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Posts Tagged ‘Beethoven

“It’s easy to play any musical instrument: all you have to do is touch the right key at the right time”*…


Deirdre Loughridge and Thomas Patteson, curators of the Museum of Imaginary Musical Instruments, explore the wonderful history of made-up musical contraptions, including a piano comprised of yelping cats and Francis Bacon’s 17th-century vision of experimental sound manipulation: “Cat Pianos, Sound-Houses, and Other Imaginary Musical Instruments.”

* Johann Sebastian Bach


As we tickle the ivories, we might spare a thought for Johann Nepomuk Maelzel; he died on this date in 1838.  Remembered these days as the inventor of the metronome, Maezel was well-known in his own time as an inventor and impresario.  He was especially well-known for his automatons– clock work trumpeters, chess players, miniature song birds, and the like that he exhibited widely.  In 1804 Maezel invented a kind of “player orchestra,” the panharmonicon, an automaton able to play the musical instruments of a military band, powered by bellows, and directed by revolving cylinders on which the notes were stored.  The “instrument” was admired across Europe, and earned its creator the post of imperial court-mechanician at Vienna, and the friendship of Beethoven (whom Maezel convinced to write Wellington’s Victory [Battle Symphony] Opus 91).



Written by LW

July 21, 2015 at 1:01 am

Everyone ever in the world…


About 10 years ago, Peter Crnokrak gave up his career as a quantitative geneticist, deciding instead to apply his talent for manipulating large data sets to the visualization of life at the human scale.

As Co.Exist observes

His visualizations, created under the nom de data viz of The Luxury of Protest, are both visually stunning and scientifically precise. And, as with his previous genetics research (he was trying to tease out the difference between nature and nurture in our genes), Crnokrak the graphic artist wrestles with enormous, core questions about humanity and history.

His most well-known piece, titled Everyone Ever in the World, tries to capture human history’s cumulative war dead as a proportion of every person who has ever lived since 3000 BC. That piece–meant, like all of his work, to be experienced as a physical installation rather than a JPEG–was honored last year by the journal Science in the National Science Foundation’s International Science and Engineering Visualization Challenge.

Crnokrak has also tried to illustrate the quantitative degree to which each of the 192 United Nations member states has contributed to peace and terror in the world. And more recently, he has graphed every known empire, colony, and territorial occupation since 2334 BC. In the resulting visual, individual empires overlap atop each other, revealing ebbs and flows in empire mania over time. That piece is called Never Forever Never for Now. (The titles themselves are meant to carry Crnokrak’s concepts in a poetic way, and he admits to having spent weeks just coming up with Everyone Ever, let alone doing the research for it.)

Explore these pieces and others at Crnokrak’s site; they’re intended to be viewed as physical objects, in person– still, the photos are very compelling.


As we brood over the big picture, we might note that this date (Don DeLillo’s birthday) was the occasion, in 1805, of the first performance of Beethoven’s only opera (at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien): a work in three acts known then as Leonore— the story of Leonore, who, disguised as a prison guard named “Fidelio,” rescues her husband Florestan from death in a political prison.  Like many of Beethoven’s pieces, the opera was subsequently reworked… in this case, distilled to two acts and retitled Fidelio.

From Beethoven’s manuscript for Leonore/Fidelio


We might also pause to send consoling birthday greetings to Timothy Evans, who was born on this date in 1924.  Evans was accused in 1950 of murdering his wife and daughter, convicted, and hanged that year.  Throughout his trial, Evans argued his innocence, and  pointed to his downstairs neighbour, John Christie, as the likely culprit.  Three years later Christie was unmasked as a serial killer, and confessed to the murder of Evan’s family.  Evan’s case– its obvious miscarriage of justice– was a major spur to the abolition of capital punishment in the U.K. in 1965.

Evans (center) being escorted by police





Now you don’t…

Adam Harvey is a graduate student in NYU’s fabled ITP Program who is putting his considerable talents to work in the service of privacy.  His thesis work, CV Dazzle, is aiming at finding ways to confound computer facial recognition systems. As The Register reports:

Concerned about the proliferation of face recognition systems in public places, a grad student in New York is developing privacy-enhancing hacks designed to thwart the futuristic surveillance technology.

