This rare 1950s typewriter hammers out musical notations, not letters and numbers

Here's something you don't see every day: a typewriter that hammers out musical notations. Made for use with music staff paper, the Keaton Music Typewriter was first patented in 1936 by San Francisco's Robert H. Keaton for use by composers, arrangers, teachers and students.

The original model had just 13 keys but Keaton's second patent for this "music typing machine" was granted in 1953 and included 33 keys.

If you've got a spare $12K, you can pick one of these little beauties up from Etsy shop WorkingTypewriters (back in the 1950s they sold for $225).

The seller writes:

Estimates are that there are less than 20 machines on there, maybe even as few as 6...

The Keaton Music typewriters were produced in two batches, this one stemming from 1953 and has the more elaborate keyboard. They were made with the idea that musicians would be able to quickly and precisely write out their compositions. A typewriter for music. It didn't work as well, typing music is more laborious than typing words and it never really caught on.

Watch the video to get a feel for how challenging this "typewriter for music" is to operate. Read the rest

Guitarist and his unbalanced washing machine churn out hits

Aaron Attaboy McAvoy and his unbalanced washing machine "Ken E More" had a big hit earlier this year with a rousing cover of Charlie Daniels' "The Devil Went Down To Georgia."

Now the duo is back with four more squeaky clean covers. Listen for the laundry-inspired lyrics for the Beastie Boys' "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)," Jerry Reed's "East Bound and Down," Willie Nelson's "On the Road Again," and Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O' Mine."

Drummers: the robots are coming for your jobs first. Read the rest

Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard covers Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque

My friend Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie released a stunning new album today that is actually a re-recording of an old album, Teenage Fanclub's Bandwagonesque from 1991. Bandwagonesque is an iconic album of 1990s indie rock and Ben's magnificent covers are a welcome reminder of the beauty in the originals and, sure, a bit of a flashback to alt.rock's heyday. But Ben's Bandwagonesque isn't a nostalgia trip. The sound of Ben's record is intensely contemporary. It is the emotive sound of today. Or of any day, really. As Ben wrote in a lovely essay in The Guardian, the album "is a retreat from the passage of time, a retreat from the political climate in our country and a reminder that there is beauty in the world." Indeed, let's not forget. Check out "The Concept" above. And here's more from Ben in The Guardian:

There was a show on MTV called 120 Minutes that played underground indie and alternative videos. I would tape it on VHS and watch it over the course of the next week. The first Teenage Fanclub song I heard on it was probably The Concept – it was so melodic and beautiful, and the harmonies were amazing, but at the same time, like the punk rock I was listening to, I could see myself playing it. When I bought Bandwagonesque, it felt attainable to me, but also from some other magical world of music that I could only dream of travelling to. Teenage Fanclub, four men from Scotland, were making music that seemed to grab me by the heart and lift me off the ground.

Read the rest

Class Apples is the only album made completely on the Apple II

Class Apples by 8 Bit Weapon

The Apple II had only rudimentary audio capabilities, so Class Apples, apparently the only album ever made on one, is doubly-incredible: a contemporary technical feat underlying a classical chiptune feast.

Welcome dear friends to the world's first all Apple II music based album ever! This collection of timeless classics is not related to a game or as a demo shipped with software, that's another reason why this album unique. Yes, all sounds, even the drums are generated directly from motherboard of the Apple II personal computer!

Thanks to a breakthrough in Apple II audio technology from legendary coder Mr. Michael J Majon we are able to push 8 bit instrument samples though the Apple II's 1 bit audio output! Another amazing technology boost was Charles Mangin's incredible midi hardware allowing us to control the Apple II like a midi module!

The Apple II was created in the late 1970's and popularized throughout the 1980's! Each track has been painstakingly engineered and recorded for your listening pleasure. Some eq, filtering, and other effects have been added to enhance your listening pleasure.

Read the rest

Quindar remixes NASA's audiovisual archives (and you can dance to it!)

