Monday, January 24, 2011

An online acquaintance passes...

Recently, an online music community that I'm a part of suddenly lost one of our own, Martin Brown, from Toronto. He was one of these people on a music discussion forum, that always had something reasonable or interesting to say, a good sense of humor-- just someone you never minded reading their posts.

He was 39 when he died, on top of that, while his mother was preparing for the funeral, she passed away suddenly as well.

In response, a group of us formed an ad hoc collective, Quietman, and put together a tribute album. People from all over the world contributed and collaborated in different ways-- for example, I provided lyrics and melody to a reggae track by a fellow in Jamaica.

All proceeds go to his wife and three kids-- we have a lawyer handling the escrow fund. Please go to the links below and listen, and if you like it -any of it- please buy it. Thanks!
a link
and another

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

geez what twaddle blather... how about some more electronic music blather

I use a notebook to make electronic music, as I think was a stated early goal it was to have a lightweight portable studio that would give a good quality sound with generally good production quality while permitting live performance and improvisation.

Things move so fast, they really do. My latest notebook is going on 4 yrs old, this is old indeed. I am still on Vista, this is not so good. But my system works well enough for me also... really, my oldest system, with older OS and DAW software works well also.

At any rate, the best music tech thing to have started to become more widely used is Soundcloud. It is a convenient and easy way to share compositions, a bssic account is free, and a more elaborate account is inexpensive.

Well, it is late and I am getting tired.

Monday, January 17, 2011

music and perception and communication

I have been reading Boing Boing more regularly, it has always been a fun/interesting blog with a great deal of variety and activity.

The way things tie together, and untie, then re-tie is something that you observe throughout life. For example...

Like a lot of people I work in a cube office by day. I sit in a comfortable chair in a well-illuminated and clean workspace, that gets some natural light as well, in a mostly quiet setting. While the various Dilbert-esaue commentary on cube dwellers is abundant, and often on the mark, I am by and large very grateful for the conditions and employement therein.

The office is "mostly quiet", because there is the ventilation system that runs, the soft clicking of keyboard keys, and the sound of traffic with occasional sirens going past the window on the street three stories down. There are various machines and things humming, also, that seem to make for a high-frequency 'wash' over the whole thing.

Unless it is artifically introduced, there is very little "musical" noise in this environment-- no regular rhythms and very little harmonic noise. It is mostly white/pink noise.

Which makes the other noises once I get out of the office seem very rich in musical content sometimes. Even the sound of a compressor running seems musical, and there are pleasing harmonics in the most unusual things.

To try to point out these sounds and perceptions to someone else would be an fairly intensive effort: for one reason, just by talking you'd be disrupting the audio environment. For another, not everyone will hear it the same way.

If there are purposes for music other than the overt ones like entertainment value and expression, I think one less obvious is to provide a frame of reference for sounds. You can say "it sounded like a trumpet" and people know what you mean.

One thing I've wondered about is if a theoretical person grew up hearing instruments that are nothing like traditional instruments, what they might say to complete "this thing sounded like...". "This thing sounded like the instrument in the melody on [song title]" maybe. But if you hadn't heard the song, you would not have the referent, and so there would be no communication.

Also, instruments communicate things through their inflections in a subtle way. There is often a very easy connection to be made between an instrumental line and a series of implied words and/or emotions. These implications are not based the context of how they are used in songs, but how they instrinsically evoke certain feelings.

It is very easy to make electronic music that is theoretically very musical but devoid of these interesting inflections. It is also possible to add a great deal of inflection, using formant filters and such, but there seems to be a correlation between the 'fluidity' or 'connectedness' of a phrase in a way that it hints at language. Because of this, a "live" instrument or voice in an electronic piece can add a great deal.

It is that "hint at language" in a series of sounds that I think captures the ear and is pleasing.

Friday, January 14, 2011

I feel like I have to say something about the guy that shot those people

President Obama had some wonderful words to say in Tucson, Arizona after the shooting incident there, about the people who were killed and injured, and the people who helped subdue the attacker and tend to the wounded. It was a very amazing talk.

There are lots of things one thinks and feels when something like this happens. You of course wonder why someone does this. I was a young man who was alienated, distrustful and skeptical, not particularly popular, feeling isolated and misunderstood, having no strong sense of purpose or determined and well-motivated direction. It is probably the case that a lot of young men feel this way.

But to be so out of sync, misaligned, self-absorbed, narcissistic... not sure what to call it... as to think that something like this is any kind of course of action... it is just overly bizarre.

