Saturday, July 15, 2006

All Night Vigil

There was a story on NPR earlier this week about a new recording of Rachmaninoff's "All Night Vigil" by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir. Here's an excerpt of the recording [streaming mp3].

The NPR piece had other details about Rachmaninoff's composition. Not much of a church-goer, he wrote it in response to the Russian WWI war effort. He considered it one of his best works, wanted it to be played at his own funeral and wanted to be buried in Moscow. But then the 1917 revolution happened and that was not to be. He ended up dying in Beverly Hills and buried in NY.

I hadn't heard this piece of music before and I was blown away by it. Then again I'm a sucker for the genre (liturgical choral music ?) --- including this, this and even this. It's amazing what can be done with an a cappella choir.

Another reason I like it is that I hadn't heard much music from the Russian Orthodox Church before i.e. on "this side" of the schism. It's a mystery to me how the music from one branch of the church gets to be breath-taking, while the music from another branch, not many nodes away, is... not so much.[At this point I was going to link to an mp3 that reflects my memory of the not-so-harmonious singing of the orthodox churches I've attended. But I haven't really been able to find one. Instead I found this recording of the Divine Liturgy in Syriac/Arabic. It is not exactly pitch-perfect and I don't understand a word, but it's really beautiful in it's own way. What it reminds me of, apart from the music of Indian orthodox churches of course, is the a cappella choral music from the movie "In the Bedroom". The music from the movie is listed as "Bulgarian Traditional" and performed by the Newark Balkan Chorus. If I remember correctly (I can't find an audio link), that singing was also slightly anti-harmony and really haunting.]


Monday, July 10, 2006

Vellore Mutiny: 200 years ago today.

106_0627 Manish at Ultrabrown reminds me of an event that took place 200 years ago in a place that I am very familiar with. Quoting Outlook Magazine :
On July 10, 1806, exactly two hundred years ago, as the moon shone over the ramparts of the Vellore fort, at 2 a.m., Indian sepoys rose in a bloody revolt against the East India Company’s garrison. As shrieks and gunfire pierced the quiet, the sepoys shot at English officers, fired into the European barracks and massacred the sick in their hospital, leaving 14 British officers and 100 soldiers dead. In the counterattack unleashed at 9 a.m. by Colonel Robert Rollo Gillespie’s men, who rushed from Arcot 14 miles away, 350 Indians sepoys were put to death…

This little-documented event was the first major rebellion against the emerging British Empire in colonial India. It cost the governor of Madras, Lord William Bentinck, his job.

The last time I was home, I took a walk along those ramparts and took some pictures of the Fort (built "in the 3rd quarter of the 16th century") and the temple within it (a few decades older). Here are some pictures. The complete set is here.

The fort with the town in the background : Fort VelloreView

The entrance to the fort that leads out onto what used to be a drawbridge (I think): 106_0657

Sentry posts (?) along the ramparts:

106_0639 106_0645

Jalakanteswara temple : 106_0625

A[n old ?] banyan tree inside : 105_0593

A [colonial era ?] tennis court : 106_0653


Saturday, July 08, 2006

The Battle Of The Blues in Berlin

When the Azzurri play Les Bleus on Sunday, I know who I'll be cheering for.

I hadn't watched that much soccer before this World Cup [thanks to my deprived upbringing --- I remember devouring the sportspage of The Hindu during the 1990 WC, while my friends watched it on TV :( ]. So I was looking forward to finally seeing what I had previously only read about in newspaper reports - such as the entertaining style of play by the south americans .vs. the more staid (northern) european style. But except for Argentina (check out the gorgeous 24-pass setup to this 2nd goal against Serbia-and-Montenegro), the south americans (read:Brazil) didn't really deliver. The French, on the other hand, did give us some beautiful soccer. Check out this video of Zidane vs. Brazil (one of many video tributes): I now understand a little better why everybody uses words like "genius", "legend" and "best player of his generation" to describe Zidane. This interesting article from the Guardian covers a lot of ground:

Zinedine Zidane's journey from the rough back streets of Marseille to Madrid has been marked by racism, political controversy and superlative football. The world's best player tells Andrew Hussey of his pride in his Algerian heritage, his rage to be the best - and reveals why his talent can still be engulfed by flashes of violence
Ignoring France's internal communal problems for a moment, it's nice to see white, black, north-african and south asian (!) players all on one team. With players with roots in the Caribbean (Thuram and Malouda), Argentina (Trézéguet), the Congo (Makélélé) and India (via Mauritius), the diversity of the team is thanks partly to colonialism of course.

Italy looks like the slightly stronger team, but France have made a habit, recently, of surpassing expectations --- almost not qualifying, recalling players from retirement and having trouble in the early rounds. Hopefully that streak will continue for one more game so that Zidane can retire with a final, second World Cup victory.


Saturday, July 01, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

I watched "An Inconvenient Truth" yesterday. I found it informative and well done. I think it has the potential to really move this issue into the public consciousness. So I'm doing my part to publicize it. Go watch it. And then do something.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to take out the recycling, then ride my bike to the grocery store, and bring back my groceries in my reusable grocery bags :). But giving up long hot showers is going to be difficult.

Go watch the movie.