Philosophy Tuesday

“Individual notes start to decay the moment they are born.

No note can escape this fate.

But together they work toward a crescendo that cannot exist in any one note alone.”

— Vihart

 

(Another wonderful, poetic, and philosophy-filled observation that becomes introspection that becomes inspiration, by the amazing Vihart.  Taken from an equally amazing video about Pi and music and more, which can be found here — check it out, it includes a musical challenge!)

Wonder Wednesday

Ahhh, anyone else remember MOD files?  For the uninitiated, this was a musical file format (with some later derivatives) that were big in the late 90s and early to mid-90s.  They weren’t a sound file, instead they were, much like a bank of samples coupled to a piano roll.  When you played them, the software would essentially act like a multi-track synthesizer, playing the samples using the instructions on the piano roll.  Because it was procedurally generated, these files could be small, holding minutes worth of music for several hundred kB (not even a single MB!).

And what grand music and creations did people make with them!  Some were amazing takes and remixes of existing songs, such as this one of Depeche Mode’s Enjoy the Silence (including audio from HAL 9000), or this extended version of Harold Faltermeyer’s Axel F (you likely know it better as the song from Beverly Hills Cop) that takes the base version and then plays with the different musical layers to stretch it out to 10+ minutes.  Good stuff.  (Note: you can play these tunes off the linked website directly in your browser.)

Then there’s the fun ones;  there were remixed pop culture references, like this megamix of cartoon/TV themes, while others took things decidedly non-musical and turned them into something unique, such as this piece using AT&T phone operators.    (Obligatory aside:  remember phone operators?)

Of course, there was also tonnes and tonnes of great, original, straight-up music as well.  Just as today people were sharing their creativity with the world.  Some of the most classic include Nemesis, 12th Warrior, and Ice Frontier.

Have a listen!  I’m off to seek out more… the format never died completely, and there’s great new stuff to discover.

Philosophy Tuesday

So, there’s this story about Van Halen and brown M&Ms.  Perhaps you’ve heard about it before.  If not, the gist of it is that tucked away in the 53 pages of the band’s rider (a contract that lists out their requirements for the venue) for their 1982 show was a little gem:  There was to be provided a bowl of M&Ms – which seems normal enough.  However!  There was a caveat: Absolutely no brown ones.

Which, on the one hand, seems like some weird arrogant stuck up super band celebrity weirdness and excess.

But, it wasn’t.  There was method to their seeming madness.

The 1982 VH tour was a large and intricate affair, requiring equally extensive and complex setup.  It was perhaps one of the largest rock concerts of the time.  It required serious prep work by the venue to ensure that the show went off without a hitch (or without anyone being injured).

The brown M&Ms, then, were an integrity check.

If the band went into the dressing room and found brown M&Ms, they were tipped off that either the promoter hadn’t read the rider carefully – which is bad enough – or that the promoter’s integrity was lacking and that if this thing was missed then more important aspects of the setup might well have been botched.  (Which meant the band would then spend the time to double and triple check everything.)

Integrity isn’t about morality; it’s about honouring your word as yourself.  It’s also, more importantly in this case, about doing complete and proper work.  And like on a racecar, even something a little bit loose, or missing, is not just a small ‘out of integrity’ – it will almost certainly cost you the race (and might lead to a crash).

Thus, the M&M rider.  A small detail whose legend is as big as the band’s, and a great little story to latch on to as we ponder the meaning of integrity and our relationship to it.

Wonder Wednesday

Some amazing old footage from 1970 of Wendy Carlos demonstrating the classic MOOG synthesizer.  No preprogrammed patches or sounds here — it’s all constructed though something that looks like a wild pairing of a sci fi starship bridge coupled with an old-timey phone operator switchboard.  Also, no books or ways to save any settings, so you had to learn how to use it and re-create from scratch every time.  The craziest thing?  As an analog contraption, as the system warmed up (or cooled down) the sound output would change, thus requiring constant tuning as you played through a song or a concert.  But it’s hard to overstate the MOOG’s impact on electronically generated music, and to see such a pioneer of the genre give a little demo is pure delight.

Architecture Monday

That picture alone is enough to pique my interest; a music room nestled within a roof shed, crowned by a skylight with linear LEDs for supplementary lighting.  It’s exciting in its own right, even more so when you throw musicians into the mix.  But that’s just the start!  For it is part of a monastery that has been artfully turned into a music conservatory.

 

While the above music room is in a new wing, there’s plenty of great examples where old and new are mixed to create something special.  Like the former cloister turned dining hall, roofed over in a sandblasted glass that makes the restored white plaster surfaces glow.

Or the hallways and stairwells, and the monastic cells/bedrooms…

Culminating in a second music room in the rafters, this time in the historical portion of the building, with light streaming down to accentuate the rough hewn lumber framing.  And airy and mystical place for practice.

A wonderful piece of adaptive reuse, and knowing much I love adaptive reuse there’s no way I can’t fall in love with this.  Great stuff.

Synergy (From a Monastery to Music Conservatory), by Brückner & Brückner Architekten

Wonder Wednesday

It’s another amazing Vihart Pi day video!  But beyond the usual excellence (including the quote from yesterday’s post), this one has something special in that she improvises about 30 minutes of music, based around the continual repetition of a sequence of notes.

And that aspect of it, the building of music around continual repetition, is really fascinating to me.  When I saw Sigur Ros in concert, they played () track 9b (also known as Untitled Track 9b, also also known as Smaskfia).  A track that is just a small piano bit repeated over and over and over and over.  Yet it bored straight into my soul in a way I didn’t even know was possible.  It was a mind blowing experience.  (And they played it right before the intermission, so I got to just sit inside of that wonder.)  In the video above, Vihart creates that inside the of repetition of notes, everything else involved gets heightened, be it the accompanying notes/harmony or simply the way it is played (and the emotion/feeling you can put into that).  Which is something both cool and can be supremely moving.

(Also, if you haven’t seen Vihart’s magnum opus, 12 Tones, I highly encourage you to check it out as well!)