Category Archives: Music

WTB: Muzak Control Knob

Remember these? If you ever worked in a restaurant or hotel in the 70s or 80s you probably had one on the wall in a closet or back room somewhere. Now I’m on the lookout to find one I can wire up to the living room dimmer switch. If you know where to find one, let me know! (eBay is turning up squat).

muzak

Kraftwerk 3D Live

New at Stuck Between Stations, my review of recent amazing experience watching Kraftwerk on their Live 3D tour:

Soon after their very early Can-like Krautrock years, Kraftwerk began to develop and refine a hardcore man-machine aesthetic, imagining themselves as cyborg musicians, as much enslaved by technology as liberated by it. The amazing thing is that the band-machine has been able to sustain itself on that track. Almost any other group would have gone on to other things after the vein ran cold, but Kraftwerk continue to tap the mineshaft of digitalized culture as deep as it wants to go.

More:

kraftwerk

How To Create iTunes Smart Playlists with Implied Criteria

If you’re not using Smart Playlists in iTunes, you should be. Whether you want to create simple query-backed playlists like “1920s Jazz” or “Funk and Soul”, Smart Playlists give you the ability to treat your iTunes music collection like an actual database. The beauty part is that Smart Playlists update themselves in real time as conditions change in your iTunes database.

A common/favorite Smart Playlist is the invaluable “Unplayed” list which lets you make sure you’ve heard everything in your collection at least once. To create an Unplayed list, just use the criteria “Plays is less than 1″:

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In my case, I’m also excluding all Podcasts and Voice Memos – I’m interested in Music here.

But it gets more interesting (and more fun) than that.
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Tiny Album Art

As I go through this massive CD and LP digitization project, I don’t want to add cover art to any album that’s smaller than 800px. For those albums that don’t have their cover art retrieved automatically, I search Google images for it.

Incredibly frustrated that it’s so rare to find artwork at a reasonable resolution. The vast majority is at 400px or smaller, and I consider myself lucky to find anything at even 640px. Which forces me to put those discs into the “scan” pile, where I’ll generate 1000px album covers (and yes, I’ll share them with the intertubes later).

The question is, why?

Surely, everyone out there scanning or photographing LP or CD art isn’t scanning the originals that small. And hopefully they’re not adding them to their collections or putting them on web sites that small. Is there some kind of blocking going on that I should know about? This seems crazy.

CD Resale Value Plummeting as Record Stores Breathe Last Breath

Nearing the end of this massive, multi-person music digitization process, starting to return vast collections of amazing music to friends, and came across my own boxes of “discards.” Painful to let go, but it’s only 10% of the collection, and I have to be honest that I haven’t stuck a CD in a slot for a very long time and probably never will again.

Lugged 400 discs down to Downhome Music, knowing that they’d appreciate a lot of them. Bummed to learn that with everyone going or having gone all-digital, CD resale value is down to $1 or $1.50/disc, and some stores now doing closer to $0.50/disc.

The buyer waved his arm at the inside of the store, which was empty on a Sunday afternoon. “This will all be gone soon” he said. There is no market left for used CDs, so they have to sell them dirt cheap, which means they can no longer pay for them.

Miles record shopping

Digitization has all but killed the newspaper. All but killed the bookstore. All but killed the record store. I blame Obama the job killer.

Was half-tempted to refuse and hold onto them for nostalgia’s sake, but realism got the better of me and I walked out with the money (didn’t even take trade-in value like I used to).

Music has become a non-physical phenomenon. That’s completely normal for the younger generations, completely weird for us oldsters. I embrace the convenience but curse the side effects, even as I’m part of the problem.

Searching for Sugar Man

New at Stuck Between Stations, my mini-review of the fantastic documentary about the life of Detroit troubador Rodriguez, Searching for Sugar Man.

Meanwhile, a couple bootleg copies of his records somehow made it to South Africa, where his music became the soundtrack for the young adult revolution against apartheid. “Cold Fact” and “Coming From Reality” became record collection staples of pretty much every South African. “If someone had Beatles and Stones records, they had the Rodriguez records too.” In fact, most South Africans will tell you today that Rodriguez was bigger than the Stones in their country.

Searching-for-sugar-man-poster

1920s Banjojele

Just walked out of 5th String in Oakland with a 90+ year old instrument – a 1920s banjolele, with a wonderful nasally jazz sound. Thinking of the rooms it has played, the vibrations that have moved through this wood! Built like a tank, too. Maker unknown – lost to history. My first antique instrument.

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A couple people asked for sound samples, so here you go – the first compares the banjolele to a modern Kamaka soprano, the other is just a few Velvet Underground riffs.

Crestmont 4/5 Sound Science Fair

Wonderful watching and hearing the fourth and fifth graders explain their audio science projects this morning – such a broad topic, and every kid had a completely different take. Recorded some random audio samples this morning while meandering from theremin to echolocation demo to analog amplifiers to oscilloscope to homemade stethoscope to foley demo… the variety was fantastic.

For a taste, start the audio, then start the slideshow and choose the Full Screen option.

Flickr Set

Listen to Your Home iTunes Collection from Work

It’s a well-known bummer that the iTunes “Share” feature only works over your local LAN. You may have no intention of sharing your music collection with the world, or of running your own little public radio station from home, but you simply can’t connect to an iTunes library from another network. It’s a feature, not a bug.

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Of course, iTunes Match is meant to solve exactly this problem, but Match has a fatal flaw that makes it unusable by the people who need it the most – its 25,000 song limit. For those of us with legit collections of 50k or 75k tracks, Match isn’t an option. Shame, too – I’d happily pay 2x or 3x the subscription price to get Match working. It’s the answer to my prayers, but off-limits. Apple won’t take my money to solve this problem.

So what if you just want to be able to listen to music on a Mac at home from work? It is possible, but it’ll take some setup work, and 60 bucks (which is one-time fee, and money you won’t have to pay to Apple, Pandora, rdio, MOG or Spotify). And, in my experience, those streaming services only have about half the music in my collection – if I want to listen to my music from work, this is the only option.

The setup works like this:

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shacker’s Jam Odyssey

thisismyjam.com encourages users to post one new track per week, with embedded video. I wasn’t religious about keeping up with in 2012, but did manage to post about half the time. The end-of-year twist is that they can (on request) produce a compilation of snippets for the entire year, as a “Jam Odyssey.” Pretty cool idea. Here’s mine:

shacker’s Jam Odyssey