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David Wright's article on Rob Barnett


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Author Topic: David Wright's article on Rob Barnett  (Read 28608 times)
kyjo
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« on: January 20, 2014, 05:22:09 am »

Dr. David Wright's articles are notoriously controversial and prejudiced, but none have shocked and angered me nearly as much as this virile criticism of the ever-dependable and supremely knowledgeable MusicWeb reviewer Rob Barnett: http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/rob-barnett.pdf

This has to be the most downright cruel and misguided things I have ever read Angry What makes matters even worse is that the hypocrite decides to state at the end that the article was not intended as a personal attack on Barnett Angry If it's not a personal attack, then what the hell is it?! Angry

Barnett is not a "technical" reviewer, but that's precisely why I like his reviews so much. He gives me a clear understanding of what a piece of music will sound like without confusing me with technicalities and unnecessary bits of information. He's not the most elegant writer, so what? It's not like he's being paid mega bucks to write his reviews! Why does Wright have to make mountains out of molehills? Go find another reviewer that is more to your taste, Mr. Wright, instead of complaining of the "incompetence" of Barnett Roll Eyes

I am at a loss for words Angry Sad
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2014, 06:52:47 am »

Dr. David Wright's articles are notoriously controversial and prejudiced, but none have shocked and angered me nearly as much as this virile criticism of the ever-dependable and supremely knowledgeable MusicWeb reviewer Rob Barnett: http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/rob-barnett.pdf

This has to be the most downright cruel and misguided things I have ever read Angry What makes matters even worse is that the hypocrite decides to state at the end that the article was not intended as a personal attack on Barnett Angry If it's not a personal attack, then what the hell is it?! Angry

Barnett is not a "technical" reviewer, but that's precisely why I like his reviews so much. He gives me a clear understanding of what a piece of music will sound like without confusing me with technicalities and unnecessary bits of information. He's not the most elegant writer, so what? It's not like he's being paid mega bucks to write his reviews! Why does Wright have to make mountains out of molehills? Go find another reviewer that is more to your taste, Mr. Wright, instead of complaining of the "incompetence" of Barnett Roll Eyes

I am at a loss for words Angry Sad
Barnett's reviews are very insightful indeed....perhaps some parenting words to the honorable Dr Wright would be appropriate. But something tells me he knew exactly what he was doing, and it was personal.
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2014, 10:08:19 am »

I have found Rob Barnett's reviews both helpful, informative and reliable. I think that he is one of the best reviewers around. The unpleasant article tells us a lot about David Wright and nothing about Rob Barnett, whose reviews I always deliberately search out for their insight and perceptive discussion.
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2014, 11:09:04 am »

If you think that article's deranged, you should really try the eminent Dr's impeccably researched and unbiased assessments of

Britten - http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/benjamin-britten.pdf

Chopin - http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/frederick-chopin.pdf

Elgar - http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/elgar.pdf and http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/elgar-what-people-say-about-him.pdf

Schubert - http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/schubert.pdf

they're an absolute hoot.

 Cheesy
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2014, 12:00:56 pm »

My contacts with Wright have proven to me that . . .he is ill.
The only moments I have agreed with him are concerning Irving Fine and John Veale (although Veale's daughter tells me that Wright took many liberties with her father's private thoughts).
I have since spammed his emails.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2014, 12:13:33 pm »

I have never previously come across Wright. Is he really a PhD? His prose reads like a bus-conductor's, he can't punctuate to save his life, and his prurient har-har style reminds me of the worst kind of end-of-the-pier comedian.

He's entitled to his views and responses, as we all are. Voicing them in such a puerile way, however, is likely to bring him into disrepute. Please don't tell me this man holds any kind of teaching position?
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2014, 02:44:00 pm »

If ever there were irrefutable evidence that two (or more) wrongs don't make a Wright, his posturing and his Wrightings constitute it.

