Thursday, 23 October 2008

MSN Music UK as a source for classical music downloads (updated)

Good points:

  • Integrates well with Windows Media Player, when it works.
  • Might work - a bit - if you confine yourself to the classical top ten.
  • ... er ....
  • That's it.

Bad points

  • Absolutely everything else imaginable ...
  • ... like quality. support, cataloguing - you name it.
  • It's vile.

Summary and recommendations: a terrible terrible terrible system for classical music. I have, hurrah, run it down to my last few coppers and I would not buy another item there if it was the last classical music resource on the planet. An absolute stinker. Marks out of 10? Oooh about minus 15.

Go to or or, for a more limited range but great quality, something like the lovely (utterly wonderful St Matthew Passion), or any one of dozens of other suppliers - but please please do not do what I did, which is to lazily use MSN Music UK because it's just a couple of clicks inside WMP. It is irretrievably bad: classical music buyers should not touch it with a bargepole.


Update (30/10/08): I hate it when this happens after a good old moan, but in all fairness I have to add that support seems to have improved a lot since I last tried it. Just after writing all that above I emailed them (having had a hard time finding the address, but hey) moaning about two trashed tracks - one undownloadable and one that downloaded but was badly enough damaged to be unusable. These two problems wrecked two large-scale works that I wanted to buy.

Imagine, given some very ropey experiences with them in the past, my surprise and delight to get two emails in quick succession, apologizing for the problems and refunding my money for the whole album in each case. This is pretty good, I think. I mean I'd rather they could fix the track and tell me how to get it to download OK, but this is a very respectable second.

I still can't recommend this service for classical music because of the horrors of its cataloguing system, and indeed, the failed tracks. But I am feeling very much more impressed by the standard of support. Did I get lucky, or have they overhauled their procedures?

Anyway, I have now put it to the Big Test - two performances of Beethoven 9, each with an undownloadable last movement. (Yes, indeed, Colin, that's about as much use as a chocolate teapot.) These two have been an irritant for a long time and the last time I asked for help it was dire. I am only trying again now because I was so impressed by the much better handling of my more recent complaint. Watch this space ...

Update (21/11/08): Perfect silence from Customer Services. I sent them a polite reminder the other day. The silence remains undisturbed.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Is this bad?

I just emailed our Anglican chaplain for this site - who happens also to be an eminent medical professor here - and offered my buglistic services should he require them for Remembrance Day, since, after a gap, the 11th itself falls on a work day this year. I've already got a gig to do it on the Sunday (9th) at the local church so that's OK.

Long-memoried and patient readers will know that I have a minor bee in my bonnet about trumpet players and this tune (or Taps or your own local equivalent), and the sense of duty/service/history/whatever that it offers us. Here I am babbling on about it almost a year ago.

My question is this: was it self-indulgent and putting-yourself-aboutish of me to have offered? I mean on the one hand if he doesn't know he's got someone on site who could do it then he can't say either yes or no: without the information, no decision; and with that knowledge one assumes he's professional enough to just decide depending on his requirements for the day, not on my having volunteered. But, but, but, on the other hand I cannot quite shake the disquieting feeling that it's a bit "look at me", and that an equally good outcome might have been for me to just shut up and leave well alone. You know, fat bloke blowing Wretched Bugle - is it a bit showy-offy? Sigh. Dunno.

I'll be interested to see how the Revd Prof responds. What do you think? Good call, or leave the WB in its case and make a nice cuppa instead?

Update (Friday): I have heard back from Revd Prof Nick and it turns out that there's nothing particular planned for the 11th here, so I can stop worrying. I feel/hope that I did the right thing by offering, and anyway I've got a nice job doing it round the corner, so I think I can put the whole worry back in its box for at least a year (and possibly longer!)

Kansas comes to London

I am extremely excited to have checked the Lovely Lunchtime Lutherans' website this morning and found this:

Friday 28 November: The Kansas State University Trumpet Ensemble Lindsay Bennett, Alex Cook, Alan Martens, Paul Mueller, Samuel Mustain, Rebecca Ronen,Eric Starnes, Brian Stuckenschmidt, Brian Williams trumpets. Coordinator: Gary Mortenson Stanhope: The Australian Fanfare; Altenburg: Concerto for Trumpets; Viitasaari: Aba-Zulu; Basler: The Ascension; Trad. Arr. James Olcott: Shenandoah; J S Bach: Fugue in G minor (The Little); Morales: Infinite Ascent

