Thursday, April 27, 2017

The implications of the rise of plastic waste due to carelessness and littering

A recent article in the Huffington Post brings to our attention the fact that an enormous amount of plastic waste is finding its way into the ocean.

Most of us know that in many ways the ocean is the starting point of the food chain.  (You could trace the chain of food to the energy from the Sun, but fish is an important source of food, and endangering the source of fish is a terrible thing for many countries.)  You could read the article for yourself, and gross yourself out with the disgusting visuals presented there.

Any visitor to a Third Word country in the past twenty years or so would have certainly seen multi-colored plastic bags flying in the breeze.  Even in the US, young people (and probably mature adults as well) sometimes just toss used plastic bags on the street.  Littering is a consequence of lack of education.  Unfortunately, I suspect that college kids are a major contributor to littering, but we know very well that being enrolled in college is not guarantee that someone is educated.  (It would be interesting to see whether littering on campuses is correlated with the perceived quality of the education in that campus.  I have no idea.)

People on the Alt Right, I suspect, would be quick to point out that foreigners and minorities are probably the biggest sources of plastic pollution in the world, extrapolating from the fact that China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia and Thailand (in no particular order) are the biggest contributors to ocean pollution via mismanaged landfills (or mismanaged waste).

Part of the problem is that these are poor countries, and they have other priorities than careful waste management; because of the limited resources of each poverty-stricken family, an immediate goal for every person is probably that of getting rid of any piece of useless plastic onto the street.  Of course we know that these very people are going to have this same plastic impacting their food supply, but we can easily see that this information is not going to make a difference in their waste-disposal habits.

As I see it, people and organizations in the First World, that is we, will have to take action to mitigate this problem.  In other words, we will have to actually organize to take garbage out of the oceans, especially plastic garbage.  Many of our compatriots will be indignant, because we are not causing the problem, or at least, not the major contributors to it.  We recycle our grocery bags, with which various manufacturers make outdoor furniture, and, I suspect, things like composite patio floors, etc.  But we will soon have to make heroic efforts to ensure that we keep the lungs of whales and other marine mammals, and the gills of all sorts of fish, whether we eat them or not, clear of plastic, because everybody eats somebody, and everybody is eaten by somebody else, sooner or later, and we have to keep sidelining waste plastic until such time as the casual use of plastics for all sorts of inessential purposes declines substantially, or, ideally, entirely.

The answer to "Paper or plastic?" must be "Paper, please," without exception.  I wish our grocer, Wegman's, offers us a choice.  (Maybe they do, and we just never realized it.)  We must organize our friends and acquaintances to reduce plastic use.  We must avoid selecting synthetic-fiber clothes, and pay a little more for cotton and silk and linen.  We must keep our eyes and ears open for any news that the natural fiber industries are using polluting chemicals, and jump all over them if we hear that they do.

The planet we received from our parents was a far healthier place than the one we're leaving for our grandchildren.  Some of us have gotten into the habit of ignoring this sort of bad news; we think of ourselves as fragile, and unable to tolerate too much bad news on any given day.  Ignoring these warning signs is no longer an option.  If we have influence among our friends and acquaintances, we must begin to wield that influence now.  Political action is good, but direct action, and support of green initiatives is beginning to look like a no-brainer.

Perhaps we should take the Green Party more seriously, and address head-on any weaknesses in its leadership.  There wasn't anything very green in their party platform in the last election; perhaps it is time to take it over, and make it have a more explicitly environment-friendly set of policies and objectives than it has had in the past.


Friday, March 31, 2017

An Index into Archie's Archives

I'm not really sure how many visitors there are to this Archie's Archives website, but I for one use it heavily when I want to hear some of the old stuff from the radio days, when WXPI was still on the air for reals, as we say.

The way the links are structured, you have a continuous mp3 of each quarter of the show, but no way to get each individual cut.  In fact, it might not be legal to serve up the material divided up into individual pieces.  But I'm seriously considering providing an index into the website in show order, that is, roughly chronological order, so that anyone interested can go directly to the item of interest.  (Of course, they will have to sit through a large fraction of a half-hour long "podcast" to get to it, and listen to all my comments.)

So here it is, starting with the first program, and I will add to this as I have time and energy:

Show 101
July 5, 2014
Trios (and triple counterpoint)
Introduction to Archie’s Archives
Bach:  Organ fugue in A minor, BWV 543

Beatles:  You’re going to lose that girl

Bach:  Trio Sonata in E Flat, BWV 525, Movt. i

Hopes for this show.  (We did not stick to these objectives!)

Bach:  Ach, wenn wird die Zeit erscheinen?

Episodes:  Train Wreck

Bach:  Trio Sonata from Musical Offering, Movt. ii  (from Music at Menlo)

Peter, Paul & Mary (Gordon Lightfoot):  In the early morning rain

Haydn:  Trio

Wagner:  Prelude to Die Meistersinger—ending.

Bach - Walton:  See what his love can do  (Seht was die Liebe tut)

Tom Lehrer:  Alma Mahler

Signoff:  Tune (adapted from Starlight Serenade, by Jonny Heykens)

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Music of Johannes Brahms

The music of Brahms is easy to like.  As with most great composers, knowing a little about the person is very important for clues as to what is going on in the music; but knowing almost nothing about him, there's still a lot to love.

Like many others, the first few compositions by Brahms that I got to know were the famous Brahms's Lullaby (Weigenlied), the Waltz in A Flat, and the Variations on a Theme by Joseph Haydn, also called the St Anthony Chorale Variations.

