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BBC Synth Britannia

Documentary following a generation of post-punk musicians who took the synthesiser from the experimental fringes to the centre of the pop stage.

25 Notes

London 2212


Two hundred years from today, a master bell-maker will set out from Whitechapel, with instructions to retune the great Olympic Bell. The bell-maker has never seen the bell, but she knows it will still be there.

There are some objects that history tiptoes round, and leaves undisturbed, rocks in the river of change. The bell-maker will stroll through leafy London. The mad roads and high-density housing are gone now, all overgrown. London 2212 is mostly trees.

No one really builds things any more, not since we learnt to manipulate vegetable DNA. Why build a house when you can grow one? A house that grows as your family grows. A house you can prune when it gets too big. A house that grows food on the kitchen wall. A house that breathes oxygen. The biggest breakthrough came when we learnt to grow computers – computers that climb up from the patio and pull information down from the cloud like sunshine.

The bell-maker, for instance, is following a trail of smartleaves that rustle directions as she strolls through the Forest of Bow. There, in a clearing, its wooden gantry covered in creepers, she’ll find the bell. The size of it surprises her. She had no idea it would be this big. It takes all her strength to get the clapper to swing hard enough to strike a note from the huge metal dome. And what a note – vast, rich and complex. Its tones and overtones and half tones unfolding like petals as it breezes through the forest. Every cell in her body vibrates.

When the sound passes through the cloud, it will activate all the memories that were stored there on the day the bell was first rung – the ancient Facebook likes and recommends, the digital photo, blog entries, texts – and these will be downloaded to the bell-maker’s memory in a shower of smartpollen. When she breathes in, she’ll inhale the rhythm of drums, the flash of fireworks, the happy screams of children, the waves of the athletes and the lyrics of songs. But what will she make of those lyrics? Will she wonder who, apart from tigers, had tiger feet? Was it a good thing? And what is tiger light? Does it burn bright in the forests of the night?

Will she try to figure out what exactly that Starman was waiting for in the sky? Will scholars try to work out who Scaramouche was and whether he ever did do the fandango? And what Galileo and Figaro have to do with it? And why everyone was shouting about it? Or will she already know that the best pop lyrics are often nonsense. Even the lyrics of the greatest, and the most important pop songs. ‘Wopbopaloobop a whop bam boo’ for instance. Or ‘Na, na, na, na-na-na naaaa’. ‘Hey Jude’ – possibly the Beatles’ biggest-selling single – ends with almost four minutes of ‘na na nas’. Anyone who has ever stood in a vast crowd and na na na’d along with it, knows that meaning doesn’t matter. The important thing is the way that chorus allows us to karaoke ourselves into the moment. It binds us together, both as members of the crowd and as part of the ongoing reverberation of that summer afternoon in Twickenham in 1968 when four young men first recorded it.

Because the lyrics are a handle – a way of holding onto the song, keeping it in your memory, bedding it into your hard drive. In a way, the more meaningless they are, the more power the song has. The less it said, the less there is to disagree with. Clever people have often tried to prove that pop music is important by showing us how deep and meaningful the lyrics can be. But we don’t want meaning from a pop song really. Pop isn’t important for what it says. It’s important for what it does. Or what it lets us do. It lets us play and when we play we do amazing things.

Popular music and technological innovation are brother and sister. The first computer programmes were the cards which bell ringers made to help them remember the order of ringing. Ever since then music and computers have walked together. Bands like Pink Floyd and musicians like Mike Oldfield and Brian Eno searching for new sounds and new ways to create music had a massive impact on the development of computers.

File sharing and downloading were the catalysts of social networking. And in recent years – in the Arab Spring, for instance – they’ve been agents for social change. Like the bells that first inspired them, they are part of the story of liberty. What’s the point of playing if you don’t share? We play best when we’re together. Maybe that’s what we really want from all public art – not insight or knowledge but an excuse to get together in a state of pleasant perplexity, to be part of each other’s lives. Because, in the end, what matters most to us is each other.

Frank Cottrell Boyce, London 2212

20 Notes


London’s Olympic Park - before and after: As the 2012 Olympic Games get under way at last, see the transformation of the area around Stratford, east London, in the seven years since London won the bid to host the Games —> click on the link to see the before and after shots  A view along the Greenway, Stratford, 2007, and in July 2012.
Maurice Savage/Alamy, Antonio Olmos for the Guardian


London’s Olympic Park - before and after: As the 2012 Olympic Games get under way at last, see the transformation of the area around Stratford, east London, in the seven years since London won the bid to host the Games —> click on the link to see the before and after shots

A view along the Greenway, Stratford, 2007, and in July 2012.

