Saturday 1 July 2017


“To send light into the darkness of men’s hearts—such is the duty of the artist.” - Robert Schumann 

Marco Uccellini (Forlimpopoli, Forlì 1603 or 1610 - 10 December 1680) was an Italian Baroque violinist and composer. His output of mainly secular music for solo violin is considered to have been important in the rise of independent instrumental classical music, and in the development of violin technique.

Uccellini’s life, like many composers of the 17th century, is not well documented; however, enough information exists to create a rough biography. He was born into a reasonably affluent noble family in Forlimpopoli, Forlì, who had owned land in the area since the early 14th century. Many members of the family held ecclesiastical posts locally, including Uccellini’s father Pietro Maria, and it is likely that Marco went to study at the seminary in Assisi sometime in the early 1630s. Evidence from his will suggests that Uccellini began his formal musical education there, possibly under another notable early violinist-composer, Giovanni Battista Buonamente, who was then serving as maestro di cappella at the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.

He became musical director (Capo degl’instrumentisti) of the Este court in Modena from 1641 to 1662, and was the musical director (maestro di cappella) of the Modena cathedral from 1647 to 1665. Afterwards he served as maestro di cappella at the Farnese court in Parma until his death. At the Farnese court, he composed operas and ballets, but none of this music survives; thus, he is mainly known today for his instrumental music.

Uccellini was one of a line of distinguished Italian violinist-composers in the first half of the 17th century. His sonatas for violin and continuo contributed to the development of an idiomatic style of writing for the violin (including virtuosic runs, leaps, and forays into high positions), expanding the instrument’s technical capabilities and expressive range. Like other 17th-century Italian sonatas, Uccellini’s consist of short contrasting sections (frequently dances) that flow one into another. Uccellini’s innovations influenced a generation of Austro-German violinist-composers including Johann Heinrich Schmelzer, Heinrich Ignaz Biber, and Johann Jakob Walther.

It can be assumed from the highly idiomatic and virtuosic nature of Uccellini’s violin compositions that he was himself a brilliant violinist. Besides introducing several technical innovations necessary to play his difficult music, he was an early populariser of music written explicitly for solo violin and continuo; at the time, it was common for composers not to specify instruments in their works, preferring to write parts adaptable between instruments of similar ranges.

Here are Lucy van Dael (Violin); Bob van Asoeren (Harpsichord, organ); Toyohiko Satoh (Liuto-attiorbato); and Jaap ter Linden (Violoncello) playing Uccellini’s playing some of Uccellini’s violin sonatas:
1. Sonate Op 4: Sonata quarta detta ‘La Hortensia virtuosa’ 0:00
2. Sonate Op 4: Sonata seconda detta ‘La Luciminia contenta’
3. Sonate Op 4: Sonata overo Toccata quinta detta ‘La Laura rilucente’
4. Sonate Op 4: Sonata nova
5. Sonate Op 5: Sonata quarta 16:36
6. Sonate, Op 5: Sonata terza
7. Sonate, Op 5: Sonata ottava
8. Sonate, Op. 5: Sonata quinta
9. Sonate, Op 5: Sonata decimal
10. Sonate, Op 5: Sonata prima
11. Sonata Op. 9/1: Sinfonia prima 47:22
12. Compositioni armoniche, Op. 7: Sonata prima 50:34
13. Compositioni armoniche, Op. 7: Sonata seconda

The illustration above is Bartolomeo Bettera’s “Musical Instruments and Sculpture in a Classical Interior” 17th century.

Friday 30 June 2017


“The clever cat eats cheese and breathes down rat holes with baited breath.” - W. C. Fields 

We made some savoury crackers today as we bought some great cheeses at the market and thought we would have some for lunch. It was bitterly cold this morning, and was frosty. The temperature hovered below 5˚C for much of the morning and struggled to get up to about 10˚C by lunchtime. It was good to get back home and turn the oven on to make the crackers and soon the kitchen smelt wonderful, while lunch comprised of freshly baked crackers, a selection of cheese and some nice cabernet wine... 

Savoury Herb Crackers

300 g plain flour
3 tbsp olive oil
≈3/4 cup water
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp dried chopped mixed herbs
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1/2 tsp ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp ground smoked paprika
For the topping
Coarse salt
Ground sumac
Black sesame seeds 

Sift the flour and make a well in its centre. Add the herbs and spices, salt, sugar and mix well. Add the olive oil and enough of the water to make a firm dough.
Knead well and lay aside for a few minutes to rest. Grease the baking trays and warm the oven to 200˚C.
Roll the dough out to 3-4 mm thick. Try to keep the thickness as even as possible. Trim the edges as they may be thinner or thicker and so they may burn or not cook in the oven before the rest of the crackers are done.
Use a cookie cutter to cut out rounds or ovals about 5 cm diameter. Place on the baking tray and brush the top with water.
Sprinkle coarse salt, and sumac or black sesame seeds on top of the crackers. Put in the oven and immediately turn down to 180˚C. Bake for about 30 minutes until golden. We tend to like them extra crispy and we done, so we let them turn golden-brown!

