January 27, 2009

Inside Electro-Harmonix

Boing-Boing Gadgets tours Eelctro-Harmonix, maker of cool guitar pedals and vacuum tubes for music equipment.

[via Boing Boing]

December 25, 2008

Little Drummer Boy: Hendrix

I'd never heard this clip, but apparently from a Dick Cavett show: Jimi Hendrix playing Little Drummer Boy. Seques into Auld Lang Syne (really). (A music track w/somewhat cheesy slideshow laid over it.) Possibly a fake, but inspired nonetheless.

December 08, 2008

Groovy Mellotron Demo

Two vintage 1960s British High-Culture blokes cheerfully demo a Mellotron, the audiotape-loop, keyboard-based sampler (think the open strains of Strawberry Fields. (Earlier on work/space, the Birotron, a failed Mellotron competitor and a Walkman-powered Mellotron from Make.)

[via Boing Boing]

December 06, 2008

United States of Whatever

Very stupid, in a good way. (More Sifl & Olly links at this mefi post.)

December 05, 2008

Dissertation as Interpretive Dance

Gonzo Labs/AAAS asked PhD students to translate their dissertations into interpretative dances, then post the performances to YouTube. Here are the winners.

Above is Vince LiCata's Resolving Pathways of Functional Coupling in Human Hemoglobin Using Quantitative Low Temperature Isoelectric Focusing of Asymmetric Mutant Hybrids, which Randi Zuckerberg describes as falling "somewhere between a prayer, a baseball game, and a round of Kumbaya."


December 03, 2008

Neil Young Show

Neil Young

From the Neil Young (w/Wilco opening) show in Ottawa a couple of hours ago. Cool show. Long drive.

November 28, 2008

Yet Another Monome Demo

One of the better demos, though: Primus Luta remixes The Roots on a Monome and, along the way, shows some production techniques not normally covered in ubiquitous online Monome demos (which tend to be more simple, straight-up performance). As CDM points out, Luta is basically using the Monome as a souped-up MPC here.

The video is part one of PEMF (Personal Electro-Magnetic Field); the longish intro is odd (interesting, but still odd); the demo comes in later.)


November 15, 2008


Richard Devine & Josh Kay from surachai on Vimeo.

[via trash_audio]

October 01, 2008

Daphne Oram: (Very) Early Electronic Music

The Guardian has a bio and slideshow on Daphne Oram:

She went on to join the BBC, and, while many of the corporation's male staff were away fighting in the second world war, she became a balancing engineer, mixing the sounds captured by microphones at classical music concerts. In those days, nearly all programmes went out live because recording was extremely cumbersome and expensive. Tape hadn't been invented, and cheap computers were half a century away.

Yet when tape did come along, in the early 1950s, Oram was quick to realise that it could be used not simply for recording existing sounds, but for composing a new kind of music. Not the music of instruments, notes and tunes, but the music of ordinary, everyday sound.

After Oram had finished her day's work, and everyone had gone home, she trundled tape recorders the size of industrial gas cookers from empty studios, and gathered them to experiment late into the night. She recorded sounds on to tape, and then cut, spliced and looped them; slowed them down, sped them up, played them backwards. It must have been like working in a laboratory, or inventing new colours – a new world almost impossible to imagine now.

See the Boing-Boing post I cribbed this link from for additional links, including some audio samples. And there's this earlier post about Delia Derbyshire, Oram's colleague at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

[via boing-boing]

September 28, 2008

TRASH_AUDIO: Workspace and Environment: The Great Mundane

The Great Mundane Trash Audio Interview from push the button on Vimeo.


September 19, 2008


In my unrestrained optimism that I know how to use a soldering iron, I'm now working on a Thingamakit, which the company describes as a "noise monster." From what I can tell based on the audio samples on the web, the Thingamakit emulates a piece of expensive audio equipment that's been dropped several times. To me, this seemed interesting.

It turns out I should restrain my optimism. I'm currently in the middle of unsoldering most of the leads and testing the connections.

August 22, 2008

Byrne & Eno

David Byrne & Brian Eno's new album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today, is streaming for free until the physical CD comes out this fall. It's very nice.

August 14, 2008



Haven't had a chance to work with it much yet, but Nodal looks promising. Free generative music software for OS X.

Nodal is a generative software application for composing music. It uses a novel method for the notation and playing of MIDI based music. This method is based around the concept of a user-defined graph. The graph consists of nodes (musical events) and edges (connections between events). You interactively define the graph, which is then traversed by any number of players who play the musical events as they encounter them on the graph. The time taken to travel from one node to another is based on the length of the edges that connect the nodes.

The Nodal site includes samples, papers, and tutorials.


August 04, 2008

Ambient Lapse

Kyle McDonald at MIT has created a bunch of interesting audio/video/music Processing apps, including the Ambient Lapse program shown above (which uses both Processing and SoundStretch).

"Ambient Lapse" is a simple technique for capturing the ambiance of spaces, especially their color and spectral characteristics. It operates on a principle similar to long-exposure time-lapse, but allows exposures to overlap. Instead of producing momentary bursts of specific images, individual objects and well-defined perspectives, we're given vague impressions.


July 29, 2008

Sonic Youth Bio

Haven't read it yet, but this looks interesting: David Brown's Goodbye 20th Century: A Biography of Sonic Youth [amazon link]. From the Huffington Post review:

Browne digs deeply into the band's democratic decision-making process, which gives each distinct personality ample voice. As with any band, tensions do inevitably arise, but disagreements here don't last long. Maybe it's because the members of Sonic Youth are so unwaveringly likable. And they're all characters in their own right: Thurston Moore's continuous joking; Kim Gordon's focused creative input and reserved demeanor; Lee Renaldo's technical prowess; and Steve Shelley's stabilizing influence. It's almost impossible to hate the underachievers now crowned by many as the kings of rock. (Former-Voice critic Robert Christgau called Sonic Youth "the best band in the universe" only a few years ago).

