Tuesday, June 29, 2021

blooming Bloomsbury

Book of Bloomsbury

Edward Gordon and A.F.L. Deeson

Published in 1950 by Edward Gordon (Arts) Limited, 9 Great Russell Street, WC1

Back in the 00s I was affiliated with Birkbeck College London as a science writer in residence, which is why I have kept a soft spot for all things Bloomsbury. So I couldn't resist this antiquarian edition of a guide to the architectural history of the area, and I enjoyed reading it as it filled in a lot of background knowledge regarding streets I know from my ramblings half a century after the book was published. In lieu of a review, I'll just type out what to me was the highlight of the book, the description of St. Pancras station (which I have, of course, seen quite a few times since the Eurostar terminal moved there).

The station, the authors inform us

"opened in 1873. What a glorious, fantastic, ridiculous sight it is! However much one may be inclined to scoff at the Gothic grotesque, so pretentious yet only a humble railway station, one cannot help being overawed by its mad magnificence. Glance up at its pinnacles and towers, its multitude of steeples and crazy battlements clustered together in a perfect orgy of uselessness. Who can fail to be impressed? Who is so unimaginative that they look upwards without a whole host of fancies taking wing in their brain? St. Pancras Station, rightly viewed, is a medieval fortress, an ogre's castle, a challenge to the prosaics of the twentieth century. A piece of empty pomp, a grandiose hotch-potch of bad taste? It is all that perhaps, but it is also a fairy-story, a common-place everyday thing transformed into a romance in the Chesterton tradition. To fully appreciate the weird wonder of St. Pancras visit it late at night or in the small hours. It has rained earlier and now a fresh wind is blowing down the empty street. Look up at the towers and ornate chimneys with the swift-moving clouds behind. There is a moon, riding on her back across the sky and lighting the brave spires with a silvery but fitful light. Surely in that patch of dark shadow thrown by the nearest tower onto the shining wet roof there is a flurrying movement? A witch pale and grim on her broomstick, flitting with marvellous dexterity between the erratic lumps of masonry, her black cloak billowing behind her? Look at those little windows at the very top, so small, dirty and neglected that by day it seems scarcely possible they could light real rooms, surely the moon's passing gleam reveals, for a fleeting moment, a white figure moving back and forth? A princess in distress in the giant's castle or merely the ghost of some long-dead and forgotten claimant in one of those legal actions against the railway companies which were so common during the last century?"

My first excited reading of all those negatives framed by question marks left me unsure whether the writer hated or secretly loved the structure. On rereading it now I realise they simply had a blast trying to reflect in their writing style the exuberance of the architecture. In the rest of the book, even though there are some battle scenes with angry mobs storming Georgian mansions, and quite a few violent deaths reported, there's nothing quite like this outburst of the imagination.

Personally I always appreciate the station as a fairytale castle each time I see it, and I'm glad it survived into our century and got a very thoughtful refurbishment when it became St. Pancras International.

Update 8.7.2021: The book mentioned the London tram system which I had never heard of before, as an attraction to visit before it disappears. Less than a week after I posted this, there was an article in the Guardian about a tram reopening for visitors.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

more chamber music for cello and flute

When I revisited our ancient noteflight scores of duets we arranged for cello and flute, I also remembered the list of duets that I had discovered online back then and that I found helpful for some initial directions. Back in 2011 it was hosted on the comprehensive flute website of jazz flautist Larry Krantz and credited to Julia Larson Mattern and others. Sadly it is no longer online, so I've used the copy I kept as a starting point to make my own list by adding in youtube links and dropping those items of which I could not find any performance. I also removed the comments from the original list and added some of my own. Oh, and I made a YouTube playlist.

Work in progress. Surely there must be more music that works well for cello and flute? Suggestions welcome.

So here's my list of published editions in alphabetical order (editions I own are in bold):

1. Beethoven - Three Duets (published by Kalmus) Lovely music from a young Beethoven, written for clarinet and bassoon but available in several other combinations too. We played four or five of the 9 movements back then, some in arrangements derived from an edition for violin and viola, see the list of our scores. YouTube performances of duo No.1: Duo Dare plays first movement only, but clearer sound than this recording of the whole duo.

