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Ivan Viehoff

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Everything posted by Ivan Viehoff

  1. In gamelan music of SE Asia (mainly Indonesia) they use several entirely different scales from us, not even having the same intervals (not even tones and semitones, though there is a variety that uses something similar to a western minor scale). They also deliberately tune different instruments in the same ensemble slightly apart from each other, a bid like "wet" tuning on some free-reed instruments with several reeds per note. It all sounds very different, and on first acquaintance sounds very out of tune to our ears. The note names used in one type of tuning are rather amusing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%A9log
  2. I think that amounts to an admission that some have it and some just don't. Most of us do not have it in us to figure it out. Those that do, "have it". The ability to figure it out came from within. If it was environment, there would be more cases of siblings sharing talent. There isn't a music gene (or collection of genes) that reliably produces another Mozart, in the sense that we use genetics to reliably retain certain characteristics in carrots or racehorses. I am reminded of the comment of a leading Nobel prize winning physicist, I think it was Fermi, but I can't remember for sure. There is an organisation which collects sperm samples of male Nobel prize winners. The physicist said, you are collecting the wrong person's sperm. What did my sperm ever produce, a couple of guitar players (he didn't mean that as a compliment). You should collect it from my father, a Jewish tailor. But I would still say that if you haven't got it, birth is too late to do anything about it. You can, in many things, train. But those who have it need less training, and you'll never have that extra spark that distinguishes those who have it. If it is all environment, we could reliably create Mozarts, but we can't. Most of the child prodigies in music, those who are heavily trained to high technique from an early age, turn out not to have it, and don't become rated musicians as adults. Even Ruth Lawrence (whose father dedicated his life to training her, who was studying maths at Oxford at the same time as me, except she was only 13 or something, and did the degree in 2 years and got the highest ever exam marks) has not done much as a mathematician since finishing her studies, no one suggests that she is a candidate for a Fields Medal. But some have it even without training and a most unlikely environment, Ella Fitzgerald (she wasn't just a voice, she had the most amazing technique), etc, how do those who say it is all training and environment explain those?
  3. Maths or music talent, etc, comes from a very particular conjunction of genes, probably also affected by precise conditions in the womb, etc, which results in a person who has a particular predisposition. So no, if two top concert pianists bred, they couldn't guarantee to issue forth another one, because they couldn't guarantee the particular conjunction of conditions in their offspring. But in general their offspring woul dhave a greater predisposition would be better. No serious scientist is promoting as strong a talent neutrality as you seem to be arguing for. The strongest respectable version, is, as championed by scientists such as Steven Jay Gould, that, as a racial group or societal group, we collectively have on average the same inherent brain-power (= talents). But even that weaker hypothesis has to be wrong. I suggest reading "The Blank Slate" by Stephen Pinker, which effectively debunks this to my mind. It is reinforced, for example, with research on separated identical twins. The most obvious argument is, how could we have evolved superior brain power to our ancestors, had it not been subject to genetic selection? If it is subject to genetic selection, then local improvement must occur (by race, by societal group). Jared Diamond takes this one step further - in his experience your average New Guinea tribesperson is a lot brighter than "westeners". There's a good reason for this: there is a much higher selection pressure in New Guinea because of higher death rates. You have to be talented to survive in their precarious society, and the more talented survive and pass it on. Of course they aren't very good at maths or playing the concertina, because those are not in their environment to learn about and become good at. But I bet they soon would be if they had the opportunities. The talent that is now coming out of India and China in all sorts of things, now that more of them have the opportunities, is no surprise to me in that respect. As one who took a maths degree, I dispute that if I had practised maths more, or had started earlier, or had had a more conducive home environment, I could ever have been a maths professor. In fact, one of the noticeable things about the top maths students at university is that many of them worked a lot less than the rest of us. They did their assignments so quickly and easily that they could spend the rest of the day playing computer games, drinking, or in