music

Last week 1 decided to buy a Wacom Bamboo fun graphics tablet, Partly to see if its would make a better way of getting around my Mae rather than my track pad, and partly to see what the handwriting recognition is like. 1 have to say that the built in Mac software – Ink – is utter pantsThe Wacom software, Scribe, is a bit better but its not as good or as fluid as I ward have liked.As you can see, there are quit . a few errors, and some problems with spacing and punctuation. Call this is being written with the WACOWD -I notice it doesn’t like brackets either.

Ah well, I’ve only had it a couple of hours so it will take time to get used & it even if it hates my scary good -that should be scrawly joined – up writing.It would appear that the state of handwriting recognition on the Mac is parlous, With Vista beating it hands-down . 1 have to admit that makes me rather Sad. Given how many desegregationist mongolisms -Wow, that WAS Supposed to be ‘designers’! – prefer macs, I’m surprised.

Tim Minchin

by Suw on May 2, 2009

I just discovered, through the wonders of Twitter, the fabulousness that is Tim Minchin, a London-based Australian poet and musician. He does the funniest stuff I’ve seen since I first encountered Eddie Izzard, although I don’t remember the last time I saw a comedian combine music, poetry and a Goldacre-esque skewering of homeopathy and woolly thinking quite like this:

And this one too is brilliant (no visuals):

Say hello to Shadowglobe

by Suw on July 3, 2007

How excited am I to be able to finally, legitimately, announce the new internet radio station, Shadowglobe? Oh, I'd say… rather excited indeed! Iain Baker – Mr Keyboard Breaker to his friends – tantalisingly gave me the dev URL and swore me to secrecy some weeks back, so I've been able to listen, but completely unable to mention it to anyone.
Shadowglobe focuses on finding the best new music – hm, does that sound familiar? – and it succeeds in buckets. I have heard more new good stuff on here in the limited time that it's been on air than I've heard all year on Xfm or Virgin Xtreme.
The site's very much still in beta, so sometimes the stream dies and there are unfinished corners of the website that still need work, but overall it's very exciting to have another high quality net radio station available to listen to. Iain and his cohorts' taste is fabulous, and it has the same sort of indie feel that Xfm had in the old days, or that I felt when I was working for the Maker. It's that sense that exciting things are afoot, that the place is so bursting with great music that it makes you wonder how your head doesn't a splode.
Let me not mince words here: Shadowglobe has a better new music playlist than Xfm and Virgin Xtreme put together. When it's out of beta, it's going to blow the rest out of the water.

XFM's coup de gr?¢ce

by Suw on May 23, 2007

I've put my follow-on post about Xfm axing all its daytime DJs over on Strange Attractor, partly because it seemed a bit out of place here, but mainly because that blog has a different audience, one I think should read about this.
I'm so sad to see what XFM is doing to itself, and I can only hope that listeners are disappointed enough at 10am on Tuesday 29th May when the new DJ-free schedule kicks in that we'll see a revolt akin to the post-Capital reformatting protest of 98.

