Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Kickstarting Jazz

Posted 09 Sep 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Technology

This is very interesting; using crowdfunding to finance artistic projects is hardly news – it’s been happening for years and has clearly picked up a great deal of pace recently, in the world of films, games, journalism and publishing. In the music world, a number of indie rock bands which I follow have used it to get records off the ground, and in each case have done so in keeping with a level of independent spirit which makes the decision unsurprisingly. (Interesting, Darren Hayman is a vocal opponent of this method of funding creativity).

This article points to a more traditional area of music which has been benefiting from this new world; jazz.

Not long ago, Wayne Escoffery—trusted saxophonist with the Mingus Big Band, the Tom Harrell Quintet and Ben Riley’s Monk Legacy Septet—had an idea for a new album. He’d already released five under his name, and a couple with his wife, the singer Carolyn Leonhart. But this one would be different: a concept album inspired by his early years in London, and the hardships of his single mother, and the circumstances around their emigration to the States. In essence, a portrait of the artist as a young man.

It would also be his first album of entirely original music, which he’d conceived for a blend of acoustic and electric instruments. But when he presented the idea to the record label he was affiliated with at the time, he found no traction there. “They felt that the music wasn’t accessible or radio friendly,” he recalled recently. So Escoffery turned to Kickstarter, the popular crowd-funding website, and took his pitch public. The decision literally paid off. He exceeded his $10,000 goal, and went on to make his album, The Only Son of One, which was released on Sunnyside this spring. (To the likely chagrin of his previous label, it has met with some success on jazz radio.)

He’s not the only one; click here to read the rest of the article.

And here’s the LP he made.

Timelapse fun

Posted 16 Jan 2012 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

A couple of timelapses for you; a charming display of moving books and some really amazing shots of Brighton – the latter the work of, believe it or not, a 13 year old camera enthusiast. Good work.

This is Brighton from Caleb Yule on Vimeo.

Questions, flops, miracles

Posted 25 Aug 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Daft, General, Technology

This is rather lovely. Over on Quora someone asked, ‘What’s it like to have your film flop at the box office?’. Sean Hood, the professional screenwriter who wrote the last iteration of the Conan The Barbarian franchise, is well placed to answer. So he does.

In the days before the release, you get all sorts of enthusiastic congratulations from friends and family. Everyone seems to believe it will go well, and everyone has something positive to say, so you allow yourself to get swept up in it.

You tell yourself to just enjoy the process. That whether you succeed or fail, win or lose, it will be fine. You pretend to be Zen. You adopt detachment, and ironic humor, while secretly praying for a miracle.

The Friday night of the release is like the Tuesday night of an election. “Exit polls”are taken of people leaving the theater, and estimated box office numbers start leaking out in the afternoon, like early ballot returns. You are glued to your computer, clicking wildly over websites, chatting nonstop with peers, and calling anyone and everyone to find out what they’ve heard. Have any numbers come back yet? That’s when your stomach starts to drop.

It’s a great read – click here to access the whole thing.

Meanwhile – that’s not the only difficult question the internet can answer.

Darren Solomon’s ‘In Bflat’

Posted 30 Mar 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Technology

Jawdropping link of the day; I think it defeats the object somewhat to describe it, so I’ll just send you here:

If you’re into the music of Steve Reich or, particularly, Terry Riley, you’ll love it. But I find it hard to imagine anyone not being impressed by the project – created by Darren Solomon.

Info on In Bb here – but watch via the link above first.

Nuclear time lapse

Posted 16 Feb 2011 — by Jonathan
Category Environment, Technology

This graphic – a time-lapse map of every nuclear explosion since 1945 is simultaneously hypnotic, beautiful and deeply disconcerting. Frightening stuff, beautifully presented. Only one thing – why can’t I see Chernobyl in April 1986?! Do I have my dates wrong?

A song a week for 2011: Song #1 (Inertia)

Posted 07 Jan 2011 — by Jonathan
Category 52songs, Assistant, Music, Technology, Video, Weekly Song

I’m going to write, record and release a song, via Assistant Blog, every single week of 2011. Most will probably be faintly tuneful, slow indie rock, in the manner to which you are probably now accustomed, although I reserve the right to scamper down some blind alleys and post anything that takes my fancy, from found-sound compositions to abstract electronica. Most will be recorded through my mac, using a Zoom recorder, or my old 4 track, and some may be sung into the tinny microphone on my phone or composed on my iPad.