(I feel like I should have heard about this from somewhere way cooler than Huffington Post, but I guess that's my world now.)

[via Huffington Post]

July 24, 2008

Paul Westerberg at 49 cents

Paul Westerberg's selling his new album 49:00 for 49 cents as a single-track mp3. What's not to like? (Well, maybe the slight Amazon weirdness that requires you to use the 1-click button to purchase the album; if you purchase it using one of Amazon's other options, accounting overhead brings the cost closer to a dollar.) Westerberg has a PDF version of the liner notes and other things.

[via Pitchfork: Today]

July 21, 2008

Delia Derbyshire Tapes

BBC News has a short piece—with some audio samples—on a cache of 267 audiotapes made in the 1960s and 1970s by Delia Derbyshire, an early BBC Radiophonic Workshop member and electronic audio pioneer who, among other things, created the theme music for Doctor Who (from a score composed by Ron Grainer). The Doctor Who theme is among the more conventional things the Radiophonic Workshop did; these people were seriously ahead of their time. (According to the archivist working with the tapes, Derbyshire "got a bit disheartened and a bit bored with it all when the synthesizer came along and it all became a little too easy.")

The also BBC has a brief page covering Alchemists of Sound, a BBC TV documentary about the Radiophonic Workshop (including some free clips); Sound on Sound ran an extensive piece on the group, although you can only read the first few thousand words before you're asked to pay for a PDF. (Worth the 99 pence if you're interested—I read the piece in print a couple of months ago.)

July 05, 2008

Off Beat: Piano Phase

Peter Aidu performs Steve Reich's Piano Phase. Normally played by two pianists, "Piano Phase" involves playing the same short melody simultaneously on two pianos so that, over time, one player slides out of phase with the other. Aidu's not the first person to play the piece solo, but it's the first one I've seen on video. (An mp3 of the performance is available at the Internet Archive.)

[via Super Colossal]

June 27, 2008

Songs for the Deaf

John Moore reviews a My Bloody Valentine Concert and discusses music-listening as a full-body experience. (The comments section following the article is the expected but still somewhat amusing "If it's too loud, you're too old" versus "Wear earplugs, you moron" debate.

Too proud to reach for the earplugs, I lasted 10 minutes before nonchalantly making for the exit - pretending to have urgent business at the bar, then watched the stream of blasted, disoriented sonic refugees pouring out. I hope whoever is documenting these Roundhouse shows has the presence of mind to shoot footage of this. It would look hysterical speeded up.

[via things magazine]

June 06, 2008

Tom Waits

Borrowed Beats: Missing Tom Waits Tour Edition.

[via Super Colossal]

May 27, 2008

Sonic Camera

Sonic Camera from dimitre on Vimeo.

Sonic Camera, a Processing program.

[via Everyone Forever]

May 21, 2008

Tom Waits, Interviewed by Tom Waits

Tom Waits interviews himself at Anti's website.

Q: What is up with your ears?
A: I have an audio stigmatism where by I hear things wrong- I have audio illusions. I guess now they say ADD. I have a scrambler in my brain and it takes what is said and turns it into pig Latin and feeds it back to me.

May 08, 2008

Now Watching: Okkervil River

As one more drain on my time, is running a five-song Okkervil River set, shot on the roof of Pitchfork Studio in NYC. Starts, as Pitchfork says, glacial and then picks up.

Party Shuffle, Vol. 13

"Feb 14 3:41," Drive-By Truckers (A Blessing and a Curse)
"Cry Like A Baby," Kasey Chambers (The Captain)
"St. Jimmy," Green Day (American Idiot)
"Mansion On The Hill," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Weld (Disc 1))
"Saint Mary," Sparklehorse (Good Morning Spider)
"El Gusto," Los Lobos (Just Another Band from East L.A.: A Collection (Disc 1))
"Sligo River Blues," John Fahey (The Legend of Blind Joe Death)
"Dog Faced Boy," eels (Souljacker)
"Pyramid of Tears," Alejandro Escovedo (Live, Somewhere, Somewhen)
"It's All Over Now Baby Blue," Link Wray (Bullshot)
"The Farewell Bend," Frank Black (Live In Amsterdam [11.28.03])
"Sunday Night Buttermilk Waltz," The Black Crowes (The Complete Tall Sessions)
"Ain't No Money," Rodney Crowell (Live at the Catalyst Club [4.6.01] )
"Mystery Train > That's Alright Momma," Warren Haynes, Kevn Kinney, & Edwin McCain (Live at the Bottom Line [2.15.97])
"White Line (version 1)," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Ragged Glory Outtakes: The Ranch Rehearsals)
"Wayfaring Stranger," Neko Case (The Tigers Have Spoken)
"My Heart," K's Choice (Almost Happy (Disc 2))
"I Fought the Law (Take 2)," Norm Chomsky (07.07.25 Practice)
"One," Johnny Cash (American III: Solitary Man)
"Devil's Sidewalk," Neil Young & Crazy Horse (Greendale)
"As I Fall," Alejandro Escovedo (A Man Under The Influence)
"Rain On Tin," Sonic Youth (Murray Street)
"I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," Richard Thompson Band (Live In Tucson [9.25.07])
"Tony & Maria," Los Lobos (Good Morning Aztlan)
"Wild Honey Pie," The Pixies (Pixies at the BBC)

April 25, 2008

Inside the BBC Radiophonic Workshop

BBC News has a nice, five-minute video doc about the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, an early (late 1950s onward) sound effects and experimental music hotbed (most famous, I guess, for supplying sci-fi sounds for Dr. Who). See also entries at wikipedia, some BBC Four clips, and several articles on the history of the workshop.


