Category: Music

Daniel Barenboim introduces radical new piano design

“I’ve fallen in love with it,” beamed Daniel Barenboim as he unveiled what he believes is a groundbreaking new piano, one which he conceived and commissioned, and has been dreaming about since 2011. “I want to spend as much time with it as possible.”

To a small audience of journalists, Barenboim played 30 seconds from the slow movement of Beethoven’s Appassionata Sonata on his traditional Steinway before playing the same notes on his new piano.

Some were thrilled by the difference. Others furrowed their brows at the similarity. What no one could disagree on was the maestro’s passion for his new instrument.

Barenboim declared it a “sound alternative”. One piano was not better than the other but: “There is a difference in the quality of the sound … it has more transparency, more clarity and by itself less blend but it gives you the opportunity to create a blend yourself as a player – and I like that.”

The exterior looks much the same as any other modern concert grand piano but inside there are some dramatic differences.

Designed by the Belgian instrument maker Chris Maene, the Barenboim has straight parallel strings instead of the diagonal-crossed ones of a contemporary piano. The wooden soundboard veins go in different directions. The bridges, ribs and bracings are specially-designed and the hammers and strings (yellow brass rather than red brass) have been repositioned.

All of this creates a piano which has a different sound and one which he has to play in a different way, he said. “It is a different relationship between the tip of the fingers and the key. And the pedalling … the transparency of the sound makes you rethink the use of the pedals.”

I spent much of the first half of my life as a performing artist. In my childhood – as a classical pianist. I understand what the maestro is talking about. Though I think it may be difficult to perceive from recordings.

I’d love to hear him and his new piano in a live performance.

Super-fast MRI technique demonstration – words & music by Arlen & Yarburg

In order to sing or speak, around one hundred different muscles in our chest, neck, jaw, tongue, and lips must work together to produce sound. Beckman researchers investigate how all these mechanisms effortlessly work together–and how they change over time…

The sound of the voice is created in the larynx, located in the neck. When we sing or speak, the vocal folds–the two small pieces of tissue–come together and, as air passes over them, they vibrate, which produces sound.

After 10 years of working as a professional singer in Chicago choruses, Aaron Johnson’s passion for vocal performance stemmed into research to understand the voice and its neuromuscular system, with a particular interest in the aging voice…

Thanks to the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) capabilities in Beckman’s Biomedical Imaging Center (BIC), Johnson can view dynamic images of vocal movement at 100 frames per second–a speed that is far more advanced than any other MRI technique in the world…

The basis for the technique was developed by electrical and computer engineering professor Zhi-Pei Liang’s group at the Beckman Institute. Sutton and his team further developed and implemented the technique to make high-speed speech imaging possible.

If I Only Had a Brain” (also “If I Only Had a Heart” and “If I Only Had the Nerve”) is a song by Harold Arlen (music) and E.Y. Harburg (lyrics). The song is sung in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz by the characters that meet Dorothy. The characters pine about what each wants from the Wizard. It was also sung in Jeremy Sams and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s 2011 musical adaptation with an additional reprise called “If We Only Had a Plan” when the characters discuss on how to rescue Dorothy in Act II.

I’m not a fan of most vampire movies —

– and there are no vampies in this music video. But, it’s a segment appearing near the end of ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE by Jim Jarmusch. Worth seeing. This clip offered color from the neighborhood in Tangier where Adam and Eve returned to live in peace.

And I discovered Yasmine Hamdan:

Port na bPúcaí

The lovely Irish folk tune Port na bPúcaí (The Music of the Fairies) had mystical beginnings and it’™s said that the people of the Blasket Islands heard ethereal music and wrote an air to match it, hoping to placate unhappy spirits. Seamus Heaney’s poem The Given Note tells of a fiddler who took the song out of wind off mid-Atlantic:

Strange noises were heard
By others who followed, bits of a tune
Coming in on loud weather
Though nothing like melody.

Recent research suggests that, rather than fairies, the islanders may have been hearing the songs of whales transmitted through the canvas hulls of their fishing boats. Humpback whales pass through Irish waters each winter as they migrate south from the North Atlantic, and their songs seem to resemble the folk tune.

Ronan Browne, who plays the air above on Irish pipes, writes, In the mid 1990s I went rooting through some cassettes of whale song and there in the middle of the Orca (Killer Whale) section I heard the opening notes of Port na bPúcaí!”…

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Hopis connect to Reggae — keep on rocking

Some Hopi people lovingly refer to their remote reservation as “the doughnut hole” because it’s surrounded by the Navajo Nation and so far from a major city.

But three decades ago tribal members convinced Jamaican artists from the SunSplash reggae festival to make a major detour off the Interstate and venture all the way out to Hopi land.

Since then the Hopi have organized dozens of reggae concerts.

Jennifer Joseph, who goes by Jonnie Jay on KUYI Hopi Radio, recalls when reggae was first introduced to Hopi.

“The artists that came, they didn’t play to crowds that were 10,000,” Joseph said. “They played to crowds of less than a hundred. But they came and they came and they came because they felt the roots. They felt the connection.”

For three decades many Hopi have adopted reggae as their music of choice. It’s difficult to travel the three mesas that make up the reservation without seeing several gold, red and green bumper stickers, not to mention someone in a Bob Marley T-shirt.

Joseph said the Hopi can connect with a lot of reggae music’s themes, but oppression really hits home.

“Although they sing about their strife and issues where they live, we can really relate to it,” Joseph said. “Those are the same issues we face everyday up to today. And it’s always Babylon coming down on us…”

…KUYI Hopi Radio general manager Richard Davis said reggae has been a powerful yet peaceful expression.

“The message of peaceful resistance, conscious resistance is definitely something that is a direct link between Hopi culture and reggae music,” Davis said…

“Ziggy Marley he says love is his religion,” Joseph said. “Love is our religion. We were once the same people. When we came to this world we were all one people.”

Glad to hear the Reggae continues. I was at the Sunsplash concerts on Hopi Tribal land, early days. Great fun. Audiences tended to be Hopi, Anglos and Apaches. Navajos rarely attended – no surprise. I don’t know if that ever changed.

The music was a gas and, yes, it fit right. RTFA for context.

Dancing robot cheerleaders

The only thing better than state-of-the-arts robotics is when it’s combined with Force 9 cuteness. Japanese electronics company Murata Manufacturing has given us one example with the unveiling if its robotic Cheerleaders. The squad of ten ball-mounted robots uses advanced ultrasonics, infrared, and group control technology to perform synchronized dance routines with perfect stability.

The Murata Cheerleader stands 36 cm tall. The pom poms of the Murata Cheerleader are part of the balance system.

The Cheerleaders were built in collaboration with Matsuno Lab at Kyoto University and represent Murata’s fourth generation of robots. The design is based on the company’s bicycle-riding Murata Boy and unicycle-riding Murata Boy, though the Cheerleader robots are designed to represent “elementary school students full of energy and curiosity…”

Who says robots can’t be cute en masse?