In other words, I’m making no promises for audio quality or aiming for perfection. Barring disaster, however, every song will be produced with a lot of care. Where possible, I’ll pull together a YouTube video for each one, as I think that makes them easier to consume. If anyone would like proper mp3s of them, they should drop me a line. All songs will be on soundcloud, too. I’m going to post them every Friday or Saturday, all being well.

Here’s the first.

It was, rather uniquely for me, composed, recorded and uploaded to the web soley using my iPad – I used four programs; Multitrack DAW, BassLine, DrumTrack8 and ThumbJam. This doesn’t exactly place me at the bleeding end of recording technology, but iPad music is at the earlier stages of its development, so I’m quite proud to have produced a song this way. This is, for the record, my first ever effort at composing with an iPad, which is why it’s a bit ragged. Given more time, I’d probably go back to it – but the point of this exercise is to be productive, so I’m not going to linger. Nevertheless, I think it’s quite a nice song.

When I was recording it I was thinking of small towns, autumnal feeling: twittens and cat’s creeps, overgrown canal-banks, waste paper wafting around. I meant for the song to be slow and wistful – possibly it ended up too slow. But there it is.

Here’s my first Weekly Song for 2011.

Inertia (Weekly Song #1) by jonathanshipley

No-motion video

Posted 06 Dec 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

This is really stunning; Graeme Taylor created this super little video using nothing more than a £230 camera, but it’s the technique which makes it so outstanding. Using a Casio Exilim FH20, Graeme filmed this, one cold morning, from a train arriving at Bath Spa Station, at a setting of 210 frames per second (which, non-tech-y readers, is a lot).

It is, in fact a bit of a reversal of the established technique with high-speed cameras – standing still while recording something moving fast. Instead, Graham filmed near-stationary subjects (the people standing on the platform) from a fast-moving train. He then slowed down the playback to 30fps, meaning that every 7 seconds of footage corresponds to one real second. As he acknowledges on his blog, the effect breaks up as the train slows – but the results are still fantastic; and all the more extraordinary given the cheap equipment he’s working with. Great stuff.

You can read Graeme talk at length about the video – which has now gone viral and garnered nearly three quarter of a million hits – here, on his blog.

Field Recording, East Street

Posted 26 Oct 2010 — by Jonathan
Category General, Technology

I recorded this back in late September, sat drinking cola at a cafe in Brighton’s busy East Street. Not sure if I was trying to record the live jazz band or the table next to us talking, in retrospect. Can’t remember a great deal about the day, except that Lyndsey and I had been looking at coats in the South Laine, and that the sun was particularly warm after a few days of temperature drops. We sat enjoying the weather, only for the sun to dip suddenly behind a cloud every few minutes, exposing us suddenly to the chill of autumn.


On interruption systems

Posted 02 Jun 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

This article, from Wired Magazine, is really interesting, and raises questions that are very important for those of us who work with information technology. In my profession the provision of material in a digital environment is increasingly important, but many questions have not yet been adequately answered about how technology aids – and/or hinders – understanding. It has become commonplace to think of hypertext and enhanced interaction as an unambiguous strength of the digital world. Nicholas Carr suggests that a much more complex picture exists – he writes “the Internet is an interruption system. It seizes our attention only to scramble it”.

I don’t share the more pessimistic aspects of his prognosis, but one thing is for sure – as much as we must consider the potential of hyper-linked information, so we must also make sure we do not compromise the benefits of linear learning.

Here’s the full article, and its conclusion:

“What we’re experiencing is, in a metaphorical sense, a reversal of the early trajectory of civilisation. We are evolving from cultivators of personal knowledge into hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest. In the process, we seem fated to sacrifice much of what makes our minds so interesting”.


Stephen Fry unpacks his iPad

Posted 01 Apr 2010 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

This time next week I will be in the USA, and I hope I will have held an iPad in my trembling hands by then; they launch in Apple Stores on Saturday, and I’m really quite ludicrously excited about the prospect of playing with one. I’m hoping that someone in the US office will have bought one so I can have a proper play; otherwise I will have to brave the crowds in the shops.

my nineties

Posted 30 Dec 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

Was I alive in the early 1990s? I’m sure I was, but I’m watching one of those TV shows about the decade, and a bit mystified at how out of step I apparently was. The show is ‘Electric Dreams’, where a family are stripped of their modern technology and then given the appropriate tools for each decade, getting the technology of a new year for each new day.

