Friday, December 21, 2007

Unsilent night

Here's a cool way to celebrate Christmas, Phil Kline style. Too bad it won't be happening in Atlanta, but maybe it's happening in your town.

Thanks to laughing squid for the video, and for bring this to my attention. Original Article.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Creating Stageplots on your Mac with OmniGraffle

A while back I posted about stage plots and why they are so important, especially at festival gigs, but I did not go into much detail about how to make one, other than to say draw one by hand if you lack the technical skills. Of course, there's as many ways to make them as there are people making them, but I've been using a program called OmniGraffle for a while, and it occurred to me that it would be a great tool for making stage plots if you're a mac user. It's extremely intuitive once you spend fifteen minutes with it and if you've got the right stencils, it's a breeze.

First download and install OmniGraffle. You won't need to buy it to try it out. You may not even need to buy it at all if your stage plots are simple, since it lets you add up to 20 objects before you have to pay. After you've downloaded Omnigraffle and tried it out a bit, download my stencils, which include an amp stencil, an instrument stencil, and an general purpose stage plot stencil.

After downloading it, unzip the file, and copy the stencils into ~/Library/Application Support/OmniGraffle/Stencils/. Next time you start OmniGraffle, it will see the new stencils and you can grab the images and lay them out on a document. When you're done, save the document and use the export feature to save as a jpeg, or pdf. I threw some instruments together and came up with this in no time flat:

OmniGraffle Stage Plot
(click image to enlarge)

Beautiful it a'int, but clear it is, especially considering all the stuff on stage. For details on what should really go into your stage plot, remember to see my blog posting on that subject, but you get the idea. If you have an instrument not covered (I only did the basics), you can either use a box and label it or find a picture of it online.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Pro-Audio Lolcats

I've had a nasty flu this week and haven't been able to get much work done. Somehow, in my delerium, I thought it would be a good idea to make pro-audio themed Lolcats:


Thanks to Julie from Kitty Wigs for letting me use the picture of her cat Chicken in her custom made Pink Passion Kitty Wig™, available from her site for $50. Seriously, check that out.

By the way, if you're sick of all things cute, but also secretly enjoy it, check out the satirical Cute With Chris. The best part of that site are the videos which feature everything from sarcastic humor about people's obsession with cute things to... actual obsessing about pictures of cute things. At least I think that's what's going on, maybe I'm not smart enough to actually get it. There's also a fair bit of making fun of news-caster speak, obnoxious YouTube comments, and the occasional picture of poop, cat vomit, and some childish non-sequitors which somehow make sense (at least to me) while your watching. Warning: there's some cursing in this particular video, so maybe don't watch it at work:

Monday, December 10, 2007

Crazy Violin-Voice Man

Holy Crap! Talk about falsetto. (jump to one minute if you want to just hear the first part where he's singing about eight octaves above middle-C. He does it a few more times throughout the video.)

There's some other interesting and inexplicable stuff in this video, too, like musicians with sacks over their heads. Together, it kinda makes me feel like I am watching the entertainment for some sort of alien race. Vitas as he is known, is also a fashion designer, so maybe this whole thing was his concept.

Apparently there's been some controvery over whether or not he's really singing, but according to Wikipedia, those notes are in the range of a (non-castrato) countertenor. I've certainly heard other singers, like Tim Booth of the band James hit similar notes, but it never sounds quite so... alien.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

Amen Brother, the World's Most Popular Drum Break

Here's an old video from 2004 that just came to my attention. (Thanks Peter!) It doesn't really need to be a video, since it's mostly audio commentary over a shot of a record player. The commentary, though, is very interesting -- it discusses what is arguably the most important breakbeat of all time (the "Amen Brother" break). I don't follow the author's logical leap that one company claiming copyright of their copy of this breakbeat is proof of overbearing copyright laws, but I do agree in some sort of copyright reform. I may be misinterpreting the author's intent, but I think he is implying, though citation of Lawrence Lessig among others, that radical change in copyright laws are required to enable breakbeat and hip hop music to survive because of increased litigation.

While I think the record industry has done some despicable things in this situation, and I never approve of "making examples" of people, I don't think we need to tear down copyright laws all together. Rather than ending copyright as we know it (which, as a practical matter, is not going to happen in the foreseeable future) there are plenty of other solutions. For example, right now when bands wish to do a cover song, the paperwork and fees involved are both reasonable because the industry has setup a clearinghouse for it: the Harry Fox Agency. In the same way, it would be great if the industry setup a clearinghouse for samples. Granted, the calculations for using samples would be more complex, and in some cases it may be intractable, but there's no reason it could not be done for many or even most cases of sample use.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Unsequenced 2000xl

This guy plays his 2000xl unsequenced, and he does a great job. It's great to see someone play a drum machine like a normal instrument. Loads of fun to watch:

Thanks to Music Thing.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger, or maybe just Harder

I can't help but wonder how long these folks spent practicing for these videos -- they are all in one take! The hand one has been around a while, but the body one is new. I wonder what's next.

Laughing Squid also reminds us of the groovy dancing girl, that everyone seems to love.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shotspotter: Acoutic Gunshot Positioning

Shotspotter, inc, a Mountain View, CA based company has an interesting technology that uses microphones placed in an area such as a city neighborhood or a military combat area that can be used to automatically detect and triangulate the position of gunshots. Conceptually, of course, this is not difficult, but the devil is in the details, and they claim to be able to do things such as automatically ignore sounds like cars backfiring. They also claim their triangulation algorithms are robust against interference such as echos that I imagine plague their microphones in urban environments. Whether this requires calibration for each setup is unclear to me from their website, but even so, it would be am impressive feat -- echos off of large buildings can often be louder than the original sounds.

