Category Archives: Music

Radio Gaga: Spectrograms + Cover Songs

eyeoThanks for coming to my site!

I gave a quick Ignite at EyEO this week.

Some wiser person once told me to never give a talk that should have been a blog post. So to solve for that I’m doing both; less is more just less. There’s always so much to say in presentations, regardless of the constraints (5min time limit, frozen audience, IT issues), and some of those things can best be said when you’ve had the opportunity to reset sanity off-stage. This will be a quick post about what I did for the talk, how I did it, and why. I put the links at the top, so you don’t have to read everything.

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Read on below!

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Consider in Chrome: Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark Dark Dark

Sometimes, I have the impulse to write something profound on this  blog, but now, now is not one of those times. Now is the time I want to talk about music and webmagic so here goes with a self-indulgent slurry of the sweet things the web (GL or otherwise) has served me of late. I want to reference a recent Google adventure as well as an upcoming radio program I’ve been daydreaming of late. For visual interest, I’m going to spill some surrealism all over this with a bit of themed imagery, some daydreamy AV to dew drop drizzle  on your day.

The title of this post appropriately sweeps all of those topics under some semblance of unity. I work a lot in chrome, that is, chrome before it was Chrome™. I work a lot in browsers (chromes) now, and as a chem T.A. at an art school, I worked loads with chrom-ium based pigments. It’s a pretty colorful element, chromium, with a Greek root it couples with a variety of suffixes to produce “colorful” adjectives, band names, among other references. Hello, Chromeo, the Chromatics, Sonichrome (honey, please is a swoonworthy track in my brain), and what about the Chromes on It, Telepathe remix? But that’s not the “Chrome” I’m talking about. The chrome I’m talking about is a browser window, and has become the property of Google projects for some time. Though perhaps not obvious now, the reason I digress with all of these references and etymological diversions, is, in part, to preface a discussion of some totally rad google projects, and in part to introduce a semantic web approach to music that I’m packaging as a radio show come Fall 2013.

<  suspense >

Title Part I: Google Chromecacheedansleforet

Firstly, let’s shed some light on the Google stuff and then on to the open source.

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure to beta-test a pretty rad application out of Google’s Data Arts dept. (thanks, Aaron * waves *). Entitled “This Exquisite Forest,” the experiment is a collab webproject where you plant an animated image and watch it grow through a system of crowdsourced contributions that branch from your budding idea (apologies for the extended puns, it is my way). It’s been clocked as a kind of version control for images, that transforms the surrealists’ exquisite corpse drawings into a digital project. Under the username “puddingmaster,” I started an 8-frame animation of a staircase, that was transformed by 5 other users into games of tetris, portraits, and geometric puzzles. It’s pretty cool, and now that it’s public, I feel comfortable gushing about how awesome it is.

Finally there is a weboutlet for my surrealist obsessions and it doesn’t involve youtube or remixes of Luis Buñuel films (nb: the surrealist echo in the featured “cachée dans la forêt” piece above). Most of the animations are pretty impressive in the forest, from DMirada’s enigmatic amoebas called “Evolving,” to RaquibShaw’s rather screensaver-stunning “Forgotten gardens of Xanadu,” the trees range in level of contribution and complexity. But pretty much everyone outdoes my stick-figure staircase and I still scored 4 branches and a rebase (WHAAT? Yes).

In addition to animations, you can author your own musical track to accompany the 8-frame image playback, and this feature seemed to correlate brilliantly with some other online obsessions of mine, that have been incubating for a while.

Of late, I’ve been messing around with Chrome’s WebLab Orchestra, which I highly recommend. And the old-school audio cassette on Tympanus allows for some distracting play in html 5. I remember when the Sembeo Sound matrix was my go-to distraction in Flash, reminding me a lot of some experiments I was running a few years ago. When I started guesting on a radio show in college, I remember thinking how cool it would be to automate call-in requests, allowing people to compose music with keypad menu selection, or at least to select genres and then create collab broadcasts, exquisite-corpse their way through a show, if you will. With all the music genome projects live of late, it seems we have an internet radio infrastructure that people can sample and curate and collaborate without any particular knowledge of how all of these connections and html 5 elements integrate.  The internet and its architects give us the instruments, and all we have to do is google moog our way to play.