So far, we’re up to something like 1994, and my record so far is pretty poor. We’ve been introudced to:

Sonic The Hedgehog (I’ve never played Sonic The Hedgehog)
Super Mario (I’ve never played Super Mario)
Nintendo Gameboys (I never had a Nintendo Gameboy)
Satellite TV (I never had satellite TV)
Pagers (I never had a pager)
Mortal Combat (I’ve never played Mortal Combat)

My nineties were very different indeed – can’t see this program getting much more accurate for my experience. I didn’t use the internet until 1996, or have a mobile until 1999. Oh dear.

awesome invention

Posted 05 Oct 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

Thanks to Sam, who flagged this up on Facebook; what a brilliant idea – this wheel for a child’s bicycle eliminates the need for stabilisers and encourages good cycling habits. Press play and see for yourself. Great example of technology being used in a thoughtful way.

i buy records and steal

Posted 22 Apr 2009 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

There seem to be loads of people who are perpetually surprised by evidence that people who take advantage of online music piracy are also the people who spend the most on records. It seems perfectly obvious to me, and of my friends there’s little doubt that the most voracious downloaders and music-sharers are also the people who spend the most cash in Resident Records. The Guardian today prints yet more evidence that supports this observation:

Piracy may be the bane of the music industry but according to a new study, it may also be its engine. A report from the BI Norwegian School of Management has found that those who download music illegally are also 10 times more likely to pay for songs than those who don’t.

Everybody knows that music sales have continued to fall in recent years, and that filesharing is usually blamed. We are made to imagine legions of internet criminals, their fingers on track-pads, downloading songs via BitTorrent and never paying for anything. One of the only bits of good news amid this doom and gloom is the steady rise in digital music sales. Millions of internet do-gooders, their fingers on track-pads, who pay for songs they like – purchasing them from Amazon or iTunes Music Store. And yet according to Professor Anne-Britt Gran’s new research, these two groups may be the same.

The Norwegian study looked at almost 2,000 online music users, all over the age of 15. Researchers found that those who downloaded “free” music – whether from lawful or seedy sources – were also 10 times more likely to pay for music. This would make music pirates the industry’s largest audience for digital sales.

Article here.

amazon stuff

Posted 23 Dec 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Technology

I used Amazon’s MP3 service for the first time last night – to buy this – and am happy to report that it was a very efficient, affordable process; no DRM, no hassle, and best of all a really good price. They clearly will need to sort out the interface if they really want to take on iTunes, but my initial report is good. This is my first stop for MP3s from now on.

In other Amazon related news; if you, like me, are fascinated by the prospect of digital publishing and ebooks, you may like this blog, which is dedicated to the Amazon Kindle and its various competitors. It’s a bit of a Kindle-love-in, but it contains lots of interesting information, and is making me more and more sure that when the Kindle is finally launched here in the UK, I’m going to have to buy one. This is an emotive subject for me, and my attachment to physical books is incredibly strong, but there’s no point in denying its appeal. Still, the Plastic Logic is my tip for the emerging e-book readers, and the one that’s likely to point the way forward in terms of my publishing career.

Lastly, seeing as we’re on technology, it’s good to hear that iPlayer is finally fully Mac-compatible. Yay.

games and evolution

Posted 08 Sep 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

Got a bit excited at lunchtime reading this in the paper, thinking that it looked really good, if a bit outside of my normal interests. Spore is, apparently, the computer game of the moment – the new creation by the chap who designed the Sims series, and a complex and rather fascinating idea. Handing you over to Naomi Alderman:

It’s easy to get started: simply pick a name for your tide-pool-dwelling amoeba, decide whether it’s carnivorous or herbivorous, and start zooming around the water, finding food and gathering enough points for a DNA mutation. Like other simulation games, Spore rewards thought and effort, but it’s also simple enough for anyone to enjoy passing half an hour growing a tiny creature into a larger one. Eventually your species will develop enough to form rudimentary legs and crawl to ground. Then it’s time to mutate some more, develop intelligence, form tribes, civilizations and eventually travel off into space.

With its educational subject matter, Spore is the kind of game any parent should be pleased to find their child absorbed in, and although it wears its learning lightly, the brutal truth of evolution is hard to miss. How do you succeed as a carnivorous creature? By hunting other smaller creatures, of course; even if they’re squeaking pitifully as you devour them. And if you focus your creature’s development on features that will help you hunt, you might find that you, in turn, are unable to escape becoming prey. In Spore, nature is red in tooth and pixel.

