Archive for February, 2011

February 21, 2011

“All deep things are song…”

by George

The quote that is used as the title for this article made me think about the ‘birthplace’ or creation of music.  I’ve read/heard many different opinions on this topic with answers ranging in nature from scientific to psychological to pure subjective opinion but they all have similar strains of thought behind them.

In my mind, the composition of music is a three-way battle; it is the product of three forces pulling a creative spark apart and in three separate directions, each with its own purpose and goal.  Every unique piece that is involved in the equation counts, and the composite of these results in what we hear through the speakers.

But boil it down to its purest form and you start with that creative spark.  This is where peoples’ opinions, I think, are fractured and begin to migrate in different directions; down separate paths that may cross over and under each other dozens of times or perhaps never once.  You could make the argument that the birthplace of this spark is within one of these formative forces, but I think that is too simple an explanation…

The Mental

Our mind is perhaps the most powerful, influential and capable force responsible for the creation of music, or any creative endeavor for that matter.  So powerful, in fact, that we cannot, at times, distinguish between our own, controlled conscious thought and the wild, enigmatic subconscious that drives many of our most basic actions.  We study and learn to play instruments in a certain manner; there is a structure and methodology that impacts every aspect of ones creative composition.  There are certain ‘rules’ that guide creation; scales, patterns and rhythms and physical mechanics in music, whose inter-compatibility is defined by centuries of musical tradition.

There is beauty in the seemingly natural resolution that certain intervals and scales have and we strive to create and enhance those patterns.  Like a chess match, there are movements and counter-motions that define the ebb and flow of a piece of music.  Each of these actions planned and orchestrated for maximum sonic impact.  We calculate and plan out our works, sometimes delving so deep into the minutia of a sound and timbre of a particular passage of music that we lose sight of its role in the overall piece.

The Physical

While this force is seemingly the most simple (in comparison) it can be the most influential on the final product.  We may intellectualize an idea, craft it and shape it, but unless we possess the physical capabilities and prowess of executing the  broad strokes and subtle touches we envision, our desire to express our thoughts and emotions is futile.

It’s generally believed that the more technically proficient a player is, the more capable and precise he/she can be when crafting their work.  Sure, you can build a house using only wood, but there will be certain areas that may require other skills and materials and possessing these skills will enable you to build a more efficient and cohesive structure.  Ideally, the larger your vocabulary, the more vivid your descriptions and the more focused your message.

In contrast, it can be one’s physical limitations as players that define his style and unique voice.  There are countless artists that may not be the most talented musicians, yet they each have their own identifiable sound and style of phrasing that is, most often, a direct result of what they can’t do.

The Emotional

Finally, the force that we have the least control over but one that is most apparent and obvious, our emotions.  Just as energy is never created or destroyed (it’s physics, man, look it up) you could make the argument that the emotion that an artist pours into his/her work came from someone/place else in the form of inspiration.  These ideas and feelings are ingrained in the piece of work itself, in every melody, rhythm and tone.  Even though we filter this in through our ears, and there is a physiological response that allows us to recognize and organize the sounds as music, there is, simultaneously, another response elicited; an emotional response.  That response is typically expressed with both physical and mental actions: released as you dance around and sing out lyrics at a concert, recalling an event or memory tied to a particular sound or piece of music, or even in the form of enthusiasm you exude when talking about music with your friends…you’re passing along the emotional energy.

This is obviously not a scientific quantity that can be measured, or even properly defined.  Nevertheless, it may be the biggest reason that people enjoy music; it taps into some unknown and undefined part of their psyche and allows them to release some of the emotional energy that they have inside; to pass it along down the ever-flowing stream of our collective social and cultural creativity where it will meet and blend with other similar and different thoughts and creations.

February 17, 2011

one device to rule them all

by colemauer

unconfirmed statistic:

8,284,671,582 smartphones have been released in the last year running android OS alone.

With that said, the actual percentage of wireless users who use a smartphone was 28% at the end of last year according to Nielsen.

With predictions that smartphone usage will eclipse that of non-smartphone usage in the coming year, it’s safe to assume that we’ll all be carrying around a 4 inch device capable of calling, texting, tweeting, checking in, blogging, microblogging, flikring, twitpicking, youtubing, digging, redditing, 4channing, commenting, liking, and upvoting pretty much anything we can get our eyes on. While the sheer number of smartphones available rises as quickly as the user base can keep up, it seems these hardware companies are having no trouble packing the latest processor, keyboard (or lack thereof), camera, internal memory, and screen output into a device as small or as large as is appropriate.

These capabilities, comprehensive as they are, lead me to one question that I pose to the makers of mp3 players, cameras, video recorders and gaming handhelds.

What now?

It’s a disheartening questions, because many of us, myself included, have several of these peripherals that could, at any moment, become obsolete. Now you may notice no shortage of iPod, NintendoDS, PSP, Flip HD, or heaven forbid, the latest appearance of @aplusk and his newest coolpix point and shoot, but now that the smartphone is beginning to catch up in the realm of hardware to not only still pictures but HD video, onboard storage, and now processing speed indicative of a gaming handheld, where to these secondary accessories turn to differentiate themselves from their multitasking brethren?

The truth is, as you’ll find out, I have a lot of questions and far fewer answers (at least in this post), but with the coming of the Nintendo 3DS and Sony’s new Playstation handheld on the way, we’re soon to find out. My guess is they’re sticking with the dedicated hardware route to stay ahead of the smartphone curve. With its 2 rear-facing cameras, Nintendo’s new model touts a 3D experience unlike any other handheld; and Sony’s new model is teasing enough processing ammunition to spec out at near PS3 speeds, surely keeping any smartphone’s antenna shaking in fear…for now.

 

But what what we have to ask ourselves (I know, again with the questions) is do we really want to continue paying $20-40 for new games on systems that are likely to be pricepointed between $300 to $400 that we’re really only going to pick up on a plane or a bus ride?

I’ll admit, my last gaming handheld was a Gameboy, the big one, no – not the one that came in pretty colors; so I may be a bit biased, or at least recently unversed in the ways of the current handhelds, but I just don’t see the market. I’m not going to shell out the cash for a low-res version of a game I have on my console at home just so I can be entertained on my flight to Atlanta when the free version of Angry birds (with free updates on android) awaits on my phone for hours (yes, hours) of enjoyment.

I guess my point is that I see smartphone gaming and app purchases on the rise, and gaming handhelds and cartridge play on the downslope. Nostalgia pulls at me, ’cause Mario and I had some great times playing golf in monochrome, but with my keys in my right pocket, It really comes down to me only wanting and needing one handheld, powered by Android (or Apple), indivisible, with HDMI out, and extended battery life for all.

-cole

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