Concert yesterday

Here’s the program.
We didn’t take pictures yesterday, but here’s one from last week in Lowell, at the ALL gallery: [Cantabile band]

The Cantabile
does a fair amount of performing for a dropin group, but
it’s mostly things like The
Walk for Hunger
and background music at Boston Wort Processors picnics.

There’s a big difference between that and playing a concert for
a bunch of people who have paid money for the privilege of sitting
and listening to the music.

This difference may be particularly acute in the case of the
Renaissance polyphony that we specialize in. There’s a fairly
long distance between being able to sing it well enough that
everybody in the group enjoys it, or so that people walking by
think it’s pretty, and being able to actually stand in front of an
audience and put together each line in its precise relationship to
all the other lines so that the audience can hear it all.

Five people from the dropin group signed up for this concert.
Three of us don’t treat it as a dropin group, and come every week,
and learn the music we work on as we work on it. Two of them come
much less often, and started rehearsing this playlist in January
with very little acquaintance with any but the more commonly
performed pieces.

In addition, the soprano/harpsichord player fell and broke two
ribs and her left wrist in early February.

So it was with some trepidation that I approached this
concert. I knew it would be a stretch when I signed up to do it.
I think I can report with satisfaction that we did stretch. I can
also report that if you’d been there you could have seen a number
of places where we could have stretched harder or better. But I
think the concert yesterday was what that group can do this week,
and if we turn out to be able to do something better next month or
next year, it will be largely because of the work we did the last
two months.

Things I personally learned include:

  • Always make anything you’re playing comfortable. If it
    isn’t after a couple of weeks of practicing, either change it or
    drop it. One of the pieces I got a lot of compliments on after
    the concert was the van Eyck variations on Come Again,
    which I interspersed with the 6 verses of Dowland’s song as the
    ending number on the concert. Since it was interspersed, I had
    to play it on the G alto so that it would be in the same key we
    were singing in. On that instrument, I can’t reliably hit the
    low G, so I was getting tense about it and not hitting other
    things which should be easy. So I just rewrote the piece so
    that there weren’t any low G’s.
  • Always make sure that everybody knows where the cadence
    points are, and rehearse starting from each of them. This way,
    if someone makes a terrible mistake and gets lost, they can get
    back again at the next cadence. In the Lowell tryout, it turned
    out some people couldn’t do this on The Silver Swan.
    We worked hard on that piece on last Tuesday’s rehearsal.

The sedge is still not withered from the backyard

I had a gift certificate to White Flower Farms a couple of years ago.
The thing I wanted to buy most (rhubarb) cost less than the
certificate, so I had to order something else, so I looked at the
ornamental grasses and picked out a sedge. I made the mistake of
planting it behind the mint and the daylilies, which are taller
than it was, so it wasn’t a lot of use in the summertime, but all
through the winter of 2007-2008, it stayed green and nicely

That winter was what I think of as normal, and it might have in
fact been on the mild side of normal, but it certainly got lots
colder than it does in any of the places Keats ever hung out, so I
started thinking about what he could possibly have meant in La Belle Dame Sans
when he said:

The sedge has wither’d from the lake,
And no birds sing.

I discussed this with my
who has a degree in botany, while we were walking by a
lake in early April, and she pulled up a sedge plant to look at it. It was a bit
more withered than the one I got from White Flower Farms, but much
less withered than any of the other grass-like plants growing by
that lake.

So we concluded that when Keats said, “The sedge is wither’d
from the lake,” he meant, “Even the sedge is wither’d
from the lake.” And his audience probably understood that it
meant that it was the end of a really long hard winter, instead
of just getting the generalized picture of bleakness that we

This has been one of those winters here in Southern New
England. As an urban dog-walker, I measure the difficulty of a
winter by how many days there’s ice on the sidewalks, not by
which species of grass-like thing has withered from the lake
shore, but this has been a bad one. And as you can see, the sedge is still nice
and green. Maybe the sedges Keats knew were more
wither-prone than the one White Flower Farms sent me. Or maybe
he was writing science fiction, and imagining that the
knight-at-arms was hanging out somewhere colder than he had ever

Today I’m giving a concert, with
lots of practicing and packing beforehand, and celebrating my
birthday afterwards, so there won’t be time for a blog post.
So I’ve scheduled one from the spindle; I hope it works.

The sedge is not withered from my backyard
The sedge is not withered from my backyard

Pruning roses

This was the first day the ice has been melted enough from our
back yard that I wanted to get back to my plot and prune the
roses. The buds are already swelling, so it should have been done
a week or two ago, but the dog-walking already gets me more
walking on ice than I want, so the roses have had to wait.

The actual pruning isn’t that much fun, but you get to see all
the leaves that have already struggled through the still mostly
frozen ground.

Swelling leafbud on rosebush
Swelling leafbud on rosebush
woodruff and wild onions struggle through frozen ground
woodruff and wild onions struggle through frozen ground

New Tuner

My old Korg MT-120 tuner, which allows tuning multiple
temperaments, has gotten really flaky. Last Sunday, when we were
trying to use it to tune a harpsichord for a performance, we had
to give up and use a cheaper tuner that only does equal
temperament. So I decided it was time to buy a new tuner.

A builder on the harp list had recommended a strobe tuner, the
Sonic Research Turboo Tuner

So I ordered it Sunday night, and it arrived yesterday at lunch

I immediately tuned up both harps in equal temperament. It did
go faster watching the lights than it does with a needle, but I’m
not sure whether it’s because I’m not obsessing about getting
lights to stand still the way I was about getting the
needle on 0. In any case, it sounded like a pretty good

So far, I’ve been having trouble using the strobe for telling
whether my recorder playing is in tune, but it could be that I’ll
get used to it.