Maurice Savage/Alamy, Antonio Olmos for the Guardian

2 Notes


The New Tumblr App Is Here! •
#tumblr #iOS #app #screenshot #iphone #new #appstore #icons #post #text #photo #quote #link #june #2012
#xproII #lux
(Taken with Instagram)


The New Tumblr App Is Here! •

#tumblr #iOS #app #screenshot #iphone #new #appstore #icons #post #text #photo #quote #link #june #2012

#xproII #lux

(Taken with Instagram)

4 Notes

The Rise And Fall Of London Wall


First things first: for anyone who ends up here hoping for archeology, I’m not talking about the Roman wall, or the medieval one built almost entirely along the same path. No, I’m talking about the post-war development along the (new) road of the same name, just south of the Barbican.

Bomb damage in Cripplegate, London

The Blitz during the second world war hit Cripplegate hard, and there wasn’t much left beyond the street plan. As such, the area was a prime candidate for redevelopment, and the far south of the site was made into a dual carriageway, called Route 11 in the plans drawn up soon after the war, but named London Wall once it was constructed.

By 1960 the road was complete, and commercial development was stirring. As the excellent Post War Buildings site notes, as with the later Barbican development, the influence of modernists was strong:

The roadway ‘Route 11’was central to the expression of the ‘Martin-Mealand’ scheme as built. Six towers of identical proportion, sit at equal distance from one another at 45 degrees to the street on a raised pedestrian deck with lower slab blocks at right angles. It was a monumental scheme and owed much to Le Corbusier’s 1933 ‘La Ville Radieuse’ in its geometric vision. It was characterised by generous public spaces and the complete segregation of traffic and pedestrian flows of circulation.

Constructed between 1955 and 1977, the scheme - influenced by cities such as Stockholm, which already had podium-based towers and segregated walkways - must have been a real change from some of the heavy, masonry-based, soot-blackened buildings that surrounded it in the City.

London, 1966

When Michelangelo Antonioni wanted to show Thomas, the photographer played by David Hemmings, in modernist surroundings in the 1966 film Blowup, he had him drive eastbound down London Wall, with those new towers flanking either side of the road, and the pedestrian bridges clearly visible (along with a sign highlighting the newness of the dual carriageway). Within another ten years, the scheme would finally be complete, with the Museum of London sitting where the “car park” sign is in the photograph, and the last of the podium towers - Bastion Tower - rising above it. Another few years would see the completion of the Barbican, joined at the hip - well, high level walkways - to London Wall and hence the City south of it.

What should have been a plan and an area the city was proud of, though, turned sour. Unlike the Barbican to the north, which rapidly found a niche as a spot for city living, the London Wall towers were never quite loved the same way. Before they could age enough to get listed, the buildings - as has happened more recently to Mondial House, 20 Fenchurch Street, and Drapers Gardens - fell out of commercial favour. Built in an age before pervasive air conditioning and computing, they didn’t survive long when deregulation hit.

City Tower was refurbished (along with a recladding in blue glass) as early as 1986, but the biggest blow was in 1988, when demolition started on Lee House, the nearest of the towers in the image above. It was replaced by Alban Gate, a postmodern structure that retained the highwalks from the original scheme, but little else. In spanning the road, it blocked the sightlines that were one of the best features of the 1950s plan, and it also took up far more of the floor plan than the tower it replaced - another massive change between the earlier plans and the more commercially focussed post-1990 developments.

Within the last ten years, all but one of the original towers along the road itself have either been reclad, demolished, or are due to be replaced within years. The one holdout is Bastion Tower - now known simply as 140 London Wall - at the far eastern end, above the Museum.

As Post War Buildings notes when talking about the doomed St Alphage House,

The plans mimic the pattern of development elsewhere on London Wall, where cladding, reconstruction and decking over has been advancing for years. The emerging architectural arrangement has destroyed forever the architectural unity of the scheme and produced a series of graceless structures all competing for attention.

I’m sure the new buildings make a lot more financial sense than the old ones did, and that plenty of people are making money from them (the execrable Alban Gate was the second most valuable asset owned by Simon Halabi when his property empire collapsed). However, I very much regret never getting the chance to properly see the muted, but coherent, scheme as built. In a way, I see its casual destruction as more shocking than the loss of some of London’s Georgian and Victorian terraces. After all, there are plenty that remain, but London Wall was the only place of its kind in the city, and I mourn its passing.

27 Notes

I’ve also created a mirror of on Tumblr so you can read and share posts right in your dashboard. I’ve chosen just these few options because I don’t want a pile of sharing crap attached to each post and I know that readers actually use and like Twitter, Tumblr, and even Facebook.

Jason Kottke: redesign, 2012 version. I have to say, the Tumblr mirror is very well done, and it makes a lot of sense (although as a minor quibble, it does mean variant URLs).

A bit of me is sad that even the mighty A-listers of old are feeling the need to put on various service-dependent buttons and mirrors. Another bit is realistic that this is where the eyes are. Ho hum.

(via blech)


'afternoon millwall'

Looks like rain, eh?

View south from Eastferry Road.

'afternoon millwall'

Looks like rain, eh?

View south from Eastferry Road.