If you whistle a tune often enough to a starling, the bird will not only sing it back to you, it will improvise its response and create something new. On May 27, 1784, Mozart whistled a 17 note phrase to a starling in a Viennese shop and to his delight it spat the tune right back — but not without taking some liberties first. So he bought it and brought it home. That bird lived with him for the three most productive years of his life, during which he completed more than 60 compositions, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The piano concerto as we still understand it was built in those rooms. The “Jupiter” Symphony began and Figaro ended. Melodies that two centuries of humans have since whistled could have first been volleyed between a genius and his pet bird.
Part 4 of an interview with noted video game developer M2, upon the completion of Outrun 3D, the latest on a series of 'SEGA 3D Classics', in which games from the golden era of arcades are meticulously ported to the Nintendo 3DS (!!) handheld system using a variety of interesting, fairly obsessive techniques. [more inside]
Photographer Andrew B. Myers makes photographs that don't look like photographs so much as like clean-edged graphic design illustrations. Much of his work combines vibrant colors, flat, non-gradated lighting with crisp shadows, and a long-lens isometric composition to create tableaux that resemble old-school screensavers or wallpaper prints.
Art History explained using Gifs (related: The true story of an art history grad student explained via gifs)
Who Wore It Better is an ongoing visual research project presenting associations and common practices in contemporary art.
When looking for inspiration, most songwriters to go well-used emotional wells – triumph or loss, love or heartbreak. But Peter Larsen, a biologist at Argonne National Laboratory, looked to the microbes of the English Channel. He used seven years’ worth of genetic and environmental data, converting geochemical and microbial abundance measurements into notes, beats, and chords.
In honor of the 100th birthday of iconoclastic composer John Cage (previously), NPR asked 33 musicians about the effect Cage has had on their art. The Los Angeles Times has a tour of Cage's travels and experiences in his native city. MeFi's own speicus has a long and excellent essay up at newmusicbox.org about the performer-composer relationship Cage shared with pianist David Tudor (who premiered, among other Cage works, 4'33"). And if you've always wanted to play prepared piano and lack an instrument you want to fill with nuts and bolts, there's an app for that.
You might have heard Mike Oldfield playing during the Olympic opening and wondered, "What! Why the heck would Danny Boyle want the Exorcist theme playing at the start of such a grand event!" Oldfield's kept a low profile for years, so you may not remember him as the man who literally launched Virgin Records, one of only three artists to ever knock his #1 record off the charts with another #1 record (the other two being Bob Dylan and the Beatles). But those teenage successes were merely the start of an astonishing career, one full of pop music and prog rock, sci-fi and New Age, film scores and classical orchestrations — not to mention a spot at the start of Kanye West's recent album. His magnum opus, Amarok, is an hour of astonishing sounds and shifting genres which must be heard to be believed. Too overwhelming? Well, there're [more inside]
As a tribute to Frédéric Chopin, we take you to the home of Arthur Rubinstein - one of the most distinguished interpreters of his works. [more inside]
"Nadia Boulanger was a French composer, conductor and teacher who taught many composers and performers of the 20th century." She is particularly well-known for her American composition students, including Aaron Copland (you remember this, don't you?), Elliott Carter, and David Conte (who has uploaded to YouTube an excerpt of a lecture he gave reflecting on what he learned from Nadia).
Shakespeare was not a full-time writer without other responsibilities, like O’Neill or Williams. But what might look like a distraction for such authors—acting in his own and other people’s plays, coaching fellow players, helping manage the ownership of the troupe’s resources (including its two theaters, the Globe and Blackfriars)—was a strength for Shakespeare, since it made him a day-by-day observer of what the troupe could accomplish, actor by actor. [...]Shakespeare and Verdi in the Theater.
'According to Pacini,' Julian Budden writes in The Operas of Verdi, 'it was the custom at the San Carlo theatre, Naples, for the composer to turn the pages for the leading cello and double bass players on opening nights.' The composer had to change his score to fit new voices if there were substitutions caused by illness or some other accident. In subsequent performances, he was expected to take out or put in arias for the different houses, transposing keys, changing orchestration. He was not a man of the study but of the theater.
