You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘music’ tag.

I loved that show. She died last month. Here are 30 selected episodes. Definitely check out the Keith Jarett one.

  1. Exercise: find a name such that when you sing The Name Game (“banana fana fo …”) all three words you get are insults.
  2. The Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse team has won the NCAA championship like every year but two in the past decade.  The two losses make the overall dynasty more impressive.  Discuss.
  3. Why do fat people slide farther when they reach the bottom of a water slide?
  4. When hiking in a group, if an accurate measure of (changes in) elevation is unavailable but you have a watch and a GPS it’s better to share the work of carrying the backpack by dividing the time rather than the distance.

Would it be possible to make a statistical model of a jazz solo and use it to create new ones?  Take a standard, and let’s focus on the saxaphone, say.  Go to the solo and estimate a Markov transition kernel which tells you the probability distribution over the next tone conditional on the previous tone.  In particular you want the joint probability distribution over the following note (or just the interval) and the note’s value (eighth, quarter, etc.)  Feed it tons and tons of recordings of sax solos for the same tune (that’s why you want a standard.)

Once you have estimated your kernel, simulate it.  Will it be music?  How much of an improvement do you get if the state variable is the last two notes instead of just one?  If your state variable is the last n notes, at what n are improvements no longer noticeable?

This is an interesting article, albeit breathless and probably completely deluded, about acquired savantism:  people suffering traumatic brain injury and as a result developing a talent that they did not have before.  Here’s at least one bit that sounds legit:

Last spring, Snyder published what many consider to be his most substantive work. He and his colleagues gave 28 volunteers a geometric puzzle that has stumped laboratory subjects for more than 50 years. The challenge: Connect nine dots, arrayed in three rows of three, using four straight lines without retracing a line or lifting the pen. None of the subjects could solve the problem. Then Snyder and his colleagues used a technique called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to temporarily immobilize the same area of the brain destroyed by dementia in Miller’s acquired savants. The noninvasive technique, which is commonly used to evaluate brain damage in stroke patients, delivers a weak electrical current to the scalp through electrodes, depolarizing or hyperpolarizing neural circuits until they have slowed to a crawl. After tDCS, more than 40 percent of the participants in Snyder’s experiment solved the problem. (None of those in a control group given placebo tDCS identified the solution.)

(I know this problem because it was presented to us as a brain teaser when I was in 2nd grade.  Nobody got it. The solution while quite simple is “difficult” to see because you instinctively self-impose the unstated rule that your pencil cannot leave the square.)

The suggestion is that with some drugs or surgery we could all unlock some hidden sensitivity or creativity that is latent within us. Forget about whether any of the anecdotes in the article are true examples of the phenomenon (the piano guy almost certainly is not.  Watch the video, he’s doing what anyone with some concentrated practice can do.  There is no evidence that he has acquired a natural, untrained facility at the piano.  And anyway even if we accept the hypothesis about brain damage and perception/concentration why should we believe that a blow to the head can give you a physical ability that normally takes months or years of exercise to acquire?)

The examples aside, there is reason to believe that something like this could be possible.  At least the natural counterargument is wrong:  our brains should already be using whatever talents they have to their fullest.  It would be an evolutionary waste to build the structure to do something useful and not actually use it.  This argument is wrong but not because playing the piano and sculpting bronze bulls are not valuable survival skills.  Neither is Soduku but we have that skill because its one way to apply a deeper, portable skill that can also be usefully applied.  No, the argument is wrong because it ignores the second-best nature of the evolutionary optimum.

It could be that we have a system that takes in tons of sensory information all of which is potentially available to us at a conscious level but in practice is finely filtered for just the most relevant details.  While the optimal level of detail might vary with the circumstances the fineness of the filter could have been selected for the average case.  That’s the second best optimum if it is too complex a problem to vary the level of detail according to circumstances.  If so, then artificial intervention could improve on the second-best by suppressing the filter at chosen times.

You know how after you just saw a really cool movie with a friend and you and your friend run into a mutual friend and you two are so excited about the movie you describe it in great detail elaborating on one another’s account getting yourselves more and more excited about the movie just through your own process of recalling it and meanwhile your friend is bored to tears and really when you think about it the guy’s only real role here is to be a third party who hasn’t seen the movie so that you and your friend can talk to each other about the movie through him because it wouldn’t really make sense for the two of you to describe the movie to each other because, right, you both just saw it together but still there is something for the two of you to communicate to each other, to relive it and make the experience more common and indeed when you milk that to its fullest you are talking about subtleties that really only someone who has had the experience can relate to and appreciate so your third party gets progressively more estranged from the conversation at the same time that the two of you get more involved.