2. Besozzi, Alessandro - Divertimento in F (published by Urtext Premiere Publication) YouTube I thought this sounded a bit lame? (Besozzi has lots of trios though, which I'll still need to check)

3. Cambini, Guiseppe - Six Sonatas (published by Amadeus) YouTube

4. Carter, Elliott - Enchanted Preludes (published by Boosey and Hawkes) YouTube

5. Carrick, Richard - La Scene Miniature (self published) for piccolo and cello a quartet version with composer on piano.

6. Danzi, Franz - Three Duos, Op. 64 (published by Musikverlag Hans Sikorski) I'm loving the Danzi, might buy a copy Duo No.1; Duo No. 2; Duo No. 3

7. Doran, Matt - Sonatina (published by Western International Music) first movement; third movement

8. Febonio, T.G. - Rustic Airs and Folk Dances (published by ALRY) a selection of the pieces

9. Fiala, Joseph - Duo Konzertant in F Major (published by Amadeus) first movement

10. Handel - Acht Stücke (published by Amadeus) NB I have this edition, not clear where the pieces come from, no opus number etc. can’t spot any of them on youtube.

11. Heiss, John - Five Pieces (published by Southern) YouTube

12. Hofmann, Leopold - Divertimento (published by Amadeus) YouTube

13. Jevtic, Ivan - Musica per Due (published by LeDuc) YouTube

14. Tann, Hilary - Llef (published by Oxford University Press) YouTube loving the haunting sound of this.

15. Uebayashi, Yuko - Suite for Flute and Cello YouTube

16. Vali, Reza - Folk Songs (set No 9, published by MMB Music, Inc.) YouTube Fascinating but way beyond amateur standard.

17. Villa-Lobos - Assobio a Jato (Jet Whistle) One of many recordings available on YouTube

18. Whiteman, Lauren - Six Haiku (published by ALRY) a selection

Flautist Martha Long and cellist Marilyn de Oliveira performing Folk Songs Set No. 9 by Reza Vali. A still from this YouTube video

Saturday, June 26, 2021

delta taking off

With July and the rescheduled re-opening of everything in the UK approaching, let's do some back-of-the envelope calculations again to see what may happen in July and August, seeing that the UK govt. seems to think the vaccination programme is a magical solution to everything, including the exponential spread of the delta variant.

As per today's figures, there have been 32.2 million second doses, meaning that in two weeks time, when those second doses have all done their magic, there will still be 34.6 million people not completely protected. Some will be partially protected by a first dose, but, on the other hand, in some 10% of the doubly-vaccinated people the protection won't work, so let's assume these two imperfections cancel out and we will have 34.6 million unprotected people on Saturday July 10th (which happens to be the day before some football game planned to take place in Wembley Stadium).

Cases are currently increasing at more than 50% per week - earlier this month the figure had peaked at 66% and dipped to 31%, so 50% is a good midpoint between these extremes and easy to calculate. Going up by factor 1.5 each week means factor 2.25 in two weeks, so a doubling time of less than two weeks.

As per today's govt. figures, there were 98,460 new cases in the last 7 days, which gives us 14,065 for our 7-day rolling average of daily cases. Times 2.25 makes 31,650 new cases on the Saturday before the final.

Let's carry on in 2-week steps assuming (generously) 200,000 second doses are given every single day (2.8. million in two weeks):

24. 7. 71,208 daily cases, 31.8 million still unprotected.

7.8. 160,217 daily cases, 29 million still unprotected

21.8. 360,490 daily cases, 26,2 million still unprotected

4.9. 811.100 daily cases, 23.4 million still unprotected

18.9. ? 1.82 million daily cases, 20.6 million still unprotected

OK, so that last step in September is the one where I'm reasonably optimistic that it won't happen - with more than 2/3 of the population protected, the virus won't find another 1.8 million susceptible people it can infect. Especially because millions will already have had it. But before that, I wouldn't bet against the delta variant or expect any miracles from the vaccines.

