You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Music’ tag.

No, not the Grand Caynon neither the Epstein & Axtell Sugarscape (link) this time, instead a soundscape. A landscape made of sounds or grooves. Look at this as an ancient form of encapsulating data. Taken by Chris Supranowitz, a researcher at The Insitute of Optics at the University of Rochester (US), the image depicts a single groove on a vinyl record magnified 1000 times, using electron microscopy. Dark bits are the top of the grooves, i.e. the uncut vinyl, while even darker little bumps are dust on the record (e.g. centre right). For more images check SynthGear, and found out (image link) what have they discovered if we keep magnifying that image further still!

[…] Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a “lilting” swing time rhythm. The name swing came from the phrase ‘swing feelwhere the emphasis is on the off-beat or weaker pulse in the music (unlike classic music). Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and Count Basie was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1945. The verb “to swing” is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong rhythmic “groove” or drive. […] from Wikipedia (link).

nota bene – tomorrow is Jazz day, isn’t it?!

Photo – Young Glenn Gould in February 1946 with his English Setter dog, Nick.

Video – A 1964 film based on the novel Zorba the Greek by Nikos Kazantzakis. The film was directed by Michael Cacoyannis and the title character was played by Anthony Quinn. The supporting cast included Alan Bates as a visiting Englishman as well as Irene Papas. The theme, “Sirtaki” by Mikis Theodorakis, has become famous and popular as a song and as a dance. The movie was shot on location on the Greek island of Crete. Specific places featured include the town of Chania, the Apokoronas region and the Akrotiri peninsula. The famous scene, in which Quinn’s character dances the Sirtaki, was shot on the beach of the village of Stavros. (from YouTube)


Basil (Alan Bates), a young English writer, meets a free-spirited Greek peasant named Zorba (Anthony Quinn) while waiting to travel to the island of Crete. While Zorba pursues a relationship with aging French courtesan Madame Hortense, Basil attempts to court a young widow. Along the way, he learns valuable life lessons from the earthy Zorba, who has an unquenchable joie de vivre (link):

[…] Basil: I don’t want any trouble. Alexis Zorba: Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble. […] Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You’ve got everthing except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness, or else… Basil: Or else? Zorba: …he never dares cut the rope and be free. […] Basil: Teach me to dance, will you? Zorba: Dance? Did you say… dance?! … Come on my boy… together… Let’s go… hop … Again… hop … […] Zorba: Boss, I have so much to tell you, … I never had loved a man like you … […] Zorba: Hey boss, did you ever see a more splendiferous crash?! … Oh, … You can laugh too!… hmmm… Hey!… You laugh! […]

Yes, the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter has is own day also. It’s Pi Day. March 14th. Created by physicist Larry Shaw, Pi Day is a holiday commemorating the mathematical constant π (pi). There is a reason for this date. Pi Day is celebrated on March 14 (or 3/14 in month/day date format), since 3, 1 and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form. If you want to check it out, here are the first one million digits of π. Ironically, this is also the date when Albert Einstein was born. So, how about some good music along with that, to celebrate it?!

[Vimeo=13119980]

Video – 16×9 Frame blended animation Tagtool drawing session. Drawing by Frances Sander, post production by Dmitri Berzon. Music by Samka.

Figure – A typical Tagtool Mini Setup (Drawing by Fanijo).

…Or should I say, Gestaltic?

The Tagtool is a performative visual instrument used on stage and on the street. It serves as a VJ tool, a creative video game, or an intuitive way of creating animation. The system is operated collaboratively by an artist drawing the pictures and an animator adding movement to the artwork with a gamepad. The design achieves virtually unlimited artistic complexity with a simple set of controls, which can be mastered even by children. The project is coordinated by OMA International. Being inspired by the open source movement,  relevant to the group also to all digital arts, their aim is that all knowledge acquired within the Tagtool project should be shared. (check out for more on their project website, http://www.tagtool.org ). All in all, a short documentary made by 4 Graz students. Everything, that ends by adding up non-linearly tends to be… well, you know…

[Vimeo=10649579]

Video – Dance performance by Elisabeth, Tagtool drawing and animation by Die.Puntigam, music by Jan, Seppy and Dima.