XFM's losing me

by Suw on May 11, 2007

For nearly ten years now I've been a fan of XFM. I remember the excitement I felt when they got their license and I finally had a radio station that played stuff I loved. And I remember the sense of loss when I moved away from London and could no longer get XFM on the dial … then the delight when I found them on Sky Digital and when they started broadcasting over the web so that I could listen no matter where I was.
Indeed, Kevin bought me my DAB radio last Christmas specifically so that I could listen to XFM without having to deal with the nasty artefacts left by whichever crappy codec they were using for the live stream.
(Of course, their stupid decision to make you have to register to access their live stream and the change to a Window-only codec really screwed their internet listeners. That was a totally idiotic thing to do.)
But now, well, a lot of the joy I used to feel has dissipated. In the last month or so they've lost Richard Bacon, Lauren Laverne and Iain Baker. They'd sidelined Iain for a long while, so I understand why he left, but they gutted their daytime line-up too, leaving only the fabulous Ian Camfield on the drive time show. The replacement DJs, Marsha, Tonks and some bloke called Graeme, are really weak – whilst I am sure they are all lovely people, they just don't have the charisma or style to successfully pull off a daytime show.
Worse than that, the playlist has gone from being nicely varied with lots of new indie bands to the sort of heavily repetitive and limited list that makes Radio 1 tedious and boring. (Of course, shitty playlist decisions, a hideous desire to be 'down wiv da yoof', and godawful DJs also makes Radio 1 tedious and boring.)
I hate to say it, but I'm on the verge of deserting XFM completely. And you know what pains me? The fact that the best station I can find on my DAB radio is bloody Virgin Xtreme. Virgin. Xtreme. Gah. That's like suddenly realising that you like the music on Radio 2. But the truth is that their playlist is more interesting – in just a few hours yesterday I heard lots of new stuff by bands that I've never heard on XFM but which would fit it stylistically, and only one song that made me want to stab the DJ.
The trouble with Virgin Xtreme is that it's almost like internet radio – almost no DJ interaction at all. I don't really listen to the radio to discover new music – although a varied and new playlist is important – because if all I wanted was to find new music, well, there's Last.fm for that.
I listen because I want to be entertained by the DJs, I want to hear people who I think are like me, who talk about things I'm interested in, who care about their listeners. I want my day given shape by the changing of DJ shifts, by the news and weather, by Paul Anderson's Movie Minute, by the X-List. I want Music: Response to be the signal that 7pm has arrived and that dinner will be late tonight. I want to hear human voices.
But XFM is failing its listeners. It has lost its sheen, lost its joy, lost the very people who made it special. The only reason to tune back to XFM now is to catch Camfield at 4pm.
I can't believe it's come to this. I feel betrayed.

On my radio

by Suw on April 24, 2007

The weird thing about yesterday – other than the fact that I went to the gym and wrote three blog posts – was that I didn't turn the radio on all day. Usually I have XFM on from the moment Kevin leaves for work til the moment he comes home. Last year I struggled with listening via the internet, but when they “upgraded” their audio stream they made it PC-only, which sort of screwed me really, being a Mac girl. But Kevin bought me a DAB digital radio for Christmas which I have on pretty much all day every day.
Except yesterday.
Yesterday, I had a couple of phone calls, then spent a couple of hours watching Neil Gaiman on Fora.tv, and then settled into a quiet, radio-free day. The strange thing wasn't that I didn't miss the DJs' chitchat or the music, but that I had absolutely no idea what time it was. Even though I looked at the clock and the clock told me what time it was, because I didn't experience the DJs' shifts changing throughout the day, I had no sense that time had progressed at all. When the clock showed 4:30 pm it still felt like morning, even though I had eaten lunch, because I hadn't heard the X-List at 1.00 and didn't catch the lunchtime news*.
XFM recently changed their schedule, and I'm a bit ambivalent about the new line-up. Claire Sturgess I like a lot, and I look forward Ian Camfield each day, but to be honest the new DJs just sort of leave me cold. I don't just listen to XFM because I like their playlist, but because I find the DJs to be entertaining… if the DJs stop being entertaining, I may as well just listen to iTunes, Pandora, Last.fm or SomaFM Secret Agent.
But the one thing XFM will always have over time-shifted or DJ-free internet radio and podcasts is the ritual of it, the sense of schedule-as-timekeeper, ringing the hours and giving form to the day. Nothing can replace the beginning of XFM's Music Response at 7pm as my signifier that we're going to be eating late that night.
* XFM's news is pretty unchallenging, really, but it does give me at least an idea of what's going on in the world.

Where have all the Christmas carols gone?

by Suw on December 10, 2006

This morning, having woken up in a particularly good mood, I decided to play the mix CD that my friend Stuart had kindly (and unexpectedly) made and sent me with my first Christmas card of this year. The first track was the wonderful Nos Galan, by the Treorchy, Morriston Orpheus & Pontarddulais Male Choirs with the Band of the Welsh Guards. The song is more well known in English as Deck The Halls, but in Welsh the lyrics don't translate as having anything to do with holly, and in fact is a celebration of Nos Galan, or New Year's Eve.
I pinged a note to the Clwb Malu Cachu mailing list about it, to see if anyone knew of any other Welsh carols, and it turns out that one of our regulars actually sang on this recording of Nos Galan! Cool!
Anyway, I got into a mood for a Christmas carols, so we started to look for a Christmas internet radio station. Well, there are dozens of them. Trouble is, they all seem to be out of America and playing that sort of 30s/40s schmaltz that is fine for a while but then soon starts to sap your will to live. Not that I don't like Bing or Frank, but after too many White Christmases the only chestnuts I want to see roasted over an open fire are theirs.
Kevin thinks I'm being tetchy, but really, what I wanted to listen to was just traditional Christmas carols. Y'know, O Little Star of Bethlehem, or Silent Night, or Good King Wenceslas (who, when I was a kid, I thought was Good King Wences, who last looked out… I couldn't figure what had happened to him after the Feast of Stephen, no matter how hard I focused on the words). I really wasn't after God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen Sung with Big Swooping Strings and Added Saccharine, but the usual choral versions I used to sing when I was at school.
But apparently it's not to be. Hours later and we can't find a single station that actually plays carols. Well, none that haven't been soaked in high fructose corn syrup and covered in chocolate sprinkles, anyway.

