Music and math unite, from Chowning to Rhythmicon

You have to love German. In English, I can string together whole paragraphs that try and fail to capture the potential of electronic sound. In German, we get to call an event Technosphärenklänge – a word whose utterance is a timbral adventure in itself. And in an event with that name promising to be a landmark for the electronic music sphere, CTM Festival is bringing together pioneering machines and pioneering humans. It’s a convergence of the worlds of mathematics and music that has never happened in this combination on one stage before – and we’ll take you there.

I tried this test once, took a lunch break, came back and tried again. Totally different results. Mainly, it taught me that I mostly don't want to listen to this music, and The Killers are a victim of the Loudness Wars.

This is the Only Thing You Need to Know About “Hifi” Tidal Streaming

So, in case you haven’t heard yet, there’s a new “hifi” streaming service called Tidal. Don’t waste your time watching the weird press event with Madonna and Daft Punk, congratulating themselves like they’re at the Grammies. Don’t let yourself be mesmerized by the desaturated music video in which Jay Z’s friends all get together to drink champagne and talk about “making a stand.” Don’t worry about the European startup that made the tech, or sweat the pricing. Don’t even hand over your credit card in order to start a free trial. No, the only thing you need to do is …

Displacing sound is one of the illusions that figures into their work. Here, a field recording from another environment will later find its way into the Kraftwerk interior.

Exploring Sound in the Vertical, as Three Brothers Make New Sonic Architectures

Korinsky – Atelier für vertikale Flächen /// documentary from Korinsky on Vimeo. We imagine we see where we are. We even describe our eyes as being open as awareness. But perhaps that’s because we are so deeply connected to sound as to take that connection for granted. Perceptive research has revealed in profound relief that we hear where we are, too. And artists are beginning to take that knowledge and fuse it with art making. To quote The Outer Limits, “We will control the vertical. We can roll the image, make it flutter. We can change the focus to a …


Feeling Sound, Physically: ‘Touch the Sound’ Documents Deaf Percussionist

What is sound? What does it mean, and why does it matter? It’s never too fundamental, too basic a question to ask ourselves again when we make music. So, I’ll leave this trailer otherwise largely without comment, except to say, it’s well worth watching (or re-watching). Touch the Sound, produced by German director Thomas Riedelsheimer in 2004, focuses on the work and world of nearly-deaf percussionist Evelyn Glennie. See a trailer, below, and excerpt, above. Thanks to Morgan Hendry for the tip. IMDB link On this topic, and the inspiration for this link: For a Deaf Artist, The Process of …


What Really Makes Rhythms Human? New Research Investigates Perception, Preference, Tech

Machine rhythm: the steps on a Roland TR-808. Photo (CC-BY-SA) Brandon Daniel. What makes rhythm human? Music technology has introduced machine rhythms, perfectly-calibrated to electronically-perfected grids, yet we know that natural playing is more organic. Or, that is, we know we have certain intuitive preferences. How do those preferences and rhythms really work? And what does that mean for music technology? Fascinating new research investigates more deeply, using – you know, science! Here’s the summary of the research itself: Although human musical performances represent one of the most valuable achievements of mankind, the best musicians perform imperfectly. Musical rhythms are …


Celebrating Optical Illusion in Motion; Fun with Marbles

Impossible motion magnet-like slopes from Ben Fry on Vimeo. To work with visuals and motion, you need to understand how visual perception functions, for the same reason that sound design is informed by understandings of how our hearing perceives space, frequency, timbre, and the like. So lately, I’ve been fascinated by this question in motion. I’ll share some examples shortly (once I’ve edited the footage) that I built in Processing for an exhibition in the spring. The results were particularly interesting to me, because the tendency of perception to transform our notions of space and pattern is so profound, it’s …


Your Hearing, According to MP3: Sounds for Humans, Played for 10^450 Years

The miracle of human hearing goes well beyond audiophile snobbery over “high fidelity,” or the machinations of sometimes-arbitrary, designed-by-committee industry specifications. But, in the context of my rant about perceived myths in audio, what can we hear, really? And how much perceptible sound can you squeeze into an MP3? For his master’s thesis at the Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Kyle McDonald investigated the deeper, existential issues behind common digital audio specifications. The question: what if you could play every single distinguishable sound that the MP3 specification can accommodate? (For the technically minded, that means …


The Myth of Falling Fidelity, and Audio History Unburdened by Fact

Photo (CC) Alosh Bennett. With the regularity of clockwork, stories about how digital audio consumption is degrading the quality of music are published and then re-published. Nearly a decade after the introduction of Apple’s iPod, this still apparently qualifies as news. The content of the articles is so identical, you could believe the bylines are a ruse, a nom-de-plume for the same author re-publishing the same story. Whatever the reason for their supposed newsworthiness, the problem with these stories isn’t their claims about the variable quality of music listening. I think it’d be hard to overstate just how sub-optimal real-world …


iPhone Day: LaDiDa’s Reverse Karaoke Composes Accompaniment to Singing

LaDiDa Demo from khush on Vimeo. There’s no question iPhone/iPod touch development – really, just clever mobile development – has gotten a bit overhyped lately. But that’s all the more reason to do a round-up of genuinely interesting stories, real innovation happening on the platform. So, I’m clearing out my inbox with some of the more creative tools appearing recently on Apple’s mobile gadgets. There’s no better way to kick off today’s festivities than with this unusual “reverse karaoke” creation. Sure, people may think they’re tone-deaf. But even the layperson has extraordinary powers of musical perception. So how could you …


Notes and Neurons: Bobby McFerrin Shows Everybody Gets Pentatonic

World Science Festival 2009: Bobby McFerrin Demonstrates the Power of the Pentatonic Scale from World Science Festival on Vimeo. At the World Science Festival in June here in New York, specialists – including musical specialist Bobby McFerrin – gathered to ask what in music we humans hear universally, versus what is culturally specific. Is our response to music hard-wired or culturally determined? Is the reaction to rhythm and melody universal or influenced by environment? Join host John Schaefer, Jamshed Barucha, scientist Daniel Levitin, Professor Lawrence Parsons and musical artist Bobby McFerrin for live performances and cross cultural demonstrations to illustrate …