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Something I’ve been thinking about a bit electronic dance music (EDM) and its connection to design. Music is traditionally considered art, correct? And production is more towards design. So what is the mashup? How does one go about creating a mashup or even recognizing that two or more songs will sound good together? Moreover, what is the process like of creating a mashup? There seem to be both artistic and design aspects to this work.

I have two examples to share. The first mashes up three songs and, while definitely not the most technically challenging, the song weaves these three songs in and out very well. The second layers two songs directly on top of each other making few discernible changes to either song.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iY4I8rlWxAY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIjIYfae83o

Perhaps this counts as sound design?

 

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I am not a person who finds clowns funny or frightening, I find them annoying more than anything.  I have another post coming, but as I was reading this, I thought of this music video for a song by Blondie directed by Jonas Åukerland.  This video features one clown seen as the humorous happy go lucky guy wanting to proclaim his love.  The other clown is seen as the monster of the two, forcing the good clown into the Tiger’s den, where he is subsequently killed.  Carroll described clowns as an entity that fit in his combination of horror and humor, and this video shows both sides of the coin, where one clown represents humor, the other horror, and the tiger being the monster.

Today in class, we discussed how a song was metal, broadway, or both, based on semiotics. I’m hoping to expand a little more on that here and work on my understanding of it.

Over Spring Break I re-read Faithfull: An Autobiography by Marianne Faithfull and David Dalton.  I could probably spend hours talking about Marianne Faithfull’s books and music as she is one of my favorite singers.  Her post 1969 voice is not for everyone, but it fits the worn, survivor she became after years of dealing with homelessness and drug/alcohol abuse.

In her book, Marianne discussed her first single, As Tears Go By, which she recorded when she was 16 years old.  It became a huge pop hit and launched her into stardom.  In 1987 she rerecorded the song for her first post-recovery album Strange Weather, and in her book, she stated 16 was not the appropriate age to record this song, 40 was the right age. I cannot help but agree with this after hearing the two versions, one right after another.  To me, event though the lyrics and the performer are the same, they are two completely different songs.

First off, the 1964 recording is very light sounding, sounds like a 16-year-old convent girl spending her life trying to figure out what she should do with her life, whereas the 1987 recording sounds as if the person has been to hell and back. The re-recording is a more reflective song, she is looking back on her life, seeing what she has been through and accepting where she is today — it almost sounds regretful when she says she sits and watches As Tears Go By now, wishing and wondering how things could have been different.  It became so much more personal, whereas the original 1964 songs sound a lot more generic. Marianne did not have the experiences yet to fully express the meaning of the song and make it a personal reflection on her life — just taking the lyrics at face value and not interpreting them as a way to show her journey from where she was to where she is.  Could it be the voice or her appearance in the two videos that makes the two different, but to me, it is more about the performance.  The performance of the 1987 recording is what makes it different.  It has been slowed down, with more emphasis on the lyrics — they can be heard loud and clear with minimal production.  Marianne sounds connected to the words here and even though she did not write the song (with was the first collaborative effort between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards), it sounds as if she did or could have.  The words became her accepting who she became.

I can remember flying back from San Diego in 2003 and reading in a magazine a review for Cyndi Lauper’s album At Last, which had just come out.  I, for the life of me, can not recall who wrote the review or what publication it was in, but the opening line stated,

Can you believe this is the same woman who sang “She-Bop?”

While there are stark differences between the subject matter of this album (standards) and one of the most notorious songs off her debut solo album, which came out 20 years earlier at that point, several of Noël Carroll’s points resonated with me while reading the first chapter and parts of the second that made me recall this comment and realize how often prescriptive evaluations are used to show off reviewer’s opinions and tell us, as the consumer of music, what is worth buy and what is not.  So often we hear that artists or writers are going back to their roots with what they are working on, saying they are wanting to go back and recreate the feeling or sound of a past work.  Is that really what these reviews and evaluations are for?  Do we really need a song about masturbation on every Cyndi Lauper album that has come out since 1983?  Why do we do this, it is because so many people want to call themselves critics, when all they really do is hold back creativity and allowing an artist to evolve.  On page 24 of Noël Carroll’s book, On Criticism, he states,

No prescriptions should stand in the way of the explosion of artistic creativity.