Hundreds of thousands of cases in late August appear possible, and even with the mortality reduced to 1/1000 thanks to the vaccine protecting most of the previously vulnerable groups, this translates to hundreds of daily deaths. As we had in January, and last year in the first wave.

I made an assumption that may prove to be too optimistic, namely that the vaccine remains as effective as it is now. Letting the virus run free while conducting mass vaccinations against it is essentially an experiment in virus evolution. Given hundreds of thousands of opportunities to mutate, it may very well find a way around the vaccine. And then we will be back to square one. (It doesn't have to become completely resistant, even if it reduces vaccine protection from 90% to 45% we're facing a major disaster.)

To me the lesson is you shouldn't try to race an exponential function, unless you have exponentially growing power yourself, which would be unlikely. You need to catch and confine it while the case numbers are manageable, which the govt has failed to do for the third time in 18 months. As I was writing this post, the health secretary has handed in his resignation, but not for dismally failing to protect the health of the population.

first checkpoint 10.7.: I predicted 31,650 new cases for today. The 7-day rolling average falls a bit short with 30504, but the daily figure is above the prediction, with 32367. Second doses haven't come close to the 200k per day rate I assumed, so protection is generally less than anticipated.

Monday, June 21, 2021

mRNA therapies coming soon

One of the major changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic is that it lifted medical applications of RNA out of obscurity and to global stardom. Just imagine, trying to promote an mRNA in a lipid nanovesicle as a therapeutic in December 2019. You would have had to work very hard to persuade people that it's probably safe and might actually work. Now you can just point to the mindboggling fact that hundreds of millions of people have received vaccines based on this principle - within six months.

Given that all the experts in the field are currently either busy developing new products or already counting their billions, I went through the back catalogue of RNA therapeutics that were in development before Covid happened, on the assumption that these will now find it much easier to find funding and get approval and actually reach the market.

My feature on those other, non-Covid medical applications of RNA is out now:

The renaissance of RNA therapies

Current Biology Volume 31, issue 12, pages R763-R765, June 21, 2021

FREE access to full text and PDF download

mRNA researcher at the German company BioNTech, which in collaboration with Pfizer brought the first mRNA vaccine to regulatory approval. The company also develops treatments for cancer and other diseases based on mRNA. (Photo: © BioNTech SE 2021, all rights reserved.)

Saturday, June 19, 2021

sous le kiosque a musique

Ce qu'on peut rigoler
Par les beaux soirs d'été
Sous le kiosque à musique
On entend l'orphéon
Les tambours les clairons
La fanfare et la clique

I'm regularly using Oxford's only bandstand this plague year summer, both for chamber music and for folk sessions, so I am often reminded of one of my favourite French songs, an ancient one from the 1930s, which gently mocks the culture of widespread amateur / semi-professional music making for which these structures were built. I'm loving all the attention-grabbing flourishes and fanfares in the melody which are obviously a parody of the type of light music you might have heard at a bandstand on a summer evening in the early 20th century. Now that this culture has gone the way of the dinosaurs (along with the ophicleide mentioned in the text) and bandstands are mostly silent, I wonder what the authors of the song might have to say about it.

I've known the song since forever in the version performed by Georges Brassens (1921-1981) in a radio programme dedicated to the popular music of his youth: Georges Brassens chante les chansons de sa jeunesse (also available as CD).

Looking it up right now, there seems to be a general block in place forbidding users in the UK to access this recording. If you're outside the UK, you may be lucky to be able to listen to it on Soundcloud here.

I never knew the original version, only now I unearthed this one from jazz band leader Ray Ventura (1908-1979) which I'm assuming must be the version Brassens heard in his youth.

The only modern cover I've found is this one, which looks like a music teacher made it for kids, but it does have rolling lyrics, so if you want to learn the song it's a good resource (there are also chords provided here). According to this video, the composer is Marc Lanjean, and the lyrics are by Maurice Vandair.

Lyrics are also here (wrongly attributed to Brassens).

I've poked the very amazing Pomplamoose via twitter, I think they should definitely cover this.

Not our local bandstand, but one I saw at Romsey on a day trip earlier this year.

