Friday, October 31, 2008

Loose Ends

This week there were many activities: a guest lecture in Artificial Intelligence (for John Elliott), an evening event of the Yorkshire Creative Networks organisation, dealing with a car repair (that old Citroen really has its problems...), preparing a commercialisation bid, organisig cover for my MSc lectures, and the final preparations for the India travel which begins tomorrow. I am quite behind in some things, but am catching up. Tomorrow the travel will begin. Everything related to this India project will be here on this blog. I hope to be able to post many pictures to Flickr. I will try to give a daily update on the blog there. If something of general interest happens, I will report it here on this blog.

The weather here is quite cold - freezing temperature at night. The last time that it was here so cold so early in October was in 1937. It is sunny now, with patches of clouds coverign the sun once in a while.

I still have some more things to do, runnign around the campus, filing forms, replying to emails (and apologising about being late...). But I am looking forward to the travel tomorrow. Will be a 7 h flight to Dubai, then further on to Ahmadabad. Got my visa, have also started taking Malaria tablets.

There it wil be 36 C - similar to California weather!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Zero Celsius

Yesterday and today at night it was freezing here in Leeds: temperatures reached 0 C. For "the continent" it is quite usual to have the first frost at the end of October, but here in the UK the last time it has been so cold so early has been in 1937.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Concert: Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra

This season, the Leeds International Concert Season seems to have a strong focus on Russian music. This Saturday the Moscow Philharmonic Orchestra gave a performance in the Leeds Town Hall. The orchestra also used the "classical" player arrangement (similar to the St. Petersburg Philharmonic). But they had the basses on the right, behind the 2nd violins, celli in the center. There were less bass players, only 6 double basses. This allowed the melody to come through more clearly.

Overall, this orchestra played excellent. They paid attention to the conductor Yuri Simonov, who conducted with enthusiasm and energy. Excellent timing, the orchestra played like a solid sound body.

The works: The music of Kachaturian's Spartacus Suite is well known, although many listeners do not know the composer, which is very unfortunate. Very nice melodic flow and rhythmic patterns. Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No.1 featured the soloist Charles Siem who played excellent. Tchaikovsky's 4th symphony was the concluding work, followed by two encores, as the audience was very excited about this fabulous concert.

Preceding this concert was a brief introduction to the composers and the works, given by Anastasia Belina who showed some clips from YouTube - a first for these pre-concert talks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Late work hours recently...

On Monday I was teaching in a guest lecture/seminar at the Faculty of Arts and Society: Screen Media Cultures. The seminar went from 17:30 - 20:30, with no interruption. The students were very enthusiastic, the module leader Lance Pettitt also was present. I talked about the history of film and TV technology development, with an excursion into Augmented Reality and its possible applications in future media work.

On Wednesday another long day: a meeting in York, organised by Yorkshire Forward, taking place there until 20:00.

In this semester, Thursday is the busiest day for me, with a tight teaching schedule: I teach two times the same MSc module: Mobile and Wireless Communications. Hereby I follow closely William Stalling's text book, which appears to be quite complete and thorough. Since I have never taught on this module, it is quite some work to dive into this technology and prepare it appropriately. But through my practical experience in teh past years, the content of this module is not too new for me.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Concert: St.Petersburg Philharmonic

I was looking forward to see again Yuri Temirkanov, conducting the St. Petersburg Orchestra in Leeds. Back in the early 1990s I have attended a performance in the Munich Gasteig, and it had been marvelous. At that time I had a seat behind the orchestra, so I could see his face, as the orchestra would. And what a funny person he was: he danced, laughed, made grimasses, joked around while conducting. I remember this very well, and I was quite impressed, although it seemed that the funny and light attitude had a certain price in precision: the orchestra had seemed to be slightly out of sync sometimes. But nevertheless, the sound and the musical performance had been great.

When going to the Leeds Town Hall on Saturday, I was quite disappointed to read that he was not able to be here - due to illness. Also a review of another concert by this orchestra during its tour by The Guardian expressed disappointment. However, I felt that the conductor Yan Pascal Tortelier did a very nice job too, as also the Yorkshire Post found.

The first work was Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Ouverture. Very interesting the choice of the orchestral seating: it was the old traditional seating of the strings, with 1st violins left, 2nd violins right, and basses behind the 1st violins (this is in contrast to the "American" or 20th century seating arrangement, which is from left to right 1st violins, 2nd violins, celli, basses). I prefer the traditional one, as it allows the violins to echo themes and motives, and provides a more balanced overall sound. One thing was weird: there were 10 double basses and 10 celli playing! This gave the music an overall quite deep sounding character. The violins appeared slightly weak and thin against that, and the melody appeared sometimes to be drowned in the bass notes. Of course, the sound emphasis it also might have been a result of my seating on the very left side of the galery, where the basses were quite close.

