Classical Music News:
Late into any year ending with a 9, news outlets tend to indulge themselves in "best of the decade" lists in case you hadn't noticed. And this year is no different.
The Times of London released their "Best Classical Music Recordings of the Nougties" list (Don't blame me. They came up with that term. I know it sounds like something I'd make up, but it isn't!) The best recording of the decade, they claim, was the St. Louis Orchestra's Nonesuch release of John Adams' "Doctor Atomic" symphony. Reviewers Orchestral work derived from Adams’s stunning operatic depiction of the fateful moment in July 1945 when J. Robert Oppenheimer’s scientists swallowed their ethical doubts, successfully tested the atomic bomb and changed the world. Coruscating instrumental power, fine lyrical moments.”
Rounding out the rest of the list are a bunch of pieces I've never heard of. I find this both exciting for the prospect of new music being pointed out to me and slightly galling as I am clearly way more of a strict classicist than the Times of London classical music reviewers. I am wondering how one gets that job and why I don't have it. As readers of this blog well know, I can sit around and make pretentious lists with the best of them.
Also in Classical Music News, H. C. Robbins Landon died this past week at the age of 83. Landon was known as a pioneer of Haydn scholarship and also for writing many popular works on Mozart, one of which I can see on my shelf from where I sit. Landon did much work to popularize the music of Franz Joseph Haydn (he edited music scores. In the 1950s he published a book about Haydn's symphonies of which there are 108) in the middle of the last century and you very well may have him to thank every time you hear a classical music DJ play Haydn today. He also uncovered original parts of Mozart's Idomeneo.
This week the Egyptian government banned the first Egyptian graphic novel. The graphic novel is titled "Metro" and all reports I can find say that it is being banned for "limited sexual content." Who knows what that means. Author Magdy L Shafee vows to fight the ruling saying, "It is unethical to suppress freedom of speech and take books off the market. This is about more than 'Metro.' If we stay passive we will lose our rights."
In a hilarious move, Arab Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) director Gamal Eid sent the Egyptian court overseeing the case images from the daily newspaper Rose El-Youssef which are far "more lewd" than anything appearing in the graphic novel in question. You will, of course, recall earlier in the year when Egyptian poet Mounir Marzuq was sentenced to three years in jail for writing a satirical piece about Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak.
Of course, Egypt isn't the only place doing abominable things with books and eliciting controversial satire (how often do you get to use a sentence like that! It's like Christmas has come early for me!) Columnist Michael Wolff wrote a column this week on the current trend of wildly popular books which are neither written by the person to whom they are attributed nor are they meant to be read, but rather to be carried around as an ideology identifying prop (needless to say, Beck and Palin are named.) I thought it was very clever (clearly enough to remark on it) although, hopefully needless to say, if you go read it, I recommend you steer clear of the comments section.
Last Friday, after what seemed to enthusiasts (I can tell you firsthand) like decades worth of delays, the Large Hadron Collider smashed its first proton beams. It was an exciting day which one could follow the progress on CERN's Twitter. A CERN person (I don't know how you get all the way to CERN and end up in charge of tweeting) live tweeted the whole event. If you didn't follow it, don't panic, you'll have plenty more opportunities. For the first time they were able to shoot proton beams at very near to the speed of light and slam them into one another.
As you'll remember, the Large Hadron Collider is a many billion dollar endeavor by thousands of physicists to create the world's largest particle accelerator to smash particles into one another and observe the results. The LHC is housed in a 100 meter tunnel beneath the French-Swiss border. The highest of their aspirations is to recreate conditions very much like the first moments of the Universe and possibly gain information on the theoretical Higgs Boson particle. Such information might put physicists well on the road to a Grand Unified Theory (GUT for short!), a theory comprising everything everywhere always which is kind of the ultimate goal of science. After that it's all just detail work of cataloging the wonky and manky sea critters they keep finding. The Higgs Boson, it is postulated, was a particle that existed for a split second after the Big Bang and quickly broke into smaller particles.
Over a year ago, an earlier attempt was thwarted by electrical problems. In October a scientist on the project was arrested over suspected links of Al-Qaeda. A few weeks ago, someone dropped a bit of their baguette (this is France we're talking about after all) into the power core causing chaos, terror, panic and probably the most well done piece of toast in the history of time. If you've been following the LHC history, those are far from the only problems and issues to come up. People have sued them because they're afraid the LHC will destroy reality. Other scientists have speculated with apparent seriousness that the LHC problems came from the Higgs Boson time traveling to thwart the project. I think the history of the LHC would make a great opera.
More Crashing Things Into Other Things News:
Also this week in crashing things, astronomers are finally harnessing the great, untapped power of human capacity to play video games. They've created Galaxy Zoo. When one is involved in the project, one is shown images of colliding galaxies next to simulated images of separate galaxies and then asked to identify which goes with which. Oxford astronomer Dr. Chris Lintott says, "The strength of the game is that it takes results from many people." The group states that humans are currently better than any technology at detecting patterns and similarities. The project will help them sort through the data and learn more about colliding galaxies. "All we get from the Universe is a single snapshot of each one. [With] simulations, we will be able to watch each cosmic car crash unfold in the computer."