They also say a lot of analysis can be made based on data collected from even sparsely placed microphones, and give an example:

ShotSpotter sensors detect gunfire at a range of one to two miles away from the sensors, and ShotSpotter systems have been shown to be accurate to within 25 meters over one to two mile ranges.

In addition, ShotSpotter performs real-time spooling of all signals captured at a sensor, to support later detailed forensic and intelligence analysis of events. Such information can include other non-weapons events, weapon type and direction of fire analysis, and even information related to the direction and speed of shooters on the move.

Forensic evidence from a drive-by shooting
11 shots fired by two gunmen in vehicle moving NNW @ 9mph
Want to hear it? Click Here....


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I don't usually blog about kooky, geeky music instruments, because that's what the fantastic blog music thing is for, but this one is special: reactable is a "tangible" musical instrument that is based on a table, with pieces that you can move around to change how they interact. What makes it special is that the developers had the idea for what they wanted to create and then figured out how to create it rather than starting with a piece of technology and trying to figure out what they could do with it. (Of course there's nothing wrong with that, lots of creative genius starts with exploring new technology, but the world seems to be awash with that kind of thinking at the moment). The end result looks very musical.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Which iPod Sounds the best? (or: Audiophiles with iPods)

iPod impulse response from Hifi VoiceWhich iPod sounds the best? It seems some folks take this question very seriously: Mark Heijlingers recently compared the frequency and impulse responses of two iPods using a pretty minimal setup of his mac's built-in line in and Fuzz Measure. Looking at the curves, I can only say I'd be shocked if someone using the included earbuds could hear the difference -- both are quite similar -- but he certainly makes the case for an audible difference in sound quality when using, say, a nice pair of headphones.

Vacuum tubes for the ipod: Music Cocoon MC4 by Roth AudioWhile I am glad there is interest in improving sound-quality, I doubt most consumers care that much. Truth be told, I don't care that much because when I'm using my iPod, it's usually in noisy environments anyway. But if it weren't for people who cared a lot, the sound quality would probably be a lot worse than it is now, so I certainly applaud the effort. Not to mention the fact that without audiophiles with iPods there would be no place on the market for wacky products like the vacuum-tube-based Music Cocoon MC4 by Roth Audio.

Thanks to Chris Pepper for bringing this to my attention.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Compact Disc!

The Venerable CD Turns 25 Today

25 years ago today the first CD was mass produced in Hannover, Germany. Abba's The Visitors was followed by countless other CD releases, and CDs continue to be the number one format for purchasing music, although this will probably change in the next few years.
One of the interesting things that comes to mind is what this means for the age of individual CDs: CDs contain aluminum, which eventually rusts and makes the CDs unplayable. Accelerated aging and "stress tests" suggest that CDs should last about 30 years -- not as good as Vinyl -- and it looks like real-life is catching up. CD-Rs, at least the high quality ones which use gold, are said to last much longer -- up to 100 years -- but you have to keep them in cool, low-light conditions.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Listenting with Your Scanner

A few years ago, someone sent me a link (via Slashdot) about a Ofer Springer, who figured out how to use his scanner to take pictures of vinyl records using a scanner and use software to read the grooves off the pictures and ultimately create audio files. The original site is still up and has some cool pictures and audio. The results aren't great, but it's a neat concept. (One slashdotter suggests why it might not be possible to get super high fidelity audio using this technique, although on casual reading I think he incorrectly makes the assumption that not being able to hear quiet sounds means you can't hear anything).

Just this morning, NPR did an interesting story of a newer attempt at the same problem. Physicist Carl Haber developed a system based on the same idea, and is currently being tested at the Library of Congress. I wonder if these two folks know about each other.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Hair Mail

In answer to the question "what did you do with your hair?", I did, in fact, drop it in the mail to Locks of Love. I was thinking of the less well known Wigs for Kids but they seem to have stricter hair requirements. I don't mind if Locks of Love sells my hair (something which some have alleged they do with most of the hair they receive) because even then someone is enjoying the wig and it helps, even if only slightly, in getting a wig to a kid.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Medieval Tech Support

Introducing the Book shows what tech support might have looked like in Medieval times. I'm not sure if this is funny to people who haven't worked as surrogate tech-support with their friends and family, but it's funny to me.....

Sunday, March 18, 2007


If you miss DJs saying something about the tracks you're listening to, check out SpotDJ for iTunes (mac and windows), which lets you listen to (And record and share) "spots" for songs. Spots might include trivia, stories about bands and songs, or whatever anyone has to say. For me personally, I prefer to listen to real DJs, like those on KCRW and WXPN, but this seems like a neat idea for anyone totally addicted to their iTunes playlists (works with iPods, as well), but who still wants to hear what other people have to say about their music (or who wants others to listen to what they have to say....)

Original article in TidBits

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Crazy Scores!

I don't read scores much these days, and my ability to read music has pretty much gone to hell, but I was still able to enjoy looking at these scores.

Thanks to Music Thing.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

iTunes Concert Calendar

Now this is cool: a program that reads your iTunes database and tells you if any of your favorite bands are coming to town! When I saw this I thought, "man someone finally figured it out!" It would be cool if it let you add events to your iCal and if it let you add bands that aren't necessarily in your iTunes Playlist, but man, what a great start! [UPDATE: it turns out you can add your own list of bands -- they explain how to do so in the FAQ.]

Download iConcertCal from:

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Merry Christmas!

A little late for merry Christmas tidings, but I just saw this. Very funny, and definitely worth the wait for the load:

Ho, Ho, Ho!

Courtesy of Dailey and Associates.