stream a recording of the whole thing, as well as their radio show on the piece.  TBP pianist Ethan Iverson discusses piano arrangements, transcriptions, and reworkings of the Rite here.

More on upcoming doings by TBP and some of its members here.

I am in New Mexico, so unfortunately won't be able to attend.  I will be going to Rossini's Maometto II at the Santa Fe Opera. Report to follow.


Into Africa

It's always romantic and exciting to travel to a continent I've never been to before.  Even in the waiting area at the airport in Atlanta, whence Delta runs a direct flight to Johannesburg, there's a sense of already being partway there: overheard conversations in what must be Afrikaans; in some native African language; in English in an accent that's somehow clearly southern-hemisphere, but not Australian.  People of all the variety of races or ethnicities that  make up South Africa's population.  Blond boys and girls with ruddy-cheeked parents, who have clearly been on Caribbean beach vacations.   Black men who dress, and carry themselves, with a subtly different style from Americans; black African women whose style seems partly derived from traditional dress. Then, ten or so hours and several movies into a thirteen-and-half hour overnight transatlantic marathon flight, to raise the shade on the aircraft window to find oneself crossing the surf-line of the coast of Namibia far below, a few cottony bits of low cloud or fog clinging to the coastline as the sun beats down on them, demarcating the vivid blue of the Atlantic from the coppery sands of the Namibian desert, which displays under the clear blue sky of morning patterns of what look like darker sands and braided washes draining away, it seems, from the treacherousn and almost completely uninhabited Skeleton Coast. Desert summits that are like dark, stepped ziggurats.  Unclear whether the steps are due to sedimentary layering, or basaltic flows.  They remind in some ways of the dark volcanic summits west of Albuquerque, and in the Puerco river basin northwest of it, but the forms are distinct.  Further ranges in duns and reddish browns, flat expanses of sand.  Then an amazing circular formation that must be many miles in diameter, looking like a palisade of slab-like mountains, tilted in toward the center, surrounding a flat central plain.  Is it some kind of collapsed salt formation, like Utah's Upheaval Dome?

The landscape gets less dramatic, reddish dirt sparsely and then less sparsely covered with a green scrub, and a few widely spaced roads show up, first dirt, then even a paved road and a few scattered houses and ranches as we pass northwest of Windhoek, probably just out of sight in a valley beyond a reservoir.  Greener, hillier, but still scrubby as we pass over the border with Botswana, across Botswana just south of the Kalahari, finally sighting the Notwane river far below and then the capital Gaborone, mainly industrial and transport buildings and yards on our side of the airplane, also the large lake created by Gaborone dam.   Not far beyond the river, we cross the border into South Africa.

Descending into Johannesburg, the great township of Soweto just out of sight to the south, or hidden by the scattered clouds, we see mainly nondescript suburbs, a huge football stadium, then as we descend further what could pass for modest suburbs of say, Phoenix, golf courses and parks, fairly comfortable and new-looking neighborhoods, open fields, looking fairly moist and green, traffic on expressways then a wedge of bright African colors, especially blue, that I realize with a jolt is a small collection of painted corrugated iron shacks, here and then gone as the enormous jet touches down, finally, at Oliver Tambo International Airport.

Thrift store LP finds: Albinoni oboe from de Vries, Mozart from Radu Lupu

I've been down a rabbit hole of differential geometry and representation theory, as well as doing some work on a review article with a collaborator lately, so apologies for the posting hiatus.

A quick note on weekend listening: I picked up an EMI/Angel LP (SZ-37802) of Albinoni oboe concertos Nos. 2, 5, 8, and 11 for a buck at a thrift shop. Han de Vries, soloist, with Alma Musica Amsterdam, produced in 1981. Bob van Asperen, harpsichord, is billed just after de Vries, so perhaps this is a harpsichordist-led ensemble.  Very pleasing listening---I got a good copy with very little surface noise and distortion. The sound is reminiscent of 1970s and early 80s Phillips LPs (like the Marriner/ Academy of St. Martin in the Fields Musical Offering)---a slight, but not excessive thinness, but more liquidity and sweetness, good detail and separation of instruments---a reasonable soundstage if not a huge sense of room acoustics.  The music is excellent, not the world's deepest and most intense stuff, but melodic, at times dancing, and very assured writing.  Nothing really breaking out of baroque conventions (although I'm not hugely up on baroque musical history, and Albinoni, along with Vivaldi, Telemann, and Handel, may well have been establishing said conventions here), but very poised and graceful writing, with a lot of low-key melodic interest to lift it well above generic baroque.  Superb playing from oboeist and orchestra both, to my ear.

