Archive for May 2009

Lovin’ the library

May 22, 2009

I found myself becoming incredibly frustrated by my guitar today, but it resolved itself in the most unexpected way.

I tried learning a few different songs but – as is so often the case with music notation posted online – no two people had interpreted the notes the same and rather than tabulate the music, all I was able to find was chord progressions.  This is not unusual and normally it doesn’t bug me but today I wanted to play some songs which I knew required picking and I couldn’t find the tab for them anywhere.

Eventually, I set the guitar down, lamenting that official tab books are too expensive and that I couldn’t just borrow them from a library.

Now there’s a thought…

It had never occured to me to think of books of sheet music as, well, books, but suddenly something clicked.

I remembered being told by a friend that every edition of every book currently in print in the UK is housed in the British Library.  I am not a member of the British Library, however, I do have library cards for Birmingham – first obtained when I was trying to find a cost effective way of reading Terry Pratchett’s back catelogue on the cheap – as well as both Halton and Liverpool, for when I’m visiting my parents. If they possess even a small percentage of what’s contained within the British Library, then surely they must have some books of guitar tab.

So, for the first time in many months, I brought up the site for birmingham libraries, typed “guitar tab” into the search bar and hit enter.

Found 1000 results under category Single Copy Playing Scores.

Well, that’ll do.

Obviously not every book is a hit.  I don’t think I shall be picking up a copy of Sting for Easy Guitar Tab for example.  But several of my favourite bands like Travis and The Who are well represented.

Searches in the Halton and Liverpool library systems yielded similar results, though no such luck for Vienna, which is a shame, but at least I have a wealth of tab to go through when I return home this September.

The least German sounding place in Austria

May 6, 2009

I may have jumped the gun in my last entry.

It occurred to me that tomorrow I will be meeting up with a friend in the afternoon and I’m not entirely sure what I’ll be doing and then of course the parents and the sister are coming on Friday, but I shall discuss that tomorrow.

Today, however, I did follow through with my plan.  I went to the Schloss Belvedere palace to film my latest video and, for the most part, I’m happy with it.  I’m more satisfied with the content than I have been in previous videos; I spoke about the architecture of Vienna compared with Seville, a subject I find fascinating and would like to know more about.  It was appropriate that I went to Schloss Belvedere to film as the last time I was there I was walking with an Australian girl who was visiting Vienna for a few days and gave me a basic course on baroque architecture.

Regrettably, I didn’t get much further past Schloss Belvedere.  My days rarely begin before noon at the moment, which will probably be the subject of my next resolution.  I didn’t leave the flat until two today and I had errands to run before I could go sightseeing.  I had to go swimming for one thing.

It’s been a while since I’ve done proper exercise, I didn’t renew my gym membership this month – it’s bloody expensive – and I always get to the pool too late to do anything of value.  Today, though, I knew the opening times and went early and it was a lot of  fun.   Swimming and cycling are sports which don’t feel like work to me because I’ve been doing them so long and because I can go out and do them on my own steam, wherever and whenever I want.  Rowing is like that as well, to an extent, but usually you’re limited to club training times and any other time you need to supplement rowing for a session on the rowing machine.

Going to the swimming pool also meant that I had a prime opportunity to – read “no excuse not to” – go the Westbahnhof, as it’s on the same U-bahn line.  I’ve been meaning – read “forgetting” – to go for a while now, as I’m looking into getting a train back to the UK when I finally leave Vienna in June.  After dealing with the world’s most apathetic bastard of a ticket salesman who said that the ticket would be around four or five hundred Euro, I was informed by travel information that I could probably get there for about €160 in around 15 hours, which doesn’t sound too bad, though I’ll have to run it by my parents as they’re funding the travel.  I’m hoping that it’ll pass muster, I hate flying.  I’d happily take my time getting there and arrived relaxed rather than get there faster and be a bag of nerves and sleep deprivation, which is my usual response to flying.

