Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Piazzolla, it takes one to tango

The tango, and the related milonga, are never far away in the compositions of Argentine's Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992), with Villa-Lobos and Ginastera the most important composer of South America. His intriguing mixture of the ancient and almost banal dance forms with jazz and classical elements makes for a completely unique personal sound. The Naxos CD I selected to introduce him combines three varying and interesting compositions by this still undervalued composer. The early Sinfonia Buenos Aires in three movements caused a stir with its use of tango melodies, but it did win him a scholarship to study in France. The Four Seasons is a tango cycle orchestrated by Leonid Desyatnikov - its theme and setting (violin and orchestra) make a comparison with Vivaldi logical if not quite valid. As good as these compositions are, the main gem on this record, and possibly the best composition in his oeuvre, is his fascinating concerto for bandoneon and orchestra - demonstrating that the composer himself was a virtuoso on this unusual instrument. Excellent performances by the Nashville Symphony Orchestra under Giancarlo Guerrero, with soloists Daniel Binelli (bandoneon) and Tianwa Yang (violin). If your collection only allows one Piazzolla disc, make it this one. But he is well worth exploring beyond that.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Christel Bangsgaard

I came across this photographer via the Trendland site. Christel Bangsgaard is a Danish photographer who currently lives and works in New York. Her series of close-ups of eyes and lips, entitled "beauty", is simply amazing: sensuous, intense and above all artistic. She recently won second place for The International Photography Award in the beauty category with this series as her submission. Not listed in wikipedia yet, so I link to her web site.

All rights retained by the artist.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Blanco y Negro 1932

Blanco y Negro was a Portuguese magazine in the thirties, with some excellent cover designs. I picked this one as a first introduction in my blog.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Beethoven symphonies cycle Haitink

A beautiful choice for the cover of the box with all nine Beethoven symphonies in live rendition by the London Symphony Orchestra under Bernard Haitink. Like the covers of the infividual CD's, this cover is based on body parts photography of Gautier Deblonde, complemented with simple but effective fonts for the title information - and of course that excellent LSO symbol that I have blogged about before here.

All Music

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Unusual concertos [6]: Prepared piano

Before the purge of end 2008, one of the most popular topics of this blog was "Unusual concertos", classical concertos for all kinds of instruments and orchestra. I have decided to revive this, aiming for less familiar composers in general. In its original incarnation, I came to 40 different concertante instruments - aiming for 50+ this time.

The sixth concerto deals with the prepared piano, a piano that has had its sound altered by placing objects (preparations) between or on the strings or on the hammers or dampers. Although John Cage was not the first to try this, he coined the term prepared piano and was undoubtedly the composer who made the instrument famous. Rather surprisingly, concertos for this instrument are rare - I only have the Cage concerto from 1951 in my collection. The recording is by Stephen Drury with the Callithumpian Concert of New England under Charles Peltz (from a Mode CD).

Go here

Friday, August 26, 2011

Apple Headquarters

A new category to complement the existing architecture one: planned architecture of years to come, more often than not in the final stages before actual construction. We kick off with the new foreseen headquarters of Apple in Cupertino California. A fascinating design by Foster and Partners, which drew the obvious comment "One ring to rule them all...."

web site

Thursday, August 25, 2011


The art installation is very interesting by itself, but converting it to a photograph, with the helpful addition of a lone figure to provide interaction and a sense of scale, really makes it work. The ominous sky as background is a clear bonus. A fairly recent gem by my Flickr friend auribins.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Recycle spheres by Nick Sayers

Another artist who uses recycled materials to make impressive and thought provoking art pieces. I love how the elements used are often hardly recognizable in the final creation, such as the clothes hangers in the example above. Well worth exploring further by clicking the link for the Telegraph piece about him.

All rights retained by the artist.

web site

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Ye Olde Shanghai

Inspired by the photographic art of Martin Becks (blogged here), my own attempt at creating a surreal landscape by making a modern architecture shot look ancient. I took this shot of the Shanghai Pudong skyline earlier this year, and applied some rigorous post-processing in Picasa (black and white conversion, high contrast) and Picnik (Holga effect), topped off with a texture taken from the stream of fellow Flickrite SkeletalMess. I like the result - and so do a lot of other people, based on comments and faves.

Camera: Canon EOS 400D Digital 10 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.003 sec (1/400)
Aperture: f/11.0
Focal Length: 18 mm
ISO Speed: 400
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0, Picnik, texture


Monday, August 22, 2011

Reich bows to protest of 9/11 CD cover art

A story which surprised me personally. Composer Steve Reich had selected one of the iconic images of the 9/11 attack for the cover of his composition WTC 9/11, a piece about the process of dealing with tragedy: the way people gradually work the overwhelming reality of what happened to them on that day into a story that can be told and made their own. Fitting though it may seem to many, it caused an uproar and Reich decided to have it changed. The full story, including thoughtful comments by the writer Anne Midgette in the link. Recommended.

web site

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Links [9]

Once more an overview of interesting links on topics related to the blog, that I encountered recently (some undoubtedly via a Jenny Downing buzz), but that will probably not make the blog as separate entries. The picture above is by myself.

