Analogue Days

I was asked by BBC Technology to help with their Tech Know segment about making a wax cylinder.

And if you ever wondered what would happen if you put together cockney grindcore band “The Men That Would Not Be Blamed For Nothing“, genius sound recordist Adrian Tuddenham from Poppy Records and of course BBC Tech’s Jason Palmer and multiskilled producer Andrew Webb

… you end up with around 4 minutes of enjoyable mayhem.

From BBC's Tech Know series

RSS Readers/ Can’t see the link? Watch the video by clicking here.

The Wax Cylinder is how audio was recorded before iPods, before MP3s, before CDs and even before Vinyl.

What does the future hold for audiophiles? Do you think the new cloud-based music model will be the next big thing? I’d love your thoughts on the future of audio consumption…

My Most Treasured Possession

I attended this year’s Figures of Speech event in London last week which raised money for the Institute of Contemporary Arts.  Speakers included Bob Geldof, Alan Carr and Janet Street-Porter, all talking about their most treasured possessions.  Spinvox‘s James Whatley, who hosted the Bloggers’ table, has asked that each of us do the same, so here’s mine.

 

My Most Treasured Possession

 

If you see me out at night, the chances are I’ll have 2 big blue things in my ears, my beloved protectors of unwelcome noise, my USA-imported saviours, the humble hearos ear-plug. Since my previous life as a 4-times-a week musical performer, I’ve always made sure to wear hearing protection when gigging – a lot of the time, the monitors in front of the stage pointing at the band would be as loud, if not louder, than the speakers pointing at the audience. Whilst it looks a little unconventional, wearing my most treasured possession is worth all the good-natured pointing and laughing I get for the moment I step outside.

I pull out my earplugs and my hearing is crystalline, compared to my companions, who are shouting incoherently at each other over the ringing in their own ears. I generally put my earplugs back in at this point until they have calmed down.

what?

what?

 

The most painful thought for me is that if I lose my ability to hear, I won’t be able to navigate my world anymore. I spent such a long time getting used to the many dissonances of daily life, vexed by the microtones in each new scenario until I was taught how to process those sounds as music. It turns out that if you use the appropriate scale, then your audio landscape can become a wonderful, if chaotic, symphony*.

I would be devastated if I could no longer use this method to interact with the world. I recognise people more easily by the sound of their voices than their physical appearance, which is another source of great amusement to those I see regularly.

If I lost my sense of hearing, I fear I will lose the friends I can’t recognise by sight alone. Even sitting on the tube, as I write this, I can hear someone’s headphones at an ear-splitting volume. I wonder momentarily why we seem so relaxed about protecting something that’s fundamentally irreplaceable, before replacing my earplugs, letting the sounds of the Jubilee line recede to a blissfully tolerable volume.

NB *Within reason, of course – I’m not counting the downstairs flat’s questionable and mystifying 125dB musical interludes at 1am on a Monday morning.

EsOterica Interview

Phew!

On returning from CES,  there is much to edit, however, after a few people asking me for some stuff on music and technology, embedded below is a video I did for the mighty Dead Hub Music Blog.  I recorded this especially for my blog buddy in San Diego (it’s quite a swim to Oxford from there, and a relatively shorter trek from London)

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Esoterica talk about how they are surviving in today’s modern version of the music industry. Caution: some swearing! The Rock / Metal band talk frankly about how they write, and how working with John Fryer (Nine Inch Nails etc) honed their skills and they also give tips for budding writers and performers.

Virgin Gadget Spy Episode 2 Now Released!

Gadget Spy Episode 2!
Gadget Spy Episode 2!

Yes, after all that hard work, we’ve done it, it’s been edited, and this is Episode 2 of Gadget Spy

 
Gadgets featured are:
 
 
And if you’re wondering what the Bunny Rabbit was at the beginning of the video, it’s the Nabaztag Internet Bunny  which will tell you what the weather’s like and pull stockmarket and news data from the internet. 
 
…and for those of you who read my blog, here is a secret for you – hear the background music?  That’s mine, that is !! 
 
 
 

CD!! CD!!! CD!!!!

Wow, I can’t believe it! I’m holding in my hands my FIRST grown-up looking CD!  Here it is:
I am soooooo excited

I am soooooo excited

This CD “wot I wrote” has 4 meditation tracks on it, I think the style is formally described as “new-age” or “extremely chilled”.  Each track has been composed, produced, and mastered in my lovely new studio!_

I’ve also uploaded a sample of the tracks on to myspace – if anyone knows a sexier way to get an MP3 file to talk to wordpress, please let me know, I’m still relatively new to all this blogging lark, and quite happy to benefit from someone else’s experience and/or knowledge.