His haranguing of Rob Barnett is as gratuitous as it is unnecessary as it is vile.

http://www.wrightmusic.net/ provides as defensive, self-aggrandising and messily inaccurate (i.e. shoddily, if at all, edited) an introduction to its perpetrator as one could hope for (or rather against).

His article Elgar Unmasked (surely to all intents and purposelessnesses a typo for Wright Unmasked) includes the sentence
"There is that wonderful story that he [Stanford] wrote to Elgar one day and said that he was sitting in the smallest room in his house with a copy of the Elgar Cello Concerto before him but that, thankfully, it would soon be behind him"
when most of us know that this story concerns not Elgar but Reger, not a score but a review of a Reger première and not a third party letter but one directly from Reger to the errant critic - but that's just one of countless hundreds of gaffes, borrowings, fantasisings and the rest of which almost every line of this article is infested - for evidence, see http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/elgar.pdf. Elsewhere, he credits this story and its telling to William Walton.

I expect to be sued for drawing the above and below attention to extracts from his writ(h)ings, given that his articles are all followed by text that is or amounts to a variation on

"WARNING

Copyright David C F Wright renewed 2004 [or whenever]. This article or any part of it, however small, must
not be used, copied, published even in part, downloaded, stored in any mechanical or retrievable
system. Failure to comply is illegal, being theft and contrary to International Copyright Law and
will render offenders liable to action at law. However, the author may grant permsission upon
written application."

He seems to be unaware of and/or unconcerned about "fair use" policy, notwithstanding his evident concern about copyright and its infringement as set out in http://www.wrightmusic.net/pdfs/copyright-law.pdf.

Anyway, I'll take that risk.

He has his likes and dislikes, as do the rest of us, of course, but it's well-nigh impossible to read some of his stuff for more than a few paragraphs before finding oneself at risk of being drowned in a sea of salacious quotations, stories and psuedo-opinions most if not all of which are uncorroborated elsewhere and none of which are referenced. There's useful material about Sessions, Gerhard and quite a few other composers, but much of even this reads to me too much like anecdotally-infused coffee-table stuff. He never loses an opportunity to puff up Humphrey Searle, who certainly does deserve far more attention that he gets even today (Wright was apparently a student of his - so was I, as it happens) though, given the manner and matter of some of Wright's other literary expressions, one might well be forgiven for questioning whether this could come across to certain readers as something of a poisoned chalice.

For anyone with any regard for Elgar, Chopin, Scriabin, Schubert or Britten, his articles (and not just the ones on those three composers) are best avoided at all costs.

As to conductors, he's lucky that Daniel Barenboim (his least offensive statement about whom - "I regret to say that he was not a nice man" - might be read and an implied desire to assume that Barenboim is no longer with us) hasn't reached for his lawyer. Simon Rattle might well have done the same, having been described as "someone who abuses music... the butcher of Beethoven, the murderer of Mahler, the assassin of Szymanowski..... and the rest", were it not for Wright's lame attempt on this occasion to conceal himself behind a mask of "various contributors" (unnamed, of course, but presumably chosen for their remarkable similarity of "style" and "content" to his own) rather than admit to being the writer of what most certainly does not read like a multi-author piece (and why in any case would it be expected to do so?). John Barbirolli and Herbert von Karajan fare no better and Georg Solti is likewise snapped at and pilloried. For Gustavo Dudamel he prefers to pepper reluctant praise with his own uniquely unpleasant brand of patronising commentary.

All of this is heavily seasoned with defensive excuse-making in the guise of his alleged courage in "telling the truth".

All is also either badly proof-read or not proof-read at all, "Andreas Bocelli" and "avante garde" on the performers' list, "Alina Ibragomova" in his piece on Roslavets, "Alice Sarah Ott", "a faculty memer", "Jamie Laredo", "Ceceile Licad" and "Nancy Gilbraiths’" (for "Nancy Galbraith's") in a single article on female pianists being sadly typical of the often hastily assembled, ill-punctuated stuff of which some was published quite a few years ago but has nevertheless yet to be corrected - not that I imagine that anyone would wish to "correct" Dr Wright.

