25 December 2019

Catholics getting it right


Christmas Mass is an annual pilgrimage with my Mum. This year she's over in Canberra and mass was at St Christopher's. Not the midnight mass, but the 11am mass which I guess is the same: longish and musically accompanied, and this time a huge musical pleasure. I always enjoy singing along to hymns, but these renditions had me stopping to listen. The tunes were obvious enough: O come all ye faithful, A little town of Bethlehem, We three kings, The first noel, Away in a manger, Silent night, Hark the herald angels sing. There was a responsorial psalm and a few other snippets of musical fillings. We were provided with words so invited to sing, at least with the obvious hymns. That was easy enough until the sopranos went stratospheric and complex with lovely counter melodies that I recognised but couldn't sing but admired as deeply satisfying. They got the high notes then proceeded to confound and impress with several more great arrangements. The organ was lovely and Julie Watson on trumpet featured so sweetly with gloriously soft tone and delicious counterpoint. My God! ... a response that's apt and fitting. It was maybe a little unexpected but apt in a modern, casual mass, that the parishioners clapped the music when the mass was over, then hooped and hollered after the final Handel, admittedly the mega-popular Hallelujah chorus, but done with real aplomb. I expected to enjoy some singing (if the key was right - I've found keys often haven't suited me at Catholic masses) but I was blown out by the effectiveness and satisfaction of this mass. I wasn't the only one who laughed at the joke that the Catholics don't usually do it so well. This time, they did in spades. Congrats to Julie and choir and organist.

Julie Watson (trumpet) performed with several soloists, choir and organ at St Christopher's Cathedral, Manuka, for Christmas mass.

9 December 2019

Red shirting

Never let it be said that Maruki shirks. I've said it before and this latest concert is just further proof: Dvorak Slavonic dances 1,2,8; Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue; Tchaikovsky Symphony no.4 Fmin op.36. Anne Stevens soloed for the Gershwin then took up her normal position in the violas. The turnout was good with visitors from NCO and elsewhere and the audience was solid, partly there for Gershwin. It's a popular piece, and as I recognised while Anne worked through the syncopations and diverse key signatures, not easy. It wasn't too bad for the orchestra (although I was pleased to get the offbeat triplet scalar runs towards the end: they were a doozy). The big challenge was kept for the Tchaikovsky, especially the first movement. At first blush, the fourth movement looked scary with its quick semi-quaver scalar sequences, but the varied syncopations of the first movement were killers. The time was 9/8 feel at a reasonable speed so that was not the issue but the dotted feels were. As for the bowing, that can await my next take on this very big challenge. The Dvorak was more presentable, as Dvorak seems to be. I never seem to find him an insurmountable challenge. But as always, when John puts on his threatened red shirt, we do our bit. Not perfect but decent and performance is the best way to get to grow accustomed to any piece of music. Again, a big program and a decent take on it.

Maruki Orchestra performed Dvorak, Gershwin and Tchaikovsky at Albert Hall under John Gould (conductor) with soloist Anne Stevens (piano) and Paul Hubbard (concertmaster).

8 December 2019

Young and younger

My God, they are getting younger! We went to the Canberra Youth Orchestra last night and the soloist was a 12 year old who made the rest of the orchestra look like mid-lifers. Christian Li was little, young, wildly capable, a winner of international awards, now studying at ANAM. He played the Bruch violin concerto with confidence and clear virtuosity and an understanding which far passed his years. That was the final piece for the night. Before that, the orchestra itself had performed in full form, a decent size, and we were hugely pleased. Intonation was nice; dynamics impressive (something to learn there!); interpretation apt. Perhaps later, after interval, after we moved and could hear the full ensemble more clearly, I caught some slips or mis-pitches, but minor. The first half was under Max McBride. Then Max retired to the bass section and Rowan Harvey-Martin took the baton. First half was Enescu Romanian rhapsody no.2 and Holst Perfect fool, both little known at least to us. The Holst was quite a strange piece but entertaining in its oddities, fitting the title. The second half was Delius Walk to the Paradise Garden and Bruch Violin concerto no.1 Gmin. Most impressive all round and the group grows younger and younger. But another positive, the numbers: are they growing? It was mentioned by the hosts and I didn't hear a call for violas and basses before this concert. All round, a great listen and a positive local outlook. We hope, as the arts shrinks in governmental thoughts. Carbon prevails, I guess. Proof: the night ended with an announcement to not fret: the hall was not on fire. Just that the smoke from bushfires outside Braidwood had entered the aircon. Outside, it was smokey and ANU alarms were in whooping. Our brave new world.