Amazing Long-Exposure Photographs.
People Looking at Art.
Pulitzer Winning Imаgеs оf thе Last 30 Years.
History of Graffiti.
101 Awesome Examples Of Aerial Photography.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The deer hunter

A classic movie - one of the best I have ever seen - with a great performance by Robert de Niro directed by Michael Cimino. A classic poster as well, zooming in on one of the most poignant scenes of the movie, in a tricolor version that is quite effective.

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

Friday, August 19, 2011

Out of sync

Another brilliant effort by my Flickr friend sannesu, posted at Flickr a few weeks ago. I love this photograph. The light effects, the bokeh, and the contrasting shapes - it all comes together.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts Valencia

Another masterpiece by Spain's Santiago Calatrava. The Queen Sofía Palace of the Arts is the final structure built of his City of Arts and Sciences concept, which began in 1995 and was completed in 2005. The building rises 14 stories above ground and includes 3 stories below ground, with a height of 75 m. An opera house annex cultural centre that can rival his Tenerife creation that I blogged about here.

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

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Learn composition by example: the S-curve

If you have been following this blog, you may remember a series of short posts about basic composition techniques in the Art-iculations category. These were written for beginners by a beginner (moi). My Flickr friend Rick (word artist), a very accomplished photographer with a brilliant sense of composition, has embarked upon a similar series for the Flickr group Learn Composition by Example, providing far more information and examples than I did. His first seven posts, on leading lines, on layers, on borders, on framing, on triangles, on anchoring, and on negative space, were blogged earlier herehere, here, herehere, here and here. His eighth post appeared last weekend, tackling the subject of the S-curve as a compositional technique, with 19 photographs as illustration of his points (also to be found in his blog), ranging as usual from the most basic to the advanced very subtle uses. For this topic I have picked a shot by my Flickr friend andy57 (A dancer's pose), which Rick commented on as follows: "Another example of how the malleability of the human form can create strong S-curves, this image would be very appealing with only the diagonal of leg through torso. But the addition of the crooked leg adds a second dimension, allowing us to explore the width as well. Indeed, so strong is it that the straight leg is relegated to an leading line anchor and the dynamic of the image is that strong, sharp S-form." Like the others in this series, highly recommended to expand your compositional horizon.

web site

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


World-wide, German singer Nena is only known for her smash hit 99 Luftballons (99 red balloons), but in Germany she scored plenty of top 10 hits. One of her best singles is Leuchtturm (Lighthouse), which also has an excellent cover - very minimalist, emphasizing the beauty of the singer (Gabriele Susanne Kerner). More about Nena on the linked wikipedia page.

Monday, August 15, 2011

London Olympic Games 2012

An unofficial alternative logo by Jon Defreest for the London games of next year. Although obviously mainly meant as a reflection on the horrible incidents of the past week, it still works very well as a logo - and I prefer it very much over the official one.

web site

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The New Yorker April 1926 [2]

Another beautiful and stylish cover for theNew York based magazine of years gone by. The [2] in the heading refers to the posting earlier of another cover from the same month - the disadvantage of including a weekly magazine under this heading.... A pity that the site does not list more information about this gem.


Saturday, August 13, 2011

Unusual concertos [5]: Horn

Before the purge of end 2008, one of the most popular topics of this blog was "Unusual concertos", classical concertos for all kinds of instruments and orchestra. I have decided to revive this, aiming for less familiar composers in general. In its original incarnation, I came to 40 different concertante instruments - aiming for 50+ this time.

The fifth concerto deals with the horn, also known as the French horn. It is a well-established orchestra instrument, but after the quartet of concertos by Mozart, it has featured surprisingly infrequently as concertante instruments. Richard Strauss composed two beautiful concertos early and late in his career (1883, 1942), but it is hard to find other notable composers who ventured into this terrain. Even entering the more contemporary time line, we only find a few horn concertos, including Reinhold Gliere (1951), two by Malcolm Arnold (1945, 1956), and Peter Maxwell Davies (2000). I have opted for a relatively recent concerto by Oliver Knussen (1994). The recording is by Barry Tuckwell with the London Singonietta under the composer (from a DG CD).

All Music

Happy birthday Auntie!

