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
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DUNGEON!!!

My son has been at “Rocks & Robots” camp this week (mostly building

"You are likely to be eaten by a grue..."
“You are likely to be eaten by a grue…”

sumo-wrestling robots with Mindstorms, plus two half-days of rock climbing), and apparently he and several other kids have developed a species of spoken-word text-based adventure that they play over lunch, called “Dungeon!!!”  The game starts with someone saying something along the lines of “You are in a cage hanging from a rusted chain, and realize the cage door is not actually locked. What do you do?” Whoever else is sitting around is in the party and starts asking questions and making decisions. No gold, no XP, no dice, no pencil, no paper—just you and the Dungeon.

But the best thing, IMHO, is that in order to look around the room you say ls (the *nix command to get a list of the contents of the current directory, like dir in DOS).ubuntu-cp-demo

Why?

“Because it’s easier than saying ‘I look around the room,’ or whatever.  And sounds cooler.”

And, yes, he did indeed “Get the idea from computers.”

*headshake* Poor lil nerd don’t even have a notion of the basic framework of what is and is not cool.

Running his Ruby scripts from the command line
Running his Ruby scripts from the command line

Three Thoughts on Nukes: The Parable of the Six Fishes, the Demon Core, and the 10,000 Dead Americans We Don’t Care About

one

Which reminds me of a story Penn Jillette used to tell.  He and Teller were scheduled to appear on TV (maybe Letterman?), and so they prepared a new twist on a classic trick: You take a volunteer’s watch, put it in a bag, smash it, dump out the tattered remains, do some patter, and then make the watch reappear whole and ticking.  In their version for Letterman (or whoever), they were going to take the host’s watch, smash it, then wheel out a big aquarium, and sprinkle the parts in the water, where they’d dissolve and the fish would eat them.  The host would freely select one of the fish, Teller would scoop it out with a net, they’d gut and and ta-da!, there would be the whole, ticking watch in the fish’s guts!

But the network standards folks wouldn’t let them do that trick; it’d be too brutal to have an animal killed on screen.  So Penn and Teller re-jiggered the trick: Instead of an aquarium full of live fish, they’d wheel out a fishmonger’s ice table with six dead fish on it.  They’d take the host’s watch, smash it, sprinkle the bits in the ice, the bits would dissolve, the host would freely select a dead fish, and Teller’d fillet it to reveal the watch.  Standards loved it, the host loved it, and that’s what went on live TV.

The point of the story—which is the sort of thing that belongs in an atheist’s Bible—is that Nuclear_Blast_Animation_Blinding_Lighteveryone was more comfortable with six fish dying instead of one, provided they didn’t have to watch.  Perhaps this is why, if we are to have a death penalty, we should televise it.  Perhaps viewing should be mandatory.  Perhaps the president should be forced to kill one patriot before he or she kills 10,000 abstract men, women, and children.

two

Consider The Demon Core and the sacrifices researchers make (occasionally heroic, but almost always mundane, and very often totally unforeseeable).  I’m mostly putting this here because I’d first heard about this when I was a kid, and realized that many folks hadn’t–and further, that most folks don’t realize what a duct-tape-and-butterknives affair science really is.  We imagine clean labs and specialized gear, but in real life it’s a lot of tupperware and dirty countertops.  A few folks are celebrated for the “Eureka!”s, and even fewer die terrible (but instructive) deaths.  The vast majority toil steadfastly day after day to further human progress one negative result at a time—so that we can go onto to totally disregard their hard-won findings because an actor or know-nothing shouted something demonstrably false at the top of their lungs just long enough to fool our just-half-a-step-from-monkey brains.nuclear_explosion_test_at_sea

three

I hasten to add that, having protested the continuing operation of a damaged Fermi II back in the 1990s and edited a textbook about Chernobyl, I am now nonetheless firmly pro-nuclear energy.  As a species, we need a lot of electricity, and we’re gonna need even more to dig ourselves out of the slow climate avalanche that’s going to kill us.  The way we currently generate bulk electricity kills tens of thousands of people annually (for example, air pollution from burning coal kills more than 10,000 people each year just in the US)—and that’s when it’s working as intended.  Even taking into account the inevitability of the occasional Fukushima or Chernobyl, we’re still better off with the Demon Core than the Devil We Know.

FUN FACT: My grandad is in this picture!
FUN FACT: My grandad is in this picture!