One of my favorite pianists, Radu Lupu, playing Mozart concertos Nos. 21 in C and 12 with the English Chamber Orchestra and Uri Segal (London LP CS 6894, from 1974) is also sounding great, a slightly noisier copy but no problems with the music.  Another excellent recording job---really good piano tone, a slightly more midrangy balance than the above, to judge by the strings, well-captured bass.   But in general, in the same ballpark of slightly-on-the-lush-side, detailed but sweet sound that some of the major classical labels seem to have locked onto in the late 70s and early 80s, especially with chamber to moderate-sized orchestral ensembles.  Easy to hear what's going in each part of the orchestra, and to separate the soloist from the orchestra.  Is it a natural soundstage, or is the piano closely miked?  Who knows... who cares.  I love Radu Lupu's playing on this.  Relaxed, lyrical, but not exaggeratedly so.  Fantastic touch as always, and sensitivity to nuances in the music.  His work in the brilliant arpeggiated passages is, perhaps surprisingly, as nuanced and singing as the more cantabile passages, and fantastically accurate and rhythmically perfectly placed, while remaining unstrained and natural.  The orchestra is superb and superbly conducted---able to provide drama when needed without excessive Sturm und Drang.  And that's just the first movement of No. 21 so far... now here comes Lupu on the melody of the sublime second movement, Andante... not surprisingly, magic.  Not as heart-on-the-sleeve as some renditions of this classic slow movement can be... but none the less moving for that.  Just beautiful.  (This is some of the deepest and most intense stuff around.)  I've long loved Lupu's Schubert... marveled at his Debussy at a concert in Santa Fe a few years back... and now I'm a big fan of his Mozart.  One of the truly great pianists.

My email

My email address is no longer at Perimeter Institute, since I'm no longer there. My institutional affiliation is with the University of New Mexico, where I'm Adjunct Professor of physics and astronomy. However, the best way to contact me is at the following email address, given in a roundabout way to discourage spam: first part is the first letter of my first name followed by the letter "n" followed by my last name (see top of this blog for my name), and then "@aol". Dot com, of, course. Nothing need be capitalized.

Christina Romer reviews the empirical evidence: fiscal stimulus works

Next time someone tells you that we know fiscal stimulus doesn't work because we tried it and we still have 9% unemployment, hand them a copy of this talk by Christina Romer.  It reviews the evidence that fiscal policy works, and in particular that the ARRA fiscal stimulus helped prevent even higher unemployment than actually occurred.


Grey border removed in WordPress Twenty Eleven


You may have noticed I've upgraded to the current version of WordPress and changed the theme (WordPress' term for the code that governs the layout and appearance of content at a WordPress blog site) to WordPress Twenty Eleven.  The default version of this comes with an annoying grey border around the post.  I've removed it, thanks to the information supplied by "alchymyth" here.

Link to Wikileaks (works for the moment)

Various wimpy organizations, in the US at least, seem to be dumping web hosting and DNS service for wikileaks. Hosting was apparently moved to Switzerland but doesn't work either (no DNS resolution for it either, I guess).

Here's a URL for Wikileaks that works at the moment:

I don't have a carefully considered opinion but my gut reaction is that Wikileaks is doing journalism, and its publication of classified material that it obtains is probably protected.  Some of those in government or the military who supply it with classified material seem likely to be guilty of some crime along the lines of mishandling classified information, but probably not espionage though I haven't read the relevant laws.

Some links of relevance:

The Guardian appears to have the most detail on the sex crime allegations against Assange.

A piece in the Atlantic from a pro-Wikileaks point of view.