the case of he who got the top first, practising the French horn. Their ability to understand the concepts of algebraic topology (notoriously one of the hardest branches of maths) is surely not related to being taught to add up sooner. Interestingly, I actually had not been as strong as some of my colleagues at some of the branches of maths commonly taught at (high) school level, but on being put in front of some of the new and rather idffernt kinds of maths you do at university - abstract algebra, mathematical analysis - I found it came much easier than to most of them. This was just different from what we had done before, and suddenly I found myself ahead of those who had previously been ahead of me (though still rather behind the top students). Surely that was just a matter of pure aptitude. Some of my colleagues who worked very hard got poor degrees, because they just reached their summit of understanding. With their weaker talent, they had to work a lot harder to achieve a lower standard. Starting earlier or practising more, or maths professor fathers, would not have raised that summit. As one who has also played competitive chess, really rather badly, it is utterly apparent to me that in areas like chess and mathematics, you have it or you don't. This is nature, not nurture. Of course if you have it and the environment is not conducive, it won't come out. But if you don't have it, don't bother. Some countries systematically put their children into education a year or two later than the British, or with shorter school hours, but there is no evidence that the smaller amount of education, at that level, is failing to develop the talents of their population. A very intuitive explanation of the same issue in music can be found in the Coen Brothers film, The man who wasn't there, or whatever it is called. The Billy-Bob Thornton character takes the Scarlett Johansson character to a top LA music teacher, hoping to pay for lessons that might allow her to become a concert pianist. The teacher refuses to take her because she hasn't got it. Her technique is excellent, he can't teach her any more there. But she hasn't got the musicality, and that is unteachable. For those who have it, he can teach them to take advantage of it. At certain stages of my life, I did do a lot of piano practice. It repeatedly became apparent to me that I just did not progress as fast for the same amount of practice as my colleagues. I had just as good a teacher as them. Some of them came from utterly unmusical families, and some had started learning rather later than me. My grandfather was a fairly good pianist. He had lessons, as most of us do. He used to occasionally tell me about his brother, who could just sit down and busk at the piano, though he never had a lesson, and spent far fewer hours actually playing. I had a girlfriend once who played the piano to about the same standard as me. She commented that I could play technically harder pieces than her (no doubt the result of all that practising). But others commented she just played a lot more "musically" than me. How can I learn that? Of course, I can't. I haven't got it, and I never will.
  4. Just to be clear, you are not talking about the normal meaning of the word marimba: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marimba but this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalimba As the above makes clear, it is a lamellophone http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lamellophone ie, plucked plate, rather than any kind of reed instrument.
  5. Sold to a UK buyer for US $2,511.02. IMHO, a bargain. It will be interesting to see what the Maccann goes for, by way of comparison. Perhaps a little unfair though to compare a restored instrument with one that *may* need some work.... Anyone taking bets? MC Hmmm. Closed with reserve not met at a high bid of 810 pounds I suppose that goes to prove that....well, not really sure what it proves.... Perhaps that a duet that goes down to middle C on the right is worth 50% more than one that doesn't ? MC I think that part of it is the weakness of the US dollar. $2,500 for a good 55-key Crane looks like a bargain in pounds, but it looks more normal in dollars, remembering back to that time not so long ago when you only got $1.50 to the pound. It does seem to be a buyers market for Maccanns at the moment, of any size, at least on ebay. After a period a couple of years ago when not many turned up, a lot of good 57-key-plus Maccanns have failed to sell on ebay over the last year, or gone for a steal. So I think there is more to it than just that the 55-key doesn't go down to middle-C. When that rare 46-key Aeola came up a couple of years ago, it sold for well in excess of £1000. But while good quality 46-keys Wheatstones were often raising £600 to £700 on ebay a couple of years ago, these days they often struggle to raise even £400-£500. Though of course in dollars, there's perhaps not a such a change.
  6. Actually, I now remember that the high reeds are in places interleaved with some of the medium sized reeds, so fitting larger reeds in the places where smaller reeds once were is probably unachievable without a complete redesign.
