How a Bell Labs engineer/artist created the sounds of planetary orbits for the Voyager Golden Record

During the 1960s and 1970s at Bell Labs, the intersection of science and art was rightfully recognized as an extremely fertile ground for creative and technological experimentation. New York City's avant-garde artists collaborated with Bell Labs engineers to develop new tools, technologies, and creative practices that continue to shape our digital world today. It was in Bell Labs' hotbed of digital creativity where composer and software engineer Laurie Spiegel helped make the future of electronic music. Waveshaper TV produced a multi-part interview with Spiegel whose seminal works, including The Expanding Universe, are available in stunning editions from the Unseen Worlds label.

I was particularly excited about Part 2 of the interview with Spiegel, released today and seen above, because it focuses on how she came to contribute an audio manifestation of "Kepler's Harmony of the Worlds" ("Music of the Spheres") to the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials attached to the Voyager I and II space probes launched in 1977. The Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach to Blind Willie Johnson to Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes. A short segment of Spiegel's "Music of the Spheres" opens the Voyager Record's "Sounds of Earth" segment, a collage of dozens of recordings that represent our planet, from birds and chimpanzees to thunder, a baby's cry, laughter, and a kiss.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Read the rest

Watch Kraftwerk's earliest concert video and witness the birth of the man-machines

From the archives of Germany's public broadcasting institution WDR, this televised concert video of Kraftwerk from 1970, the year of the band's formation. Even then, their post-Krautrock motorik dynamism is trance-inducing.

Far fucking out.

(via Laughing Squid) Read the rest

Jonathan Coulton is kickstarting an album of 70s soft rock covers

The marvellous Jonathan Coulton (previously) is crowdfunding for his next album, Some Guys, "An album of 70s soft rock covers that sound exactly like the originals" (America, Stephen Bishop, Gilbert O'Sullivan, 10cc, Bread, Eagles and more) -- he's raised more than $100K already with 12 days to go (I just backed him). $10 gets you a digital download, $15 adds a CD, $25 gets you a signed CD, $30 gets you vinyl, $40 gets you signed vinyl, and it goes up from there. (via Judge John Hodgman) Read the rest

Why Mozart's The Magic Flute is on the Voyager Golden Record

Aria Code is WQXR and Met Opera’s captivating podcast that deconstructs famous arias. Believe me, even if you don't know anything about opera, or think you "don't like it," Aria Code is a fascinating way in. This week, they delve into Mozart's Queen of the Night, "the rage-fest" from The Magic Flute. This is a special episode for me because this aria was included on the Voyager Golden Record, the iconic message for extraterrestrials attached to the Voyager I and II space probes launched in 1977. The Golden Record tells a story of our planet expressed in sounds, images, and science: Earth’s greatest music from myriad peoples and eras, from Bach to Blind Willie Johnson to Chuck Berry, Benin percussion to Solomon Island panpipes to, yes, Mozart's The Magic Flute.

Two years ago, my friends Timothy Daly, Lawrence Azerrad, and I released the Voyager Golden Record on vinyl for the first time as a lavish box set. Our project's resonance with the public, and the Grammy that we were honored to receive for it, are really a testament to the majesty of the original record. It's a stunning compilation that stands the test of time (and space).

Science and philosophy writer Timothy Ferris was the producer of the original Voyager Record. I was delighted to hear him on this episode of Aria Code explaining why the "Queen of the Night" made the cut and is now hurling through interstellar space.

"Mozart is an interesting composer from a mathematical standpoint," Tim says. Read the rest

The most sampled drum loop in history

The "Amen Break" is a six-second drum sample from a 1969 song called "Amen, Brother" by a band called The Winstons. Over time it became used in over 3,000 songs.

From Great Big Story:

What do Skrillex, David Bowie, Salt-N-Pepa and basically every drum and bass track have in common? They've all used the Amen break, a four-bar drum solo that has become the most sampled loop in music history. Recorded in 1969, the six second sample originates from the song “Amen, Brother” by The Winstons, a funk and soul group from Washington, D.C. For many years, the solo was buried deep in musical archives—that is until hip-hop pioneer Lou Flores, aka “Breakbeat Lou,” featured it on his compilation, “The Ultimate Breaks and Beats.” Once producers caught wind of the solo, it took off, going on to change music forever.