Take That, Swan Lake

The Pixies as ballet.

[via Boing Boing]

April 18, 2008


The Design Observer offers some personal reflections and a quick, informal survey on the music designers listen to at work.

Today, the headphone-clad designer locked into his or her own audio bubble is a familiar sight. Graphic designers it seems like music and abhor silence. But is it possible to claim that music contributes more to the creative output of a studio than, say, comfortable chairs and a good coffee machine? There is no shortage of theories about the way music influences behaviour. It began with Pythagoras and his discovery of the music of the spheres, and can be found today in such disparate musicological thinking as Brian Eno’s theories of ambient music, and in the way institutions are using classical music to reduce violent behaviour in public places. Music’s ability to act as a sedative has long been know to medical science, as are the mesmeric effects of music as a means of inducing heightened states of emotion.

As you might expect, readers have posted a wide range: Burning Spear, New Order, podcasts, the new R.E.M., drone metal, and Wu-Tang.

[via Design Observer: Main Posts]

April 17, 2008

Typography and Music: The Mountain Goats

The Mountain Goats' new video for Sax Rohmer #1 is a nice run (nearly literally) through hand-drawn type, aesthetics, and camera movement.


April 15, 2008

Le Corbusier's A/V Architecture

Interactive Architecture has a nice report (with links to video including the one above as well as other links) to Le Corbusier's poém électronique, extensively audio-visual-enhanced architectural design for the Philip's Company pavilion at the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels.

The whole project was initiated and directed by Le Corbusier, who also created and/or selected the images for the audiovisual show, with the organized sound composed by Edgar Varèse, and the stunning surfaces of the building designed by Iannis Xenakis. The result was a ground breaking immersive environment, since the space of the Pavilion hosted the audio and the visual materials as integral parts of the architectural design.

[via Interactive Architecture dot Org]

April 07, 2008

music video launched. Damn, this is going to cost me some bandwidth and attention.

March 05, 2008

Tracking Leonard Cohen

Michael Bartel tracks the cultural history of Leonard Cohen's "Halleluja" from the 1984 original through Jeff Buckley's influential 1994 cover to Fall Out Boy's 2007 sampling. Includes charts of film/tv usage per year, covers vs. TV/radio usage, and more.

In twenty-five years, Leonard Cohen has gone from a punchline on a TV show [The Young Ones] to a sideways joke mixed with a tribute in Nirvana's "Pennyroyal Tea"--"give me a Leonard Cohen afterworld so I can sigh eternally"--to a totally serious starring role in a song by Fall Out Boy, a band not especially known for their irony. It seems like this has been accomplished by an emotional flattening--reducing a song about the varieties of grace to a mere lament. But this is not the only direction the song could have gone in. Something of Cohen's defiance, sensuality, and triumph could just as easily inform a cover.

Wikipedia has a less focused (although more link-filled) article on the song as well.


March 03, 2008

Rise of the VJ

Vague Terrain devotes issue 09 to the rise of the vj. Video interviews, discussions of synaesthesia, wallpaper vs. fine art, and strange things.

The energy behind the growing practice of audiovisual performance is intriguing; what is it that sparks the passions for creators and theorists working within this art form? The diversity of the concepts, techniques, and aesthetic qualities is remarkable, suggesting that this practice is not rooted in any one particular mindset, but instead, emerges from a wide range of trajectories that are converging within a contemporary form of media based performance art. However, live video mixing performances certainly address a hunger for immersive and synaesthetic sensory experiences where aural and visual elements work together to create a whole that is something beyond the sum of the parts. To experience the live performance of a talented VJ (or live cinema artist, if you prefer) alongside the talent of an innovative sound artist is a treat indeed; the senses are enveloped and the mind is tantalized into a world being spun into existence on the spot. Perhaps it is this feeling of immediacy and immersion that is so rewarding for performers and audiences alike. Perhaps it is the intense bombardment of the senses that does it. Or perhaps it is the richness of the dialogue between technology, spatial architecture, and human expression that speaks to us so powerfully.

[via serial consign - design / research]

February 22, 2008

The Ambient Sound of Commerce

About a month ago, I was in the drugstore (a large, upstate NY chain) and suddenly realized I was humming along to a track from Wilco's last album, which had apparently replaced the usual muzak playing over the store's PA system. Later that week, I was in the grocery store and a cut off Spoon's latest album was on. Earlier today, I was in the same grocery store and track from Sufjan Stevens' Illinois was playing.

As you age, the probability of your music coinciding with the ambient sounds of commerce approaches one.

January 25, 2008

Space and Sound


Serial Design links to and discusses Martijn Tellinga's Circalles (click the "work" box on his site), an exploration of "soundobjects":

Circalles is a piece of music exhibiting qualities of lucidity, transparancy, intelligibility and definition as parameters of musical appropriation. It projects formation as a modest follow up of events: individual soundobjects in particular harmonic relationships, or not, dramatically consistent, or not, as the result of guided chance. Complementary a potential for deviation and hesitation throughout its unfolding, it performs the integration of intented and accidental musical occurence over and between its eight seperated trajectories.