Between you, me and the gatepost, I have been not entirely uninvolved with the effort to bring the KSU ensemble over. That is not to claim I made it happen or anything on that scale: good Heavens no, they'd still very much be here without me weebling on. But I have been tangentially involved in one or two things and the St Anne's gig is, to some extent at least, the result of me running my mouth off at various fabulously influential top people (you know who you are). I am very, very, very much looking forward to this visit. The ensemble are great, Gary is one of my favourite people on the planet, and he's bringing his lovely family too. I met many of the trumpet ensemble last year in Paris - I think this year's group is around 50% the same people and if Paris was anything to go by they will be a delightful group and it will be musically excellent. The icing on the cake is that Ibrahim Maalouf is also coming over for one day - the one, I think, that they will be spending at Camden School for Girls. Ibrahim is not only a thoroughly Decent Sort and Good Egg but can also Play The Trumpet More Than Somewhat and it will be 101% excellent to see and hear him again.

To summarize: seeing the KSU Trumpet Ensemble "in print", as it were, on the St Anne's website has rendered me into a quite marked state of happiness. It's seriously, seriously good.

If you are in or have access to London do come along to the St Anne's gig. It's at 1.10 on Friday 28th November, it's over by 2.00; it serves coffee and biccies, and you can bring your lunch - what could be nicer?

Onwards and upwards!

Vogel's a bit fargled: blogapology

I'm sorry that this blog's gone so quiet at the moment. There are couple of other things on which I've had to concentrate, and still do, and I just can't find the time to sit down and really write, or even edit, for a decent-length session. Avebury Day Two is the next big or biggish thing I want to do, but I reckon that it'll still be a fortnight or more before I can sort that out, even though it's very close to being finished.

In other news, I've been to several very nice concerts at St Anne's, played in a Rite of Spring with Salomon, and weathered various work crises. (It's unlikely that I'll get time to write separately about all, or maybe any, of those things. Two very different summer holidays will, though, get wroted up. I hope.)

My breadmaking career continues to flourish. I spent a while consolidating my (very advanced) skills in making straightforward white or wholemeal loaves then decided to branch out a bit. My first less-straightforward attempt, a five-seeds wholemeal loaf, wasn't 100% successful: it looked a bit, er, odd and collapsed, and seemed somewhat dense in parts (aha, yes, the image of its creator, thank you so much) though to be fair it still tasted great. My guess is that the yeast was a bit unenthusiastic - it was from a part-used sachet that I'd resealed, but perhaps not quickly or well enough? Oh well. Straight back on the horse (no Tamsin, it's a metaphor) and Attempt 2, while still not actually flyaway-fluffy, was much more how I was hoping it would be.

Emboldened by this I went on to a white loaf with apricot and almond and this was a truly delicious first-time success. Indeed I made another of these loaves on Sunday and that was very nice too. I am far too timid to progress through Mr Panasonic's cookbook any faster than this current crawl, but that's fine. I love my breadmaker!

Friday, 10 October 2008

Synod What You Do, It's The Way That You Do it (and that's what gets results); or, See, I Mitre Guessed; or, Oh For A Crozier Walk With Thee.

(OK I acknowledge that as an ignorant and blasphemous peasant my right to comment on matters ecclesiastical is a touch limited, to say the very least. But hey: my blog, baby. Now read on.)

I am bouncing around with delight - but not surprise - because I learned today that someone whom I rate extremely highly has just been appointed a Bishop (or, technically, a Bishop-elect pending consecration in January). This is very, very, very cool. An endorsement from me is probably roughly equivalent to priestly-career-disaster but, really, she's brilliant and it was a deeply satisfying moment to hear it from my friend Alex S, whom I must also thank for inspiring me towards the "mitre" gag.

I actually heard this lovely news on Monday  but couldn't post it till today because I wasn't sure, having foolishly not checked with Alex, whether it was absolutely 100% official and OK to comment on in "public" (ha!). But it is. And I say yay, and woo, and all manner of hurrah, and well done Jana.

Onwards and (most certainly) upwards!!

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Normal service will be resumed. Eventually.

IMG_0048-v1I apologize to my many millions of readers for the current slow rate of posting to this blogological emuārs writing webbity entity thang. I am having a bit of a busy time. It's blogologically frustrating, because I have a whole load of things that are nearly finished and that I'd like to post, but I don't have the time/energy to do the last 3% and get them finished and up. I will, one of these days. Gulp.

In the meantime, I bet you're thinking I wonder if Vogel has a photo of young persons emerging from a railway tunnel in France while riding a strange rail-bikoid thing and, d'you know, oddly enough I do, and here it is. It's a splendid, unusual thing offering lots of fun and, yes, even a touch of exercise: if you ever get the chance to do this - they call it Vélorail and there are about forty sites in France - please do not miss out!

More soon, or soonish, I hope.