Saturday, January 31, 2009

Pretty flamingo

Sometimes the next post is so logical. This flamingo shot is one of the best of its kind that I have seen. I came across this two weeks ago in the stream of fellow Flickrite ricdiggle, and it was an instant fave. Fascinating curvatures and marvellous combination of details in the feathers and luscious colour.

All rights retained by the photographer.



Animals rarely feature in my wife's art, except for the occasional horse and once in a while a small bird. To include a large flamingo like this is unique. The colour scheme, which led to the name I gave to this work (she is responsible for the Chinese names, I am for the English names), also stands out in her repertoire. The trademark featureless face is still there of course.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Gubaidulina, a Tatar treat

Perhaps the greatest living composer. Sofia Gubaidulina (born 1931) is a Russian composer of Tatar origins. Not surprisingly, her daringly experimental style quickly met with official opposition from the Soviets, and it was the support of Shostakovich that saw her true. Her style is highly original and very modern, with a unique way of combining less usual musical instruments. This Naxos CD is a great introduction to her work. It features two of her best compositions: In croce (for cello and organ - or bayan, the latter option having been chosen here) and The seven last words for cello, bayan and strings. Both reflect the religiousness that pervades large parts of her work. The third composition included on the disk is also very worthwhile: Silenzio, for bayan, violin and cello. The performances are excellent, with soloists Elsbeth Moser (bayan, i.e. Russian accordeon) and Maria Kliegel (cello) taking the main roles, supported by Kathrin Rabus on violin and the Transylvanica Camerata, conducted by Gyorgy Selmeczi. A highly recommended disc of a highly recommended composer.


Friday, January 30, 2009

Blue Twister

Abstraction and minimalism - two of my favourite sub-genres combined in one photograph. An excellent shot by fellow Flickrite Warriorwriter. The subject is a sculpture at the Udvar-Hazy National Air and Space Museum, Chantilly, Virginia (USA).

All rights retained by the photographer.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Ophelia farewell

The second time that my Flickr friend Il malmostoso features in the blog, and it will not be the last. This is one of those incredibly moving shots that you can find throughout his stream, sinister, disturbing, yet romantic.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lest we forget

Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day - marking the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz-Birkenau (Poland) by Soviet troops. A fitting moment to post this shot of mine. One of the most emotional moments in my life was our visit in the spring of 2008 to the remains of said concentration camp. This photograph is from an art installation in one of the camp houses. With the lighting conditions, the blurriness was unavoidable for a handheld shot, but I find it actually contributes to the total feeling. In spite of its clear technical shortcomings, I picked this emotional shot as one of my 12 most memorable shots of 2008.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.4 sec
Aperture: f/2.5
Focal Length: 7.2 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


There are always alternatives

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, following these instructions:

[1] The artist/group: go to the wiki random page generator. The first random Wikipedia article obtained this way is the name of the band or performer. In this case, I ended up with Erlhaz Formation.
[2] The title: go to the random quotations site. The last four words of the very last quote of the page is the title of the album. The random quote that came up was by Lois McMaster Bujold: The will to be stupid is a very powerful force, but there are always alternatives.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Mene mene tekel, can be found here on Flickr.
The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Showcard Gothic 30/35 Black/Antiquewhite.

Note: this is a variation on the "Debut album game" that has been making its rounds around bulletin boards and blogs for some time now - the original version called for a random Flickr Explore photograph to be used as the cover. I have been trying to find out who had the original idea, but so far no success.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Midnight pavement

One of the most original photographers on Flickr is undoubtedly for me Shaun Keenan. He tends to work in series that makes you think "how can he find so much inspiration in such a limited theme?" A good example is his black on white minimalism that I will post an example of in the coming weeks. This one is from a current series focusing on puddles. The result is unbelievable. And if a postrock band band like Godspeed you! Black emperor is still looking for a design for their next album cover, they need look no further.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Beautiful freak

This is one of the most fascinating covers of the last decade. It is disturbing, haunting, and beautiful in an extremely unusual way. Everything comes together in this design: Ann Giordano's picture of the little girl (and I hope by God that it was distorted somehow) that almost foreshadows the later horror classic movie The Ring, the band's logo and the fitting font chosen for the album title. An absolute classic (and great music as well).

All Music

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Barking owl

It is too easy to make a bridge from the previous post to this one in the lines of "It's a hoot" - so I won't even bother. This is one of the best bird photographs I have seen for a long time. Razor sharp with exemplary depth of field, marvellous colours, and I love how the curve of the bird's wing comes back in the shape in the background. It was taken by fellow Flickrite Erik K Veland.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Grieg's piano concerto

Time for a bit of comic relief. Comedy and classical music usually do not mix that well, if we except the sketches of Victor Borge. But I have a soft spot in my heart for this sketch by one of Britain's funniest combinations of the seventies, Morecambe and Wise. Helped by a brilliantly deadpan guest performance of director Andre Preview Previn, they give a rendering of Grieg's piano concerto that defies description. "I'm playing all the right notes—but not necessarily in the right order." - simply brilliant.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Mirror pool

From one seascape to the next, and although this is a photograph, the skilled processing turned it into something akin to a painting. This excellent shot was taken by my Flickr friend xxxrmt, of a beautiful scenery in Loch Long, Scotland (looks very much like the New Zealand sounds).

