This year I decided to listen to all the SXSW 2011 showcase tracks: all 1154 of them. The torrents are available from the Unofficial SXSW torrents website, a whopping total of 6.5 Gb. The point of this exercise? I consider myself someone who knows music, who is fairly objective and will mark anything as likable, as long it has a combination of good unpredictable music. Good intelligent lyrics is a plus. The end result of this two week endeavor (picking out songs I liked vs. songs I didn’t like) is fairly bad: only 6% or so actually made it to my iPod. There were days that the state of popular music (listen, indie music doesn’t really exist) made me depressing as every song turned to be about the typical themes of love, hate and desperation. There are bands (and artists) who seem to get it, go against the mainstream and produce truly unique songs: the list of 75 songs I marked as good, I will discuss some other day. Without hesitation, 5 songs that surprised me:
- ‘Once and for all’ – Clock Opera (youtube): The lead singer is not afraid to use his falsetto voice which is something I so much appreciate, as I’ve been in a similar situation (More about this later). From all the depressing love-hate-kill songs in the SXSW11 set, the lyrics are refreshing and allegedly, based on a popular US play.
- ‘Losing sleep’ – Edwyn Collins (Youtube): Sometimes simple is better. Sometimes it’s a cliche. Excellent simple and catchy song.
- ‘Lemonade’ – Braids (Youtube live). Montreal-based electro-guitar-pop band with a song that features a surprising outtro.
- ‘Havana’ – Lex Land a singer songwriter from LA. I don’t know what to say here but I like the voice and where she’s going, lyrics-wise.
- ‘Guttersnipe’ – Bhi Bhiman (mp3) Singer-songwriter, obviously soul, folk with a touch of Sri Lanka and that walking bass.
There are so many more songs, but the one that should have gotten the prize for ‘weirdest’ sound is ‘The Green word’ from The Lava Children. It’s so off-tune or wait, no, it’s modulation or something. I can’t explain what it is but I’m sure it would look interesting on sheet music (for the daring. I’ve warned ya).
Via Suzanne Vega’s site, I found out that she nowadays (also) blogs for the New York Time’s ‘Measure for Measure’ periodical. There are other musicians writing for that very same blog: the only (other) familiar author is Roseanne Cash.
You’re probably aware that music and mathematics are quite related: Pythagoras was quite interested in music and his theories form the basis of current musical notation. Anyway: Three music professors have come up with a new way to analyze and categorize music and notes.
I forgot to mention it in earlier (Ubuntu) entries: In a couple of days (5 to be exactly), the new Ubuntu is to be released, properly named ‘Hardy Heron’ (or rather 8.04). You can download (complete) test versions (RC3, I believe) from the ‘Ubuntu testing’ website. You can also upgrade your current 7.10 (“Gutsy Gibbon”) to this test version using Ubuntu’s Update Manager. If you’re curious what’s going to be new, here are “Hardy Heron”‘s release notes.
Update: I just updated to the RC of Hardy Heron. You should definitely install the compiz graphical effects manager by invoking ‘apt-get install compizconfig-settings-manager’. The manager will appear in your System menu: have fun playing with the options.
A couple of months ago, I found VirtuAmp, a (real-time) virtual guitar amplifier that comes with a range of virtual pedals, including a tremolo, flanger and compressor. It works actually pretty good too and it’s easy to setup: your (desktop) microphone can work as an input, but preferably you should use your (semi/electric) guitar cable and plug it right into the line-in/mic of your computer (for this you may need an adapter of course).
So, if you want to be a rockstar, you can even use your acoustic guitar (or semi-acoustic in my case) and crank up the flanger. You go, Jimmy Hendrix! (Sample sound of me playing, 30+ second, mp31).
Since VirtuAmp processes everything in real-time, you may need a fast processor. You definitely need a good soundcard (my onboard cheapy ass freaking soundcard makes a mess out of it). Additionally, if you feel so obliged, virtuAmp comes with complete sources.
(I’m also not sure how this compares to the real stuff, but hey, it’s fun anyways).
1 I did this in one take using Audacity and my USB Creative SoundBlaster Live! soundcard. Background noise and static was filtered out, and the overall sound was amplified with a (min.) preset level of (at least) 0.8 dB. Hence why it may sound a bit ‘tin-canned’.
You may have heard about the death of Benazir Bhutto, who was prime-minister of Pakistan in the Eighties and Nineties. The shocking thing I thought was the fact that this was the second assassination attempt after she returned from exile. I’m not sure what to think of the tributes around the world: she and her husband were trailed by aplenty of corruption charges.
Earlier I read an article about some correlation between cities and the amount of intelligent people living in those cities: the article concluded (if I recall correctly) that the amount of libraries and newspaper circulation helped lift up those statistics. So: if you parents tell you to go to the library or read the paper, maybe you really should listen. If you thought the Internet was going to make you smarter then you’re probably wrong.
And then there was this (well-linked) article at Rolling Stone about the quality of sound in the music industry. I thought this was old news (I’m positive that I’ve read this story somewhere earlier).
There’s an old
Dutch Polish Swedish British Belgian Luxemburg Czech Hungarian San Marino 18th century saying which explains the correlation between full moon and cold weather: “Clear Skies, Invalid Memory Writes”.
OK. Skip the European geography introduction in the first paragraph: it was cold yesterday (and last night). I managed to get out and buy a cardreader (“Sandisk Extreme USB 2.0 Reader”), for which the local store charged me 35 dollars (pre-tax). Maybe it was so expensive because mine didn’t include the ‘soft pouch’ that Sandisk claims to have included. But I don’t want to sound too cranky: I support the local economy, I guess.
I swept by the (local) music store too, to buy some new strings for The Guitar. Let it be known: I love putting on strings on a guitar, that is, preferably, without the presence of a cat. There’s no reason for a cat to chase (and jump) after guitar strings. After I dealt with the cat, I managed to get to the fun part of having new strings on a guitar: Retuning. If you play guitar a lot, the first string to tune is the low E string (which you can do by ear) and then use the “1/3 tuning method” to tune the other strings.
The only thing I now need to take care of is to tie and cut the ends of the strings so that I don’t poke my (or the cat’s) eyes out while I play.