Quindar is a fantastically far out project to remix NASA's weird and wonderful sound and film archives into a new audiovisual experience of electronic music and video cut-ups. Created by my friends Mikael Jorgensen of Wilco and art historian/curator James Merle Thomas, Quindar's recordings and live performances are a wonderful hyperreal trip into the human history of space exploration. Indeed, their just-released album "Hip Mobility" is essential listening for all Earthlings jonesing for a new kind of cosmic kick. I recommend going for the stellar vinyl package, created by Lawrence Azerrad/LADdesign who partnered with Tim Daly and I on the Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition.

Below, have a listen to Quindar's Hip Mobility and also hear an interview with Mikael and James on the latest episode of NPR's Science Friday.

Read the rest

Documentary about Fela Kuti, Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer and human rights activist

In the 1970s and 1980s, Legendary musician Fela Kuti pioneered the sound of Afrobeat, an entrancing amalgam of West African highlife music, jazz, and American funk. Among his fans, he counts David Byrne, Brian Eno, and Thom Yorke. Fela was also a lifelong social activist and organizer who served time, a "prisoner of conscience" according to Amnesty International. One biographer famously described Fela as a "superstar, singer, musician, Panafricanist, polygamist, mystic, legend."

Above, Jean Jacques Flori and Stephen Tchal-Gadjieff's excellent concise documentary about Fela, shot in 1982. It's aptly titled "Music is the Weapon." From the film description:

Fela Kuti is to African music what Bob Marley is to reggae: its prophet. All contemporary forms of black music, from funk to electronic, owe something to the irresistible groove of the Afrobeat sound that he created. He recorded more than 60 albums and spent a lifetime fighting against political corruption in his homeland of Nigeria, where the people affectionately called him their "Black President."

Shot in Lagos at the peak of his career in 1982, this documentary contains interviews with Fela detailing his thoughts on politics, Pan-Africanism, music and religion, alongside unpublished versions of songs like ITT, Army Arrangement and Power Show.

And here's one of my favorite Fela tracks, "Fear Not for Man":

Read the rest

Experience the Voyager Golden Record at San Francisco's Exploratorium, August 3

On August 3 in celebration of the 40th anniversary month of the Voyager interstellar mission, please join me at San Francisco's Exploratorium to experience the Voyager Golden Record with two of the brilliant minds behind it -- SETI pioneer Frank Drake and science writer Timothy Ferris.

In August and September 1977, NASA launched two spacecraft, Voyager 1 and 2, on a grand tour of the solar system and beyond, into the mysteries of interstellar space. Mounted to each spacecraft is a golden phonograph record, a message to introduce our civilization to extraterrestrials, perhaps billions of years from now. Ozma Records, the label I co-founded with my friend Timothy Daly, is releasing the Voyager Golden Record as a box set of vinyl LPs so those on Earth can hear it as it was meant to be played. The accompanying book contains all of the images encoded on the Voyager record, an original essay by Timothy Ferris, and a gallery of photos transmitted back from the probes. As our co-producer/designer Lawrence Azerrad has said, "It is the ultimate album package of the ultimate album package." (The limited edition super-deluxe Kickstarter edition will not be repressed but please keep an eye on our Twitter feed @ozmarecords for announcements from us in the next few weeks.)

At the Exploratorium's August 3 After Dark event, themed around "Our Place in Space," we'll play the Voyager Record on the museum's incredible Meyer Sound system while projecting the images encoded on the disc. Then, at 8pm, Frank Drake and Timothy Ferris will join me on stage to discuss this incredible artifact that was a gift from humanity to the cosmos, but also a gift to humanity. Read the rest

How badly do streaming services rip off musicians? A chart, updated

Information is Beautiful has updated their comparison of artist payments on streaming services, estimating that 2.4 million plays on YouTube will net a whopping $1,472 for an unsigned artist. That's $0.0006 per play!

Read the rest

Here's the unusual creative process of Aphex Twin's anonymous visual artist, Weirdcore

As part of the Nicer Tuesdays series, Designer Weirdcore treats viewers to a rare historical overview of his concert visuals for Aphex Twin. Read the rest

Can you name all 26 bands whose fonts comprise this alphabet?