Picture – Albert Einstein standing on a rock stepping-stone, enjoying grabbing some sun at the sea shore (1945). Oh! … the sea shore. By the way, Mr. Einstein, what lovely sexy shoes you have!

[…] Einstein always appeared to have a clear view of the problems of physics and the determination to solve them. He had a strategy of his own and was able to visualize the main stages on the way to his goal. He regarded his major achievements as mere stepping-stones for the next advance. […] In his early days in Berlin, Einstein postulated that the correct interpretation of the special theory of relativity must also furnish a theory of gravitation and in 1916 he published his paper on the general theory of relativity. During this time he also contributed to the problems of the theory of radiation and statistical mechanics. […] After his retirement he continued to work towards the unification of the basic concepts of physics, taking the opposite approach, geometrisation, to the majority of physicists. […] (source Nobel prize org.)

Einstein on the Beach : Philip Glass / Robert Wilson, 1976.

[…] Einstein on the Beach (1976) is a pivotal work in the oeuvre of Philip Glass. It is the first, longest, and most famous of the composer’s operas, yet it is in almost every way unrepresentative of them. Einstein was, by design, a glorious “one-shot” – a work that invented its context, form and language, and then explored them so exhaustively that further development would have been redundant. But, by its own radical example, Einstein prepared the way – it gave permission – for much of what has happened in music theater since its premiere. Einstein broke all the rules of opera. It was in four interconnected acts and five hours long, with no intermissions (the audience was invited to wander in and out at liberty during performances). The acts were intersticed by what Glass and Wilson called “knee plays” – brief interludes that also provided time for scenery changes. The text consisted of numbers, solfege syllables and some cryptic poems by Christopher Knowles, a young, neurologically-impaired man with whom Wilson had worked as an instructor of disturbed children for the New York public schools. To this were added short texts by choreographer Lucinda Childs and Samuel M. Johnson, an actor who played the Judge in the “Trial” scenes and the bus driver in the finale. There were references to the trial of Patricia Hearst (which was underway during the creation of the opera); to the mid-’70s radio lineup on New York’s WABC; to the popular song “Mr. Bojangles”; to the Beatles and to teen idol David Cassidy. Einstein sometimes seemed a study in sensory overload, meaning everything and nothing…  […] (continues) [source ]

KNEE 5 | KNEE PLAY CHARACTER 1 : Numbers and Mr Bojangles /  KNEE PLAY CHARACTER 2 : Text from Knee Play 1 / BUS DRIVER : Lovers on a Park Bench

1,2,3,4… 1,2,3,4,5,6, …,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,… 1,2,3,4… 1,2,3,4,5,6, …,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,… 1,2,3,4… 1,2,3,4,5,6, … 2,3,4, … 1,2,3,4, … 1,6 …

Two lovers sat on a park bench with their bodies touching each other, holding hands in the moonlight. There was silence between them. So profound was their love for each other, they needed no words to express it. And so they sat in silence, on a park bench, with their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight. Finally she spoke. “Do you love me, John ?” she asked. “You know I love you. darling,” he replied. “I love you more than tongue can tell. You are the light of my life. my sun. moon and stars. You are my everything. Without you I have no reason for being.” Again there was silence as the two lovers sat on a park bench, their bodies touching, holding hands in the moonlight. Once more she spoke. “How much do you love me, John ?” she asked. He answered : “How’ much do I love you ? Count the stars in the sky. Measure the waters of the oceans with a teaspoon. Number the grains of sand on the sea shore. Impossible, you say? “, (text by Samuel Johnson).

Directed by the Catalan Pere Portabella, “El Silencio antes de Bach” (The Silence before Bach – US / Die stille vor Bach – Germany) is a truly cinematographic film about beauty in its purest forms. A film about music through music, about beauty through beauty, self-referential and self-conscious. Humble, austere, simple and witty at the same time, like Bach’s variations, it’s cinematographic poetry at his best. In fact, for the 78-year-old Spanish director, music is religion – and there is only Before Bach (BB) and After Bach (AB) [check Village Voice review]. Which, kind of reminds me back, this Emil Cioran‘s quote: “If Bach did not existed, God would have been a second order character“.

