159 – A word about uncredited orchestras

One of my biggest pet peeves is thumbing the liner notes and flipping the jewel case back to front and failing to find a credit for the orchestra. Oh, great, John produced this album, too. Oh, great, John also conduced these cues. Fantastic. How about you tell me who was actually responsible for making these beautiful sounds?

This is most prominent in my Harry Potter selection. I used to have Sorceror’s tagged as John Williams / LSO purely by (mistaken) assumption. I went back, looked, and realized that this was wrong. To this day, Sorceror’s and Prisoner both live with John Williams as the sole credited artist on all tracks. Goblet and Order, thankfully, have the LSO and the Chamber Orchestra of London unambiguously penciled in.

This imbalance has long bothered me, because the purpose of my sticking as close to possible to the urtext of the liner notes has been to faithfully document who was who in the album. It’s not really fair to me (and to my scrobbles) to treat John Williams like a ubiquitous monolith.

Starting with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, I tried something new. I labeled it as Williams (Dudamel) with a ‘”Highly Regarded” Freelance Orchestra.’ The name is taken from a press release describing work on the TFA score. It’s outlandish and unprofessional enough to not be mistaken for something actually given verbatim in the liner notes but satisfactorily descriptive to scratch my documentation itch.

I continued with my three selections from the Nichijou scores. I have volumes 1, 4, and 8 in my collection. The album title is one of those unnecessarily lengthy ones that blow out my player UI when loaded, and it explicitly gives Hungary as their recording location (wow!). Watching the special features on the Blu-rays (that came with my purchase of 1, 4, and 8) corroborated this, but unfortunately I couldn’t discern the name of the orchestra they worked with. At time of writing, Wikipedia retains records of 9 Hungarian orchestras. I found a larger list of 21. Therefore, the final tags are for Yuji Nomi leading “1 of 21 Possible Hungarian Orchestras.” I would be ecstatic to find out which one exactly.

The trend has most recently spilled to Rogue One, tagged as Michael Giacchino (Tim Simonec) with “Enormously Varied Contract Orchestra.” I forget if they were explicitly described as contracted (but I believe they were). The “enormously varied” label comes from the fact that the liner notes actually included a 169-strong roster of the musicians who took part in the score. I gleefully typed them up and saved them as plaintext, but was happy to summarize them as the EVCO (instead of going for the artist gore that I use for operas and Mahler’s 8th).

J39M

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158

We the people jointly accept a death tax of 30.000 people per year on the road (NHTSA 2015). That means that by the time you tear your eyes away from the device reading this, someone will have died in a traffic accident somewhere in the US. We don’t have the means to fix this right now, so we live with it and don’t think about it.

What happens when we throw flying cars into the mix? The motions of driving are regulated by virtue of roads being essentially one-dimensional. If we give the controls to anyone who can wave a license at you, what then? If such a disturbing percentage of our population has trouble staying on a road, how can we expect them to safely operate something that can traverse (and fail) in all 3 dimensions? (Failure will mostly involve a downward trajectory. You do not come to a stop in the air like you stop on the road if your vehicle fails. You fall, and woe betide anything in the way of your landing.)

My worry is that we will shrug and accept it. Suppose just 20 people per year get guillotined, crushed, or crashed by flying car incidents. Do we shrug and consign the report to the bottom corner of the paper? Do we accept that death has just become that much more random?

Suppose some hotshot startup creates a true transporter (I.E. one that doesn’t have the swampman problem) and makes it viable for private use. Everyone can operate one from the comfort of their home. The catch is that seriously improper misoperation will lead to an explosion that can take out two city blocks (not unreasonable for a transporter, I think). You don’t want your gin-bottle neighbor to have something like that, do you?

No death is acceptable. If we believe that willfully opening up new avenues to unexpected termination is a substantially different evil from ignoring the deaths that currently plague us (and yes, we need to work on those too), then we should oppose the freeform development of flying cars until the state and federal governments can work together to strongly regulate this dangerous and negatively disruptive industry.

157

DAD: Any new and fun side projects?

ME: Yeah, a script that keeps track of digests for a bunch of files. Mostly my pictures.

DAD: Why?

ME: You know, so I can run it every half-year or so to make sure I’ve not got any bit rot.

DAD: And how likely is that?

ME: Not at all. Probably more likely to die in a car crash tomorrow.

DAD: So again, why?

ME: Just in case.

 

So really, I should be turning my efforts to something more productive. I keep telling myself I’ll sit down and slurp in the code base for some project in need, but I never get to it. The candidates are Quodlibet, sway, and dbus.

