elliot's blog

mathis - now on Last.fm

I'm going to put the mathis album up on Last.fm as I complete the tracks. All will be downloadable for free from here:


mathis - track one - neighbour forgotten like a silent ray

I've completed the first track from my mathis project; the track is entitled neighbour forgotten like a silent ray. I may still do some more remixing (it sounds a bit muddy in places), but I'm generally pleased with the result.

Download it here

For this track, the sound sources were squashed versions of every track on my Johnny Mathis album. Basically, I compressed each of the 18 tracks down to half a second (without changing its pitch), and reversed it. I then used these samples, along with a variety of effects, to put together the piece.

I'm releasing these pieces under an Attribution-Share Alike CreativeCommons licence (same as the rest of the content on this site).

mathis - first listen through

I've had my first listen through Johnny Mathis - The Collection (that link includes previews of the songs on the album). First thoughts:

  1. It's an odd collection dating largely from the 1950s, moving from light exotica, through to jazz standards, some very peculiar time signatures, and some horrendously overblown crooning from JM. He really uses his voice like a blunt instrument. None of the songs you might know as his "classics" (like this or this).
  2. It has a downright bizarre, mournful, slow tempo version of Fly Me To The Moon. I'd always considered that quite an upbeat song, but JM proves otherwise.
  3. There's a Cuban song called Babalu covered. This is interesting, as I've got an obscure Warp single by a band called DSR, with a track called Babaloo. I'm pretty sure the samples in DSR's track are from a version of Babalu (though not JM's).
  4. There's a version of Caravan, which I have two or three other versions of. However, this is the only version where I've actually heard it with lyrics.
  5. I'd forgotten that he has a slight speech impediment (can't pronounce R). Unfortunately, and I don't like myself for saying this, I find this defuses the emotion of some of the songs.
  6. I have to admit I actually quite liked listening to it. The aforementioned Fly Me To The Moon is a highlight for me; and there are plenty of nice beats, extended falsetto notes, string fragments etc. to make the mathis album interesting.

By the way, JM has a terribly old-fashioned website. Dig those slanting silver fonts (I think FrontPage and clipart are probably to blame).

Book thing

My sister did this book meme thing, and I thought the list was interesting, so I decided to do it too.

(Although now I'm researching it, I'm not sure where the original list came from, and am starting to feel like I've just wasted my time.)

The rules are:

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicize those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE.
4) Strike out the books you have no intention of ever reading, or were forced to read at school and hated.
5) Reprint this list on your own blog.

I've adapted this slightly, and have only highlighted things I've read.

1 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3 Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4 The Harry Potter Series - JK Rowling (some of them)
5 To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6 The Bible (well, 3 of the gospels)
7 Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8 Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9 His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman (first two books)
10 Great Expectations - Charles Dickens (I hated this)
11 Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12 Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (started, but not sure I finished it)
14 Complete Works of Shakespeare (you've got to be joking if you think anyone, other than Shakespaeare scholars, has read every single piece of his work; I've read a fair bit)
15 Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16 The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17 Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18 Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19 The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20 Middlemarch - George Eliot
21 Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22 The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald (I think...)
23 Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24 War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25 The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26 Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27 Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28 Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29 Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30 The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31 Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32 David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33 Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34 Emma - Jane Austen
35 Persuasion - Jane Austen (I detested this)
36 The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe - CS Lewis
37 The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
38 Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
39 Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
40 Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
41 Animal Farm - George Orwell
42 The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown (now, why would I want to read that?)
43 One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
44 A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
45 The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
46 Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
47 Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
48 The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
49 Lord of the Flies - William Golding
50 Atonement - Ian McEwan
51 Life of Pi - Yann Martel
52 Dune - Frank Herbert (it is good, but where's all the better science fiction?)
53 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
54 Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen (why so much bloody Jane Austen?)
55 A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
56 The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
57 A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
58 Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
59 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
60 Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
61 Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
62 Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
63 The Secret History - Donna Tartt
64 The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
65 Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
66 On The Road - Jack Kerouac
67 Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
68 Bridget Jones's Diary - Helen Fielding
69 Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
70 Moby Dick - Herman Melville (Jesus, that was tiresome)
71 Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
72 Dracula - Bram Stoker
73 The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
74 Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
75 Ulysses - James Joyce (yes, really, for my English Lit. degree)
76 The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
77 Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
78 Germinal - Emile Zola
79 Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
80 Possession - AS Byatt
81 A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
82 Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell (good, but not that good)
83 The Color Purple - Alice Walker
84 The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
85 Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
86 A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
87 Charlotte's Web - EB White
88 The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
89 Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
90 The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
91 Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
92 The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery
93 The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
94 Watership Down - Richard Adams
95 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
96 A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
97 The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
98 Hamlet - William Shakespeare (isn't this included as part of The Complete Works?)
99 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
100 Les Miserables - Victor Hugo