Title Part II: Radio DayDreams

And all of this music segues somewhat into a project I’m working on for the Fall. Inspired by my continued fascination with the semantic web, I’m starting a semweb radio series at Pratt Institute when the new semester kickstarts. It’s called Stereo Semantics and the premise pretty simple. I start with a song, I close with it’s cover, I stitch together the six degrees that separate the two.  I’ll be uploading archived episodes to the site along with a RelFinder map connecting the first song to the last, possibly with comments; ultimately I’d like to run my own musical Milgram experiments and see how it spreads. I’ve developed umpteen example playlists for this project, but I thought a shoutout to my daydreaming theme would suit this post. So, here goes….

A. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the ….

Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark have been a pretty solid substrate of my Pandora playlist library for a few years. I love the theatricality, the dancehall catchiness, the genre ambiguity and the science references. [Electricity:] I played OMD in an embarrassing amount of radio show broadcasts as a wee DJ on student radio…there’s something so relaxing for me about shoegaze and brit pop. They also have a song about dreaming, which has been covered  by everything from glitch to  ukulele online. I’d like to to find ways to connect those tracks, to show how this bass player transitioned to that band, and made music with this beat or this chord progression that you can also here in _this song. Soon the semweb will build these maps for me, beautifully. But there’s something to analog over algorithm, to assembling things manually in stitches of musical nostalgia; Stereo Semantics will tease out that idea.

B. …Dark Dark Dark

After SxSW, I had the pleasure of being introduced to Dark Dark Dark. Among many, many noteworthy others, they have a song called “DayDreaming” which I’ve captioned here:

And what about * scans itunes library *

  • M83–Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
  • The Magnetic Fields–Asleep and Dreaming
  • Chet Baker–Daydream
  • Sonic Youth–Daydream Nation


  • Themselves–Dark Sky Demo
  • Kanye–Dark Fantasy
  • Hot Chip–Made in the Dark
  • Death Cab–I will follow you into the Dark

Even on a completely superficial kw:_  level, this theming is going to be fun.

While I wouldn’t say I’ve progressed beyond the OMD/New Wave music of my more youthful days, I might admit that Dark Dark Dark is more of the hipster tunage that I sample since starting grad school. Sometimes the ridiculous melodrama of “chamber baroque folk music” makes me shudder, but often it just helps me wind down after a long day. I want to build a bridge between those two , and track a timeline of my musical trajectory over the past few years. SSemantics will be a kind of musical scrapbook, and I’m happy to take topic suggestions, or even, yes even call-ins (see my contact page if you think of something particularly rad). Stay tuned!

< / suspense >

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Requiem for RSD: Technostalgia and Ephemedia

