Friday, May 03, 2019

Timeline of audio devices

As a by-product of my research, I have compiled the following timeline of audio devices from numerous sources. Accreditation here is not meant to deny previous contributions, including those obscured by the historical record. In fact, one of the reasons to put this together is to highlight the variety and proliferation of this idea that sound can be recorded and even played back. We take it for granted today.

1850 Claude Pouillet (1791–1868) publishes Notions générales de physique et de météorologie à l’usage de la jeunesse, a book which contains visual representations that have subsequently been reproduced as sound.

1857 The first sound recording device, the phonautograph, is invented by Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville (1817–1879) in Paris.
Friday, May 03, 2019

Talk Talk cover versions

Here's another post in the wake of Mark Hollis' passing. Four cover versions I found that might intrigue you.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Mark Hollis and Talk Talk rarities

This article compiles the extant rarities from the career of Hark Hollis (1955-2019).

First, if you are unaware of this music, you are in for a rare treat. I am not going to repeat here the story of how a synth-pop group with rare sensibilities morphed into one of the most incredible expressions of pure music imaginable. Instead, just obtain the following catalogue. I've even indicated my suggested purchase order, which defers the first rather slick albums until after you've heard the masterworks.

5. Talk Talk: The Party's Over (EMI, 1982)
6. Talk Talk: It's My Life (EMI, 1984)
1. Talk Talk: The Colour of Spring (EMI, 1986)
2. Talk Talk: Spirit of Eden (Parlophone, 1988)
3. Talk Talk: Laughing Stock (Verve, 1991)
4. Mark Hollis: Mark Hollis (Polydor, 1998)
Friday, April 26, 2019

Monarch versus Extinction Rebellion: iconography

Monarch is a secret government organisation that studies kaiju in the film series that incorporates "Godzilla" (2014), "Kong: Skull Island" (2017), and "Godzilla: King of the Monsters" (2019). These films are predicated on an ecological theme. Godzilla is a primordial creature who feeds on radiation, returning to the surface world to restore the so-called "balance". It is unclear what the symbol itself represents, but it could be the wings of a butterfly. Or, indeed, Mothra.
Thursday, April 11, 2019

Black hole image and science reporting

Many times I have wanted to write about the atrocious way in which science is misreported by journalists, how this is complicit with capitalism, feeds an anti-science agenda, and confirms conservative biases. You wouldn't think that the astounding new images of the M87 black hole would be the place to start. And indeed it's far from the worst example. But maybe it's useful to consider for precisely that reason.

Journalism is fixated on the story. It needs to turn a chaotic world of interactions into a simple, linear narrative that an eight-year-old can follow. But your life is not a story. It is not linear, with clear demarcations of good, evil, and so on. A moment's consideration will realise that no life is a clear progression from A to B, because even if this path is indeed one of the "journeys" (another word journalists love) you are "on", that's far from the only dynamic.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Mark Hollis (1955-2019)

I happened across Talk Talk as they released their first EP, Talk Talk, which included the single "Talk Talk" (their second). I wasn't expecting much from the linguistic paucity displayed in these titles. But the band's brand of synthpop had a lush core, anchored by Paul Webb's roving bass. Lee Harris' drums were more inventive than most. Hollis contributed a lot to the melange, his mellifluous singing molding the presentation into something worth returning to.
Friday, January 04, 2019

Towards a Platial Phenomenology of Sound

Place-bound and time-bound in evening rain
And bound by a sound which does not change,
Except that it begins and ends,
Begins again and ends again

-- from "Human Arrangement" by Wallace Stevens

In English we have a simple adjective, "spatial", that means “of or relating to space”. But there is no similar word that means “of or relating to place”. This article will briefly explain why space gets so much attention in Western philosophy, while place falls by the wayside. I will conclude by proposing the neologism "platial" as a useful corrective.
Monday, December 31, 2018

Song of the Year 2018

I can't say I enjoy contemporary pop music. Every now and then I work my way through someone's top 100 albums, to find that one or two products are listenable. This is not the fault of the internet or GarageBand or MP3s... it's a symptom of late capitalism, where everyone (in our parts of the world) is spoiled and no-one has a compelling reason to do any one thing or the other.

(So, yeah, it is the fault of the internet and GarageBand and MP3s.)
Sunday, August 19, 2018

Today's Music is Crap, Reports Old White Guy

Jon Henschen has just published the article "The Tragic Decline of Music Literacy (and Quality)", an atrocious compendium of well-intentioned ignorance. You can read it here.

This article is full of errors and misconceptions, designed to promote a conservative musical agenda. The author associates the ability to read the Western European stave as indicative of quality music. This instantly ignores traditions from the rest of the world that generate music of extraordinary sophistication. (Coincidentally, the Irish gamelan orchestra is currently performing in Java. I wonder if Henschen is even aware of this music?)
Friday, August 03, 2018

Angst and Beans: How Food Ideology Feeds Despair

We live in the Anthropocene, an epoch named for the decisive changes our species has made to species diversity, biogeochemistry, geomorphology, and climate of the Earth System [Crutzen and Stoermer 2000]. It is long past time that we questioned our assumptions about our place in this system. Each of us needs to start with their own discipline, to perform a radical ("from the root") reappraisal of fundamental beliefs and assumptions.

For myself, this starts with interrogating ideologies of nature. I am currently writing a paper on acoustic ecology that critiques the foundational text of this discipline. It's not easy work, but it's necessary.

So what should arrive in my Facebook stream but an article from The Atlantic, "If Everyone Ate Beans Instead of Beef" [Hamblin 2017]. While I am sympathetic with those who call for a re-appraisal of our diet and land use, it is regrettable to read arguments such as these, which feed the very system they mean to challenge.