Prepare Your Brain for RAZZLE-DAZZLE: Pierre Jaquet-Droz’s “Writer”

If you’re at all mechanically minded, you’re going to start our sort of underwhelmed, since the solution seems pretty transparent: Any determined craftsman could get similar results with a homebrew pantograph and template (hell, you could do it in LEGO).

But keep watching.  You’ll get more impressed around the 2-minute mark when you see the mechanism, and more so around 2:40 when you see the cams and realize that the device isn’t tracing letterforms, but rather, in a mechanical sense, understands a series of modular strokes than can be built up in different arrangements to form different letters. Finally, you’ll totally shit yourself at 3:55 because this damned thing—built in the late 1700s—was programmable.

0.o

Absolutely stunning.

The “Millennial Whoop” and the Formula for Comfort Formulae

I’m interested in artistic formulea of all stripes, so my ears perked up when I stumbled across this blog post exploring why it is that every pop song I hear as of late seems to feel the same, even when they sound totally different.  The key: A little earwormy melodic alternation embedded into the hook.  Here’s the article’s kick-out—although the whole thing (which is rife with video examples) is well worth your time:

[T]he Millennial Whoop evokes a kind of primordial sense that everything will be alright. You know these notes. You’ve heard this before. There’s nothing out of the ordinary or scary here. You don’t need to learn the words or know a particular language or think deeply about meaning. You’re safe. In the age of climate change and economic injustice and racial violence, you can take a few moments to forget everything and shout with exuberance at the top of your lungs. Just dance and feel how awesome it is to be alive right now. Wa-oh-wa-oh.

Having read this, I wondered how persuasive such a simply piece of patterning might be. So, in five minutes I sketched out this little tune and, whaddya know, it sounds like the outro of basically anything I’ve stumbled across while tuning across the dial during the last several long summer car trips:

For the curious, there’s literally nothing going on in this song: The left hand is just a straight C Major chord alternating with whatever you call that lazy F Major where, instead of actually moving your hand up, you just skooch your thumb and index fingers up one white key each, so that you pick up F Major’s F and B while keeping C anchored as the bottom note (maybe that’s an “inversion” of F Major?)  The right hand, as per the “Millennial Whoop” formula, is alternating between the G and E two octaves up—i.e., the V and III in a progression where C is the root (i.e., I).  The lyrics (which, depending on your speakers, might be hard to hear without headphones; I’m shit at mastering) are just whatever popped into my head, and the whole thing was recorded using my cellphone.  The only “studio magic” (done in Garageband, and largely without any digital pixie dust) is “doubling the vocals” (see below—which is an excerpt form my book Junkyard Jam Band )—especially important in this instance because 1) I can’t sing for shit (which double-tracking tends to obscure) and 2) the mic on my cellphone didn’t pick up my voice particularly clearly, on account it was sitting on top of my keyboard’s speaker.  Even if it had caught my singing, I likely would have doubled the vocals anyway (which are actually quadrupled by the end—listen with headphones, and you’ll hear two extra voices, slathered in “chorus” effect, that come in on the second round of Oh-ee-oh-ee-oh-ohs), since that sorta lush studio overkill is baked into this running-’til-the-break-of-dawn! summer-hit genre.

 JJB-doublingvox
Continue reading “The “Millennial Whoop” and the Formula for Comfort Formulae”

Drawing with Sound on an Oscilloscope

No CGI, no digital effects, no computer even; just some electrical testing equipment and an audio recording.  Pretty neat and a lot of fun to watch—so neat and fun that I was, in fact, pretty dubious at first.  So I borrowed an oscilloscope from my local public library and tried it out—AND IT WORKED!

Here’s Jerobeam Fenderson’s explanation of the effect, and another article with several neat videos.

Here’s Fenderson’s older “Drawing Mushrooms” video, which is the one I tested myself:

Metal-on-Metal: Convert an Old Shovel into a DIY Electric Guitar

I love watching Rob Scallon rock out on a shovel guitar.  FYI, this is a totally doable afternoon DIY project for any of you (yes, even you!) or the bored teen in your life.  You can build something just like this (or a hockey-stick bass, an electric broomstick banjo, an axe ax—you get the gag) using the methods laid out in the “$10 Electric Guitar” project in my first book (click here now to get a FREE copy of that project—and, if you’re near Metro Detroit in July, you can come to Motor City Steam Con where I’ll be running a workshop on electric-guitarifying stuff).

Wnat more DIY musical shenanigans?  I’ve got a whole new book of crazy music projects.

WATCH ME: “8 1/2 Mile”

[WATCH] CLASSIC INTERNET THEATER: THE ‘8 ½ MILE’ TRAILER

I basically 180-degree disagree with H. Perry H on the watchability of such a film—I would watch the shit out of this!—but love the opening graff of his post:

The internet is a Sarlacc pit of information: stuff goes in and it never comes out, the bodies just keep piling one atop another until they’re all digested into a sludge the individual elements of which are indistinguishable, it’s just a big, messy, congealed pile of videos, social media posts, other assorted viral moments, and mostly porn.

And I love the trailer itself:

Meat vs. Machine

Nature can best a drone…

…and a dude with a rudimentary medieval weapon can best a drone…

..and then this super-genius has to fuck it all up: 

(Doesn’t help that the fucking thing sounds like a billion mosquitos all crying out for vengeance.)

Thanks, buddy; our fate as biological batteries for a reality-bending one world robo-overlord is basically sealed.

I Love This . . . [UPDATE!!!]

. . . but it literally goes 30 seconds too long.  Also, she really should be smoking an e-cigarette, right?

UPDATE: My lovely wife points out that, given the content of the smoker’s NDE, we are perhaps meant to understand that she has in fact been sent to Purgatory, Hell, or a non-Xtian vision of the afterlife(!!!)

Mind—blow!