On this auspicious RSD, delightfully coined as a ‘nerd’s Black Friday,’ I thought I would craft a post on our current cultural fascination (and my eternal obsession) with old tech. From the vinyl swoonage of my inner hipster streams an affection for older media formats. In the spirit of my typically mashup blogstructure, I’ve peppered the following with a dose of nerdery, John Hughes refs (Pretty in Pink record store heyyah) and a decidedly-dork link drop.
Elsewhere on the internet, T Berners-Lee (#semweb<3) issued a rather relevant press dispatch providing some worthwhile, if informally articulated,  perspective on legislation to limit piracy as piloted by record labels (see: One wonders in retrospect how the internet inspired these legal concerns, how old music media slowed legislative headache in its low-tech limitations, and for this among other reasons, I’ve defaulted to a rather luddite posting.
I write this with a pang of resistance, as it is with rarity that I self-identify as old It's hot, White Hot(*shudder*) but the current technological timeline chronicling our collective [te]Xistence demands a certain comfort with the realization that the ’90s were a while ago, that the internet dawned a while ago…and that we’re now in the swelling season of rapidly appreciating generations of hardware. How we will grapple with this ephemedia has become a buzz topic in the archives and art worlds alike, as projects in and new media demand a new approach to conservation, and a particular perspective on the romance of technostalgia to support those programs and projects we choose to preserve.
I’ll begin with an anecdotal <aside>
When I first considered art restoration as a career path, I accepted that chemistry and art history would have to blend in an rather bizarre educational program defined by my own crosswalk of departments and operated on a platform of optimism + obscure nerdery. With time, my interest in contemporary art favored an education in code over chem, and it is with honesty that I acknowledge the importance of technology for long-term preservation of our postmodern cultural memory, conducted in the catalogs and crosswalk metadata maps of colloquial web archive known as the internet. Our affection for the grooves and snapcracklepop of vinyl, for album art and liner notes in the age of paperless playlists à la Pandora coordinates well with our nerdy re:interest in former formats, and the now obsolete storage devices of our early internet da[ze]. What some of my undergrad students reference as “old school” now collects in a rather pathetic category that includes Mac products with the rainbow apple-logo, and the dial-up tones that at one point audio-tuned the boot-up. #betTheresARingtone. We have a whole tag vocabulary that equates 10-year old techologies with “vintage” and “retro”, and a rather anachronistic attraction to self-identifying as “analog”  All this is fascinating in such a collapsed timeline…tech tempis fugit indeed.
Rhizome epublished a blog post about this type of phenomenon, entitled Projected Projects: Slides, Powerpoint, and a Sense of Belonging, and my own recent treatment of it can be attributed to a techcrunch article about Prince of Persia complimented by BIG computer geekthis lecture by Doug Reside (digital palimpsests…see previous postings). All of the aforementioned in some way contributes to a contemporary catalog of our attraction to old media, and the attempt to both preserve previous formats and furnish persistent platforms to host those products that defined how we all grew up with the internet, that characterized our carousel through technoyouth. Those of us who recall the pluckiness of a polaroid or the plastactile quality of  the floppy now watch as these filter to the techvogue of a new generation. Consider the current cool of “retro” gaming like “5th avenue frogger” or the techno trope of the wizard/princess single player set-up (see photo).
But with companies like Kodak sloowwwwly retiring from the media memory-making that has so long been their default domain (I’m looking at you microfiche), we must also confront this nostalgia with caution, and potentially with alarm.
Fred Kilgour: Microfilm will be “one of the most important developments in the transmission of the printed word since Gutenberg.” Christian Science Monitor Magazine (9/14/1940)
Steve Paul Johnson: “End of Microfilm?” on census information and microfilm obsolescence (12/19/1999)
It remains near-impossible to predict the success or failure of any-one medium (case in point: quotes below; case in point the undulating popularity of all music/movie media, vinyl included). The thumbdrives and cartridges of our techmemory are not immune to that same obsolescence, in fact, they might be the most vulnerable carriers of our culture to date. What of our digital memories? Wherewith our technochronology preservation protocols? Will the fbook journals be our only catalogue of online identity in the 2000s? Will our digital anecdotes and assets be clustered in a dubious Cloud? Will we even want memories, or will we allow our historic [hyper]texts to devolve to droplinks and the deepweb darkrooms of archival ether. Remember the Eloi and their apathy about intellectual memory (if you remember the book). If not (*gasp* *feelsAncient* *sulks*): remember that Wishbone episode where Weena laughs when HG Wellsbone paws through the crumbling pages of the archives (oh look, here’s a lo-fi reminder:  yep, that’s the state of things.
I’ll punctuate this with a pile-up of unanswered questions and some “retro” screen captures featuring the old tech that some of us know, and many of us miss. On this record store day, I’m compelled to re:member technology’s incarnations in my lifetime, as I’ve watched photochemical captures transition to media memory banks that might just be bankrupt in the space of a decade. RSD and other affections for old media, I salute you.
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