Because of that surprising show of productivity, I didn’t arrive at the Belvedere until around half sis.  Admittedly, this gave me a couple of hours before it got dark and that would have been fine, had I not been recording my next vlog.  I don’t particularly hate vlogging outside, but having done my last vlog mostly indoors I was particularly raw to the many inconveniences of talking to a camera in a public place.

For a start, it’s embarrassing.  A friend of mine once saw me recording in Plaza Nueva (Seville), he said that I was “walking very slowly talking to [my] shoulder”, and that I basically looked insane.   As time’s gone by, I become less embarrassed by the idea of people seeing me, but I am always conscious that it looks weird and tend to wait for areas to be as clear as it’s possible for tourist spots to be – not very – before I start recording.  Then there’s environmental factors.  It started raining whilst I was recording, not heavily or anywhere near enough to require a coat or umbrella, but enough to cause me a bit of an inconvenience.  And I can’t forget that for every time I record something usable, there’s about two shots which are wrecked by a sudden gust of wind.

Overall, the average time it takes for me to film a video outdoors is about an hour and a half – 30 minutes indoors – which feels entirely too long to produce the raw footage for a sequence which might last 4 minutes at a push.

Over the course of the filming I walked from the Oberes Belvedere, where I had walked before, to the Unteres Belvedere, which I hadn’t actually realised existed.  It’s not quite as impressive as its big brother, but it’s still an attractive little palace and it has the nicer half of the gardens, which I spent a few minutes walking around as night fell and then had no idea where I was.  I simply walked onto the street past the lower palace, which leads to a different part of the city

It was quite a nice sensation, I wasn’t lost; it’s impossible to get lost in the centre of Vienna, you just need to walk far enough and you’ll come to a U-bahn station, but it gave me the opportunity to walk through the city at night sober and alone, so I was paying attention to the buildings.  Vienna in pretty during the day, but beautiful at night.  All the major buildings have footlights shining up wards and picking out architectural intricacies which aren’t as obvious in the day.  And there were a lot of buildings like that, I wonder how I’m supposed to decide what to photograph, I could easily fill entire albums with buildings from Vienna, though I would prefer to have seen it before the introduction of the neon and overhead tram lines which block so many views, which would otherwise be perfect.

When I started walking, I thought had been heading towards the Cathedral, but after about twenty minutes I think I must have found myself turned around, as I started walking down the quieter one way streets, but I struck lucky when I arrived at the next main road and ended up right next to the hotel my parents will be staying at this weekend and the nearest U-bahn not too far away.  It struck me as quite a convenient coincidence that I’d popped up there, but I didn’t become truly excited until I saw the Segway dealership right next door.

I’ve seen Segways before now and they always seemed to be a bit of a touristy gimmick – on fact, my mum wants to take a Segway tour while my family is here – but now I really want one.  They look like fun.  Do I have to learn to drive?  Can’t I just take all the money I’d spend on driving lessons, petrol, MOTs, repairs and invest it in a Segway?

We’ll see if I still feel the same way after this weekend…

It’s an interesting thing.  When I sat down to write this, I was concerned that I’d not done much today, but in reality it’s been a resounding success.

Here’s to the same again tomorrow.

A little bit of resolve

May 5, 2009

I have decided to add “resolutions” to my list of categories.

Every couple of months, weeks, sometimes days, I come up with some new self improving decree, something that will make me better, stronger, faster and all that, then I pretty much invariably fail to carry them out. To this end, I feel I should start making them public – or at least as public as one can consider a blog with an average of less than one view per day.

My most recent resolution was to update this blog everyday, which I have managed about 70% of the time.  Unfortunately, in recent days, I’ve found that I’ve had very little to talk about.  I’ve spent the last few days in my room watching TV shows online, leaving my room just to go to class, the shops or the gym.  It has not been an exciting time.

And this frustrates me!

I am currently on my Erasmus year, currently entering the Twilight of my time abroad with only eight weeks left at the University of Vienna and I’m disappointed in myself that I’ve seen so very little of the city.