The Canberra Youth Orchestra performed at Llewellyn Hall under Max McBride and Rowan Harvey-Martin (conductors) with soloist Christian Li (violin).

7 December 2019

The pleasure of displeasure

It's hard to laugh at the state of the world these days, not least the state of Australian politics, but it's easier when you are in an obviously like-minded group. Even more so when you realise you'd missed a few things that they'd caught. That's a fairly rare occurrence for me, as I keep abreast of the news, but I'd missed that Pauline Hanson had mistaken (or misspoken?) NRMA for NRA. ScoMo mostly doesn't make such errors although his lump of coal in Parliament will never be lived down. But that was another political year, not 2019, which was what Shortis and Simpson were serenading and recounting. They are a great local treasure, or perhaps Bungendorian pleasure, but not known widely like the Wharf Review. Not quite as flash professional but equally witty. It was a sad story they had to tell, the political story of 2019, and the laughs were tragicomedy rather than belly, until their spoonerism routine came towards the end of the night. How clever was that! ... to quote another theme of the political year. Aptly they started with just that, singing "How good is Australia / How good is 2019" with ScoMo providing the first notes. As the marketer he is, he'd no doubt consider this a great success, his line searing into the thought patterns of the country. The next song was of the drought, again, searing into the thought of the country, with no thanks to the LNP. Then on through the characters, Bill and Albo and Trump. I won't give away the joke, but the decision on the relevant element for ScoMo, after he was dubbed "Man of Titanium" by Trump was a great laugh. Folau got in there with a Mark Twain quote I'd never heard "Go to Heaven for the climate, to Hell for the company". Then on through the Prince of Whales (apparently another mistake, this time by Trump, and also one I'd missed). Then horses and 11,000 climate scientists and Hawkie's demise and Boris/Brexit, of course, and the election and the surplus and School excursions to Parliament and Greta and a few shorties on Medievac, NSW Abortion bill, NBN and an encore on their home town, inviting ScoMo to Bungendor-ière. And lessons, too, for Canberra locals who drive through, about the bears and that mysterious hubcap. Well, I never! We ended in uproarious laughter but the year remains what it was. Bad and probably just getting worse.

Shortis and Simpson are John Shortis (vocals, piano, ukelele) and Moya Simpson (vocals) and they performed their annual political satire show at Smiths.

5 December 2019

Baroque down south


I think the group Latitude 37 is from Melbourne and my check of Melbourne's coordinates semi-confirms it (-37.840935, 144.946457). Lat37 are a baroque trio but they were joined by Bendigo (?) resident Lucinda Moon on a second violin. Otherwise the band is violin, viola da gamba and harpsichord. They did a lovely concert that concentrated on Corelli (Italian, here played with a German harpsichord with good reason that was given). It included three Corelli trio sonatas, a Bach fugue on a Corelli theme, a "dissertazione" on a Corelli work by Veracini and, to finish, a work by Couperin celebrating Corelli at Mount Parnassus with the Greek muses. It's an odd invention but relevant to the times. The concert was fairly short, in one set, with explanatory chatter, mostly for four, but with two pieces for just the core trio. The effect was blissful, all soft gut strings and short movements and fairly simple statements and internal dynamics within phrases and notes, something that appears to my ear more in the style and with gut. It was stately but not evidently aristocratic. Just lovely, personal and immediate. The playing was a pleasure. Interesting, too, to compare the two violins. Visitor Lucinda's was clearly softer than leader Julia's so they were quite distinct and identifiable. I don't expect much Baroque was played at lat.-37 in those days and not quite even at lat.+37. Rome is +~41, but Palermo gets close at +38. Corelli was near enough.

