The raison d'être of this blog is to review quality books, music, photography and other content that is seldom brought to our attention by the mainstream media.
The title EV+1 is photographic jargon for Exposure Value plus 1: increasing exposure by one stop from the metered value. Photographers use exposure compensation in order to obtain a correct exposure, when the light meter's averaged reading would be incorrect. Like a photographer allowing an extra stop of light to reach the film, I hope to shed a little light on a few under-appreciated gems.
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Monday, August 5, 2013
His first solo exhibition was in 1983. Since then, he has won several awards: the Kodak Spain Prize (1991), the National Photography Award (2000), the Higasikawa Overseas Photographer Prize from the Higasikawa PhotoFestival (Japan) (2000) and the PhotoEspaña Award (2000). He has been widely exhibited internationally and his work is held in many public collections such as the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Madrid; Museo Marugame, Hirai, Japan; and Museo de Bellas Artes de Buenos Aires.
He has compiled several books (many available only in Spanish), but those on a budget wishing to have an introduction to his key images will be attracted to the small Chema Madoz Biblioteca Photobolsillo edition, priced at NZ$19.39 (including freight) at The Book Depository.
Chema Madoz website
All images © Chema Madoz.
Sunday, January 6, 2013
This 2009 CBC radio series in three fifty-five minute episodes is an adaptation of Dyer's 2008 book Climate Wars, on the geopolitics of climate change.
The premise is that firstly, over the course of history, we have always populated to the limits set by our regional environments; secondly, when an environment's limitations threaten the survival of a community, we have always raided other communities before we have starved – for people will do anything in preference to watching their children die.
But this book and podcast are not based on alarmist theory: it is founded on the well-established scientific evidence for climate change. The science is laid out, along with the reasons for climate change denial. Case studies are then made of regions at risk and likely scenarios of resulting political breakdown and conflict.
Over the next century, global warming will first destabilise regions that are resource-poor. Pakistan, for example, depends upon the Indus River, the world's largest contiguous river system, which first passes through India – which, by treaty, is entitled to not a proportion of this water, but a set volume. The Chinese Academy of Sciences has found that many Himalayan glaciers feeding such rivers are losing mass at a rate of 7% per year. Eventually, the failure of summer glacier melt will cause protracted droughts. As the flow diminishes, Pakistan's proportionate share of this water will decrease before India's share does – which will destabilise the region. But that's just Pakistan: in total, one to two billion people in the Asian and Subcontinent regions depend upon glacier-fed Himalayan rivers. Furthermore, grain production is now flat-lining – at a time when we are looking at world population peaking at another two billion people, around 2050.
Pressure from climate change will make mass migration inevitable; but the less environmentally-challenged migration destinations will be wanting to safeguard their viability, as crop yields shrink: India has already built a fence along the Bangladesh border. As a last resort, when faced with insurmountable environmental pressures, nations will prefer to risk war, over death. While our governments pay lip service to addressing the issue, military strategists in The Pentagon and around the world are assessing regional destabilisations that may arise from climate change.
Options for carbon-neutral energy are examined. Bio-deisel from marine algae looks promising, as it contains 30-60% oil and so is easily refined. Also promising is a report from MIT scientists that there is untapped geothermal energy, which could provide base load electricity in many regions which can find 200°C rocks 2km below ground level – hot enough to boil water. (Another potential energy source, the Liquid Fluoride Thorium Reactor, which promises to be much safer and more practical than the prevalent Light Water Reactor, is unfortunately not mentioned.)
We are fortunate that this crisis has come about in an age when there are viable alternatives to fossil fuels; however, there remains a lack of political will to move away from them. The discussion of this inertia leaves one feeling pessimistic about crucial changes to our energy infrastructure being implemented in time to avoid tipping points – after which, getting the climate back on track will be much more difficult, or impossible.
Whatever we do now, we are committed to another forty years of warming, due to the time lag between atmospheric composition and temperature. It is very likely that we will be left with geo-engineering as a necessity, in order to buy time; this could also lead to conflict. Devising fair strategies for all countries to reduce fossil fuel use is essential: 'contraction and convergence' is discussed, a strategy by which the rich countries, who produce most of the greenhouse gasses, reduce emissions faster than the developing countries.
This is the most comprehensive summary of climate change and its implications that I've heard – reinforcing the conclusion that now is the crucial time for our governments to embrace carbon-neutral energy.
Only a groundswell of popular opinion will force the world's democracies to implement a transition away from fossil fuels: please encourage your friends to listen to this important series.
[Climate Wars podcast]
Climate Wars book reviews
Gwynne Dyer is one of the few who are both courageous enough to tell the unvarnished truth, and have the background to understand, not misrepresent the inputs. This book does a superb job of detailing the emerging realities of Climate/Energy. These realities are not pretty. -- Dennis Bushnell, Chief Scientist, NASA [Read more …]
Friday, January 4, 2013
Sunday, January 8, 2012
Recorded in 2008, Open to Suggestions was the band's first release. Insightfully supported by the superb rhythm section of Ron Samsom on drums and Kevin Haines on bass, Dixon Nacey's improvisations weave logical paths around a repertoire consisting half of standards, the other half being compositions by the band members or other contemporary jazz musicians.
It is perhaps apt that the album opens with the tune All or Nothing At All, for Nacey gives his all - and delivers. Opening with broken chords* from an archtop guitar in the slightly muted tone usually favoured by jazz players, what unfolds is an ebullient solo: having stated the tune, he embarks on an expansive, mostly single-line improvisation (interspersed with block chords), in which he examines the tune's possibilities with a propulsive coherence, building in intensity with each chorus. Underpinning Nacey's playing is a meticulous and empathetic rhythm section; Haines's bass solo, which follows Nacey's, is possessed of the same intuition, vigour and precise rhythmic drive with which he supports the guitarist.
