Bits about software development, and about some other forms of art too...

Monday, November 3, 2008

A (not so) cold winter night

Friday evening was indeed a cold winter night in Paris. So much so that I really thought over the idea to go the concert of I'm From Barcelona. Sure, I more than enjoyed last year's gig and I still expected some fun. But I had doubts.

First of all, I felt that a great part of the magic I had felt then came from a surprise effect that could not possibly occur again : I knew what to expect now. And that sounded like a good recipe for disappointment to me.

Furthermore, I had just listened to their last album a few times in the preceding week, and I had found it a bit more melancholic, darker than the first one (as the cover suggests correctly). I felt the touch was gone as all their communicative energy came through the joyfulness of their songs. How could they drive the audience nuts again with those songs ?

Then there was the 45 minutes queuing at the entrance of the concert hall in the freezing cold (I like to come early to get a good spot).

Then a nice french group (Revolver) played in the first part. Nice vocal harmonies, with two guitars and a cello, no drummer. Very nice, but not warming at all. Meanwhile, someone in the audience had brought his own balloons and started to inflate them.

Then the long awaited band began its show. Parts of the audience tried to jump, clap and scream on the first songs but there was something wrong about it. It was all fake, people desperately wanting to be happy but not being really. As feared, the new songs did not fit...

And then, Emanuel picked up a yellow balloon that had somehow landed on the stage :

BOUM !!! Can you spot the moment when everybody starts being crazy ? My God, this concert was even better than the first one ! It went on like this for more than an hour, with more balloons, more confetti, more shouts and more joy. And it ended a cappella, in the streets of Paris, in a winter night that did not feel so cold after all.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Culture Mix

As my friends know perhaps too well, I have the greatest difficulties to stand traditional music. No prejudice here : take any album of Raï, música de cobla, Kulning or Kan ha diskan and you can get me bored in no time. To death. That is only if I'm lucky, of course, because everyone is at the mercy of a sneaky pipe playing attack (I know I have been). Thus the rather famous English definition of a Scottish gentleman :

A man who knows how to play the pipes, and does not.

And I won't even link to Sardinian polyphonies. I am a true son of globalized music, one raised with The Beatles (don't thank me for this link) and now a humble worshiper of Róisín Murphy (but you already knew about this, didn't you ?).

But when I heard (the sweet sweet) Berry sing with Youss Banda last week, I was reminded of how great and hypnotic a simple mixture of traditional and pop music can be :

I think I have a photo somewhere where I can be seen playing the guitar in the Turkish country (it must have been near Istanbul), along with a local shepherd playing a flute. It was more than 15 years ago, but I remember vividly playing a theme based on We Got Married on which he had a great improvisation session. Music was our common language (his English was as good as my Turkish), even though our styles where so different. I had a similar experience in Bruxelles a couple of years ago with North-African immigrants playing the drums in the street. We had a great culture mix jam session that could have lasted for hours, had the police not interrupted us (it was 7am, and music seems to be considered as noise at this time of day).

So I gathered a playlist of my favorite mixed culture songs, and I realized they could easily fit in a playlist of my favorite songs :

And if you listen carefully, I think you can even hear pipes in some of them.


Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Treat Me Like A Woman

I learned today that Lesley Douglas, the head of popular music at the BBC, suggested that (full article here) :

men "tend to be more interested in the intellectual side of music", while their female counterparts' relationship with the art form is one rooted in emotion.

That may be just too stereotypical, a common gender prejudice. But as far as I know, there might as well be something relevant about this point of view. In which case I would have to admit that I am a woman, though I bet (and certainly hope) most of you would not find out at first sight (except perhaps for my long hair and my very occasional wearing of high heel shoes). And if so, you you would not guess as well that I am black, due to my strong preference for low frequencies (also known as "bass").

I can live with that. What I find amazing is that some people can be interested in the "intellectual side of music". Music is emotion. The "intellectual side of music" is not music ; it is something that can be of some help when joining a discussion between erudite scholars (no harm intended, I like to join those sometimes).

Close your eyes, open your heart : this is where music starts. You are invited to open your mouth, provided it is not to discuss anything but to produce some kind of harmonious sound...


Friday, November 16, 2007

Near life experience

Times have been tough in the last two months as I immersed myself into work, mainly for bad reasons. I had to effectively close my mind to the world as I focused on my only objective : deliver software. That is why I stopped, among other things, writing in this blog. Not because I took it as a distraction, but because of this giant black hole that sucked all my energy. And you can add a bit of seasonal depression to the mix to make a very inert cocktail.