Tellinga emphasizes the spatiality of music, both in the score (above) and the reproduction (eight channels; a two-channel excerpt is available at the site). (See also the Flaming Lips' Parking Lot Experiments and Zaireeka (four CDs for simultaneous, dispersed, mostly synchronized playback) or turntablist transcription method (TTM) or, before that, Charles Ives or Harry Brandt, etc.)

January 08, 2008

Deconstructing Sgt. Pepper

Remix away: Extracted and isolated individual tracks from The Beatle's Sgt. Pepper. (This probably won't last long.)

[via Boing Boing]

December 27, 2007

Party Mix, Vol. 15

"Drunkard's Dream," Figurines, When The Deer Wore Blue
"Getting It Wrong," Sparklehorse, Dreamt For Light Years In The Belly Of A Mountain
"Last Love Song For Now," Okkervil River, Black Sheep Boy
"Looking For Astronauts," The National, Alligator
"Uptown Again," The Afghan Whigs, Unbreakable
"Lit Up," The National, Alligator
"Please Be Patient With Me," Wilco, Sky Blue Sky
"Good Lovin'," Grateful Dead, Long Strange Trip, Vol 4
"A Stroll Through Hive Manor Corridors," The Hives The Black And White Album
"Ship Caught In The Bay," The Frames, Burn The Maps
"Boyz," M.I.A. Kala

December 21, 2007

Peter Sellers as Remixer

Peter Sellers reciting "A Hard Day's Night" in the style of Laurence Oliveir reciting "Now is the Winter of Our Discontent" [youtube]. From a 1964 TV program.

December 10, 2007

Mark Mothersbaugh/Mutato Muzik

LA Weekly has a piece on Mark Mothersbaugh's Mutato Muzik production company (w/extensive video/audio clips). Probably still best known for his work in Devo, Mothersbaugh's film, television, and ad scoring are easily as freaky as that earlier MTV-shaping efforts. The Pee-wee's Playhouse intro, both music and video, have to be among the best two seconds of television ever broadcast.

The iconic opening of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, which debuted in 1986, is a wondrous convergence of art and music, and is, even more so than Devo, what set Mothersbaugh on the path he’s on now. In two action-packed minutes, we’re introduced to Paul Reubens’ (quirky) comedic creation, an odd, subversive man-child; comic artist Gary Panter’s masterful (quirky) art direction, which manifests itself in prop-characters Chairry, Randy, Globey and Pterri; and Mark Mothersbaugh’s first (quirky) foray into scoring for a television series. Beginning with a riff on Martin Denny’s “Quiet Village,” the introduction kicks into gear with Mothersbaugh’s stomping theme song, which sounds like a futuristic synth-disco version of “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.” It exudes joy, and inspires Pee-wee to race around with pure glee, do some jerky rhythm-walking, spin and cackle, and go nutso, all while a sassy, Betty Boop–inspired Cyndi Lauper delivers marching orders: Get outta bed, there’ll be no more nappin’! (Wake up!)/’Cause you’ve landed in a place where anything can happen!

There's a lot of other things going on in the interview, including Mothersbaugh's (and other Mutato members') takes the death of record companies, videogames, and writing jingles:

From the start, continues Mothersbaugh, he and Casale were drawn to the Pop-art movement, inspired by Warhol, Rauschenberg and others who blurred the lines between commercialism and fine art — and by ad men who did the reverse. Specifically, one TV campaign struck him. He hums the melody to Pachelbel’s Canon in D, then sings the words to a Burger King commercial: “‘Hold the pickles, hold the lettuce, special orders don’t upset us.’ I loved that. Now that’s subversive. I thought, that’s amazing — to take such a beautiful piece of music and turn it into an ad for hamburgers. And then it got more interesting, because they then interpreted a country & western version, and a blues version, and a Dixieland version, and they totally went crazy on it.” That tuned his attention to television and radio commercials. “That was way more interesting to me than hippies or punks screaming for anarchy or revolution. I watched the hippies become commodified and turned into hip capitalists — and the punks, you just watched them kind of dwindle away.” Devo’s mission, decided Casale and Mothersbaugh, would be more subversive.

[via TapeOp Message Board]

December 08, 2007

Sound and Technology in 20th Century Lit

I just found this link to Michael Heumann's 1998 dissertation, Ghost in the Machine: Sound and Technology in the Late Twentieth Century. Which, as the title says, is a cultural studies/critical theory/etc. with heavy detours through James Joyce, Bram Stoker's Dracula, and Marinetti and the Futurists, among other things.

[via things magazine]

November 27, 2007

Bent, Not Broken

Casey Clark's short (~10m) documentary on Chicago-area circuit bending. Cool.

November 23, 2007

Technology & Music Evolution

I was doing some background research on audio recording techniques and found this discussion of how recorded music evolved over the last twenty years with the adoption of CDs and changes in how music is mastered. The graphic below, clipped from Chicago Mastering Service's page on loudness, caps a series of comparisons between older and newer recordings, of which the recent remastering of Iggy Pop's Search and Destroy is just one (pretty vivid) example:


For point of comparison, CMS also has waveforms for My Bloody Valentine's 1990 Only Shallow (pretty boxed up, but w/ a highest average RMS of -17.3 dBFS and max peak of -4.2 dBFS), Nirvana's 1993 Heart Shaped Box (less boxed up, but louder—highest average RMS -12.7 and max peak of -0.2), and Radiohead's 2001 Dollars and Cents (-6.3 and -0.09). I've been listening to MBV recently, and the graphic explains two things: The overall recording is very loud and boxed up (intentionally so) but it's also very quiet, overall, compared to other recordings. More recent recordings tend to want to fill the sonic space as much as possible.