Image: Great Big Story/YouTube Read the rest

Blur's Song 2 performed on the Floppotron

Get your head checked with the latest from the Floppotron, an electronic music instrument comprising floppy drives and other ingeniously abused computing peripherals. [Previously at BB] Read the rest

Ozzy Osbourne sells bat plushie with detachable head

On Sunday, Ozzy Osbourne launched pre-orders for this darling plushie bat with a detachable head, and it has already sold out. Today is the 37th anniversary of Ozzy's show at Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Des Moines, Iowa during which he bit the head off a real bat. From a January 22, 1982 article in the Des Moines Register:

Osbourne reportedly put a dead bat in his mouth, bit its head off and threw it back into the crowd of about 5,000 at the auditorium Wednesday night.

Some skeptics think the whole thing was a publicity stunt – even the taking of the first of a series of five rabies shots at a Des Moines hospital after the concert.

But Mark Neal, 17, of Des Moines said he threw the dead bat onto the stage, saw Osbourne pick it up, bite its head off and then throw it into the audience.

“It really freaked me out,” Neal said. “I won’t get in any trouble for admitting this, will I?”

After the show, Osbourne went to Mercy Hospital Medical Center, and was referred to Broadlawns Medical Center because rabies vaccine was available there.

Read the rest

Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream," the deep house mix

From 1989, Fingers Inc.'s beautiful mix of "Can You Feel It" with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech:

Read the rest

Trailer for "Lords of Chaos," the horror-thriller about Norwegian black metal and murder

In the early 1990s, the burgeoning black metal scene in Norway was plagued with jealousy, violence, arson, and eventually murder. Lords of Chaos, named after Michael Moynihan and Didrik Søderlind's excellent non-fiction book, is a new film coming to theaters February 8 that tells the story of those loud, weird, dark times. Jonas Åkerlund directs and the cast includes Rory Culkin, Emory Cohen, Jack Kilmer, Sky Ferreira, and Valter Skarsgård.

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Making a song from the Tropic Thunder "I'm a Dude" quote with Teenage Engineering's amazing OP-1

It's a very expensive wee gadget, the Teenage Engineering OP-1 [Amazon link; a used one from eBay is much cheaper]! Yuri Wong is an expert with its sampling and sequencing tools, and this video he uploaded is a fascinating illustration of how powerful and approachable they are.

Download the mp3: https://gum.co/imadude [Logic Project download link below] I'm a fan of Tropic Thunder, especially Robert Downey's character of Kirk Lazarus and his brilliant line, "I'm a dude, playing a dude, disguised as another dude." Thought I'd play around with my Teenage Engineering OP-1 and see what comes out. I'm making the Logic Project for the full track downloadable. Here it is: https://gum.co/IurBZ Have a play around with the project, and if you feel like uploading anything from it, just credit my YouTube channel, thanks.

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Watch Miley Cyrus belt out Temple of the Dog's "Say Hello 2 Heaven" at Chris Cornell tribute

At last night's "I Am The Highway: A Tribute to Chris Cornell" concert in Los Angeles, Miley Cyrus belted out Temple of the Dog's "Say Hello 2 Heaven" backed up by Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament of Pearl Jam and Josh Freese and Brendan O'Brien. By all accounts, Cyrus's surprisingly fierce performance was a highlight of an incredible and emotional evening.

(via Billboard)

View this post on Instagram

Say Hello to Heaven... had a heavenly experience with you tonight, Chris. We felt you and heard you.... your words and spirit filled the room.... there was an overwhelming feeling of so much love... we miss you deeply ... tonight was an honor.... #chriscornelltribute

A post shared by Miley Cyrus (@mileycyrus) on Jan 17, 2019 at 1:38am PST

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Lorna Doom, bassist for the Germs, RIP

Lorna Doom, badass bassist of influential Los Angeles punk band the Germs, died yesterday. Formed in 1976, the Germs -- Doom, Darby Crash, Pat Smear, and Don Bolles in the classic line-up -- were at the center of the early Hollywood punk scene that spawned Black Flag, X, Fear, the Go-Go's, and so many seminal acts. From the Los Angeles Times:

Born Teresa Ryan, Doom became an icon of the U.S. punk explosion despite having to learn her instrument after already joining the band. Along with her high school friend Belinda Carlisle, who would become lead singer of the Go-Go’s, the bassist was part of the posse of Hollywood punks who sparked a West Coast music movement.

Doom’s death at age 61 was confirmed by her longtime friend and former Germs bandmate Don Bolles. A cause of death was not immediately available...

Germs' primal first album, “G.I.,” set the tone for the U.S. hardcore punk movement. The debut release by the fledgling indie label Slash, which was founded by the punk fanzine of the same name, the 1978 album felt zapped onto turntables from a way messier, more uncontrolled galaxy...

Slash Records also released the soundtrack to the Penelope Spheeris documentary “The Decline of Western Civilization,” which documented the Germs and other bands in performance. When the film became an unlikely indie hit, Doom’s work served as inspiration to countless female punks itching to break through the genre’s male-dominated glass ceiling.

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Toto's "Africa" plays on repeat in the middle of the Namib Desert... indefinitely

Namibian-German artist Max Siedentopf created "Toto Forever," an installation that plays the song "Africa" on repeat in the middle of southern Africa's Namib Desert. From the BBC News:

Mr Siedentopf tells the BBC it is set to play forever, with solar batteries "to keep Toto going for all eternity..."

"[I] wanted to pay the song the ultimate homage and physically exhibit 'Africa' in Africa," explains the 27-year-old artist.

"Some [Namibians] love it and some say it's probably the worst sound installation ever. I think that's a great compliment."

(via Fark) Read the rest

Steve Albini, legendary Big Black guitarist and Nirvana engineer, is also a poker champion

If you played poker with Steve Albini -- esteemed guitarist for Big Black, Rapeman, and Shellac, recording engineer for Nirvana, Pixies, and PJ Harvey -- he would take all your money. I was surprised to learn that last year Albini won gold in the World Series of Poker. Above, a short documentary about Albini's poker prowess.

(Poker Central via Uncrate) Read the rest

David Bowie's 11th studio album, "Low," is 42 today

Today marks the 42nd anniversary of the release of David Bowie's mid-70s masterpiece, Low, the first album of his so-called Berlin Trilogy (later joined by "Heroes" and Lodger). Working with the increasingly experimental Brian Eno, this album was a dramatic departure for Bowie and much has been made over the music, the strange (and strangely inspiring) milieu of the West Berlin recording studio up against the Berlin wall, Bowie's continuing battles with the coke monster, the highly experimental nature of the sessions, and the studio use of Eno's Oblique Strategies cards.

To celebrate this happy day, and some of the strangeness around this record, here is a hilarious animated piece done in 2014 by The Brothers McLeod. The McLeod piece is actually an animation for a radio bit done by UK comedian Adam Buxton. It is a loving lampoon of Bowie, Eno, and long-time Bowie collaborator and co-producer, Tony Visconti, in the studio recording "Warszawa," one of the more haunting and inscrutable tracks on the album. You can hear Buxton's original here (though most of it ended up in the McLeod Bros animation).

This video mini-doc, done several years ago by the Polish culture portal, Cultural.pl, retraces the train trip that Bowie took through Poland, with a stop-over in Warsaw, that inspired the song. On their website, you can read more about the trip, the song, and the Polish folk tune (Helokanie) that inspired some of the vocalization on the track.

Below is Bowie performing Warszawa in Tokyo, Japan on Dec 12, 1978. Read the rest

Behold the theorbo, an enormous baroque lute

"People complain a lot about the space that I take up", says Lutenist Elizabeth Kenny

[Kenny] explains how and why the theorbo was developed in the 17th century, what it was used for, and what it's like to carry it around on the train.

More fabulous videos of ancient and obscure instruments await at the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment YouTube channel. Read the rest

Pioneering punk print 'zine Maximum Rocknroll is ceasing publication after nearly 40 years

Maximum Rocknroll, the seminal punk print 'zine launched in 1982, is ceasing publication of its paper edition. This truly marks the end of an era in punk culture and underground media. According to today's announcement, MRR will continue its weekly radio show, post record reviews online, continue its archiving effort, and launch other new projects that will keep the unbreakable Maximum Rocknroll spirit alive. From MRR:

Maximum Rocknroll began as a radio show in 1977. For the founders of Maximum Rocknroll, the driving impulse behind the radio show was simple: an unabashed, uncompromising love of punk rock. In 1982, buoyed by burgeoning DIY punk and hardcore scenes all over the world, the founders of the show — Tim Yohannan & the gang — launched Maximum Rocknroll as a print fanzine. That first issue drew a line in the sand between the so-called punks who mimicked society’s worst attributes — the “apolitical, anti-historical, and anti-intellectual,” the ignorant, racist, and violent — and MRR’s principled dedication to promoting a true alternative to the doldrums of the mainstream. That dedication included anti-corporate ideals, avowedly leftist politics, and relentless enthusiasm for DIY punk and hardcore bands and scenes from every inhabited continent of the globe. Over the next several decades, what started as a do-it-yourself labor of love among a handful of friends and fellow travelers has extended to include literally thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of readers. Today, forty-two years after that first radio show, there have been well over 1600 episodes of MRR radio and 400 issues of Maximum Rocknroll fanzine — not to mention some show spaces, record stores, and distros started along the way — all capturing the mood and sound of international DIY punk rock: wild, ebullient, irreverent, and oppositional.

Read the rest

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