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I picked up an anthology of Twentieth-Century Music the other day, an inside was the short score to Steve Reich’s “Clapping Music”. I’ve been a fond of Reich’s music and recordings since my college days, and I first heard the piece on one of those ancient relics called a cd:

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Clapping Music is a so called minimalist work for two percussionists centered upon one repeating 6/4 (or 12/8) rhythm. Performer one repeats the rhythm throughout and is the anchor of sorts. Performer two doubles the rhythm at first, and then at prescribed lengths, plays the repeating rhythm from a different starting point. In this case it’s displacing the rhythm by an 8th note for each variation.

It’s a fascinating study of how a simple rhythmic motif layered upon itself in different ways can produce a variety of different interlocking grooves. The interesting thing is that as a listener, you are not ‘forced’ into recognizing some abstract 20th century compositional process or intention. It actually sounds like music. This particular approach to composition is something Brian Eno called ‘systems’ and he himself was inspired by Steve Reich. One of Eno’s most famous works “Music For Airports” was created in a similar way but with looping sustained vocal and piano notes that overlapped each other. But that’s a story for another day.

In revisiting this piece, and having a drummer’s mind set, I thought about how one drummer could play both parts (left hand = player one, right hand = player two). It would be a good challenge, so I fired up google to see if anyone else had thought of this, and low and behold the lovely Evelyn Glennie had. She is so lovely and talented:


Soon I was reminded of a YouTube video I saw once where someone had created a version of clapping music with a repeated scene of Angie Dickinson slapping Lee Marvin. It really should be called Slapping Music. What’s interesting to note is that because the audio of the slapping version is looping layers of the same short audio recording, it becomes similar to Steve Reich’s famous tape loop recordings like “It’s Gonna Rain” and “Come Out”:


Two of my favorite things: Great rhythms and things that make you think.

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Ello, the new social media web site is here. It’s currently in beta, and still taking shape, but it is a welcomed new face to the world of social media.

Take the @ usernames and quirky self descriptions of Twitter, the unlimited character length status updates of Facebook and Tumblr, add the art/design images of Instagram, and throw it all under the hood of a simplified user interface, and in a nutshell, you have Ello. No ads, no pokes, no game invites, and so far I haven’t seen any pictures of cats.

After a few hours on the inside, I found some friends, and plenty of interesting new ones. I love the simplicity of the layout. This is how the people you follow are displayed (divided into friends vs. noise sections):

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The Ello news feed:

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User profiles/status updates are displayed in the same fashion:

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The community of Ello is inspired and engaged, and the developers are participating in conversations too. They welcome input, ideas, and opinions from users, and it’s interesting to see the site grow up in real time. Speaking of community, joining Ello is by invitation only, but when you get an invite code, go to ello.co/join . You can find me at https://ello.co/jonmattox

I’m liking getting away with Ello. Away from game invitations, political rants, drama, complainers, celebrities, eager sellers, corporations, advertisers, trolls, and retweeters.

Read the Ello manifesto: https://ello.co/manifesto and investigate the world of Ello more in depth:

https://www.stonetemple.com/ello-the-complete-guide-to-the-ad-free-social-network/

http://sloaded.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/ello-is-it-me-youre-looking-for-a-new-users-guide-sep-14/

 

 

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I just finished reading the nearly 1,000 pages of The Beatles The Biography by Bob Spitz. What a treasure.

I’ve known most of their music since before I could talk, in fact my grandmother would always remind me that as a toddler I would play “Hey Jude” incessantly, and imitate the song singing “Hey Juuuuuuuu….”. I’ve always known The Beatles story, their rise to super-stardom, and of course their music.

Especially as a kid, I remember hearing about how in their early years they were so rebellious, with their “long hair”, and their music that some people called noise. Well, coming into The Beatles after the fact, and knowing them for their hippie hairdos, beards, and eclectic later recordings, their early days didn’t seem quite as dangerous to me.

Well, this book explains why they were considered so rebellious in those early years, and paints a good picture of what post WW2 England was like in the early 1960s, how BBC radio wasn’t playing American rock and roll, and why Liverpool would become a thriving and influential music scene.

My favorite part of this book was the descriptions and stories of those early years. The insights into where each of the Beatles (and their families) came from, the early fascination with Radio Luxembourg, the evolution of the band and members (The Quarrymen, The Silver Beetles, The Beatals), and their days in Hamburg. 300 pages in, and they hadn’t even met George Martin yet.

I was also struck by the impressions of our beloved John Lennon, his personal tragedies, and how he struggled with his fame, personal relationships, and his darker side. Of course this is all Bob Spitz’s narrative, but he does bring to light many lesser known stories of Lennon, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, and George Harrison, and gives us plenty of glimpses into their worlds.

A great read!

Go and say hello to Bob http://bobspitz.com/

and in case you are from outer space, and have never heard of The Beatles, visit http://www.thebeatles.com/

Inspired by a twitter conversation with Ian Shepherd

Thriller” by Michael Jackson was the first album I purchased from HDtracks.com, and I was blown away by its sound, fidelity, and dynamics.  There is no evidence of any brickwall mastering, the main offender in our digital era loudness war. In fact, if you look at the Billie Jean waveform, you will notice the beginning of the song (where the drums are featured), the mix is actually louder than the rest of the song.

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Dynamics like this were commonplace in the pre-digital era, when people bought albums on vinyl, and no one ever said something like “Gee, this album was mastered way quieter than the last one we played“.

Speaking of mastering, I contacted HDtracks to find out info on which mastered versions they use for their releases, and they basically said “We don’t know, we just sell what the record labels deliver to us“. Fair enough, but I think that the people who spend the extra cash for the higher quality versions would like to know exactly what they are paying for. For instance it would be interesting to know if the Thriller mastering is the same or similar to the original vinyl release. If any of you reading have any info, or have compared them, please comment below.

On a technical note: Similar to listening to vinyl albums, where the better your turntable, stylus, and preamp is, the better and more accurate the music will sound, in the digital world, the better your digital to analog (D/A) converters are, the better it will sound too. You can play the HD tracks through iTunes using your computer’s stock sound card, but the to hear it in it’s best possible fidelity, it’s better to have dedicated D/A converters that are a separate piece of hardware. In this case, I’m playing the files inside of a 176.4k 24bit Pro Tools session, and the hardware D/A converters are inside an Apogee DA-16X.

I hope to see more of these kinds of releases in the future as quality DOES matter. I’ve consequently bought HD versions of albums by Daft Punk, The Vicar, Talking Heads, and U2. They too sound incredible.

Visit http://www.hdtracks.com/