There is also a lovely flickr group called Bandstands Worldwide where you'll find some amazing structures (loving this one in Hove) as well as the occasional contribution from me.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Neumühl 1923

A mysterious photo from my inlaw family - there is no memory of anybody in the family ever having played a musical instrument, but then there is also this photo with the name of a great-uncle on the back (Friedrich Kosmowsky, sometimes also spelled Kosmowski), and the place name Neumühl, which is now a district of Duisburg. Several of Friedrich's relatives came to nearby Hamborn in 1922. To add to the confusion there was also a place called Neumühl in the area of East Prussia where they came from (Kreis Wehlau), also very close those who didn't move west in 1922. This one is now part of Kostromino in the district of Kaliningrad. It could be either - although given that the Hamborn relatives didn't know anything about musical adventures, I am inclined to think they happened in East Prussia.

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

brother Klundt

Nearly seven years ago, I wrote up what I knew about the descendents of my ancestors Johannes Klundt and Eva Hust, who had emigrated to the Black Sea (today’s Ukraine) with their youngest children, while the oldest son, Johann Jacob Klundt (1782-1853; my four-times-great-grandfather) stayed in Germany.

The post has created a lot of interest (as well as inspiring a master dissertation from the young historian in the family) and most recently, two readers have been able to fill me in on the descendants of the youngest son, Georg Michael Klundt (1805-after 1866), about whom I knew nothing back then. It turns out his son became famous as a founder of the Baptist community in Bulgaria, but let’s start from the beginning again, from the migrating couple, and the new village of Rohrbach where they settled.

I found the historic report of school master Fritschle (an English translation available here) who taught at the village school in 1848 and wrote a detailed account of its history with its ups and downs. It started in 1809 with 26 families, and another 69 families arrived in 1810. Another arrival of five families brought the number to 100 families with 475 individuals. There were numerous Fritschle individuals among the settler families, so the schoolmaster definitely came from within that community, but I don't know his first name and haven't been able to identify him in the databases.

Fritschle noted that this happened under the authority of the governor “Rischileu”. I recently learned from Neal Ascherson's excellent book Black Sea that the city of Odessa, founded around the same time, was essentially run by French nobility that escaped the French Revolution. So this governor was Armand-Emmanuel Sophie Septimanie de Vignerot du Plessis, the 5th Duke of Richelieu and Fronsac (1766 –1822) who later returned to France to serve in the restored monarchy.

In 1810, my relatives at Rohrbach accounted for two households with nine individuals:

Founder family: Johannes Klundt, 51; Eva Katharina Hust, 48; Eva Catharina, 18; Heinrich, 13; Johann Michael, 9; Georg Michael, 5.

First generation family: Wilhelm Klundt, 25; Ottilia Golum, ca. 22; Jakob, 3

Fritschle notes that the Russian government paid for a stone-built house for every family. All other necessities such as farming equipment, seeds, animals and food were provided on a credit basis.

According to Fritschle, the colony failed to thrive in the first 18 years, because the colonists were lacking the relevant skills and/or work ethic, and for most of the time, the village didn’t have a pastor to instil the fear of God in its residents. Pastorn Elias Hübner was appointed in 1812, but died after less than two years in the job.

In 1824, the pastor Johannes Bonekemper (1795-1857) was appointed as pastor for both Rohrbach and the neighbouring colony of Worms (7km away). Bonekemper was of Reformed protestant faith, but was also tasked with offering Lutheran services. Also, from 1826, a new schoolmaster arrived, Wilhelm Eberhard, who taught until 1843 and is credited with a change of culture.

Bonekemper spread the “Erbauungsstunde” idea (a daily hour of spiritual recollection) around the Southern parts of Russia, creating what became the “Stundist” movement. A more extensive account of his role in the Reformed faith is here, scroll down to the subheading "Life in Russia". By 1847, the spiritual fervour of Bonekemper's followers got out of hand to an extent that authorities persuaded him to move on which he did in 1848. Schoolmaster Fritschle, by contrast, created the impression that Bonekemper resigned voluntarily and praised the spiritual renewal he achieved: "The blessings of his 24-years' work with us will long be remembered." Bonekemper was intending to emigrate to the USA, but didn't make it.

