‘It is not reason which is the guide of life, but custom.’ –Hume


My topic is the shift from ‘architect’ to ‘gardener’, where ‘architect’ stands for ’someone who carries a full picture of the work before it is made’, to ‘gardener’ standing for ’someone who plants seeds and waits to see exactly what will come up’. I will argue that today’s composer are more frequently ‘gardeners’ than ‘architects’ and, further, that the ‘composer as architect’ metaphor was a transitory historical blip.

{ Brian Eno/Edge }

photos { Sid Avery, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra and Joey Bishop Stage a Fight During the Making of Ocean’s Eleven }

I want the love worth living, I want the things I sing


Singing is a cultural universal and an important part of modern society, yet many people fail to sing in tune. Many possible causes have been posited to explain poor singing abilities; foremost among these are poor perceptual ability, poor motor control, and sensorimotor mapping errors. To help discriminate between these causes of poor singing, we conducted 5 experiments testing musicians and nonmusicians in pitch matching and judgment tasks. (…)

The pattern of results across experiments demonstrates multiple possible causes of poor singing, and attributes most of the problem to poor motor control and timbral–translation errors, rather than a purely perceptual deficit, as other studies have suggested.

{ PsycNet | Continue reading }

related { Lifelong musicians experience less age-related hearing problems than non-musicians }

And the smile on my face isn’t really a smile at all

As onions are sliced, cells are broken, allowing enzymes called alliinases to break down amino acid sulphoxides and generate sulphenic acids.

A specific sulfenic acid, 1-propenesulfenic acid, formed when onions are cut, is rapidly rearranged by a second enzyme, called the lachrymatory factor synthase, giving syn-propanethial-S-oxide a volatile gas known as the onion lachrymatory factor (LF).

The LF gas diffuses through the air and eventually reaches the eye, where it activates sensory neurons, creating a stinging sensation. Tear glands produce tears to dilute and flush out the irritant. Chemicals that exhibit such an effect on the eyes are known as lachrymatory agents.

Supplying ample water to the reaction while peeling onions prevents the gas from reaching the eyes. Eye irritation can, therefore, be avoided by cutting onions under running water or submerged in a basin of water.

Another way to reduce irritation is by chilling, or by not cutting off the root of the onion (or by doing it last), as the root of the onion has a higher concentration of enzymes.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

I know, I am a ray of sunshine

This study comes out of Alzahra University, in Tehran, where a group of researchers, noting that music therapy has already been shown to reduce pain, improve sleep quality, and improve mood in cancer patients underoing therapy and multiple sclerosis patients, wondered if music might alleviate depression as well. It does.

They took 56 depressed subjects, had them listen to Beethoven’s 3d and 5th piano sonatas for 15 minutes twice a week in a clean, otherwise quiet room — and saw their depression scores on the standard Beck Depression Scale go [down] signficantly.

{ Scientific American | Continue reading }

Procrastination is like a credit card, it’s a lot of fun until you get the bill.

{ How the internet has all but destroyed the market for films, music and newspapers. The author of Free Ride warns that digital piracy and greedy technology firms are crushing the life out of the culture business. | Guardian | full story }

Hell above and heaven below


The 1980s was a heady and decadent time for rock stars. Stories of bad behavior by some of rock’s finest – be it trashing hotel rooms or simple prima donna demands – were splashed all over the headlines. And few of those stories were as famous as the “Van Halen and M&Ms” story.

In case you weren’t around during the 80s, the rock supergroup Van Halen had a clause in their concert contracts that stipulated that the band would “be provided with one large bowl of M&M candies, with all brown candies removed.” (…)

David Lee Roth: “I came backstage. I found some brown M&M’s, I went into full Shakespearean “What is this before me?” …you know, with the skull in one hand… and promptly trashed the dressing room. Dumped the buffet, kicked a hole in the door, twelve thousand dollars’ worth of fun.”