Well, that’s kinda what articles like this one about the Grateful Dead  are like. Giving stories that anyone who doesn’t already know them isn’t going to be interested in but nevertheless there is a sense that this way of writing the article, pretending that the reader is someone else, is the most effective way to reminisce with the actual readers.

This is sublime writing.  It will make your week, go and read it.  Thanks to The Browser for the pointer.

Its called Nostra Culpa and its a 16 minute 2 act opera dramatizing the exchange on Twitter between Paul Krugman and Estonian President Toomas Ilves about that country’s austerity program.    Robert Siegel interviewed the librettist and composer on NPR yesterday:

SIEGEL: I would sort of have expected you to have written this for a tenor and a baritone. But unexpectedly, for me at least, the two characters – Paul Krugman and President Ilves of Estonia – are both sung by the same mezzo-soprano.

BIRMAN: Right. Well, the mezzo-soprano is somebody I’ve worked with before and she’s, I think, one of the greatest talents in Estonia as a dramatic singer. And my idea – my sort of inspiration to set these words was not so much to make some kind of argument, but to have the singer portray the people themselves who are stuck in this – between these two sides.

SIEGEL: Now, one writer observed that the entire exchange between Krugman and Ilves consisted of a 70-word blog post with chart, and then four tweets. Puccini had a lot more to work with when he sat down to write “Tosca,” let’s say.

BIRMAN: Well, one could write an opera, a full-length two-hour opera, using just this content, in my opinion. Because, in a way, why is the story interesting? To me it’s interesting because we have been discussing this ever since 2008, 2009 – what to do and how to get out of this, and we’re still not out. And the story is being written as we go.

The opera has its debut on April 7 in Estonia.

Here’s what I presented on Friday in Cambridge:


And here’s what I presented on Saturday in Chicago:

  1. To indirectly find out what a person of the opposite sex thinks of her/himself ask what she thinks are the big differences between men and women.
  2. Letters of recommendation usually exaggerate the quality of the candidate but writers can only bring themselves to go so far.  To get extra mileage try phrases like “he’s great, if not outstanding” and hope that its understood as “he’s great, maybe even outstanding” when what you really mean is “he’s not outstanding, just great.”
  3. In chess, kids are taught never to move a piece twice in the opening.  This is a clear sunk cost fallacy.
  4. I remember hearing that numerals are base 10 because we have 10 fingers.  But then why is music (probably more primitive than numerals) counted mostly in fours?
  5. “Loss aversion” is a dumb terminology.  At least risk aversion means something:  you can be either risk averse or risk loving.  Who likes losses?

As usual Ethan Iverson gets his subject to talk about music at an accessible but still sophisticated level and also to open up about some really interesting stuff.

FH:  There were many more of them. And then there were some Chick Corea clones — the big three.  But the Herbie clone thing lasted longer. I was listening on the radio on WBGO the other day, and it was some singer, and the piano player sounded so much like Herbie. It was like, he lifted all of Herbie’s greatest licks, and I thought, “Oh, that’s sad, just sad.”

Chick: I happened by Now He Sings Now He Sobs; I had never heard of it, and that was another “Jesus, what was that?” record. Like, “whoa.”  I mean, I heard Light as a Featherand I heard that, and that was like, “That was the same guy?” And I got one calledInner Space, a two CD set, which is a really nice set and on there is a piece for flute, bassoon and piano, like a classical piece, which is really kind of nice. And you know, I certainly followed him a lot for a while, but certainly only to the point that he started going into the Elektric band and the Akoustic band, and “Captain Marvel” and “Leprechaun” whatever… and I haven’t bought a Chick record in 30 years.

He’s in there somewhere. But I hear Chick’s influence more in, like you said, Richie Beirach, or Joanne Brackeen, than myself.

EI:  It’s funny. Chick’s lines are thornier than McCoy’s, but paradoxically squarer than McCoy’s, do you know what I mean?

FH:  Chick is basically early McCoy, a bit of Bud Powell and a lot of Latin music, if you have to reduce it.

EI:  He has this truly incredible facility at the instrument.

FH:  Oh, he does.

EI:  Unbelievable facility. But even when he plays out, I hear the grids going along in a way that I don’t hear when I hear McCoy.

FH:   He’s never had a touch or a sound that invited me in. Some people’s sounds I just connect with, and I find him more admirable than enjoyable, whereas Herbie I can really enjoy, and early McCoy I can really enjoy, and a lot of Keith, if I put aside who he is, I can really enjoy it. But other than those first early records that I bought, I don’t find Chick particularly enjoyable.

EI:  There’s something off-putting there, I agree. But he’s one of those guys who is the quintessential jam musician, who can show up and play with anybody.

