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Let’s Remix Everything

January 30th, 2009 | 1 Comment | Posted in classical music, music, technology, youtube

Microsoft has — accidentally — unleashed the next musical era upon us:

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(Here is the original, if you need a refresher)

The harbinger and bringer of this revolution is Microsoft SongSmith, which automatically generates a cheesy, MIDI style accompaniment to any vocal track you care to chuck at it. Naturally this has led to people generating deliciously awry cover versions of famous tracks, like that kids-TV-show version of the Beastie Boy’s Intergalactic, above.

Some other favorites are the Cheers style rendition of Eye of the Tiger:

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And this Eurodancey version of Hotel California:

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For all its silliness, I seriously think this is the near future of pop music.

DRM free downloads are standard now, and before long lossless audio will be commonplace too. I think the next big step is for bands (and orchestras) to start offering individual instrumental channels. Of course, you could still download the band-preferred mix of the instruments (i.e., something like the regular tracks you download now), but in addition you could download individual tracks for voice, drums, guitar, etc. and mix them yourself. The ex-consumers get to partake in the creativity.

And this is why software like SongSmith is so important. People will need tools to interact with these musical components at a level way above notes and chords. We need to seriously abstract our musical manipulation. I think the fact that people have gotten so excited about playing around with even this relatively simple tool demonstrates that there is a huge and hungry market.

Unfortunately, right now the raw materials — that is, a clean vocal track — are hard to get unless you happen to have an a-capella version of a piece, or know a dodgy friend of a friend who has access to original studio tapes.

Geek moment: this totally reminds me of the evolution of programming languages. Back in the beginning everything was programmed using machine code and assembly language, sets of indecipherable instructions like:

MOV ah,0x0

INT 16h

This is exactly like learning to read music in order to manipulate it: a long, hard and unintuitive learning curve. Something you have to devote a good chunk of your life to. Compare this to the graphical wires and functions I now drag around on a screen in lab every day, producing in five minutes programs which would take years to write in assembly or C.

I want ultra-high-level, powerful and clever tools to manipulate music.

But while we’re waiting, will someone with access to a voice-only version of the Ode To Joy, please — pretty please! — run it through SongSmith?

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Lukewarm Thursday Linkage

January 29th, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in music

Holy crap, It’s thursday already?

These get the lukewarm moniker because a) it’s really friggin icy outside today, and b) I’m breaking the rule of three.

  • Remember that huge-ass piano from Big? Well it is moving from some rich guys music room into the Philadelphia Please Touch Museum, which I assume means that you get to stomp Chopsticks out all over it.
  • Cellists, your crotches are safe. For now. A very famous UK doctor (who I’ve never heard of) admitted to making up the condition of “Cellist’s Crotch” and submitting a letter about it to the BMJ, in which it was published. She said she did it in response to a previous letter describing “Guitarist’s Nipple”.

Oh, hang about, there was another link. Yay three!

  • The most expensive concerts of 2008 – non-classical concerts, that is. Anybody fancy comparing the genres? “Orchestra Premium” seats for the Ring Cycle at the metropolitan opera: $2200. (yeah yeah, four concerts, I know)
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A Chinese New Year non-Resolution

January 27th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted in music

“1650×1050″ and two nostrils worth of snickering laughter is the answer you get from a geek when you ask what his (or her, or its) new years resolution is.  I cannot abide the making of new years resolutions — both the real kind, and the version which is a stale joke about aspect ratios. If something is worth resolving to do, you should probably start doing it RIGHT NOW, not save it up for an arbitrary orientation of the earth with respect to the sun.

However, if I were the resolution makin’ type of man, this is what I would choose:

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Yeah I know, blah blah, it’s a Western kid copying the Mongolians (or Inuits, Sardinians, etc..). Well I actually prefer it without the throatiness, so suck it, hippies.



January 22nd, 2009 | No Comments | Posted in non music

I’m so close to making rainbows come out of my nose. Right now I can manage little diffraction halos and that’s about it, but I’m pretty convinced that a rigorous training regime will result in technicolored success.

I’m serious. About the halos, not the training. I never noticed it until last night, crunching through lots of salt and a little snow, wandering back from work. The temperature has been loitering below zero (in real units) for at least a week, so my breath pours out in great wafts of drifting fog. The way to entice out the halos is by adjusting your breathing so that the clouds cross between you and a streetlight. As the vapor rises across your vision, a halo sympathetically flashes in front of the orange glow of the lamp.

It’s fascinating. At least, it’s fascinating enough to eat up all my attention when walking back in the cold, in the dark, by myself. Sniff sniff.

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Bloody Treadmilling

January 20th, 2009 | 2 Comments | Posted in classical music, shostakovich, youtube

There was a dramatic face-off between me and the Russian imperial guard in the gym today. It ended with me turning the treadmill speed down to 4mph and holding down the play button on  my mp3 player, which rather unintuitively turns the thing off:

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That’s the spark igniting the battle.

Ordinarily classical music kinda sucks to listen to while exercising, and so I stuff my mp3 player full to the brim with audio-books. That movement rocks for working out to, though, even if it does put me in a close to bawling kinda state. It’s a musical reenactment of the 1905 Bloody Sunday massacre, from the 2nd movemnt of Shosty’s 11th symphony.

Today it totally took my mind away from the running, as I was scheming out a very dramatic, and cinematic, and award winning-scene from a movie, with this movement as the soundtrack. Someone needs to CGI it up.

It’s a spectacular soundtrack to a non-existent film. That huge, slow crescendo breaking into dissonant full-orchestra machine-gun fire… oooo. Chills every time.

Unfortunately the YouTube sound quality leaves a lot to be desired; even more than usual. This is one of those pieces that deserve to be blasted at high fidelity through a decent pair of speakers, with the volume cranked way up.

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