He appears to be a 67-year-old moralist anti-homosexual Christian with interests in spiritualism. His professed academic qualifications (PhD, DMus, DD) have apparently been called into question and it seems that no one has been able to identify from which universities they came; were he genuinely to be in possession of these three degrees, I somehow suspect that it would be possible to look up evidence of them but, in the meantime and in the absence copies of any of his theses for them, it would seem especially remarkable that his writings, considerable as they are in quantity if not in quality, include none of the referential footnotes expected of the seasoned academic, were it not for his evidently obsessive desire to present scores of unsupported and largely unsupportable allegations as though they were facts.

I have no idea as to whether he holds, or has ever held, any kind of academic or teaching position but I can only hope that he's never held the latter.

He seems to like the sound of his own voice almost as much as I imagine that the majority of his readers dislike it.

The best policy, it seems to me, is to read a few bits of his outpourings (if you must), take note of their truculent and noisily expressed barbs and their general spuriousness and speciousness and then pass swiftly onto something else.
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2014, 06:34:38 pm »

David Wright's lengthy articles (both available on the web) about Stanley Bate and Humphrey Searle are useful but I tend to ignore almost everything else he has written.

I have found myself reading what purports, and, at first, seems to be a learned and informative article about some composer or other when I have been brought up short by some gratuitously offensive remark-thrown-in out of context and with little or no relevance to the subject, about another composer to whom Wright has taken a strong dislike-usually for reasons which have nothing to do with the music but to some (alleged) personal peccadillo.

Lesser-known British composers certainly merit extended articles about their lives and work published on the internet but articles containing outrageously abusive comments, such as Wright cannot refrain from including, do more harm than good.

If one wants to read properly researched articles of this sort then one is better advised to seek out articles by someone like Paul Conway.

The attack on Rob Barnett is indeed outrageous but is a reflection of the fact that Barnett threw Wright off Musicweb sometime ago. Rob Barnett and Musicweb provide a splendid service via the internet to music-lovers anxious to read reviews of new cds but also to explore music in a wider sense through other sections of the site. If I had one complaint about Musicweb (shared, to a certain extent, with IRR) is that the reviews can be a tad too enthusiastic.....but better that than the negative, carping comments one can read too often elsewhere.

I have my own reasons for feeling bitter and angry about being "thrown off" a music site.....but I have no sympathy with "Dr." Wright.
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2014, 08:23:18 pm »

What's amusing and ironic is that the attacks on Wright here manifest the same qualities that characterize Wright's diatribe against Barnett, i.e. they are petty, mean-spirited, and imbalanced, - and as such hardly
commend themselves as a very effective defense of Rob, but in fact almost legitimate Wright's criticisms
by intimating that a bit of "score settling" is in order.  Why not instead look past Wright's evident hostility and address the substance of his points, which might not be entirely inaccurate?
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« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2014, 08:53:24 pm »

What's amusing and ironic is that the attacks on Wright here manifest the same qualities that characterize Wright's diatribe against Barnett, i.e. they are petty, mean-spirited, and imbalanced, - and as such hardly commend themselves as a very effective defense of Rob, but in fact almost legitimate Wright's criticisms by intimating that a bit of "score settling" is in order.  Why not instead look past Wright's evident hostility and address the substance of his points, which might not be entirely inaccurate?
It might be "amusing and ironic" to you, but if it is deemed impossible or out of order to point out the flaws in someone's writings, especially when they contain so many allegations based upon "someone said something" which the author makes not the slightest attempt to support with evidence, then something's clearly awry. What's supposedly "petty, mean-spirited, and imbalanced" about taking an author to task (and I am referring here not so much to the piece about Rob Barnett but about all the other evidenceless stuff) for failing to put forward cogent and justifiable (and justified) arguments when this is what any such author should do? In other words, if you don't have the evidence for your many rabid claims, don't make them!