Latitude 37 performed at Wesley. Lat37 comprises Julia Fredersdorff (baroque violin) Laura Vaughan (viola da gamba) and Donald Nicholson (harpsichord), this night with guest Lucinda Moon (baroque violin).

4 December 2019

Nothing to prove

Some people have nothing to prove and it's lovely to see and hear them. Mike Nock has earned that position with his long term influence here and overseas. He's joyous, capable, relaxed, knowing and apt in his interpretations. It's easy, never forced, not uncomfortable, but that's not to say it's not challenging, for it often is, or not interesting, for it certainly is. He's playing with younger offsiders these days, as could be expected. He's not so young now, although light of heart. Those offsiders are Brett Hirst and James Waples and they are easily with him, respectful of his lead but also adventurous and virtuosic while understated. All that sounds like a blissful gig and it was. The tunes had a few lesser knowns but featured a string of standards. Bernie McGann appeared in Spirit song. They started with Lady be good and Lollypops and roses and finished on Poinciana, which only became evident as the song itself after some time. Moanin' got in there. A few I didn't know were Golden earrings and Fresh water. He led with a piece that he called Curl that turned out to be a baroque piece of ~1600. I didn't catch the original title, but it sounded eminently modern as they did it. They also merged Summertime with So what and that worked a treat. What I noticed, though, was an immense respect for melody. It seemed to be present throughout his playing and to some degree from the others. It's not the thing of bebop, which takes the chords after using the melody just for a starter. This was more a consideration throughout. That interested me. And he was just a nice, chatty, jokey presence on stage, too. Again, nothing to prove except to play the music and display jazz. Great stuff and a lovely trio.

Mike Nock (piano) played with Brett Hirst (bass) and James Waples (drums) at Smiths.

3 December 2019

Our Veggies for the day

Ya gotta love the NCO Christmas concert. A few years ago they were opportunities for members to solo on various movements of various concerti. That's good but now they are Family concerts and they are fun. This year was NCO with The Vegetable Plot. You may wonder! It's a kids band but with wit to spare that features a few sly jokes for the adults in the room. I got caught out for a few secs with a pun on pea/pee. And plenty more references to peas (they seem to be a favourite) and other vegetables and some amusing lyrics about life in Sydney and whatever and nice popular tunes underlying it all. We played accompaniments arranged by Leonard and Belinda Weiss and threw in a few more classical outings, Habanera and Zarathustra and a few Nutcracker waltzes (how beautiful are they! I want to play in a ballet orchestra!) and Sorcerer's apprentice and a snippet from Pictures at an Exhibition. Otherwise the tunes were written by Aspara Gus (AKA Luke Escombe). The rest of the Veggies were Ru Barb (Paige Hoorweg), Sir Paul McCarrotney (Nick Hoorweg) and Pa Prika (Jess Ciampa). Some really pleasurable music and harmonies and percussion and bass. Lizzy Collier oversaw the whole caboodle with considerable skill and fun involvement. Great work. And the orchestra sounded terrific. It was all video and audio recorded so I'll look forward to something reaching YouTube, sometime, with luck. In the meantime, we can just mull over the smiling parents and gushy kids. Great fun all round and nicely professional to boot.

National Capital Orchestra played with The Vegetable Plot. Lizzy Collier (conductor) directed. the VP are Aspara Gus (Luke Escombe, vocals, guitar), Ru Barb (Paige Hoorweg, vocals), Sir Paul McCarrotney (Nick Hoorweg, vocals, bass) and Pa Prika (Jess Ciampa, percussion). Leonard and Belinda Weiss scored the arrangements. Basses were Jennifer Groom and Eric Pozza.

2 December 2019

Radio waves


Finally we've made the radio. Tilt Trio recorded a session at ArtSound way back in August. Since then, we've played gigs, travelled, ArtSound has undergone challenges (still underway), but finally our session has been broadcast. It's a humbling experience to hear yourself on radio, but I expected nothing less. Some nice playing but also some needs for improvement. All inevitable and the daily experience of music. But thanks to Chris Deacon for his huge efforts over time for radio in Canberra and specifically Friday Night Live and his recording of Tilt. And thanks to ArtSound, such a gem of culture in Canberra. Thanks, too, to James and Dave for the great playing. Greetings from ArtSound live.