All of which had me thinking, hmmm, that does sound interesting, and wondering if I should get a copy and try it out. With a few honourable exceptions (Frogger, Matchday II, Prince of Persia, Championship Manager) I’ve pretty much proved impervious to computer games, but this does sound fascinating. So just spent five minutes looking up the game and reading reviews and, guess what? More detail just provokes the same feeling that most games do; disinterest. It’s not that I don’t have interest in the technology, the narrative or the societal implications of gaming; I just don’t want to play them. And yet I’ve spent the afternoon working on the computer game based books I am shortly to publish. Hmm.

Still, I bet some of you are interested in Spore, hence the post. Dave? Sam? synth for iPhones

Posted 13 Aug 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

Just seen this, via Pete Ashton’s blog.

It’s a touch-senstitive synthesiser for one’s iPhone. That’s fantastic. Another reason to want an iPhone – which I can’t afford. Great…

Here’s the link, with impressive demo video.

loose change

Posted 19 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Technology

Confession: I’m absolutely hopeless with loose-change. Or rather, I’m brilliant at collecting it, but utterly hopeless at spending it. A couple of years ago, despairing of the little piles of coins all over my flat, I started depositing them in a mug – and this is not just one and two pence pieces, but smaller silver coins too. Before long the mug was full and I switched receptacles, moving on to a milk bottle, a better size for my burgeoning collection. Not that long ago I despairingly poured its overflowing contents into the lid of a bumper spool of DVDs, about the size of a small waste-basket. Things were clearly getting out of hand.

So today I loaded my rucksack with coins and headed over to Sainsbury’s, having realised that they have a machine which automatically sorts and logs your coins before presenting you with a beautiful slip of semi-translucent paper, which can be traded for notes (or a deduction from your shopping bill). The machine is amazing, a large contraption with a big coin tray which resembles a basket from a deep fat fryer. One simply pours the money in and watches the sums totting up on screen, several years worth of coppers being stacked and itemised. The noise is tremendous, a great wall of noise comprising the clangs and whirrs of the mechanism and the sound of a thousand coins bouncing off each other. I was, naturally, dementedly excited, and pouring in coins at such a rate that the machine eventually, desperately, pleaded with me to stop, its display changing to a screen which read “My, you have a lot of coins. Please give the machine a moment to catch up”. I love the use of that ‘my’.

Eventually I was shocked and slightly appalled to discover that I had fifty quid’s worth of money lying around my flat!! Far more than I anticipated, although I admit that when it got to the mid forties I started feeding in a few pound coins from my pocket, too, desperate to get over the half-century, and reluctant for the fun to stop.

So the net result is that a food shop amounting to fifty seven quid actually cost me six pounds and forty pence. And although I am ashamed of the extent of my ridiculous hoarding, I’m secretly yearning for the day when I’ve built up enough coins to go back and see if I can break the record…

the pace of things

Posted 08 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Technology

From Michele Hanson’s column in the Guardian today:

“People are forever coming round here glaring crabbily at my computer because it isn’t fast enough. It takes one whole minute when it ought be taking a nano-second. They sit there, desperate to get online, and to them the huge seconds trundle by, each like the passing of the longest night. Unbearable. “You need a new computer,” they complain rattily. “This is ridiculous.”

No it isn’t. It is heaven. I switch it on, it has a little warm up, I go into the garden and deadhead a few daisies. Clip, clip. I count the froggies in the pond. I come in, I press connect, I turn to the piano, I practise a fragment of sonata, I return to the screen, I press mail, I give the dogs a kiss, I come in, I arrange my coffee and biscuit, and voilà – the computer is ready. It has taken a few brief minutes.”

Great stuff.

compression and pop music

Posted 07 Jul 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Music, Technology

One of the more interesting quotes I came across last year was the following, courtesy of Bob Dylan:

“You listen to these modern records, they’re atrocious, they have sound all over them. There’s no definition of nothing, no vocal, no nothing, just like — static.” -Bob Dylan

Pete Bilderback, who posts over at the charmingly titled Flowering Toilet blog, spotted it too but has taken the time to provide a really interesting analysis of the way that compression is used in music production. He demonstrates, by comparing and contrasting songs from artists’ back catalogues and recent material, the extent to which an obsession with loudness is leading to the disfiguration of their sound. It’s a fascinating article, well worth a read.

Here it is.

more updates

Posted 12 May 2008 — by Jonathan
Category Observations, Technology

A quick thought prompted by Facebook, and those interminable ‘…is in a relationship‘, ‘…is single‘ messages, which continue to wash up in the tide with increasingly regularity. Perhaps it’s because many of my friends are churning around in their late twenties and early thirties, but we all seem to be falling in and out of love at an amazing rate these days. I think this is rather wonderful, but others might see it as cause for concern.