Monthly Archives: April 2014

Way Down Yonder in New South Wales

(This review was published in Jazzline magazine,
Vol. 47 No. 1, Autumn/Winter 2014).

CD Review by Tim Harding

Album: Way Down Yonder in New South Wales Volume 2* – A wide ranging selection of rare early jazz recordings in Australia’s oldest state’ (FJM-039). The Jack Mitchell Library, Lithgow.

This compilation CD has been put together by the Australian jazz collector and discographer, Jack Mitchell.  It is an interesting cross-section of early Australian jazz and hot dance music, recorded in Sydney between the years 1926 and 1961, but mainly in the 1940s and 50s. The bands range in size from the traditional 6 or 7 piece groups led by Ray Price to the larger swing band format of Jim Davidson and his Orchestra.

way down yonder

The first thing a listener can’t help noticing is the low-fi audio on most (but not all) of the tracks on this album.  Ironically, at least 6 of the tracks were recorded live on tape by the late Robert Parker.  It doesn’t sound as if any of the original recordings have been remastered; and this detracts from the listening experience in some cases.  Nevertheless, most of the tracks are likely to be of interest to jazz historians and collectors.

The obvious next question is whether the music is good enough to justify a future effort of audio restoration, which can be a difficult and painstaking exercise, as remasterers tell me.  My answer would be ‘yes’; although some tracks are musically more worthy than others.

The star of the album is undoubtedly the youthful Bob Barnard on cornet.  When he recorded the Louis Armstrong flag wavers Cornet Chop Suey and Ole Miss Rag** with the Paramount Jazz Band at the Sydney Jazz Club in 1957, he would have been only 24 years old.  It must have been thrilling in those days for jazz aficionados to hear some of Louis’ hottest early solos played live.  Bob also plays on six tracks with the Ray Price Trio and friends – these are Chicago, 2.19 Blues, Stardust, My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms, If I Could Be With You and Someday You’ll Be Sorry.

The other stand-out soloist, in my view, is Bob Cruickshanks on alto sax.  Bob also plays clarinet on the album, but his alto solos with Ray Price on Chicago and Someday You’ll Be Sorry are beautifully melodic.  Norm Wyatt places a lyrical trombone solo on If I Could Be With You, indicating some Jack Teagarden influences.

The two opening tracks on the album were acoustically recorded in 1926 by The Palais Royal Californians, who apparently were the first professional American jazz band to visit Australia.  That Certain Party sounds datedly ‘ricky-tick’, and probably would not qualify as jazz without the ad lib solos by Australians Frank Coughlan on trombone and Ern Pettifer on baritone sax.  The Paul Mares/Ferd Morton composition Milenberg Joys is played about twice as fast as the New Orleans Rhythm Kings version of 1923 and comes complete with barnyard novelty noises.

Jim Davidson’s Eventide – A Mood is vaguely reminiscent of Duke Ellington’s Mood Indigo, even down to the brief Duke-like piano interlude.  It was recorded in November 1933 alongside Davidson’s far better known (and better sound quality) Original Dixieland One Step, which is also on the album.

There is a swinging 27-second excerpt from a film short by a wartime army bigband called the Waratahs.  The track is titled ‘One O’Clock Jump’, but it sounds to me like Bugle Call Rag.  Then a mainstream quartet featuring Merv Acheson on tenor sax plays Study on the Jump Notes apparently recorded for a 1943 radio broadcast.  Lester Young and Count Basie have been obvious influences here.

The Port Jackson Jazz Band recording of I’m Nobody’s Sweetheart Now in 1947 features Ken Flannery on cornet instead of Bob Barnard.  Bob Cruickshanks plays a decent solo on clarinet but I do prefer his alto playing.  Ken Flannery later appears on trumpet in two tracks recorded by the Les Welch Orchestra.  These are West End Blues recorded in 1951 and Back Back Baby of 1956, which includes a vocal by Les Welch and a clarinet solo by Don Burrows.  (Les Welch was the founder of Festival Records, and claims to have pressed the first 78 rpm shellac disc and the first 33 rpm long-playing record in Australia).

Don Burrows and Errol Buddle (tenor sax) play some nice solos on the final track The Craven A Theme by Bob Gibson’s Dixie Group, which also includes George Golla on guitar.  Apart from the solos, this track is not particularly memorable.

In its current form, this album is primarily one for jazz historians and collectors.  However, after some decent audio restoration and remastering, it could also be an album enjoyed by the general jazz listener.

Endnotes

*The album front cover says ‘Volume One’; whereas the back cover, the spine and the disc itself are labelled as Volume 2.

** W.C. Handy’s Ole Miss Rag is listed as ‘Blues (Rent Party??)’ in the cover notes.

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The Gricean Maxims

by Tim Harding

There are certain social conventions and assumptions that are normally made by people engaged in meaningful conversations.   Vocabulary and the rules of grammar combine with knowledge of the situational context to fill in what’s missing and resolve ambiguities.  For example, when we ask at the dinner table whether somebody can pass the salt, we are not literally enquiring as to their physical ability to lift and move the salt container.[1][2]

Listeners and speakers need to cooperate with each other and to mutually accept one another to be understood in a particular way.   In sociolinguistics, this is known as the  Cooperative Principle.  As phrased by British philosopher Paul Grice, who introduced it, the principle states,

‘Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.[3]

Though phrased as a prescriptive command, the principle is intended as a description of how people normally behave in conversation, to ensure that what they say in a conversation furthers the purpose of that conversation.  The principle describes the assumptions listeners normally make about the way cooperative speakers will talk.