Another track that I'd like to single out for special comment is the gem of a title track, Open to Suggestions, composed by Ron Samsom; I don't think it's extravagant to describe it as a masterpiece of succinctness. Anyone with enough training can write a clever tune, but it takes native talent to write one that is haunting; Open to Suggestions is such a tune. The head and subsequent improvisations are logical developments springing from the four notes of the opening motif (flat 5th/5th/min 3rd/tonic), which follows a chordal introduction. Samsom's composition, followed by the solos from Nacey and Haines, is a mesmerising conversation between guitar, bass and drums.
Jim Hall famously had (or maybe still has) a notice inside his guitar case that said 'Make musical sense.' What else matters? This album's performances make sense, take the listener through a sampling of the tunes' possible twists and turns and resolve those journeys. Common denominators throughout are a deep empathy between the musicians, a very tight rhythm section (although Samsom is inclined to be slightly reserved), inspired improvisation from both Nacey and Haines and sublime recording quality.
If I am to be picky, there is just one track that bugged me: called Off Topic, it is an elegant 35 second fragment, begging to go somewhere. I don't know why these vignettes sometimes appear on otherwise superb albums. Mike Stern did a similar thing by including a short piece called Source on his classic album Standards (and other songs); in my opinion, it didn't fit in with the rest of that album's content and I'm a bit puzzled by the inclusion of Off Topic, here. Potentially possessing the same sort of beauty as the Evans/Davis composition Blue in Green, I hope it pops up again in a future album, fully realised.
These musicians have paid their dues with no compromise attitudes to excellence in studying and performing music. This album is the product of a desire to make music for the sake of making music; and years later, I believe it will be looked upon as a New Zealand jazz classic.
If, like the Samsom Nacey Haines Trio, you care about jazz or about New Zealand music, buy this album; it will reward you.
The CD is available online at Amplifier.
Dixon Nacey has a jazz guitar tuition site called Jazz Guitar Legend.
*The introduction reminded me of Rolf Yardemark's opening to the tune Family Man from the album Further Adventures in Guitarland, which is also worth checking out; available at the iTunes Store.)
Copyright © Richard Smallfield 2012
Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Maurice has stated: I enjoy and respect the many ways people create, beautify or arrange their surroundings, the passion, love and sometimes a bit of madness which goes into many of the subjects in this book. All the photographs were taken as the scene presented itself, nothing was manipulated or rearranged, the random coincidences are just as interesting. 1
He has described himself as a scavenger of images. One reason why I am so receptive to his work is that he sees things that I feel I would never have noticed, without his help. His exacting eye pays great attention to every detail of composition, all elements being deliberately and precisely placed within the frame.
The photos tend towards the minimalist (Holiday House, Arthur's Pass | 1979 – a detail of which is on the cover), the simplicity of the images lending a restrained beauty, which makes them all the more mesmerising. Subjects range from old South Island holiday houses, to a Santa Parade, a Vintage Machinery Show, a roadside bench, a concrete fawn and a Knitted Nativity shop window display.
Having seen this small, but enticing sample of Maurice's work from the last three decades, I'm hoping that another book will not be too far away.
Only God Can Make a Tree can be bought from Maurice for $40 plus p&p and would make a great Christmas gift; he can be contacted via his website: mauricelye.co.nz, which displays an informative sampling of his work.
Photos: 1. Daisy, Kaikura | 2003; 2. Christmas parade, float, Christchurch | 1987. (Photos © Maurice Lye)
Sunday, October 23, 2011
Although almost all of it is freely improvised, in terms of 'feel', it is often closer to avant-garde classical music than jazz. This is not a negative observation, however, for Heart Mountain transcends categorisation; it is simply one of the most arresting performances I've heard – in any genre.
Tanya Kalmanovich's playing on this album has a mesmeric and fully-realised voice of its own. She is a widely acclaimed Canadian violist and violinist, classically trained at the Juilliard School of Music. Among her posts, she is Assistant Chair of the department of Creative Improvisation at Boston's New England Conservatory, as well as being an instructor at the Guildhall School in of Music in London. She has repeatedly visited India to study music and conduct research for her doctoral dissertation on jazz exotica.
Myra Melford, whose performances here display great sensitivity and technical facility, is a seasoned jazz pianist. She has over thirty recordings in her catalogue, in nineteen of which she is the leader or co-leader. She trained classically until her college years, when she developed an interest in improvised music and blended an avant-garde approach from studies with Henry Threadgill and Don Pullen, with her classical background. To these she added an Indian influence: in 2000, she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to study North Indian music in Calcutta, which she undertook over 2000 and 2001. She has been on the faculty of music at U.C. Berkely since 2004.
All but one of the performances contained in Heart Mountain are free improvisations. The dialogues show a deep rapport between the two musicians; by turns hypnotic and unsettling, the music unfolds at the speed of thought as they feed off every scrap of an idea contributed by the other, each track unfolding a unique story.
Names were attached to the tracks afterwards; in some cases they are uncannily fitting: Into a Gunny Sack and Into the Kootenay River not only conveys the menace implied in the title but, as is pointed out in the excellent interview with Benny Lackner on the Brooklyn Jazz Underground Podcast, one passage of Myra's very effectively evokes a terrifying ride upon torrents of water cascading over rapids.
This is an album that will not fade from memory over the years; an album to which I will regularly be returning – for me, one of the classics of improvised music.
Copyright © Richard Smallfield 2011