  7. I think the reality is that to get a worthwhile concertina out of this, you need new reed pans and new actions, so that you wouldn't actually use enough of the original 46-key to make it worthwhile cutting up. And you'd probably want a consistent set of reeds, which means it would be better to cannibalise a 48-Crane rather than a 46-Maccann. If you used the existing reed pans, the insoluble problem is probably that you won't be able to design lever runs for new low reeds placed where the high reeds used to be. The same problem exists, either if you put in a new lower row of buttons (seeking to use the existing lever runs for the retained reeds, but probably putting the new buttons in an uncomfortable place), or if you use the existing button locations and re-assign them all a row up (requiring new lever runs for every reed). The other, less insoluble, problem is that the existing cutouts for high reeds are too close together to be sufficiently enlarged for the larger reed slots and larger chambers you will need. You could cut out and replace part of the reed pan with a new piece of wood, or else fill all the holes and slots in and cut new ones in new locations. I don't think that a concertina with a reed pan that had been so modified would really be a high quality concertina any more. If you "fixed" the RH, then, in my opinion, the shortcomings of the LH would now become overwhelming, and you'd have to "fix" that too. Your lowest C#, D and D# would all be in the overlap. I think that would make it a very difficult instrument to make effective use of, as a duet. This is related to "the worst problem" on a 46-key Maccann, that most 46-Maccann players already complain about, which is the lack of a low D in the LH. With your lower RH, I think you would feel its absence, and its neighbours' absence, even more strongly. I think every one of us would give the LH high C or G# for the low D. But replacing even one high reed with a low reed is not practical to achieve within what a "repairer" can do: it would require major redesign. So I don't think it has ever been done. So, in practice, to get a useful concertina, you really need a new LH reed pan and action too, and probably a different set of reeds, perhaps scavenged from a 48-Crane. A year or so ago, someone was selling a Dipper-modified Maccann with some additional LH low reeds put on to it. But it did not involve replacing any of the existing high end reeds. One reed was a replacement for an existing reed, but it was a low end reed so that the space was enough for it, and it was in a suitable location to get a suitable lever run. The other reeds were fitted into existing unused space in the centre, which is a place possible to design lever runs for. And this was originally a 57-key, so that there was significant unused space in the centre to use. Basically, if you want a RH down to a Middle C on the RH on a duet of 48 keys or fewer, without designing an entirely new concertina, then you have to play Crane or Hayden. The other "solution", which is what many 46-key Maccann players do in the real world, is to treat their instrument as a piccolo, and play an octave above the written pitch.
  8. Where Ryanair lead the way, others follow. Before we should protest too loudly about Ryanair's add-ons, a survey conducted a couple of years ago by a consumer organisation concluded that British Airways had the largest add-ons. I don't know if that is still true, but the charge for a second piece of hold baggage on BA is obscene. And Ryanair aren't the only supplier to use inertia selling of travel insurance, Easyjet do that too.
  9. Now I don't take very much interest in such things, but a quick glance at some pictures of other large Maccanns suggests to me that it has Edeophone-type fretwork. So I wonder if that is an indicator of a pleasant surprise in relation to what you will find inside it? Obviously the extra C/D drone key is a curiosity, though I've seen something similar before, in fact on the 81 key I mention below. One other slight curiosity is that the RH keyboard lay-out is not quite the same as some others, notably the 72-key keyboard layout in Rutherford's manual. Normally the 4th column has the key furthest from the straps, but on this one it is the 5th column. It doesn't have an extra key in that column, rather it seems in exchange for a key normally at the other end of that column. It seems to me that the seller of this concertina did not (remotely) do it full justice in his description of it, which may be why the price was so modest. (Either that or you will discover something truly nasty when you look inside.) The largest Maccans often go at a discount to those in the 62/67 range, because they are beginning to get bigger than most players are willing to lug, and sluggish with it. But I've seen a rather basic 81-key sell for a lot more than this. So provided you don't mind its large size, you look to have got yourself a massive bargain.
  10. I think miniature Maccanns with much fewer buttons have been referred to on this forum from time to time. I think the 42-button Crane can be a useful starter instrument. 35 button would just be annoyingly limiting. The general problem with 42/35-key Crane and 39-key Maccann is that if they aren't in nicely playable condition and you need to pay to have them restored, then it wouldn't cost much less than restoring a 46/48 key; and their value is such that you probably wouldn't get your money back on reselling them, unless you got it for peanuts in the first place.
  11. I can't believe that story. Why not a loan? ... Frequently, musicians who have done extensive comparison shopping conclude that they would have to spend well into six figures on an antique instrument to equal the sound they have found in a good new instrument I believe the violin cost about about the price of a typical British house, ie about GBP250,000, not far off $500,000 at present exchange rates. That is consistent with the quote you give above. If you want to be a leader of an orchestra, etc, you have to be playing an instrument of this kind of value on the British scene. Given the terms of a loan for such an amount, you'd get better terms mortgaging the house and buying the violin than the other way around. But I don't think his income was sufficient to remortgage his house to that degree. Hence selling it and going to live somewhere more modest. If the housing market drops, as now looks likely, maybe it will turn out to be a financial good move: if the violin doesn't pay for itself by getting him better work, he'll be able to sell it and buy a better house than the one he sold.
