Saturday, September 30, 2017

If you ever come to Amsterdam

The Dutch band Pussycat is known internationally mainly for their mega-hit Mississippi, which made the #1 spot in various countries, including the UK. Often thought of as a one hit wonder, they had over a dozen hits in the Netherlands, including a handful that are to my taste far superior to their signature song. My personal favourite of the bunch is the beautiful ballad If you ever come to Amsterdam. Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player).

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The video screenshot included in the image is thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Potpourri [11]

An overview of recent images that would have ended up in my parallel blog Art's Potpourri (now stopped). Clicking the icons in the left side of the table takes you to the picture on the site where I found it in a new window. The text includes a link to the site.

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That's one way to face traveling.... Finding your suitcase at the airport after arrival can be quite a hassle - enter this genius gimmick. Enter Head Case, an instantly recognizable personalized suitcase cover, based on your submitted photograph (Special Designs). First seen here.
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Urban geodes. This art project by Los Angeles based artist Artist Paige Smith, also known as A Common Name, is beautiful, fun and useful. She fills cracks and holes in walls with handmade geode-like paper crystals in various shades (Remarkable Art). First seen here.
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Quirky bar soaps. The Whiskey River Soap Co. offers this line of special soaps with hilarious texts printed on the packing, aiming tongue-in-cheek at introverts, people suffering fro writer's block, hipsters, geeks, grammar police and so on (Special Designs). First seen here.
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Simpsons wine bottles. Perhaps these are not special enough to feature under Special Designs, but they sure are funny: a pair of wine bottles modeled on the iconic pop culture figures of Homer and Marge Simpson, with more than a hint of Mondriaan (Just for Fun). First seen here.
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Crap! It's the Hermit crab from hell! Apparently this is not Photoshopped, but if you would encounter it on a beach at night you might need some clean pants. This Hermit crab decided to use a doll's head as his new house (Amazing Stuff). First seen here.
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Cave of Crystals. This cave in Chihuahua, Mexico contains some of the largest natural selenite crystals known to man. Located 300 m below ground level, its conditions (60 deg.C, 90% humidity) made crystals grow to a size of up to 12 m (Natural Beauty). First seen here.
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Zebra crossing in 3D. Someone in a town in Iceland  came up with this brilliant idea: a regular zebra crossing was transformed into an optical illusion in 3D, aiming for drivers to really slow down, as their instincts tell them they may hit these 'blocks' (Amazing Stuff). First seen here.
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Carp pencil case. For a price of less than five dollars, this stunningly life-like and extremely unusual (yet odorless) pencil case is a steal. I'm off to check whether the German Amazon also has it in its inventory......... (Special Designs). First seen here.

Copyright statement: image based on a photograph created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.  The included images are thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.


Thursday, September 28, 2017

Steven Wilson - Perceptions of reality

To my personal taste, Steven Wilson is one of the greatest and most creative pop/rock artists of all time. After leading Porcupine Tree for two decades, and driving a series of side projects (most notably the bands No-Man and Blackfield), his solo career (starting 2008) has taken off, with his sixth album, To the bone, having been released a few weeks ago to considerable commercial success. I post this to draw your attention to an (as always) excellent interview with the artist by Anil Prasad for his Innerviews site, in which the reasons behind the slight departure from previous works are discussed.

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The album cover included in the image is thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Another abstracted wall

Wall abstractions are challenging - you have to spot the opportunity, and then decide on the composition as well. Here is a recent one, shot at the abandoned nearby military school building. Good feedback on Flickr.

Camera: Nikon D7000 (Nikkor 18-300 mm), 16 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.01 sec (1/100)
Aperture: f/5.0
Focal Length: 18.3 mm
ISO Speed: 1000
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Copyright statement: image created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Unusual concertos 71-80: From synthesizer to bouzouki

The concerto for solo instrument(s) and orchestra is one of the most popular genres in classical music. However, I think 95+ % of all concertos have been composed for piano or violin. Previously I have run a series on concertos for less common instruments in this blog, reaching an amazing number of 100 in the end (all these posts were reset to draft end March). I will be summarizing these in ten posts in the course of the year, each covering ten unusual concertos, keeping the sequences the same as in the past.

[71] Synthesizer. This electric instrument is of course best known for its use in pop and rock music from the mid-sixties to mid-eighties, but not surprisingly, some contemporary classical music composers have also had a stab at this beast. Probably best known is Rautavaara's sixth symphony Vincentiana in which it has a very prominent role. A real concerto for synthesizer was composed by Olav Thommessen. I have selected this concerto in the version with Iver Kleine and the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra under (I guess) the composer, available on an Aurora CD.