Thus the cooperative principle works both ways: speakers (generally) observe the cooperative principle, and listeners (generally) assume that speakers are observing it.  This allows for the possibility of implicatures, which are meanings that are not explicitly conveyed in what is said, but that can nonetheless be inferred.  For example, if Alice points out that Bill is not present, and Carol replies that Bill has a cold, then there is an implicature that the cold is the reason, or at least a possible reason, for Bill’s absence.  This is because Carol’s comment is not cooperative — does not contribute to the conversation — unless her point is that Bill’s cold is or might be the reason for his absence (see the Maxim of Relevance below).  If Bill’s cold had nothing to do with his absence, then Carol’s comment would be irrelevant, misleading and thus uncooperative to the conversation.

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The cooperative principle can be divided into four maxims, called the Gricean Maxims, describing specific rational subordinate principles observed by people who adhere to the overarching cooperative principle.  Grice proposed four conversational maxims that arise from the pragmatics of natural language.  The Gricean Maxims are a way to explain the link between utterances and what is understood from them.

Maxim of Quality

  1. Do not say what you believe to be false.
  2. Do not say that for which you lack adequate evidence.

Maxim of Quantity

  1. Make your contribution as informative as is required (for the current purposes of the exchange).
  2. Do not make your contribution more informative than is required.

Maxim of Relation

  1. Be relevant.

Maxim of Manner

  1. Avoid obscurity of expression.
  2. Avoid ambiguity.
  3. Be brief (avoid unnecessary prolixity).
  4. Be orderly.

Without cooperation, human interaction would be far more difficult and counterproductive. Therefore, the Cooperative Principle and the Gricean Maxims are not specific to conversation but to verbal interactions in general. For example, it would not make sense to reply to a question about the weather with an answer about groceries because it would violate the Maxim of Relevance. Likewise, responding to a simple yes/no question with a long monologue would violate the Maxim of Quantity.

However, it is possible to flout a maxim intentionally or unconsciously and thereby convey a different meaning than what is literally spoken. Many times in conversation, this flouting is manipulated by a speaker to produce a negative pragmatic effect, as with sarcasm or irony, or to convey a meaning by what is not said in the situational context. For example, a student named Luisa Casati has asked her tutor Jeremy Hirst to write a letter of recommendation.  The letter reads as follows;

‘Dear Colleague,

Ms. Luisa Casati has asked me to write a letter on her behalf. Let me say that Ms. Casati is unfailingly polite, is neatly dressed at all times, and is always on time for her classes.

Sincerely yours,

Jeremy Hirst’

Jeremy has violated the Maxim of Quantity by providing insufficient information as to Luisa’s suitability for further study or employment.  He has also violated the Maximum of Relevance by discussing some of her positive personal qualities, but which are not centrally relevant to her abilities as a student or employee.

Jeremy might have deliberately violated these two maxims in an attempt to be truthful whilst not hurting Luisa’s feelings (so as not to violate the maxims of quality or manner).  He may thus be conveying a subtle negative message to the reader by the nature of what he has left out of the text rather than what he has included.

Assuming that Jeremy’s letter is rational and purposeful, then in my view it does not disprove the maxims in question.  Indeed, by deliberately violating these maxims, the letter may well be conveying a subtle negative meaning that might not be conveyed if these maxims did not exist.  That is, if the Gricean maxims did not exist, and the letter was read literally and simply, then the letter may convey only a positive message that Jeremy might not really intend.

Speakers who deliberately flout the maxims usually intend for their listener to understand their underlying implicature. Conversationalists can assume that when speakers intentionally flout a maxim, they still do so with the aim of expressing some thought.  Thus, the Gricean Maxims serve a purpose both when they are followed and when they are flouted.

References and notes

[1] Fromkin, V., Rodman, R., Hyams, N., Collins, P., and Amberber, M., (2009) An  Introduction to Language (6th edition) South Melbourne: Cengage Learning. pp. 196-7.

[2] Indeed, it is thought that one of the main limitations to artificial intelligence is that machines are likely to interpret language too literally, unless they have been programmed with all the knowledge of situational context that humans accumulate over a lifetime.

[3] Grice, Paul (1975). ‘Logic and conversation’. In Cole, P.; Morgan, J. Syntax and semantics. 3: Speech acts. New York: Academic Press. pp. 41–58.

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Monty Hall solution

Players initially have a 2/3 chance of picking a goat. Those who swap always get the opposite of their original choice, so those who swap have 2/3 chance of winning the car. Players who stick have a 1/3 chance of winning the car.  The solution is based on the premise that the host knows which door hides the car and intentionally reveals a goat. If the player selected the door hiding the car (1/3), then both remaining doors hide goats and the host may choose either door at random, and switching doors loses in 1/3. On the other hand, if the player initially selected a door that hides a goat (a 2-in-3 chance), then the host’s choice is no longer at random, as he is forced to show the second goat only, and switching doors wins for sure in 2/3.