And then later, on page 44 he writes,

The nature of criticism is to evaluate artworks-to discover what is valuable or worthy of attention in artworks and explain why this is so.

While the person who reviewed the At Last album, the first time I read it, made me feel as if she was expecting another She’s So Unusual, my feelings changed after reading these chapters and understand where the critic was coming from, it just did not work in a way that Carroll describes criticism.  I am not sure how to change what the reviewer said to make it fit in Carroll’s view, but I know for one thing, comparing it to past albums or songs does not fit in the framework.

In the comments section of this video, YouTube user Bridget Orozco states,

[H]ow is using the flood tool painting? I’m classically trained in analog and digital mediums but f*** did I have to learn things like anatomy and color theory, composition among a billion things. I never liked this guy’s craft required no talent.. notice I call it a craft not an art, and not even a good craft.

Maybe this is part II of my previous post, but this video and the comment, I think, go hand in hand with Arthur Danto’s book chapter, The Philosopher as Andy Warhol.  The comment above is a firm example, shown by Danto, “…to the very art that Warhol’s critics saw as mindless and meretricious.”  While the critics are having an easy time saying what they believe is art, I do not believe they are creating a supporting argument as to why this is not art.  As we see in the video above, Andy just sits there and clicks a few buttons in order to create a portrait.  Sure it appears to be very easy and as if anyone can do it, in fact this could go with the fact that he was not the one creating every piece of work that went out with his name on it.  He created the work through his factory artists, which is how he was able to champion the idea of mass produced art.  Was your Marilyn Monroe silkscreen made specifically by Andy Warhol and him alone? Probably not, but it was created in the process that he saw what art could be.

Maybe Warhol’s factory process was in fact a way for him to challenge what people wanted to view as art and if that is the case, he definitely succeeded well up until his death in 1987.  However, Danto states on page 69 that Warhol’s artwork had little do to with the pretensions of the artworld  and I disagree with that statement.  I think a lot of Warhol’s artwork had a lot to do with with the pretensions of the artworld, due to the fact that we are still having this debate today.  Andy said anything and everything can be art, but what I have heard no one dispute, is that there is an artist behind the design of the Brillo Box, the Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can, or an image painted using the Commodore Amiga.  These designs facilitated Andy Warhol’s artwork and made us realize that an artist is always working behind the scenes.

While reading Folkmann, in particular the area which discusses the platform of conceptual-hermetical, it reminded me a lot of a particular song, which the writer says is about one thing, but has been used in ways that reflect the exact opposite.

As Folkmann states on page 42, “[H]ow meaning is staged and how the design reflects this meaning through its actual presence  and unfolding in a physical setting by means of sensual aspects of form, materials, and color, for example.”

I can remember seeing a documentary about the Fleetwood Mac album, Rumours, where the members of the band went through each song on the album and spoke of the recording process, what was happening when the song was being written, and what the song was about.  I believe it was John McVie, when discussing the song “Don’t Stop,” that stated it was not written for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign (it was heavily used in commercials, rallies, etc, I was not old enough at the time to remember), but rather his ex-wife Christine wrote it about their divorce.  I later noticed the irony while at the IU Homecoming game, when the announcer said the year’s Homecoming theme was togetherness and announced the Marching Hundred was going to play the song, “Don’t Stop” by Fleetwood Mac.

Why is it this song, which is, lyrically, about a marriage falling apart, being played as having a positive message of looking forward to something or togetherness?  I believe it it is through the aesthetics as described by M. N. Folkmann through the platform he calls conceptual-hermetical, or the way we understand or interpret something.  Folkmann would, on the following page state,

“[O]ne of the central capacities of the imagination seen within the context of aesthetic artifacts is to create new modes and models of relating the sensuous-material and the ideational-conceptual.”

To relate this back to “Don’t Stop,” the song itself has a very uplifting aesthetic to it.  The chorus is telling the person to look forward to something, the music is very cheery sounding, even though it was inspired by a negative point of a person’s life, it has the ability to change its meaning through parts of the whole.  On page 44, Folkmann points out,

“[O]bjects wanting to be perceived as aesthetic, as discussed above in the context of the aesthetic relationship – can sill be separated from other objects.”

