Posts Tagged: ‘music’

“Science has given us music for cats”

November 23, 2015 Posted by Milena D

 Oh lord, I think I may be a cat – I love this! Been thinking lately about art and humans and non-humans, and whether art is this elitist thing that belongs to humans only, and generally what is the role of art in human civilization, in society, where does it fit amongst other, seemingly more pressing matters. I don’t know what’s changed for me but I feel like I see clearly for the first time in a long time – I see art as just as urgent part of culture as education, economics, human rights, etc. It’s not about ‘making space’ for art by taking away time from more important life-and-death matters, it’s about art working alongside other activities, initiatives, phenomena. And also – art as an act of generosity and communion, sharing art with the non-humans that live in our environments. E.g. recently I watched a viral YouTube video where brass band musicians started playing on the side of the road for a herd of cows. As the cows came closer, seemingly enjoying the musical interlude more musicians joined and the thing that was really beautiful to see for me was humans labouring for the enjoyment of cows – when the reality of the situation is that 99% of the time cows labour and in fact, die, for our enjoyment. And now, I give you music for cats.
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Science Has Given Us Music For CatsFinally: Someone is making a music album specifically for cats.

Posted by Vocativ on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Star Wars Lego “Barrel Organ”

January 3, 2013 Posted by Milena D

The more I read about sound histories (thanks to J. Sterne, E. Thompson, H. Schwartz, S. Douglas and sooo many others now) the more I am fascinated by the Mechanical age of sound production, pre-analogue transduction, pre-digital of course. This definite Steampunk-type aesthetic but more than that, a completely transparent process of production, where mechanics alone, intricate mechanics are at the core of the miracle of sound, has been simply delightful to learn about. I never fancied or glorified the phonograph, possibly because I grew up with the gramophone, it’s younger cousin, and it is so normalized to me. But the more I think of the actual technology – the inscribing, etching in the pattern of sound vibration into hard material, and aplifying it via a horn perfected to mimic parts of the human ear, the more fascinated I am.

As such, the notion of music boxes, these mechanical wonders, rotating intricate patterns that produce musical tones with clockwork precision but entirely mechanistically, is an intriguing one. I’m not alone obviously. After an earlier post I had about a paper music box project, this one is a worthy follow-up, even though it employs midi. A truly nerd-gasmic invention that has me tipping my hat even though I’m not even a Star Wars fan.

Aural postcard: Disney in the Aquarium

June 30, 2012 Posted by Milena D

20120630-133824.jpg So as part of ICAD 2012 in Atlanta, GA we got a private visit to the aquarium and as per usual, in addition to the amazing fish, whale sharks, belugas and giant manta rays, I was paying some attention to the sonic designs of each exhibit. Along with some cool “authentic sounds” by the beluga tank and the African penguin habitat (recorded real-time sounds piped into the viewing gallery), there was a prevalent Disney-style musical backdrop to a lot of the big-tank fish exhibits. For the first hour I was reflecting on the media intertextuality of Disney musical traditions, evocative of film soundtracks as a level of remediation. But as regular patrons tapered out, and our group was left to enjoy the fishes on our own, sans children screaming and running around, I caught myself getting into the music, despite myself. Suddenly the slow, airy and breathy melodic tones synced perfectly with the gliding of large fish all around and above our heads, and the occasional buildup of cymbal or trilling of bells that punctuated the dreamy musical score seemed to perfectly align with the emergence of some fish from behind a reef or corner. Almost like it was orchestrated to do so, like a film-dance fusion of aquarium choreography.  I am left to ask myself was this type of design so intentional that it leads my mind there, or is my mind so habituated to the conventions of cinema and remediated audio-visual synchronicity that it leads me there regardless of design?

Pitchfork – Intel Soundplay

June 27, 2012 Posted by Milena D

Someone sent me a link to this a little while ago so I’m not positive if this is a game sound engine by Intel, run by the Unity browser, or just a catchy product title, but the two features audio game projects on the Intel site are quite wonderful. To call them games is really a stretch because one is a free-flow mouse-trajectory based ambient exploration (with a basic obstacle-avoidance course) and the other one is an interactive narrative. Both feature a musical track as a base soundscape making them more interactive game-based music explorations, sort of vehicles for music promotion. Not unlike, I’d like to muse, RJDJ being a mobile music promotion engine, providing interactive musical experiences.

Below are screenshots from one of the interactive pitchfork projects, We Were You:


Review – Project NOW

May 15, 2012 Posted by Milena D

And to follow up – my review on RJDJ’s latest app, in beta testing, Project NOW – the “perfect music for every moment”. Basically it is a fancy, glorified version of iTunes shuffle/genius, compiles your musical preferences by your own feedback of whether they #win or #fail. The catch – it selects music based on its estimation of location/environmental/directional/motion conditions. So it reads the calendar, clock, weather, ambient level, motion, location, etc. and spits out a song selection that is “perfect for that”.

Technical note: I am using this app on an iPhone 4. Don’t bother using it on anything less than a 4, it will eat your battery like cake for breakfast in 10 mins flat.

