Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Traffic, maths and Handel

FAST + SLOW = BANG! We were bedevilled by road safety signs during our trip to the Peak District but excess didn’t end there. On a ten-mile stretch south of Leek there are three dozen speed cameras. One small village was monitored by three pairs. This has the desired effect and traffic adheres to the limits.

Yet local drivers will have sussed it all out. Such cameras cost £50,000 and no local authority could afford that investment so many must be empty boxes. Use the road regularly and you get to know which are which – and speed accordingly. Crashes between speeding locals and slow-moving foreigners have no doubt become a spectator sport.

HAND-HOLD GUIDE No prizes for guessing why I responded to this from the Oppenheimer biography; “Weinberg… observed that mathematical formulas were like temporary hand-holds for a rock-climber. Each hand-hold more or less dictates the position of the next hand-hold… ‘A record of that is a record of a particular climb. It gives you very little of the shape of the rock’.”

LIFT UP YOUR EARS Saw a different version of Messiah at the weekend: Harry Christophers and the Sixteen - a handful of period instruments and a tiny (18 members) choir, albeit all professional, singing with passion, clarity and power. For those unfamiliar with live performances of this work there is a British tradition of standing up during the Hallelujah chorus, the reason being too tedious to recount. Mrs BB and I are dubious about this but, moved by the performance, we joined in - to be rewarded by a significant improvement in the sound quality. Who can understand or prescribe the so-called science of acoustics?

5 comments:

Rouchswalwe said...

One of those pesky boxes is on my way home. I'm so wary of it that my driving skills suffer without a doubt.

Native American flautist R. Carlos Nakai has made some fine recordings playing inside canyons in the Southwest. The acoustics are thrilling and distant thunder, birdcries, and wolf howls mingle with the notes of his flute. I would be very interested in hearing such a performance live.

Sir Hugh said...

The hand-hold bit reminded me of modern indoor climbing walls where routes are defined by colour coded hand/footholds. Every so often, when the proprietors decide regular customers are bored with a route, or if they decide to make it more difficult the holds can be changed on a sort of pegboard arrangement and it can be quite a surprise on your next visit when you find this has happened. Do you think Weinberg had this in mind when referring to “temporary hand-holds”, otherwise I don’t see how hand-holds could really be temporary on a conventional rock climb, but I suppose he is just theorising?

Plutarch said...

I suppose it's a bit like Russian roulette, if you don't know the road. Speed past an empty camera and you survive; speed past a loaded one, and bang, that's 3 points or whatever on your licence.Adds a bit of excitement to driving I suppose, if it's excitement you crave.

Julia said...

Americans stand up for the Messiah as well; I've known many a director put the Messiah as the last piece in a program to guarantee a standing ovation!

Thank you for the Harry Christophers reference. I just found several Youtube videos to listen to and the group is fabulous.

Barrett Bonden said...

RW (zS): I'm not agin them but south of Leek they're OTT. I wonder what a flautist being eaten by a wolf sounds like?

Sir Hugh: It's a bit of a mixed metaphor. It is in fact the maths that's temporary in that the maths that follows refines and supersedes it, causing it in effect to disappear. At the time, though, the earlier stuff was essential for progress. Difficult to reverse a climb which obeyed such rules.

Plutarch: On that particular road you could get all the thrills you needed while travelling at 30 mph.

Julia: It's astonishing that other countries are prepared to copy our bad habits. I have a French-French dictionary which has a list of proverbs many of which are the same weary English clichés: A Rome il faut vivre comme à Rome. Standing up for Hallelujah seems even more nonsensical in the USA since it dates back to someone - possibly a king - believing that the national anthem was about to begin.

As to chopping out the Amen chorus, that's barbaric. That was Saturday's choir at their very best. I'm glad you like Harry Christophers, though; they're deinitely a case of less is more.