Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Home

More magic by my highly appreciated Flickr friend aftab. This scene from Namibia is a beautiful piece of documenting art - and as so often, the words he includes with the shot enhance the total effect:

Home is home.

Even if it is small.
Even if it is clay-built.
Even a child knows it.


A beautiful combination, thought provoking in its simplicity.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

The Devil wears Edna Mode

More photoshop brilliance taken from the advanced photoshop contest section of Worth1000. Here is a shot created by their member HallowScream for the Movie Madness 6 contest - spoofs on existing movies. This one of course combines The Devil wears Prada with my favourited animated movie, The Incredibles.

All rights retained by the creator.

Worth1000

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Natural colours

Another wonderful abstract shot by my Flickr friend sannesu. The type of shot that exemplifies "abstract" for me - in the sense that I could see this hanging in a modern art museum.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

The vineyards of equality

They have a pretentious name, their first album has a pretentious title and their music is pretentious as well.... here is the debut album of Bradford's The Truth. Their music starts where Radiohead at their most complicated moments leaves off, with a strong dose of electronics and complex rhythms, and almost whining singing which has become so en vogue over the past decade. Not a record that will make much impact on the radio waves or in the shops - but they are undoubtedly highly accomplished musicians and deserve more attention than they will get.

The idea of this little game is to create an album cover for an imaginary artist/group, as well as an imaginary review, 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 The Truth.
[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 Adam Clayton Powell Jr.: Unless man is committed to the belief that all mankind are his brothers, then he labors in vain and hypocritically in the vineyards of equality.
[3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Abstraction in balloons, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Arabolical 85 yellow and Judas Priest 85 VioletRed, respectively.

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.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Brahms' chamber music [1]

Between 1986 and 1999 I built up a considerable collection of classical music CD's (exceeding 2000 CD's in total). For various reasons I have played them a lot less in the past decade, but I am embarking on a rediscovery tour that I intend to share in this blog. In the third and fourth instalments, I re-examine the chamber music of German composer Johannes Brahms (1833-1897), after Bach my favourite composer of all time. This first of the two deals with his works in the period 1854-1880.

My version: Katchen/Suk/Starker (Decca, 1968, 36 min)
Brahms' first chamber music, and he immediately tackled a difficult combination with the piano trio (piano, violin, cello). The Allegro has some great melodies with the piano not too dominant (a clear risk in this set-up), and goes through a range of emotions. The quirky scherzo fits very well to relieve the tension, with some more excellent tunes, somewhat reminiscent of his Hungarian dances. The adagio is good, but just a little less inspired than the first two movements. With an Allegro movement, the composition ends in style, tuneful and rhythmic. The version we usually here is his own revision of 1891.

My version: Raphael Ensemble (Hyperion, 1988, 34 min)
Right from the first notes, this luscious sextet (two each of violin, viola and cello) unfolds as a highly melodious work, with sadness lurking behind the textures. The andante is an intriguing set of variations, at times forceful, at times wistful, at all times delightful. A fun short scherzo lightens the mood for a moment, and a Schubertian rondo (the weakest movement) brings the composition to a close.

My version: Domus (Virgin, 1988, 42 min)
There is a symphony waiting to break out of this piano quartet - no wonder Schoenberg orchestrated it. This is accessible music, but not light by any means. After the beefy Allegro, the lovely Intermezzo inspired by Clara Schumann, and the restrained Andante, the final Rondo pulls out all the stops as Brahms channels both quirky and sentimental Hungarian themes in his inimatible way, one of his best creations. All in all, a strong and confident work that cemented his reputation as the logical successor of Beethoven.

My version: Domus (Virgin, 1988, 49 min)
One of the most beautiful intro's in his repertoire quickly gives way to perfect interplay between strings and piano, ranging from tender to passionate and back. The slow second movement initially has a nocturnal feeling to it, giving way to more dramatic developments in-between. The scherzo is not bad but not outstanding either. The quirky finale is full of rhythm and even foreshadows the likes of Stravinsky and Bartok. Overall, a beautiful work but it falls just short of the amazing first and third.

