Wednesday, September 25, 2013

a song of temperance reform

The Rolling English Road

Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.

I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.

His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.

My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.

~G.K. Chesterton

("The Rolling English Road", first published a hundred years ago today, originally titled "A Song of Temperance Reform.")

Thursday, September 19, 2013

two-spacing: a rebuttal

Did I say "rebuttal?" I mean something more like total destruction.

After the post on two-spacing and generations — which is really more about the oddness of this generation of people roughly my age, in our 40s, astride eras of analog and digital — I spent a good deal of time and energy in a fascinating conversation that included some of my best-educated friends as well as published authors.

Many of them not only used the em-quad (that is, as I've learned, the large space after a sentence, approximated by typing two spaces) but had never heard of not doing it. One published author only changed after finding out that her editor had to take them all out; another was completely unaware that his editor (probably) does. Crazy!!

A friend, though, turned me on to this rather complete rebuttal, titled "Why Two Spaces After A Period Isn't Wrong (or, The Lies Typographers Tell About History)." The author of this article makes superb points that completely devastate Manjoo's Slate article.

One thing it says is that all you have to do is, ya know, actually look at books published a while back to see that the em-quad was a standard thing for centuries, and it's really only recently that we began making that space smaller. Further, it wasn't an aesthetic decision: it was all mainly because of technology that made typesetting so much easier and cheaper that it couldn't be ignored, but that couldn't easily em-quad.

On reading it, I went back and checked through several of my books published before 1920. Every single one lavishly em-quadded. You could fit a ribeye steak between every sentence. So there you have it.

It still looks weird to me, and the modern way of doing it still looks natural to me — so I guess we can compare it to other things like tie width, that just go in and out of fashion. Call it a mesofashion, in that it lasts several generations.

Meanwhile, Facebook makes the decision for you.  No matter how many spaces you use, Facebook only gives you one.  So do most web environments.  Okay, then: do you like the way all that stuff looks?  If it looks perfectly alright to you, then singling is fine.  On the other hand, if you like the look of hundred-year-old books, where there's a nice bit of real-estate after every sentence, so that you can clearly see each sentence begin, making it easy to go back and find that one great phrase you remembered, then doubling seems natural.  (My blog, at least on its native site, does observe double spaces, and this last paragraph is em-quadded.  Did you like it?  Did you notice?  The way it displays in my browser, the double-space-as-em-quad does create a problem:  it sometimes puts a blank space at the beginning of a line, making it look like a tiny indention in the middle of a paragraph.)

It's all quite interesting, especially to see the rules of a previous age, when it seemed obvious to everyone that there should be a nice huge em-quad between sentences — which amounts to three times the size of the usual space. You heard me: more like three-spacing than two-spacing. Check it out for yourself.

Best comments-section zing: "Getting every single thing factually wrong: paycheck. Putting two spaces after a period: crime."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

new charts, old charts, and kaizen


I had someone ask me for charts for the Sanctus I'd written a few years ago. Liturgical churches have traditional call-and-response prayers and songs, and one of the most common is the Sanctus, which is where the congregation sings the passage, beginning with "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord," that has been part of Christian celebrations for centuries.

Churches do this every week, and so over the years there have been bunches of settings written, so you don't get sick of the same one over and over again. Put together with other traditional prayers and quotes — Gloria, Kyrie, the Doxology, the Our Father — it's known as a liturgy setting, or a Mass (though the term Mass also just means the service itself, confusingly). Composers have done these settings by the hundred, most of them for showoffy classical choirs and orchestras, but some for everyday congregations to be able to sing.

So I've written a Gloria and a Sanctus and a Doxology and a Prayers of the People, and will probably fill it out with a Kyrie and an Our Father, just to make the set complete sometime.

Anyway, back to the Sanctus. I've always had it in the back of my head that I'd put together an easily marketable little pack for the Sanctus, that includes a lead sheet, a bulletin insert, a full sheet-music score for choir and accompaniment, and an mp3 for reference. I've done the same for my Doxology, and it's turned into a nice little seller. Why haven't I bothered to shape all that up for the Sanctus till now? Well, a church music director wrote to me, saying they'd heard it and loved it, and wondered whether I had those materials available.