This morning, I entered quarter-comma and fifth-comma meantone
temperaments, and will go downstairs and try them on the harps and the

I was worried about whether it would be possible to enter
something as complicated as a temperament on a box with only 8 buttons,
and it was a bit slow at first, but I picked up speed as I got
used to it. And it isn’t something you’re going to do every day.
It does seem like a lot of data to enter on a device that can’t be
backed up, though.


For those who have no idea what a temperament is, try the

wikipedia article

For those who wondered why I wanted fifth-comma as well as
quarter-comma, read Why
I hate Vallotti…
by Ross Duffin.

The way I translate the name of a tuning into the numbers to
enter into the tuner is via a program called scala.
It comes with almost 4000 tunings defined, and you can load them
and look at all kinds of data about them, or export them so that
MIDI players can use them.

Of the two Ross Duffin books below, I haven’t read the one on
temperaments but based on the article pointed to above, I would
expect it to be much more readable than most of the stuff written
about such things. Shakespeare’s Songbook is an
indispensible reference if you’re going to do anything at all with
music in that period.

Squash Pudding

I’ve been cooking something easy to eat and share at the end of the Cantabile Band
rehearsals. It started when I got the farm share last fall,
and had lots more vegetables than one person could possibly eat,
so I started making them into soup. Now I do it even when there
isn’t something that needs to be used up, because chopping
vegetables at 6 PM to eat soup at 10 seems less rushed than
trying to throw together a dinner and eat it before people start
arriving at 7:30.

Last Tuesday, the thing I had that should be used up was two
butternut squash from last fall’s farm share. The squash soup
that I’d made one week hadn’t been a great success, and I was
too lazy to make piecrust for squash pie, so I decided to make a
squash pudding instead.

googling turned up a recipe
that looked doable, with some modifications:

  • I couldn’t figure out what the baking powder could possibly be
    doing there, so I left it out.
  • I usually reduce the sugar, so I
    used just a half cup instead of three quarters. Next time I may try substituting maple
  • I was too lazy to get out the blender, so I just mashed
    the squash with a fork.One really nice feature of this way of doing it that way was that I just
    baked it in the same pyrex bowl I mixed it in, so no extra
  • The recipe called for 2 medium butternut
    squash, and I had a medium and a large, so I left half of the
    large one out.
  • It’s winter, so running the oven is essentially
    free, so I baked it instead of microwaving it. One really nice feature of this way of doing it was that I just
    baked it in the same pyrex bowl I mixed it in, so no extra

I liked it; most people had seconds; one person asked for the
recipe. The quarter or so left was a good sized breakfast the
next morning.

Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon upgrade (includes magic word for fixing routing table)

I upgraded my laptop (used mostly for web browsing) to Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon yesterday.

Yesterday it seemed to work fine, but this morning the networking was screwed up.

The way ubuntu (and other operating systems) deal with a laptop with both a wired ethernet and a wireless connection has always seemed strange to me. I would expect that it would check the wired connection and not bother bringing up the wireless if the wire was plugged in.

Instead, ubuntu usually brings up both, which seems to cause problems. So I fooled around with ifup and ifdown and ifconfig and /etc/networking/interfaces to try to get just the wired (eth1) connection working, and finally did it, but I could only connect to the local network, not the rest of the world.

I was never especially good at any of this traceroute and netstat and route command stuff, but I could see that the problem was that it didn’t know that my router was the gateway.

So after a lot of fiddling, I found a magic word that worked:

route add default dev eth1 gw

I’d recommend waiting a week or two for the gutsy gibbon upgrade, even on a non-critical system, but I seem to have this one working ok at the moment.

The upgrade procedure wasn’t flawless either, but if you’re used to apt-get and its relatives, it wasn’t too bad. I did have to do some websurfing to find the magic word that caused “update-manager -d” to actually offer me a chance to move to the development version. And the configuration step hung, so I had to finish the upgrade manually.

Mobile Blogging

Anne Kazlauskas writes:

It would be fun to blog about the Festival but I have no access to computer
after tonight. Can’t carry around a laptop & even if I had one at home I
wouldn’t have time to use it.

I have access to the computer at home, but was wondering if blogging would be more fun if you could do it ??in situ??. And I’m already carrying enough stuff. I discovered last night that I can’t read programs with my little pocket magnifying glass under concert lighting, so I’m going to bring glasses or a bigger magnifying glass.

Anyway, one solution I’ve only tested a little bit, is “”: You register, and enter the addresses you might want to email, and then you call them up and say who you want to email and it does speech recognition on 30 seconds or so of what you say and emails it to them.

If I use them, I’m going to email myself and then edit it before it gets published. I do have this blog set up so that I can blog directly from email, but I don’t trust either my dictation skills or the speech recognition to publish what I want to say without editing.

Healy ad not only racist but ungrammatical

“Others”: (link includes the youtube version of the ad) have commented on the racial aspects of the Healey campaign ad criticizing Deval Patrick for having defended an “admitted cop killer”. I’d like to criticize the grammar of the ad.

The ending sentence is, “Defense attorneys have a right to defend admitted cop killers, but do we really want one for governor?”

I saw that ad twice in less than half an hour watching Channel 7 on Monday night. My guess is that anyone who spends that much money on having an ad shown, also spends a lot of money on having it written and produced. I also suspect that the people who get paid that kind of money for writing have had training in how to write clear sentences in which no pronoun has an ambiguous antecedent.

It isn’t entirely clear whether the antecedent of “one” in that sentence at the end of the ad is “defense attorneys” or “cop killers”.

I doubt that this is an accident.