Obviously, these are only samples from a wide range of recordings, but the tendency is pretty easily observable across popular music. Mastering engineerings (and a lot of musicians) hate this, since the practice erases differences in volume from one part of the song to another. Someone—a lot of someones—seem to like it a lot.

November 09, 2007

Circuit Bending Challenge Winners

GetLoFi has the top three picks from their recent one-day circuit-bending challenge. Above is Squelchbox's YouTube clip of the process (and results) of his work on a Talk and Learn. Strange. In a good sort of way. The other two picks also have YouTube clips at the GetLoFi post.

[via GetLoFi ]

November 07, 2007

Jim O'Rourke & Tenori-On

Yamaha's website has a video of Jim O'Rourke getting a tutorial on how to use a Tenori-on, that 16x16 procedural music/lightshow/Simon-on-amphetamines thing. Like everyone else who has seen a demo, I want one. (Insert somewhat clichéd theory here about the Tenori-on being a symbol-virus.)


Stephen Merritt @ NPR

NPR's All Songs Considered invited Stephen Merritt (the Magnetic Fields guy) into their recording studio to compose, record, and mix a song in two days (documentary video).

And just as we'll do with each Project Song artist, we showed Merritt six vivid images, along with six words or phrases printed on white cards.

The instructions: Choose one photo to inspire the subject of the song; choose a word or phrase that will inspire the style.

From the words, Merritt picked "1974." The photograph he chose, by artist Phil Toledano, is an incredible image of a man covered head to toe in what looks like a bodysuit made of baby dolls.

[via TOMB]

October 19, 2007

La Cucaracha - 2007

Ween's new album, La Cucaracha, now streaming in its entirety from their MySpace page.


October 17, 2007

Lo-fi: Speakerphone

Either a very well executed spoof or postmodern hi-fi (which means, possibly both and more): Speakerphone provides heavily tweakable emulations of low-fidelity speakers (including "Fedtro Megaphone," "Ampeg B18 in a bedroom," "Crackling Walkie Talkie," and [cool!] "Mac SE").

A bad GSM connection on a busy sidewalk, a bullhorn with feedback and a helicopter overhead, or a 1952 rockabilly guitar amp in a recording studio live room: Speakerphone gives you authentic speakers of any size together with their natural environments.

All the walkie-talkies, distant transistor radios, Guitar cabinets, upstairs TV sets, bullhorns and cell phones you'll ever need. Speakerphone will add dial tones, operators and static, and you can select from a wealth of ambiences on either the caller or receiver's end. And with a click you can send anything from the sample-playback bay right to the cursor in your Pro Tools track.

The product page includes audio and video demonstrations of the software in use with ProTools. (I'm digging around now to see if there's a Tom Waits module.)

[via KVR Audio]

October 14, 2007

Newer Work: Sculpture and Sound

sculpture and sound

maddscientist39110's sculptures involving circuit-bent audio at Flickr. (No audio available, unfortunately. But they look cool.)

[via TapeOp Message Boards]

October 13, 2007

Alex Blagg's Review of New Radiohead Album

Alex Blagg offers his keenly perceptive track-by-track review of Radiohead's new album. Here's a sample:

5. ALL I NEED - After opening with the sound of a Jack-In-the-Box, the song explodes into unholy brain-demolishing death metal while Thom Yorke screams and screeches in Space Alien language gibberish. Stunning, their finest achievement since OK Computer.

[via The Huffington Post | Raw Feed]

September 29, 2007

Walkman Mellotron

Brent Pettis and Eric Beug to construct a Mellotron with four used Walkman tape players (video covers theory + techniques for building).

[via MAKE]

September 26, 2007

Read/Write/Remix: Eduardo Navas Interview

Eduardo Navas, of Remix Theory, is interviewed at Serial Consign. Interesting.

[Click-through for the interview.]

And I do tend to organize my books like records. In a way, given my priority in writing these days, books are all over the place, while my records sit neatly in milk crates and against the wall. I actually only have a few of my records with me, most of them are in storage at the moment, and I pull them out as I need them according to what I’m researching. So, if you were to look at my place, you would see chaos, but I know exactly where the books are, and when I don’t find them where I left them (sometimes under three or four others) I freak out! If people were to see them they would not really get the system. Also, obviously, I have CDs and these are usually all over the place because I listen to them all the time. No system here, but whenever I have friends over, I’m able to discuss music and find stuff immediately. And of course there’s the mp3s. My ipod is crucial for me. Very convenient, but there’s something about not seeing an object, only a name on the screen when experiencing music this way.

But I think that this is common for anyone writing a term paper, master thesis or a dissertation. You end up living with books day in and day out. They become your friends and you know where you left them. I don’t have a specific archiving system. I usually arrange them by subject or a current argument I’m working on, in no particular order; often times, I arrange the books according to size and place them on the shelf according to how they visually complement other books. I really don’t think this is that special, and suspect that I share this tendency with the masses when it comes to making a mess of my books. Just about everyone has an idiosyncratic system for organizing collections. Especially now that we live with archives day in and day out.


August 26, 2007

4th International Circuit Bending Festival Video

YouTube clips from the 2007 Bent Festival are now online. (Above is a performance by Gunung Sari. This Loud Objects, on-the-fly wires demo is great as well.)

[via bendersanonymous]

August 16, 2007

Sub-Memory Check


Michael Roulier's Sub-Memory Check randomizes video clips and audio. Creepy, in a peaceful sort of way.