Off-topic it is, but today is the birthday of my dearest auntie. When we got married in 2000, she was one of the two official witnesses - and we were all happy that at the age of 84 she could still be there at such an occasion. Eleven years later she is still going as strong as you can expect of a 95 year old.... Many more years!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Why do we hate contemporary classical music?

The linked article by Alex Ross in the Guardian of November last year is a good introduction on this subject, which draws more heated discussion between classical music lovers than any other. This is witnessed once more in the widely varying comments this article received. Personally I prefer to explore this subset of classical music as I do all others: with interest and an open mind, saving the gems and discarding the parts I do not like. Well worth reading.

web site

Thursday, August 11, 2011


This gem really has to be seen large (please click the link for that option) to fully appreciate its beauty. A fascinating study of dof, combined with a fabulous colours scheme. One of the best in the excellent stream of my Flickr friend jenny downing.

All rights retained by the photographer.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Alfven, Sweden's strongest symphonist

When I featured Stenhammar in this series one and a half year ago, I gave him the title Sweden's symphonist, and mentioned that he was the best of the two main Swedish composers (the other being Berwald). Late last year, I got hold of a CD box with the five symphonies by Hugo Alfven (1872-1960), and I rank him now as the best Swedish composer of all time, and certainly the best symphonist. I particularly like the massive 50 minutes fourth symphony from 1922 ("From the Outermost Skerries"), with its wordless cantilenas by tenor and soprano, a real masterpiece that should be heard by anybody interested in late romantic music. My Naxos recommendation for this composer is said symphony, coupled with the Festival overture. The performance by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra under Niklas Willen with Arndis Halla and Johann Valdimarsson is exemplary, as is the sound quality. Highly recommended - this is a name that should feature in any good classical music CD collection.


Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Mermaid of Alster Lake

This recently revealed piece of art has been published widely on the web, for obvious reasons. This 4 meter tall floating artwork in three pieces is by Oliver Voss. The sculpture was sponsored by a cosmetics company named Soap and Glory, and will remain in the beautiful Hamburg Alster Lake for a few weeks.

All rights retained by the photographer (Axel Heimken/AP).

web site

Monday, August 08, 2011

Rock Omnibus

Book reviews are not a topic for this blog, but rock music is - so here we go. This is a work of love if I ever saw one. Rusty Southwick, a classic rock and music lover from Oregon (USA), has compiled a list of 17,800 important songs by 4,156 artists, covering six decades, and focusing on hits as well as album tracks - all put together in a 436 pages book. The emphasis is on classic rock, but it also includes jazz, easy listening, pop, disco, country and new age. The main genres excluded are contemporary classical music and rap/hip hop. Going through the lists, one discovers perhaps a small bias towards Americana, but also other English speaking countries and English songs from non-English speaking countries are covered to a very large extent. A useful test case for this is Status Quo: a one hit wonder in the USA, whereas they had dozens of hits in the UK and the rest of Europe. With nine songs of them included in this book, they are well represented. Southwick also covers many acts that are less well-known. I was delighted to see some of my more obscure favourites featured, including Brian Prothero, China Crisis, Earth and Fire, Fischer Z, Kayak and Martha & the Muffins, to name a few. My favourite rock genre, progressive rock, is well represented throughout, not just the top (Yes, Genesis, King Crimson, etc), but also bands like Riverside, Mostly Autumn and IQ.
Of course, the final selection being the choice by the author, one can always quibble about what songs/bands are included and excluded, but the book includes a link to make suggestions for a next edition. The main limitation I have discovered so far is that songs in other languages do not stand much of a chance. You will not find the likes of Francoise Hardy or Faye Wong, even though they sold millions of records. In the prog genre, bands such as Italy's PFM and Banco dmS, or French Canadian Harmonium are not included even though they regularly make the lists of top 20 best prog rock albums. These are minor quibbles though.
The book also includes a ranked order of the top 5000 songs and top 1000 albums, top songs and albums by decade and year, and lots of statistics. The order chosen for the top songs and albums will surely raise some eyebrows (The Hollies at #2 with The air that I breathe in songs, Dream Theater at #3 with Awake in albums for instance), but that is part of the charm.
A work of love indeed, and a delight to browse through (the author was kind enough to make a copy available for review). Well worth investing 19 USD for a PDF version or 29 USD (+shipping) for the book version. I link to the author's web site for more information.

web site

Sunday, August 07, 2011


The last few months I have been spending less and less time on Flickr - and one of the consequences is that my blog's category Flickr favourites is also less used than in the past. A case in point: this is one of the last 8 shots I faved and that was actually four weeks ago.... A brilliant example of how a tilt/shift lens can turn an ordinary New York Central Park scene into something magical. Courtecy of my Flickr friend aftab.

All rights retained by the photographer.