To start, I must admit, I am not a big iPod listener (I only listen in very limited situations – now I drive, before I found transit way too loud to listen) and not a big music listener at home – as in, not constant, only when I am already in the “mood”. So, with that in mind, here’s what I found to be Project NOW’s most critical features:

  •  it is a HUGE battery drain. constantly scanning location makes listening to music – what should be a very low-bat experience – a very “expensive” one
  • too much babysitting for the app to “learn” my preferences, too ongoing. I’d rather spend some time to initially set it up, asnwer some questions, rather than constantly babysit it.
  • the changes to the environment “modes” are too sudden – in fact, several times i was happy i finally found a song to listen to and i guess i moved, and it went away….replaced by another song that was apparently “more perfect” for that next moment. Errr?#fail

Overall, pretty interface, easy to use, interesting idea vagely reminiscent of tinkering with your own Sims music universe (and all the nerdy goodness that goes along with it), but it adds up to a very battery-and-intervention heavy experience that i can replicate much more
simply by making a playlist. And ultimately, the “perfect” music for a moment in time is not so much determined by environmental factors, more so by mood, imho. And that would be very hard to do in an app. Yes, quiet/loud, still/moving can connote some different genre choices but not necessarily. Many times I saw what the app gave me for say a calm/still selection and I thought to myself – “i can totally see why it chose it, but I don’t feel like listening to this right now” And here’s an internal conflict – app asks you to rate a song selection by #win or #fail, but when I press #win and get ready to listen, if any of the monitored conditions happen to change, that’s right….the app phases out my current song – the song I was most happy to listen to – and cues in another song – a song that I now have to go back and rate, and decide if I want or not. getting back to the song I was most happy to listen to becomes an ordeal. Makes for a veeeeery disjointed listening experience. Well, what does it sound like you ask? I took the liberty of recording a small progression of songs, using Project NOW, take a listen here:

Update note: Just wanted to add a further reflection I had on Project NOW. Stumbled upon the project now twitter hashtag (and I swear, I’m not stalking RJDJ to kvetch about it! it was a coincidence, I barely even tweet) and was amazed at the feedback – everyone is just ecstatic to be getting random, weird music selections, they seem to be delighted by the randomness or pleasantly surprised and impressed by the choices. I would assume these folks are European so all of a sudden I felt kinda sad that I’ve found this app so dissatisfying, for the reason that it doesn’t read my mind. It’s like in north america it’s not ok to not get exactly what you want. If it doesn’t instantly satisfy, boom, it’s out the door. Europeans somehow have a much higher tolerance for experiences, for unpredictability, for suggestion. I mean, Project now is still too finicky for me, but I wanted to add this reflection because I think there is a real core cultural aspect to the design that might not be that well suited for a north american market, but well aimed at the european and developing world cultures. Oh, neo liberalism. You truly cripple the imagination.

Review – The Wilderness Downtown

August 31, 2010 Posted by Milena D

This new interactive film by Arcade Fire’s new album has been hitting the webz all day today. Just a brief mention, it is really really amazing. I tried it on Safari, but I might try it again on Google Chrome. Enjoyed it a lot!

Aural Postcard: Blood Diamond Mix

August 22, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Not that I have so much to say, but this happened recently and it was too good not to document. I guess just as an aside note, the iPhone has really “revolutionized” this type of documenting for me. Usually, even though I have a high-quality recorder, I’d only take it on special occasions, go purposefully to record. The iPhone allows me to record on the spot, if something extraordinary or interesting happens. Anyways, what happened is I walked into the skytrain to go home. It was late, but not super late. At first I thought these two people were talking, but then I realized that everyone was pretending to ignore a tall skinny black guy who seemed to be talking to himself or recite something. I remember I was listening to Florence and the Machine on my headphones, and experiencing this, reflecting, at the same time, on how oddly interesting the combination is between the music and the emphatic recitations at hand. I can honestly say I still don’t know if this guy was preparing for an acting part, if he was a street poet, if he was moved by the issue but drunk, or just plain crazy. But I sadly wondered how many of the people sitting around me, trying to not look this guy in the eye, have any idea what Blood Diamonds are. (Not that I know so much but….c’mon, Hollywood took care of that). Sad, poignant issue. Below I have tried to recreate after the fact, the combination I was experiencing – F&M song and a recording from the skytrain with the ‘poet’ in it. Striking, I think.

Aha! Loudness War – from Wikimedia

August 18, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Finally, someone has created a wiki-entry for what has been going on in the recording and music industry for decades now – (oh, and let’s not forget the advertising industry, one of the biggest culprits) – cranking up the volume on everything by expanding the dynamic range to the brim and running through a limiter. This wikipedia post named Loudness Wars, traces some examples.

WNYC – Radiolab: Musical Language (April 21, 2006)

April 27, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Another great resource about the role of sound and the intricacies of listening, particularly of music, but not only music. A fascinating podcast from RadioLab – the link mentions a few great scientists, music psychologies, etc.

WNYC – Radiolab: Musical Language (April 21, 2006).

Sound Symposium (via Deep Listening Institute)

April 27, 2010 Posted by Milena D

Just sharing a clip that was posted on FB from the Sound Symposium event in St. John, NF in Canada ( a biannual event celebrating sound, performing art and music)