In the early 1840s, seven families from Rohrbach, including Georg Michael Klundt and his wife Elisabeth Feiock (* 1817 Rohrbach) moved to the new colony Neu-Danzig and took the stundist idea there. They had married in 1836 and had three children, including Margaretha (1837), Jakob (1839) and Barbara (1841). They may have had additional children in Neu Danzig, possibly including Beatha Klundt.

By 1840, the founder couple Johannes Klundt and Eva Hust had died, but all their children had families, with up to eight children. In stark contrast to the school master's moans about the colony’s initial lack of economic success, this family was thriving rather nicely, as judged by survival rates. Not counting the descendants they left behind in Germany, the founders had at least 19 grandchildren, and 22 great-grandchildren.

In 1864, the Klundts in Neu Danzig became Baptists, which was a growing but illegal faith in Russia. In 1866, Jakob and his young family fled to Katalui, in the Danube delta, which was then a German colony under Osman rule, now known as Cataloi, Romania. This wider area on the West Coast of the Black Sea is called Dobruja, and the German settlers were known as the Dobrujan Germans. Georg Michael followed them and died there after 1866. The above-mentioned Beatha Klundt and her husband Johann Wilhelm Graf also moved there. Their first three children were born in Neu-Danzig in 1862-1865, but the fourth was born in Cataloi in 1867.

Jakob started a Baptist community in Katalui, which appears to have been so successful that he was hired by the British and Foreign Bible Society as a Bible colporteur for Bulgaria and part of Macedonia and Albania in 1872. For eight years he worked and traveled from Albania, but dangers and difficulties he faced there led him to move his base to Bulgaria.

From 1880 and for the rest of his life his base was in Lompalanka, now Lom, Bulgaria, and any history of Baptism in Bulgaria includes his biography (see eg here) and sometimes even a portrait (see below). His name in Bulgarian looks like this: яковъ клундтъ (in case anybody wants to dive into Bulgarian sources). Accounts mention his wife Regina as an active participant in the Baptist community, but don’t mention his descendants by name. He did have a son in law who later took over his role as pastor in Lom, so at least one daughter survived. We believe that no sons survived to adult age.

Jakob died on March 28, 1921, in Kazanlak, Bulgaria, where he was staying with his son in law (the obituary does not mention his daughter at this point, not sure if she was still alive).

Of Jakob’s sisters, we know nothing about Margaretha beyond her date of birth, but his younger sister Barbara married Philipp Krause and had five children. Only Barbara Krause (* 1864 in the Black Sea colony of Worms) survived to adulthood, she married Johann Brandner, emigrated to South Dakota (as many other descendants in her generation did too) and had 14 children.

Portrait of Jakob Klundt which appeared with his obituary in The EVANGELIST, Organ of the Evangelical Baptist Union of Bulgaria, editor: Rev. V. Tachtadjieff, Tchirpan.

Special thanks to Mihai, whose comment under the original Klundt Clan post already contained a lot of information about Jakob Klundt and set further investigations and contacts rolling.

Monday, June 07, 2021

giraffe genomes

I tend to write about species that are underappreciated, eg because they are living underground or in the deep sea or because they are invisibly small. Every once in a while, however, I also cover the big beasts that everybody knows from their local zoo or wildlife park. So this week it's the debut appearance in my writing of the mighty giraffe. I had noticed a paper on its collective behaviour, as well as one on genomics explaining its extreme adaptations, and then it turned out Current Biology had another one in the pipeline with more giraffe genomes.

So here goes, the questions you were asking on your first visit to a zoo, can finally be answered:

Survival of the tallest

Current Biology Volume 31, Issue 11, 07 June 2021, Pages R697-R699

FREE access to full text and PDF download

Giraffe mothers with calves are more often seen near human settlements, presumably due to the lower risk of predation from lions and hyenas. (Photo: 12019/Pixabay.)

Thursday, June 03, 2021

delta rising

It is fairly obvious now that the delta variant (formerly known as B.1.617.2, first identified in India) is out of control in the UK, as the week-on-week increase in case numbers has been accelerating dramatically over the last 10 days.