Tilt Trio were broadcast on ArtSound. Chris Deacon (audio) recorded and hosted. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

1 December 2019

Truth be told


This performance had me in a right quandary. There were so many issues to mull over and recoil from and despair of. I could have expected such a thing from our local group, A Chorus of Women. Their first performance was at Parliament House in 2003 in protest against the Iraq War. Not that it did any good, like the other protests, despite no WMDs and clear evidence against them from UN investigations at the time. And this performance was at the War Memorial, in the presence of its retiring head, a minister in the government that sent Australia to that very war. He introduced the concert by talking of a new exhibition about peacekeeping under an intrusive, illuminated sign for the sponsor of the theatre, itself a weapons producer. He announced that the peacekeeping exhibition will become permanent with the $500m AWM expansion which has been met with such disapproval, this being democracy and all. ACOW gave an abridged presentation, part concert, mostly slide-supported discussion, on the women's movement for peace around WW1. The full work was performed a year-or-so ago as The Peoples' Passion by Glenda Cloughley. Glenda was a major participant this day, too. Johanna McBride conducted. The choir is ~16 mature women, here accompanied by Lucus Allerton, John Smiles and Chris Latham. They took us through the stories of Jane Adams and the Traumatine March, Vida Goldstein, Eglantyne Jebb and various others, the 1915 International Congress of Women and its unanimous resolutions and their influence on the League of Nations, Julia Grace Wales and the Wisconsin Plan, the blockade and starvation in German/Austrian Europe after WW1 and the formation of the Save the Children fund. They spoke to the like-minded, introduced stories that are sadly little known, welcomed the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. So my quandaries? That our marches and actions have such little influence; that we can so easily drop into tribal thought and speech (I have a go at the Left for this, being as I am a privileged, white, boomer male); that all this happened here, at the AWM, once so pure, increasingly a tool for the culture wars; that the welcome to country was so heartfelt while AWM refuses to recognise our own frontier wars. ACOW is for the good but I'm not sure how much change they can influence. Nor the rest of us given climate, Iraq, housing, NBN, subs, robodebt [now found illegal!] ... and SM's recent election victory. Nonetheless, I wish them well.

A Chorus of Women performed at the Australian War Memorial under Johanna McBride (conductor).

30 November 2019

Other times



It's the oldest church in Canberra (1844), to the extent that it has a European feel ascending the very steep staircase to the organ loft. St John's Anglican Church is small, even with its extension of 1872. It's proud and tall with its 1877 spire. Internally, the stained glass is pleasant and of an era and the wall feature plaques for deceased parishioners, often military, MPs and the like. And the organ loft features a none-too-large but quite lively-sounding two manual, tracker action organ built by Ron Sharp of Sydney Opera House fame. I am working my way through the organs of Canberra with the Royal School of Churn Music (ACT Branch) and this was their last monthly concert for the year. Three organist played and one flautist featured on one piece. Darryn Jensen opened with four chorale preludes by Bach. Nigel Poole played three movements from Yon Advent suite. Rosemary Shepherd and Shiela Thompson played Grétry Concerto in C major for flute and keyboard and Shiela ended with five canonic variations by Bach. Suffice to say, a lovely and moderately understated concert. This is not a big organ with big, deep power, but neat and textured and nicely spoken and the pieces were similarly restrained. Really a very lovely outing and a touch of an older Canberra, to the degree that there is such a thing.

Darryn Jensen, Nigel Poole and Shiela Thompson (organ) and Rosemary Shepherd (flute) performed a program for Advent for the Royal School of Church Music (ACT Branch) at St John's Anglican Church, Reid.

