Posted tagged ‘music’

The creative ghost in the machine.

March 22, 2010

We writers spend so much time trying to be original. It’s not just for our sake so we can flatter our egos and point ostentatiously back at how unique we are. We also do it because we like to think we are dreamers. We look at the world outside and reconfigure it in new ways inside to bring it back out in the form of art so others can enjoy it and share in our dream. It’s so human that nothing could replicate it. Creativity is ours and ours alone. We paint the Mona Lisas and we write the sonnets. We also make the music… until Emmy came along. Emmy, and its new version, Emily Howell, are programs that create new, original music designed by Professor David Cope. The first program baffled people by creating songs indistinguishable from Bach original pieces, inciting an enraged uproar. Now, the second version is out and creating even more inspired pieces that you can find clips of in the link along with a lengthy and interesting article. In that article you will find what I’ve said multiple times: creativity is recombination of existing elements. Yet, it is recombination with a soul, isn’t it? Does the program feel the music or the thrill of making something new? Probably not but you have to give it credit. It recombines the way a DNA synthesizer recombines, coldly and with precision but creating products that are still beautiful. I think this demonstrates how we too are like the machine. We take everything we’ve seen and heard and process it; yet we do it because we love it, because it compels us whereas Emily Howell does it because Professor Cope hits the start button yet the results are still stunning. How does it know to put the notes in such an order as to evoke emotion? Are our emotions so transparent that we can be triggered to feel something based solely on an algorithm? What does this mean for the music industry if a machine can make music that sounds more genuine and heart-felt than most of the human musicians populating the Billboard charts? Whatever the case, I look forward to a machine that creates because it shares the human love of creating something new, something no one has seen or heard before.

The new Tron Legacy trailer. I need a neon suit!

March 10, 2010

I love Tron. Its color scheme, its imaginative portrayal of the life inside a computer, and its gladiator games! Now, we finally get a new trailer that shows more than the VFX test shown at 2009 ComiCon. All I have to say is… well, I’d have to pick my jaw up off the floor to actually verbalize and even then I don’t know if I could put my racing thoughts into words. Tron is back and in a big way though I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed with the costuming. The original code costume design glowed brilliantly but these have gone for a sleeker, black motorcycle gear with running streaks of neon reminiscent of circuitry. The new light bikes open up a fifty gallon drum of ass whoopage and dumps it all over us. What I worry about is the story and whether Disney will muck up all the works. What I am not worried about is the music. When it kicks in you will feel the force of a dozen teravolts of cool slam your eardrums. Though what else could you expect when Daft Punk is doing to music for the movie? Well, I’ll keep my hopes up and follow this film as it progresses and I’ll have plenty of time to do that since the film comes out in December.

It's so darn bright!

The digital world has digital cows?
It’s certainly stricking.

Silly and sleek technology on display in Germany’s CeBit convention.

March 4, 2010

That's what I call a fashion statement

At the CeBit technology convention, there was plenty of new tech on display to get any gear-head’s heart racing. There was an assortment of innovative new technology that will be hitting the market and will both be useful tools and useful for making some mischief. On the useful side of things is a robotic tutor who will teach you how to speak Chinese (it wasn’t specified whether it was Cantonese or Mandarin). Her/its name is Amy and she comes equipped with over 400,00 sentences and the entire Encyclopedia Britannica in her head. Using AI and voice recognition she can communicate with you in real-time. A screen serves as her face or it seems she can project her avatar on a wall as well. Another interesting gizmo is the eye tracking computer. One can control a computer just by the movement of his/her eyes. A proposed use given in the article is to allow business people to know what products a customer looks at first.  However, I think this could also be used with people suffering from neurological problems such as stroke and brain damage to train their brain to keep their eyes level or focused on a certain object, a problem people will sometimes suffer after these incidents.

Not all the devices on display were so serious. A little gadget called the Tunebug Vibe can turn any surface into a stereo by sending vibrations through it, making it create sound. Another fun thing was a team of four robots who could play football (i.e. soccer). Another neat thing to program a smile to your face was a remote control that can turn off any television in Europe. This was just a sample of the tech on display. Some extra bits of info and lots of pictures can be found through the link.

I honestly wish I could have been there. The great thing a show like this does is to demonstrate that technology can be as fun as it is useful. The AI in the Amy system is really exciting as it shows progress in the way we can interact with intelligent machines. Voice recognition is still a big problem since there are so many parts of language that need to be understood for the meaning of something to be ascertained. Syntax, semantics, the sound and rhythm of the voice are all things that must be picked up on. But this certainly shows we’re making strides in the right direction. Still, technology can just be fun and some of the devices on display have a wonderful, childlike sense of fun about them. A lot of technology can seem far removed from us, locked away in special labs, or threatening us with import impinging on our lives. This expo, and expos like it, give us a chance to see that technological progress can be a boon for us and can add some novel fun to our lives.

Write to the beat.

February 25, 2010

I found myself asking: is my writing made more effective by listening to a certain type of music? When writing a tense scene and listening to industrial music, does that throw off the way I write so that it is too frenetic? Is the oposite true? When writing an action scene and listening to ambient music, does the action scene become more subdued? I think that music can have a very profound influence on the way we feel and can influence how we write. Because of this, I think music can be harnessed as a tool for generating emotions that can give one’s writing a kick. I know that I try to listen to music that fits the mood of the scene I’m writing. One can imagine that one is a director of a movie. What music do you think would enhance the scene? When you see the events play out in your head, does the addition of the music have an effect on you? I’ve found that certain tones can have an impact on even the choice of words I use in a scene. I have started scenes listening to one song set to repeat then returned with another song and found the way I handle the scene changes. This could be attributed to other things like resuming an interrupted train of thought, but the effect of the music makes itself known on an emotional level and I can observe as my writing alters according to the mood of the song. I think that music, since it works at a level below consciousness, can be a great way to dig deeper and unearth ideas and perspectives that otherwise would not be accessible. Music, beyond just being entertaining, can be a valuable tool to a writer. Of course it also helps to break up the silence you’ll encounter after long hours of developing that novel or story to be exactly how you see it in your head.