Mountain high

Yesterday was Australia Day (because it fell on a Saturday, the public holiday is tomorrow – Australians love long weekends), and was quite hot, so I didn’t want to over-burden the students. For the last half hour, I found a Youtube video called 101 Facts about Australia, which I won’t link to because it isn’t very good. If I’d prepared sooner, I might have found a better one. Among other things, it stated (ha!) that Australia has eight states, and named one of them “Southern Australia”. Actually, there are six states and two major internal territories, and one of them is “South Australia”. 

It mentioned Australia’s highest mountain, which the presenter mispronounced (everyone does anyway, but he mis-mispronounced it). He also said, and the caption read, “7,310 ft” (2,228 m). I said “You students from Nepal and China may be amused by how small our mountains are”. One Nepalese student said “That’s almost as high as the Himalayas. They are 8,000.” I said “That’s 7,000 feet, not 7,000 metres”. She seemed to know what feet are in this context.  

The major Himalayan mountains are almost 4 times taller than Mt Kosciuszko (Mt Everest is almost exactly 4 time taller) . It gets on lists only because it is the tallest mountain on the continent. Maybe. If the island of New Guinea is considered as part of the continent (which it geologically is), then the highest mountain is Puncak Jaya, in Indonesia’s Papua Province.

And Mt Kosciuszko isn’t the tallest mountain on Australian territory.  That’s Mawson Peak (2,745 m), on the desperately remote external territory of Heard Island. 

PS Just to confuse things, another state is “Western Australia”, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “West Australia”. “Southern Australia” refers to a wider and slightly vague geographical region which includes southern Western Australia, southern South Australia, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Victoria and Tasmania. “Northern Australia” includes northern Western-Australia (also called “north-west Australia” or “North-West Australia”), the Northern Territory and Queensland.

Advertisements

Christmas hymns

Two of the most popular Christmas hymns are Hark, the herald angels sing and Joy to the world. We sang both on Tuesday morning, which sparked this post.

Hark, the herald angels sing is usually sung to the tune MENDELSSOHN, which is usually credited as, eg, “From a chorus by Felix Mendeslssohn-Bartholdy 1809-47 adapted by William Hayman Cummings 1831-1915” (The Australian Hymn Book). So which work of Mendelssohn is this adapted from? Something pretty obscure. The website Hymnary.org states:

The tune is from the second chorus of Felix Mendelssohn’s Festgesang (Op. 68) for male voices and brass; it was first performed in 1840 at the Gutenberg Festival in Leipzig, a festival celebrating the anniversary of Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press.

Continue reading

Utter coincidence (I think)

Today I discovered a fact which is either deep and meaningful or utter coincidence. If you put January on F on a piano keyboard, February on F sharp and so on until December on E, the months on the white notes all have 31 days and the months on the black notes all don’t.

I think this is utter coincidence. The days in the months developed a long time before musical keyboards (or maybe not – the ancient Greeks had an instrument called a hydraulos, which was then used by the Romans, but I can’t find how the notes were operated), and each developed in different ways for different reasons. Also, this only works if you start on F, and there’s nothing particularly special about F.

I’d better credit the source. A Youtuber named Scott Murphy has a video on How to Imitate a Whole Lot of Hollywood Film Music in Four Easy Steps, and a follow-up on How to Imitate Even More Closely a Whole Lot of Hollywood Film Music with One More Easy Step. In the second video, in order to explain musical inversion, he bends the keyboard into a circle and explains that counting forward eleven months from October gives the same result as counting back one.

No-one else on the internet seems to know about this. A search for ‘piano keyboard months of the year’ gave no relevant results.

rugged v ragged

One of the choirs I sing in is rehearsing a setting of Dorothea Mackellar’s poem ‘My country’. On the first few times through, I stumbled on one word, which I then realised was “ragged mountain ranges”, not “rugged mountain ranges” as I vaguely remembered. When I got home, I looked online. Wikipedia has an image of Mackellar’s original notebook, which clearly has ragged. Many sources, printed and digital, have rugged, though. Two rehearsals ago, our accompanist said she’d always thought it was rugged, and at the rehearsal this week, one singer brought a book of Australian poems for school children, which has rugged. The accompanist said there is a recording of Mackellar reciting it, which I found (one of the available videos). She clearly says ragged. Very noticeable is her Sottish-tinged accent* (her grandparents had come to Australia almost 50 years before she was born). Continue reading

What part don’t you understand?

In August 2015, when I went to Korea for the second time, my working visa was delayed, so I had to do the ‘visa run’ to Fukuoka, Japan. While I was wandering around a suburb of that city, I saw a modern building devoted to the study and performance of traditional Noh theatre.  I thought that their slogan could be “What part of Noh don’t you understand?”. Unfortunately, on searching the internet, I found that Pat Byrnes, a cartoonist for the New Yorker magazine, had beaten me to it. I thought I mentioned this in my blog post of the time, but apparently not. Certainly I mentioned it on Facebook.

The reason I’m mentioning it now is that a few days ago I was watching some of the Crash Course series on the history of theatre, one of which is about Noh. I’ve written before about the variable quality of their autosubtitles — usually perfect, but sometimes, inexplicably, very wrong. Maybe the fault is Youtube’s, not Crash Course’s, but the same principle applies Continue reading

10,000 miles

One of the items my local choir is singing is a medley of the American folk songs Shenandoah (which I previously knew) and He’s gone away (which I didn’t). Because of the folk origins of both songs, information about them is confused and confusing. Shenandoah might be the Oneida Iroquois chief (“I love your daughter”) or the river in Virginia and West Virginia (“Away, you rolling river”) or both. On the other hand “Oh Shenandoah, I love your daughter” might just be a poetic way of saying “I love a young woman who lives in the Shenandoah Valley”.

The only information I could find about He’s gone away is that it’s from North Carolina. It contains the line “Look away over Yandro”. Where is Yandro? It probably isn’t. There is a possibility that it’s a local name for a local watercourse or mountain which (the name) didn’t survive, but the consensus of opinion on a discussion site for choral directors is that it’s a local pronunciation of yonder (indeed some versions of the words render it “over Yondro”, which might have originated as “over yondro”). One participant linked to what looks like a personal blog which claims that yandro means “the place we put our hopes and our longings. It is the place of reunions dreamt of fondly. It is the place, wherever it may be, that we meet our hearts”.  Yeah, right. That blog is private, so I can’t check its writer’s credentials. Continue reading

Trimming

I’m back to choir rehearsals, courtesy of my new, daytime job. My local choir was practicing ‘Steppin’ out with my baby‘ (video) by Irving Berlin (not the choir’s usual repertoire). For a moment, I thought the words were ‘There’ll be smooth sailin’ ’cause I’m trimmin’ my nails’ (well, the bit just before that is ‘I’m all dressed up tonight’ and the bit just after is ‘In my top hat and my white tie and my tails’. What else does one do before a night out?). Then I looked again and saw that it’s actually ‘I’m trimmin’ my sails’. 

The relevant definition is:

Nautical.

3. to adjust (the sails or yards) with reference to the direction of the wind and the course of the ship.