Using off-the-shelf makeup and accessories such as glasses, veils, and artificial hair, Adam Harvey’s master’s thesis combines hipster fashion aesthetics with hardcore reverse engineering of face detection software. The goal: to give individuals a low-cost and visually stimulating means to prevent their likenesses from being detected and cataloged by face-recognition monitors.

“The number of sensors that are going into the public spaces has been increasing,” said Harvey, a student in New York University’s interactive telecommunications program. “There’s a lot of work to be done to catch up to where cameras are going because there have been so many advances in the last few years.”

Although still in its adolescence, face recognition technology is quickly being adopted by governments and corporations to identify individuals whose images are captured by surveillance cameras. At the 2001 Super Bowl, for instance, officials digitized the faces of everyone entering Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida and compared the results against photographic lists of known malefactors.

But Harvey has discovered that face detection can often be thrown off by using makeup to alter the contrasts the technology looks for. For example, dark patterns applied around eyes and cheek bones, as in the image below, are one such possibility.

[full article here]

[see more on Harvey’s blog here]

Harvey asks, “How can hats, sunglasses, makeup, earrings, necklaces or other accessories be modified to become functional and decorative?”; and he explains “The aim of my thesis is not to aid criminals, but since artists sometimes look like criminals and vice versa, it is important to protect individual privacy for everyone.”

As we rework our pick-up lines, we might take inspiration from the memory that it was on this date in 1810 that Beethoven wrote Bagatelle No. 25 in A minor (WoO 59 and Bia 515) for solo piano– better known as “Für Elise” (click to hear).

Some scholars have suggested that “Elise” was Beethoven’s mistress; but others have suggested that the discoverer of the piece, Ludwig Nohl, may have transcribed the title incorrectly and the original work may have been named “Für Therese”–  Therese being Therese Malfatti von Rohrenbach zu Dezza, a friend and student of Beethoven’s to whom he proposed in 1810… not actually so encouraging as an example, since though she turned him down to marry the Austrian nobleman and state official Wilhelm von Droßdik… still, a beautiful piece…

The famous opening bars

What ails you?…


As age continues its colonizing of one’s body, one is rarely without a complaint of some sort or another.  So perhaps one can take consolation from Listverse’s Top 10 Bizarre Illnesses…  at least one doesn’t have, for instance:

Cutlery Craving

The desire to eat metal objects is comparatively common. Occasionally there is an extreme case, such as that of 47 year old Englishman Allison Johnson. An alcoholic burglar with a compulsion to eat silverware, Johnson has had 30 operations to remove strange things from his stomach. In 1992, he had eight forks and the metal sections of a mop head lodged in his body. He has been repeatedly jailed and then released, each time going immediately to a restaurant and ordering lavishly. Unable to pay, he would then tell the owner to call the police, and eat cutlery until they arrived. Johnson’s lawyer said of his client, “He finds it hard to eat and obviously has difficulty going to the lavatory.”

All ten, each with links to further info on each, here.

(And further to the recent post on GiantURL, readers might consider the alternative, DickensURL, via which your correspondent’s modest http://www.LawrenceWilkinson.com becomes:


… from The Old Curiosity Shop, as it happens)

As we fend off “medical student syndrome,” we might recall that on this date in 1824 Beethoven’s Ninth (and final) Symphony, Chorale, premiered in Vienna, with “lyrics” by Frederich Schiller (part of his “Ode to Joy”); Beethoven’s chorus concludes:
Be embraced, ye millions!
This kiss for the whole world!
Brothers, beyond the star-canopy
Must a loving Father dwell.
Be embraced,
This kiss for the whole world!
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
Joy, beautiful spark of the gods!

Facsimile of Beethoven’s manuscript for “The Ode to Joy”

Written by LW

May 7, 2009 at 1:01 am

Simple! Simply simplify…

from Ji Lee (whose work is imminently worth a browse… check out, for instance, “The Redundant Clock“)

As we re-ink our pads, we might take a moment to celebrate an anniversary of great and true beauty: on this date in 1724, Bach’s “St. John Passion” premiered; then exactly 81 years later, on this date in 1805, Beethoven conducted the premiere of his third symphony, “Eroica.”

Title page of the manuscript of Beethoven’s Symphony #3, opus 55

Written by LW

April 7, 2009 at 1:01 am

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