  12. The original "modest proposal" was the suggestion that Irish people suffering from famine should attempt to survive by eating their children - nutricious, reducing the amount required by the family, and capable of being replaced later when conditions improve. So "modest proposals" are often rather immodest proposals that are not intended to be taken seriously, but rather to draw attention to a scandalous situation. The situation of other musicians can be far worse. My father recently met a professional violinist who had sold his house to buy an antique Cremona-made violin, and then his car to buy a bow. Apparently you can't get anywhere as a violinist these days unless you have one, so this was the only way to get on. Nothing else sounds like them, we are told. I hope his investment pays off.
  13. I think there is something to be said for actually making a bid fairly early semi-serious bid in the auction, even if (indeed advisedly - because of the irrationality of other bidders as explained aboe) rather less than you intend to bid later. (1) Listings of objects with no bids on them have a habit of disappearing after a few days (look at the wording on Cocoa's auctions - won't be removed if there are any bids); a concertina from another seller I was seriously considering buying vanished with 3 days to run, there being no bids on it - fool I should have put a bid on it to show my interest, it was certainly worth X, my concern was whether it was worth X+50%. (2) You send out a message to bargain hunters - don't think you are going to get this without a fight, so go away and find something else to bid on. I think this is useful, because things that have a lot of activity on them tend to go for full price, and by putting a semi-serious bid on to start with you damp out a lot of the activity. (3) You prove everything is working properly. That said, I can understand why a bidder with a reputation doesn't bid until the last second, as explained somewhere above. There are arguments for leaving the auction open for at least 5 mins after the latest bid, but on balance, mainly as a buyer, I think I prefer it as it is.
  14. A useful construction of wide application 'I do not know why we import third-rate foreign conductors when we have so many second-rate ones of our own" attributed to Thos. Beecham Also 'I haven't performed any Schoenberg, but I believe I once trod in some.' Which is a little unfair. He wrote some stunningly good music (Verklarte Nacht, Gurrelieder) before he wasted so much of his life convincingly demonstrating that mathematical/randomising techniques such as serialism do not good music make. Another useful construction "Verdi was the Puccini of music"
  15. It's very kind of both you and SteveP to give such a positive recommendation to my article.
  16. I think you are a little unfair on 48-key Cranes, Dirge. I now have a 57-key Maccann, which is the smallest Maccann that has middle C on the right hand (but be careful, not all 57-key Maccanns do this). I find I very rarely press a key that would not be found on a 48-key Crane. On the other hand, playing the 57-key Maccann is so different from playing the 46-key.
  17. You both shared it with this guy http://www.inthered.org/edmundcusickpoetry.htm who I bumped into occasionally when I was at University over 20 years ago, and never forgot.
  18. Why are there some ghostly letters saying "London Destruction" across the entrance to Kennington station? I know Kennington is, like Croydon, on the wrong side of the river, "transpontine" as we say round here. But that seems a little harsh.
  19. Well, actually Wells lost its bishop over 900 years ago, when the chap decided to decamp to Bath. The bishop's seat at Bath is, as at Westminster, called an Abbey. He calls himself the Bishop of Bath and Wells as throwback to his former seat. And actually Croydon has a bishop (probably a suffragan bishop, which is a second class bishop who doesn't get a seat in the House of Lords). Though Croydon lies in the diocese of Canterbury, as a detached island of that diocese. This is because Croydon was formerly the country residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, when he was otherwise in residence at Lambeth Palace in London. Old Palace School in Croydon is on the site of the former Archbishop's palace. Later Addington Palace, also within the borough, was the Archbishop's palace. For many years it housed the Royal School of Church Music, but was sold off to be a hotel about 12 years ago. Other cathedrals in small places include St Davids, St Asaph, and Arundel (RC). But the prize for most insignificant place to house a cathedral surely goes to Skálholt, the seat of the senior bishop of Iceland, which just lies on its own in the countryside without even a village. Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavík is often mistaken as the cathedral, but it isn't. Personally I think any place large enough to justify an underground railway is per se a city.