I’ve found with a few Erasmus students that they’ve not really seen many of the sights – even those that were here for the first semester as well – and it’s not apathy, so much as the idea that the city will still be there tomorrow, two months still seems like a long time, even if it will fly by.  I need to motivate myself to get out and see things.

My Vienna City Guide has 58 pages given over exclusively to sights.  Every evening I will pick a place and go there the next day, camera in hand and see what I see and I’ll write about it in the evening.  What will come from that?  I don’t know, but I saw so many interesting things in Seville because I spent a lot of time walking around the city and I want that to be the case here.

I’ve also decided that I’m going to start keeping a food diary again, using the book that I originally drafted my blog entries in.  I’d like to find some use for it other than a guilt trip with an attractive cover, but no inspiration has struck me as yet.  I’ll take it with me tomorrow and see if I can think of anything to put in it.

Finally, for the first time, I present:

Tomorrow’s destination: Landstrasse, which is technically cheating as I’ve been there before.  The Schloss Belvedere, one of the first places I visited in the city, is there and I want to film my first Viennese vlog outside it, but there are a few other things out there, which I didn’t see last time.

The Ting Tings at Flex

May 3, 2009

Of all the acts playing in Vienna while I am here, the Ting Tings would not have been at the top of my “must see” list.

However, a friend needed to sell her ticket, several other friends were going and I had heard rave reviews about Flex, the bar where they were playing, so it seemed inevitable I would spend my saturday evening €20 poorer, dancing with a bunch of neon clad Austrians.

The dancefloor and stage at Flex

The dancefloor and stage at Flex

Flex is a bar down by the Danube Canal.  It was not exactly a high class riverside venue; the interior was mostly black walls with the occasional poster, but that was all covered by a constant lightshow, which gave the place a constant paty feel.  The only major problem was the unfortunate placement of several pillars, which could mean that whilst watching a band perform, all certain members of the audience were able to see was a black roof support.

The gig was packed out, making it difficult for my group to move more than a few feet from where we were.  Not that we wanted to as we’d set up camp by the bar, but, because of the aforementioned pillars, we had to choose between getting drinks or being able to see the band… or at least the taller members faced that difficult decision.  I discovered last night that Austrians are generally quite a tall people; my short arse wouldn’t have been able to see the band even if I had stood in the middle of the dancefloor!

The warm up act was a DJ who was playing generic dance tunes as we got into the venue and The Ting Tings came on stage soon after we arrived, though not before their manager came out and requested – in English – no flash photography.

Katie White of the Ting Tings

Katie White of the Ting Tings

As far as I can tell, the Ting Tings are an experiment in minimalism, most of their music is produced through a synthesiser or guitar playing over a drum while Katie White sings.  I would be interested to hear how the Ting Tings would sound unplugged, because so much of what you hear comes from post production – reverb, dubbing, harmonising lyrics – that the live show sounds no different from the CD version of the songs.  And very few of the songs are outstanding hits. 

In short, the Ting Tings hit upon a good singalong gimmick with That’s Not My Name, but failed to do anything original to follow it up.

Apart from one funny, self-depricating speech in German, read off a sheet of paper by White, sounding like a school girl reading her homework out to the class, you got the overall feeling that you would have got the same result had you put the Ting Tings album on shuffle and let it play.  There was little to no audience interaction between songs – I don’t think Jules de Martino spoke once – and the music really didn’t make the most of Flex’s sound system (allegedly the best in Vienna).  Not to mention the gig was finished by 9:45 and everyone was herded out so the club could charge another €20 for the DJ set afterwards, which left me with the feeling of having been left with just the warm up act and kicked out before the headliner came on.

The only reason the gig was passable to me was because after the first few songs, I largely let the music slip into the background and chatted with my friends, which was only interrupted so we could dance to That’s Not My Name. I went to the gig with high hopes, maybe for an experience similar to the one I had at Ingrid Michaelson’s gig, but left vaguely disappointed and was in bed before midnight.  Not one I’d recommend to my friends.

The Ting Tings can be found online at http://www.thetingtings.com/