Archive for June, 2008

60×60 Buzz Compilation

A tune of mine appears in the 60×60 Buzz Compilation, which you should listen to anyways.  60 songs x 60 seconds = an hour of modular madness.  It’s actually quite fantastic.

The collection was organized by the tireless n3wjack and is an excellent showcase for our favorite quirky music application.  From now on, when someone asks me what kind of music I make, I’m just going to hand out a copy of this compilation.

My tune is the 51st minute, which, for those of you who are neither computer programmers nor soccer fans, starts at 50:00.

EDIT: Oh yeah, the bonus mix, comprising Buzzalicious tracks that didn’t make it into the main mix for one reason or another, is pretty fab in its own right.  Especially if you like Hamsters.

Where are the beautiful synths?

I was flipping through some pornography the other day, admiring some pretty guitars.  Specifically, the maple-top Taylor T5 caught my eye.  Of course, Grl’s 614CE is not exactly an eyesore either.  Then I wondered: what gear do I have that’s nice to look at?  The yellow-cone KRKs?  The padKontrol?  I love my kit, but it’s not pretty.

Guitarists can find an axe with any body shape, color, finish, and wood they like.  Synthesizers, on the other hand, tend to look functional at best and butt-ugly at worst.

Sonically speaking, classics like the MS-20 or DX-7 were revolutionary.  Visually, they look more like appliances than instruments.  I would love to get my hands on an ARP Odyssey, but it’s pretty unattractive.  At least oddities like the Wasp and the Fizmo are so ugly they’re cute.

What synths are beautiful?  Pics and ramblings after the jump ..

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More on Phase

Yesterday I mentioned the iPod game Phase in passing.  Phase is a music game: you listen to a song and score points by pressing buttons in a pattern in time with the music.  The cool feature is that you aren’t restricted to playing with the game’s built-in soundtrack: you can add any song from your library to the game.  If that description sounds even vaguely interesting to you, it’s worth five bucks.

For me, the quality of the follow-along patterns make or break a music game.  The patterns should be intuitive for a player with a good sense of rhythm.  In other words, the challenge should come from following the patterns, not figuring out what they are.  This is pretty tough, and an algorithm to generate them is quite a technical challenge.  Here’s my experience.

House of Jealous Lovers, The Rapture.  I boldly opened the game on “Medium” difficulty.  The song was pretty fun to play, and the pattern kept the beat nicely.  But it was very easy; I got nearly perfect accuracy on the first try.

Supernaturally, Nick Cave.  I bumped up to “Hard” difficulty.  I thought this song might give the algorithm trouble; in addition to the distinctive rhythmic figure, the loud songs on this record are compressed to hell.  To my surprise, the generated pattern was fantastic and quite intuitive.  This song was tons of fun to play, not the least because it’s so stirring and easy to get into.  Man, I fxn love this song.

Tigerbastard, Mu.  The pattern started off fine, but it sorta lost the plot during the break.  I felt like I was just striking buttons at random for a while.  Unfortunately the break is pretty long, and I got a little bored of this track.  Being a masochist, I moved on to ..

Pygmalion, Venetian Snares.  If you’re not familiar with him, this song might euphemistcally be described as “high information content.”  I wasn’t sure what the algorithm would make of the complex and irregular rhythms.  The pattern seemed a tad too regular during the frantic parts, but I’m seriously picking nits here.

Any flaws?  It’s way too easy to press pause accidentally.  My hand hurt pretty badly after three or four songs, but I have comically large hands and a comically small iPod.

Overall, I was quite impressed with the technology.  The game is a fantastic time-killer if for no reason other than forcing you to pay more attention to your music.

Travel notes

I just got back from a trip for Day Job.  Some notes:

  • The guy next to me on the flight out was definitely cranking House of Pain on his iPod.
  • The iPod game Phase is a great way to pass time on a plane.  On this more later.
  • You find Kaosillators where you least expect them.
  • If you download a bunch of podcasts before a flight, you should make sure you have the “sync podcasts to my iPod” button turned on.
  • I greatly enjoyed guitar goddess Kaki King’s new-to-me record Dreaming Of Revenge.  30-second review: “Pull Me Out Alive” has the best hook; “Montreal” has the best guitar work; “Saving Days In A Frozen Head” has the best line; and “Can Anyone Who Has Heard This Music Really Be A Bad Person?” has the best title.
  • If you have time to kill in a major American airport, and you want to meet some interesting people, find a bar showing a soccer game.

How did I miss this?

Future Publishing, the outfit behind such periodicals as Computer Music, launched their reviews and tips site MusicRadar.  It’s actually several months old at this point, and I’m not sure how it stayed off my, um, radar for so long.  It reads a lot like an issue of Computer Music, but with a broader scope and, you know, not three months out of date.