I’ve started a Tumblr blog. What’s already posted there should give an you idea of what to expect - an obscure Kenneth Anger/Hollywood Babylon documentary from YouTube, what-I-think-are-awesome vintage movie posters, and a largely unnecessary gif of Hervé Villechaize as King Fausto in Forbidden Zone. There’s also a random selection of cool images like the one above, of director Larry Cohen on the set of It’s Alive. And, most thrillingly, in the process of setting it up I’ve discovered a Ryan Gosling Tumblr fansite ripped and posted a quote from my GFF13 coverage, and that has now become the most popular thing with my name on it on the internet #alldownhillfromhere.
Here it’s: http://seanmwelsh.tumblr.com/
In February, which admittedly was fucking ages ago now, I was the official blogger for Glasgow Film Festival 2013. This was my third year writing for the festival’s website and the first with an official lanyard (see above). Unfortunately, I had to skip the final weekend due to a pesky, unmissable stag weekend – meaning I lost out on all of FrightFest and a brace of films I’d have loved to have seen, not to mention seeing Mr Joss Whedon at the Closing Gala. Nevertheless, I covered a load of films and events and had the chance to conduct some filmmaker interviews. Without further ado (and no Ado at all, in fact) here’s my coverage of GFF13:
Continuing the theme of way, way overdue posts, after posting about my programme note for The Master I realised another one, for Christian Petzold’s Barbara (2012), also went unheralded. Oops, and so much for self promotion. Anyway, GFT screened this one last year and it’s available now on DVD so it may be of interest. Thanks to the lovely internet, GFT’s programme notes live forever here and my note for Barbara is available here.
This is way overdue for posting, but I wrote the programme note for GFT’s screenings of The Master (Dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012). Now the film is out on DVD/Bluray, the piece should hopefully still be interesting. Anyway, you can find my note for The Master here and GFT archives all their programme notes online here.
I found this record, snappily entitled A Small Computer Plays Some Samples Of Mozart’s Dice-Composition Music, in Oxfam Music on Byres Road, Glasgow, in late 2012. The sleeve suggested it was produced in Glasgow, in 1967.
In 1962, Bell Laboratories had released the landmark Music From Mathematics album, using the IBM 7090 computer to produce a selection of weird sounds, classical arrangements and HAL-style ditties. In fact, their recording of Bicycle Built For Two is said to have directly inspired Arthur C Clarke and 2001: A Space Odyssey (dir. Stanley Kubrick, 1968). In 1967, while Kubrick was nearing the end of 2001‘s four-year production, Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band was the best-selling record in the UK and the Incredible String Band released The 5000 Spirits Or The Layers Of The Onion. I basically had no idea anybody was making electronic music in Glasgow then.
Anyway, intrigued, I dug around a bit and found some more information. The following is from the presentation “The Small Computer that Played Tunes” given by Tacye Phillipson (National Museums Scotland, Edinburgh) at the 2011 Scientific Instrument Commission Symposium in Kassel, Germany:
“In the early 1960s most computers were behemoths, and their time was precious and sparingly dolled out. In this atmosphere Glasgow University took the unusual step of designing a small computer for teaching and student use. This computer, called SOLIDAC, is only the size of a desk. It was built by Barr and Stroud, a local firm who were keen to expand their reputation from optics into electronics. In 1967 T. H. O’Beirne of Barr and Stroud released an LP of Mozart’s dice music, tunes where each bar is chosen at random from a selection, both calculated and played by SOLIDAC. This early example of computer music was reviewed in the magazine Gramophone: ‘Not something one can listen right through a side to; but quite ingenious.’ Fittingly for a Scottish computer, it also played bagpipe tunes of its own devising…”
Bill Findlay, who taught at the University of Glasgow, provides a great selection of material on SOLIDAC on his website, including portions of SOLIDAC’s operating manual. You can also find a short essay by Paul A.V. Thomas, the principle designer of SOLIDAC, here.
From the record’s sleeve notes, by T.H. O’Beirne:
“These recordings demonstrate how a small digital computer has been used to produce music – of some interest – which is more often discussed than actually heard. The scores concerned allow the computer to be programmed for continuous play of something like a million different variations on a basic pattern. A few dozen typical specimens are played, with a change of tuning of the scale after each group of four. Listeners can judge the merits of the just-intonation tuning of medieval music, and of other scales which make use of exactly-tuned consonant intervals. They can compare these with the more familiar equal-temperament compromise used in modern-keyed instruments. Rectangular-wave computer pulses are appropriately generated, to produce the notes. The sound is not unlike that of a clarinet.”
Thanks to Stewart Christmas for additional research.