Archive for the ‘Entertainment’ Category

The subway aleph.

April 21, 2019

Imagine that all the subway systems in the cities in the world were connected.

Simul imagine everything is instrumented. No privacy, every tap you open, every track of music you listen to, every key you press, every time you swallow is recorded…

Instead of planes, trains, buses, and long car journeys, you just go to the nearest city with a subway, get on at Buchanan Street Glasgow, and off at 96th Street Manhattan, or Piccadilly London, or Avtozavodskaya …

You think back to a time of analogue technology when in some places listening to the wrong radio station could get you shot.

Perhaps instead there’s randomness. You get on at St George’s Cross Glasgow, intending to go to Kelvin Hall, but suddenly you are passing through Clemenceau in Brussels, or Foggy Bottom or Timiryazevskaya. Disoriented, you get off: find a cafe and drink an espresso or a vodka. Then back to the subway…

Will reading the wrong blog lead you to being unemployable, or reducing your social credit, if not actually getting you shot?

Will you ticket work? Will your card let you into this strange system?

What language do the buskers sing in? Where are the shops that are advertised? Do you dare to talk to your fellow passengers, and will they understand you if you open your mouth? Is everyone affected, or is this purely personal?

Is the Aleph on the subway or in you? Do you dare to investigate?


“Fake Blues” first gig

February 3, 2018

The new band, Fake Blues, had its first gig last night, at The Dunblane, (unsurprisingly, in Dunblane), and it went well, and was fun, The bar was busy, mostly with people that one or other of the band members knew. IMG_1532

The band is three oldies, Dave Topliff (guitar & singer), Jim Fraser, (bassist)  and myself on piano. I’m the oldest, but not by much!

We played a mixture of blues numbers, and songs written by Dave, jazz numbers and some covers. I’m biassed (obviously) but I thought we went down very well. Hoping for some more gigs too – the pub says they’ll have us back!

Lats night’s gig at The Crook

August 6, 2017

Last night, Angus Scott (Saxophones) and I (piano) played a gig at The Crook Bar, in Bridge of Allan. We played three 50 minute sets, in this very noisy, busy gastro-pub. It was a huge amount of fun – for us anyway – and I think the customers liked it too, though some groups were so noisy that I could hardly hear myself play. As I get towards retirement, I’m looking to play more music (whether jazz, blues, folk or whatever), and this seemed a good way to get going. I’ve been playing with Angus for a while now, mostly just practising (though we did play the Dunblane Hotel’s beer festival last year, and one or two other charity gigs), but now I think we’re ready to get out more! Listen to us on SoundCloud (just 2 tracks right now: been having problems with the USB interface on this old laptop).

We’re hoping to play at The Dunblane’s beer festival again this year. And looking for other gigs (nearby!) too… Contact me if you are interested: lestheprof at gmail dot com.


A little light jazz

July 20, 2017

As I get towards retirement from academia, I’m trying to get more music going on. I’ve now decided to go down to 20% come the end of October 2017, and that’s getting to be soon…

So I’ve taken a little of a recording session Angus Scott (Saxophone) and I (Electronic Piano) did (here, in the garage, single take, no editing!) and put it up on Soundcloud. Have a listen to Rosetta and How High the Moon. The picture on Soundcloud is from a visit to a jazz club in the Cascadas bar in Hamburg a few years ago.

And meanwhile, I’m learning the clarinet – maybe one day I’ll try performing on it as well, but it’s hard!

Of public lectures

April 16, 2016

Last Thursday, I gave a public lecture entitled The incredible shrinking computer: computer hardware from relays to 14 nanometre transistors, part of a series of public lectures in my Department. This series has been running for a few years now, and this was the third time I’d contributed. In 2014, I did one on sound, Hear here: from the ear to the brain, and in 2013 one on artificial intelligence, Artificial Intelligence: is it finally arriving?

These lectures attract an audience of between about 40 and 60, depending on whether it’s nice night, what else is going on, and so on. And it’s actually a lot of work creating these lectures (for example, for the one I just did, I managed to borrow old computer components, and that’s quite apart from the research of putting together something rather better than my average student lecture, with more and better images, for example). So now I (and I suspect, my co-presenters) are interested in where else we might present these talks. Yes, we understand that each talk will need more work, to make it just right for the particular audience, but even then, we’re interested in other possibilities for presenting these again.

I should add that the talks are well received by their audiences, and that the audiences we have had range in age from about 12 upwards – a long way upwards! Is anyone listening out there in www-land? Any suggestions?

(I have two ideas in mind: one is science festivals, and the other is secondary (i.e. high) schools: I just need to get out there and organise them.)

St. Patrick’s night at the Dunblane Hotel

March 18, 2015


Every Tuesday night at the Dunblane Hotel there’s an Scottish/Irish/other music session, staring about 8.30 (but nearer 9 or even a wee bit later sometimes). Sometimes there’s just a couple of folk, sometimes there ten or more. Whistles, fiddles, elbow pipes, the odd flute, and guitar, and yours truly often on an electric piano accompanying. And last night was St Patrick’s Night (17 March). Now, sometimes pubs put of a bit of a show for St. Paddy’s but the DH isn’t really like that. So it was up to us to play to amuse ourselves, and the other customers. There were eight of us last night, and at maximum probably about eight other customers too. But we did have a good time!

