February 28th, 2014
Maciej Ceglowski's Webstock presentation on Our Comrade The Electron draws lessons for modern technologists from the life of Lev Sergeyevich Termen, the inventor of – among other things – the theremin:
Termen was just what Lenin needed: a Soviet inventor with an electrical gizmo that would dazzle and amaze the masses, and help sell the suspicious countryside on electrification. He gave Termen a permanent rail pass, encouraging him to take his show on the road all over the Soviet Union.
When Lenin died a few years later, Termen sent urgent word that Lenin's body be immediately frozen. He had an idea for how to bring him back to life, but it required putting the body on ice. He was devastated to learn that Lenin's brain had already been taken out and pickled in alcohol, and his body embalmed for public viewing.
Given Termen's track record of technical achievement, it's probably a good thing he didn't get a chance at making zombie Lenin.
February 7th, 2014
Gary Card's illustrations of every Prince hair style from 1978 to 2013 are very cute. Downright hypnotic, even:
September 1st, 2013
For Once in My Life: James Jamerson's Bass Line Visualized:
Vulfpeck's Jack Stratton sent us this cool video he made saying, "[James] Jamerson belongs with Bach, Debussy and Mozart, and that includes graphical scores on Youtube."
We couldn't agree more. [...]
August 4th, 2013
Stiff Records' press release about the first week sales performance of Johnny Borrell's solo album is putting a brave face on things:
Stiff Records is proud to announce first week sales figures for its latest album – Johnny Borrell's 'Borrell 1' – of 594.
'Borrell 1' is the début solo LP from the former Razorlight vocalist and is the first new album on the highly prolific Stiff Records since 2007.
That last album was the multi million-selling two-volume set, '30 Years Of Stiff Records' (although admittedly that was a free cover-mount with 'The Independent on Sunday').
"First week sales of 594 makes 'Borrell 1' the 15,678th best selling album of the year to date," comments a Stiff spokesperson. "So far we've achieved 0.00015% sales of Adele's '21' – and 0.03% sales of this week's No. 1 album from Jahmene Douglas – so we feel like it's all to play for as we move into the all-important week two."
"We might even break the Top 100."
Or possibly taking the piss. Hard to tell.
[Via No Rock And Roll Fun]
July 3rd, 2013
David Hepworth says that when it comes to journalism the genius is in the details:
I met a bloke about five years ago who was a TV producer with an interest in music. He said something which made an impression. "All the macro stuff's done. The future is micro, if only you could find a way to pay for it."
There were a couple of moments in last night's Quiet Word evening [...] when I saw what he meant. [...]
June 16th, 2013
I've been seeing links to Evolution of Get Lucky pop up all over the place for days now, but not being a big fan of the track I hadn't followed them. I really should have: this is fantastic:
For the record, I give the 40s, 70s and (especially) the 80s versions very high marks.
June 8th, 2013
I'd seen links to a vocal-only track from Queen and David Bowie's Under Pressure all over the place over the last couple of days, but hadn't bothered to follow them.
Don't repeat my mistake: if you haven't already done so, you owe it to yourself to hear this…
June 7th, 2013
Zed Lopez noticed an interesting detail in this article, written prior to astronaut Chris Hadfield's recent trip to the International Space Station:
"The Larrivée Parlor on the ISS was purchased at the local Guitar Center in Southern Florida and there are actually two of them," Larrivée told SPACE.com. "The other stays on the ground at NASA so they know what's up there."
They really are prepared for a "We gotta find a way to make this fit into the hole for this using nothing but that." scene!
Which, when you think about it, makes perfect sense. It's just odd – or should I say, distinctly reassuring – to be reminded of just how careful NASA are, even now after so many astronauts have visited the ISS.
May 13th, 2013
Paul Ford on How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley:
The nineteen-forties Bing Crosby hit "White Christmas" is a key part of the national emotional regression that occurs every Christmas. Between Christmases, Crosby is most often remembered as a sometimes-brutal father, thanks to a memoir by his son Gary. Less remarked upon is Crosby's role as a popularizer of jazz, first with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, and later as a collaborator with, disciple to, and champion of Louis Armstrong. Hardly remarked upon at all is that Crosby, by accident, is a grandfather to the computer hard drive and an angel investor in one of the firms that created Silicon Valley. [...]
Ford mentions one other technical innovation in broadcasting that Crosby allegedly inspired, but you'll have to read the article to the end to find out about that one. It's worth it.