29 November 2019

The kids are alright


At least most of the kids. They get it and they will take the brunt of it. I only managed an early visit to the SS4C sit down in front of Parliament House. Too early; they were just getting set up. I passed by a few hours later, not too much later I thought, but there was little happening. As I write this, I have yet to see any reports. I hope for the best. Inside Parliament, they were making battle, to close down Unions and over Angus Taylor's latest indiscretions. It's indicative. The kids get it; the adults battle. The Taylor incident may be trivial, but it's indicative of the culture wars and corruption that we have come to expect. I once had some respect for Government, even when I didn't agree. I argued pollies entered to do good, even if they got waylaid. But now? With Adani going ahead and the Daily Telegraph informed of changed and unlikely numbers and the PM just innocently checking up with his Chief of Police mate in this context. And no Corruption Commission. And unions targeted while Westpac is found with 25m (now 29m?) errors with money-laundering implications. And remembering back to Indigenous walks across the Bridge and massed demos against Iraq when there were no WMDs and when this was transparently clear at the time and yet we went to war. I can understand desperation and mental illness and tired resignation in these circumstances. What I don't understand is the ethics of those who can carry all this out. I find it hard to believe intelligent people believing the cherrypicking and rare denier academics and echo chambers and the rest. And ignoring follow-the-money path around the world's biggest industry. (Although I do despair that truth is increasingly hard to determine. That's a parallel argument of our time but climate is clear enough). Here's my letter once written seeking to understand climate denial:

I'm intrigued by the psychology of denial. Is it a deep internal conflict that expresses itself in phrases like "I don't question the science, but..."? Or in claims of "technology neutrality" associated with demands for coal, or attacks on the "ideology" of others while ignoring or twisting the science. Or worse, maybe they are just lying through their teeth, or have sold their souls. Remember, we're talking end of civilisation here. Not trivial. I wouldn't want that on my conscience.

It got in the paper without the final sentence (Letters, Canberra Times 16 Jun 2017) and I was attacked for calling names and not seeking proof (joke!) and amazingly chided on "the difference between science and faith". Amusing. I had previously written my concise summary of climate change and sent it to papers and pollies and, despite the CO2 figures requiring updating, I still stand by it. As I hear of 153 fires in NSW on the news just an hour ago, after a bushfire season that started in winter in the middle of a drought that has country and now city water supplies dangerously dropping.

All you really need to know about climate change. We're one big civilisation and climate is changing fast given a sudden imbalance of carbon since the industrial revolution. The mechanism of greenhouse gasses has been known to science for 150 years or so and we're at 400ppm and adding another couple each year, and 2 degrees warming (guessed to come at 450ppm) is a rough, perhaps optimistic, estimate of where runaway climate change could happen given various feedback loops (the ubiquitous "tipping points") and it looks to me like we've got Buckley's chance of staying within 2 degrees. With business as usual, IPCC estimates 3-6 degrees rise by 2100. That's just 86 years. Scientists provide the proof of all this for honest readers. To me it looks like game over and sooner than we think. I just hope I'm wrong because nobody wins an argument with physics.

I sent this one to Letters, The Australian, Dec 2014 but it wasn't published. We are now at CO2 ~408ppm and rising 2/3 ppm each year. (Monthly Average Mauna Loa CO2 : October 2019: 408.53 ppm / October 2018: 406.00 ppm / Last updated: November 5, 2019 [https://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/ccgg/trends/, viewed 29 Nov 2019]). In that context, I will lead a short discussion session on Climate soon. Here are our preparatory readings.

It's such a big topic but my thinking was thus: 11,000 scientists warning ( > Paris gaps > Specific countries > Tipping points > Possible futures ). I suggest we just peruse the 11,000 scientists warning, then the rest can be happy reading over our Christmas break.

11,000 scientists warning
Article > https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/05/climate-crisis-11000-scientists-warn-of-untold-suffering
Paper > https://academic.oup.com/bioscience/advance-article/doi/10.1093/biosci/biz088/5610806

UNEP Gap Audit 2019
Article > https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/26/united-nations-global-effort-cut-emissions-stop-climate-chaos-2030
Paper > https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/30797/EGR2019.pdf

Country contributions
Article > https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/each-countrys-share-co2-emissions

Climate tipping points
Article > https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/27/climate-emergency-world-may-have-crossed-tipping-points
Paper > https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-03595-0

Possible futures - Implications of +1 degC, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, ...
Article > http://www.globalwarming.berrens.nl/globalwarming.htm


So there you go. The whimper is all around us; the bang is coming. I wish the kids the best. They get it.

The School Strike for Climate (SS4C) staged a sit down strike outside Parliament House.

