The Photoshop of Sound – The New Yorker

Alex Ross, writing for the New Yorker about John and Helen Meyer and their Constellation sound system:

There is something philosophically disquieting about the Meyers’ work, as there is in any digital makeover of reality. Both at Oliveto and at SoundBox, the Constellation process never seemed obviously fake or too good to be true, and yet I had a sense of being ensconced in an audio cocoon. In the concert setting, I missed the thrum of floorboards under my feet—the full physical tingle of reverberation. Traditionalists will insist that there is no substitute for a first-class hall, and they will be right. They should bear in mind, though, that technology has been retouching the sound image for centuries; instrument design, concert-hall architecture, and listening habits inculcated by listening to recordings have all shaped what we hear and how we hear it.

via The Photoshop of Sound – The New Yorker.

I’ve had some experience with sound equipment, both in live amplification and recording settings, and this seems like science fiction to me. The first part of the story details how it can be used to modify the acoustics of a restaurant, to the point where the next table over sounds distant enough to – not only – not be a distraction but also maintain a lively atmosphere. Apparently, these are also appearing in concert halls around the world.

I’d say that I’d love to hear one, but it’s possible that I already have and not realized it.

Eric Whitacre on Reddit

Use the smallest amount of musical material possible. I wish I could tell myself that now. Make every single note be a reflection of a few simple ideas and throw everything else away. And don’t overthink it – if the piece wants to be simple and elegant then let it be.

via I am Eric Whitacre, composer, conductor, 5th member of Depeche Mode (application pending). AMA! : IAmA.

A Morning Ritual for German Learning

It's not just for German though.


This photo represents one of my better ideas. As part of my miracle morning, I’ve created this routine that allows me to do my German study right away. If you’re trying to learn a new language and want to systemize your study, then give this a shot.

Here are the basic steps:

  1. Journal in German. Right now I write one page by hand every morning. This was very hard when I began, but it’s become progressively easier, and I keep my computer nearby to clarify grammar or look up words when I get stuck. If a page is too much, then just write a few sentences.
  2. Save new words. If I look up a word, I write it down within a monthly note in Evernote beside the definition, and then I’ll highlight the word in orange.
  3. Read. In this case it’s Calvin und Hobbes. It’s lighthearted, and the vocab ranges from truly child-like (“Mami” “Vati”) to advanced. Again, any words I look up are written into Evernote, though I don’t highlight anything. If you’re not really ready to do serious reading in German, then you might consider studying a blog like German is Easy.
  4. Review. The next day, I can look at the highlighted words, and I have a list of words that I’ve looked up. When I journal, I can then try and use the words I learned the day before. I can also try to incorporate new words into what I say during the day.
  5. Listen to German podcasts. When I move on to my mobilization exercises, I’ll pop in my headphones and listen to a podcast in German. On weekdays, this is usually Langsam Gesprochene Nachrichten, though I subscribe to several others as well.

In total, this lasts about 40 minutes, and it happens after I’ve done my meditation.

Can’t See the Trees for the Forest at the 2015 Grammys

The Recording Academy clearly has a problem with how to acknowledge diversity. Tons of pundits are now claiming that Beck and Beyoncé’s albums are so different from each other and that to lump them together is not fair to either of them. But what about albums (all 2015 Grammy winners) that are even more different than either of those…

What would have happened if those albums were allowed to compete in the “Record of the Year” category? Would Kanye West have attempted to bum rush the show if Hilary Hahn or JLA got the nod? (That’s something that would have increased everyone’s awareness of those two extraordinary albums, and I say this as someone who is a huge fan of both Beck and Kanye.)

via Can’t See the Trees for the Forest at the 2015 Grammys | NewMusicBox.

I finally listened to John Luther Adams’ “Become Ocean” yesterday (the winner for Best Contemporary Classical Composition), and it’s extraordinary. Beck’s “Morning Phase” might still have won with more variety in the album of the year category (I do like Beck quite a bit). As it is, it does appear there’s a tacit disregard for anything truly outside of the popular music machine.

Pair Up Shorter Contrasting Operas?

I really don’t know why not.  There are lots of works that last around 45 minutes to 75 minutes that could be done in all sorts of intriguing combinations.  There are verismo classics and works by 19th century composers that would maybe help bring in the more conservative crowd…Maybe one could program a “crowd pleaser” with something more esoteric? Il Tabarro and The Lighthouse? Dido and Aeneas and Airline Icarus? Would this help expose some people to newer music who would never sign up for a full length opera by Birtwistle or Reimann? I find the idea intriguing.

via Shorter operas | operaramblings.

Me too. Doing Der Rosenkavalier right now, it is remarkable just how long it is, and I think of it as being one of the more “accessible” full-length operas. No matter how easy on the ears, 4 hours or thereabouts is a real commitment.

I’d love to do two shorter pieces in one evening with very stark musical contrast, and I would be curious how audiences found those new combinations.