To which I now know the antidote. The show laid down in front of me (and the rest of the audience) this week by Róisín Murphy was so intense visually as well as musically, so professional and yet so natural, so energetic and still so poetic at the same time that she got me out my cave. Perhaps not in the Primitive sense, but still.

As I am getting my life back, bit by bit, I forked this blog to create another one, destined as a place to express my views and relate my experience in the field of software development. This one will remain what it has evolved into. Think of it as a Pandora's box.

Thank you so much, Róisín. Please keep on being.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I Want You

As falls is approaching, so is "le vent d'Autan", this powerful wind that blows in the southern part of France and is also known as "le vent des fous" because of its alledged ability to drive people crazy. And I have this strange feeling that this year it will blow in a much larger area than usual. I can hear its whispers more discernably every day, through the voice of its goddess who is preparing the release of her new album with new singles, remixes and videos.

I am writing about the deliciously insane (insanely delicious ?) Róisín Murphy, who releases her new single on october 8th. Have a good look (and hear) at this video and please Let Me Know if I am somewhat delirious :

Still sensible ? Get out of your mind with Overpowered, the first single to precede the release of Overpowered, the album, due on october 15th 

I can still remember vividly the night I saw her illuminate Paris. It was like

To dance around the fire
On the night of the dancing flame
To make the flame grow higher
In the light of the dancing flame

Róisín, the city of light needs you. And so do I.

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Friday, June 29, 2007

Love at second sound

Lumineuse JulietteI hope you have already been stricken by sudden beauty : the grace of a movement, the fading colors of a sunset, the glimpse at a particularly gorgeous woman passing by... Part of the magic of these moments is that they just happen : they do not last. Their beauty can hence be (somewhat) eternal ; you will just have to cherish it in your heart (and in your dreams).

As for the beauty of (relatively) immutable "objects" (persons included), or easily repeatable moments (like listening to a particular song on your iPod), the opposite is true : perception of their beauty can evolve over time. And more often than not, I noticed that barely noticeable (at first) faces for instance could hold the most intense and addictive beauty, on the long term. And I found the opposite to be true as well : the most striking beauties could reveal to be boring after a while.

(...) ; but the face which, in silence, does not announce hidden mysteries is not beautiful, regardless of the symmetry of its features.
Khalil Gibran, Broken Wings

Blatant beauty does not stand the test of time , only beauty that has to be revealed can. Usually.

More than a year ago, I bought the last album of the french band Holden, Chevrotine. I had never heard about them before, and I had barely listened to a few seconds of the album in the store. I remember thinking it was alright (only), but I guess I compulsively had to buy something on that particular day...

When I happened to listen to it, I found nothing quite exciting about it. I gave it a try every few months, and was always somehow disappointed. But I knew there was this vague feeling of attraction growing. Even during the autumn, when its dense melancholy could have clashed with my own mood at the time. I then just fooled myself pretending to forget about it.

I rediscovered its existence a few weeks ago. It has since become one of my favorite albums, and I seem to enjoy it more every time I listen to it. I find the soft, sweet melancholy of the music, the melodies and the voices always more addictive. And the more I get into the lyrics, the more I discover moving meanings and hidden mysteries (and you know how I feel about lyrics). This is a great revelation.

The band seems to be on tour in Chile for now. They took this opportunity to have the chilean director Pablo Solís shoot a video clip for one of their songs :

So, I must be a bit late for this, but I hope they will soon come back to France so that I can express my love to them. Live.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Beyond words

I often reach a massive wall of incommunicability when I try to explain that I consider music to be more important to a good song than lyrics. I mean a perfect song is a perfect combination of both great music and great lyrics allright. But I can much more than reasonably enjoy a song based on great music and poor lyrics. « But don't you think lyrics are important as well ? » Well, yes of course. But in fact no. Poetry is a great, but different (though somewhat related) form of art.

I began to think about it after I first had to pick up my favorite Beatle. I do not think one can escape this kind of question sometime in one's life : « What is your favorite song ? » « What is your motto ? » « What is your favorite colour ? » I tend to think the only interesting answers are those where you try to explain that there is none really. But the fact is that my favorite ex-Beatle is also the musician that made me discover my passion for music. I love you Paul. And the fact that people laugh (arguably rightly so) at your lyrics is hardly relevant to me. And yes, I love Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da, even though it might be the worst song ever.