This post is part of the Food Friday meme.

Thursday 29 June 2017


“Praised be You, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.” - Francis of Assisi 

Tanacetum balsamita is a perennial temperate herb in the Asteraceae family known as costmary, alecost, balsam herb, bible leaf, or mint geranium. Costmary is a perennial herb with large, oval serrated leaves and can grow up to 2 m high. During Summer it develops small yellow, button-shaped blossoms which appear in clusters.

The English name costmary stems from “costus of Saint Mary”. Costus is another herb (Saussurea lappa), and by extension ‘costus’ used to refer to any aromatic herb or its root. In other languages, costmary is associated with the Virgin Mary, most probably because it is sometimes used to treat women’s diseases.

The plant seems to have originated in the Mediterranean. It is unclear whether the plant called balsamita described by Columella in 70 CE is the same. According to Heinrich Marzell, it was first mentioned in 812 CE in a plant catalogue. Costmary was widely grown since the medieval times in herb gardens until the late 19th and early 20th centuries for medical purposes. Nowadays it has mostly disappeared in Europe, but is still widely used in southwest Asia. Its broad leaves were pressed and used in medieval times as a place marker in Bibles. It is referred to by Nicholas Culpeper as the ‘balsam herb’.

Stiff, leafy stalks of costmary rise from spreading rhizomes. The upward-pointing, silvery-haired, pale-green leaves with fine, rounded teeth may measure as large as 30 by 5 cm. Lower leaves are stalked and large, the upper ones stalk-less and become progressively smaller. The flowers, in clusters of tiny yellow buttons at the top of 1 m stalks, bloom in very late summer in northern climates, not at all if plants are grown in shade.

Plants whose flowers have small white ray flowers (like daisies) used to be classified as C. balsamita, whereas those with no ray flowers (just yellow disk flowers like those of tansy) were assigned to C. var. tanacetoides (which means “like tansy”). Gertrude B. Foster, in Herbs for Every Garden (1966), noted that the former has a camphor scent and the latter a mint scent.

For culinary uses, the mint-scented herb is usually employed. Use sparingly as the spearmint flavour can overpower your dishes or drinks. For a subtle flavour, slightly spicy, add a few young leaves finely chopped, to salads, vegetables, young potatoes, carrot and pumpkin soup, fruit cake, game, poultry and cold meats. Add 2 leaves to a pot of stewing apples, pears and quinces. Add 1 tsp of finely chopped costmary to whipped cream and custard served with desserts. Brew as a tisane or add it to sage tea.

Leaves of the plant have been found to contain a range of essential oils. A Spanish study found the oil includes carvone as the main component (51.5%, 41.0% and 56.9% in three samples), together with minor amounts of beta-thujone, t-dihydrocarvone, c-dihydrocarvone, dihydrocarveol isomer, c-carveol, and t-carveol. Levels of beta-thujone, a toxic ketone, were 9.8%, 12.5% and 12.1% in the respective samples.

In medieval times, costmary was used for menstruation problems. In the 18th century, it was classified as laxative, against stomach problems and as astringent. It was recommended against melancholy and hysteria as well as dysentery and against gallbladder disease. The plant is known from ancient herbals and was widely grown in Elizabethan knot gardens.

In the language of flowers, costmary leaves or leaf clusters signify: “You are sweet” or “Sweetness”. A flowering stalk indicates “mild temper and fidelity”.

This post is part of the Floral Friday Fotos meme.

Tuesday 27 June 2017


“To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure is the most perfect refreshment.” - Jane Austen 

Welcome to the Travel Tuesday meme! Join me every Tuesday and showcase your creativity in photography, painting and drawing, music, poetry, creative writing or a plain old natter about Travel.

There is only one simple rule: Link your own creative work about some aspect of travel and share it with the rest of us. Please use this meme for your creative endeavours only.

Do not use this meme to advertise your products or services as any links or comments by advertisers will be removed immediately.
Bath is a city in the ceremonial county of Somerset, England, known for its Roman-built baths. In 2011, the population was 88,859. Bath is in the valley of the River Avon, 156 km west of London and 18 km south-east of Bristol. The city became a World Heritage Site in 1987. The city became a spa with the Latin name Aquæ Sulis (‘the waters of Sulis’) ca 60 CE when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century and became a religious centre; the building was rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. In the 17th century, claims were made for the curative properties of water from the springs, and Bath became popular as a spa town in the Georgian era.

Georgian architecture, crafted from Bath stone, includes the Royal Crescent, Circus, Pump Room, and Assembly Rooms where Beau Nash presided over the city’s social life from 1705 until his death in 1761. Many of the streets and squares were laid out by John Wood, the Elder, and in the 18th century the city became fashionable and the population grew. Jane Austen lived in Bath in the early 19th century. Further building was undertaken in the 19th century and following the Bath Blitz in World War II.