This film situates itself between sub-urbanity and sub-terranity, leading us from the gray dust of decomposition towards air and ozone.

(At Roulier's main site, after you click through the Flash intro, link to this piece is at the bottom left.)

[via LensCulture Web Log]


(More Squelchbox on YouTube; Squelchbox home.)

[via Benders Anonymous]

August 13, 2007

Leonardo Issue on Locative Media

The latest issue of Leonardo focuses on locative media. Quite a few worthwhile articles, including Leslie Sharp's "Swimming in the Grey Zones: Locating the Other Spaces in Mobile Art." Sharp discusses, among other things, a couple of ghost narratives she's working on:

The 'ghost' is one of those liminal forms that raises questions about embodiment and subjectivity and has a peculiar affinity to being picked up by the machines of technology. In the project for the Cheonggyecheon in Seoul, I am creating four separate narratives using night-vision and other footage shot on location in Seoul. In the narrative, the ghost is dug up by well-intentioned development, stirring up memories of place, colonization, and a Brechtian world of grey markets and grey activity. This ghost also inhabits streams – streams that flow down from the mountains and streams of data, searching for places to rest or to haunt, looking for things to play with and taunt. In particular, this ghost longs to haunt our devices of transmission, to produce in these devices an abject space that is uncomfortably close to our bodies. Ghosts are often mischievous; here the ghost also wants to play with errors of signal inaccuracy produced by satellites (usually compensated for by differential error cancellation in GPS), or to get the user to confuse the GPS to produce moments of dis-location.

The ghost itself is always an abject thing – signifying the cast off and suffering. This abjection can spill into the form or space it inhabits, creating a new monstrous space. I have written elsewhere about data space as a new monstrous [16]; in the case of the ghost, the monstrous is conjured by machines of vision and sound and varies according to the nature or properties of transmission: spirit photographs of the nineteenth century, or early telephones and radio seen as the 'devil’s instruments', recent technologies such as night-vision cameras that detect the undetectable, or technologies of transmission that transfer the formless as data and signals.


August 10, 2007

Synthesized Zen


Web Zen's weekly post covers odd synths, including a collection of various Texas Instruments Speak & Spell variants, circuit bending, a library of cellphone ring tones, and the eerie and mythical Buddha Machine (above). Bent Sounds hacked toy electronics rocks; be sure to listen to the mp3s.

August 01, 2007

Juma's Archive


The website for Juma's Archive went live today. The site is a small portion of an NEA-funded project that Steve Doheny-Farina and I have been working on for the last several years, digitizing avant gardé jazz recordings that Juma Sultan made at (often also performing in) rehearsals, jam sessions, and concerts during the late 1960s and early 1970s, including people like Sonny Simmons, Leon Thomas, Pharoah Sanders, Archie Shepp, and more. Kyle Pulver did the site design—we're really happy with it (and more importantly, Juma likes it).

Only a small fraction of the audio, video, and photo archives are up on the site at this point; we're hoping to use the work as a pilot project to gather funding to complete digitization of the rest of the archives.

July 19, 2007

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble

Mamadou Diabate Ensemble  3

July 16, 2007

David Foster Wallace

I like David Foster Wallace's work, but mostly liked the title of the link that Fimoculous gave to the YouTube clip: David Foster Wallace speaking at an Italian conference and looking like Axl Rose (mainly, I guess, shorthand for long hair, scruffy beard, and bandana).


July 02, 2007

Stanley Fish Interprets Brad Paisley

In an NYT column, Stanley Fish interprets Brad Paisley and Nashville in general.

“I’d like to check you for ticks.” I was taking three days to drive from Florida to upstate New York last week when I heard that line coming out of the radio on the second day. On the first day I had done the respectable thing and searched the dial for NPR and classical music; but they were nowhere to be found after I left Savannah behind, and I was free to go where I always wanted to go anyway – to a country music station. You’re not going to come across a line like “I’d like to check you for ticks” anywhere else, and the same goes for an earlier line in the same Brad Paisley song, “You press that bottle to your lips and I wish I was your beer.”

It gets funny after that. Well, funny if you think Stanley Fish and academics interpreting popular in a tongue-in-cheek way is funny, which I do.

You'll need a TimesSelect account to read it (free for academics).

June 30, 2007



June 26, 2007

Very Small Mosh Pit

Very Small Mosh Pit

From The Evens concert yesterday in Canton, NY. [More photos at Flickr.]

June 20, 2007

Captain Beefheart: Ten Rules for Guitarists

Ten rules for guitarists from Captain Beefheart.

9. KEEP YOUR GUITAR IN A DARK PLACE When you're not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don't play your guitar for more than a day, be sure to put a saucer of water in with it.


June 13, 2007

Theremin Cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy

I couldn't come up with anything to add to that basic title. But I like it (the cover; my title, not so much).


June 07, 2007

World's Rarest Rock Instrument: The Birotron

At The Believer, Paul Collins covers the history of the wildly-ahead-of-its-time-and-therefore-doomed-to-brilliant-failure Birotron. After listening to the Yes prog masterpiece Tales from Topographic Oceans over and over again on 8-track in 1974, recently unemployed (all Yes fans were unemployed, I think) Dave Biro wanted to recreate a Mellotron, the tape-loop-based keyboard instrument featured at the opening of The Beatles' Strawberry Fields Forever, Bowie's Space Oddity, and huge swaths of the Yes album in question.

Biro didn't have access to a Mellotron, but he had some steampunk tech smarts, an old piano, and the funds needed to purchase nineteen automobile 8-track decks.