To the Edinburgh Festival!

August 15, 2014

One of the joys of living in central Scotland in  August is the Edinburgh Festival. It’s been going since 1947, and I’ve been going since I was a teenager. This week, my wife and I have been to Edinburgh twice, taking in two shows each time (and just wandering about soaking in the atmosphere in between the shows). My favourite swing musician in Edinburgh is my old friend Dick Lee, this time doing his Jazz Notes with Brian Kellock, whom is surely best Jazz piano player in Scotland. Then it was on from the Fringe to the (original!) Festival to see The Sixteen, an remarkable unaccompanied choir, performing pieces on the theme of War and Conflict (almost exactly 100 years to the day after the outbreak of the first world war). This comprised a variety of short pieces, staring with “L’homme arme’ and then finishing with  Poulenc’s “Figure Humaine”. That is a huge work, written in France during the occupation, to be performed on France’s liberation. A remarkable piece, particularly the last movement, “Libertè”.

And then today, again to see one performance from the Fringe, and one from the Festival itself: Arthur Smith performing his homage to Leonard Cohen (part 2) at the Fringe was a sell-out. And no wonder, for not only did he look (and sound) like the old man himself, but he came with a set of backing singers who seemed to fit the part too. But they were a bit livelier than Arthur. And yet, his continuing themes of death, despair, dementia were somehow life-enhancing, and human, particularly when he talked about his mother, and her dementia. And in the evening, off the the last of the new James plays, James III. I know I should have seen James I and James II first, but I haven’t. And each is supposed to stand on its own. Well, Jams III certainly does: it took me a little while to get into it, but the second act is a tour de force, and I’d recommend it to anyone. I bought the book as well…so I can now read James I and James II even if I don’t get to see them in the immediate future. Oddly enough, the first play starts with the “L’homme arme” that we heard the Sixteen play on Monday

I know I’ve only touched the surface of the Festival: just four shows out of over 3000 on the Fringe alone. It is just the tiniest fragment of what there is at Edinburgh!

San Diego: SfN 2013 and Mariza!

November 10, 2013

In San Diego for the annual event of the Society for Neuroscience, SfN 2013, at the Convention Center here: the meeting really only started this afternoon, and doesn’t really get going till tomorrow, but tonight I had a ball! I’m staying in 7th avenue, a little bit out of the downtown area, and on my way back here (after taking in the afternoon poster session), I released that I was just around the corner from the Symphony Hall. So I wandered in, to see what might be on this week. And tonight was Mariza (whom I’d not heard of), singing Fado (which I had heard of, but not heard much of).

And oh, can she sing! Fado is really a genre for singing in a bar or a club, rather than a concert hall, but Mariza made the hall feel like a music club. I don’t know much about Fado, but the vocal style seems to me influenced by North Africa, and perhaps Sephardic music as well: the guitar, Portuguese guitar, and (semi-acoustic) bass guitar were wonderful accompaniments,  added to by a drum kit. The players are all themselves very accomplished musicians, but the start of the show was still Mariza. She had the audience in the palm of her outstretched hand. And the style, the style of this tall lithe girl with such expressive arms and hands, and the singing. The range, the ornamentation, and the silences, yes the silences, stretched almost to breaking point – to the point if the audience were wondering if it was the end, or… and the then the sining again. At one point she and the band went acoustic, but her voice was just as strong – stronger perhaps, if not as loud, stronger because of the immediacy of the unmediated sound. The audience gave her two standing ovations: what more can I say?

But one thing to add. A few weeks ago I was in Portugal, in a resort on the south coast, at a (different) conference. I didn’t really hear any Portuguese music there: I had to go 6,000 miles to San Diego to hear it! But it was worth it!

Tomorrow, it’s back to the conference!

On LinkedIn

July 1, 2013

The Cabots are now connected to the Lodges, and the Lodges are now connected to God. (with apologies to John Collins Bossidy (1860-1928))

David Vernon and Dick Lee play the Tolbooth, Stirling.

June 2, 2012

I went to see David Vernon and Dick Lee playing at the Tolbooth in Stirling this afternoon. David plays the accordion, and Dick plays clarinet (B flat and base), and together they played an eclectic mixture of tunes. Starting off with a Jewish tunes medley, and then a mixture of Balkan and Scottish tunes, with some unusual blues thrown in for good measure. I particularly liked the jazz-influenced Scottish tunes – some were the sort of thing that you can get thrown out of a very traditional folk club for playing: jazzing up and improvising over traditional tunes. Now, I occasionally play piano behind fiddlers in a local pub (The Tappit Hen), and I’d dearly love to be skilled enough to do what Dick was doing and mix the traditional with the jazzy, even if I’m not entirely sure what the locals would make of it!

I can’t think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon that listening to David and Dick playing, and making the odd joke at each others expense. And even listening to David playing their Scottish Surprise, where he plays Scottish tunes whilst changing key as fast as possible, while Dick improvises a jazz line over them! It was really good to hear. I’ve heard Dick play in many different bands (I have no idea how many bands he’s played in), even back to having his band Swing ’87 who played at my wedding. He’s looking very well – he looks a lot younger than me, but I’m sure we were the same age when we first met!