Week-on-week rise in new cases, last 12 days, according to the govt. data site:
24.5. + 17.0 %
25.5. + 18.0 %
26.5. + 18.0 %
27.5. + 20.5 %
28.5. + 24.0 %
29.5. + 23.3 %
30.5. + 26.8 %
31.5. + 28.8 %
1.6. + 31.9 %
2.6. + 34.7 %
3.6. + 38.9 %

To unpack those data: any positive percentage means new cases in the last seven days are higher than they were in the previous seven days. A constant percentage means an exponential rise, but at around 20% per week, it would only double in four weeks or so, so if the figure stayed at 20% it would be nothing to panic about.

What really worries me is that the percentages are increasing, and even this increase seems to be getting faster. From Tue to Wed it was 4.2 percentage points more, a jump of a size we haven't seen recently. The likely explanation is that it started in a few clusters, but as these clusters haven't been containe, it's gaining more and more territory to spread in. If this trend holds up we will end up with a doubling time well under a week before the month is out, and then we're in trouble. Even if many of the most vulnerable people are vaccinated, the extra risks that they are likely to take because they feel safe after being vaccinated may well compensate part of the gain. The other part may be wiped out by the Delta variant being more agressive than the original version. Early data suggests it may well be, see today's report in the Guardian.

Hospital admissions are also on the way up, while deaths have just begun to rise again after Monday's minimum of 43 deaths in the last 7 days. Today this fitgure is 54. As cases have been rising for more than two weeks now, I am guessing that this was the turning point and deaths are also creeping up again.

I really don't think the lifting of all regulations can go ahead on June 21 as scheduled, and if it does we're bound to have a rather murderous summer which could rival the previous waves not just in cases but even in hospitalisations and deaths. There are always people unprotected, and an epidemic running out of control will eventually find them.

The other big covid news in the UK is that Portugal has been removed from the green list, which means people returning from there are not exempt from quarantine. This is of course a distraction. As we have a Variant of Concern spreading out of control in the UK, nobody should have been allowed to travel to Portugal in the first place, especially not those footballers who could have just sas well played their game in Wembley.

Update 6.6.: the last three days have continued the trend shown above. If anything, the percentages are rising faster ...
4.6. + 39.8 %
5.6. + 46.2 %
6.6. + 49.0 %

Meanwhile, clusters of Delta are also beginning to pop up in France ...

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

jigging into summer

Plague Year(s) Bach Project, 16th month

As I write this, it is becoming clear that the govt. has lost control over the spread of Covid for the third time, so if they continue to eff up things like this, I'm still in with a chance to get through a considerable part of the Bach suites.

In May, I memorised what was missing from the Courante in G, and promoted it to metronome work - although it's rhythmically very simple, it still needs speeding up considerably. It's a running dance, and I'm still sleepwalking. I also consolidated the minuets in D major and D minor to an extent that I can play them as a unit as they are meant to be played.

In June, I am aiming to memorise the second half of the Gigue in D minor, and also do more park "performances" (if people around politely ignore me that's good enough). May was very rainy, so not much luck with playing cello in the park, but at least the Wednesdays were ok for Cowley Orchestra, which in very much reduced formation played some chamber music on three evenings this month. And accidental audiences were very appreciative - many will not have seen any actual humans playing actual musical instruments in more than a year!

So after 15 months with 420 practice days, 12 movements studied, and 424 bars memorised, my list now looks like this:

1) movements I've studied for a month, then put aside for now
1.1. Prelude
1.2 Allemande

2) movements memorised in a significant part
2.6 Gigue (1/2)
3.4 Sarabande (1/3)

3) movements memorised in their entirety
1.3 Courante
2.4 Sarabande
2.5 Minuet I&II
3.6. Gigue

4) movements memorised and synchronised with metronome
1.4 Sarabande

5) movements recorded on video and also performed in public
1.5 Minuet I&II- VIDEO
1.6 Gigue
(ooops, need to upload the video, watch this space!) 3.5 Bourree I&II - VIDEO