The Birotron's short lifecycle featured financial backing from Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman, interest from the Mellotron people, a Japanese collector, technical issues with mounting 8-track decks vertically [tip: not a good idea], a renegade Seals and Croft song, and Eleni Mandell's Wishbone. You sort of have to read the whole article for any of this to make any sense.

Aside from technical issues, the Birotron's development was eventually eclipsed by the development and rapid spread of cheap computer chips that powered sampling keyboards.

A rare audio clip of the Birotron is available at Streetly Electronics' website, which has a Birotron in its collection; the site also features some other very cool Mellotron clips.

June 01, 2007

The Evens Concert Flyer [Draft]


[Still working on the final version, which will be posted at soon.]

May 17, 2007

Pre-Recorded Music as Performance

Robert Henke covers the history and current state of pre-recorded music in live performance, from Siemen's (1955) synthesizer to laptop concerts:

Also a classic tape concert typically is annotated with some kind of oral introduction or written statement, helping the audience to gain more insight into the creation of the presented work. I find this kind of concert situation quite interesting and I think it still could serve as a model for today's presentation of various kinds of electronic music. However, while in the academic music world tape concerts are well accepted and understood, there seems to be a need for electronic music outside that academic context to be "performed live" and "on stage", regardless of whether this is really possible or not. The poor producer, forced by record labels and his own ego, or driven by the simple fact that he has to pay his rent, has to perfom music on stage which does not initially work as perfomance, and which has never been "performed" or "played" during the creation at all.

When listening to one of those more or less pre-recorded live sets playing back from a laptop, we have almost no idea of how to evaluate the actual perfomance, and we might want to compare a completely improvised set (which is indeed also possible now with a laptop if you accept reduced complexity of interaction) with a completely pre-recorded set. We have no sense for the kind of work carried out on stage. What we see is that glowing apple in the darkness and a person doing something we cannot figure out even if we are very familiar with the available tools. This scenario is not only unsatisfying for the audience but also for the performing composer. The audience cannot really judge the quality of the performance, only the quality of the underyling musical or visual work, but it might be fooled by a pretentious performer, might compare a complete improvised performance, full of potential failure, with a presentation of a pre- composed and perfectly well-balanced work - without being able to distinguish the two. Also the performer himself might want to be more flexible, might want to interact more, or at least might feel a bit stupid alone with his laptop on a 15 meter long 5 meter deep stage with the audience staring at him, expecting the great show which he will not deliver.

All of which highlights the degree to which, for most people, interpreting and enjoying a performance relies heavily on evaluating the skills of the performer, rather than appreciating the music itself. Which isn't an incorrect interpretation, but only one of many.

[via precious | weblog]

May 14, 2007

Band Name Etymologies

Wikipedia has a long, alphabetized entry covering the etymologies of various band names. Here are a few (of the hundreds listed):

Fountains of Wayne — Named after a New Jersey lawn ornament store.
The Gun Club — singer Jeffrey Lee Pierce and his friend, Keith Morris (not a member of the band), sought a band name with Old West associations.
Hot Water Music — the band was named after Charles Bukowski's 1983 collection of short stories highlighting the underbelly of America.
Modest Mouse — Derives from a passage from the Virginia Woolf story "The Mark on the Wall". The passage said "...and very frequent even in the minds of modest mouse-coloured people..."

[via The Morning News]

May 03, 2007

John Cage: Water Walk (vintage TV)

From WFMU, a youngish John Cage on the gameshow I've Got a Secret performs Water Walk with bathtub, blender, five unpowered radios, a blender, and more. (The radios weren't plugged in, according to the host and Cage, due to a union dispute about which crew could handle the radios.)

[via Your Daily Awesome]

April 28, 2007

Audio History of Hip-Hop

The Rub on is running a year-by-year audio history of hip-hop, from 1979 with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 onward (currently up to 1989). The Rub appears to be composed of three white boys, but who am I to say otherwise? It's pretty good.

[via metafilter]

April 27, 2007

Musical Language

I heard a re-broadcast of the show Radio Lab on Musical Language today; interesting material for anyone looking at the intersection of (duh) music and language. The show included segments on meaningful commonalities in tone used by parents to infants across (apparently) all language, the initial furor then rapid acclimation for Stravinsky's Rites of Spring, and Diana Deutsch's research propensity towards perfect pitch in speakers of tonal languages:

For those of us who have trouble staying in tune when we sing, Deutsch has some exciting news. The problem might not be your ears, but your language. She tells us about tone languages, such as Mandarin and Vietnamese, which rely on pitch to convey the meaning of a word. Turns out speakers of tone languages are exponentially more inclined to have absolute (AKA 'perfect') pitch. And, nope, English isn't one of them.

Radio Lab has recently become one of my favorite shows. In that genre of radio variety/magazine-type shows, it's structured sort of like This American Life, but substituting geekiness for hip. Other recent episodes include Space, Detective Stories, and Morality.

April 19, 2007

Strange Music


Tim Kaiser builds musical instruments. Very weird and cool musical instruments. Circuit-bent appliances, theremins, drums made from tanks, candle holders shaped into thumb-piano-type-things, and more. Here's a quick description of "The 400" (also pictured above):

The 400 with Flangulator was a commission from a very generous guy in Phoenix, who in-turn gave it to Nick Rhodes (currently behind a velvet rope in his London studio). I re-worked an old EH-400 Mini Synth brain into a new case, added real keys from a smashed Farfisa Compact and incorporated a hybrid flanger/ring modulator circuit. Also features a pseudo-ribbon controller for the stop frequency and a way cool "magic lamp."