As I had noticed with Temirkanov's conducting more than 15 years ago, I also noticed this time that the orchestra took a wile to find its common tempo. However, they were well together in the 3rd work that was performed: Tchaikovsky's Pathetique. Not much to say about both works, except that they are "war horses" which always draw many people into concerts - the Town Hall was packed full. People applauded after the 3rd movement which sounds like a Finale... but then the real Finale came.

I myself was most impressed with the 2nd work: Prokoffjev's Piano Concerto #3. Phantastic to hear the wit and humor, the irony and temperament, and the deep humanism of this composer in this work. I had not heard this work ever before, so something new for a change.

No encore performance, as the orchestra players were quite exhausted after the 2 1/2 hours.

Brilliant as always were the introductory notes and remarks by Brian Newbould who gave a 30 min pre-concert talk. His comments are alwasy very clear and enlightning, and the mix of him playing themes on the piano and playing segments from a CD provide nice insights into the works.

This was also the concert where I have seen the most people from Leeds Met: Cath and Graham were there, also Dave and Phil.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Next travel Adventure: India!

This July I attended a meeting at the Old Broadcasting House, and I met Brian Lewis. He is a book publisher (Pontefract Press) and poet laureate for Birmingham (1996/97). At the meeting he told me about his latest project: Creating awareness of climate change by means of art and poetry. For this, he would travel to India, to establish links between two regions in the world: Yorkshire and Gujarat. He asked me if I could become a part of this project - and I agreed! Since then I have created a blog for this project and have made recordings (HD video, ear-related audio, GPS tracks) and taken pictures during two excursions. The material is intended to be published in a book, and with my participation in this project, it will also be placed on a web site, being made accessible in a yet to be defined multimedia web installation. L3 students have been invited to participate in this project, for creating the web installation and the editing of the recorded material.

This means that on 1. November I will be travelling to India. Never before have I been there, and I am looking forward to it. Brian Lewis will travel there, together with a group of four writers, who will give workshops and prepare writings in this project. We will stay at university facilities in Ahmedabad, the capital of the region Gujarat. A program has been set up, with visits around the location. Will return on 14.November.

I am quite excited about this opportunity, and hope to bring back lots of impressions and recordings. Have already done my vaccinations. Booked the flight. Now am still waiting for the visa.


The weather is a favorite topic here in the UK. It changes often very quickly, and the western location of the British Isles means that they get all the rainy stuff from the Atlantic first, before it hits the rest of Europe.

When I arrived here 3 years ago in September, it had been quite warm and sunny, very little rain indeed. Also the following summer was quite pleasant. But the following two summers did not really deserve that name: in 2007 the summer was the wettest in history (based on weather records dating back more than 300 years). Widespread flooding has caused a lot of damage to many houses. And this year, there had not been a single really hot day (at least I cannot remember any). Frequent rain, sometimes for several days. Also quite cold, at least relative cold compared to the usual moderate temperatures. In the past few weeks there had been night temperatures down to 3C, which is very unusual. This had also the effect that this year the autumn leaves of the trees are more colorful, as the cold temperature caused the production of more sugar in the leaves, and that creates more colorful foliage (at least that is how I think it works). The effects can already be seen, as some trees show nice yellow and red leaves, instead of the usual simple browning-and-fading-away coloring.

There have been periods of nice weather too, bright sky, with its northerly light-blue shine. Not too bad afterall.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Meeting my friend Marius

Right now I am sitting in a train, on its way from Peterborough to Leeds - I will arrive after midnight in Leeds. The free WIFI is nice, although a bit slow, and the connection breaks down often.

I had met my friend Marius once again, who is in London for a conference. I know Marius from my work in California at RSC since 1996, where he has been my colleague, group manager, and function director until 2003. The last time I met him in 2006 in Stratford, when he was in the UK at another conference. This time we decided to meet in Peterborough, as this would be easily reachable by train both from London and Leeds. I did not want to drive by car, as this would be a bit stressful. We had a great time. Saw the magnificent cathedral of Peterborough (from the outside only), had dinner in one pub (he had Fish and Chips, I had a Sunday Roast) and desert in another, and told stories about our ongoing and past activities, travels, and funny hoaxes.

The outside temperature was quite chilly (it had been a very nice sunny Sunday, without any clouds in the sky), but he wore a baseball hat and was ok with the cold air. I hope we have another opportunity to meet again!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

New site: "The Innovation Bank"

Linda Brougthon and her team from the NTI have set up a great website for our faculty: - The Innovation Bank. One of the very nice and useful things that are there is the interaction regarding Level-3 final year projects: students can access project ideas, and supervisors can manage these projects.

The site is publicly accessible over the web.