El Silencio…“, is conceived as a music work: tensions are created and released (or not) or reformulated, there are visual leit motivs and textual leit motivs (for instance, the same words spoken by 2 different characters, centuries apart, in different scenes). There are reflections on music, on its formal aspects, on its almost divine reach. And within the almost holistic web of abstract relations created by Portabella, everything could represent beauty itself, even mechanical devices, old river boats or trucks painted with religious icons.

Image – Piano prepares to walk on water in “The Silence Before Bach” (Image taken at Village Voice review: “The Gospel according to Pere Portabella“, Village Voice movies, J. Hoberman, Jan. 22, 2008).

The Austrian composer Peter Ablinger transferred the frequency spectrum of one child’s voice to his computer controlled mechanical piano – A “speaking piano” reciting the Proclamation of the European Environmental Criminal Court at World Venice Forum 2009. It’s all in German, but what the piano says is all English, and it’s really neat to watch. All of a sudden the words of the Declaration become understandable to a European Environmental Criminal Court. Wien Modern was one out of ten cultural institutions asked for an artistic contribution to the event in Palazzo Ducale in Venice. The ambitious goal was to make this message audible with musical means, without falling back to a simple setting. [link]

[…] We hear sounds that obviously aren’t normal Music, but neither they are language, and one could say that sometimes, a bridging happens. Personally, I think you can understand individual words even without knowing the text, and the Eureka moment happens when you see the text, and suddenly, the language is there. […]

(more on Perception, Gestalt, Art and Music, here and here)

I remember my father awakening me around 10 PM (GMT) in order to see it along with all the family, over a old black and white TV monitor. I was 2 ½ years old. In the subsequent days, my dad’s only efforts, focus and struggle seem to be grabbing a rare copy of a historical Paris-Match solely dedicated to the mission. At that time, it was the only available international edition in the South of Portugal, and the few copies available disappeared in a blink of an eye, like pop-corns. He died one year later, but I still have it today by my side (check cover below).

Lunar Module Apollo11 Landing site map

Figure – Traverse map of Eagle’s Lunar Module (LM) landing site at Tranquility base (Apollo 11 mission, 20 July 1969). Taken from “Apollo 11 Preliminary Science Report“, NASA SP-214, page 52, fig. 3.16. The report is now freely available here (PDF format).

Although he released an album and numerous singles earlier, David Bowie first caught the eye and ear of the public in the autumn of 1969, when his space-age mini-melodrama “Space Oddity” reached the top five of the UK singles chart. It was also with this piece that Bowie appeared for the first time on TV in 1970 (original video). After a three-year period of experimentation he re-emerged in 1972 during the glam rock era as a flamboyant, androgynous alter ego Ziggy Stardust, spearheaded by the hit single “Starman” and the album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. The relatively short-lived Ziggy persona epitomised a career often marked by musical innovation, reinvention and striking visual presentation (from youTube).

Paris Match n 1058 Spécial Lune cover 16 August 1969Figure – Paris Match nº 1058, Spécial Lune. LUNE Número Historique cover (16 August 1969).

Kitaoka colour illusion

Fig. – Illusion created by Prof. Akiyoshi Kitaoka (Dep. of Psychology, Ritsumeikan Univ., Kyoto, Japan). If you don’t see any illusion at all, don’t worry. That’s exactly why this optical illusion is so great. The illusion is not there, or is it?! Meanwhile over his page, Akiyoshi warns: This page contains some works of “anomalous motion illusion”, which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately (more).

Where’s the illusion, right? Well,… what if I just tell you that no blue at all is used over this picture! No matter how strongly you want to believe you are seeing blue and green spirals here, there is no blue color in this image. There is only green, red and orange. What you think is blue is actually green. Don’t worry, … you are not daltonic. I mean, I’m a little bit but, you could check this out through Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, if you need an affirmation. Indeed, these are just “Vain speculation un­deceived by the senses” (1670’s Scilla’s treatise) .