April 12, 2007

Kick Out the Jams [etc.]: IP and Documentary Rights

Metafilter gathers several important links to the intellectual property lawsuits surrounding "A True Testimonial," the documentary about seminal Detroit pre-punk group MC5. [ entry on MC5 and Wikipedia entry on MC5.] As with many music-scene documentaries, IP issues frequently try to block important historical reporting. The recent court decisions in this case are a good sign for documentary filmmakers.

"It's good to remember the 60's, but some say if you remember the 60's you weren't there. Perhaps to assist all of us in remembering the 60's, Defendants David Thomas and Laurel Legler made a film on the MC5, a 60's Detroit Rock and Roll band that made its mark on American history with loud rock and roll and radical perceptions positing an imperialistic and materialistic America. This lawsuit teaches that materialism remains with us, as Plaintiffs vigorously seek money from Defendants. Although the MC5 faded away largely due to drugs, the band lingers on in the memory of many, and would be known to many other but for pending legal feuds."

The Honorable Andrew J Guilford, United States District Judge
Findings Of Fact And Conclusions Of Law, issued March 31, 2007


March 06, 2007

Tweaking EQ

If you're like most people, you don't really have a sense of what those little sliders in an equalizer do, except for the fact that the ones to the left are the ones you crank up to make things on your shelves shake. Methodshop has a great overview of how to tweak the equalizer settings in iTunes (or, by extension, any standard EQ) to get the sound you want. The examples provided make the overview extremely useful:

8K: This is getting into the high end, where the majority of cymbals and hi-hats are, as well as upper range of synths, pianos and guitars. Many vocals have a lot of information in this range.

This knowledge isn't going to turn you into an audio engineer or producer, but it'll probably make your audio sound better than it does now.

[via Lifehacker]

February 24, 2007

Typography: What Does Marsellus Wallace Look Like?


This is the most brilliant piece of typographic motion I have seen in a long time (maybe since the opening credits to Se7en): What Does Marsellus Wallace Look Like (.mov link, NSFW) riffs on the Pulp Fiction scene, early in the movie, where Samuel L. Jackson interrogates that kid who he and John Travolta have been sent to deal with. (I haven’t seen Helvetica, The Movie yet, though, so that may soon occupy my top spot.)

The boingboing post on this also includes several related items.

February 23, 2007

Let There Be Rock

This week is, apparently, the fifty-sixth anniversary of the introduction of the Fender Telecaster [wikipedia link]. For those of you under forty, this is what geeks you to spend thousands of hours mastering, prior to WoW, Halo, and Grand Theft Auto.

(Dammit. Now my ] key is non-functional. I had to get the ones in this post by copying/pasting one from a previous post to work/space. This machine is going back to Apple on Monday.)

February 17, 2007

Raph Koster: "But is it art?"

Raph Koster riffs in some wonderful ways on ludology vs. narrative in Ferry Halim's "High Delivery":

To me, this is a great example of how the underlying meaning of mechanics (lack of control, impossibility of completing a task) can be reinforced and thematized by a well-chosen metaphor. This is a mechanic that games generally don’t go near. “Difficult controls” is seen as anathema to good gameplay usually (though some games, like Marble Blast Ultra and similar, are of course entirely driven by the challenge of mastering controls).

Hint: Your cursor controls a breeze that pushes the balloon around (up, down, left, right). And turn the sound up—it's a very fitting atmospheric track.

[via Raph's Website]

February 03, 2007

War Pigs

Absolutely nothing to do with workspaces, but this Cake cover of Sabbath's War Pigs is pretty cool [YouTube fan video]. (There's also a Faith No More version as well as Black Sabbath's original on YouTube.)


Road Case

Road Case

January 30, 2007

Love is a Mix Tape

Keith Harris reviews Rob Sheffield's mixtape-chronicled ode to his departed wife, Love is a Mix Tape. I haven't read Sheffield's book yet, but Harris' review makes it sound deeply interesting:

On his blog, New Yorker pop music critic Sasha Frere-Jones has wondered when someone will title a review of Love Is a Mix Tape "The Year of Musical Thinking." And true, as with Joan Didion's compressed tour of Stygian dementia, Sheffield analyzes how death alters your consciousness, though with much deeper insight into the mystery of Missy Elliott's "The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly)." And death lurks throughout Sheffield's '90s, as indicated by his brilliant reading of Nirvana's Unplugged—"Contrary to what people said at the time, [Kurt Cobain] didn't sound dead, or about to die, or anything like that. As far as I could tell, his voice was not just alive, but raging to stay that way." (Just as pertinent is an aside that Renee thought "Heart-Shaped Box" ripped off Blondie's "Call Me." It did. Never thought of that.)

(Oddly, I heard "Heart-Shapted Box" on the radio this afternoon on the way back from Burlington.)


December 26, 2006

Tracking Influences

I caught this old Nine Inch Nail's video for "March of the Pigs" on YouTube earlier this evening, and I was struck by the subtext of artist-falling-apart toward the end of the video, and how much it reminded me of James Brown's famously theatrical collapses at the end of live shows, with MCs and assistants running out to lift him up and set him back in front of the mic. Not someplace I would have looked to see influences from James Brown, but there it is. (And clearly, the exhausted artiste/creative energy --> collapse performer is an archetype. But few did it better.)

December 25, 2006

Now The Hardest Working Man in the Afterlife


Although I was under the impression he was invincible, James Brown died today [NYT link]. Bummer.

[image from ABC/AU].