Stravinsky on that chord

Up to now I’ve only really been documenting it on Facebook (for some reason), but over the past 3 months I’ve been working on one of my most ambitious music projects yet, a prog/post-rock interpretation of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. It’s been an interesting exercise that has helped me to get very (very) familiar with the piece, and encouraged me to research more about its origins.

Today I discovered this delightful video of Stravinsky humorously recounting the early history of the piece. Specifically, demonstrating the chord at the beginning of “Augurs of Spring” to Sergei Diaghilev, the ballet producer who had commissioned the work.

I like very much this chord. It was a rather new chord, you know? An 8-note chord. But the accents were even more new. And the accents were really the foundation of the whole thing.

When I finished composing The Rite of Spring, I played it for Diaghilev, and I started to play him this chord. Fifty-nine times the same chord. Diaghilev was a little bit surprised. He didn’t want to offend me. He asked me only one thing, which was very offending. He asked me, “Will it last very long time this way?” And I said, “’Til the end, my dear.”

And he was silent. Because he understood that the answer was serious.

What is that chord? I think just to mess with us, Stravinsky notated it rather absurdly with F♭s and C♭s. From the bottom up, the notes are: F♭ A♭ C♭ F♭ G B♭ D♭ E♭. So, that’s… um… well, if it were written as E instead of F♭, with ♯s instead of ♭s, it works out to an Emaj7/♯9/♯11/13 chord. Another way to look at it is an E (F♭) major chord with an E♭7 (in first inversion) stacked on top of it. Since Stravinsky was exploring bitonality, this is the most likely explanation, but really there’s no good way to notate it. Over a hundred years later, this is still difficult to grasp.

When WordPress Treats an Administrator Like a Contributor

The first sign that something was wrong was when I tried to create a new page on the client’s site. The blue Publish button I normally see was replaced with Submit for Review. What the…? That’s what WordPress users with the lowly Contributor role usually see. But I’m an Administrator — the most mighty role known to the world of (single-site) WordPress. (Yes, multi-site installations also confer the fearsome title of Super Admin upon a select few.)

Worse still, if I tried to click Submit for Review, it wouldn’t actually save!

Other problems abounded — I tried to create a new user with Administrator privileges, just to see if my own user account was corrupt. Couldn’t save that, either.

I had Debug Bar installed, and I noticed it was giving an error:

WARNING: wp-admin/includes/post.php:641 - Creating default object from empty value

Well, that’s not good. Googling the error didn’t lead to anything immediately helpful, besides this comment that led me to explore the database structure in phpMyAdmin for any problems.

Yes, there were problems. Many of the tables, including wp_options, wp_posts, wp_postmeta and wp_users were missing their primary keys. A bit more digging into the WordPress core showed that, for complex reasons (i.e. I don’t totally get it), without primary keys on these tables, WordPress can’t determine the post type of a new post, and if it can’t determine the post type, it can’t determine the user’s capabilities with regard to that post type, which all comes back to…

WARNING: wp-admin/includes/post.php:641 - Creating default object from empty value

Googling on the matter of WordPress tables missing their primary keys (or, perhaps more pertinently, their auto-increments), led me to a solution!!

Fixing WordPress indexes, foreign keys and auto_increment fields

Well, a partial solution. Because the database I was working with was not damaged in exactly the same way as the one the OP was working with, I couldn’t use the sample code directly. I had to go through the database and manually create a few primary keys, delete a bunch of auto-draft posts that all had an ID of 0, etc. Then I had to skip a few lines of the OP’s SQL code because they referred to tables that hadn’t lost their keys in my case, for whatever reason. But this is the… key… to solving the problem.

Now then, how did the database get this way? Well, the site lives on a fairly creaky old Fatcow (ugh, that name) shared hosting account, running an old version of MySQL and an almost unrecognizably ancient version of phpMyAdmin. We were undertaking major content changes on the site, so I copied it over to my own sleek, modern staging server running the latest and greatest of everything. The idea was that we’d get all of our changes in place just the way we wanted on the staging server, rather than mess up the live site for 2-3 weeks, and when we were done, we’d just copy everything back over.

Slick. Right? Sure, if both servers are running reasonably identical software versions. Which of course is never the case. Ever.

Apparently when I copied the site back to Fatcow, due to the older MySQL (or possibly phpMyAdmin) version, certain things like the primary keys and auto-increments — and, I’d be willing to bet, but I’m not sure it matters, the collation as well — got lost along the way.

A few rambling words about YES in honor of their Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction and in reaction to Rolling Stone’s funny but sloppy history of the band’s lineup changes

So… YES, one of my favorite bands of all time, are finally getting inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight.

They’re also frequently the butt of jokes for their numerous, tumultuous lineup changes. The one true real life Spinal Tap, I say. Today Rolling Stone released a short video chronicling, with good (snarky) humor but a bit of carelessness, these changes.

A friend shared this on Facebook, and of course tagged me. I enjoyed the video, but could not abide its omissions, so I went on a bit of a rant, which I share below, unedited.

I’m sorry… they glossed over some HUGE drama in the band between 1973 and 1979. Rick Wakeman left over “Tales from Topographic Oceans” which according to this video “SUCKS”. (It doesn’t suck; it’s just hard to get into an album that consists of four 20-minute songs.) Patrick Moraz came in and played on one album, then the band took a break and in 1975 each of them released a solo album (before KISS tried this stunt!), and in 1977 they came back together, but Moraz was out and Wakeman was back. They released one album which was their last really good album, followed by another that was — at the time — their worst. THEN you’re up to 1979 when the band was in the middle of recording an album that never got released, and Anderson and Wakeman left. (And that’s as far as I’ve watched so far… I’m sure I’ll have a Yes-grade epic rant about later errors and omissions too.)