[Arvo] Pärt’s mature style was inaugurated in 1976 with a small piano piece, “Für Alina”, that remains one of his best-known works. It is governed by the compositional system that he called “tintinnabuli,” derived from the Latin word for “bells.” The tintinnabuli method pairs each note of the melody with a note that comes from a harmonizing chord, so they ring together with bell-like resonance. [more inside]
Copyright law in micrcosm, or, Why Alan Lomax is a co-author of Jay-Z's "Takeover".
The principle is to go into everything wanting to like it. Composer Nico Muhly has a blog. See what he thinks about Angelo Badalamenti, his thoughts on musical influences, and lots of posts about food.
It is simultaneously unlike, and above, every other record. ... Because perhaps it tells us what a trivial pursuit music really is, and at the same time how indispensable to a meaningful existence it in fact is. ... No one, least of all Carla Bley, has subsequently come even within an orbit’s distance of its achievements. ... It is, in the most literal of senses, untouchable. - Marcello Carlin
100 Helpful Photography Tutorials for Beginners and Professionals. Photography as both a profession and a hobby is an expansive topic that covers a vast range of subjects from science and art. No matter where you lie on the spectrum, there is always more to learn. From the folks at Tuts+.
Pocket music apps are letting composers and artists create music anywhere - and they're developing fast. [more inside]
Arron Diaz of Dresden Codak (previously previously previously) shows us how he makes his colorful comic pages at Indistinguishable From Magic, an art/instruction blog about Character Design, Hands In Storytelling, and Batman.
A Practical Guide to Musical Composition and Principles of Counterpoint - texts by composer Alan Belkin (quite a bit more to be found on his site).
Composer Bob Jones shows a Harmonic Visualization of his latest piece, “Well Jessica, It’s Just as Well."
Harmonic Visualization Bob Jones is finally making more musics. Here are some of his latest work. Make sure to look at the Harmonic Visualization before (and durning) listening to the piece. It really allows for a richer experience.
Those of Love(+), those of Sex(+), those of Hearbreak(+), those of People and Places (+), those of Politics and Protest (+). The Guardian's journalists purloin you with "1,000 Songs You Must Hear". The plus links lead to people's outraged suggestions of those that are missing from each category. Perfect for when 10, 100, 500 or 3,000 are just the wrong numbers.
The P22 Music Text Composition Generator allows any text to be converted into a musical composition. This composition is displayed in musical notation and simultaneously generated as a midi file. The P22 Music Composition Font was proposed in 1997 to the John Cage Trust as an accompaniment to the John Cage text font based on the handwriting of the composer. The idea was basic and simple-every letter of the alphabet was assigned to a note on a scale. This would allow for any text to be converted into musical notation.
The Song of the Earth -- New Yorker music critic Alex Ross writes on composer John Luther Adams, who has created an installation work at the Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska in which geologic, astronomical, and meteorologic data are converted, in real time, into "a shimmering synthesized carillon." For a tiny hint of the experience, you can watch this Youtube video Hear more about the work from Living on Earth.
Human artist or ape artist? Six paintings, six chances to show your expertise or just guess correctly. (Previously) Hint inside. [more inside]
The Pandora Podcast Series: "The idea behind them is to provide some interesting, and hopefully entertaining segments on various aspects of music theory. Kind of like a peek under the hood of music composition and performance using lots of musical examples." So far they've covered vocal harmony, drumming, electric guitar effects, recording vocals and elements of salsa. Schedule for rest of 2007.
Tweak's Guide to Home Recording. A comprehensive home recording guide that will take you all the way from buying an audio interface to choosing a mic preamp to learning the subtle arts of compression and EQing. A good refresher course even for those with recording experience. And for those more interested in composition than recording, Tweak's piece on Inspiration is insightful as well.
'A novel contained in a single sigh' On Sept. 15, 1945, Anton Webern stepped out to smoke a cigar. An American soldier, seeing the glow of the cigar, panicked and shot Webern three times. Webern, along with Arnold Schoenberg and Alban Berg, is credited with -- or blamed for -- ushering in an era of composition emphasizing strict, mathematical order over all elements of music, a reaction against the suicidal excess of Romanticism. On the anniversary of his death, BBC Radio 3 hosts Webern Day, during which Webern's complete works will be broadcast. The total time to perform his 31 works is about three hours. (Links grabbed mostly from ArtsJournal.)
Algorithmic composition is a method of composing music using basic alogrithm models to compose. Musicalgorithms is a program designed to allow composers a tool to explore algorithmic composition and lay people the opportunity to create music based on non-musical models.