s Thoughts from the Physics Chick: May 2009

Friday, May 29, 2009

Christmas carols: Sussex carol

The earliest version of the text for this carol was first published in 1684, but it languished in obscurity until Ralph Vaughan Williams found it and published it in the Journal of the Folk-Song Society in 1892.

One of the tricky things about blogging more popular carols is that, the more popular a carol is, the more recordings I have to listen to if I want to find the undiscovered gems (or the truly weird). I listened to over 30 recordings just for this carol, and it's not even one of the more popular ones. (There's a reason I haven't done anything like "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen," yet.) Anyway, I think I found some gems — enjoy!

Choir of King's College, Cambridge, 2008:

A traditional arrangement for boys' and men's choir and organ.

Paul Kara Ross & Ben Bauman, 2005:

A Celtic-inspired instrumental version.

College of the Sequoias Men's Chorus, 2007:

An arrangement for men's choir and piano.

Bonus: Keith Houghton, 2008:

A little something for the accordion lover in your life.

Honorable Mention:

A lovely MoTab version which I can't embed.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

In Utah or of Utah

As fate would have it, I currently have two coworkers with ties to Utah. One grew up there and one has a parent who lives there, although I don't know if he ever lived there, himself.

As far as I know, neither is Mormon, although I guess either one could be Jack Mormon-ish. (Religion hasn't come up and I'm not particularly interested in prying.)

This has led me to an interesting observation, namely, that I don't feel any sort of common connection with people who are from Utah but aren't Mormon. (Mind you, I don't mean that I shun them on the basis of their non-Mormon status, just that our friendship is based on other things.)

This leads me to wonder why I feel a connection to other Mormons but not to other Utahns who aren't Mormon. I have a couple of theories:

1. The Mormon / non-Mormon divide in Utah is so pronounced that the two groups effectively live in parallel worlds which don't actually have much in common.

2. Utah is largely defined by its Mormon population, but there are other significant aspects of Utah culture, such as skiing, exploring the national parks, and the general Western mindset towards life. However, I'm not terribly outdoorsy (or, arguably, terribly Western), so this aspect of the culture doesn't make for common ground, either.

I've thought of some other reasons, but they tend to boil down to variations on or combinations of the above. Thoughts?

Friday, May 22, 2009

Christmas carols: Kommet, ihr Hirten

This is a traditional song from Bohemia. (There are versions of this song in both German and Czech, but the Czech version isn't a Christmas carol.) As it turns out, the hardest thing about finding videos of this carol was finding one that wasn't horribly cheesy. I think the tune is quite lovely, in a wistful, folk song kind of way, but apparently it inspired many choir directors in the 1970s to force entire children's choirs to dress in matching lederhosen for TV specials. This video, which features lip-synching shepherds (the "Hirten" of the title), is par for the course.

Unknown, 1981(?):

I did finally find this instrumental version, which is nice.

Unknown, 2008:

And then I found this version, arranged for voice, guitar, bongo drums, and, um, fish-shaped percussion thingy. This made wading through all of the cheesy 70s videos worth it.

Raketenklee (Bidi, Ray and Marc Clover), 2008:

(If anyone's German is better than mine, I'd be curious to know what they're saying at the beginning and end of the song.)

Cat. & Reference: Authority control

I used to work at a company that did database work for libraries. I worked in the division that created catalog records, and later in one that digitized text and images. (And then I went and got my MLS and now I do pretty much the same thing, go figure.)

Anyway, another division of the company used to do this very mysterious work called "authority control." I would ask people to explain what it was, but I could never get a very clear explanation from anyone, which I took to mean something along the lines of "If you could even begin to grasp it, young padawan, it would blow your mind!"

Happily, one of the things I did learn in grad school was how to give someone a more succinct description of authority control. So.

Authority control is standardizing the form of proper names and subjects in library catalog records.

(I know! $60,000 well spent, right?)

The point of authority control is to create one "bucket" for each author and then to put everything they wrote or helped write in that bucket and to keep everything that has nothing to do with them out of the bucket.

So, if you are Bud McCorkindale and you're an author, you can have your own bucket with "Bud McCorkindale" written on it and all of your stuff goes in there and everyone is happy.

On the other hand, if your name is John Clark and you want all of your books to go in the "John Clark" bucket . . . well, there are a lot of other John Clarks out there, too, and all the books by all the John Clarks are going to get mixed up in the same bucket unless you find some way of distinguishing them.

I'm going to cover three different philosophies of authority control in future posts. (I could include them in this post, but nobody reads my librarian posts if they get too long.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Christmas carols: Come all you worthy gentlemen

There's not much to say about this week's carol, historically. Oxford lists it as "traditional," but doesn't give a date beyond that.

The tricky thing about this week's carol is that I couldn't find a standalone version of it. Instead, I found a version that's part of Ralph Vaughan Williams' Fantasia on Christmas Carols. If you want to skip ahead to the song, go to 4:45 in the first video. The second video is just the end of the medley; I included it in case you wanted to listen to the entire thing.

Monteverdi Chor, 2008:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

7 things I loved about the new Star Trek movie

That the people who parachuted down to the drill platform on Vulcan were Kirk, Sulu . . . and a nameless guy in a red suit who promptly died.

The way Chris Pine perfectly captured William Shatner's habit of slouching in the captain's chair.

The running gag about Uhura's first name.

Spock losing his cool.

That, for the first time, Kirk actually kind of made sense as a leader.

Simon Pegg as Scotty.

And while I agree that Chris Pine is hot, I actually thought that Chris Hemsworth (George Kirk) was cuter.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Christmas carols: Adam lay ybounden

This text comes from a 15th century manuscript and has been set to music by a number of more modern composers, notably Boris Ord and Benjamin Britten, as part of his Ceremony of Carols.

Here are the words:

Adam lay ybounden, bounden in a bond,
Four thousand winter thoughte he not too long;
And al was for an apple, and apple that he took,
As clerkes finden writen, writen in hire book.
Ne hadde the apple taken been, the apple taken been,
Ne hadde nevere Oure Lady ybeen hevene Queen.
Blessed be the time that apple taken was:
Therfore we mown singen Deo Gratias.

For those who aren't used to dealing with Middle English, "ybounden" means "bound," and the whole text refers to the fall of Adam (who was redeemed by Christ).

Anderson Alumni Chorus (Hubert Bird setting), 2008:

Choir of King's College, Cambridge (Boris Ord setting), 2006:

The Musical Heirs (Benjamin Britten arrangement), 2008:

Bonus: Mediæval Bæbes:

This really just has to be seen to believed.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

7 things I love about working at a university

1. Free access to academic databases. (What would I do without the online OED?)

2. Access to a university library, complete with university ILL privileges, plus ridiculously long checkout times for books.

3. Free access to online magazines and journals (in case I suddenly need to do research).

4. A working environment where, by definition, education is valued.

5. Free tuition (should I ever decide to take advantage of that).

6. I can go to the post office on my lunch break, because it's just a five minute walk away.

7. Ditto for the ATM. (And I can go to my actual credit union, as well, but that's more of a 15-minute walk.)

Friday, May 01, 2009

Christmas carols: Drei Könige wandern aus Morgenland

Peter Cornelius was a 19th century German composer who composed three operas (although the third was left unfinished) as well as a number of Weihnachtslieder (Christmas carols). This one, "Drei Könige wandern aus Morgenland," was published in 1871. The first two versions I've linked are in German, the third is in English.

Chor Der Heiliggeist-Kirche München, 1977:


Choir of King's College, Cambridge, 2006: