|07-06-2022, 04:09 PM||#822 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: The Organized Mind
Announcement: I’ve published a book of my writings!
Friends, I'm honored to share that I am now a published author with my book available at the link below! This book comprises the first 12 years of my publications showcasing highlights of my Archive, as well as select previously unpublished works.
There were several breakthroughs which helped me accelerate the timeline of the project. First, I amassed 339 of my articles from 12 years of publishing online in just 5.5 hours. Second, I taught myself RegEx to batch process all formatting to clean up the raw text. Third, I discovered a free extension to format 1,388 images in under 2 minutes. Then I developed a process which permitted me to burn through 1,400 pages of material in just 2 hours.
Unfortunately, the remaining work seemed insurmountable. Due to a glitch in the conversion, I had to go sentence by sentence through the remaining 2,000 pages of text to correct all the missing paragraph breaks and all 1,388 mis-positioned images. I feared I might have to quit my job and devote my full attention to the project to complete it in any reasonable span of time, but I worked hard through May and into June and by June 15th I’d completed the reformatting of all 289 finally-selected articles. I tidied up the book and carefully analyzed the subsequent text and images so as not to create more problems in the process. There were a few minor anomalies I was unable to remove without compromising the remaining text, but nothing which impairs readability so I was able to move forward.
Thereafter I proactively researched and drafted a design brief to commission the cover artwork and to register the ISBN. The brief included a short author bio, a back-cover blurb, a summary of my business brand, my target audience, values to communicate in the cover design, stylistic preferences, output specs, and example images of books by competing authors in my field. This was a serious endeavor and I worked to ensure that every aspect of the project was handled as professionally as possible.
I did discover, due to the substantial page length of my manuscript, that it exceeds the maximum length for a printable paperback or hardcover by Amazon’s terms of service, so unfortunately this will be exclusively issued in the ebook format. But as I’ve incorporated hundreds of links to web content on sites like YouTube, perhaps it will function best as a digital edition. The only other way to get a printed version would be to issue the book in a series of volumes, but I’m not ready for that presently. At least as an ebook it made the design process markedly simpler to implement.
I encountered one last critical hurdle when I attempted to upload my finalized PDF using the PDF Upload button on Amazon's Kindle Store. Tragically, the button returned a red "X" with no error message when I tried to upload my book. I contacted their support team and they explained that they only support simple PDFs without images or significant length.
They suggested I try their native ebook conversion utility, but it is only available for Windows and Mac users, and I use Linux. They offered to convert it for me manually on their end, and I similarly tried converting it locally using the popular Calibre application. Sadly, the .epub and .mobi outputs of the book compromised all formatting and it looked awful.
Undeterred and determined to succeed, I researched alternatives and successfully published through Google Books who support PDF with no conversion necessary. The book is live at last!
Publishing this book is a dream come true for me! This is particularly gratifying as my writings will remain long after I've left this earth for the whole world to enjoy and to continue inspiring rewarding listenership for years to come.
Check out The Ghost of Madame Curie: Writings from Innerspace Labs at the link below!
|07-06-2022, 09:22 PM||#824 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2009
Congratulations again, and a copy just purchased here. The TOC in itself is a feast for the eyes. And I just took a peek at Nipper on p. 47! Seriously, I can already tell that this is an incredible and unique resource. You should be very proud of your accomplishments, JP.
|09-03-2022, 03:05 PM||#827 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: The Organized Mind
Years of Searching for a Community of Peers – A Few Previously Unpublished Thoughts
Revisiting a few of my unpublished articles, notes, and remarks from the last six years, I felt a compulsion to record them once and for all for whatever the act might be worth. I’d also dusted off my bookmarks folder of all my favorite socio-cultural blogs only to find that every one of them had since been retired and stripped from the Web. That realization reinforces my resolve to document these thoughts and questions which still remain on my mind years after penning them and my search for a community to share these ideas.
Here they are...
This write up, concluding with an intimate conversation with a scholarly peer, helped me arrive at a very difficult conclusion about my work.
I welcome my readers’ ideas.
|10-01-2022, 06:48 PM||#828 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: The Organized Mind
A Look at This Is What It Sounds Like: What The Music You Love Says About You
I've just read Susan Rogers' new book, This Is What It Sounds Like: What The Music You Love Says About You. Special thanks to my librarian cousin for the recommendation!
Rogers worked as a producer on albums from Prince's Purple Rain to Barenaked Ladies before securing a doctorate in psychology from McGill University. Her research focuses on auditory memory, the perception of musical signals, and the influence of musical training on auditory development. The book is written in an accessible style to readily aid any music lover in discovering their unique “listener profile.” I'll share my results from reading the text as an example of what you'll find.
Rogers' first evaluatory metric is Authenticity, characterized on a scale of “below-the-neck” to “above.” I found that I most often prefer cerebral music "from the neck up."
The next chapter is on Realism. Here, I naturally gravitate toward the pole of highly-abstract musical properties.
Then she moves on to Familiarity vs Novelty. I generally prefer novel "art music." Engaging with novel stimuli demands more cognitive effort and commitment than engaging with the routine. The greater the novelty, the heavier the cognitive load on the listener. Still, for Familiarity I enjoy the predictable properties of ambient and drone music to balance my taste for novelty.
Next up was Melody. Rogers explains that the dimension of the Melodic Spectrum has three axes - melodic range (narrow vs wide), articulation (legato vs staccato), and complexity (simple vs complex). I prefer narrower melodic contours, as employed in minimalist compositions like Glass' Koyaanisqatsi, and legato notes which float into one another like in many ethereal ambient compositions. Interestingly, I embrace both simple and complex works, from droning minimal soundscapes to the hypercomplexity of many pieces in the classical avant-garde.
Chapter 5 explores Lyrics. On the lyrical spectrum, I am most affected by the stream-of-consciousness abstract and subjectless rapid-fire lyricism of wordsmiths like Karl Hyde or M Doughty where words' semantic value takes a back seat to their rhythmic device. But one notable exception to this preference is the masterful songwriting prowess of Tom Waits. The dark, downtrodden visual worlds he paints with his lyrics are sombre, melancholic, vulnerable and hauntingly beautiful.
Chapter 6 examines Rhythm, spanning from straight to syncopated. I enjoy metronomic rhythms like those of four-on-the-floor house music and the static linearity of minimalism. But I also have a proclivity for funk's emphasis "on the one."
The next chapter is on Timbre. My interest in timbre is all over the sonic spectrum, ranging from frail and intimate vocals to dehumanized electroacoustic synthesis. Timbre is a complex and nuanced property of music that greatly contributes to each of our unique listening profiles.
Following Timbre, a chapter called Form and Function touches upon just a few of the near-infinite pool of decisions a record producer must resolve in order to make a great record. I developed a newer and greater appreciation for producers in the pop music sphere after reading it.
The final chapter wraps things up nicely revisiting the seven dimensions of your listener profile - the four musical dimensions of melody, lyrics, rhythm, and timbre, and the three aesthetic dimensions of authenticity, realism, and novelty and the factors which influence these aspects throughout our lives.
The one thing that is the most consistent throughout every chapter of this book is Rogers' pure love of music. And that's what made it a resonating and satisfying read. She's inspired me to listen more consciously and attentively in an effort to rediscover and refine my listener profile.
I’ll close with my favorite quote from the book - “Oh! The crystal-clear fidelity of that mix! It was beyond anything I had ever heard before, and I remember thinking, I can tell what color socks the drummer is wearing!”
Dive in at https://www.thisiswhatitsoundslike.com/.
|10-22-2022, 07:53 AM||#829 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: The Organized Mind
Sleeping to Music - Sleep Headphones and Accompanying Soundtracks for Slumber
Recently I had an idea to explore the market and technology of “sleep headphones” - that is, headphones designed to wear all night while the listener sleeps. As my readers know well, the ambient segment of my archive comprises over 60,000 ambient tracks from nearly 5,000 artists’ discographies. My bedroom is set up with a dedicated amplifier and a tablet wirelessly patched into my server on my home network which plays ambient music through a vintage pair of Advent One speakers my late father passed down to me for 10-12 hours each night while I sleep.
Unfortunately, as the albums must be played at a minimal volume for sleep, the environmental noise of rainfall, passing cars, and my furnace drown out much of the nuance and delicate sounds of the music. This is why I decided to explore an alternate solution.
A quick search on Amazon returns a product named as Amazon's Choice for the category of "sleep headphones” - called MUSICOZY Sleep Headphones Bluetooth Headband Wireless Music Headband Headphones. The product has 12,698 ratings and an average of 4.3 stars and is priced at just $19.99. The headband is lightweight, breathable, pairs wirelessly over Bluetooth, and the lithium ion battery lasts for ten hours on a single charge.
I carefully read through the product details and was seriously considering clicking that big “buy” button, but I took some extra time to read through all of the customer reviews as well as the question-and-answer section from those who purchased the product. This revealed an undesirable property of the model - notably that the speakers emit a loud “low battery” warning every time they are in need of a charge. A few customers complained that this is jarring and wakes them up from a sound sleep.
So I searched Amazon again, and found something intriguing. I discovered a very similar model from a different manufacturer, called Perytong Bluetooth Sleep Headphones Wireless, Sports Headband Headphones. These were curiously also named as Amazon's Choice, but this time for the nearly-identical category of "sleep+headphones” (that’s with a plus symbol between the search terms). This product has 39,919 ratings - more than three times that of the former model, and matches its average of 4.3 stars. Both devices offer Bluetooth pairing and a battery life of ten hours with an approximate two-hour re-charge time. This model was priced at $39.99 marked down to a deal price of just $19.99, and it is available in a variety of colors.
I carefully read through the question-and-answer section and other buyers confirmed that this model has no low battery warning sounds. I surmised that other customers had viewed and compared the same products that I had.
The most promising review came from a customer named Joshua B who said:
These headphones have become my go to for night listening and sleeping, for these reasons…
The headband feels lightweight and doesn't heat up, even during summer nights with windows open.
As long as my head is on something soft like my pillow, the round, hard plastic speakers inside the headband do not get in the way or introduce much discomfort or pain. This makes side, back, or stomach sleeping and listening comfortable. I can turn to any side and the headband remains in reasonable position on my head, and speakers in reasonable position at my ears. I make small adjustments to the speaker positions, but this is not a hardship. If I'm on my side, sometimes I can feel one of the round speakers pressuring my ear. So far it hasn't bothered me.
While both left and right speakers need to be adjusted/positioned within the headband each time I put it on, this is a minor inconvenience for comfortable listening without discomfort.
The battery life easily lasts all night and into the next morning. It lasts two nights. I find myself charging the headphones either once a day or once every two days, just to be sure they're fully charged. Charging is fast.
The plug-in side of the USB-C cable is actually tucked into the back of the headband. I can easily locate it, pull it out, and plug in. Surprisingly, it's not uncomfortable tucked back into the headband, while wearing. Do the plug and the two round, plastic speakers feel a little clunky? Yes they do. I envision this design being refined over time.
Overall, this is my favorite sleeping headphone set. Battery life is great. Comfort is fine. Easily better experience than earbuds or a headphone form factor.
I did a bit of Googling outside of Amazon before finalizing my decision and found that the latter model was also the Editor's Pick on Sleepopolis’ article showcasing the best Headphones for Sleeping. For under $20 it seemed like a safe bet.
They arrived just a few days later. Exploring the modest packaging and reviewing the included instruction guide, they seemed like a very straightforward product. No USB charging brick is included, but thankfully I had a spare. And evidently the headphones only accept a charge when used with the short charging cable included with the device. The product touts a lifetime warranty, while customer service is provided via a personal gmail account address included in the manual. Hopefully the manufacturer will be around long enough to honor it. (But hey - it was only $19.99.)
There were a few key functions to note. When the headband is fully charged, (in approximately two hours), the charging light on the front of the headband turns solid blue. To connect to Bluetooth, the user presses and holds the Play/Pause button. The headphones will enter pairing mode. Turn on the Bluetooth of your device and connect to the headphones. That was a snap.
Short press the minus button to advance to the next song. Long-hold the minus button to lower the volume. Short press the plus button to reverse one song. Long-hold the plus button to raise the volume. And long-pressing the center play/pause button powers the device on and off.
And yes - the headphones work with Bluetooth phone calls.
After a brief acclimation with the product I queued up a seven-hour-long album on my tablet and scanned through the tracks adjusting the volume to make sure I wouldn’t be disturbed by a spike in sound in the middle of the night. I found I was able to rest comfortably on my back or on my sides without any pressure from the speakers. The headband was fairly comfortable and breathable like the other reviewers had described.
Of course, these are not audiophile speakers by any stretch of the imagination. They’re just small, efficient speakers for yoga, workouts, or sleep. As most of the albums I’ll be playing in them will be minimal drones at a very low volume, the music isn’t going to be pushing the limits of the speakers, and I’ll be asleep for most of the listening sessions, so I am fine with that. Once again - they were under $20.
The music was enjoyable with the Perytong headphones I selected. I did notice that a lot of the subtle detail of the raindrops in the recording were lost with these speakers, but that was to be expected. It still sounded pleasant and relaxing which is just what I need to sleep.
Unfortunately, due to a combination of my excitement at acquiring new audio tech for my favorite genre coupled with the novelty experience of my first-listen, I remained awake for nearly the entire seven-hour duration of the album. But that was a consequence of my overactive mind and not a fault of the product. I just need to get accustomed to this new listening dynamic. In time I hope to experience a more restful sleep with them on. So far, I’m pleased with the purchase.
Now on to my promised Accompanying Soundtracks for Slumber. I took a quick look and put together a brief list of highlights. Forgive me - I can do much better when I have time to dedicate to the task. But at a quick glance…
There are a few noteworthy long-form sleep albums, including:
Max Richter's Sleep (8 hours)
Robert Rich's Somnium (7 hours) - this was the album I employed for my first-listen
and Perpetual - A Somnium Continuum (8 hours)
Larger catalogs and archives for ambient listening include:
Hearts of Space (1327+ broadcast library)
Ambient Music Guide Podcast series (55 mixes)
A Strangely Isolated Place (62 mixes)
Brian Eno (the ambient portion of his 410 major releases)
William Basinski (23 albums)
selections from 36 (22 albums)
Mathias Grassow (149 albums)
Robert Rich (72 albums)
Deuter (89 albums)
Klaus Wiese (100 albums)
Harold Budd (82 albums)
Steve Roach (162 albums)
Music For Sleep (29 albums)
As well as a few sleep album favorites -
Pauline Oliveros, Stuart Dempster, Panaiotis – Deep Listening
The KLF - Chill Out
Jimmy Cauty - Space
This Is Not What Space Is About
This Is Not What Chill Out Is About
Peter Broderick - Float
Lawrence English - A Colour For Autumn
John Foxx - Cathedral Oceans Vols I-III
Moby - Calm. Sleep.
Tom Middleton - Sleep Better
And additional albums from artists including:
Stars of the Lid
A Winged Victory For The Sullen
Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto
The Album Leaf
Tapes and Topographies
and Nils Frahm
To supplement and introduce new content into my library for sleep accompaniment, I compiled album data from various sources around the web. I’ll share a few of those chart and list sites below for my readers to join me on my journey of exploration for quality ambient soundscapes for sleep.
The first is Atmospheres and Landscapes: 600 Greatest Ambient Releases from data on RateYourMusic.com:
Then I found a second chart on the same site from a user named wilczur for 750+ Ambient Essential Albums Ranked:
Next I compiled a database showcasing highlights of ambient drone artists’ catalogs. Below is the introduction from the accompanying documentation I authored:
Artist names were sourced from music-map.com entering Stars of the Lid as the core artist value and pulling favorites from the most similar (proximate) artists in the cluster.
Each artist/composer was then run through rateyourmusic.com and all of their releases were then sorted from highest to lowest overall score from the userbase's ratings.
Albums I've already exhausted from my own library were omitted so that the list would comprise new or lesser-experienced releases of the genre.
The resulting LPs were indexed for future listening.
From that list, I assembled a roster of examples of “bleak and haunting yet beautiful music, like the emptiness of a barren and gray wasteland (Ambient, Minimal, Drone)."
Then I constructed a chronological survey of Minimal Ambient Modern Classical Music from other articles around the Web.
For more quality content, I compiled ambient titles contributed by members of the SteveHoffman music forum at the links below:
Any ambient recommendations?
Top Five Ambient: Your Choices?
And I wrapped up my research refining various incarnations of an ambient music introductory guide I'd authored and shared with friends over the years. The present iteration of my Introduction to Ambient Music (Revised Edition) was incorporated into the book I published.
There are also a variety of sleep music streaming sites and apps, including:
calm.com/music (the same as meditationoasis.com)
Ultima Thule Ambient Music Radio - Listen to Ultima Thule
I've additionally bookmarked each of the generative music apps showcased at Brian Eno's generativemusic.com but haven't yet tried sleeping to them.
I’m definitely interested in continuing to expand my library of sleep music. I’m always interested in exploring more non-sequencer based, beatless ambient minimal tone poems such as Indo-Tibetan music for meditation, generative soundscapes, etc. I enjoy veteran minimalists like Harold Budd, Steve Roach, and Robert Rich who are regularly featured on transmissions of Hearts of Space. I have a complete HOS archive, as well as all the essential artist discographies, from Popol Vuh to Klaus Wiese, and their contemporaries like Music For Sleep and Stars of the Lid.
I also have complete vinyl and digital archives of foundational ambient kosmische musik discographies such as those of Cluster and Harmonia and other forebearers of the genre. I'm looking for quality catalogs beyond the common threads. Neo-classical composers like Max Richter are welcome as well. As I mentioned the ambient segment of my library clocks in at over 60,000 recordings, but I'm always interested in new discoveries. I’m ideally looking for soundscapes for work and sleep to quiet an overactive mind. I invite my readers to share any music they find well-suited to sleep-listening, or if they find any value in the selections I’ve noted above.
Forgive me for any glaring omissions in my own offerings. Happy sleeping!
|05-05-2023, 04:16 PM||#830 (permalink)|
Join Date: Feb 2015
Location: The Organized Mind
An Ambient Triumph - Fred Again.. and Brian Eno’s New LP, Secret Life
Dearest readers, I am excited to offer this small write-up to you in the spring of 2023 as it marks my first emergence from my post-book-publication hiatus. I really felt like I’d said all I had to say about music, and the act of publishing gave me pause to contemplate the vastly-transformed landscape of how the world consumes and engages music in the 21st century and how it left me feeling “old and in the way.”
However, upon hearing the latest collaborative effort from my hero, the great Brian Eno, I felt that familiar compulsion to return to my desk and start writing once more to share the joy of my discovery. How fitting that this stimulus came from the same artist who inspired my life-long passion for the ambient music genre at a young age - that he, more than 20 years later, would continue to be a wellspring of creative force within me to reach out to my readers once again.
Eno’s representation in my archive demonstrates my commitment to his catalogue. In addition to the dozens of art prints, books, lithographs, 412 digital releases, and other miscellanea I’ve acquired, I’ve successfully built a sizable library of most major releases issued in the vinyl format by the artist. My library to date comprises 49 of his best-loved works totaling 77 discs of content, including the highly sought-after Music For Installations 9LP limited edition box set. After resolving to retire (mostly) from record collecting, I’ve yet to claim vinyl editions of his releases from 2022 forward, however the consistent quality of those works often gives me moments of reconsideration. Perhaps a few exceptions for my hero’s occasional releases are in order.
At the age of 74, Mr. Eno has shown no sign of slowing down, himself. In 2021, he and his brother Roger Eno premiered their first-ever performance together at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, an ancient theatre of the Acropolis as part of the Athens Epidaurus Festival. Then in 2022, he released the brilliant and critically-lauded album, FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE, featuring his vocals as primary focus across an entire album for the first time since 2005's Another Day On Earth. His work continued in 2023, with a special limited instrumental edition of FOREVERANDEVERNOMORE titled, Forever Voiceless for Record Store Day. And on May 5, 2023, Eno released an all-new collaborative album titled Secret Life with the young producer “Fred Again..”
Frederick John Philip Gibson, (born 19 July 1993) known professionally as Fred again.. or simply FRED, is a British record producer, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and DJ. The new album is not the first time the two composers have met. At age 16, Gibson joined an a cappella group at Brian Eno's studio in London, who was his family's neighbour at the time. And in 2014, he collaborated as co-producer and songwriter with Eno and Karl Hyde on their two project albums Someday World and High Life. This was particularly interesting as Gibson exhibits a similar approach to that of Hyde’s notable work with Underworld where his use of vocals is that of rhythmic device rather than communicating directly through language, as most-famously demonstrated in their anthem, “Born Slippy .NUXX.”
While Gibson may likely be the youngest collaborator of Eno’s to date, he is no novice to the musical world. Gibson won Producer of the Year at the Brit Awards 2020 - the youngest producer to ever win the title. And another fun bit of trivia - his artist name came from a line in the live action movie “Scooby-Doo” where Fred, (in the voice of Daphne) says: “I’m Fred Again..”.
In addition to Gibson’s own album catalogue, he collaborated with Four Tet and Skrillex on the track "Baby again.." released on the USB EP in 2022, played several shows with both artists in 2023, and performed with them for the closing set at Coachella. There are notable parallels in Gibson and Four Tet’s album production techniques and their penchant for glitchy-yet-organic lowercase-styled sonic effects, particularly with their manipulation of vocals and minimalist percussion. Secret Life was released on Four Tet’s own label, Text Records, and Four Tet called it “the most beautiful album of 2023.”
Throughout his long, illustrious career, Eno has been famously committed to never making the same album twice. And the ambient genre is a dangerous and notorious field where a composer could easily get comfortable embracing the “less-is-more” aesthetic and philosophy resulting in pleasant but well-tread, familiar territory. However, his new collaboration with Fred Again.. maintains his consistent track record of pioneering and refreshingly-contemporary content. Fred lends his unique voice (both artistically and literally), and his modern mastery of album production to Eno’s refined veteran technique and the result is purely inspiring.
Secret Life is a work of lush and ethereal ambient pop in the spirit of the finest post-minimal works. Gibson’s vocal contributions were a surprise for an ambient record, but are employed sparingly to evoke emotion and masterfully-processed such that they in no way detract from the ambience. From the delicate and longing evocations of the album’s stand-out lyrical track, “Secret” to the sparsely minimalist but soulful fragmented vocal crooning of “Chest,” Secret Life is a fragile and textural album-wide soundscape of yearning.
RYM user foxtrot_stowaway poetically summarizes the nature of the album saying, “It's incredibly beautiful but also full of these massive, aching pangs of nostalgia/regret. It is epically life affirming but also epically devastating.” This is most-evident in the chiefly-lyrical track “Secret,” with its slowly-unfolding lo-fi lyrics:
“I miss you so much… but you’re not out of sight… cause I’m still… breathing… in my secret life… hold on, hold on, my brother… my sister, hold on tight… finally found my whole life… So I've been marchin' 'til the mornin', marchin' through the night… moving cross the borders… of my secret life… of my secret life.”
This is an album that, much in its spirited thematic romanticism, stretches time, itself. It’s a newfound favourite post-minimalist work, approaching the accolades of Max Richter’s epic 8-and-a-half-hour Sleep album from 2015. The triumph here is Secret Life’s low-fidelity execution of marrying the dissonance between fractured and fragmented microtonal cut-up music and soothingly warm, organic mellow ambience. Secret Life easily charts among my top releases of 2023.