My version: Jando/Kodaly Quartet (Naxos, 1990, 37 min)
Brahms' only composition for this combination, and he arrived there starting writing for string quintet, then switching to a sonata for two pianos, before settling on the work as we know it. The opening Allegro already demonstrates the perfect balance in this piece between piano and string quartet. The Andante is suitably restrained, serene even, and the Scherzo lively but somewhat nervous. The Finale is by far the best movement, right from the slow introduction to its furious interplay. In the end, a very accomplished composition, but lacking the memorable tunes to rate it amongst the best.

My version: Raphael Ensemble (Hyperion, 1988, 40 min)
An almost subdued, at times hauntingly beautiful, at times beautifully haunting, first movement sets the scene for one of Brahms' greatest creations. The Scherzo is sometimes playful, sometimes melancholic, the Adagio presents a set of variations, reminding us of his first sextet. The final movement, a relative weak point of the first sextet, lets the sun break through and brings this remarkable work to a melodic close.

Cello Sonata 1 in E minor (op.38, 1862–65)
My version: Harrell/Askenazy (Decca, 1980, 25 min)
The piano and cello work well together here, none dominating. The opening Allegro non troppo has a melancholic feeling to it, which of course suits the cello does fine. Brahms foregoes a slow movement, and chooses a quirky Adagietto instead, which works very well. The fugue-rich final Allegro is not the strongest part of the work, but overall, one of the best cello sonatas in the romantic repertoire.

My version: Hoegner/Binder/Dolezal (Decca, 1982, 29 min)
The combination horn, violin and piano is sufficiently rare to warrant interest in this work even if it had not been by Brahms. The opening Andante is accomplished, though nothing special, but the Scherzo is playful and melodic, with the horn having a field day. The pensive Adagio seems a bit out of place after this frolicking, as beautiful as the elegiac horn lines are (the movement was inspired by the recent death of his mother). The final has a jolly hunt-like atmosphere, occasionally reminiscent in some ways (if not in style) of Mozart concertos for this instrument. All in all, not his very best, but pretty good.

My version: Melos Quartett (DG, 1988, 32 min)
In my memory the two string quartets of op.51 were not very impressive - listening to the first again more or less confirmed this. Accomplished works but lacking the brilliance of so many of his other compositions. The opening Allegro lacks memorable themes, the Romance fares somewhat better but still meanders too much. The melancholic Allegretto is easily the best movement, and the closing Allegro is close behind. These two movements save the composition.
My version: Melos Quartett (DG, 1988, 35 min)
Compared to the first, the second is a pleasant surprise, better than I remembered. The first movement is a very melodious Allegro, with typical Brahmsian lines. The andante and minuetto continue in the same vein, and the final Allegro brings the work to a satisfactory conclusion. Far from the quality of his best chamber music (and inferior to the quartets of say Dvorak), but clearly better than the first.

My version: Domus (Virgin, 1988, 34 min)
It took Brahms over 20 years to finish this very personal work, in which his impossible love for Clara Schumann shines through. The opening Allegro and the following Scherzo are as sad as uptempo movements can be, and the wonderfully melodic Andante predictably emphasizes that mood. The final Allegro does not offer much relieve either. This a resigned masterpiece, and one of the highlights of this re-discovery tour for me.

String Quartet 3 in B flat major (Op.67, 1875)
This is the only work in Brahms' chamber music that I have never heard.

My version: Perlman/Ashkenazy (EMI, 1985, 27 min)
Brahms embarked fairly late on this combination, but with great success. A beautiful melodious first movement, a meandering sad adagio, and a final movement that introduces tragic elements to reflect the death of Robert Schumann and Brahms' impossible love for Clara Schumann. An exquisite composition.