  20. Now you are in NZ, what do you make of Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Nelson, Invercargill? Are they cities - how do you know - where do you draw the line? Madrid, León, Toledo, Badajoz, what about them, and how did you know? How would a Spaniard decide whether to call a place 'ciudad' (city) rather than 'pueblo' (town)? What would he make of Croydon - ciudad, pueblo, or población/barrio (suburb)? Having a piece of parchment you can hang on the wall is one way of defining a city. But there is another, more obvious, one and it is the one most of the people on the planet use. I've nothing against Wells, aside from a reluctance to call a small market town of 12,000 people a city, however ancient it's piece of parchment. Indeed its ancientness is all the more reason to ignore it, coming from a time when Leeds, Sheffield and Bristol would not have had one. Wells is indeed a charming small market town, and I go there often. In view of the splendid ecclesiastical infrastructure it contains, it was clearly rather more important 1100 years ago than it is today. As was Dorchester-on-Thames: its once powerful cathedral, which ruled an extensive diocese stretching from Winchester to Leicester, now sensibly downgraded to abbey, we can see the place for what it is, a small village most people have never heard of. Swindon, rather than Salisbury, has become the main economic centre of Wiltshire, and continues to grow. As the Swindon/Salisbury relation becomes more like Bristol/Wells, the piece of parchment will become unimportant. As for cultural sense of itself, I suggest reading Jasper Fforde's "The Eyre Affair" for an alternative, and very peculiar, view of Swindon.
  21. To extend the pendantry, it depends what you mean by "city". Most of the world just uses the word to mean a large or important town, and that is what Croydon is (well, large, anyway, population 330,000). It is a specific and local British sense of the word that a town only becomes a city when the crown grants it a charter to say it is, thus resulting in completely ridiculous places calling themselves cities, like Wells, which is really only a small market town.
  22. But don't tell anyone what it's called if you are playing Irish on it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_and_Tans
  23. Actually that happens. The singing teacher at my secondary school, in the fine historic city of Croydon (don't forget the Tramlink when playing MC), was Mr F Sharp.
  24. You might care to read my article "So you think you want to buy a duet concertina" linked from the buying guide page: http://www.concertina.net/guide.html The main choice at this level is between a 46-key Maccann and a 48-key Crane (or possibly, for reasons given in the article, a 42-key Crane, though there aren't very many of them in good condition around). The 46-Maccann will probably cost you about £200 to £300 less than the 48-Crane, or about the same as a 42-Crane, for a comparable quality of concertina. Everyone above has trumpeted the advantages of the 48-Crane, though not putting in words the main one, namely going down to Middle C in the RH. But there are a lot of 46-key Maccanns out there being played, probably rather more than 48-key Cranes, so they can't be that terrible. But at the end of the day, what is best for you at a given budget level depends what you want to do with your concertina. I hope what I wrote in my article will help you think about those details, and help you make the right choice for you within your budget. Someone said that they think 55 keys is the minimum useful size for a Maccann. What the minimum useful size for a Maccann is depends what you want to do with it. I would think that many people would rather have the smaller lighter 46-key than have a 55-key, whose main practical advantage is filling in that annoying missing D in the LH, a small gain for 9 extra keys, most of which I would happily do without. For most people, it is the 57-key, of the variety that goes down to Middle C in the RH, that provides a serious leap of extra usefulness over the 46-key. The best comparator for a 57-key Maccann is a 55-key Crane, which have remarkably similar capabilities. Both have 2 complete octaves from baritone C in the LH, and go down to Middle C in the right. I am not aware of a systematic price difference between them, which tends to suggest that the inherent differences between Maccann and Crane system are rather moot.
  25. If these notes are adjacent to each other on the action board, then another reason could be that the levers or pads are interfering with each other, so that when one opens it moves an adjacent key or pad, or is prevented from resealing properly itself. The angle at which you press a key can affect precisely where the pad lands back on the action board when you release it, so that might explain why the effect is more or less intense depending upon which finger you use. You need to ensure the pad will land satisfactorily however you press the key, ie, have sufficient clearance from adjacent pads and levers given the flexibility in the action. There are often areas on a concertina where the pads are crowded on the board, and getting the pad to land so that it reliably covers the hole, given the uncertainties of the landing position inherent in the flexibilities in the action, and nonetheless never interfere with the adjacent keys, is quite tricky. Sometimes a little has to be shaved off the edge of a pad (detach it from the concertina before you try cutting bits off a pad) to give the necessary clearances, which then means the pad has to be very carefully aligned reliably to cover the hole. Key alignment can be adjusted by detaching the pad and reattaching it in the correct place. Alternatively bending the lever a little. Dave Elliott mentions how to make a lever bending tool, but a suitable pair of pliers will do. You must have the key fully depressed before trying to bend the lever, (or you will break the key) so you can't see where you have bent it to until you release it and then put the fretted ends back on, so it can be a lot of tedious trial and error until you get it in the right place. Another reason for inteference between levers can be a spring swinging out of place, that is easily rectified.
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