Tripping hither and thither

I’ve just got home from my fourth rehearsal for Iolanthe. Tonight we went through the first part of Act 2 and also the finale. Together with last week’s run through of Act 1, this means I’ve now had at least one go at everything I’m involved in. It’s still a fair way off performance standard but still plenty of time until the show.

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Influential Scrobbling

I’ve been using last.fm for almost 4 years now as a way of keeping track of what I’m listening to and exploring new music.

Initially I was unconvinced of the benefits of the record-keeping side of things and only started using last.fm (about a  year after I first looked at it) so that I could listen to some of the vast collection of music that was freely available there (sadly it no longer seems to be possible to listen to very many complete tracks directly on last.fm).  However, I soon discovered that it is very interesting to be able to look back at what I’ve been listening to, and to be able to start exploring new artists and albums based on what I’ve heard and enjoyed before. In fact, it’s so good that I now do the vast majority of my listening at the computer so that I can scrobble (last.fm-speak for upload) the information to my account.

With access to all this information, perhaps it would be unreasonable to expect the statistics to just passively record what I would have been listening to anyway.  Since one of the benefits of scrobbling is the ability to revisit music I’ve enjoyed and explore similar stuff, it’s only natural to look through my library for inspiration when deciding what to listen to.  Artists I’ve listened to a lot (if I’m sorting the library by play count) or ones with eyecatching pictures or striking names (sorting alphabetically) are more likely to catch my notice and therefore to get played again (or to lead to similar artists getting played).

Sometimes I find myself going a stage further and deciding what to listen to (or even, sometimes, what to avoid listening to or to turn scrobbling off for) on the basis of how it will affect the song statistics.  For instance, I’ve been working on getting a few more of my favourite jazz artists on to my first library page (sorted by plays) – at the moment Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk and Humphrey Lyttelton are there and Louis Armstrong and Charles Mingus are close – so I sometimes  decide to listen to one of them rather than somebody else just so that I can boost them up in the ratings.  It’s not necessarily a bad thing, since these are all artists I gain a lot of musical pleasure and enrichment from, but it is certainly the case that scrobbling my plays does have a big influence on what I choose to listen to.

Bang the Trumpets!

I have recently begun a new musical venture, joining the Rhos-on-Sea Savoyards for their forthcoming performance of Gilbert & Sullivan’s Iolanthe. I was roped in a couple of weeks ago by my friend Jane, who is the assistant director of the show, as they were rather short of men to sing in the chorus. I’m going to be one of the 2nd basses (i.e. the ones who get the proper low notes), playing the part of a brainless peer.

I went along to watch their performance of Ruddigore last year and was very impressed. Although I had previously heard recordings of various Gilbert & Sullivan pieces, that was the first time I’d seen a whole one of their operas performed live. It did somewhat kindle my interest in their work, although I didn’t expect that I’d actually be taking part in a performance quite so soon.

So far I have been to two rehearsals (they are weekly) and have been listening hard to recordings of the various pieces I’ll be singing in. I’m getting to grips fairly well with the first, and I think most difficult, of the songs for the male chorus, the Entrance of the Peers (AKA “Loudly let the trumpet bray”), which includes such fun lines as “bow, bow, ye lower middle classes, bow ye tradesmen, bow ye masses”. The main problem I’ve been having with it is mixing up the words in a couple of lines so that, instead of singing “blow the trumpets, bang the brasses” as I should, I am tending to sing “bang the trumpets”.

The performances, of which there will be four, will be taking place in the last week of March, so I’ve got plenty of time to get the words straightened out.