Actually, there’s another, deeper, reason I’m really excited by this, because it’s only a small (some might say very small) step on the musical ladder in the big scheme of things.  I think this CD (and showing it to you in public) symbolises an acceptance of the musical part of me, which for a long time (and for very complicated reasons) I rejected for a while. I think there is also a big helping of nerves involved in actually going for it, creating a product and placing it in the market place.  What’s very odd to me is that I’m quite comfortable standing on stage / on TV chatting to a bunch of people I don’t know, but this blog post makes me feel incredibly strange, vulnerable and exposed.
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Oh well.  Too late for that now.  The next step is for me to put the envelope with 5 CDs in the post to CDbaby, who will then hold the copies for purchase, and convert tracks to MP3 for digital download.
inside the Jewel Case

inside the Jewel Case

...and the back

...and the back

… right, I’ve been brave.  Now to self-medicate with chocolate and tea.

Music Messing with our Heads

I recently devoured a great book called “Quirkology” by Prof Richard Wiseman, whose experiment measuring how fast people walk in different cities around the world showed (unsurprisingly) that the pace of walking has got faster (to find out which cities were faster than others, and other weird and wonderful experiments, buy the book!)

This increase in pace mirrors an increase in musical pitch over the last few centuries – as the pace of life gets faster, Middle C gets higher! In Baroque times, (around 1700) Middle C was a full semitone lower – this is why I have to transpose in my head when I play baroque-pitch harpsichords.

When I’d go dancing, it would distress me musically as the sound systems would regularly play music at about 5-6Hz higher than it should have been – I wondered whether this pitch-shift was intentional, and people would unwittingly dance more / drink more as a consequence of this increase, or whether the sound systems were just rubbish, no-one was experimenting, and only freaks like me would suffer?

My freakiness is Perfect Pitch, a strange affliction/gift that means I can correctly identify notes, chords etc., and tell someone what key they are speaking in – where it starts to get a little strange is that I’ve found that people who speak in, say, F major, appear to be quite persuasive and good at motivating, whereas people who speak in B minor appear to be quite negative in their outlook – I’ll go out on a further limb here, and mention that everyone seems to have a key they normally speak in, and others that they modulate to depending on their situation/company/mood – this is something I’ve done since I was a kid, but last weekend at the Food 2.0 wrap party, I mentioned that someone was speaking in Bb major, which resulted in strange looks and a request to blog about it, hence the post.

…but one digresses (as usual). Continuing the pacing theme, in the 90s, music at 135bpm was considered ridiculously fast, however, in the noughties, we happily imbibe 160bpm without missing a beat (no pun intended) – there’s not that much more room in terms of tempo, (before it becomes pitch) so what happens next?

How fascinating that music affects us so deeply!  During (and after) my music degree, I performed some (very) empirical research. As a lifelong insomniac, I wanted to find out a way to get to sleep easily. The relaxation tapes I purchased were fine in terms of the NLP-type hypnotic language used etc, however, the background music kept me awake!  After reading all kinds of weird and wonderful research that music at 60bpm, the average resting heart rate, can sometimes have a calming effect on the body, I decided to test that out by composing – and engineered music that would relax me by using this tempo and also choosing the keys that I personally found calming.  Well, it worked on me, because I fell asleep writing it, and had to compose some of the stuff in double time (how frustrating).  What was even stranger was that it appeared to work on other people, too…

I’d be very interested to hear any thoughts on music and how it affects humans (or other animals – I remember New Scientist running a piece about chickens listening to Pink Floyd) – and I’ll put some samples  up online soon (will blog with link) so you can have a listen.   LJ x

Flash Mob, Liverpool St London (UK)

So this weekend, apart from spending time in front of my new toy (see previous post and youtube clip) , I attended my first ever flash mob on Friday. I had the presence of mind to take the camcorder with me – I’ve just finished editing together the footage of this crazy event that actually made the news!
I was there with MissGeeky (who played Tosh in the Sweded Torchwood S2:13 Episode), whatleydude, and various others – after the event, we all went off to the Pitcher and Piano for the celebration of a job well done.
Have a look at the footage, embedded here

(RSS readers/can’t see the Vid? Click here)

Bar staff kindly placed Rick’s Finest on the jukebox – not sure they realised what was going on, and certainly when 30-40 of us sang along (some with lyric sheets) it did look mighty strange. City workers and pub regulars looked on with a mixture of bemusement and intoxication, which made the encore thoroughly worthwhile, especially when people started to join in.
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… as for Flash Mobbing? I might have to add that to the ever-increasing list of things I’m getting addicted to.