I for one am less interested in seeking to "defend" Rob Barnett (is he in Court, I can't be bothered to ask?) as I am in exposing the manner and matter of Wright's presentations in far more general terms. As I have pointed out, one might reasonably expect all the claims made by Wright about so many people to be fully supported by references to reliable documented evidence, but none of them are; they are therefore merely Wright's opinions dressed up to look like fact and some of them about living people are very likely libellous.

I do not "attack" Wright; I have no interest in "attacking" anyone. I'm not here to "defend" Barnett either. That isn't the point. Barnett can on occasion express himself fancifully and Wright's expresions are not 100% inaccurate. That said, if I find, as I have here but in far greater volume on Wright's website, material that makes serious and blatant allegations in so many directions that their author makes no attempt to support with evidence (and, as a purported academic, he should be well versed in the techniques and traditions of how to do this), there is no need for anyone criticising him to resort to pettiness, defensiveness, mean-spiritedness, imbalance or any other questionable expression in order to challenge any or all of it as it deserves to be challenged (and, frankly, it deserves little else). Have a look at Wright's stuff about Chopin, Britten et al and tell me in all honesty, if indeed you can, that you could yourself provide reliable documentary evidence in support of even 20% of his allegations and I will take due note!

Do you have evidence as to Wright's academic credentials? - and, if you don't and, like a number of people, find yourself unable to trace evidence of them, might you not become suspicious about someone who claims at various times to be a PhD, a DMus and a DD? which, if all true, would be a very considerable (and checkable) academic achievement by anyone's standards!
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« Reply #10 on: January 20, 2014, 09:15:30 pm »

I don't know anything about Wright and haven't read his writing (except for the article about Barnett) and so can't evaluate your indictment of his judgement and scholarship, which may for all I know be merited or even represent some consensus.  I was only suggesting that making such a case doesn't necessarily invalidate his critique of Barnett, which ought to be addressed on its own terms and which no one has done here (all I've read are generalized expressions of support and commendations of Rob without reference to Wright's specific points). 
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kyjo
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« Reply #11 on: January 20, 2014, 09:23:17 pm »

Please don't tell me you think Wright's attack on Barnett is a valid piece of writing Roll Eyes
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« Reply #12 on: January 20, 2014, 09:37:39 pm »

Refute, or at least raise questions about his criticisms specifically please.  They're there in the article.  Would you like me to lay them out for you one by one again?  As said above, I considered Wright's article "petty, mean-spirited, and imbalanced", a "hatchet-job" of sorts, but nonetheless felt some of his points were valid enough on their own terms.  He refuses all mention of Rob's many positive virtues as a reviewer (beyond some condescending remarks of his "good intentions") and the fact that he's not generally writing for a professional readership, which is what skewed the harangue to the point of being self-serving and offensive IMO.  But I wouldn't call it a fabrication. 
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« Reply #13 on: January 20, 2014, 10:22:15 pm »

I don't know anything about Wright and have not read his writing (except for the article about Barnett) and so can't evaluate your indictment of his judgement and scholarship, which may for all I know be merited or even represent some consensus.  I was only suggesting that making such a case doesn't necessarily invalidate his critique of Barnett, which ought to be addressed on its own terms and which no one has done here (all I've read are generalized expressions of support and commendations of Rob without reference to Wright's specific points).
OK - then in order to apprise yourself of the facts that are relevant to this case, you need to visit Wright's website and check some of his writings for yourself rather than taking my word or indeed anyone else's word for what I have written above; I am somewhat surprised that you have made no apparent effort to do this before writing as you have; Wright's website is, after all, available to all who have internet access.