Father, second time

I'm a dad again. Nicola gave birth to our son Joel this week (I don't like to give birthdays or middle names away online). He weighed in at 9lb 15oz and is very healthy, and extremely hungry. He seems pretty good-natured so far, though quite a demanding feeder.

Here he is (he's the small one):

mathis - the world's first concept album based on the life of Johnny Mathis

As you can see from my last blog entry, the song titles, by sheer fluke, form a rough approximation to the life of Johnny Mathis, as a corollary with the life of Jesus, as he sung about in When a Child is Born.

The story starts with JM's parents trying to conceive and throwing away their contraceptives. It continues with JM's quest to find his father, searching a range of locations not unlike those encountered by Michael Moorcock's Corum when facing the Chaos Lords (in the Sword Rulers series of novels): the Rosy High Seas, the Silent Tiny Winds. Then finally reaching solid ground, where tears form from the earth, nourishing yellow trees. And finally JM is reborn from the trees, flickering into existence before himself, perhaps even replacing the original JM who started the quest. Or maybe at that point the quest becomes cyclical, and JM is locked into a Sisyphean loop, seeking his origins, embarking on an epic quest, only to generate himself at the end of the quest, which then starts all over again.

Just thinking out loud. I think definitely an ambient wash for track one, that's for sure.

mathis - song titles revealed

Using this poem generator, and the words of When a Child is Born, Johnny Mathis' most famous hit (but not in fact included on the CD I'm going to be using as my sample source [see my previous blog entry for an explanation], which turns out to be a "collection" of standards recorded by JM [as I will be styling him from now on] in the 1950s, rather than his famous 70s hits), I've come up with these song titles for the mathis album:

  • neighbour forgotten like a silent ray
  • never toss a johnny
  • peace is a yellow land
  • rosy high seas
  • silent tiny winds
  • the solid ground whispers tears
  • yellow trees flicker a solid high child

If you have any objections or suggestions for the style of each song, please raise them in comments. If you are a talented artist, please provide artwork for the LP cover. If you are a rubbish artist, please do not. Thank you for your continued acquiescence.


I recently dug out some music software (unfortunately, the Windows-based Computer Muzys Studio, as I've yet to find a decent midi-sequencer for Linux which supports VST instruments) and started writing music (in the loosest sense) again. Mainly I've been remixing my old tracks and getting them to play (CM is OK, but terrible if you move your projects between machines); but I've also made one new piece, Splashflap. I'll post some of it up here eventually, no doubt.

Anyway, I was lacking focus and inspiration, but found myself fired up by Jono's music project. I decided, like Jono, that I needed a concept to work from. Browsing Woolworths today, I came up with one. I decided I would buy the cheapest CD I could find in the sale and write an entire album based on samples solely from that CD. (I did this a few years back with my brother, writing a sequence of tracks based on Elvis samples.)

The CD turned out to be a £1 Johnny Mathis Greatest Hits album. Hence the name of the project/album/band, mathis. Look forward to some new music soon, sourced entirely from Johnny Mathis samples, more than likely released under a Creative Commons licence. I bet you can hardly wait.

Severed Fifth

My old work colleague, open source hero, metal maniac, God's gift to the ladies (according to Facebook), and all-round nice bloke Jono Bacon is starting recording on a new album for his latest project, Severed Fifth, today. Read more about it on his site and follow his progress on Twitter.

Well worth a look, as Jono has decided it's about time he shook up the music industry by exploring how far he can inject some free culture and Creative Commons licencing into it. I've no doubt he will.

Fedora's OpenJDK 6 packaged - free Java is here

Finally, we have a properly compatible, open source Java. I've grown to like Java more and more over the last few months, and I'm hoping this might encourage more open source developers to pick up the language.

Here's the original announcement.

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