Who's in Second Life?

by Suw on September 6, 2006

I joined Second Life a few months ago, but my iBook couldn't handle running the client. I could only take three steps and then I'd have to wait for the client to catch up. Now I'm on a faster machine (which is a way of saying I bought a MacBook), it runs like a dream. I'm determined to spend time in Second Life each day so that I can become proficient in doing stuff and, potentially, earn Linden Dollars (not to mention real ones) from doing interesting things there.
It's a lot more fun, though, to be there when you're there with someone you know. So fess up, y'all. Who's in Second Life? I'm TiddlesMcNubbin Goodnight… for the moment at least. I may get a new avatar with a slightly less silly name. But if you're in the game, let me know.
Oh, and thank you to everyone who emailed me to tell me that Duran Duran are going to be playing a gig in Second Life at some point. Suzanne Vega's already done a performance that was streamed into Second Life (note: the video of the making of her Second Life guitar on that page is amazing), and Duran are going to follow suit with a proper gig. It'll be really fun to see how closely their avatars look like them, and to see how well it is attended. I would guess that Second Life would have the perfect demographic for Durannies, and it seems like an environment that would suit them well. So I can't wait!

Like you've never heard it before…

by Suw on June 21, 2006

Pachelbel's Canon (via Damian).

Negotiating shared playlists

by Suw on June 2, 2006

T'Other and I have been living together for nearly three months now, and our single, shared neuron is as happy as ever. We find ourselves in agreement more often than not, but one thing that causes regular contention is the music we play. Music is really important for both of us, but our tastes are really quite different. T'Other loves alt country, female singer-songwriters and jazz. I think alt country is proof that Satan exists, female singer-songwriters are generally tedious dross, and as for jazz… well, my ex-bass teacher and bassist extraordinaire Rob Burns* put it best when he repeated the old joke 'One bad note is a mistake; two bad notes is jazz'.
Trouble is, I am a fickle thing, and my tastes are not subject to simple rules like 'never play alt country, female singer-songwriters, or jazz'. Ok, 'never play alt country' works, but I'm not quite so absolute about the others. I like, for example, a Dido song. Just the one, mind. And I like a Nelly Furtado song. And I've been known to like the occasional PJ Harvey or Tori Amos song. It's just that a full album of them makes me want to stab people. And some female vocalists, even if not singer-songwriters, grate like fingers on a blackboard. That woman from Fairground Attraction, for example. T'Other played that album the other night as we were supposedly dropping off to sleep, but it gave me a headache and made me feel cross and grumpy. I had to nicely ask him to turn it off, because if I'd heard one more second of that whiney voice I would have lost it completely.
I'm sure that there are songs I play that aren't high up on T'Other's list of fun things to listen to either. I'm pretty sure, for example, that he's being polite when he lets me play Duran Duran. But if I'm honest, his tolerance for my music far outstrips my tolerance for his. (Moi? Dictatorial? Nooooo…)
So we are going through that long and tricky process of negotiating a shared playlist through trial and error. I'll play something, say Jeff Hanson, and he'll say whether or not he likes it. After, of course, half an hour of 'Is this really a bloke? You're kidding me, right? That's actually a man singing that?'. Or he'll play something and I'll politely ask him to stop. Now. Please.
How much easier would it be if we had some way of mediating that negotiation through technology. iTunes is a heap of crap in so many ways, but it has sadly become our default music player. Maybe there are other better ones – if there are, please tell me. But what I want to be able to do is to go through T'Other's music and give it a Suw Rating: 1 – 5 or Veto. So a 1 star rating is 'I'll listen to this, but I don't really think it's that great', a 5 star rating is 'I love this!', and a Veto rating is 'Never, ever play this whilst I am in the room. Not if you want to live.'
Then T'Other will go through my music and do the same. Then when I'm looking at my music, I can see at a glance what he likes and what he doesn't.