All these thoughts (about me, I am not trying to convince anyone that feeling otherwise is wrong) were confirmed last friday, when I had this quite mystical experience (shared by many others around me). With just a microphone, only using his body, and without a single word for more than an hour, I saw Bobby McFerrin incarnate the very essence of music.

Everybody has to know Bobby McFerrin. He is the guy who sang Don't Worry, Be Happy. That is a great song, with great lyrics indeed. He released several albums at that time, with songs (mainly covers) recorded on the same pattern, which is overdubs of his own voice. Each one of these songs were great, but I have to admit that it was a real pain to go through an entire album at once : I always got bored at some time, never really knowing why. And then, in 1997 came Circlesongs. What a revelation ! Check it out : it is a set of really addictive songs. That is the first of his albums that I have been able to listen to, straight from the first to the last track. And as for the lyrics, there are none. And yes, these are actual songs.

When I learned that he was touring again, I knew I could not miss him when he came to Paris. And there I was, not knowing exactly what to expect apart from a great vocal performance, when the lights at last faded out and he appeared on the stage. Before sitting on one of the two chairs and picking up his microphone, he responded to the audience cheering with a silent namaste like salute. Two songs after that, not a single word had been uttered yet, not even a lyric. But this was too late for that already : everything was understood, nothing had to be said. The magic was there, we were all in a trip in another dimension.

At once (I almost completeley lost track of time, so it is hard to give a more precise temporal description), the audience applause was cut short when we heard him talk in his microphone. When we realized it was only gibberish, there was more applause, only more frantic. Then, apparently needing more instruments than his own body to express himself, he used us. Still without a word, let alone a warning or a rehearse, he made us sing patterns and sang above us. It was like there was no stage any more, or no audience for that matter : we were all in the show together. We were the show. A true communion.

There were two sets (the show lasted for about 2 hours). In the second set, there were two guests (one of them his son), who remained as silent as the guru. It was only in the middle of a song in the second set that we heard our first real proper sentence :

Hey, this is fun !

More words followed in the following minutes (no lyrics though), but we were already hooked. The experience was slowly but surely coming to an end, and we would not let him disappear just like that, in a snap. We were high, but sowewhat conscious that hitting the ground again would be hard. So we called him back when he went off the stage. We shouted him back actually. He performed another song with his son, and went off again. Shouts. Claps. The lights went on. Some people started leaving. More noise. He came back, this time alone. He then came across the audience and started improvising duets with people randomly picked up. Amazing ! We on balconies had to stand up to have a glimpse of what was going on. When he got on the stage again to wave us goodbye, I think he realized there was so much noise that he could not leave again yet. Some more people started leaving. Even more shouts. Even more claps. So he improvised something again : he invited 12 people on the stage with him. When he managed to have only perhaps 30 people, he set up a choir. And then... Well, see by yourself :

This was fun, indeed. And without lyrics.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Memory almost full

I have to tell you that when I started this blog, I really wanted to write about software development. And you can bet I will eventually do that. But for now, the most prominent form of  art that seems to drive my emotions (and thus my interests) is music.

I have been lucky enough to discover Rose, then Malia came back, and now Macy Gray is on tour, Bobby McFerrin's sabbatical is over... All these great events (and others), it appears now, are only foreshocks. They precede the Big Thing like average ghosts preceded the coming of "Gozer". Get ready for this :

Paul McCartney is about to release his new album around June 4th ! And I guess we could all dance tonight to celebrate :

I know I will...

Then I will get me some well deserved (?) vacation and get ready for my idol.

NB : I love a good bass player...

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Malia is back (or is she ?)

I was so thrilled last month when I learned that Malia was to release her new album on the 16th april : less than a week from now !

Alas, her website still has to be filled with actual ... content, and it seems now, according to her MySpace site as well as to Amazon, that it will in fact be released on the 14th may :-( Meanwhile, here is a teaser made up from a showcase at the Pershing Hall Hotel in Paris :

I just cannot wait to listen to the whole thing ! Anyway I will have to... But she promised she would be there on the 9th 12th september. This summer will sure be a long one.

Update : (04/11/2007) her concert is now scheduled on the 12th september...

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Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Jag är från Barcelona

Well, I am not really. But from now on, I mean from the moment the swedish band called "I'm from Barcelona" was born, this has become the "Civis romanus sum" of all party goers. And boy, do they know how to party ! They heated up Paris yesterday, and here is the only song we (the audience) could have a bit of a rest on :

Take easy lyrics, easy melodies, a lot of energy, a bunch of balloons, large amounts of confetti, a bit of water for the outside and a lot of beer for the inside. Shake it a lot. I mean a helluva lot ! And there you have a recipe for a long lasting joy ! A must have experience if they happen to come to your area.