Summarizing recommendation, based on my own taste:

Hors concours: None
Essential: Piano Quartet 1, Piano Quartet 3, String Sextet 2
Important: Cello Sonata 1, Horn trio, Piano Quartet 2, String sextet 1, Violin Sonata 1
Good to have: Piano Quintet, Piano Trio 1, String Quartet 2
Not required: String Quartet 1
Unrated: String Quartet 3

Sunday, June 27, 2010

This is how it feels to be lonely

My Flickr friend macaz1977 is one of the pioneers of the "minimalism on white" movement, and he keeps on turning out the most beautiful shots in this style. Even better when seen on a white background, as on Flickr, when the borders between photograph and background completely disappear to a stunning effect.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Your perspective floored me rather unexpectedly

My Flickr friend kate mellersh turns out the most amazing abstracts, but her shadow play shots are fantastic as well. The beautiful curves of the bench take on another dimension by the shadowed echoes.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Que sera sera

My Flickr friend aftab keeps turning out beauties that I just have to fave. The killer dof puts all emphasis on the little lizard, hiding in an amazing setting.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Beautiful music

More Souveche magic, thanks to my esteemed Flickr friend andy_57. The model is of course an absolute stunner, but the setting and lighting are expertly chosen as well. Wonderful use of the piano prop. Love how her hair flows on to the keys.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Faceted

Look, Flickr favourites Sunday is back. This is another great shot by my Flickr friend jenny downing. A crystal stopper is turned into a beautiful piece of art, thanks to her vision and photographic skills. Simply love this.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Saturday, June 26, 2010

FedEx

Here is a creative logo I am sure you have seen, although chances are that you have never noticed what is so special about it. I had not either, until someone pointed out to me that the Ex combination actually gives rise to an included arrow shape representing the company's purpose. And it was designed that way, with a special font to optimize the effect.

web site

Hustle

Part of a whole series of shots of Paris street life, taken from the third floor of the Lafayette or Printemps department store in Paris (Boulevard Hausmann area), whilst my wife was shopping there. The rain had just stopped, making for a wonderful atmosphere. Since many of these images are rather similar, I am using some of them to experiment with post-processing techniques. This one I gave an aftertreatment (focal zoom) with the on-line editing programme Picnik. I quite like the outcome. To quote a comment I received (from aftab no less): "This picture would have been superb without the effect, but the processing makes it more dynamic and interesting!"

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/320)
Aperture: f/8.0
Focal Length: 200 mm
ISO speed 400
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0, Picnik

Flickr

Metropolis

One of cinema's classic moments, but also one of the best movie posters of all time. Wonderful art deco design for Fritz Lang's Metropolis.

More on this movie in the IMDB article linked to below.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Yesterday once more

Another great shot by my Flickr friend aftab. A timeless moment of love captured here, enhanced by the post-treatment. Beautiful. And I love the Carpenters reference of the title.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Traeume

The first time I heard this song was 37 years after its issue. One morning during our 2007 holiday, I was waiting for my wife to be ready, and watched a French movie on TV. In one of the more dramatic scenes they used a German song as background, and it really blew me away. Fortunately, the name and singer were mentioned in the dialogue as well, which allowed me to find the song upon our return. The song is called Traeume (Dreams), and the singer is the French lady Francoise Hardy, one of the most successful chansonieres in the history of French light music. The gorgeous melody is courtecy of the German composer Martin Boettcher, who is best remembered in Europe for his numerous German movie scores, including the Edgar Wallace and Karl May series. Francoise Hardy's German lyrics are delivered with a seductive accent, and the end result is simply great.
Art Rock score: 10/10 (brilliant masterpiece, one of 200 best songs of all time)

YouTube

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Lady in red

In Imaginary Movies I will be posting some fake movie posters I created (including a fake review), with two recurring themes: the title is based on a pop/rock song, and the image is from my Flickr stream. This one takes a Chris de Burgh song in combination with my shot La femme en rouge.

