Wednesday, 27 June 2012

In Which there is a Dead Codebreaker and and Live Cellist

I  booked a ticket a while back, to see Zoe Keating, at her one London show, Then this weekend I had a mild panic for fear I would be too ill to go (The panic was mild only becuase I had no energy to panic properly) However, come Monday I decided that if I was well enough to go into work, I was damn well well enough to go to London to listen to music.
I am not sure whether the logic of that decision would hold up to rigourous examination, but it seemed reasonable at the time.
I had prebooked an afternoon off work, and a rail ticket, so I arrived in London at around 3.30, and decided to head across to the Science Museum, which currently has an exhibition celebrating Alan Turing's centenary.

It was a small, but interesting exhibition. As well as the obvious points, such as Turing's work at Bletchley Park during the War, and his tragically early death after his conviction for homosexuality, the exhibition included some information about his childhood friendships, as well as about his work at Manchester University following the war.

One striking piece of information, new to me, was that 2 of the papers which Turing wrote during his time at Bletchley,  were not released publically until April this year, apparently becuase it was felt that the work they contained was sstill too relevant and too important.

Which is astonishing.

After looking round the Turing exhibition I wandered into a few other parts of the museum. I admit that the section about vetinary history left me rather cold - it's hard to get interested in toothrasps and horse drenching bottles. I liked the Wellcome medical history gallery better, although possibly not for the right reasons. It is full of tableaux and dioramas, peopled by manniquins which appear to be rejexts from even the most undiscriminating shop display. The tableaux themselves range from an oddly unconcered Roman with an arrow in the neck, to a modern operating theatre, but are arranged, apparently at random. They also have some interactive exhibits where you can try out some psychometric tests, but without being told how you score, or what the normal reaction might be. I should like to think that the whole exhibition might be an elaborate psychological experiment..

The random Roman bath-tub was nice, though.

I then wandered back downstairs, pausing to take a look at the microscope made for George III (it has cherubs, and semi-naked ladies on it) and at Mr Babbage's Difference Engine, then I took a wrong turning past the Daleks  (they label them as being V2 and other early rocket engines, but you only have to look at them to see the truth =>;) and I found myself unexpectedly face to face with George Stevenson's 'Rocket'

It's pretty impressive. And I like how they keep it next to the Apollo 10 Command Module, and a few other bits and bobs of a similar kind.

There are Steam-Engines and Beam-Engines and great big Jet Engines, and bicycles and biplanes and all sorts of other fascinating things. It reminded me why I like this museum, and that I ought to come more often!

But, like all good things, the museum visit came to an end, as they like to close it in the evenings, so I took the hint, and headed out to Hackney, and the  Vortex Jazz Club, where Zoe Keating was playing.

The venue is small, and was very full. Opening for Zoe was Ruby Colley - a composer / violinist who, like Zoe, uses a computer to allow her to accompany herself.

She played a short, but fascinating set, which left me feeling that she is a name to watch - I shall certainly be keeping an eye out for any future performances.

Then, Zoe started her set (with a slight delay in starting, due to a computer issue). I can only say that her music is even more stunning live than it is recorded - and she's a witty lady, too. And despite the crowded, overheated room, the uncomfortable chair, and the nagging anxiety that I might miss the last train back, I lost myself in the music for a time.
and, although I was forced to leave before the set ended, I did not miss the last train home.

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