Wright's critique of Barnett needs to be analysed point by point and, whilst I do not suggest that it might be entirely without merit, the vast majority of it is not only unsupported by hard unequivocal documentary evidence but also reads like the sourest of sour grapes; reading Wright's own writings clarifies beyond doubt that such sour grapes are one of the weapons upon which he hopes most heavily to rely.

OK, let’s have a brief glance at his Barnett piece, for what it may or may not be worth.

It is described as "compiled by" David C F Wright DMus; one might ask "compilata …da" as in Busoni’s Fantasia Contrappuntistica? – what is supposedly meant by this? Wright’s answer appears to be that it is "a compilation of what people have said and put in writing from the ordinary music lover to professional musicians" – yet at no point throughout the piece are any such people identified, so at the very outset Wright presents not a shred of evidence that any of the allegations are other than his own.

Wright tells us that Barnett "writes that there is a most urgent need for a recording of Holbrooke's First Choral Symphony". OK, this may well be Barnett’s personal opinion, but Wright retorts that he "does not know what he is talking about" – which means that Wright disagrees, no more, no less.

Wright observes that Barnett "makes shocking mistakes and does not check his writings, and when people write to him pointing out his mistakes he takes offence"; he cites no examples of this, however – still less does he admit that he might make his own mistakes and respond to being upbraided for them likewise.

He states that Barnett claims that "Holbrooke’s Piano Concerto no. 1 is a masterpiece. To begin with it is not a concerto. The composer called it a poem for piano and orchestra. Call it a concerto if you want, but most concert pianists and other musicians state it is an awful work. And it is!" But do they? Which ones? And is it so? and on what grounds? Wright does not tell us.

Wright tells us that the "American cellist, Lynn Harrel, has said that there are only two great cello concertos, those by Dvorak and Dutilleux". No reference for this statement is provided, Harrell’s name is spelt incorrectly and, even if Harrell did say this, what is its relevance to what? Wright, once again, does not tell us.

Wright opines that Barnett "writes that the Viola Concerto of Quincy Porter left him cold and yet its dedicatee spoke of it being a warm and glowing work. Obviously, Barnett does not understand the work" – which tells us only that Wright cannot accept that Barnett merely disagrees with the view of that dedicatee but must be wrong, because Wright says that Barnett doesn't understand the piece.

"Hobrooke's piano music", writes Wright. OK, he doesn’t like Holbrooke, but does that excuse him from mis-spelling his name (and this isn’t pedantry – there’s way more of that kind of thing from whence this one came). Wright then confirms this by his statement "as to any work of Holbrooke being great is unlikely", which is not a sentence and, whatever else it may be, it's a mere statement of Wright’s personal opinion, not a critical judgement supported by reason.

Wright then notes that Barnett "jumps on the bandwagon of Lewis Foreman who complains that when William Glock was the Controller of BBC Radio 3 he prevented the broadcast of tonal works by living British composers in favour of the avant garde which is nonsense, absolute nonsense! (see my articles on William Glock – The Saviour of the Promenade Concerts and Sir William Glock, not avante garde)". "Avante garde"? Whilst Glock was not quite the ogre as which he has been presented in this regard, there can be no doubt that one part of his agenda was indeed to discourage the broadcast by BBC of certain works by tonal composers, perhaps most notably Rubbra and Lloyd (although Arnold seemed somehow to get away with it).

He then tells us that Lewis Foreman (whom he seems to quote only as a stick with which to beat Barnett when not using his own) "wrote that Alun Hoddinott was a gentle giant. He certainly was not….In Cardiff, there was Cello Competition where Alun was the chairman of the judges and I was on the panel. The best cellist was a 22 stone girl with a disfigured face. She had an amazing technique and the best competitor. But she did not win. The girl that won did so because Hoddinott said that she had the nicest legs." Can he prove any of this? Possibly not. Does he try? Certainly not!

