Three fencers made it to the final of the World Fencing Championships. They were asked to build fences for the final round. The design brief was to put a straight fence for 100m, and a semicircular fence connecting the two ends.

The first fencer built the fence fairly well and exactly as asked, and scored 9/10 for durability and 10/10 for artistic impression.

The second fencer built a tougher fence, but the judges thought the semicircle wasn't quite curved enough, so he got 10/10 for durability and 9/10 for artistic impression.

The third fencer built an entirely circular fence. The judges awarded him 10/10 for both categories, and he got the gold medal.

The other two fencers were very confused, and asked the third fencer how he had managed to win by building a circular fence.

He replied, "Sometimes the best D-fence is a good O-fence."
No, I am not running a marathon. I just wrote one.

So last weekend I did the Scottish Music Centre's composition marathon. This, for the uninitiated, was a crazy event where they got ten composers, paired them up on Saturday morning with five ensembles (two composers per ensemble) and got them to write a piece to be performed THE NEXT DAY. I got paired with a brass quintet, Pure Brass. The result was rather good, if I say so myself (this is a demo made with Finale, live version hopefully coming soon):

Preview score here if you like dots:

Musically, the piece takes two very simple ideas - a three-note cluster (the first chord) and a three-note melody (the first trumpet figure) - and lets them run. Every single element of the piece is derived from one or the other of those ideas. And the piece is about the times when something stops being just an idea, grows from simple seeds, and takes on a life of its own. Add your own symbolism here :)

More info about the Composition Marathon here:
and here:

(If anyone else is on Soundcloud please add me - hutchingsmusic - and I'll follow you back. I also have a Facebook fan page if anyone just wants to get composing-related updates.)
Ah, my local MP - last year banned from driving for being drunk, now arrested and accused of assault... Maybe I'll vote SNP next time round (as they're his closest challengers, damn you FPTP).

New music!

Dec. 14th, 2011 09:52 am
Some new recordings made over the past few months:

"Balulalow" - world premiere by University of Glasgow Chapel Choir, December 2011.
Balulalow - Chris Hutchings (world premiere) by hutchingsmusic

"Actaeon and Diana" - world premiere by Daniel's Beard, November 2011.
Actaeon and Diana, by Chris Hutchings by hutchingsmusic

Hope you enjoy these! More coming in the New Year.
I wrote to my MSPs about gay marriage. I have to say, I am impressed with the reply I got from Margaret Mitchell (Conservative) through the post this morning. It's not clear which way she'll vote from the letter (the Conservatives have a free vote on it apparently), but apparently mine was "a perspective she had not come across before" (Christian but pro-gay marriage).

However, nicest thing: I was also quite taken aback that she paid attention to one of my points, and said "I fully appreciate and understand your point that telling churches they are not allowed to perform civil partnerships ceremonies or marriages as and when they wish, is as intrusive as telling them they have to perform same-sex marriages."

I've written a nice email back, because this sort of thing should be encouraged.
This is from Thursday's premiere of "Actaeon and Diana" in the University Concert Hall (I just realised I totally forgot to tell Livejournal about it, sorry to non-Facebookers).

And another performance coming up - the Dick Vet Musicians (who I conduct) are performing their Christmas concert on 20th November (Sunday) in the Reid Hall, at 7.30pm. Tickets are £2.50 in advance (email me to reserve one) or £3 on the door - hope some of you can make it along! It'll include several arrangements by me, and also the premiere of a short piece for choir and orchestra, "Pibroch of Donuil Dhu" (words by Sir Walter Scott).
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I'm skeptical about whether International Skeptics' Day exists - I'm fairly sure this was made up for Writer's Block.

I'm also skeptical about whether I'm the first person to say this, and if I get a prize if so.

This is a very varied book of interdisciplinary arts and social science papers, to which I've contributed a chapter, "Perspectives on Shostakovich's 5th Symphony: Emotional Responses to Music, and their Dependency upon Prior Knowledge, Expectation and Prejudice".

(This was from a conference I attended back in 2008, by the way - academic publishing is a slow process and no mistake...)
FAO writers who I know:

"administrators at Diamond Light Source, the UK's national synchrotron facility, are asking writers to harness that inspiration for its newly launched short story competition.

Stories inspired by the 562-metre particle accelerator can be up to 3000 words, or for those who like to keep their ponderings pithy, there is a flash fiction category for pieces shorter than 300 words."
Most of you reading this will quite probably have thought at one stage upon seeing the rioting "I couldn't possibly do that, no matter what happened, no matter how bad things were. I don't understand how anyone could." Good for you if so. You may have thought a bit about the reasons behind it and decided that, no matter what, stealing and burning things would make your life worse in the long run.

The bad news is; that doesn't make you a better person than the rioters. It means that the lives they've lived are worse than you can imagine or understand.
PSA: may be down for a couple of days while I sort out switching to a new host (have gone with nsdesign as they're actually answering phone and emails and are based in Glasgow, so I can go and sort things out in person if I have to). This means my main email address will also be down - use the hotmail one or a Glasgow address. Edit: it looks like both are now back up - yay.
Wow. I knew those "1 weird tip to [lose weight / whiten teeth / etc.]" ads were dodgy and irritating - I did not know that they were a scheme for farming credit card numbers. Full details at Washington Post - note to self, read later...
Just checked the casting for the Hobbit (after failing to recognise any of the dwarves - which wasn't really surprising, as the only one I've heard of is James Nesbitt as Bofur). But I hadn't realised it contains:

possible spoilers if you haven't read the books )
Request to anyone reading this who drives: could you please answer this questionnaire for research? Also please post elsewhere if appropriate. Thanks.
I have realised that there are people on my friendslist who do not think that a minimum price on alcohol is a good idea. This comes as quite a surprise to me. If you fall into this category, please read the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh's statement on the minimum price of alcohol, which gives a good solid summary from a reputable source.

"The RCPE strongly welcomes the publication of the
Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Bill and the measures contained within. We believe that this Bill represents a commitment from the Scottish Government to tackle alcohol abuse in a meaningful way, which recognises the irrefutable causal link between the price of alcohol, the level of consumption and alcohol-related harm. Significantly, the Alcohol etc. (Scotland) Bill recognises that alcohol abuse requires to be tackled at a population level via a comprehensive package of measures that are targeted both at problem drinkers and at the wider populace (in which the level of consumption has risen significantly and worryingly in recent years)."

You don't get a bunch of doctors using a word like "irrefutable" and issuing it in a press statement unless the evidence actually IS irrefutable.

..."It is recognised that the adoption of minimum pricing as a policy measure per se is relatively untested, and that only limited research has been published on minimum pricing to date. However, when this emerging evidence is considered along with the mass of scientific evidence in relation to consumption and cost, studies on the effects of other forms of price increases and a number of national and international reviews, minimum price has emerged as the policy measure most likely to reduce alcohol-related harm. This explains why after reviewing the evidence, the World Health Organisation, a range of leading international alcohol scientists, the House of Commons Health Committee, the Scottish and UK Medical Royal Colleges, the Chief Medical Officers of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Directors of Public Health of every NHS Board in Scotland and the National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in England have all concluded that statutory minimum pricing should be implemented to reduce the increase in alcohol-related harm."

If anyone's still not convinced (about the scientific evidence), please see a doctor and talk to them about it, because you appear to have a severe case of denial.

Put it this way, I would be voting for the TORIES if they promised to introduce this bill. As it is, it's the SNP, who have a few other policies that seem sensible (about the same number as the Lib Dems and Labour, IMO). Second vote is still Green :)

ETA: to put this in context, the minimum price being suggested is currently 40p. This would make 500ml of ale £1.20, a bottle of port £6 and a bottle of whisky £12 - sound reasonable to everyone? On the low side, Tesco is currently offering 40x440ml cans of Stella Artois for £25 (and that was just the first thing I checked). At 40p per unit that would go up to £36 at least.

And Tesco Value Vodka would go up from £8.83 to £12 - that £10 mark is a psychologically significant barrier, also.


Apr. 22nd, 2011 10:37 am
The Choir and Organ commission has gone up! It's here:

I've also done a big website update in the hope of getting some business from that: any thoughts? (Other than "oh my god, this needs serious redesigning".)
(also the scores page has several new ones up: - and the biography and works list has been updated).

And the meeting with Amemptos to discuss the Requiem went very well - they're delighted with what I have so far (2 movements finished, 1 mostly complete, 3 sketched, several not yet written, but the finished ones are good). Preview of that hopefully coming soon...
Okay, I'm starting to get a bit annoyed with this "cause trouble to the people filling out the census because they have links to a company that colluded with torture at Abu Ghraib" thing.

The company in question is unfortunate enough to share a parent company with a group whose personnel were present at Abu Ghraib, yes. This does NOT mean that the workers were involved in torture, that they had any knowledge of what was going on, or that the parent company endorsed it (indeed they've stated that they took steps to prevent abuse by their employees). The only personnel who have been proven to have taken part in torture are members of the US Army, but I note the US Army hasn't even put on trial everyone who worked there. Abu Ghraib was a horrible place where terrible things happened, but there are also people who went into Abu Ghraib, stayed there in a cell for a few days, and left again (either released or to go to trial) without being abused or tortured. You cannot tar everyone who worked there with the same brush.

If you fill in the census wrongly or with joined-up writing, etc., in order to frustrate this company, you are essentially judging them guilty until proven innocent.I note that many of the people judging this company guilty until proven innocent would be raging if a person was treated this way.

Also, if they have any sense, they won't be paying their workers by the hour, but by the number of forms scanned in. What you're doing here is probably not causing them to pay more to their hard-working employees; it's probably causing their hard-working employees to do more work and waste their time for the same amount of money. Essentially that would be screwing over... oh, every worker who's unfortunate enough to be employed by this company. OK, thanks to [ profile] marrog - it appears that this is very unlikely to be the case, and they will get paid by the hour. All other points stand.

Finally, any improperly filled out censuses or unreadable handwriting will invalidate the data and make it useless to future generations of researchers; as a university researcher I strongly resent this.

In short - fill out your census properly. Or I'll be annoyed.
The SNP may have some problems, but this is likely to get them my vote. Alcohol abuse is the biggest single problem facing Scotland at the moment, and this will cut it massively - and speaking as a moderate drinker, I am not going to be affected much by it if at all. The only drinks that will go up noticeably in price under this law will be the ones that people drink in order to get drunk (cheap and highly-alcoholic crap). I hope at least one of the other parties is willing to see sense, particularly since Northern Ireland is pursuing a similar policy.
Recipe time again! Tonight's dinner was really successful and delicious.

(For people who expressed interest in the "how to cook vegetables" blog idea - I realised it really needs to be a video blog, or "vlog" if you will, so it's waiting a while until I get a smartphone of some sort.)

Anyway, here we go - it's basic stuffed peppers, but the filling just worked brilliantly.

Ingredients - for 4 servings
1 small aubergine
1 courgette
1 large stick of celery
1 onion
1-2 cloves garlic
50g pine nuts
250g halloumi
olive oil
4 large red (or yellow, maybe) peppers. Green ones are insufficiently juicy.
a few teaspooons of honey
1tsp dried basil or a tablespoon of finely chopped fresh basil
1tsp ground coriander
couscous to serve
balsamic vinegar

Halve the peppers vertically, and remove the stalks and veins from the inside. Put in a large baking tray and set aside, with the openings facing up.

Take a large frying pan, and toast the pine nuts over a medium heat, turning frequently, for 3-4 minutes until darkish brown. Set aside in a bowl.

Preheat oven to gas mark 7 (highish heat but not the highest).

Chop the halloumi into smallish chunks (about 1cm x 1cm x 4cm). Using the same pan as before, fry the halloumi for 4-5 minutes on a medium-high heat, turning frequently once the liquid has boiled off, until all sides of it are at least somewhat browned. Set aside in a bowl.

Chop all the remaining vegetables finely, stick some olive oil in the same pan again, let it heat up (medium-high heat) and throw all the vegetables in. Saute until they're all fairly soft (5-6 minutes), then add the basil and coriander. Turn the heat off and stir in the pine nuts and halloumi.

Put a large spoonful of filling in each pepper. If there's any left over, sprinkle it on top and around the peppers. Drizzle over the honey. Put it in the oven for about 15 minutes.

While that's cooking, put about 30g of couscous per person into a jug, add a little olive oil and salt to it, and then pour water over to twice the height of the couscous (i.e. if the top of your couscous is at the 100ml mark, add water until it reaches 200ml). Let that stand until the peppers are cooked - it'll be done by then and will have absorbed the water (add a bit more if it looks dry). Put the couscous on the plates and drizzle a little balsamic vinegar on the couscous, it'll soak it up happily and its flavour will improve.

Put the peppers on the plates, throw any leftover filling on top, and enjoy!
My thoughts on today's Sinfest comic (which I can't link to at work):

Yes, of course God can make a rock that God can't lift - because lifting only has meaning when there's gravity to push against. A rock sufficiently large could not be lifted because its gravity would make it the dominant force in the locality - it'd be like trying to lift the earth while standing on the moon. All you'd really be doing is pushing the moon away. (Which would still be impressive, I admit.)

Can't believe it took me so long to see that flaw in the question.

In unrelated God news: don't know if anyone else has spotted the posters at train stations saying "May 21, 2011" and wondered "is this some bizarre end-of-the-world cult?" I'll save you the trouble of going to their website and face-palming at their (lack of) reasoning - yes, it is, and they're exactly as stupid as you'd expect, but have somehow got rich enough to be able to afford advertising. I look forward to pointing and laughing a lot on May 22nd.
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