The city has software, publishing and service-orientated industries. Theatres, museums, and other cultural and sporting venues have helped make it a major centre for tourism with more than one million staying visitors and 3.8 million day visitors to the city each year. There are several museums including the Museum of Bath Architecture, Victoria Art Gallery, Museum of East Asian Art, and the Holburne Museum. The city has two universities: the University of Bath and Bath Spa University, with Bath College providing further education. Sporting clubs include Bath Rugby and Bath City F.C. while TeamBath is the umbrella name for all of the University of Bath sports teams. Bath became part of the county of Avon in 1974, and, following Avon’s abolition in 1996, has been the principal centre of Bath and North East Somerset.

This post is part of the Our World Tuesday meme,
and also part of the Wordless Wednesday meme. 

Add your own travel posts using the Linky tool below, and don't forget to be nice and leave a comment here, and link back to this page from your own post:

Monday 26 June 2017


“An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” - Winston Churchill 

Sobek (also called Sebek, Sochet, Sobk, and Sobki), in Greek, Suchos (Σοῦχος) and from Latin Suchus, was an ancient Egyptian deity with a complex and fluid nature. He is associated with the Nile crocodile and is either represented in its form or as a human with a crocodile head. Sobek was also associated with pharaonic power, fertility, and military prowess, but served additionally as a protective deity with apotropaic qualities, invoked particularly for protection against the dangers presented by the Nile River. Sobek enjoyed a longstanding presence in the ancient Egyptian pantheon, from the Old Kingdom (c. 2686–2181 BCE) through the Roman period (c. 30 BCE – 350 CE).

The entire Faiyum region – the “Land of the Lake” in Egyptian (specifically referring to Lake Moeris) – served as a cult centre of Sobek. Most Faiyum towns developed their own localised versions of the god, such as Soknebtunis at Tebtunis, Sokonnokonni at Bacchias, and Souxei at an unknown site in the area. At Karanis, two forms of the god were worshipped: Pnepheros and Petsuchos. There, mummified crocodiles were employed as cult images of Petsuchos. Sobek Shedety, the patron of the Faiyum’s centrally located capital, Crocodilopolis (or Egyptian “Shedet”), was the most prominent form of the god. Extensive building programs honouring Sobek were realised in Shedet, as it was the capital of the entire Arsinoite nome and consequently the most important city in the region.

Specialised priests in the main temple at Shedet functioned solely to serve Sobek, boasting titles like “prophet of the crocodile-gods” and “one who buries of the bodies of the crocodile-gods of the Land of the Lake”. Outside the Faiyum, Kom Ombo, in southern Egypt, was the biggest cultic centre of Sobek, particularly during the Ptolemaic and Roman periods. Kom Ombo is located about 48 km north of Aswan and was built during the Graeco-Roman period (332 BCE – 395 CE). The temple at this site was called the “Per-Sobek”, meaning the house of Sobek.

Sobek is, above all else, an aggressive and animalistic deity who lives up to the vicious reputation of his patron animal, the large and violent Nile crocodile. Some of his common epithets betray this nature succinctly, the most notable of which being: “He who loves robbery”, “he who eats while he also mates”, and “pointed of teeth”. However, he also displays grand benevolence in more than one celebrated myth.

After his association with Horus and consequent adoption into the Osirian triad of Osiris, Isis, and Horus in the Middle Kingdom, Sobek became paired with Isis as a healer of the deceased Osiris (following his violent murder by Set in the central Osiris myth). In fact, though many scholars believe that the name of Sobek, Sbk, is derived from s-bAk, “to impregnate”, others postulate that it is a participial form of the verb sbq, an alternative writing of sAq, “to unite”, thereby meaning Sbk could roughly translate to “he who unites (the dismembered limbs of Osiris)”.

It is from this association with healing that Sobek was considered a protective deity. His fierceness was able to ward off evil while simultaneously defending the innocent. He was thus made a subject of personal piety and a common recipient of votive offerings, particularly in the later periods of ancient Egyptian history. It was not uncommon, particularly in Ptolemaic and Roman Egypt, for crocodiles to be preserved as mummies in order to present at Sobek’s cultic centres. Sobek was also offered mummified crocodile eggs, meant to emphasise the cyclical nature of his solar attributes as Sobek-Ra. Likewise, crocodiles were raised on religious grounds as living incarnations of Sobek. Upon their deaths, they were mummified in a grand ritual display as sacred, but earthly, manifestations of their patron god. This practice was executed specifically at the main temple of Crocodilopolis.

These mummified crocodiles have been found with baby crocodiles in their mouths and on their backs. The crocodile – one of the few non-mammals that diligently care for their young – often transports its offspring in this manner. The practice of preserving this aspect of the animal’s behavior via mummification is likely intended to emphasise the protective and nurturing aspects of the fierce Sobek, as he protects the Egyptian people in the same manner that the crocodile protects its young.