This is a disturbing movie. Great, but disturbing. The tag line says it all: "Passion is a positive obsession, obsession is a negative passion". Frank Terry paints a fascinating bleak picture of a manager with a successful career, who gets obsessed by a woman in a red rain coat he encounters one day in the streets of Boston, and sees his life slowly but surely fall apart because of this. His decision to start stalking her turns out to be just the beginning of the end. Bridget Scholes and John Cole may not be household names (yet), but their performance in this drama are spell binding. Four and a half stars out of five - but not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wimbledon - for Isner and Mahut

A beautiful Art Deco poster of Wimbledon of years gone by in honour of two players who were making history tonight at that tournament. American John Isner and Frenchman Nicolas Mahut played for about ten hours, and then play was suspended in the final fifth set, at a score of 59-59. Absolutely amazing.

Vintage Posters

Venice vamp

Another creation of my wife that is currently hanging in my study. Inspired by the typical masks we saw in Venice, and very much in her unique Shanghai Expressionism style.

The Art of Lu Schaper

Can you guess what this is?

The title is not mine, but was posted by the creator of this beautiful shot, my Flickr friend peggyhr. To quote the answer (which I would not have got in a million years): "I was frying up spicy peppers with red and yellow sweet peppers, zucchini, onions, parsley and thickly sliced small red potatoes. Suddenly, I noticed how the colourful mixture was being reflected in the condensation droplets accumulating on the inside of the glass lid of my electric frying pan. So, needless to say, I zoomed in on it and clicked several times. :-)". Absolutely fabulous.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Shoes that break the silence by Paucar

An interesting piece of installation art, that came across my laptop thanks to a buzz by Jenny Downing. This combination of shoes and dead flies on strings, creating a very strange effect, was created by Peruvian artist Antonio Gonzales Paucar.

All rights retained by the artist.

web site

Suramadu bridge

The Suramadu Bridge, also known as the Surabaya–Madura Bridge, is a bridge constructed between Surabaya on the island of Java and the town of Bangkalan on the island of Madura in Indonesia, opened in 2009. At over 5 km, the elegant bridge is the longest in Indonesia and the first bridge to cross a strait between two Indonesian islands. More on this bridge in the wikipedia article linked to below.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Souveche

My esteemed Flickr friend andy_57 keeps posting wonderful series of shots with gorgeous models, in this case the beautiful Souveche. Another prime example of his mastery with lighting and composition, emphasizing the combination of her dress and her skin tone. A gorgeous glamour shot.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Vogue January 1927

Another timeless art deco style Vogue cover of days gone by. Stunning in its combination of western and oriental themes - and in that sense reminiscent of the art of my wife.

link

Breaking wave

More fractal art by nomm de photo - a very interesting creation, looking perfect on the black background.

All rights retained by the creator.

Flickr

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Moses Mabhida Stadium Durban

The most beautiful stadium of the 2010 Football World Championship in South Africa: the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban. Designed by a consortium of architects (Gerkan, Marg and Partners Theunissen Jankowitz Durban, Ambro-Afrique Consultants, Osmond Lange Architects & Planners, NSM Designs, Mthulisi Msimang), it was finished in 2009. The characteristic arch represents the once divided nation coming together. A beautiful piece of architecture.

More on this building can be found in the wikipedia link below.

In eternity

High time to light up my blog with another shot by my Flickr friend aftab. Minimalism at its best, with the limited colour scheme adding to the impact of the photograph.

All rights retained by the photographer.

Flickr

The Love Child Electric

This British band has a very unique and extremely worthwhile sound. Basically, highly melodic rock with some progressive influences (and a hint of Beatles sometimes), great vocals, and including a violin in the line-up really adds to the individuality. Excellent cover design as well. Well worth investigating, with their site providing links to their songs - I am glad I got to know their music.

Photobucket