…Another review on Dr Mullinger’s site…this is Musicweb, from which Wright was dismissed and his work removed – and he can't be bothered to spell Mullenger correctly either. Taking his sights off Barnett again momentarily, Wright accuses Mullenger of have spoken of "Barbirolli being a great conductor. That he was not, as members of his orchestra and others have testified." Which members? Which others? And can he prove that, if there were such players and others, that their opinions were correct and Mullenger’s wrong?
""With regard to Elgar, I produced irrefutable evidence of his navy blue knickers fetish, voyeurism and other deviations”, claims Wright. Where? Can you find and justify it? I can't!

Next, "With Britten, I produced evidence of his pederasty"; again, where and from what source/s and were they indisputable?

"I produced evidence about Barbirolli as a lousy conductor and how orchestras disliked him even when he was sober", claims Wright – but he didn't; he merely state his opinion and expected his readers to accept that, because he cited what he claimed (without provision of actual sources) were the opinions of players and others, it might be irrefutable.

"You have only to look at [Eric] Coates's songs and compare them with some of Schuberts to see that what I say is correct", writes Wright about what he apparently sees as the sheer incompetence of Schubert's accompaniments, following this with "What I wrote was correct and can be evidenced on all points"; odd, then, that he provides no such evidence and that so few pianists who have played them have made similar comments.

"Another contributor [to what, pray?] has sent in his comments on the inane ramblings by Barnett and added his own comments some of which are almost as hysterical. This contributor is a very well-known musician and composer who is very highly thought-of!", we are then told; the musician's identity remains, like so many of Wright's "sources", unidentified.

In another context, "What does this means?", asks Wright; "What does it tell us about the music? Does it tells us what style the composer uses?" Apparently, decent English is unnecessary for Wright. "Of the Mennotti's Violin Concerto" is another example of this sloppiness.

Wright tells us that Barnett "is very good as infecting bilious attacks on the innocent!" How can a bilious attack be infected"? and how would Wright of all people know(!) (and, of course,
"as" should read "at").

"No wonder [Musicweb]…is called the Morecambe and Wise site!", opines Wright – but where and by whom?

"Barnett", we are then told, "removed some reviewers from his site because they showed him up and those reviewers knew what they were talking about!". It’s not his site and it was not him who removed any such reviewers.

"He is an enthusiast and, no doubt, means well and it is not our desire to humiliate him. Not at all." That’s about the best of the lot, I think!

"We asked two exceptionally prominent musicians to comment on Rob Barnet[sic]'s reviews published on the internet in the week before Christmas 2011 and we set out their professional verdicts below:

"In his review of Pettersson's first two symphonies, Barnett makes irrelevant references to Elgar and his 'not bad' piano concerto. Mr Barnett, Elgar's Piano Concerto is really a dreadful work…"

Wright’s not far wrong about the Elgar except that he does not add the vital point that this work is a reconsruction by someone else; Pettersson's "first two symphonies" – in 2011? I don't think so! No. 1's been partially reconstructed by Christian Lindberg and recorded for the first time since then.

"Professional musicians rightly say that he talks a lot of rot"; which ones?

"Whatever reaction there is to this article, it is not intended to be an attack"; good God, Wright has a sense of humour!

And so on and so off…

Enough!...
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« Reply #14 on: January 20, 2014, 10:25:22 pm »

Well, one of the criticisms seems to be that as Rob Barnett is not a technical musician himself he has no right to write about music. Personally I do not agree with this elitist and arrogant position. For the average music lover, technical analysis of music can be a real 'turn off' others might love it - but not me. I am biased as I have written booklet notes for a few CDs. When I was asked to do so the editor told me specifically to avoid technical analysis, which would be seen by many as dry and arid. You might as well argue that a newspaper TV critic has no right to comment on programmes unless he has experience as a film director. As I say, I have found Rob Barnett's reviews to be informative and meaningful, steering me in the direction of many works which I would otherwise have never discovered - I am very grateful to him.
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