[72] Vuvuzela. This cannot be taken too seriously of course. Inspired by memories of the 2010 FIFA world championship in South Africa, which was sound-wise dominated by thousands of these 65 cm monotonous plastic horns played in the stands, I googled for a concerto for this abomination - and was astonished to find one on YouTube. The composer of this delightful monstrosity is Jiri Jakub Zimmerman, and in the clip it is performed by Vojtech Havlik with the Hitmakers Orchestra under Jan Rybar. Go and listen to it here - it is a hoot!

[73] Flute. This is one of the last regular orchestra instruments to feature in this series, and certainly one of the top 10 most popular concertante instruments of all time. Some of the more famous concertos are those by Vivaldi, CPE Bach, Mozart, Nielsen, and Ibert. I have selected the flute concerto by Lowell Liebermann. It is played by Katherine Bryan and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra under Paul Daniel, available on a Linn CD.

[74] Sheng. This is one of the oldest Chinese instruments, dating back over 3000 years. It consists of a series of pipes played via a mouthpiece, hence the alternative name of Chinese mouth organ. Not surprisingly, it does not make a frequent appearance in classical music, but famous contemporary South Korean composer Unsuk Chin composed a concerto for it, titled Su. It is played by Wu Wei and the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra under Myung Whun Chung, available on a DG CD.

[75] Jazz Band. This is the first of a few concertos written for special groups of instruments. A concerto for jazz band and orchestra was composed by Rolf Liebermann. I have selected this concerto in the version with the NDR big band and the Bremen Philharmonic Orchestra under Guenter Neuhold, available on a Naxos CD.

[76] Flugelhorn. Originally an army instrument (used to summon the flanks of an army), this trumpet-like instrument has made the occasional appearance in classical music, notably in orchestral works by Vaughan Williams, Stravinsky and Tippett. Concertos are rare - I could only find one by Daron Hagen, which has not been recorded yet, although it has been performed in public. This link gives some more information.

[77] Erhu. It is probably the most famous of the Chinese instruments, also known as the Chinese fiddle. With a long tradition in Chinese folk and popular music, understandably it took a while before it penetrated the realm of classical music. Concertos are not widespread, and as far as I know limited to Chinese composers of classical music. I have selected the erhu concerto Legends Of Kelaxin Grassland by Zhou Cheng-Long. It is played by Min Hui-Fen and the Shanghai Chinese Orchestra conducted by Xia Fei-Yun, available on a Hugo CD.

[78] Rababa. Also known as the rebab, this is a type of a bowed string instrument that dates back to the 8th century, and spread over much of North Africa, the Middle East, parts of Europe, and the Far East. Concertos for this instrument are predictably rare, but I came across one on YouTube, composed by Marcel Khalife. It is played by Hasan Mo'taz and the QPO conducted by Thomas Kalb.

[79] Rock group. The concerto for Group and Orchestra was composed by Deep Purple's Jon Lord, and recorded in 1969 with Deep Purple and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra under Malcolm Arnold. It is available on an EMI CD.

[80] Bouzouki. This traditional Greek instrument is not really a suitable concertante instrument due to its inherent soft sound, but composer Joseph James overcame that problem by using three of them in his Concerto for 3 Bouzoukis and Orchestra, the only one I know for the instrument. It has been recorded in a version played Costa Rialis and the Philharmonia under John Gibbons, available on a Black Box Classics CD.

Copyright statement: image sourced from here, explicitly stated to be in the public domain.


Monday, September 25, 2017

Sonoran dawn

In a series of Sonoran desert shots by my Flickr friend Ethan (known previously as Cormend), this one really stood out for me. It is the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, captured in silhouette against a breath taking sky. Someone should use this for a CD cover!

Copyright statement: posted with explicit permission of the creator who retains all rights.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Let your hair hang down (RIP Cees Bergman)

Earlier this week, Cees Bergman passed away, aged 65. He was the lead singer of the Dutch band Catapult, who scored a string of glitter pop hits in the seventies. Here is their most famous song, from 1975. Art Rock score: 8/10 (great song, I'd put it on my MP3 player).

Copyright statement: image by AVRO - Beeld En Geluid Wiki - Gallerie: Toppop 1974, CC BY-SA 3.0.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Prog Archives

I was surprised to see in a discussion at a bulletin board that there are lots of progressive rock fans who had not heard of this site - the most indispensable source of information on prog. It covers the discography and reviews of thousands of prog acts, ranging from A Band to ZZebra.