Design firm Dorothy created an alphabet made up entirely of letters from classic rock band logos. I did OK on this one, but the alternative rock one kicked my butt: Read the rest

Unheard Michael Jackson album up for auction

A CD containing nine unheard Michael Jackson songs that are reportedly master recording quality will be on the auction block next week. The winner won't have legal distribution rights though. From Rolling Stone:

The starting bid on the unreleased album is $50,000, though organizers tell Rolling Stone that they expect the final price to go as high as $1 million. Whoever takes home the CD will not own rights to the music, so the winning bidder cannot distribute the recording. According to the auction house, the album was obtained by "the personal friend and personal assistant to Michael whose family was very close to Michael for many years, traveling all over the world with him." When reached for comment, a rep for (auctioneers) Gotta Have Rock and Roll said Jackson's friend wished to remain anonymous.

Read the rest

Legal advice to musicians, after "Blurred Lines": pretend you have no influences

It's been two years since Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke lost a lawsuit brought by Marvin Gaye's descendants, who argued that their song "Blurred Lines" infringed Gay's 1977 song "Got to Give It To You," not because it copied the music per se, but because it copied its "vibe." Read the rest

How Dr. Dre discovered Eminem

An intern slipped famed record producer Jimmy Iovine a mixtape of then-unknown Eminem. Dr. Dre got hold of it and the rest is history.

In an earlier documentary about their fateful meeting, Dr. Dre describes what happened:

"Well, I first heard Eminem’s music at Jimmy Iovine’s house. He just happened to have gotten Eminem’s tape maybe a couple of days before. He actually got it from an intern that used to work at Interscope. He popped it in and then I heard it. And I thought it was incredible. At this time, I had no idea he was a white guy. I didn’t find that out until a few days later. And I was just like ‘What the fuck is this? I really need to meet this guy.’ The first thing that we did was ‘My Name Is.’ I had already prepared a sample that I thought he would sound great on. Immediately after I put it on he just went ‘Hi, my name is’... When I heard he was gonna start his own label, I thought it was an amazing idea. I was excited to see what they were going to be able to do with it.”

This is a clip from HBO's The Defiant Ones, a new biographical series documenting the "unlikely and wildly successful partnership of Dr. Dre and Jimmy Iovine."

Here's its trailer:

(reddit) Read the rest

Gangnam Style finally dethroned as most-played YouTube video

On YouTube, Gangnam Style's been the most-played video for five years—a little-known testament to the grim reality of popular culture these days. But no longer! It has finally been dethroned, by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's See You Again. Moreover, Despacito, embedded above, seems likely to storm past it in due course.

Here's the top 10.

1) Wiz Khalifa, See You Again (ft Charlie Puth) - 2,895,373,709 2) Psy, Gangnam Style - 2,894,426,475 3) Justin Bieber, Sorry - 2,635,572,161 4) Mark Ronson, Uptown Funk (ft Bruno Mars) - 2,550,545,717 5) Luis Fonsi, Despacito (ft Daddy Yankee) - 2,482,502,747 6) Taylor Swift, Shake It Off - 2,248,761,095 7) Enrique Iglesias, Bailando - 2,232,756,228 8) Maroon 5, Sugar - 2,150,365,635 9) Katy Perry, Roar - 2,129,400,973 10) Taylor Swift, Blank Space - 2,101,607,657

Read the rest

New comic book "The Beatles: Yellow Submarine" in the works

In celebration of next year's 50th anniversary of The Beatles: Yellow Submarine film, Titan Comics will publish an authorized comic adaptation of the movie. Bill Morrison, incoming editor for MAD Magazine, is writing and illustrating the comic.

(Hollywood Reporter)

Read the rest

A song for Donald Trump

Elite European sophistication prevails once again over vulgar American exports. Read the rest

Proof the Thomas the Tank Engine theme works with all rap

Readers familiar with music theory, riddim, or any other aspect of music deeper than a four-chord pop song may already be itching to leap into the comments to explain of course it does, that any bouncy predictable track can back any lines hitherto laid over any other bouncy predictable track.

But just as there is a weird power in Thomas the Tank Engine, there is an uncanny magic to Mike O' Donnell and Junior Campbell's theme.

Previously: Biggie Smalls the Tank Engine. Read the rest

More posts