Busting out the old warhorse

Some friends of mine and I were talking about working up my favorite piece of chamber music, ever: Spinoff, by Charles Wuorinen.

This piece is a beast. Listen to this excerpt from Wuorinen’s site to get a flavor of what we’re dealing with here. It’s head-banging rock and roll for classical musicians.

I played this something like 11 or 12 years ago back at NEC. We spent three months on rehearsing it, crying over it, and swearing at it. It was so fun.

So anyway, we’re just talking about it. As in, should we get ourselves into this sort of thing. Flirting with the idea. It is hard to find musicians that are into something like this, who are willing to put in the time, and who are skilled enough to be able to execute it. But it was fun picking up my old score and hacking away at some of the passages. The piece has a very tricky meter system ��� just a quick glance at page 1 shows that each measure has a new change in meter: 5/4, 9/4, 10/4, 4/4, 7/4, 11/4, 7/4, and that’s just the first seven measures. Hey, no big deal, the measures divided by 8th and 16th notes don’t show up until later. Oh, wait a minute – the subdivisions of measure three go 11/16, 6/4, 9/16. Nevermind.

The bass part alone has the additional challenge of skipping between bass, tenor, and treble clefs, and utilizing pretty much the entire range of the traditional modern double bass. Thankfully, Wuorinen did not write anything physically impossible to play or that would require at best the use of one’s forehead or big toe to achieve. The chords all have doable stretches with the left hand, or make available use of open strings. Overall I’d say a well-orchestrated piece for the double bass.

The nice thing about this piece, and much of Wuorinen’s work, is that it leverages traditional western classical music notation. Nothing funky like circular staves, pyramid beams, random sound effects, or tape recordings of humpback whales. There is excruciating attention to detail in the notation, and I as a musician I truly appreciate this.

But I’m making too much of a big deal about the complexities of the piece. The real deal here is this is an awesome piece. The 16th notes really chug ahead and it sounds more like something you’d hear on the streets of Greenwich Village or in a dark, smoky beatnick dive than in some prestigious concert hall. The piece rocks.

About the links posts

For the two or three readers I have out there, you’ve probably noticed the past two posts that contain sets of links. These are things I’ve noticed while surfing around the Internet and thought would be either good reading for later, or something that I might like to blog about if I ever had time.

I use the del.icio.us service to bookmark these links. It’s convenient, and works from any browser. My latest bookmarks used to show up in this blogs sidebar, but after the upgrade I somehow screwed it up. Perfect time to rethink it: I saw some others doing this, and thought it would be cooler to have these links just show up as regular blog posts. Del.icio.us has a feature to take care of this. It’s not well documented, but here’s some decent instructions.

Askimet trap

I finally set up Askimet for my blog. Found a couple of comments in the trap that were sitting there among dozens of robot-generated spam comments, so they are out there now. Sorry for the delay…

I thought nobody read this blog. Apparently there are two of you! 😀

Target.com garners accessibility lawsuit

A blind student from U.C. Berkeley is suing the Target Corporation because their website is inaccessible to blind users:

The lawsuit, filed Tuesday in Alameda County Superior Court, said the upscale discounter’s on-line business, target.com, denies blind Californians equal access to goods and services available to those who can see.

“Target thus excludes the blind from full and equal participation in the growing Internet economy that is increasingly a fundamental part of daily life,” said the suit, which seeks to be certified as a class action and alleges violations of the Americans with Disabilities Act and various state statutes.

I knew that eventually some prominent litigation would come to the fore on this issue and that web developers nationwide would start taking the issue of accessibility seriously.

Creating an accessible web presence is not difficult work. It just requires awareness and a little attention to detail. Most sites that adhere to web standards such as using valid and semantic XHTML, CSS layouts, and basic accessibility guidelines like alt text for images and avoiding inaccessible technologies like image maps, Java or Flash objects for navigation and/or content, and deeply-nested table layouts will work just fine for those users that lack vision, who may be unable to use a mouse, or for whatever reason need assistive technologies to surf the web. And in doing so, you usually achieve near-universal access to older browsers, handheld devices, and you give your site a far better chance of doing well in search engine query results.

Blind people access Web sites by using keyboards in conjunction with screen-reading software which vocalizes visual information on a computer screen.

But Target’s site lacks “alt-text,” an invisible code embedded beneath a graphic on the Web site that a screen reader could use to provide a description of the image to a blind person, the suit said.

Target.com also has inaccessible image maps, the suit said. Image maps, when clicked on by sighted users, allow the patron to jump to other destinations within the Web site. But since Target’s site requires the use of a mouse to complete the transaction, it prevents blind people from making purchases online, the suit said.

Wow – it’s really there in print finally! These are real issues that we need to address for the future of our web development practices.

“Blind people have complained about (Target’s Web site) in particular,” Basrawi said. “That one’s gotten a lot of complaints, especially because it’s completely unusable. A blind person cannot make a purchase independently on target.com.”

Are all your web properties accessible?

Update: This is now being covered over at Molly.com, boxofchocolates.ca, and webstandards.org.

Wingnuts Over Colorado

PlaybillArts: News: Colorado Music Teacher Defends Screening of Faust Video

The controversy began after Waggoner, who teaches elementary, middle and high school students at the K-12 school in a small town about 25 miles east of Denver, tried to pique the curiosity of the first, second, and third graders in one of her classes about opera. She chose a video of Gounod’s Faust (which she found on the classroom shelf) to teach the children about bass and tenor voices, the use of props, and “trouser roles” in opera.

The latter, she says, led to accusations that the married mother of two was a lesbian promoting homosexuality; the plot of Faust, where the title character sells his soul to the devil to recapture his youth, led to her being labeled a devil worshipper.

What a bunch of lunatics. The shocking details of this article don’t stop there, so read on. If these people can’t tell the difference between teaching music and lesbian devil worship, then they certainly shouldn’t be allowed to vote, much less procreate.

Link found at The Rest is Noise.