In fact, Relations here, between different colors (green, red and orange), are more important than each color by itself. Relations plus context are the key (more here over Generative Art, and here over Swarm Intelligence based Pattern Recognition). Through these relations, much probably using Gestalt‘s principles (the German word Gestalt could be translated into “configuration or pattern”), here Akiyoshi manages to emerge us the blue color over our perception. This does not cheat a computer of course, however could cheat our own eyes. In other areas the opposite could also be found. For instance, Humans can easily recognize a car over background trees (segment it, in just tiny lapses of a second), while this natural task could be extremely painful for computers over some cases (here is one example).

Born in Prague (inspired by 1890’s works of Christian von Ehrenfels, Austrian philosopher), then later absorbed by a great and tremendous intellectual period occurred from Germany back to Austria (Bauhaus), the Gestalt Laws of Organization have guided the study of how people perceive visual components as organized patterns or wholes, instead of many different parts. I would say that most certainly some Wertheimer’s gestaltic principles were used in here: Figure and Ground, Similarity, Proximity or Contiguity, Continuity, Closure, Area, and Symmetry (check Gestalt Theory of Visual Perception). We could see this happening also in other areas, … in Music for instance:

[…] Gestalt theory first arose in 1890 as a reaction to the prevalent psychological theory of the time – atomism. Atomism examined parts of things with the idea that these parts could then be put back together to make wholes. Atomists believed the nature of things to be absolute and not dependent on context. Gestalt theorists, on the other hand, were intrigued by the way our mind perceives wholes out of incomplete elements [1, 2]. “To the Gestaltists, things are affected by where they are and by what surrounds them…so that things are better described as “more than the sum of their parts.” [1, p. 49]. Gestaltists believed that context was very important in perception. An essay by Christian von Ehrenfels discussed this belief using a musical example. Take a 12 note melody. Play it in one key, say the key of C. Now change to another key, say the key of A flat. There might not be any notes the same in the two songs, yet a person listening to it knows that it is the same tune. It is the relationships between the notes that give us the tune, the whole, not which notes make up the tune. […], from “Gestalt Principles of Perception“, Bonnie Skaalid, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1999.

Care for an contemporary example? Well, … the first thing that comes to my mind is DUB music genre. In fact, I do have several albums from different musicians over my house. Dub music evolved in Jamaica (1968) from early rastafarian instrumental reggae music and versions that incorporated fairly primitive reverbs and echo sound effects, being found by accident (engineer Byron Smith left the vocal track out by accident). Over decades, it inspired immense groups of musicians from well-known bands such as The Police, The Clash, UB40 up to reputed musicians such as Bill Laswell. Of course !, it was not far from what John Cage have made for the solo piano Music of Changes, to determine which notes should be used and when they should sound. In the fifty’s, Cage start it to use the mechanism of the I Ching (Chinese “Book of Changes”) in the composition of his music in order to provide a framework for his uses of chance.

Other most recent bands include, Leftfield, Massive Attack, Bauhaus, The Beastie Boys, Asian Dub Foundation, Underworld, Thievery Corporation, Gorillaz, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and DJ Spooky. But what is then so special about Dub? Well, one of this genre’s most striking features is the fact that some if not all musical sentences are incomplete. Those special sentences (Gestaltic, let me add), are normally followed by a pause. The most amazing thing however, is that us, Humans could perceive the entire sentence being formed on the back of our minds! So the music is not there, and at the same time, we are listening to two adjacent simultaneous melodies, as we were a composer. By just using relations among a few notes, we soon start to emerge a perception for the whole sentence, as if they were self-organizing! Being it extremely rhythmic, this often could lead us to a sweet soft state of overwhelming emotion, or exalted organic feel to the music .

As you will probably know by now, the same could happen over misplaced letters over an entire phrase. Even if some letters are not at their right proper place, at each word, we could still perceive the whole sentence meaning. Up to your gestaltic neurons to decipher.

Next time you go to a rave party (I never did, neither pretend to), do think about the title of this post, the figure above, as well as on all those great past musicians, along with – unfortunately – awkward current DJ’s, who pass on for hours strident music mixes without knowing at all what Gestalt is all about! Oh, … by the way, should you feel extremely dizzy, do follow Akiyoshi’s advice: If you start feeling unwell when using this website (rave party), immediately cover one eye with your hand and then leave the page (leave the party). Do not close your both eyes because that can make the attack worse!

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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