And then, after I’d watched the rest…

Some more glossing over as it goes (like how the ’80s lineup got back together after Union fell apart and recorded one more album in 1994), but I am really glad they had the bit at the end about Anderson Rabin Wakeman and how they’re more Yes than the current Yes lineup, and now the guys from that hideous Union/Onion thing are coming back together (tonight!) for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. It’s all too much to take. My head used to spin over these lineup changes when I first got into the band in high school, and that was just before Union. It’s gotten so much crazier since then.

Oh, and they also didn’t even mention how Benoit David was kicked out in 2011 and replaced by ANOTHER Yes tribute band singer, Jon Davison. (Whose name always kills me… it’s like a mashup of Jon Anderson and Benoit David.)

And they ALSO didn’t mention the infamous Russian keyboardist Igor Khoroshev, who played with the band in the late ’90s until he got kicked out for molesting some fans.

And they ALSO ALSO didn’t mention Billy Sherwood, the guy who replaced Chris Squire on bass, who happened to have been one of those unnamed session musicians on Union and was for some reason added as a 6th member for a while in the late ’90s on guitar and keyboards (and yes, now he plays bass).

Then there’s Jay Schellen, who’s been playing drums with them recently because Alan White had back surgery, and Tom Breslin who briefly toured on keyboards in 2004-ish because the band didn’t have a keyboardist and had recorded an album with an orchestra.

Somewhere in the midst of those inane changes, the band recorded several albums that were worse than the one that came out in 1978, but up to that point, it was the worst.

OK, I’m done.

But I wasn’t done. One last thing was stuck in my craw. Trevor “Ray-BEEN”? That’s not how I’d ever imagined it was pronounced. I assumed it was “RAY-bin”. And, if the man himself is a trustworthy source, I’m right:

S-Town, Maps, and the Passage of Time

SPOILER ALERT: If you’re considering or are just starting to listen to S-Town, don’t read further unless you’ve listened to at least as far as the very end of the second episode.

I mean it.

OK, here we go.

Like John B. McLemore, the man at the center of the S-Town podcast, I’m obsessed with time. Well, maybe not as obsessed with it as he is. But I’m always thinking about it.

Another obsession I have, that we have not, at least by mid-episode 3, heard is (or, rather, was — there’s the first spoiler) shared by John B., is with maps.

(I’m calling him “John B.” rather than just “John” because that’s what the people who were close to him call him. I’m not sure if he liked that or not, but I’ll assume he was OK with it.)

I had already read enough in a review, not to mention on the S-Town website itself, to know that someone else in the story actually dies, and that this most likely would be revealed at the end of episode 2. And, with the heavy foreshadowing early in that episode, it was not much of a surprise to me when it happened — who, or how. (Yes, even the method, which is revealed early in episode 3. That’s foreshadowed too.)

This is a true story of a real person’s life, so I am not trying to make light of it. I felt a genuine loss, and I’ve only known about this person for a few hours.

But let’s go back in time a bit.

I listened to episode 1, and the first 15 minutes of episode 2, when I was out running. I ended up listening to the rest of episode 2 in bed last night, finishing it well after midnight. But before I listened to that final half hour, I spent at least as long looking at satellite views of Woodstock, Alabama in the Apple Maps app on my iPhone… hunting for John B.’s hedge maze. I knew I was close when I spotted the South 40 trailer park that had been mentioned in episode 1.

I might have saved myself some time by searching on the latitude and longitude coordinates rattled off in episode 1 — curiously specific, I thought, even though producer Brian Reed had edited out the last bit, to respect John B.’s privacy. That struck me as odd right away… and also seemed to be a bit of foreshadowing, that maybe John B.’s privacy didn’t really matter so much now.

As I was saying, I might have saved myself some time, but I didn’t feel like going back and hunting for the exact spot in episode 1 where the coordinates were named. More fun to just explore the satellite images until I spotted a circular hedge maze in the woods.

But that wasn’t the first thing I spotted. First I spotted John B.’s school buses… the ones Brian Reed said he was using to age lumber. There were three now, not two. I panned a bit to the west and saw the house, then north and there it was… the hedge maze.

John B.’s house, school buses and hedge maze, from Apple Maps satellite view.

Excited by my discovery, I took to social media. Then I decided to see if anyone else on Twitter had possibly found the maze as well. Of course they had.

Except… wow. That looks a lot different. At first I was second guessing that maybe @RASEC29 had found the wrong maze… or that I had.

John B.’s property as seen in Google Maps.

I mean… where were the school buses? And the house… it looks… so overgrown.

That’s when I knew.

The satellite images in map apps aren’t dated (although I think that may be changing), so I have no idea exactly when these different images were taken. I don’t know if John B. was still alive in the Apple one, or if it’s just that the buses hadn’t yet been cleared away, the maze abandoned, the yard overgrown. And in the light of day, with a better view on my computer, the land doesn’t seem quite as devastated in the later photo as it did when I saw it at around midnight, on my iPhone screen. It’s a different time of year, and a different time of day. Things are brown instead of green, shadows fall in a different direction.

But clearly, time has passed, things have changed, John B.’s world has decayed, much as he obsessed over.

I have so many more things I would like to say, but… time. Also, I’m not even halfway through the series yet, so there is much I still don’t know that is yet to be revealed. Or not.

So I’ll leave it at this. As the quote on John B.’s astrolabe reads, life is “tedious, and brief.” I’m sorry John B. never made it out of his Shit Town, if that’s what he really wanted to do, but I’m glad he shared his story. And I hope he’s wrong about, you know, everything being doomed.

Update: Several other people have now replied to @RASEC29, including @tifotter, who has posted dated images from Google Earth: