Singer Maria Callas, new film


This September 2018 video says about itself:

Maria By Callas | Official US Trailer HD

Tom Volf’s MARIA BY CALLAS is the first film to tell the life story of the legendary Greek/American opera singer completely in her own words.

Told through performances, TV interviews, home movies, family photographs, private letters and unpublished memoirs—nearly all of which have never been shown to the public—the film reveals the essence of an extraordinary woman who rose from humble beginnings in New York City to become a glamorous international superstar and one of the greatest artists of all time.

Assembling the material for the film took director Volf four years of painstaking research, which included personal outreach to dozens of Callas’s closest friends and associates, who allowed him to share their personal memorabilia in the film. When recordings of Callas’s voice aren’t available, Joyce DiDonato, one of contemporary opera’s biggest stars, reads her words.

By Joanne Laurier in the USA:

Maria by Callas: A documentary on the life of the famed opera singer

8 December 2018

From France, Tom Volf’s Maria by Callas is an engrossing documentary about the legendary Greek-American opera soprano. An intimate portrait of Maria Callas (1923-1977) is presented through archival material, television interviews, home movies, family photographs and unpublished memoirs. Opera star Joyce DiDonato reads Callas’ words, when recordings of Callas are unavailable.

Volf’s research is meticulous. He tracked down a global array of people with expertise on Callas, filming interviews with 30 of the singer’s friends in nearly a dozen countries who “opened up their cupboards and pulled out 8mm films, audio tape reels, letters, and photos. He quickly realized that a large part of this memorabilia was previously unseen and had never been shown in public before,” according to the movie’s production notes.

Says Volf: “I understood very quickly that she was not only a phenomenon in her lifetime, she was still a phenomenon in 2013, nearly four decades after her death.”

One of the film’s highlights is Callas’ 1970 interview with commentator and television host David Frost. Portions of the 17-minute interview are interspersed throughout the documentary, which toggles between her career and personal life. A key theme of Maria by Callas is Maria’s comment to Frost, “There are two people in me actually, Maria and Callas … If someone really tries to listen to me, he will find all of myself there.” Volf is adept at presenting, as he says, “how the two communicate and sometimes struggle, and sometimes sacrifice one to the other.”

One segment shows dedicated young people waiting, and sleeping, on line in New York City for a chance to hear Callas sing. Also mentioned is her notorious (she was ill) 1958 “Rome Cancellation”, as well as her publicized conflict with the Metropolitan Opera’s general manager (1950-1972) Rudolf Bing. There is, as well, in-depth footage of her complicated relationship with Greek shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis. Longtime friend Nadia Stancioff (author of Maria Callas Remembered) and Georges Prêtre, one of her favorite conductors, also form part of the film’s fabric.

Notably, Callas worked with Italian filmmaker Pier Paolo Pasolini on his film, Medea (1969), her only film role, and developed a close friendship with the influential director and writer.

The film brings out the immense pressures exerted on Callas by the demands, on the one hand, of an art form that requires constant artistic obsession and near perfection and, on the other, of her status, in the words of a commentator, as “one of the world’s first international celebrities, especially after she began her affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis in 1959. The paparazzi couldn’t get enough of her.” The combined pressures may well have helped lead to her early death from a heart attack at the age of 53, while living in considerable isolation.

Undoubtedly, one of the film’s most breathtaking moments is Callas’ 1958 performance in concert of “Casta Diva” (Chaste Goddess), the famed aria from Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma.

This music video shows that 1958 performance.

Sung at the Théâtre National de l’Opéra in Paris, it is, according to the movie’s production notes, “presented for the very first time in color and shows a Callas at the pinnacle of her career. We will see her Norma seven years later in the film, when she has to abandon the stage in Paris in 1965. It’s the last time she ever sang it and her last but one performance ever on an operatic stage. One could say her career started with Norma (back in 1947) and ended with it.”

Also featured are sublime performances of arias from Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata —“Addio del passato” (Farewell to the Past, 1958); Georges Bizet’s Carmen —“L’amour est un oiseau rebelle” (Love is a Rebellious Bird, 1962); and Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca—“Vissi d’arte, Vissi d’amore” (I Lived for Art, I Lived for Love, 1963).

Volf’s films does not choose to take up the more controversial question of Callas’s activity, while still a teenager, in occupied Greece during World War II. In The Unknown Callas: The Greek Years, author Nicholas Petsalis-Diomidis discusses the singer’s performances at concerts attended by Italian and German troops. He takes note of “the number of Greek singers who took part, although the events were organized by the loathed enemy. Even those with leftist political views seldom missed such opportunities to make a public appearance, to further their careers and be rewarded for their services, usually with food that could not otherwise be obtained at any price. Of course there was no question of their being accused of collaboration.”

However, in Callas’ case, “her accusers have concentrated much more on her social intercourse with Italians … than on her ‘collaboration’ in the field of music. … In [Callas’] case it is beyond question that she did have close friendships with a number of Italians on a clearly personal basis.”

In a review of Petsalis-Diomidis’s book, the Telegraph wrote, “There is also a lot here about Callas’ personal life. Her mother, as they used to say, was no better than she should be during the war, with lovers ranging from an Italian colonel to German officers. Callas took up with a Fascist major, a paratrooper, a German music critic, a British officer who got her a job at Army HQ and a Greek businessman (shades of things to come), who paid for her return ticket to America.”

It should be noted that left-wing Italian artists such as Pasolini and Luchino Visconti did not consider Callas’ wartime activities an obstacle. Visconti first directed the singer in a 1954 production of Gaspare Spontini’s La Vestale at Milan’s La Scala. Four other collaborations (one of them conducted by Leonard Bernstein) followed over the course of several years. In a 1969 joint television interview, Visconti explained, “I started to direct opera because of … no, not because of, but for Maria Callas.”

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Buzzcocks punk misician Pete Shelley, RIP


This music video is called THE BUZZCOCKS – FAST CARS (LIVE 1981).

From the BBC, 6 December 2018:

Buzzcocks singer Pete Shelley dies at 63

Buzzcocks lead singer Pete Shelley has died at 63 of a suspected heart attack.

The punk band are best known for their hit, Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve).

Their management told the BBC that Shelley died on Thursday in Estonia where he was living.

BBC music correspondent Lizo Mzimba said Buzzcocks, who formed in Bolton in the 1970s, were regarded as more polished, but musically no less influential, than the Sex Pistols.

The band have tweeted saying Shelley was “one of the UK’s most influential and prolific songwriters and co-founder of the seminal original punk band Buzzcocks”.

His music inspired generations of musicians over a five-decade career with his band and as a solo artist, they said.

Cambrian animals’ eyes, new research


This video says about itself:

Colours of Life – The Evolution of Colour Vision Expressed in Musical Colours – Iris Stal

23 August 2018

A composition by Iris Stal.

This is a composition I wrote for a university assignment for a course on interdisciplinary evolution. It’s the very first composition I’ve ever written! 🙂 This piece for orchestra is supposed to express how colour vision has evolved throughout its evolutionary timeline, using musical colours.

Our eyes use cones to detect the colours in the light waves that we pick up. In the music, I attempted to explain which cones came up with which group of animals and how that affected the way they saw their environment. If important, I also tried to take important events or circumstances along in the atmosphere, such as natural selection influences or extinctions. I followed the lineage from one of the very first light-sensitive eyecups all the way up to human eyes. Lineages that branched off I didn’t include as it would be too much.

The coloured bars on the left show what cones the animals had. The cones symbolize cones for blue light, red, green and UV. I used video footage and/or illustrations that I edited to show how the species potentially perceived their environment. It’s not super accurate, but it’s hard imitating a colour the human eye can’t see. 😀 Looking at you, ultraviolet!

This project was sooo much fun to create! It was tons of work but it was absolutely worth the effort. I finished the project with a 9/10. It inspired me to continue with my passion for music. I hope you enjoy the video! 🙂

From the University of Bristol in England:

Enhancing our vision of the past

December 5, 2018

An international group of scientists led by researchers from the University of Bristol have advanced our understanding of how ancient animals saw the world by combining the study of fossils and genetics.

Ancestors of insects and crustaceans that lived more than 500 million years ago in the Cambrian period were some of the earliest active predators, but not much is known about how their eyes were adapted for hunting.

Work published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B today suggests that when fossil and genetic data are assessed in tandem, previously inaccessible and exciting conclusions about long dead species can be made.

By examining the morphological characteristics of fossils’ eyes, alongside the genetic visual pigment clues, a cross-disciplinary team led by a collaboration between the University of Bristol’s Davide Pisani, Professor of Phylogenomics in the School of Earth Sciences and Nicholas Roberts, Professor of Sensory Ecology in the School of Biological Sciences, were able to find that ancient predators with more complex eyes are likely to have seen in colour.

Professor Pisani remarked: “Being able to combine fossil and genetic data in this way is a really exciting frontier of modern palaeontological and biological research. Vision is key to many animals’ behaviour and ecology, and understanding how extinct animals perceived their environment will help enormously to clarify how they evolved.”

By calculating the time of emergence of different visual pigments, and then comparing them to the inferred age of origin of key fossil lineages, the researchers were able to work out the number of pigments likely to have been possessed by different fossil species. They found that fossil animals with more complex eyes appeared to have more visual pigments, and that the great predators of the Cambrian period may have been able to see in colour.

Dr James Fleming, Professor Pisani and Roberts’ former PhD student, explained: “Animal genomes and therefore opsin genes (constituting the base of different visual pigments) evolve by processes of gene duplication. The opsin and the pigment that existed before the duplication is like a parent, and the two new opsins (and pigments) that emerge from the duplication process are like children on a family tree.

“We calculated the birth dates of these children and this allowed understanding of what the ancient world must have seemed like to the animals that occupied it. We found that while some of the fossils we considered had only one pigment and were monochromat, i.e. they saw the world as if looking into a black and white TV, forms with more complex eyes, like iconic trilobites, had many pigments and most likely saw their world in colours.”

The combinations of complex eyes and multiple kinds of visual pigments are what allows animals to distinguish between different objects based on colour alone — what we know as colour vision.

Professor Roberts commented: “It is remarkable to see how in only a very few million years the view those animals’ had of their world changed from greys to the colourful world we see today.”

The project involved scientists from all across the world — from the UK as well as Denmark, Italy, Korea and Japan, where Dr Fleming has now moved to work as a postdoctoral researcher. Each of them brought their own specialities to this multidisciplinary work, providing expertise in genetics, vision, taxonomy and palaeontology.

Auschwitz camp music reconstructed


This 20 November 2018 video from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in the USA says about itself:

Giving Voice to a Foxtrot from Auschwitz-Birkenau

While conducting research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum last summer, music theory professor Patricia Hall became interested in a manuscript arranged and performed by prisoners in the Auschwitz I men’s orchestra. Heartbreakingly titled “The Most Beautiful Time of Life”, it’s a foxtrot that was likely performed as dance music for the Auschwitz garrison. It has now been recorded by SMTD’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble for the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum and will be performed in a free concert on Friday, November 30 at 8 pm, in the Moore Building on North Campus.

This 30 November 2018 video from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance in the USA says about itself:

Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens (world premiere): U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble

Manchester Ariana Grande concert bloodbath, MI5 complicit


This 22 November 2018 video from Britain says about itself:

MI5 “Must Be Taken To Court” Over Manchester Bomber Salman Abedi Failure: Says Survivor Robby Potter

By Thomas Scripps in Britain:

UK Intelligence and Security Committee admits Manchester bomb attack should have been prevented

30 November 2018

Parliament’s Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) has stated that the MI5 intelligence agency made a series of mistakes in its handling of the case of Salman Abedi, failing to prevent him from carrying out a horrific terrorist attack.

Abedi detonated a bomb at the end of a packed Ariana Grande concert in Manchester Arena on May 22, 2017, killing 22 people and injuring over a hundred.

The ISC’s report stated that, “there were a number of failures in the handling of Salman Abedi’s case and, while it is impossible to say whether these would have prevented the devastating attack on 22 May, we have concluded that, as a result of the failings, potential opportunities to prevent it were missed.”

MI5 accepted that they “moved too slowly.”

In reality, the report and all such admissions are tailored to hide a host of damning facts about Abedi’s relationship with the British state that explain why such supposed “mistakes” were made.

The ISC is composed of tried and trusted MPs and Lords selected by the prime minister and sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council. Its “investigation” is meant to complete a whitewash begun in December 2017 with a report on UK terror attacks by David Anderson QC—building on the cover-up launched in the hours after the attack.

Immediately after the bombing, Prime Minister Theresa May claimed Abedi was a “lone wolf”, only known to the security services “to a degree.” Two D-Notices (a request to the press not to report on a particular issue) were issued over the attack and were for the most part slavishly obeyed by the mainstream media. Information soon emerged, mostly via the US, that tore the government’s claims to shreds.

It was revealed that the FBI had warned MI5 in January 2017 that Abedi belonged to a North African terrorist group looking for a political target in Britain. Then it was reported that Abebi was in contact with a Libyan Islamic State [ISIS] battalion and that he had twice visited in prison the convicted terrorist and fighter in Libya and Syria, Abdal Raouf Abdallah, which would have triggered extensive security checks as a matter of course.

Abedi regularly travelled from his home in Manchester to Libya to visit his parents, who were members of the anti-Gaddafi Libyan Islamic Fighting Group—which is closely tied to the British state. He is reported to have fought with Islamist forces himself. Actively investigated by MI5 in January 2014, Abedi soon had his case closed, to be reopened in 2015 and closed again within one day. At the time he detonated his bomb, four days after returning from a trip to Libya, he was supposedly not considered a threat.

Anderson’s December report was designed to cover for the security services in the face of these incriminating disclosures. He previously defended GCHQ’s mass surveillance of the entire population in a BBC documentary and paved the way for the Snoopers’ Charter with the report, “A Question of Trust.” He wrote, “It is not the purpose of the internal reviews, or of this report, to cast or apportion blame.” The case of Abedi outlined was cast in terms of “tragic” mistakes only noticeable “in retrospect.”

Anderson made no mention of the fact that came to light in August this year—that Abedi and his brother had actually been evacuated from Libya aboard a Royal Navy ship in 2014, with the personal knowledge of then Prime Minister David Cameron.

Royal Navy rescued suicide bomber 3 years before attack: here.

Why DID they hide the truth on the Manchester bomber? Victims left angry after they were kept in the dark over the Royal Navy plucking terrorist from Libyan warzone: here.

He refused to comment on whether he had known about the evacuation when compiling his report and, if so, why he had chosen to omit it.

The only conclusion to be drawn from the available evidence is that Abedi was viewed as an intelligence asset, allowed free rein to participate in jihadist formations aligned with British imperialism in the Middle East and North Africa. Only this explanation makes sense of the incredible “lapses in security” revealed by the ISC, whatever combination of fact and fiction they may be.

According to the committee, Abedi’s two visits to Abdal Raouf Abdallah in Altcourse prison brought “no follow-up action” and were “not passed to MI5.” He was never referred to the government’s “Prevent” strategy—meant to prevent people being radicalized by “extremism”—and did not have his travel monitored or restricted.

Another security “failing” caused “serious concern” due to its “highly sensitive security aspects” and will only be revealed only to the prime minister in a classified report. Concealing this information strongly suggests that it is highly incriminating and possibly relates to Abedi’s role as an asset in the operation to topple Gaddafi. Theresa May was home secretary at the time when the security services allowed LIFG members to travel to Libya, providing them with passports after they had been previously confiscated and giving them security clearance as part of the military operations to overthrow Gaddafi.

Abedi was never referred to Prevent, yet in 2015-2016 over a thousand schoolchildren were referred to its “deradicalization” programmes. The UK is a world leader in mass surveillance and had direct links with multiple Libyan Islamist militias. These “errors of judgement” were part of a deliberate policy.

The ISC’s members know this is precisely how MI5 and MI6 operate: maintaining and protecting networks of jihadist fighters, who can be deployed against Middle Eastern and African governments. If some go rogue and kill British citizens, then that is considered collateral damage.