Brahms was very fond of the great German composer, Robert Schumann, and his beautiful and accomplished wife, Clara (Wieck) Schumann.  Their lives were intensely intertwined, not least because of Schumann's tragic insanity, which left his wife Clara to have to fend for herself and her children without much support, except from Brahms, for a while.  This lullaby could easily have its origins in the time Brahms spent with the Schumann children.

The Waltz in A Flat is an elegant stylized waltz, not really long enough to be danced to; in other words, it is a concert waltz for the piano, or the studio, like those of Chopin.

Both these pieces, simple though they appear to be, have little harmonic surprises that are just enough to delight, and after we hear the pieces a couple of times, we can't imagine them being harmonized any differently.  The Lullaby, in particular, has the same bass note throughout, repeated gently deep in the bass.  The Bryn Terfel performance was a lush orchestral arrangement that obscures the repeated solitary bass note, but once you're aware of it, it can't be ignored.

We're told that the Variations on the St. Anthony Chorale was initially a piano piece, and Brahm's first venture into orchestral composition, and a brilliantly successful one, too.  This performance is evidently conducted by Leonard Bernstein, with the Vienna Philharmonic.

Anyone interested in the life of Johannes Brahms can easily find out more.  He was brought up in poverty by a single mother, but is considered a good and wonderful man, though his last years were spent in a cloud of bitterness.

Brahms wrote several concertos, all of them among the most popular in their various genres: the amazing Violin Concerto in D, the two Piano Concertos, and a Double Concerto for Violin and Cello.  All of these are worth hearing; I'll put in links one of these days.

Finally, for those who want something light and fluffy, Brahms enjoyed gypsy music, and his Hungarian Dances are simply gorgeous: rhythmic and tuneful, intended to be played piano four hands (two pianists playing the same piano), and now orchestrated for full orchestra.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Music of Star Wars!

Boys and girls, I want to alert you to a post from 2012 about the Themes from the Star Wars movie cycle.

Before this Blog was established, I wrote copiously about musical subjects in another blog, and I will post links to them here as I dig them up.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The two most often-played tunes on Archie's Archives

This is the introduction and the opening theme music.  It is an organ fugue--Fugue BWV 543 in A minor--by J. S. Bach, performed on percussion instruments and plucked strings.

The next is played even more often; it is the march that I play (when I can) after each quarter of the show, and at the end.  It is a tune called Starlight Serenade by Jonny Heikens of the Netherlands, recorded by Richard Tauber.  The instrumentation is highly varied, because I sometimes play a version by woodwinds, and other times a guitar version, a brass version, a piano version, and occasionally even a version in Waltz time.  This is the main Woodwind version.  (Actually there's a horn in the mix; horns are considered honorary woodwinds.)

The graphics are a clever way of representing the strings of the voices visually, devised by Stephen Malinowski.

Well, I'll come back and stick in the other versions of this tune when I have a little more time!!


Monday, April 4, 2016

News From WXPI

Our radio station, WXPI FM 88.5 in Williamsport, PA, has successfully dragged itself along without any steady source of funding for close to 4 years.  But to our horror, we learned that we owed the owner of the radio tower that we use, arrears of around $7000, for which they are holding our transmitting equipment as guarantee.  So it looks very likely that we will have to sell off our broadcasting license, and become an Internet-Only radio station.

The steering committee of WXPI and its governing Board has long preferred being an actual on-air station to a mere Internet station, even if our on-air signal has been laughably weak.  Some of the people we succeeded in reaching via radio did not have Internet access, and we were determined to continue to reach these people.  But now, finances are raising their ugly head.

There are steady expenses: licenses, electricity for the transmitter (our Studio power is contributed through the generosity of the Pajama Factory, as is the rent for the Studio), and Internet costs.  Because the service we provide does not fall into the top three categories of Food, Clothing or Shelter, nor into the next level of Security, Health or Childcare, but (rather uncomfortably) somewhere between Education and Entertainment, sponsors rank us very low on their scale of importance of charities.  During Election Years, we can reach an audience that is often left out of mainline radio, but that audience is principally blacks and minorities, a sector of the population that Sponsors, who tend to be mostly businesses, are not interested in.  Liberal organizations, be they businesses or other, do not have the discretionary funds to support a radio station.  30 years of Conservative-dominated Washington has systematically eroded the ability of Liberal radio to reach its audience (due in large part to Deregulation during Bill Clinton's presidency).  Archie's Archives is arguably non-political, though my own views might have leaked through on the air.

A new Program Manager was appointed recently, and he called for a roster of show hosts at WXPI who were willing to continue, to retire, or to change their format, and I volunteered to retire.  After less than two years on the air I am running out of ideas and time, and as you can hear, I'm recycling material rather heavily.  Not knowing whether I have very much of an audience, it is tempting to believe that hardly anyone has heard more than three consecutive weekly shows, and so that repeating shows does no harm.  But every time some listener hears a show repeated for the third time, we probably lose a listener!

This might explain some of the strange shows that have been coming out on Archie's Archives.  Though I have offered to retire, there's really nothing to prevent the Station from recycling my old shows indefinitely, and if people enjoy these shows recycled, please feel free to do so!


Friday, March 25, 2016

Show 126: Good Friday Music

Unfortunately, it seems that my channel to the server of WXPI is not working, so I cannot put up the music I would like to.

It will be a blend of Good Friday / Easter music, as well as some generic Baroque Brass - related music, and some of my favorite pops.

Stay Tuned.