From Jack To Mac: A song is born

Having just emerged from my self-imposed cocoon of composition, it’s now time to confess yet another addiction I have appeared to pick up in the world of technology. I’ve just submitted my first ever youtube clip – I’ve been on before, but never uploaded myself (that sounds so Matrix…)

So here it is, the youtube clip: installation, composition and production from the point of arrival at my doorstep. The chaps at Absolute Music were as good as their word, and happily the Mac Pro arrived with Logic 8 Studio fully installed, and the sound card already configured. Some might wonder where the challenge was, and I say it’s enough to know how to do it, and much more satisfying to just get down and write -what a pleasure that was!

(Rss Viewers/Can’t see the Vid? please click here for the link)

I made this by taking photos at every stage of installation, from opening the boxes yesterday right up to the upload a few hours ago – one of the most revealing pics is the look on my face just before I open up twitter on the browser to blog the instant happiness I felt at that point – you can see the complete contentment I’m feeling at having a system I’ve pretty much dreamt about for many moons. I only slept 4 hours last night, dreaming of Mac.
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My last system, although state-of-the-art in 2002, was just not fast enough – the tech got in the way of composition, and the computer couldn’t keep up with the kind of processing power demanded of it. It’s so wonderful to be able to play with this every day – after some difficult times in the last few years, I can’t begin to describe how it feels to realize such a dream that felt so far away for so long.
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Or, as I put it [much more concisely] on twitter, “Woohoo!”

Oooooh! Mac Pro in Transit!!

Pimp My Mac” update:
I just found out how heavy the system I’ve ordered is…

Mac Pro : 30kg
Mac Screen: 25kg
Fireface 800 Soundcard: 3kg
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…this thing weighs more than I do!! It’s a monster!
Tomorrow is M-Day. I can’t wait.

Thanks to icanhascheezburger.com for the lolcat above, and thatcanadiangirl for introducing me to lolcats in the first place… it turns out that cats (and other animals/children) can actually caption their own pics, although the spelling/grammar is generally a bit off (because cats etc don’t normally type?) Anyhow, it’s an incredibly amusing site. I have wasted an entertaining amount of time here and humbly warn you of the dangers of clicking through and voting on each of these pictures; you may notice huge swathes of your day disappearing.
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I also got my moo cards today which I’ll be taking with me to various events and occasions… I might take a pic of them and post them up here when the mac fever dies down somewhat…

Snow Day in April

Sometimes the unexpected happens – take this morning, for example – on opening the window, the view that greeted me was like a picture postcard from somewhere much more expensive than East London.
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There is something so cleansing about urban snow, I’m not sure what – perhaps it’s the acoustic effect of laying a blanket of absorbent material across normally loud and jarring city noises, or the mental concept of the world looking soft and fresh and ready to reboot – all I know is that the feeling I got from this scene was unfamiliar to me. I felt… tranquil.
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I did my stint on TV yesterday, just before the snow started. In between shows, I had a nice big plate of Chinese food with one of the camera operators, then a lovely cup of tea with Keeley from Elemis in the QVC cafe. We talked about the new social media aspect of the Internet and managing your online reputation.
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Tonight I watched the last episode of Torchwood season 2. Don’t worry, no spoilers. Blimey though, what a finale, can’t wait for the next season… makes what I get up to on TV rather tame…
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And so, to this week – with great unexpected joy, it seems that my diary is gloriously, wonderfully, deliciously empty apart from a mad dash round London town on Wednesday. I can’t wait – it’s the perfect week to get some admin sorted while chugging through Season 3 of DS9 (for my sins – Star Trek keeps me in one place while I enter stuff into MS Money, and as I didn’t see them all first time round, it’s all I have). I’ll also try and get some gadgety video stuff filmed for internet release as well (watch this space), but – most unexpectedly of all – I might just attempt this thing called “tranquility” before the frenzied madness kicks back in. Wish me luck.
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“Pimp My Mac” Update: Proper obsessives modding their Mac computers: witness a golden mac, a demon mac, and some serious paint jobs, I’m excited now, counting the days in an almost disproportionate manner.