This pattern was confirmed in October, when head of counter-terrorism policing Neil Basu said that fighters returning from Syria were no longer considered the biggest terror threat to the UK. According to the UK’s own counter-terrorism strategy documents, around 900 British nationals of “national security concern” are thought to have travelled to Syria, and 40 percent of them are thought to have returned.

Basu’s comments prefigured a statement from Chief of the British General Staff General Mark Carleton-Smith last weekend. Smith declared that the threat from terrorism paled in comparison to the threat posed by Russia. Having served as a bogeyman to justify endless wars of intervention and attacks on democratic rights, “the terrorists” are now far more helpful as allies in proxy wars against rival powers—above all Russia.

The only ISC recommendations likely to be enacted are those which use state-created atrocities as an excuse for yet greater state surveillance and censorship in connection with rapidly escalating militarism. The report states that communication companies were failing to fulfil their duty to detect terror planning online and suggested government pressure be brought to bear.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid jumped at the opportunity, saying “We have updated our counter-terrorism strategy, introduced new legislation to allow threats to be disrupted earlier and have increased information sharing with local authorities. We are also ensuring technology companies play their part by stopping terrorists from exploiting their platforms.”

The media passed over the ISC report with nothing more than a “so what”, with no further reporting on it after 24 hours. The BBC and the Guardian said nothing of Abedi’s extensive connections with Britain’s Libya campaign in their coverage. BBC home affairs and security correspondent, Dominic Casciani, provided an apologia for MI5, writing, “The big problem is that intelligence on suspects is fragmentary. A British-Libyan young man travelling to Libya is not the stuff of red alerts.”

Survivors and those bereaved by the Manchester attack criticised the government and intelligence agencies. Survivor Robby Porter is considering taking legal action against MI5. “This could have been stopped,” he said, “and we’re finding out now that it should have been stopped.”

The author recommends:

UK terror report confirms Manchester and London terror attackers known to MI5
[17 December 2017]

Reggae music on global heritage list


This 29 November 2018 video says about itself:

Unesco adds Reggae Music to global heritage List – Special mention to Rototom Sunsplash

We are very proud to see our special mention during the Unesco session about the global cultural heritage of Reggae Music! One love and long life to reggae music!

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Reggae has been added to the Unesco list of intangible world heritage. According to the UN organization reggae music once gave a voice to the oppressed class of society, “but now it is played and loved by many people in society, regardless of gender, ethnicity or religion”.

When the decision was made at a UN meeting in Mauritius, the Jamaican delegation sang Bob Marley‘s One love. “This is the heart and soul of my country”, the head of the delegation responded. “Reggae is no longer ours alone, it belongs to the whole world now.”

Reggae originated in Jamaica in the 1960s, where African, American and Caribbean influences came together. For the inhabitants of, for example, the capital Kingston, it was a way to express themselves, social criticism and express their faith.

In the years that followed, the music spread all over the world through the big Jamaican community in Britain. Musicians like Peter Tosh, Desmond Dekker and of course Bob Marley broke through internationally.

At the meeting in Mauritius, which lasts until December 1, more than twenty traditions worldwide have been added to the list, such as the Irish ball sport hurling, Austrian avalanche prevention and the Cuban Parrandas party.

Noteworthy is the addition of traditional Korean wrestling to the list; it is the first time that North and South Korea submitted a proposal together. Ssireum (written as ssirum in the north) is a popular pastime in both countries.

The joint application was made possible by the rapprochement that the South Korean president Moon was looking for with the north in recent times.

Beer and paper

The list of intangible heritage is intended to protect traditional crafts, social customs and arts worldwide. Among the 508 traditions from 121 countries, since 2008, for example, the Belgian beer culture, the Day of the Dead in Mexico and Chinese paper-cut. …

In Mauritius, the emergency bell sounded about seven traditions that are threatened with extinction. For example, the Syrian shadow play threatens to disappear due to the civil war and more modern entertainment, there is less and less room for the Maasai’s transition rites in East Africa and traditional Pakistani astronomy suffers from digital alternatives.