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Catch-22

A Catch-22 is a paradoxical situation from which an individual cannot escape because of contradictory rules.

The term originates from satirical novel by the American author Joseph Heller.  In this novel, a World War II US Air Force bombardier called Yossarian was caught in the original Catch-22. Stationed in Italy and afraid of being shot down, he wanted to be declared insane and sent home.

But military rules said that fear of death was a rational response, so anyone who asked to be grounded could not possibly be truly crazy. And those who were insane would not be aware of the fact, and therefore would be unable to ask to be grounded. Therefore, Catch-22 ensures that no airman can ever be grounded for being insane even if he is.

catch22-finaledit-1

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The Monty Hall Puzzle

Suppose you’re on a game show, and you’re given the choice of three doors: Behind one door is a car; behind the others, goats. You pick a door, say No. 1, and the host, who knows what’s behind the doors, opens another door, say No. 3, which has a goat. He then says to you, “Do you want to pick door No. 2?” Is it to your advantage to switch your choice?

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Boy/girl hair solution

They both lied.

The child with the black hair is the girl, and the child with the white hair is the boy.

(If only one lied they would both be boys or both be girls)

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Fallacies of composition and division

The Fallacy of Composition arises when one infers that something is true of the whole from the fact that it is true of some part of the whole.  Conversely, the Fallacy of Division occurs when one infers that something true for the whole must also be true of all or some of its parts.  Both fallacies were described by Aristotle in Sophistical Refutations.

Fallacy of composition

The logical form of the Fallacy of Composition is:

     Premise 1: A is part of B

     Premise 2: A has property X

     Conclusion: Therefore, B has property X.

Two examples of this fallacy are:

  • If someone stands up out of his seat at a baseball game, he can see better.  Therefore, if everyone stands up they can all see better.

  • If a runner runs faster, she can win the race.  Therefore if all the runners run faster, they can all win the race.

Athletic competitions are examples of zero-sum games, wherein the winner wins by preventing all other competitors from winning.

Another example of this fallacy is:

Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl) are both dangerous to humans. Therefore any combination of sodium and chlorine, such as common table salt (NaCl) will be dangerous to humans.

This fallacy is often confused with the fallacy of faulty generalisation, in which an unwarranted inference is made from a statement about a sample to a statement about the population from which it is drawn.

In economics, the Paradox of Thrift is a notable fallacy of composition that is central to Keynesian economics.  Division of labour is another economic example, in which overall productivity can greatly increase when individual workers specialize in doing different jobs.

In a Tragedy of the Commons, an individual can profit by consuming a larger share of a common, shared resource such as fish from the sea; but if too many individuals seek to consume more, they can destroy the resource.

In the Free Rider Problem, an individual can benefit by failing to pay when consuming a share of a public good; but if there are too many such ‘free riders’, eventually there will be no ‘ride’ for anyone.

Fallacy of division

The Fallacy of Division is the converse of the Fallacy of Composition.  The logical form of the Fallacy of Division is:

      Premise 1: A is part of B

      Premise 2: B has property X

      Conclusion: Therefore, A has property X.

An example the fallacy of division is:

A Boeing 747 can fly unaided across the ocean.

A Boeing 747 has jet engines.

Therefore, one of its jet engines can fly unaided across the ocean.

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Boy/girl hair puzzle

A boy and a girl are chatting.

“I am a boy”, said the child with black hair.

“I am a girl”, said the child with white hair.

At least one of them lied. What colour hair does the boy have?

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The Paradox of Thrift

The paradox of thrift (or paradox of saving) is a paradox of economics generally attributed to John Maynard Keynes, although it had been stated as early as 1714 in The Fable of the Bees and similar sentiments dating to antiquity.

Keynes argued that consumer spending contributes to the collective good, because one person’s spending is another person’s income.  Thus, when individuals save too much instead of spending, they can cause collective harm because businesses do not earn as much and have to lay off employees who are then unable to save.  The paradox is that total savings may fall even when individual savings attempt to rise.  In this way, individual savings rather than spending can worsen a recession, and therefore be collectively harmful to the economy.

Consider the following example:

thrift boxes

In the above example, one consumer increased his savings by $100, but this cause no net increase in total savings.  Increased savings reduced income for other economic participants, forcing them to cut their savings. In the end, no new savings was generated while $200 income was lost.

This paradox is related to the fallacy of composition, which falsely concludes what is true of the parts must be true of the whole.  It also represents a prisoner’s dilemma, because saving is beneficial to each individual but deleterious to the general population.

The paradox of thrift is a central component of Keynesian economics, and has formed part of mainstream economics since the late 1940s, though it is disputed on a number of grounds by non-Keynesian economists such as Friedrich Hayek.  One of the main arguments against the paradox of thrift is that when people increase savings in a bank, the bank has more money to lend, which will generally decrease interest rates and thus spur lending and spending.

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