One of the strangest things is how they have gotten pictures of this guy throughout his school years, year after year, looking like any normal middle-class suburban kid who had no idea he was going to grow up to go to prison and look like Uncle Fester.

You get very wrapped up in yourself as you come out of being a teenager, when you are that age it is actually pretty disturbing, you see yourself metamorphosing into an adult, and you have no control over that and it is nothing like what you thought you'd be. And this happens to everyone. It is difficult, not sure how that can be made easier.

It is disheartening, don't want to talk about it anymore., I'll just say this: it is never as bad as it seems, and there are parts that are very beautiful. This was a very bad post, sorry, just more babble.

civilization and being human and being animal

I'm thinking that the quality of a civilization is evaluated by the one experiencing the civilization.

However, from civilization to civilization, peopla in the ruling classes of the various civilizations tended to experience the best that the civilization had to offer, and so we might say that if in civilization "A" the people in a 'lesser' class that is not the ruling class experience somethihg better than the ruling class of civilization "B", then civilization "A" is better. So it is significant "progress", when people who are considered less important in the scheme of a civilization are better off than even the most important people in the civilization before them.

There are questions, I guess, about how much is enough. For example, we are concerned with all kinds of interactions between what has to happen to make the "stuff" we have and the environment. This sort of thought was never an issue when the places that ended up being Superfund sites were used to make stuff. Our ignorance was bliss indeed in those times.

But now "having it better" still means having it faster, brighter, more complex, louder, broader, slicker, cooler and more stimulating but also cleaner and less harmful to the environment. This is good, it broadens the scope of "better", raises the bar.

There is also living longer. Living longer, getting older, living more of your life as an old person. "Old" has to do with animalness more than humanness: for female animals, if you are old enough to reproduce this makes you an adult and if you are too old to reproduce you are old indeed.

This is not the case in the realm of humans-- being able to reproduce can occur well before being what civilization considers an adult. But, male or female you are considered "older" if you are as old as a female who is of the age where females are in menopause. This is typically considered to be "in their forties" but of course it can be later.

A few current civilizations recognize that the male will able to reproduce throughout his life, and make allowances for multiple, concurrent wives so the male can have more children. That is less typical among modern civilizations, and even in those where it is an option it can be hindered by the expense and the complexity of it.

One of the reasons I'm thinking about this is because as a male, getting older, it seems apparent that older males have more going for them than when they were younger. Better off financially, less inclined to reckless behavior, more informed through study and experience, more independent and self-sustaining-- all of this and still able to reproduce Measured by civilization's standards, then, it would seem that the older male is more valuable.

But the signals that civilization gives off are just the opposite. Younger, reckless, ill-informed men (and women) are all the rage.

Isn't that kind of interesting? You see all these nature shows where animals generally prefer to mate with the males that have proved their worth to the herd/pack/pride whatever.

It seems like that makes sense, that the proven specimens are those whose traits you want to preserve in the species for the continued improvement thereof. But we are informed quite differently by our civilization, to the point where I'd be puzzled and a bit disturbed if a younger, attractive woman would prefer me to some poor, dumb guy that resembles one of the various famous Justins.

Now is this because we manipulate the messages, the signals, that civilization produces? The advertisements, the music, the movies and TV, all of that, that conditions us towards our preferences in mates? If it is, then why is that message being sent?

I'm not saying that alpha specimens should have perpetually fertile harems in some sort of eugenic utopia-- although that certainly seemed to be the goal of several prior civilizations.

I'm also a romantic at heart, and don't have a problem that the message is clearly that we should "mix it up" and never feel constrained to the road more travelled.

Would it be better if the male were to be mated until his children reach self-sufficiency, and then having proven that his offspring can advance to that stage, he finds another younger mate and repeats the process? Theoretically speaking, of course, because I think it's pretty clear that males don't mate in order to have children. But then that means more older males competing with younger males for the same women, which raises societal tension. So it is probably good that males aren't wired that way. Males have children because of societal indicators and pressures, not because they think it is the greatest idea ever and they feel they just have to.

And then there is that. Lots of people never mate, lots of people mate but never have children and they are fine with that. Some people have children and have to give them away. Some people can't have children even if they want to. More and more people are mating and having as few children as possible.

I think that is all ok, but also a little worried about the people who are having as many children as they can but are unable to feed them. It devalues children across the board, it devalues humans, and makes them more like animals.