Of course, the fun part would be if we could both rate both each other's music and our own, at the same time. You'd have two sets of ratings then, and could choose to play music based on, say, 'Both T'Other and Suw rate this as a 5 star track', which would pull out the music that both of us love. Jack Johnson, for example, or Paolo Conte.
The veto option is an important one. A zero star rating is not the same as a veto, in my book. You need a mechanism which says 'I hate this, please, never play it again', and without that you end up with nebulous meaning at the bottom of the ratings scale. Does no star mean that it hasn't been rated yet, or it's been rated as shite? You have to have a way to definitively exclude stuff, otherwise the whole thing falls down and I end up listening to jazz and then my ears start bleeding and T'Other spends the rest of his life riddled with guilt at inflicting such pain on the woman he loves.
I'd also like to be able to tag music too. 'Summery'. Or 'Get yo ass movin''. Or 'Takes me back to my childhood'. Whatever. iTunes lets you pass comment on your music, but that's not a tag. And you can't do complex Boolean searches either. I want to be able to say “Show me only music that's rated 5 stars for both T'Other and Suw, which is tagged 'summery' or 'up' or 'dancey' and which was recorded after 1995″. I want it to show me related tags like Technorati does for blog posts. I want it to break out of this stupid genre thing and start getting all synaesthetic. How does music look? How does it feel? What colour is it?
Between us, T'Other and I have a quite a bit of music – although not as much as some of my friends – but despite music being easier and easier to digitise, music players don't seem to be making it easier and easier to organise. They think 'organisation' means 'putting the right ID tags on each track'. Duh.
What I wanna know: What Web 2.Oh Dear apps are there for organising music? Last.fm is great for sharing playlists online, but I want something with their ethic and imagination that plays the stuff on our hard drives. I'm bored of making playlists. I'm bored of listening album by album. I'm bored of battling with the heap of shit that is iTunes. I want my music to dance to my tune.
Music isn't linear anymore. You don't put the record on the deck and play side 1 before turning it over to play side 2 anymore. CD track listings are nothing more than a serving suggestion. Genre is dead. There is no reason why my music has to be closeted away in one genre – it can be rock and pop. Hell, it can be rock, pop, indie, upbeat, cool, retro, Summer of 04, and orange with purple polkadots all at once, if I want it to be. It can be anything I want.
Except it can't. Because iTunes is shit.
* Rob wrote and performed the bassline on the theme to Blackadder. How cool is that?

Some people call it a one night stand, but we can call it paradise

December 22, 2005

It's a little alarming when you realise that the only gigs you've been to this year have been Duran Duran gigs. For someone who used to be a music journalist, and who used to be a rabidly enthusiastic attendee at as many gigs as she could get tickets to, this realisation comes as somewhat of [...]

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Tamizdat

October 26, 2005

More for my own benefit than anything, a link to Tamizdat, a website selling music from central and eastern Europe, including Poland. Hoping it will become a source of good Polish music, once I get the time to sit down and look through it.

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Live 8 London: Amazing

July 2, 2005

From a purely musical perspective, what an amazing day. Must have been mind-blowing to be there. Wow. I never watch gigs on TV, but this was something else. How the hell they managed to pull this together so quickly, I shall never know. Let's hope it has the required effect. Live8

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A change is as good as a rest

June 3, 2005

I was feeling a bit crappy last night so a friend of mine sent over an MP3 of Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 (Prelude) which seemed to suit and soften my mood perfectly. This morning I downloaded (oh for shame!) the rest of the suite and put it on heavy rotation. Then I got a [...]

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Duran Duran tickets for Saturday

May 26, 2005

My friend Kate has some tickets for Duran Duran at St Andrew's Stadium in Birmingham for Saturday night. We were supposed to go, but some work stuff cropped up which meant I can't go, so she's trying to give the tix away. Interested? Drop her an email at tylluan (at) gmail.com.

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