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News of the week of July 29, 2014

Meeting report

We had an all-Dowland meeting this time:

Schedule

We will not meet either on August 5 (when you should go to the West Gallery workshop) or on August 12.

The August 19 meeting will be dedicated to working on the program for the August 22 performance, so if you aren't planning on performing, you should count on being a test audience some of the time if you come.

After that, we resume our regularly scheduled meetings on Tuesdays at 7:45pm at 233 Broadway, Cambridge.

2014 Hugo Award votes

Novel

This category was difficult this year -- they nominated the 14 volume sequence "The Wheel of Time" in it's entirety. It's about 6 times the length of War and Peace. I only had time to read 2 times the length of War and Peace between when they sent out the voter packet and when I had to vote.

It's possible that when (if, but I'm sort of enjoying it) I finish it, I will be bowled over and wish I had voted for it over the three I ranked ahead of it, but really, if anyone had ever said anything about it that made me want to read it, I would have read some of it by now. The first volume was imitation Tolkein by someone with a tin ear for language. I'm sort of glad I pushed on -- it improves pretty fast after that. But I'm not finding reading the online summaries is anything like reading the books, so I'm going to just continue reading them in order.

So my choices are:

  1. Neptune's Brood by Charles Stross
  2. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  3. Parasite by Mira Grant
  4. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
  5. Warbound, Book III of the Grimnoir Chronicles

The first three of those are what I consider "normal" science fiction -- examinations of the impact of some kind of technology on the lives of the characters. The Stross got first place because I thought both the technology idea (how do you do banking over interstellar distances?) and the characters were a bit more interesting than the Leckie and the Grant.

I voted for "The Wheel of Time" over "Warbound" because if it does turn out to be a good fantasy series, it will be much more the kind of thing I want to read than the "Grimnoir Chronicles". (I should mention that in addition to the 14 volume series nominated as a whole, the publishers of Warbound also gave us all three volumes of this series, and I'm not sure I'd have wanted to read Volume III on its own.) It seems to be SF for the video games generation, and in spite of some good writing in between the action scenes, I found it difficult to slog through.

I considered voting for "No Award" ahead of "Warbound", but I decided that it was well enough written to justify an award if that's the kind of SF the voters really want.

Novella

  1. "Equoid" by Charles Stross
  2. Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente
  3. "Wakulla Springs" by Andy Duncan and Ellen Klages
  4. "The Chaplain's Legacy" by Brad Torgersen
  5. The Butcher of Khardov by Dan Wells

The top three of these are all excellent stories. The other two lack characterization. I voted for the Stross over the Valente and the Duncan because I thought the Science Fiction (a proposed life cycle for the Unicorn) was better. "Wakulla Springs" is a well-written story, but really not SF at all. "Six-Gun Snow White" is brilliant in spots, but doesn't really hang together at the end.

Novelette

  1. "The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling" by Ted Chiang
  2. "The Waiting Stars" by Aliette de Bodard
  3. "The Lady Astronaut of Mars" by Mary Robinette Kowal
  4. "The Exchange Officers" by Brad Torgersen
  5. "Opera Vita Aeterna" by Vox Day

Again, any of the top three would be a good award winner. I didn't remember until I'd filled out my ballot that the Vox Day was controversial, but I figure it doesn't matter because I didn't like it without any political motivations.

Short Story

  1. "The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere" by John Chu
  2. "Selkie Stories Are for Losers" by Sofia Samatar
  3. "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky
  4. "The Ink Readers of Doi Saket" by Thomas Olde Heuvelt

Here, I do feel strongly that my number one vote is better than the others, although I certainly won't be surprised if something else wins. I don't feel strongly about the ranking of two and three.

News of the week of July 22, 2014

Meeting report

We played:

Schedule

We will meet as usual on July 28 at 7:45 pm at 233 Broadway, Cambridge..

We will not meet on August 5. Consider going to the West Gallery workshop by Francis Roads, instead.

I will be in Spain on August 12. Stuart has offered to host a meeting at his house in Somerville. Let him know if you want to come, and he'll post a message to the list if there's a critical mass.

After that, we will resume our usual Tuesday night meetings.

Performance opportunity

We have been asked to play at the Women's Lunch Place from 11am to noon on Friday, August 22. Let me know if you're interested in playing. I would expect anyone who wants to play to also come to the meeting on Tuesday, August 19, and we can decide on repertoire when we know who we have.

