Drum & Bass: Behind the Music

Here’s an excellent little behind-the-scenes documentary (23 min.) on three great UK drum and bass artists: Squarepusher, Photek, and Source Direct. It’s especially exciting for me (and I imagine other computer musicians like me) to see how producers back in the 90s were making music at home. Hardware samplers, sequencers, and mixers were an essential part of it, whereas now a single laptop can do everything.

Tom Jenkinson, aka Squarepusher, is the most impressive of the bunch here – very humble, and even this early on he’s clearly making the most complex, intricate music of the bunch. If you’ve heard his records before, this comes as no surprise. He talks about how he’s obsessed with listening to all kinds of rhythm-based music from every period past and present – jazz, funk, drum and bass, etc. He wants to be exposed to it all. This philosophy is also unsurprising given the maximalist complexity of his compositions, which are clearly his restless experiments to synthesize and expand upon all the rhythms he’s encountered. Seeing how bare bones his studio is is also quite inspiring. He’s able to do so much with so little because of the unique processing abilities of his most complex computer – his brain!

The guys in Source Direct also get points for being so honest and raw. I like how matter-of-factly they state that living in the middle of nowhere means their lives basically consist of making beats, driving fast cars, doing drugs, drinking, and girls. Since they only put out two albums, most recently in 1999, it’s clear this philosophy didn’t exactly have longevity built into it, but again, it’s honest. It’s completely understandable that guys growing up in such an isolated location, one so antithetical to the music they create, would have such a straightforward, reductionist outlook, especially when they felt alienated from school and the mainstream youth culture of most of their peers.

Thread Catalog 2013-05-17

fly

I didn’t get around to do a proper post this week, but here’s this week’s edition of Thread Catalog. Lots of good stuff in here. The ole alma mater always delivers interesting content, so the first three links are courtesy of NU.

Bug’s Eye Inspires Hemispherical Digital Camera [technology] – “Humans capture pictures using the two lenses of our relatively flat eyes, while a top-of-the-line SLR camera has just one flat lens. The new camera — a rounded half bubble, similar to a bulging fly eye — has 180 microlenses mounted on it, allowing it to take pictures across nearly 180 degrees. Only a camera shaped like a bug’s eye can do this.”

Northwestern University Will Research Women’s Reproductive-Related Depression [psychology, medicine, science] – This is really great news – a boon for the field and society in general. “Northwestern’s newly opened Asher Center for the Study and Treatment of Depressive Disorders will be focused on treating and studying women with depression.

What Is the Cost of Over-Parenting? [psychology, sociology] “The more money parents spend on their child’s college education, the worse grades the child earns. … The more parents are involved in schoolwork and selection of college majors — that is, the more helicopter parenting they do — the less satisfied college students feel with their lives.”

Computer Grading Feedback [humor, artificial intelligence, technology] – Hysterical results from EdX’s new grading software, profiled last month in the New York Times. It’s certainly amusing to look at artificial intelligence’s failures, but it’s perhaps equally amusing to watch as people reject it on the grounds that computers don’t know how to comprehend writing and presume they never will. Humans are of course just complex machines, running complex algorithms that nature wrote over the course of many millions of years, but at some point in the future, probably sooner than we can predict, machines will easily be able to execute these same algorithms with ease. Then again, at that point, the “analytical essay” will be pretty pointless, as those can be auto-generated in seconds too. It’s like a spam and anti-spam generator, always locked in a battle of wits and superiority. “How well and uniquely can your biomachine deconstruct and write about this pre-existing text?” “Very well, thanks. Here’s my 10-page essay, it took me .39 seconds to seconds to write.” “A-. Your English essay-writing algorithm could use an update to the latest version.”

James Benning & Richard Linklater Documentary Kickstarter [film] – Apparently experimental filmmaker James Benning and indie-turned-mainstream director Richard Linklater are good friends. This documentary, directed by a friend of a friend, is about their long-standing relationship, and their love of film and baseball.

Is Eye Tracking a Privacy-Invading Technology? [technology] – Using eye-tracking technology, we will begin to be shown ads and content based on what we’ve taken second looks at. Things that interest us involuntarily and cause this physical action will become usable data for ad companies, and allow them to learn very personal things about our genetic and behavioral makeup.

Two-Inch Feather Emerges From Baby’s Neck [miscellaneous] – Self-explanatory medical bizarreness.

Warning: slightly graphicDead Bodies on Mount Everest [miscellaneous] – About 200 people have died while climbing Mount Everest, and a good number of their bodies still remain there.