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Saturday, March 29, 2008

So You Think You're So Smart, Mr. Human Pants!

Today's feature, an elephant Picasso.

I am still working on my next masterpiece, a multimedia album download featuring music and an interactive eBook for kids. It's not quite as impressive as a painting elephant, but it will be pretty cool.

My favorite indie promoters (they send me music, so they are automatically my favorites!), Pirate!Pirate! have sent along this MP3 of the Junior Boys remix of Sally Shapiro's "Jackie Junior". The whole new wave sound takes me back to my younger days. You can check it out here.

Cool and rainy here in Chapel Hill today. Hope all is well wherever you are.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Sometimes I come across interesting articles and file them away for later, for a rainy blog day perhaps. Well, the sun is shining here in North Carolina, but I'm breaking out the fine blog china for you today!

I have played an Ovation guitar for many years, and while they seem to be making strides in improving the Ovation sound, my late 80's model pickup (I think it's the OP-24) has always sounded brittle to me. I read this article online about a new DSP (digital signal processor) application from Fishman Transducers, where they condition the signal from your acoustic pickup to sound like you have a bazillion dollar microphone in your gajillion dollar studio.

Fishman's digital acoustic imaging algorithm works by comparing the sound of a guitar under perfect conditions—in an ultraquiet studio with a variety of expensive condenser microphones placed at various distances in front of it—with the signal you get from a piezoelectric transducer or pickup, which Fishman places under the bridge saddle. The transducer senses the originating excitation of the strings, but is not sensitive to the sound hole resonances. And it doesn't hear the mix of phases in front of the instrument as various frequencies radiate differently off the top, sides and head of the guitar.
In practice, Fishman records each instrument with a half-dozen well-known studio-recording microphones, then offers those sounds as selections to the guitar user.

So now your cheap ass guitar will sound amazing! Unfortunately, if your playing sucks, it's still going to sound like crap, but it will sound like gold-plated crap.

In other cool news (OK, not so new, but maybe new to you!), Time magazine ran an article on Princeton Professor Dimitri Tymoczko's work describing the geometry of musical composition.

Borrowing some of the mathematics that string theorists invented to plumb the secrets of the physical universe, he has found a way to represent the universe of all possible musical chords in graphic form. "He's not the first to try," says Yale music theorist Richard Cohn. "But he's the first to come up with a compelling answer."

Tymoczko's answer, which led last summer to the first paper on music theory ever published in the journal Science, is that the cosmos of chords consists of weird, multidimensional spaces, known as orbifolds..

Tymoczko: "composers have been exploring the geometrical structure of these maps since the beginning of Western music without really knowing what they were doing." It's as though you figured out your way around a city like Boston, for example, without realizing that some of your routes intersect. "If someone then showed you a map," he says, "you might say, 'Wow, I didn't realize the Safeway was close to the disco.' We can now go back and look at hundreds of years of this intuitive musical pathmaking and realize that there are some very simple principles that describe the process."

Here is Tymoczko's homepage.

Now for today's editorial: Bit Torment. BitWorks Music artist Unit Vector was lamenting the poor performance of the distributed peer-to-peer download application BitTorrent. He says it should be called Bit Drip. No, it's definitely Bit Torment. For the unfamiliar, BitTorrent breaks up huge files into smaller chunks and allows you to download them from many different servers at once. This can give you amazingly fast downloads of popular media files, because it's like having 100 waiters serving you dinner all at once. You can eat your entire meal in 3 seconds! The problem with BitTorrent is simple. The performance of BT is tied to how well seeded a given file is, essentially how many "waiters" there are serving you, and how well they are performing. In the case of media files with poor seeding, maybe you have a few waiters claiming they will serve you, but they are "on break". Also, by default, BitTorrent tries not to overload any given peer (what I'm calling a "waiter" or server here), so if you only have a single server for a file, performance will be sloooow. Here is more on the issues with BitTorrent.

That's all for today's episode!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Snippet

I have been promising my droogs that I would get some of our recordings from a few weeks ago moving in a forward direction. Well, things have been way busy! Still, I managed to review the final track of our session (sorry Todd, you had already left) and despite some issues with Cubase (damn you computers!!!) I have pulled a small piece of a piece together for YOU, an appetizer you could say.

The Hold (mix 2): download MP3    Stream without download

I've got to get back to writing! Surruslay..

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Administrivia - NEED YOUR HELP!

Howdy campers! It has been an interesting few weeks since we switched to a new server. Product delivery was on "manual" for a while, and apologies to any who were inconvenienced by this. I am happy to say that automatic album delivery appears to be working again, so fear no more!

HOWEVER, I have also noticed that a few people are getting "404's" for some of the sample audio files. If you notice that something appears broken, please email me right away!

In more exciting news, I began reviewing the recordings from BleakJam '08. I have said it before--computer-based recording sucks! In this case, I am hearing a few static bzzzts in the recorded tracks now and then. I could theorize about the noise source and so on, but I have bored you enough already. I will post a new track soon, hopefully by the weekend.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Lazy Linky Friday

You should spend a long time watching this video, because a) it's Friday, b) it's Sigur Ros' first film, c) they're from Iceland, d) they have cool accents, e) as if they speak Icelandic, f) I like them, but I'm not going to learn to speak Icelandic.

BoingBoing has this really interesting story about scanning the brains of jazz musicians, noting what happens during improvisation.

The scientists found that a region of the brain known as the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, a broad portion of the front of the brain that extends to the sides, showed a slowdown in activity during improvisation. This area has been linked to planned actions and self-censoring, such as carefully deciding what words you might say at a job interview. Shutting down this area could lead to lowered inhibitions, Limb suggests.

The researchers also saw increased activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, which sits in the center of the brain’s frontal lobe. This area has been linked with self-expression and activities that convey individuality, such as telling a story about yourself.

Note to self: play any note!

Personal note: my daughter is in a musical this week. She has been quite the amazing star of wonder! Let's see, when I was her age... oh never mind.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Bleak Jam 2008!

Last weekend in the Bit Cave I hosted the most spectacular garage jam in BitWorks Music history, a gathering of 6 area musical innovators to perform at Bleak Jam 2008. True, it was the first garage jam in BWM history, but still a momentous occasion. "Bleak Jam" is a tribute to the "Bleak Strategies - rock ideas for the desperate" card deck developed by most of the musicians present, and we wandered the unknown improvisational universe for several hours. I have barely had a chance to review the recordings, but in the next week or two I will be posting a featured recording as our free download at BitWorks HQ. .. but what is this "Bleak Strategies" you ask? "Bleak Strategies" is our own 50 card tribute to Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt's Oblique Strategies card deck first published in 1975. It is a collection of ideas to inspire and/or amuse musicians in the creative process. We did use the cards during our session, of course, and only time will tell whether we reached new heights, and/or depths. One thing is for sure: everyone had a good time and relatively few animals were harmed during the recording process. PLUS, I managed to clean out the garage!

I have also received the first installment of work from our newest artist, whom I will announce in a few weeks. Hank (oops, I blew the secret already) is going to take BitWorks Music in a new direction and play a critical role in saving the tuniverse from mediocrity, but that is an announcement for another day!