25 November 2019

So this is Christmas

It's Messiah so it must be Christmas. We went to Handel Messiah. Not a rare event, but a pleasant one. This time, in Llewellyn Hall, with nice comfy seats in place of church pews, so that was a plus. Not the only plus, of course. It's a great work, very memorable and attractive and satisfying as choral works are. And it's a work of audience participation, standing as we all did through the Hallelujah chorus, then clapping. The clapping surprised me. It's the end of part two, but I didn't expect the interruption of applause. Roland Peelman was up front, conducting from the harpsichord chair, flailing and emoting as he does so effectively. Anything Roland puts his hands to is gold. And the orchestra was that. They worked hard, certainly not least Kyle on bass, and it was consistently comfortable and easy and melodious. Peter Clark led from the first violin chair, emoting with body movements and leading a very responsive and neatly consonant and flowing group. Amy Moore, Stephanie Dillon, Richard Butler and Andrew O'Connor sang the solo parts with confidence. At various times, I was convinced by each of them. The choir was large, Canberra Choral Society Massed Choir, being the CCS augmented with paying unauditioned guests. I toyed with this one year, but it's a big ask, a short, intensive preparation and quite costly. So no. The Llewellyn never grants players the ability to overwhelm with power and volume. No different here: for all the numbers, the choir was not powerfully loud, although you adjust and it is satisfying. The part were a little unbalanced, too, but that's a function of lack of men in choirs and largely unavoidable. Dan Walker had clearly prepared the choir well with Anthony Smith as accompanist. But the time went quickly, and I felt more intimacy this time than most. Perhaps the choruses or the structure is becoming better known to me, but the hours (3.5 hours from start to end, including the interval) went intriguingly and pleasantly. It's a lovely tradition if a harsh story that's less central to our society these days. But the program argued it had been written as entertainment, for theatre rather than church, and so it's fitting and it worked. A big and satisfying production.

The Canberra Choral Society, its massed choir and orchestra, performed Handel Messiah at Llewellyn Hall under Roland Peelman (conductor) with Peter Clark (concertmaster) , Amy Moore (soprano), Stephanie Dillon (alto), Richard Butler (tenor) and Andrew O'Connor (bass).

24 November 2019

One take


In some ways it takes one to know one. I'm learning that as I listen to music I've played or groups in the style I play. I joked as we entered the Albert Hall for the latest Australian Haydn Ensemble concert, featuring visiting European period violin star Midori Seiler, that we were there to learn from our betters. From the first notes, I decided it was evidently true. I don't think I'd quite realised it before to this extent, but this was very close to home, an ensemble in format somewhat like Musica da Camera and playing Mozart and Haydn much like much of our music (although we can be more disparate, too, more modern, even minimalist). But the clarity and precision and sweet tones did it for me. And the glances at Midori as leader and her bodily interpretation. All wonderful and exemplary. I can blame the instruments to some degree (we play modern instruments tuned to A=440 and no gut) and I do, but that's mainly a joke, although the tone is wildly different and avidly apt. Jackie's bass was sweet, deep, soft (gut, baroque bow) where mine is edgy, crisp, clear and hard to bow (Spirocores, modern bow). But that's just one aspect. Ignoring that, they just do it like a dream. I love AHE in their end-of-year large format and with Midori they just positively sang. They played one symphony and one violin concerto from each of Mozart and Haydn (K.319 and K.211; VIIa/1 and I:80). Did I mention I enjoyed it? And that learnt a motza? Just a fabulous outing.

Australian Haydn Ensemble were led by Midori Seiler (violin) at the Albert Hall.

23 November 2019

Missing

I can little comment on Stuart Long and his latest concert. I set up a recording, heard a first piece by Prokofiev, then had to leave. That Prokofiev was a pleasure. Short, but sweet; recounting, in four short movements, a grandmother in front of a fire in a bitter Russian winter telling fairy tales to her grandchildren. So this was quite delicate. It was Old grandmother's tales op.31. He then played Scriabin 24 Preludes, but I was gone. Wish I could have stayed. That Prokofiev was a lovely entree but the main course went missing.

Stuart Long (piano) played Prokofiev and Scriabin at Wesley.

