The Nodosaur

National Geographic:

At first glance the reassembled gray blocks look like a nine-foot-long sculpture of a dinosaur. A bony mosaic of armor coats its neck and back, and gray circles outline individual scales. Its neck gracefully curves to the left, as if reaching toward some tasty plant. But this is no lifelike sculpture. It’s an actual dinosaur, petrified from the snout to the hips.

I got very wary of NatGeo when Murdoch bought the magazine, but this story shows that they’ve still got it when it counts. And, as ever, incredible photography.

“They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead”

Netflix have taken on the task of finishing and releasing (and sorting out the extensive legal problems of releasing) Orson Welles’ last film, The Other Side of the Wind. Now Wellesnet is reporting that Netflix will be releasing a companion documentary on the making of the film, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead.

If the only film of Welles’ you’ve seen is Citizen Kane, you’re missing out. I find it hard not to gush when I’m talking about his work: I love every film he made.

Marco Arment: “MP3 Is Dead” Missed the Real, Much Better Story

Marco Arment:

MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year — the last known MP3 patents have simply expired.

So while there’s a debate to be had — in a moment — about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer’s announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format.

I admit this story really got my goat. It’s a company transparently trying to push people away from a format on which they don’t make money, and towards one on which they do. Judging by the number of “MP3 is dead” headlines I saw, they may have succeeded too.

If you really think you can hear the difference between high-bitrate MP3 and AAC, I’d love to see you do it in a double-blind test. Succeed, and I’ll buy you a cookie.

Sarah Kirkland Snider: Candy Floss and Merry-Go-Rounds: Female Composers, Gendered Language, and Emotion

And speaking of the problems of composing while female, just about everyone is linking to this piece by Sarah Kirkland Snider on NewMusicBox, so I will too:

I receive a discouraging number of emails from young female composers thanking me for my “courage” and “bravery” in writing music that is emotionally direct. Courage! Bravery! They use these words because the implicit mistrust of emotion and affect in art is the aesthetic world we continue to live in, well beyond the turn of the 21st century. In a career where the deck is stacked against them before they write a single note, young female composers are eager to prove that they are every bit as serious and capable as men. Some feel pressure to compromise their natural artistic instincts to fit within a paradigm that can seem intractable and inhospitable. I know where these women are coming from.

I remember being in college (maybe earlier), learning about the history of sonata form, and being told about the two main themes: one “masculine”, one “feminine”. I always found it a strange, old-fashioned way of talking about music. And yet somehow it’s only in retrospect that I ever realised we barely spoke about female composers.

Kirkland Snider has a lot to say in this piece. Some things, like taking care when gendered language in talking about music, seem attainable today. But she’s frank about the fact that others pose more complex problems.

“Why Are Pioneering Female Composers so Neglected?”

Terrific post from a few weeks back by Emily Hogstad on her Song of the Lark blog. She runs down a number of (more) prominent historical female composers, and the unfortunate fates that prevented them from pursuing composition as a career. There’s something heartbreaking in this line:

It seems strange to me that so many of the best-known female composers ran into these cruel twists of fate that prohibited them from fulfilling their true potential, while so many of their sisters who went into performing didn’t.

Yours Truly on James Dillon’s The Louth Work

A couple of weeks ago, I attended the première of a new work by James Dillon, The Louth Work: Orphic Fragments, hosted by the Louth Contemporary Music Society (a local Irish society that has amassed an impressive string of premières and commissions in its eleven-year history).

The Journal of Music published my review:

This is complex music, but ritual is central, and in performance the ear was often drawn towards a single sound – a slow, steady beat on the gong, or cold interjections from the snare drum, or a driving cello motif on a single aggressive note – repeated at the heart of dense textures like a lighthouse flash in stormy waters. Distinct melodic strands – here a duet for clarinet and xylorimba, there an electrifying piano part with a slow song – soar around each other, coming into brief concord before diverging again.

Kurosawa’s Mask of the Black Death Script to Be Filmed Posthumously

Yocelin Acevedo reports for Indiewire:

Akira Kurosawa’s shelved script “The Mask of the Black Death” will finally hit the big screen.

Chinese studios Huayi Brothers (“Dragon Blade,” “Mojin: The Lost Legend”) and CKF Pictures (“Chongqing Hot Pot,” “Mojin: The Lost Legend”) will produce the film based on the late Japanese filmmaker’s screenplay. The studios made the announcement Wednesday during a press conference in Beijing, as reported by Chinese newspaper Global Times.

I love Kurosawa (and Edgar Allan Poe, whose Masque of the Red Death is the inspiration), so I’m cautiously optimistic about this. Cautiously, because I’ve seen too many bad films made from good material.

Toner Quinn: You’re Not an Artist, You’re a Start-Up

I recently reread this 2014 piece by Toner Quinn for the Journal of Music. (It was published a few months before I started writing regularly on this blog.)

Start-ups tell a good story. They are positive, highly ambitious and unapologetic about the funding they need to make their business a success. They are also unafraid of making mistakes, of changing their minds, trying something new, even reinventing their entire idea if necessary—known as ‘pivoting’. Start-ups don’t overly concern themselves with sales in the short-term, they are in the world of ideas, imagination and innovation, and focus on being ahead of the curve. Not even complete failure inhibits them. They are imbued with a philosophy of ‘fail fast’ – if it’s not working, quit and move on to the next thing. To have started several start-ups, fail and then start again, is a virtue.

I think Quinn is right: there’s plenty for artists to learn from the ambition, the organisation, and the nimbleness of start-ups. Not least: figure out what you can make that will attract interest, make it unique, and get the word out.

I know a lot of artists have a knee-jerk reaction against association with any sort of business, so here’s Samuel Beckett with the same suggestion:

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.