Copyright statement: image created from PA banner - all original images are thumbnail size and considered fair use.

Friday, September 22, 2017

An evening of fun

A fashion magazine illustration from 1922 by RenĂ© Vincent - it's good enough for a front cover I would think. Amazing how talented these magazine illustrators were in those days.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Ship abstract

My own favourite of recent months, and the most faved shot in that time frame as well - even though Flickr Explore proved to be elusive once more. This abstract, which works because of the lines, curve and colours, is an extreme close-up of the anchor point of a ship moored at the banks of the IJssel near our home.

Camera: Nikon D7000 (Nikkor 18-300 mm), 16 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.0008 sec (1/1250)
Aperture: f/5.6
Focal Length: 302 mm
ISO Speed: 1000
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Copyright statement: image created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Sand castles by Calvin Seibert

Calvin Seibert takes the beach pastime of building sand castles to a very artistic level in his beautiful architectural creations. Many examples in the link - as with most land-art, it's a pity that it is so temporary. At least we still have the photographs.

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The original photograph included in the image is thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Goodbye Jazz

Yesterday afternoon we had to let go of our lovely cocker spaniel Jazz, aged 15 years and 2 months. He was a huge part of our life since autumn 2002. Rest in peace buddy.

Copyright statement: image based on a photograph by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Monday, September 18, 2017


High time once again to feature a painter that both my wife and I rank among the best of all time: German expressionist August Macke (1887-1914). This particular work dates back to 1913, one year before he fell in the so-called Great War.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Quiet, Still and Solitary

The Estonian band Bithiasa is difficult to categorize. They are composed of a string quartet and a wind quartet, who both had considerable success in the contemporary classical repertoire - yet, as Bithiasa they explore different styles altogether. Although the general feeling of their music is soothing, it is not New Age either. So forget about labels, and enjoy the impressive musicality that is evident in every single note on their debut album.

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 Bithiasa. [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 (from 2014 onward: any part of a random quotation will do). The random quote that came up was by Franz Kafka: You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. [3] The illustration: pick a suitable one from my Flickr collection. My picture, Flowing, can be found here on Flickr. The on-line editing was done with the programme On-line image editor, the font settings selected were Respective 100 white and Scriptina 100 white, 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.

Copyright statement: image created by myself based on one of my photographs. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Pictorialist photographs by Leonard Misonne

Belgian photographer Leonard Misonne (1870-1943) captured the landscapes and people of Europe in the Pictorialist style, which aspired to bring photography to the level of other fine arts such as painting and sculpture. These soft, painterly images were created using alternative printing processes with materials such as oil and gum bichromate. More on Misonne in the linked site.

Copyright statement: all images selected and displayed above are thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Garda Lake

With autumn slowly but surely making its mark, one can't help but think of nicer places to be than in the wet and windy Netherlands. Like the beautiful Garda Lake in Northern Italy. This vintage travel poster was created by Elio Ximenes (1855-1926).

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Abstracted wall

Last weekend, we had the chance during National Monuments Day to visit the nearby military school building, which has not been in use (and actually completely neglected) for over ten years. It was an interesting visit, and the weathered walls offered the opportunity to shoot some abstracts. I quite like this one, with once more a diagonal flow through the composition.

Camera: Nikon D7000 (Nikkor 18-300 mm), 16 Megapixels, handheld
Exposure: 0.0125 sec (1/80)
Aperture: f/5.3
Focal Length: 47.6 mm
ISO Speed: 1000
Post-processing: Picasa 3.0

Copyright statement: image created by myself. Copyright Hennie Schaper.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Vanity Fair May 1919

A beautiful romantic Vanity Fair magazine cover of almost a century ago. Created by the famous Helen Dryden.

Copyright statement: image in public domain.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Westerosi rhapsody

This is both hilarious and stunningly well made - and it appeals to the Queen fan and the Game of Thrones fan in me. Full credits on the linked YouTube site. Do play this - it is wonderful!

Copyright statement: image created via the Photofunia site, who explicitly state that their images have no copyright issues. The video screenshot included in the image is thumbnail size and therefore considered fair use.

Monday, September 11, 2017


Another excellent site to find copyright-free images, which I encountered recently: Pixabay. Many good photographers have uploaded images to this site, all under the CC0 Creative Commons license: free to use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist - even for commercial purposes. An example is this stunning shot of an old camera.

Copyright statement: image created by Alexander Stein, in public domain (CC0 Creative Commons).