Classes are going well

I haven't had time to post -- or at least, when I have had time, I"ve been tired. When there isn't a class or a meal or dancing or a dropin session, it feels like time for bed.

But on Wednesday, they take a much-needed break from the concerts and the evening is pretty free, so I decided to catch you up on what's happening.

Cornetto Class with Doug Kirk

We did more playing the first day than we did all week when I took the class 4 years ago. A lot of the advice I've gotten is goingn to be long-term beneficial rather than making me sound better instantly, but I feel like this class is a success.

I was initially a little disappointed that I ended up playing serpent in the ensembles instead of cornetto, but it really does make for better ensembles to have lots of sizes. The piece we'll probably play on the student concert is a six part piece with me on serpent, two tenor cornettos, one alto cornetto (in F) and two regular cornettos on top. I was having to work very hard to get the low F's centered and in tune, and then today Doug said, "I wonder if this piece would sound better a step up." And it did. Apparently the sixteenth century people were always doing that -- if they were playing an instrument that liked sharps better than flats, they transposed it.

Collegium

This year there are nine people in the loud wind section -- two cornettos, 2 sackbuts (alto and tenor), 1 tenor and 2 bass dulcians, me on serpent, and a guy who switches between tenor serpent and tenor dulcian. I think it's going to be fun.

The conductor made parts for the major piece on the program from the score with partify, and didn't give the parts other than the top line the measure numbers, but keeps telling people what measure number he wants to start on. And I can't always follow his beat on mensuration chages. But he picked good music and is enthusiastic about performing it with a cast of thousands.

Afternoon: Gombert and others with Marilyn Boenau and Pervernage with Dan Stillman

This year, there weren't any famous brass players on the faculty, but there is a famous dulcian player, and the not-so-famous dulcian players have been recruiting new people faster than the brass or other reeds have. So although they didn't want me in any of the advanced loud wind classes, they have classes for the less-experienced dulcian players that don't mind me playing with them.

I was expecting to mostly play cornetto, since I can play cornetto a bit higher than anyone plays dulcian. But it turns out they like the serpent, too.

Marilyn even let me play the tenor serpent on a top line that would have been low on the cornetto, but was the right kind of soaring on theh tenor serpent. It turns out I sound pretty good if I hear good pitches to play with and am warmed up on cornetto.

Dan has been experimenting. Monday, I played cornetto higher than the dulcians could play. Then yesterday, he had me play serpent lower for longer than he'd expect a dulcian to play. It turned out not to be such a good idea on the serpent, either. But it was educational.

Today he found a 7 part piece with a top line he's playing on alto dulcian, and a bottom line that's fine for a bass dulcian. So he has me playing a baritone line. 7 parts in that range is pretty close harmony, and sometimes sounds pretty wierd, with the less experienced dulcian players playing notes their fingers or their reeds don't know what to do with. But it's a good class of people working really hard at something they really want to do.

Dancing with the New London Assembly

I frittered away a lot of the free time I had today on napping and eating. I did manage a pretty full practice session, where I played parts to some of the music we'll be doing in the Collegium.

And at the reception after the orientation session, I introduced myself to the collegium director and told him how much I was looking forward to playing serpent with the group. He turns out to have spent an afternoon drinking with Christopher Monk, so he says he's looking forward to having a serpent. The director of the collegium loud winds looked right through me and walked away when I tried to introduce myself, though, so I can't tell whether he's as serpent-hostile as some of the other loud wind coaches.

Dancing

So the only workshop-specific thing to do was the English Country Dance after the reception. I was a little dubious about it, since they billed it as being for experienced dancers. (They're having a dance program this year, so there are a lot of experienced dancers.) And the demonstration they gave at the orientation certainly did less teaching and calling than I'm used to.

But I went anyway. The caller certainly did less than at other dances I've been to, but the other dancers are quite good at filling in if you need it. There was one dance with a particularly unfamiliar "hey", where you had to either count something I didn't know how to count, or know where you were supposed to end up by some algorithm I hadn't absorbed. Luckily, my partner knew what she was doing. I was starting to get it, and thinking it must be about time to end since even I had figured it out, but it went on for two more times.

Unfortunately, my brain isn't up to learning patterns and listening to music at the same time. So I can't tell you how wonderful the music by Emily O'Brien, Shira Kamen, and Jacqueline Schwab was, even though they're all very good and I'm sure it was.