{ Jim Cofer | Continue reading | Thanks Daniel! }

‘Art is the elimination of the unnecessary.’ –Picasso


In January of 2007, the Washington Post asked world-renown violinist Joshua Bell to perform the 43-minute piece Bach piece “Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin,” in the L’Enfant Plaza subway station – one of D.C.’s busiest subway stations – during the heart of rush hour.

Joshua Bell was used to performing in front of sold out crowds, filled with ambassadors and state leaders, in the finest concert halls across the globe. He is generally considered one of the best violinists alive, and his talents pay him substantial dividends.

However, as over a thousand morning commuters passed by Joshua Bell on that cold morning in January, his credentials were humbly irrelevant. To everyone’s surprise, The Post found that, “of the 1,097 people who walked by, hardly anyone stopped. One man listened for a few minutes, a couple of kids stared, and one woman, who happened to recognize the violinist, gaped in disbelief.” Many were expecting Joshua Bell to cause music pandemonium with his free subway appearance, but his performance garnered no more attention than any other street musician.

Gene Weingarten, the author of the piece, went on to win a Pulitzer prize, but psychologists and laypeople alike were left asking the same question: why didn’t people stop and listen?

{ Why We Reason | Continue reading }

‘I know I’m talented, but I wasn’t put here to sing. I was put here to be a wife and a mum and to look after my family.’ –Amy Winehouse


In 2006, archaeologists exhumed the remains of the legendary 18th century castrato, Carlo Maria Broschi, better known as Farinelli.

As a boy, Farinelli showed talent as an opera singer and, when their father died young, his elder brother Riccardo made the decision to have Farinelli castrated, an illegal operation at the time, in order to preserve his voice.  Farinelli became quite famous by the 1720s and sang daily until his death at the age of 78.

An analysis of the bones has just been published in the Journal of Anatomy, with the most salient finding being that Farinelli’s castration led to hormonal changes that likely caused him to develop internal frontal hyperostosis (or hyperostosis frontalis interna, depending on what side of the Atlantic you’re from), a thickening of the frontal bone in the cranial vault that is found almost exclusively in postmenopausal women.

{ Kristina Killgrove | Continue reading }

Chronic town, poster torn, reaping wheel


Earlier this year, Michael Stipe turned 51, and his band, R.E.M., released its 15th full-length album. In early March, we sat down at his kitchen counter in downtown New York City over sushi to talk about his career.

I came to New York for the first time with Peter Buck at age 19. We spent a week living out of a van on the street in front of a club in the West 60s called Hurrah. It’s where Pylon played. I saw Klaus Nomi play there. And Michael Gira’s band before he did Swans-they all wore cowboy boots and were so cool and had great hair. I was so jealous. I bought Quaaludes at the urinal for everyone and we all got stoned-I mean, totally fucked up-and we watched Klaus Nomi and Joe King Carrasco. I sat on a couch with Lester Bangs at this party someone threw for Pylon and the only thing to eat was jelly beans and cheesecake. (…)

What happened in 1983?

I stopped taking drugs. There were a lot of things that led up to it. One thing was that a lover died. An ex of mine died in a car wreck and I was really trashed when I found out about it and I couldn’t cry. I woke up the next morning and I said, “That’s it,” so I quit then. It was horrible. A bunch of people died around that time and she was one of them. I wrote a song about her-that was when I still did pull from autobiographical material. I didn’t really have my voice until after that. Also, AIDS had landed and I was terrified. I was very scared, just as everyone was in the ’80s. It was really hard to be sexually active and to sleep with men and with women and not feel you had a responsibility in terms of having safe sex. And this was the Reagan years, where they were talking about internment camps for HIV-positive people and people with AIDS. The straight community was freaking out because, in their minds, this was a “gay” disease, and bisexual people were passing AIDS from the gay community to the straight community.

{ Interview | Continue reading }

And Muriel, how many times I’ve left this town, to hide from your memory, and it haunts me

Foreign Affairs is an album by Tom Waits, released in 1977 on Elektra Entertainment.