April 29th, 2013
Nitsu Abebe has written a thoughtful piece on The Amanda Palmer Problem. By which he means not so much the various issues some people have with Palmer's own actions but the wider problem of how artists seeking support from fans can bring down such vitriol upon themselves online:
I think there's a lesson to be learned from Palmer, and it's not the falling-into-the-crowd lesson she offers. Yes, she's correct: The web offers an opportunity to fall into the open arms of fans, in ways that weren't available before. Here's the catch: The web also makes it near-impossible to fall into the arms of just one's fans. Each time you dive into the crowd, some portion of the audience before you consists of observers with no interest in catching you. And you are still asking them to, because another thing the web has done is erode the ability to put something into the world that is directed only at interested parties.
This sort of furore is only going to get bigger and noisier as the example of the The Veronica Mars Movie Project is followed by the likes of Zach Braff and more and more recognisable names show up on the front page of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
[Via Waxy.org links]
March 5th, 2013
It turns out that combining Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen gives a really strange result.
I honestly can't make my mind up whether this is epic or embarrassing, or possibly just a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
February 10th, 2013
Why My Bloody Valentine's 'mbv' Has Come Too Late To Stop The End Of The World:
Thanks Kevin. Thanks a fucking bunch for taking 22 years to make a record that could have saved the world. All you had to do was make a bunch of songs that sound like being hit on the head with a shovel after doing poppers while listening to a melancholy whale sighing. But you couldn't be bothered and now we're all going to die in planet wide nuclear annihilation.
[Via The Null Device]
January 27th, 2013
A tribute to the ZX Spectrum and the albums of Kate Bush:
(In fairness, I should note that the copy above is at 50% of the size of the original, which serves to mask some of the rough edges. Follow the link to see the album covers in all their pixillated, colour-clashing glory.)
Nice work. It's surprising how nicely some of them turned out.
The Sensual World and 50 Words for Snow benefit from being essentially black and white images in the first place, so the dithering doesn't fall foul of the limitations of the Spectrum's graphics display, but some of the more colourful later albums like Aerial and Director's Cut look pretty damned fine all things considered. The run of albums from Lionheart to Hounds of Love is another matter entirely…
One last thought: we should all be eternally grateful that the creator of these tribute images didn't accompany them with reproductions of Kate's music created using a Spectrum's sound chip.
December 6th, 2012
Visualizing 50 years of The Rolling Stones on tour.
It's hard to imagine anyone matching the scale and longevity of their career as a live act. Is Jay-Z still going to be embarking on massive world tours 30 years from now? Will Muse? Take That? Metallica? The Pet Shop Boys?
[Via Flowing Data]
November 2nd, 2012
They Might Be Giants' Fingertips meets Star Wars…
… and Buffy…
So, so good.
October 15th, 2012
Jarvis Cocker, reviewing The John Lennon Letters, gets to the crux of the matter:
I am so the target-audience for this book that it hurts – but something feels wrong.
Britpop (I can scarcely believe that I typed that word of my own free will) perhaps comes in useful for once at this point. People of my generation felt this obscure pang – this feeling that we'd somehow missed out on something amazing. So we tried to make it happen again – but exactly the same. You cannot do a karaoke version of a social revolution (good fun trying though). What changed in the interim? Why was Br**pop doomed to failure? Too many factors to go into here, but one was: too much information. Too much reverence. Wearing the same clothes and taking the same drugs will not make us into Beatles. It will make us fat and ill. And books like this (along with many others, I admit) are what make that mistake possible. The Beatles didn't know they were the Beatles. The Beatles didn't have a plan or a blueprint to follow.
October 9th, 2012
Former BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist Alan Connor, on making a radio programme about John Cage's 4'33" and encountering problems clearing the broadcast rights for the performances he wanted to include:
A lesser journalist might have bypassed some rights or recorded his or her own performance on a smartphone and used that to provide the wordless, note-less soundtrack for the slideshow. Nobody would know. Actually, that may not be true in the case of Frank Zappa's 4'33". I'm sure there are hardcore Zappa fans who would detect in a moment that the room tone was unlike that of any studio Zappa had ever used. But it wasn't the zappaphile's conscience that made me do the right thing. It was my own.
It wasn't even my training: there had been nothing on the Safeguarding Trust course that covered the appropriate attribution of recordings of nothing happening. But in order to demonstrate that each version of 4'33" is unique, the package had to be exactly what it said. So out went the version chosen by Radio 3 regular Ian McMillan for his Desert Island Discs in which Hungarian percussion instruments were not being played, sadly unclearable in the time available.
[Via currybet dot net]