What music looks like: the magic of Chladni figures

A Chladni figureYou’re probably familiar with oscilloscopes, which make the wave patterns of sound and music visible. Far less well-known, however, are Chladni figures. Discovered at the beginning of the 19th century by Ernst Chladni, a German-born Hungarian physicist and musician, these patterns reflect vibrations on a flat surface like a metal plate or a drum head. Sprinkle fine grains of sand or salt on such a surface, and the grains will align into beautiful patterns that shift as the pitch changes. Continue reading →

Susan Rogers talks about Prince and music

Susan Rogers at Loop 2017Susan Rogers is a remarkable person. After a successful career as a music engineer and producer, she retired from the industry, using royalties from producing the Barenaked Ladies to become a scientist. She earned a doctorate in psychology from McGill University, studying music cognition and psychoacoustics, and currently teaches at Berklee College of Music. Prince fans know her through her work during the period that produced a series of amazing, famous albums. The opportunity came about by chance when Prince hired her as his audio technician during the making of Purple Rain. She rapidly transitioned to become his engineer, effectively taking part in the creation of music by one of the most significant musicians in our lifetime. In an engaging interview at Loop 2017, she addresses wide-ranging topics about music. Continue reading →

Is technology destroying music and culture?

A book about how technology is destroying cultureIn the August 28, 2017 issue of The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert writes about a the impact of technology on culture. She reviews a new book by Jonathan Taplin, “Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy.” While technology and the Internet have benefited us with convenience and expansive social connectivity (especially for niche areas), it has also damaged culture. That is the premise of the book.

Taplin offers the example of Levon Helm, the drummer for the Band. Though he never got rich off his music, he was supported by royalties into middle age, earning about $100,000 a year. Continue reading →