This is the point I am wanting to make with this and what I got from Folkmann.  Even though the lyrics and meaning of the song come from a difficult time person, the aesthetics of the song in its given context change how people interpret the meaning.  When used in President Clinton’s 1992, the aesthetics of the song were used to make people look forward to electing him, that he will bring a positive administration to the United States, and the Marching Hundred performing it at Homecoming used the same aesthetic, both past, present, and future alumni are together to work for a better tomorrow.

When Folkmann states that aesthetics, when used in a context of the aesthetic relationship, I think this is a good example of how it can change people’s understanding of the work.  It can take something with a negative experience behind it and change it to the exact opposite, something with a positive outlook.

 

I wanted to share this video so that I can show you all the influence sneakers have on people. It’s not just a hobby, it’s some people’s way of life. Some people start from a you g age. Some continue this way of life, others grow out of it because they start to realize that they are just sneakers.

After watching this video I thought to myself that I should just leave my love for sneakers behind, but then I realized I cannot do it just yet. It’s something about sneakers that draws me in. The color way, the style, the comfort, etc.

Watch the video and see a little of sneaker impact yourself…

The two dresses reading was really interesting for the obvious reason of being about cool dresses that respond to your more physiological responses.  They talked a lot about transparency and allowing you to be completely open with your communication.  This is very interesting, but I don’t know that I would necessarily want my clothing to light up when I am feeling certain emotions and making that visible to the entire world.  Perhaps it’s just me, but there’s something a little empowering to be able to decipher another person’s emotions.  If I’m getting all that information from your clothing, then where is the fun in that?  This might be especially true when flirting and going on a date with someone.  There’s a certain playfulness to the act of flirting and trying to read the other person to see if they are interesting in you as well.

Regardless, that was not the point of this post.  I was actually thinking of Philips as an electronics company and what they could do with similar biometric and physiological data in their electronics products.  I am reminded a bit of Pari Razmand’s capstone project of music.  While I’m not 100 percent sure of her specific topic now, she had mentioned designing something for moods and music–either to augment a mood or to change it using music.  What if Philips designed headphones that could read your physiological and biometric data to determine what it thinks the best music for you to listen to given your current mood and state?  This could interface with iTunes or other music software/hardware in order to give you a seamless mood experience.  Instead of going through your music library and finding what music would currently “speak” to you, what if it did all of that for you.

Reading the paper, I also understand the limitations of this data and the biases that come along with it, but I think that perfecting these algorithms or at least examining what information we are getting from people could hold really intense and awesome personalized experiences for people.  Perhaps issues of privacy and whatnot might come into play (perhaps less so for the experience that I was talking about compared to showing publicly your emotions via your clothing), but I still think it’s an incredibly interesting area to look at for the future of designs and “personal informatics” types of designs.

I’m sure Flick has already checked this out but a video from the new atoms for peace album. thom yorke and the female dancer with him dressed in matching suits doing similar dance moves.

Our discussion on genealogies sparked a few ideas on the Interaction paper. I’m thinking about researching the genealogy of music ownership (owning CDs or downloading Mp3s) and the genealogy of accessing music (streaming music through services like Spotify). The goal of the paper would be to reveal these genealogies, and provide a better understanding for interaction designers when developing music related software or platforms.

From what I understand, and this is something I used to blog about frequently in 2007, music access has roots in live performances, days prior to recorded music, radio, and services that we pay for (such as electricity or running water). Accessing music thrives on community (via social networking) and views music as something we tap into or engage in. Because accessing music encourages community, you find services like SoundCloud that encourage people to record their music and share it with their friends, and provide an engaging commenting system.

Music ownership views music as a commodity. Its roots are in printed sheet music and player pianos. While certain forms of music ownership (such as vinyl) encourage community, it has largely become an individualistic experience. Music ownership didn’t replace music access until vinyl exploded in the 1950s.

While music ownership will continue, through vinyl and Mp3 collections, there are more and more signs that people are once again viewing music as something they access. As interaction designers, we should be aware of the differences between these two genealogies.

I would like to view these two genealogies through the lens of the Lev Manovich reading, and discussing the semiotics involved.