Laptop Orchestra

Last year, one of our interns was accepted into the CCRMA masters program at Stanford — the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics. This weekend I received an e-mail from him pointing me to videos of a new CCRMA project called the Stanford Laptop Orchestra. “SLORK” is a large-scale, computer-mediated ensemble that explores cutting-edge technology in combination with conventional musical contexts – while radically transforming both. Founded in 2008 by director Ge Wang and students, faculty, and staff at CCRMA, the ensemble requires more than 20 laptops, human performers, controllers, and custom multi-channel speaker arrays (all designed and built by CCRMA grad students) to provide each computer meta-instrument with its own identity and presence. From the SLORK website: The orchestra fuses a powerful sea of sound with the immediacy of human music-making, capturing the irreplaceable energy of a live ensemble performance as well as its sonic intimacy and grandeur. At the same time, it leverages the computer’s precision, possibilities for new sounds, and potential for fantastical automation to provide a boundary-less sonic canvas on which to experiment with, create, and perform music. Offstage, the ensemble serves as a one-of-a-kind learning environment that explores music, computer science, composition, and live performance in a naturally interdisciplinary way. SLOrk uses the ChucK programming language as its primary software platform for sound synthesis/analysis, instrument design, performance, and education. This intern came to my attention at an Audio Engineering Society conference some time ago. I was one of three judges in the “Student Design Competition” (one of the other judges was the late Bob Moog, largely credited as the father of commercial music synthesizers.) His student project was a MIDI controlled car using electronic bagpipes as the controller. The SLORK project gives us a glimpse into the direction of music, and future community dynamics in general. Sound, composition, ensemble, orchestration – virtual collaboration changes everything. Just as the modern orchestra is largely a product of the last 500 years (renaissance, reformation, industrial age), I think future music will be defined by the emergence of real-time global collaboration and virtual modeling. Spiritual community, I believe, will be impacted  

Robert Mondavi 1913-2008

I want to offer a tribute to someone who has made an impact in my life, someone who died yesterday at the age of 94. Robert Mondavi is widely considered the man who put California on the map as an icon of fine wine. I met Robert and Margrit two years ago while engineering NPR’s historic first live classical music webcast, from the new Napa Valley symphony hall. Robert was in a wheelchair and couldn’t hear so well. Margrit, his wife, promised to pass along my deep gratitude for their lifelong patronage of Northern California arts. Of all the projects they’ve underwritten, closest to my heart is the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the U.C. Davis campus. The new concert hall could not have been built without their spectacularly generous gift. Mondavi’s new hall represents a pinnacle in world-class acoustical design. I’ve been producing and engineering classical music in N. California for almost 20 years. Every chance I get to record in the new hall is like sneaking into a little bit of heaven. I consider this “my hall.” I was there often during construction, and made the first commercial recording in Mondavi Hall (Delos DE3360). Here are excerpts from that stunning performance. MP3-a MP3-b MP3-c Mondavi’s sons have since sold off the family business to a megalcohol conglomerate, but Robert’s legacy will live on, touching and enriching the lives of millions to come. Thank you Robert Mondavi. From the Chancellor of U.C. Davis In June 2004, UC Davis presented Robert and Margrit Mondavi with the UC Davis Medal, the highest honor bestowed by the university. But what I will treasure most about our friendship with Bob Mondavi was his sense of destiny. I remember him saying once, “If you wish to succeed, you must listen to yourself, to your own heart, and have the courage to go your own way, to find the right direction.” There’s no doubt that Mondavi accomplished his mission – to the betterment of the university, the wine industry, agriculture, the state of California – and beyond. And the Mondavis’ belief in UC Davis emboldened each of us to reach even higher. Through his leadership, Mondavi truly opened a new era of opportunity for UC Davis. He was convinced that the sciences and the arts were essential companions. He reassured each of us – no matter our calling in life – that we were capable of and responsible for creating a magnificent and enduring legacy. – Larry N. Vanderhoef , Chancellor of the University of California. Also this week.. I received a photograph from Portland Oregon-based artist Rebecca Gray. Her new painting of a rose is so stunning I wanted to share it. And finally, with the Jill Taylor post approaching 300 comments, I leave you with the results of my brain lateralization test: Brain Lateralization Test Results Right Brain (58%) The right hemisphere is the visual, figurative, artistic, and intuitive side of the brain. Left Brain (42%) The left hemisphere is the logical, articulate, assertive, and practical side of the brain Are You Right or Left Brained? personality tests by  

Discovered: World’s Oldest Audio Recording

I’m attending an audio conference at Stanford this week. Some of you may have seen the front page of yesterday’s New York Times. A significant bit of audio history has just been rewritten. Until this week’s announcement, the earliest known sound recording was Edison’s 1877 “mary had a little lamb” experiment. Today, we heard a woman’s voice recorded in 1860. We now know that a Parisian named Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville made an audio recording 17 years before Edison (actually, Martinville attempted audio recordings as early as 1853, but they are unintelligible). This discovery does not diminish Edison – Martinville had no idea how to play back his phonautographs. The 1860 recording was discovered in an obscure French archive earlier this month by a team of American researchers. It’s quite the detective story. The French phonautograph was extracted via optical techniques developed by Lawrence Berkeley Labs. Raw, semi-processed, and fully-processed results were played publicly today for the first time. A semi-processed MP3 version is on-line here. What’s really fascinating is that Martinville’s method recorded TWO adjacent tracks. One track was the female voice program while the other track was a tuning fork specified by Martinville as 435 Hz. This of course allowed Berkeley researchers to lock absolute pitch. Brilliant! This afternoon, I spoke at length with the project’s lead researcher (David Giovannoni) who shared, “we’ve found evidence of even earlier Martinville recordings of similar caliber.” This remarkable story is likely not  


With a HT to KK, and in continuing the theme of an earlier post in which John Fiesole playfully tackles the notion of meaningful meaninglessness, and the meaningfullnessians who profess such paradox, here’s a book exploring uncaused causes – self-causation – seemingly illogical or nonsensical ideas that, upon deeper reflection, may offer  profound truth. From the book: The superfluous is the most necessary. Voltaire Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else. Margaret Mead I shut my eyes in order to see. Paul Gauguin We learn from history that we do not learn from history. Georg Hegel We are never prepared for what we expect. James Michener To be believed, make the truth unbelievable. Napoleon Bonaparte What we really want is for things to remain the same but get better. Sydney J. Harris When a dog runs at you, whistle for him. Henry David Thoreau Always be sincere, even if you don’t mean it. Harry S. Truman Man can believe the impossible, but can never believe the improbable. Oscar Wilde War is a series of catastrophes which result in a victory. Georges Clemenceau First I dream my painting, then I paint my dream. Vincent van Gogh We are confronted by insurmountable opportunities. Walt Kelly, From Pogo I want peace and I’m willing to fight for it. Harry S. Truman Study the past, if you would divine the future. Confucius, in Analects Love is a kind of warfare. Ovid All works of art should begin…at the end. Edgar Allan Poe and my favorite… The final delusion is the belief that one has lost all delusions. Maurice Chapelain no wait, this is my favorite… A man chases a woman until she catches him. Anonymous The Kandelhardt