22 November 2019

What si truth

We are in a time when truth is relative, when facts are queried, where people will say and believe something on flimsy evidence or none or on hearsay. We used to be certain; we trusted our institutions and media and their truths were ours. Largely. For good and bad; in a decent society, mostly for good. These days I feel conservative, trying to maintain some grasp of truth, still laying trust in science and largely in the media, but the pollies have lost it and the West, or maybe the Anglosphere, is awash with the unbelievable. From pollies, from some media, from various conspiracies and self servers. I remember a visiting ex-US Admiral in Canberra in the '80s who spoke to a political group about CIA stories that were invented and published through MSM to influence opinions. He talked that time of one case which had been very successful. I had followed this very case a few months earlier, about something in Africa, that seemed odd but... It had been successful so it ran an unusually long time, perhaps 2 weeks. But it was false, invented. That is, if I could believe this ex-US Admiral, if that's what he was. Then we watch conspiracies, the noddy ones like no Moon landing and vaxxers. At least they are just nutty and not commercial or government plots. Either way, they can still be dangerous. Vaxxers have real personal and social costs and climate denialism is existential and unrecoverable. That's the biggie and it may finish us all off. So who do we trust? People we know are a start, and institutions that have history. But when you don't know how you can confirm truth, you/we are in trouble. So this mills around in my mind as I go to a book launch by Tony Kevin.

Tony is a musical acquaintance and ex-diplomat and author of some serious works of investigation, not least on Siev-X. He was interviewed by a friend who holds my considerable respect, Ernst Willheim, lawyer, advisor, academic. Tony was launching his new book, Russia and the West : The last two action-packed years 2017-19. It's a product of Tony's recent visits and consideration of international relations with respect to Russia. He talked first of Russian's awareness and acceptance of their history: WW2, Yeltzin's "failed state", revival under Putin. [What, I think: Revival under Putin?] "It's not an accident that Putin is so popular in Russia". [I had heard something like this before.] Then on through normality, manners, pride, law and order which are "ahead of Australia now" [thinking of strip searches and Dutton's blackshirted staff]. Russia is self-sufficient, no longer worrying what the West thinks of it [!]. There's inequality, oligarchical capitalism, and Putin requires "loyalty" from his capitalists, but for ordinary people there's welfare, health, justice "better than Australia" [thinking of our string of current secret court cases, Collaery, Witness K, several others and ex-NSW Supreme Court judge Anthony Whealy: "At first blush, this looks like the complete abandonment of open justice" ('Are we now a totalitarian state': case of Canberra's mystery prisoner alarms judge / Christopher Knaus, IN The Guardian 20 Nov 2019)]. Then misreporting by Anglo/Australian media. Proof? 1/ Tony has analysed the Skripal case and claims the official Western story has contradictions and lies: different poison, little evidence, threadbare story and passing nurses and contradictory evidence from Swedish scientists. [I think of Weapons of Mass Destruction and Iran and the conflict with UN investigations, but still used as an excuse for war. The unreliability of claims was self evident a mile off, even in our press, but we - Howard, Bush2, Blair - still went ahead. Great outcome there!]. 2/ White Helmets, "killers under humanitarian cover", and that Syrian chemical weapons attack. [I think of the recent news announcement of the leader of the White Helmets having died and how I'd been surprised he was ex-SAS or similar. It seemed odd even before I heard from Tony]. The evidence of the chemical attack and the missile on the bed with moderately russled bed clothes and no injury to the bed and that hole in the roof. "Completely false story, accepted by the West" says Tony. He also claimed we were very close to WW3. [I'm not sure how I feel on this. See https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/is-this-proof-white-helmets-staged-chemical-attack/ and more]. 3/ Downing of MH17, "an unexplained incident full of ... " [I missed the last words here]. No impartial investigation was held; within hours the US Secretary of State had allocated blame "I've seen the evidence" (Quick evidence may be feasible with satellites etc. but I am assuming that it was not released]; "convenient", Air traffic control had even allowed the flight. "It's been a propaganda stunt" said Tony. Tony talked on about being on the outer, how he's not now invited to ABC or book events despite his success with Siev-X. He spoke of an entrenched narrative, that Russia and China are the West's nemesis and of a new cold war. Then of who sets policy. It's clear enough that DFAT is less influential and intelligence and defence agencies are more. Why? The Military Industrial Complex, or is that another conspiracy? But wasn't the Iraq war illegal? Certainly it didn't have Security Council approval. Then on to Julian Assange ("being brain murdered") and Collaery and the whistle-blowers and thinking more broadly on "the national security state that we've become". Think Dutton again, and how our Internet and mobile use is tracked (all of us, quite legally, and we pay for it) and those ~80 pieces of security legislations since 9/11. And Five Eyes as the real source of international policy formulation for Australia. And Tony again: "I don't see that changing in a hurry". Then a few words from the Russians, from a representative of the Embassy who advised that "our relations [with Australia] are frozen at the moment". That trade/economic ties are "below zero" (and the Russians know of low temperatures) although some cultural, medical, scientific sports tourism relations continue. Our 2014 sanctions on Russia include a ban on political relations, so no Federal Minister of higher can meet with Russians. And to end, truth, trust and fear ("truth is what trusted people say"). And imposed narratives; agents provocateurs, loyalty. And finally advice to put Russia on your tourist bucket list. So, I leave in a muddle. Truth is more confused and its sources more vague and unsure than ever. I'm sure someone wins out of that. Trump and his mates, perhaps?

Tony Kevin (author) launched his latest book, Russia and the West : The last two action-packed years 2017-19, at Paperchain Bookshop with Ernst Willheim prompting the discussion.

21 November 2019

Hard work


My first gigs were with pop and rock bands way back and I remember the standard gig as 4 hours. These days, such a time seems unusual, too long, but Tilt did one the other night. And, come to think of it, we did another at a party just a few weeks before. It's hard work. Setting up, then playing, then dismantling. Mostly we play 2 or 3 hours or thereabouts these days. I particularly like the 90-min single set as a concert-like format: long enough to warm up and stretch out, but not so long that you tire. I play double bass now, so that's much more effort than the old e-bass. In this case, the 4 hours gig on a Saturday night was sandwiched between Musica da Camera gigs on Sat and Sun afternoons, one in Cooma, and otherwise the weekend was long and busy with other activities. We managed the gig with 3 long sets and just one slightly lengthened break for a shortish speech. Despite the hard work, the gig was immense fun. We played well; the family was in good spirits and was enjoying each other and the music; the theme was James Bond and we played influences from that. All in all, a great outing in a busy weekend, but wouldn't have missed it for quids.

Tilt Trio played a Bond themed party. Tilt are James Woodman (piano), Dave McDade (drums) and Eric Pozza (bass).

  • Thanks to Wikicommons for the James Bond pic. Sean Connery as James Bond in Amsterdam in Diamonds are forever. Pic by Rob Mieremet; provided with permission by the Dutch National Archives.
  • 19 November 2019

    Discoveries

    Our travelling circus reformed for the last of this year's concert weekends and again it was a great pleasure. And, I trust the audience considered it a musical success. This time, we featured visiting soloist Rowan Phemister on harp for a Handel concerto and a Debussy pair of dances. Yes, a varied pair, with the order of Handel and the C20th impressionism of Debussy. The Debussy was a pair of dances, Danse sacrée & Danse profane, so not obviously danceable in any contemporary sense. The other works were for the string orchestra, more Debussy and a Sibelius and one work that is another unusual find, perhaps not otherwise on the Net, that had one of our members converting the score in Sibelius from the hand-written part: Castrucci Concerto grosso op.3 no.4. Castrucci is largely unknown today, but Hogarth caricatured him and he studied with Corelli and played with Handel. He was a Roman violin virtuoso living in London. It surprises me that these discoveries remain, but they are not particularly rare given lots of hand-written music in store. The more obscure are in various libraries; ours was just a scanned handwritten score on IMSLP. So, another successful and satisfying Musica da Camera concert series, first up in Cook then reprised in Cooma for a small audience.

    Musica da Camera performed Handel, Castrucci, Sibelius and Debussy in Cook and Cooma under under Rosemary Macphail (conductor) with soloist Rohan Phemister (harp).