Friday, December 19, 2014

Some things to listen to (part two: glass half full)

listening 2014

As someone who creates every day of my life, I rarely spend much time on music consumption. When I am asked what I listen to, it's often easier to say "Actually, I don't listen to music" than to explain the variegated form my listening actually takes. There's a jungle of sound out there, sometimes literally.

I have been in more than one sonic jungle this year. Let me take you on a short tour.
Friday, December 19, 2014

My Top 50 Albums of 2014 (part one: the great refusal)

As we come to the purported "end" of 2014, so starts the flood of Top 10 and Top 20 and Top 50 lists. These have made their way to me through news reader and social media feeds. Each author beseeches me to listen to "the best" music, as selected through their own filter. It's not a bad approach, in theory, though how there could have been 50 worthwhile pop albums released in one year, I will never know.

I will give you but one example of such a list; to provide more would be to encourage depression. Drowned in Sound manages to be a popular music site by pandering to both Taylor Swift fans (she's at #3) and those who can bear the Swans in 2014 but would have run screaming from them in 1983 (#10).

Though their musical choices are dull, I remain interested in their name, which attempts to be both world-weary (there's so much music that we are "drowned") and all-encompassing (notice it is "sound" not "music"). Of course their name is just a pose. There is nothing outside a fairly narrow range of pop music on their charts, certainly nothing in the way of sonic art. Perhaps they are emo. Perhaps they are hipsters. I don't know, since I don't understand these terms. (But I have a comments section below, for those who wish to help.)

Looking back at my own purchases, I see that I obtained exactly one album dated 2014. It's a good album, even if it is not a career best from the artists in question. I am safe in saying it is more deserving of your time than the Drowned in Sound Top 50. So here it is. A drum-roll please.

My Top 50 Albums of 2014...
Thursday, December 04, 2014

Micro-Four Thirds lens recommendations: part two

7.5 / 12 / 20 / 45 / 75 (side view)

Welcome to Part Two

In part one of this article I gave some introductory justification and offered a series of images that would help you compare the very different fields of view (FOV) these lens present. I will next discuss the available prime lenses in five categories, from widest to narrowest. I will relate the focal lengths back to "full frame" as a useful standard.

For each I will indicate the lowest price, taken from Amazon UK and SRS Microsystems, so that those of you in Europe have a good baseline for comparison. I should note that I generally buy on the used market, and have therefore completed my lens set at a significant discount.

My criteria include price, aperture (f/2 or better), weight, size, and image quality.
Thursday, December 04, 2014

Micro-Four Thirds lens recommendations: part one

7.5 / 12 / 20 / 45 / 75 (top view)


The Micro-Four Thirds (MFT) camera format has proven to be very popular. The cameras are small enough to be portable and the sensor large enough to take excellent images. A sensor half the size of 35mm film turns out to be a good compromise. Olympus has known this for some time; their original PEN film cameras took "half frame" shots. (35mm is often called "full frame" and I will retain this nomenclature.) The Digital PEN and OM-D line continue this heritage.

Certainly I am a convert, having moved from the Pentax APS-C sensor format. Pentax have some decent DSLR cameras but several lens price hikes ruined the value proposition. They also fumbled the ball badly when it came to the mirrorless revolution. Possibly only Fuji "get it" in the same way that Olympus/Panasonic do -- a well-designed mirrorless system offers enormous practical and photographic advantages over mirror-based tech.
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Scottish Independents (video playlist)

No, not Scottish independence, though that might be nice too. Assembled 18 September 2014, as Scotland goes to the polls.

This is not something I've done before, because every YouTube playlist comes with the good (remastered sound and rare footage), the bad (still images holding place for the music), and the ugly (crappy old music videos with VJ voice-overs). You'll get all of that here, plus built-in obsolescence.
Monday, August 04, 2014

Using the lowly semicolon

Though it is treated like some sort of a third-class citizen of the world of punctuation, I love the lowly semicolon. It performs two handy tasks that arise quite often in writing. Despite this, I have noticed that a good number of students avoid the semicolon entirely. Perhaps this arises from fear of using it incorrectly, or perhaps from simple lack of writing experience. In either case, this simple article might help.
Friday, July 25, 2014

My presentations at Invisible Places | Sounding Cities

I recently returned from an exhilarating few days in Portugal, where I ate grilled squid, walked up and down urban cliffscapes, explored the local beer culture, recorded some amazing environments, and presented no less than three times at the Invisible Places | Sounding Cities symposium in Viseu.

This conference ran for three days, but had activities embedded in the larger festival Jardins Efémeros (Ephemeral Gardens) which enlivened the entire city with song, dance, installations, food... everything really. I don't think I have ever seen a more joyous congruence of cultural activities. It seemed at times that the entire population of the city was on the streets enjoying themselves.
Thursday, July 24, 2014

From Dublin Airport to Limerick (the easy way)

Limerick is a great place to visit, and an excellent base of operations if you want to explore the beautiful West coast of Ireland, plus the hinterland of Limerick, Claire, and Tipperary counties.

But it's not as easy to get here as it should be.

It used to be that there were many flights into Shannon Airport, which is the closest and most logical choice. Unfortunately that once prestigious transportation hub is only just coming out of a long period of decline and mismanagement. It currently has far fewer flights than Dublin.

Both airports suffer from what is a terrible Irish problem, the poor rail service. In fact, there is not a single Irish airport connected to the rail system! Worse yet, if you choose Cork, Knock, or some other point of entry, you won't even get good coach service, and will be practically forced to rent a car. In my role as festival organiser I've often advised people against Cork, which, though significantly closer to Limerick than Dublin, requires a change of buses in Cork City, making travel next to impossible at morning or evening hours -- when flights are actually likely to arrive.

So that leaves Dublin as the next best choice, in the event that you can't get a good connection to Shannon. You'd think it would be a piece of cake to get from Dublin Airport to Limerick. There are indeed several options, but read on and I'll fill you in on the best choice.
Monday, June 09, 2014

An Evening with Pauline Oliveros

An Evening with Pauline Oliveros

I am overwhelmed to be an invited guest at a very special evening of food and improvised music. Pauline Oliveros was just granted an honorary doctorate in music from UCC. Now it is time to celebrate!

Musical contributors include John Godfrey, Karen Power, The Quiet Club, Harry Moore, and yours truly.

At the Guest House, Shandon, Cork, 9 June 2014.

Advanced ticket sales only and sold out long ago I assume!
Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Two short films at Transit Spaces

Here's some news for you: I have not one but two films featured in the conference Transit Spaces/Transitory Encounters, happening over the next few days, 29 May – 1 June, here in Limerick. This is the international conference of the Association for Intercultural German Studies (GiG). As such, it is conducted mostly in German. It is being hosted by the Irish Centre for Transnational Studies at Mary Immaculate College and University of Limerick. You can visit their website for details.