{ Wikipedia | Continue reading }

Tom Waits (introducing Muriel, London, 1981): “This is a song about an American television personality named Ernie Kovacs who was very popular in the late 50’s. He had his own show and he had a beautiful wife, Edie Adams, (here in a high pitched goofy voice he sings): “And you may ask yourself, how did you get that beautiful wife? How did you get that beautiful car?” Ernie was very fond of Edie, they were very close for many years. They went to a party in Beverley Hills one night. Edie took the Rolls and Ernie took the Corvair. That’s just the way they had things worked out, and on Ernie’s way home, he’d had a few cocktails, and he wrapped himself around a telephone pole there on Santa Monica and La Cienega, he’s history now. Edie used to do advertisements for Muriel Cigars, it’s a real cheap 10 cent cigar in the States and so this is about a guy in the lounge who’s smoking a cigar and remembering - remember with me now.”


Larry Goldstein (about I never Talk to Strangers, 1978): “One of the few people with whom he can work is Bette Midler. “I met her, now let me see, a couple of years ago at the bottom Line (a nightclub) in New York,” he said, “and we got along famously. I admire her a great deal. And you know…I’ll kick anybody’s ass who knocks her. I wrote a couple of tunes for her.” (Shiver Me Timbers among them.) The two stayed close friends and then one day Bette dropped by the studio during the recording of Foreign Affairs just to say hello. The topic of duets arose, and she asked Waits to try and write one for them. So Tom went home and went to work and came back the next day with a brand new song, to be recorded that day, I Never Talk To Strangers, which has become the most popular song on the album. When I asked him about the possibility of more collaboration between the two, Waits was intentionally vague and mysterious. “We might work something out,” he said.

In 1980 this song prompted Francis Ford Coppola to contact Waits on working together on the soundtrack for One From The Heart.

Tom Waits (1981): “When I was in New York back in April of 1980, Francis was there auditioning people he wanted to be involved with the film. Somebody had sent him my records and Francis liked the song I Never Talk to Strangers, a duet I’d done with Bette Midler. He liked the relationship between the singers, a conversation between a guy and a girl in a bar. That was the impetus for him contacting me and asking me if I was interested in writing music for his film.”

{ Tom Waits Library }

I know a man named Hank, he has more rhymes than a serious bank

446.jpg made waves in March when it announced Cloud Player, a new “cloud music” service that allows users to upload their music collections for personal use. It did so without a license agreement, and the major music labels were not amused. Sony Music said it was keeping its “legal options open” as it pressured Amazon to pay up.

In the following weeks, two more companies announced music services of their own. Google, which has long had a frosty relationship with the labels, followed Amazon’s lead; Google Music Beta was announced without the Big Four on board. But Apple has been negotiating licenses so it can operate iCloud with the labels’ blessing.

The different strategies pursued by these firms presents a puzzle. Either Apple wasted millions of dollars on licenses it doesn’t need, or Amazon and Google are vulnerable to massive copyright lawsuits. All three are sophisticated firms that employ a small army of lawyers, so it’s a bit surprising that they reached such divergent assessments of what the law requires.

So how did it happen? And who’s right?

{ Ars Technica | Continue reading }

Why does music elevate your mood, move you to tears or make you dance? It’s a mystery to most of us, but not so much to evolutionary neurobiologist Mark Changizi.

My research suggests that when we listen to music without any visual component, our auditory system—or at least the lower-level auditory areas—”thinks” it is the sounds of a human moving in our midst, doing some sort of behavior, perhaps an emotionally expressive behavior.

The auditory system “thinks” this because music has been “designed” by cultural evolution to sound like people moving about. That is, over time, humans figured out how to better and better make sounds that mimicked (and often exaggerated) the fundamental kinds of sounds humans make when we move.

I lay out more than 40 respects in which music sounds like people doing stuff. At the core of “moving people” is the walk. The human gait has unique characteristics, from its regularly repeating step (the beat) to the sounds of other parts of the body during the gait that are in time with the step (notes, more generally).

