Wednesday, 9 March 2011

I have a cunning plan

How's this for a way to separate the academic sheep from the goats?

Offer an optional exam paper at the end of the final year. One unseen question from anywhere on the curriculum. The grade you get for it will be the degree you're awarded.

First-class students might do it because they're confident. Other students can take a gamble. If you're failing or barely passing, it could be a lifeline, and you couldn't lose out. I reckon it's a winner.

Anyway, just a thought. The postman's been. I got the new REM album: the vinyl came in an empty box big enough for REM themselves to have been inside. You may be wondering why I've bought another REM album. It's traditional. The tradition is for all the press to claim that it's a 'return to form' and for the actual music to be 'not quite a return to form'. Actually, from the singles I've heard, this one may actually be the fabled return to form. Very annoyingly, even though the vinyl is quite expensive, they don't offer a free download as other bands do, so if I like it, I'll have to buy it again. Perhaps they assume that all vinyl fans are reactionary luddites. In reality, proper luddites stick to wax cylinders. Splitters!

It must be hard to be a band like REM: they created some of the greatest pop music of the last 30 years, so obviously not every song is going to be up there with Murmur or Document, but they don't want to give up because they actually care about music. The other problem is that quality isn't the only variable: critical and public taste changes in unpredictable ways: what was feted ten years ago can be dismissed by the very same critics, often for arbitrary reasons.

What else has turned up? James Herbert's 48 (28 Days Later but written earlier and with British Union of Fascist monsters in the ruins of London). Striggio's Mass in 40 Parts (a newly-discovered gem), a Tim Powers' Cold War fantasy thriller Declare (recently nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke prize.


Grumpy Bob said...

Not a huge REM fan myself, but why not just rip the vinyl to mp3 of whatever digital format you prefer? I've been ripping some of my vinyl collection recently, using Audacity...

Zoot Horn said...

That sounds like a good thing to do... I bought a rip-off turntable-to-mp3 rig from Computer World. It doesn't work very well (often at the end of a side it says "failed to convert" and won't convert despite a thousand retries) but I love the click of the needle and the slight hiss between tracks that you get on the successful mp3s. It's a generational thing I know, but I value the noise. When I was 5ish I managed to break the spring on my parents' wind-up 78rpm gramophone complete with tin box full of steel needles and a horn. Wish I could go back in time and retrieve it (and all those heavy but fissile shellac records). My mate's dad (who was also my music teacher at primary school) had a cylinder player and a box full of cylinders wrapped in what I think was grease-proof paper. If you are by any chance reading this Paddy, what happened to that stuff?? If you want to try to convert that album Vole, bring it round and we'll give it a go (lift to and from included).

Grumpy Bob said...

To follow up, Audacity is available free (GPL) for Windows, Mac and Linux.

I just plug the output from the amplifies into the audio input jack on the laptop and start recording...good instructions from the Audacity website.

I find the minor pops and clicks rather comforting, though there are filters in Audacity to remove the more severe clicks.


The Plashing Vole said...

Thanks Grumpy Bob and Zoot. Now to find time to copy over all 20,000 records…