It’s a testament to the fundamental (though probably exaggerated) faith I have in my hard disk that I gave that hyperbolic example; I’m not even planning to leave the house tomorrow.

J39M

156

Background

I collect the film scores of the Star Wars cinematic universe. Like other things I enjoy, I am unhappy if I discover them incomplete (it happens). There are 3 categories that I reckon with between which incompleteness can happen:

The true film score

This features in the soundtrack of the film itself. It includes splices like the inclusion of the cello-driven “Force” theme (Burning Homestead) in The Ways of the Force.

The album release

This will be on sale at Target, at Walmart, etc. and may be “edited for content and clarity” – not that the packaging is honest enough to tell you so.

The “for your consideration” copy

I took notice of these starting with TFA – MP3 copies of allegedly the true score appear on the Walt Disney Studios Awards site presumably for the convenience of the Academy. I don’t know why this is, though, because physical copies should exist which are mailed to voters. I’ve seen a purported eBay listing for a TFA FYC physical press going for over 400 USD.

I say “allegedly the true score” because the folks at JWfan are quoted as saying that these should follow the exact presentation of the music in the film, and especially no concert arrangements. This can’t be true, though, because the Burning Homestead bit appears exactly nowhere and for some reason the end credits suite is missing a lot of material. Huge extended portions of Rey’s theme, what sounds like a spliced version of The Bombing Run, and I think slightly longer March of the Resistance all feature in the true film score and not in the FYC. (March of the Resistance is already slightly extended for the FYC, but I think the true film score gives it even more. I should check.)

The matter at hand

I finally got around to rigging PulseAudio for loopback capture (it’s ridiculously easy with pavucontrol). I pulled up my digital copy of TFA on YouTube (came with my Blu-ray purchase and I haven’t even touched the surface of Blu-ray decrypting, let alone extraction) and relived my childhood of hooking a 3.5mm male-to-male cable from line out to line in. I mixed in the album copy of The Jedi Steps and voila! The true film version of The Jedi Steps and Finale can now be added to my collection.

This is hardly ideal – god knows what quality playback I achieve with the YouTube copy and how much a hit it takes when I capture it from my output – but it’s certainly a huge step forward. It’s also a very acceptable stopgap until I can procure the necessary hardware (and learn the software) for Blu-ray extraction.

J39M

“Hi,” he said, shaking my hand. “I’m Pablo Hidalgo.”

I grinned. “And I’m John Williams.”

He didn’t react. He stared blankly at me, still vacantly pumping our hands up and down.

“No, really,” I said, “no joking, who are you?”

“Pablo” sighed and motioned for me to sit. I did, still studying the old man behind the desk. This wasn’t Pablo – a few short years ago, Pablo had been so alive, zipping around the Twitterverse in an unending quest to straighten the Star Wars canon. Here I beheld a tired, thinly stretched, and graying old man who could have passed for a Jedi in exile.

“Did you orchestrate this?” Would-be Pablo held up the printed cue faintly.

“Yes.” I was more confused than peeved. Scoring was hard work, and this was the first time I had been referred to the story department on matters of music. It shaped up like a pointless dent in my schedule for wholly unmusical reasons. “Is something the matter?”

“You indicate that this cue,” said Pablo weakly, “incorporates a men’s choir.”

“Yes.”

Pablo sighed. “I’m sorry to tell you this, but you’ll have to rethink this. If you’ve built anything in particular around the sound of a men’s choir, that’s also out.”

I wasn’t shocked, but my annoyance now overtook my confusion. “Just a minute, please. What about a men’s choir is so objectionable that the story group has to step in to interfere with the scoring process?”

Pablo didn’t answer. He lay his forearms on the table, wrapping both hands wearily around a bright green mug.

“I’d really like an answer, ‘Pablo,’ because that is a lot to ask.”

I suddenly noticed the veins in Pablo’s forearms. They stood out vividly as though they had been stenciled in with magic marker. He was straining – and he was gripping his fluorescent mug pretty hard.

“Is this about that silly Sno – ”

CRASH. I flinched. The mug had shattered from between Pablo’s hands. A gash in his palm pulsed heavily, and blood began to dribble out.

“You’re bleeding, my god, you’re bleeding. Are you okay? Where’s your first aid kit?”

“Stop.” Pablo hadn’t moved.

“You’re bleeding!”