Being the music marketer I am, I quickly whipped it up last night and today, all the while thinking it was good to finally have some impetus to do it, because it will no doubt sell to others.

As I was finishing up the package, I figured I had the original mp3 that I did years ago somewhere, so did a search for it. Sure enough, it was in a folder entitled "Sanctus package."

That's right, folks, I did do it all, two years ago. Phhhht. Ah well. I took a look at the pdf files I'd done in 2011. They were clear, professional, complete, and done to the highest standard — but they weren't as good as the ones I just did yesterday and today. In the space of two years, I've improved enough in my engraving tastes and choices that there's a marked difference.

2011's work was just great. But 2013's was better.

This is what the Japanese mean by their term kaizen, which usually applies to conscious efforts in constantly polishing and streamlining and improving. It turns out that just normal everyday effort can result in polish and improvement too. I'm pleased to see that just in two years my skills have gotten better and my tastes more exacting.

Meanwhile, if you're tired of your usual Sanctus, get in touch.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

jazz liner notes, part one


I'm listening to some Jimmy Giuffre. On the liner notes to his album Free Fall (whose first track is titled "Yggdrasill [The Great Ash Tree Whose Roots and Branches Hold Together the Universe])," he writes the following helpful guide to the music.
Given: this trio; a great studio on 30th Street in New York City; an engineer with radar ears and safe-cracking fingers, Fred Plaut; a producer who hears and feels the music from the vantage point of a composer, Teo Macero. Given: the urge to enter new realms, glimpse other dimensions, reach the absolute. Given: the visions from thinking on such things as... gravity, Monk, electricity, time, space, the microcosmos, leaves, chemistry, power, Gods, white-hot heat, asteroids, love, eternity, Einstein, Rollins, Evans, the heartbeat, pain, Delius, Scherchen, Art, overtones, the prehistoric, La Violette, wife, life, voids, Berg, Bird, the universe...

...We come to NOW and this album. YGGDRASILL!!!
Does anyone else think that sounds like a discarded verse from Rent?

Monday, September 9, 2013

some things run in the family

Friday, September 6, 2013

two-spacing and generations

Recently, this article about whether you should put two spaces after a period at the end of a sentence was forwarded around my circle. (You can guess the verdict by looking at the subtitle, "Why you should never, ever use two spaces after a period.") You may have been taught to use two spaces there, but you've only seen it in correspondence and friends' writings — you've never seen it in a book or magazine.

The whole thing spawned quite a bit of discussion. My mom, touchingly, asked me if I thought she should therefore change her ways or if it would be OK to keep two-spacing. (My answer? Bring on the new: if nothing else, teaching yourself a new discipline every now and then keeps the mind flexible. This year, stop two-spacing; next year, Dvorak layout!)

Meanwhile, among people around my age, 46 appears to be just exactly the right age to be on the cusp. I learned two spaces at old Churchill HS's high-tech typewriter lab, for reasons that the article talks about; I switched to one in college, when a professor mentioned it. Later I saw one-spacing confirmed in a desktop publishing article (remember desktop publishing?!). Folks only a few years younger learned on computers, and never learned anything but one space; my brothers (6 years older) never learned anything but two. If they switched, it was probably after college. So interesting, to see these changes happening.

We really are at an odd age, so different from generations before and after. I have friends my age who are already grandparents, and friends who are parents for the first time — something I think was probably impossible till just a moment ago. We were the very last people to come of age in the analog era, and the very first to enter fully into the digital. What will they write of us in 100 years?


img credit: Someone

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

meeting darren kuper

30 years ago today, I met Darren Kuper in a music theory class. My life has not been the same. Only about a month later, we began making music together, and we've been making music together ever since.

We've also had prodigious amounts of coffee together, quite a bit of Scotch, a zillion laughs, a radio show, parties, weddings, and three-quarters of a lifetime of companionship in the deepest sense of the term. Darren, you're a true gentleman, a great drummer, and a good friend.