{ WSJ | Continue reading }

As I shall answer to gracious heaven, I’ll always in always remind of snappy new girters


Songs sound less sad when you’re older

Music is a powerful tool of expressing and inducing emotions. Lima and colleagues aimed at investigating whether and how emotion recognition in music changes as a function of ageing. Their study revealed that older participants showed decreased responses to music expressing negative emotions, while their perception of happy emotions remained stable.

{ Nou Stuff | Continue reading }

‘It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends.’ –Joan Didion

2218.jpg is a little miracle that does something simple and essential: It lets you play your favorite songs for your friends and strangers on the Web, in real time, for free.

I’d say it’s astonishing no one has done it before, but it’s not: The music business has a long tradition of resisting good ideas. So how did the guys finally get the industry on board?

They haven’t. The start-up doesn’t have deals in place with any labels or publishers.

{ All Things D | Continue reading }

You’ve got the braun, I’ve got the brains

Creative cultural transmission as chaotic sampling

First, Chaos: Some formula produce unpredictable trajectories, for instance the Lorenz attractor. Here’s what part of a trajectory looks like:


You can play with the dynamics using this applet.

The trajectory will not pass through the same point twice, but is not completely random. Lorenz attractors have been used to re-sample sequences in the following way: Imagine you have a sequence of musical notes. Pick a starting point on the Lorenz trajectory and associate each note with successive points. Now you have your notes laid out on the Lorenz attractor so that for any point in the space you can find the closest associated note. If you start on the Lorenz trajectory from a different point, you can sample the notes in a different sequence. This sample will be different from the original, but tends to preserve some of the structure. That is, the Lorenz attractor scrambles the sample, but in a chaotic way, not a random one.

{ Replicated Typo | Continue reading }

related { Gilles Deleuze, Difference and Repetition, 1968 }

Sawyer: Doesn’t sound like he said anything about anything. Hurley: That’s kind of true, dude. He’s worse than Yoda.

I believe it’s time to go

In recent years, nightlife has been increasingly recognized as an important resource for the enhancement of the post-industrial profile of the city and for the promotion of gentrification in derelict neighborhoods. It projects an image of a vibrant social and cultural life, considered particularly appealing to the young professional labour force of post-industrial sectors, the members of whom are particularly apt to consider moving to the city. However, the advocates of this ‘nightlife fix’ thesis ignore tensions that have emerged between residents in gentrifying neighborhoods and nightlife businesses due to the nuisance effects of the latter. Using the example of New York City, this paper examines how conflicts over nightlife in gentrifying neighborhoods have resulted in the gentrification of nightlife and have thus transformed the nature of the city’s nightlife itself.

{ Laam Hae, Dilemmas of the Nightlife Fix: Post-industrialisation and the Gentrification of Nightlife in New York City, 2011 | Continue reading }

video { Gil Scott-Heron died this afternoon in New York. He was 62. }

Our sun formed 4.5 billion years ago, but it’s got 6 billion more before the fuel runs out

{ The ten-member teenage rap collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, led by Tyler the Creator, and including Earl Sweatshirt, Hodgy Beats, Mike G, Left Brain, Domo Genesis, Syd the Kid, Frank Ocean, Taco Bennet, and Jasper Dolphin, with their propensity for punk-inspired beats and obscene lyrics. | Malcolm Harris/The New Inquiry | full story | Plus: Where’s Earl? | The New Yorker | Thanks Daniel }

‘Got that stupid Friday song stuck in my head again. And it’s not even Friday.’ –Tim Geoghegan

{ via Colleen Nika }

With the width of the way for jogjoy


{ Zdob si Zdub of Moldova perform So Lucky during the 2011 Eurovision Song Contest }

I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughnut. I don’t need a receipt for the doughnut.

more { d’Eon & Grimes’s Darkbloom }