All rights retained by the photographer.


The high shore

One of my favourite painters, and a bit late to show him in this blog for the first time. German-American painter Lyonel Feininger (1871-1956) is for me one of the finest painter to have been affected by the cubism movement - in addition to obvious expressionist influence as well. This painting dates back to 1923, but I have not been able to retrieve where this was painted. More on Feininger in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Up up and away

Even though I find myself lacking inspiration at the moment - no doubt due to the circumstances - I am happy that I can still turn out photographs that apparently resonate with other Flickrites. This shot, taken about a week ago, became to my surprise the seventh of mine to reach Explore, the 500 best Flickr photographs of the day (best in this case being determined by the obscure Explore algorithm). I shot this 5 minutes walking from our home, and decided to put the icy reflection upside down for an interesting effect - inspired by recent work of two of my favourite Flickrites: Shaun Keenan and macaz1977.

Camera: Canon PowerShot Pro1 8 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.005 sec (1/200)
Aperture: f/4
Focal Length: 38 mm
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Has anybody seen "Purple"

High time to get some more colour into the blog again - and I can think of few of my Flickr favourites that are as colourful as this one. This imaginative still life was created by my Flickr friend Rod Anzaldua, and it was the well deserved winner of the Colour and shape assignment within my favourite Flickr group Life thru a lenz.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Ahhh... if only.....

With all the beautiful compositions that we can choose from in the vast vaults of classical music, I still sometimes wonder about what we might have had, if only a certain composer would have thought of it - or lived long enough to do it. And I am talking about something more specific than say a 10th symphony by Beethoven. Let me give you three examples of what I mean.

Schubert's Winterreise for baritone and symphony orchestra
The Winterreise (Winter travel) song cycle for male voice and piano still stands out as one of the best in its genre, and for me nothing topped it in that respect until Mahler came along. I have always thought that the bleakness of these songs would lend themselves very well for an orchestrated version. Schubert himself was no stranger to the re-use of themes and ideas from one genre into the other (for instance themes from impromptus for piano solo were recycled into a string quartet and an orchestral work), and had he lived longer, he might actually have tried this with a symphonic orchestra - the unfinished eighth symphony demonstrates how well he could handle orchestral textures by then. I was not surprised to find out that this idea of mine had actually been tried out, by contemporary composer Hans Zender, but I doubt whether the result is in line with my expectations for what Schubert might have done.

Brahms' clarinet concerto
There is no shortage of great clarinet concertos (Mozart, Nielsen, Finzi come to mind), but I think a Brahms concerto would have given them quite some fierce competition. Brahms composed two well-respected piano concertos, a double concerto for violin and cello, and one of the best violin concertos, so trying his hand at a clarinet concerto would not have been strange. Even more so, since some of his best chamber music revolved around that instrument, especially the two clarinet sonatas and the gorgeous clarinet quintet, one of my all-time favourite classical compositions. It is important that these were late works, and maybe time itself prevented Brahms from extending his new found love for the clarinet to a concerto. As a curiosity: Yuri Bashmet has transcribed the clarinet quintet into a concerto - but for his viola rather than clarinet (probably inspired by the fact that the Brahms clarinet sonatas are often performed on that instrument instead).

Mahler's Das Lied von der Toten Kinder
Perhaps the most likely of the three. Mahler's song cycle Kindertotenlieder (songs of dead children) for voice and orchestra by itself already has symphonic allure in its construction - moreover, the composer himself stated that these five songs were intended as one inseparate unit, and in performing them their continuity should not be interfered with. Of course, recycling songs into symphonies was something he has done frequently, and I can imagine that extending the orchestral lines of the five songs from this cycle could have created a symphonic master piece of the same standing as his famous Das Lied von der Erde.

Ahhh.... if only.....

The imaginary album cover I used as illustration is based on a painting by Friedrich (Monk by the sea). More on Friedrich in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Gliere, artist of the people

In spite of his Frenchified name, there is nothing French about Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956), a Ukrainian/Soviet composer of German-Polish descent. His late romantic idiom and tendency to find inspiration in Russian history was much more to the taste of the ruling Soviets than say Shostakovich' experiments with modernisms. As a result he was much appreciated in his home country and was appointed artist of the people by four republics. Although his style may sound somewhat old-fashioned for its time, it is well-crafted and in the end awarding music. For me the best of his work is his third (and final) symphony, which he named Ilya Muromets. This programmatic symphony, with a running time of almost 80 minutes, is based on the life of a Russian folk hero, and is so vivid in its tonal language that one might mistake it for a film score. In fact, I think this symphony may have been one of the influences on Howard Shore's scores for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Although I do not own the Naxos CD (I bought the Chandos version instead), it gets good reviews, and serves as a great introduction for this composer.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

In loving memory

Zen-like minimalism is one of my favourite themes in photography, and this unique composition is one of the best exanples I have seen on Flickr. The photographer is fellow Flickrite mamitasalsita, who named this "in loving memory" (of her departed husband). A very moving shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.