Heja Tre Kronor ! Visca el Barça ! (Och tack till Henke).

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Malia is back !

And so is André Manoukian. He composed her first album five years ago, which is really a must have : a wonderful blend of jazz and soul served by a amazing voice. I had the chance to see her in concert in Paris at the time, and was blown away (it seems I was not the only one).

Young BonesBut then her second opus, barely two years later, was a failure, both artistically and commercially. The voice was still there, but the magic had gone. According to her official website (I am to blame for the translation) :

« Au moment de l’enregistrer, nous étions encore dans l’énergie rock des concerts et moi et André avions envie de la même chose sur ce disque. » se souvient l’intéressée. « Je crois avoir joué " petit bras " » reconnaît André pour sa part. « Nous aurions dû partir en Louisiane et enregistrer avec des musiciens du cru pour donner une vraie touche bluesy. Au lieu de quoi j’ai voulu faire un compromis, et on s’est planté. »

« When the time came to record it, we were still feeling the rock energy of the concerts and I and André wanted it on the album. » she remembers. « I think I saw it too small » admits André. « We should have left for Louisiana and record with local musicians to get a real bluesy touch. Instead of what I have compromised, and we failed. »

That must not be an easy admission for an artist. But they say they have learned from their mistakes.

Now the pair is back, and you can have a taste of their next album, "Young Bones", on MySpace. And God, is this promising ! It is to be released on the 16th april, and I can't wait listen to it. And maybe I will be lucky enough to hear her sing live again. Maybe a cover of "Moon River" ?

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Tuesday, March 20, 2007

HowTo : Scrobble from your Creative device on Windows XP

I started to scrobble yesterday. There are some interesting feelings attached to it ;-)

Allright. For those who are as ignorant as I was two days ago, let explain :

Scrobbling a song means that when you listen to it, the name of the song is sent to and added to your music profile.

So I thought I would really enjoy scrobbling. The bad news is : my MP3 player is a Creative. And as far as I am concerned, there is a general rule about Creative devices : the hardware is usually quite alright, the firmware is somewhat average and the software environment (OS integration, standard media players integration) is poor at the best. And who needs yet another custom media player like the Creative Media Source, with its poor user interface and its only remarkable feature, being that it natively supports Creative devices ?

I don't. But then, I really wanted to be able to listen to FM radio on my MP3 player, so an iPod was not an option (or that is what I thought at the time). So here I am today, stuck with my unscrobbable Creative device. Only Winamp today is able to read my songs directly from the device thanks to a plugin. But thanks to Jurel, I was able to cook up a recipe that will allow the most willing of you to achive your dreams.

Ok, so here are the required piece of software :

  1. You need a Winamp.
  2. If your device is a playsforsure (my Zen Micro Photo is), you should be alright with the default plugins. If not, try the plugin attached to this post. The thing is : make sure to be able to access your portable device from Winamp.
  3. Now you need iTunes.
  4. Then install the software with (at least) the bundled iTunes plugin.

That is all (!). Now you can start scrobbling :

  1. Start the software, and enable scrobbling.
  2. Start Winamp, and create a playlist for the songs you want to listen to. Save this playlist as a file (*.m3u) somewhere on your hard drive.
  3. Open the playlist file with iTunes (do NOT close Winamp !). There you can listen to your files : iTunes will read them through the Winamp plugin, and the scrobbler will detect the songs played by iTunes ! There are a few annoying things to note though. First of all, it seems that iTunes loses the natural order of the playlist, and some of the information on the tracks are lost (like the artist name) until you play them once. And the playlist files do not seem to handle Unicode characters very well (I happen to listen to some non-english music...).

And no, I do not speak spanish ;-)

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Monday, December 18, 2006


I am extremely delighted that my first post should be dedicated to Rose, a young french singer who was in concert in Paris yesterday :

Yeah, I know : I have asked Santa for a new camera ;-) But the darkness of the video should emphasize the most important, I mean her voice that can be raw and subtle, violent and soft, strong and fragile at the same time... Her cover of "Piece Of My Heart" (Janis Joplin) was incredible. I hope we will have a record of this soon.


You can find more resources on Rose here, there and everywhere...

What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. William Shakespeare, "Romeo and Juliet", Act 2 scene 2

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