Monday, May 10, 2010

Saint-Saëns' Symphony No. 3 in C minor

Sections 1, 2, 3, 4 on Youtube, Wikipedia article

The Symphony No. 3 in C minor, Op. 78, was completed by Camille Saint-Saëns in 1886 at what was probably the artistic zenith of his career. It is also popularly known as the "Organ Symphony", even though it is not a true symphony for organ, but simply an orchestral symphony where two sections out of four use the pipe organ. The French title of the work is more accurate: Symphonie No. 3 "avec orgue" (with organ).

Of composing the work Saint-Saëns said that he had "given everything to it I was able to give." The composer seemed to know it would be his last attempt at the symphonic form, and he wrote the work almost as a type of "history" of his own career: virtuoso piano passages, brilliant orchestral writing characteristic of the Romantic period, and the sound of a cathedral-sized pipe organ. The work was dedicated to Saint-Saëns's friend Franz Liszt, who died that year, on July 31, 1886.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Enjoyed a Steampunk Festival, later got an idea of my own

On Saturday I went to the New England Steampunk Festival in Waltham, Massachusetts. It was delightful. A lot of people in Victorian dress with complicated goggles, and elaborate gadgets hanging off their belts or strapped to their backs. I took some pictures and did some twittering while I was there.

Steampunk has its apologists, but I'm not sure it needs them. I heard a few complaints that some gadgets were simply props and did nothing, and some gadgets were built with obviously modern pieces. To the first I'd say that steampunk is a style, not a technology (the enthusiasts are very clear on this, and unashamedly use the word "prop" for their toys) and to the second, I'd say that you can't expect them all to be equally skilled and ambitious, and if they're having fun and not hurting anyone, is it really so terrible that you can see the plastic Coke bottle cap on their ray-gun?

I'm surprised that there aren't more steampunk graphic novels. That strikes me as a natural fit. I also wish they weren't quite so obsessed with "airships", the way Fifties sci-fi was obsessed with flying saucers and robots.

Attending Steampunk Festival, Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation, Waltham MA

Steam engines

More steampunk stuff

The guy calls it a "spirit harvester"

Best costume imho

I later found this woman's blog, mostly a compendium of sci-fi and fantasy events happening around New England. Useful and interesting.

Won a piece of optometry equipment in the raffle at the New England Steampunk Festival in Waltham MA

The next day I was thinking about pipe organs, and about all the cool stuff I saw on Saturday, and it occurred to me that it would be feasible (even for me) to build a small USB-controlled pipe organ rank. My one area of uncertainty is the solenoid valves, it seems difficult to find them at a price that's affordable if I want to put in fifty-or-so pipes.