One of the most impressive covers of the nineties, Adore by the Smashing Pumpkins. Designer Yelena Yemchuk went for a classy black and white shot, leaving out the band name altogether in order not to disturb the image, and using a great font for the title. The photograph used is excellent, and the fact that the model looks like Kate Bush helps as well.

All Music

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Julia dream

Pink Floyd started out in the late sixties, making a deep impression with their psychedelic sound. The real and relatively unknown gem from their early period is the 1969 song Julia dream, which can be found on the 1971 collection album Relics. The lyrics are heavily drug-induced ("Every night I turn the light out, waiting for the velvet bride - Will the scaly armadillo find me where I'm hiding"), but the beautiful melody and effective instrumentation turns this song into an absolute classic. The video made by a fan really suits the music as well.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)


Menage a trois

A Frenchman, living in Scotland, and shooting great photographs. My Flickr friend nicolas valentin is responsible for a considerable number of shots in my list of Flickr favourites, but this is the first one I am posting to the blog. Love the colours and the silhouetted birds, as well as the association of freedom this evokes.

All rights retained by the photographer.


I'm in the mood for love

This painting dates back to our Singapore days, when my wife's style was more late-impressionism, albeit with clear Chinese influences (Shanghai impressionism?). It stands out in her repertoire because so far this is the only one she has made on a round canvas.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Thursday, January 15, 2009


A recurring theme in my own photography is architectural abstraction, taking shots of buildings under unusual angles, turning them into abstract shapes. Nothing I have ever done in that respect though comes even close to this masterful example of the genre. It was taken by my Flickr friend Philipp Klinger, and I love his title almost as much as the shot itself.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The journey

We have encountered my Flickr friend batedbreath before in this blog. Here is a recent favourite from her stream. Maybe it is my current situation, with my wife on the other side of the world, but there is something in this powerful image that hits home pretty hard.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Conceptual art: con-artists at work

A first in a limited series of my musings on art, which I have dubbed art-iculations (groan). It was triggered by the news that one of the most famous contemporary artists, Damien Hirst, made 200 million dollars on a recent auction of some of his works. This included several of his infamous animals or animal parts on formaldehyde, but perhaps even more stunningly his creation The Abyss - a collection of cigarette butts - which by itself fetched over 3 million dollars.
This is a typical example of conceptual art, where background information and lengthy explanations become more important than the "art" itself, which usually is of a type that anyone can make. Wikipedia gives an excellent overview article, which rightfully traces the origins of this art form to the controversial Duchamp urinal "created" in 1917 (see picture). This article gives a bewildering overview of the various conceptual artists (con-artists would be a perfect name for them) and their creations through the years. Just a few excerpts:
  • 1960: The artist Stanley Brouwn declares that all the shoe shops in Amsterdam constitute an exhibition of his work.
  • 1961: Robert Rauschenberg sent a telegram to the Galerie Iris Clert which said: 'This is a portrait of Iris Clert if I say so.' as his contribution to an exhibition of portraits.
  • 1962: Piero Manzoni created The Base of the World, thereby exhibiting the entire planet as his artwork.
  • 1969: Robert Barry's Telepathic Piece of which he said 'During the exhibition I will try to communicate telepathically a work of art, the nature of which is a series of thoughts that are not applicable to language or image'.
  • 1972: Fred Forest buys an area of blank space in the newspaper Le Monde and invites readers to fill it with their own works of art.
  • 1999: Tracey Emin is nominated for the Turner Prize. Part of her exhibit is My Bed, her dishevelled bed, surrounded by detritus such as condoms, blood-stained knickers, bottles and her bedroom slippers.
  • 2001: Martin Creed wins the Turner Prize for The Lights Going On and Off, an empty room in which the lights go on and off.
It is the emperor's new clothes all over again. The only thing that I find amusing about these so called art pieces is when things go wrong. This can be a slight disturbance, such as what happened with the aforementioned My Bed, when two performance artists, Yuan Chai and Jian Jun Xi, jumped on the bed with bare torsos in order to "improve" the work, which they thought had not gone far enough. They called their performance Two Naked Men Jump Into Tracey's Bed. The men also had a pillow fight on the bed for around fifteen minutes, to applause from the crowd, before being removed by security guards. This can be hilarious, as when a bag of rubbish that was an integral part of an exhibition by Gustav Metzger at the Tate gallery was thrown away by a cleaner (something similar happened to a Hirst piece earlier).
It is a real shame though that these con-artists get so much attention, sponsorship and payments, whilst real artists struggle.

Ghost town

This is a recent shot of mine that I like a lot. The combination of fog and frost makes for an eerie cityscape of the town I live in.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.167 sec (1/6)
Aperture: f/29
Focal Length: 51 mm
ISO speed 200
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0