“Just.” Pablo was still sitting ramrod-straight. “Just. Please.” He didn’t sound hurt, just wearier than ever. Maybe that was shock. “Please redo this cue.” He looked me in the eye. “And please don’t try using a men’s choir again.” The cut in his hand was slowly pooling blood among the ceramic shards of his former mug.

I bolted out the door. I had passed a first-aid kit next to the hand sanitizer on my way in.

154

MIT wants your input?

Why the hell would they care about your input? Where is your input when alcohol mixed with driving kills a person in the United States every 53 minutes? Where is your input when you calculate the CDC-given figure and realize this amounts to 10,000 deaths per year? We are paying a human tax of 10,000 people per year because drunk drivers do not want and do not accept your input on “who ought to die.”

Are you, oh prideful sack of flesh, taught properly in your high school driver’s ed class on “who ought to die?” Have you ever thought about that? Has it ever come into play in a real-life situation, where the driver behind the wheel had the power to decide who lived and who died? And who was ever faulted for the decision in a true Kobayashi Maru?

This is beyond asinine. There is no issue. Simply have the autonomous car give its best effort. After all, since when have humans done any better?

The prince surely dies

A.S.E. left the ending ambiguous; the disappearing body of the prince suggests that some magic beyond adult understanding was at work, and that the little prince made it home safe and sound to his rose. I have seen discussion that “since the rest of the book was a fantastical fable, why should this bit be taken literally?”

  1. Did his flock of interplanetary migratory birds suddenly decide to not pick him up? In the first place, how the heck did he hitchhike off of them? Why would snakebite be any faster than candlelight? I think the implication is that he was marooned in the desert with nowhere to go – such is the case with the narrator, too, who does not end up in the desert by choice, and only escapes out of some lucky turn (we know that he almost dies of thirst before finding the well a week into the story). The prince was invulnerable to thirst, but he was wholly unable to transit independently between planets. Faced with the prospect of living forever removed from his beloved home, he chooses death.
  2. Why was the prince scared? Surely zipping home via snakebite is a lot less risky than flying through the hazards of outer space borne by a flock of birds. If the snakebite would just send him home, why was there any risk to the narrator? At worst he finds himself on the prince’s planet, and would have to find his way to earth as the prince did initially. No, the worst case is not a sudden comical detour to the prince’s home; the fear is that the worst case is death by a treacherous snake.

I would explain away the missing body as the narrator becoming disoriented or an overnight sandstorm obscuring the view.

The belief that he is actually home safe and sound is merely a nicety – a pretense used in a vain attempt to curtail the narrator’s sorrow at his passing, not so unlike the lie we repeat to ourselves that the deceased are “in a better place.”

J39M

153: 2 Momentousness

Of music

Screenshot from 2016-07-09 23-50-53

Figure 1: a graph of my stats on libre.fm after their great database crash in late June. However, the drop to 0 had nothing to do with that – that was the duration of my trip to Japan.

Screenshot from 2016-07-22 22-48-25

Figure 2: a graph of my stats now that I have begun work.

I took another step toward becoming an acceptable member of society on 2016-07-11. My scrobbles have stoically suffered accordingly. Gone are my lazy days of sitting at home, whiling the hours away with endless playlists. Gone is my freedom to saddle my ears and disappear into the music while working. These two graphs are to be remembered: their shapes together demarcate two huge portions of my life. My identity as a student reached its peak when the music disappeared; then the music came charging back in like a long-overdue tide (that is not how tides work but please ignore my rhetoric) for one last hurrah before it dropped off to pre-university levels abruptly. And so I shed my undergraduate skin to emerge as a bruised (yet pitifully, wholly unchallenged) functional adult.

Of reading

Before starting work, I flung myself to the halfway-mark of The Two Towers (a little ways into book 4). When conscription peeked over the horizon (about a week’s clearance, I think), I put it on hold and picked up the borrowed copy of Leningrad: Siege and Symphony and got about 200 pages (out of 500) in. The rest I finished during bus rides to and from work. I plan on finishing The Lord of the Rings, then moving onto Steve Jobs. From there I still have 1Q84 and Code Warriors.

Of watching

I went to see Finding Dory last weekend; it was good! I look forward to Star Trek Beyond in a few weeks; by then, hopefully Fantastic Beasts and Doctor Strange will ramp up advertising. I will polish off the year with Rogue One – realistically, seeing it in late January.

Of working

I’m 2 weeks in. I feel good about things. The usual anxiety is still there, but nice people do wonders for the nerves. I can rise every morning and look forward to getting into the office – so that’s winning, isn’t it?

J39M