FH:  And sound great.

EI:  And sound great. Despite the Akoustic band and everything else, he has something where he could show up anywhere in the world at a jam session, and not only would he play incredible, everyone else would play better too.

The abstract:

This is a line-by-line analysis of the second verse of 99 Problems by Jay-Z, from the perspective of a criminal procedure professor. It’s intended as a resource for law students and teachers, and for anyone who’s interested in what pop culture gets right about criminal justice, and what it gets wrong.

For example:

E. Line 7

So I pull over . . . At this point, Jay-Z has been seized, for purposes of Fourth Amendment analysis, because he has submitted to a show of police authority. He has thus preserved his Fourth Amendment claims. If you are stopped illegally and want to fight it later, you have to submit to the show of authority. In this case, if the police find the contraband, he’ll be able to challenge it in court. Smart decision here by Jay-Z.

The full paper is here, I thank the organic Troy Kravitz for the link.

From an interview in Rolling Stone:

Oh, yeah, in folk and jazz, quotation is a rich and enriching tradition. That certainly is true. It’s true for everybody, but me. There are different rules for me. And as far as Henry Timrod is concerned, have you even heard of him? Who’s been reading him lately? And who’s pushed him to the forefront? Who’s been making you read him? And ask his descendants what they think of the hoopla. And if you think it’s so easy to quote him and it can help your work, do it yourself and see how far you can get. Wussies and pussies complain about that stuff. It’s an old thing – it’s part of the tradition. It goes way back. These are the same people that tried to pin the name Judas on me. Judas, the most hated name in human history! If you think you’ve been called a bad name, try to work your way out from under that. Yeah, and for what? For playing an electric guitar? As if that is in some kind of way equitable to betraying our Lord and delivering him up to be crucified. All those evil motherfuckers can rot in hell. 

Ethan Iverson has an excellent series of posts on the ironically-named Thelonious Monk Piano Competitions and the incentives, perverse and otherwise, they create.

My argument against competitions is basically same thing. To my ears, there had been an astonishing amount of agreement about what jazz really is in most youthful swinging jazz since 1990. That agreement was one reason I rebelled against it. I just couldn’t see it as the jazz tradition — not my jazz tradition, anyway. I was delighted to be lifted out of the discussion entirely by Reid Anderson and David King in 2001.

It is crucial to remember that my writing on DTM reflects my own experience, passions, and blind spots. On Twitter and in the forum, several competition veterans said they played exactly how they wanted to play, in a non-conventional manner, and won anyway.

Kudos. I could have never won a competition. Indeed, my joke about playing “Confirmation” in front of Carl Allen was loaded with my own fears. Even though I’ve recorded “Confirmation” twice, with Billy Hart and Tootie Heath, I still wouldn’t want to play that in front of a bebop jury. Forget it! You couldn’t pay me enough.

I would push him on the basic economics:  as long as there is a scarcity of gigs there will be competition in some form.  Is it better for that competition to be formalized or to play out in the market alone?  If winners gain notoriety and then gigs, and if judges reflect the preferences of audiences then formal competitions can save a lot of rent-seeking.  I suppose the more cynical take is that judges have arbitrary standards and winning a contest merely turns the winner into a focal point around which venues and audiences coordinate attention.  But if audiences’ tastes are that malleable is this really a loss?

She complained that when I practice the piano late at night I play too loud and it wakes her up every time.  So I said oh I didn’t realize that, did I wake you up last night.  She said yes.  Ha, I said but I didn’t practice last night.  Oh.  She was caught.  Thing is, I actually did practice last night.

It was described in a novel L’ecume des Jours by Boris Vian:

For each note there’s a corresponding drink – either a wine, spirit, liqueur or fruit juice. The loud pedal puts in egg flip and the soft pedal adds ice. For soda you play a cadenza in F sharp. The quantities depend on how long a note is held – you get the sixteenth of a measure for a hemidemisemiquaver; a whole measure for a black note; and four measures for a semibreve. When you play a slow tune, then tone comes into control to prevent the amounts growing too large and the drink getting too big for a cocktail – but the alcoholic content remains unchanged. And, depending on the length of the tune, you can, if you like, vary the measures used, reducing them, say, to a hundredth in order to get a drink taking advantage of all the harmonics, by means of an adjustment on the side.

And here it is, realized:

(Porkpie pirouet:  Adriana Lleras-Muney)

A week-long series of blog posts at NPR the best of which come from Jeremy Denk. His opener:

Preternaturally happy, cheerful, perfect, organized, clean, boring, popular: I guess the case I’m making is that the Goldbergs are the Martha Stewart of Variations. And like Martha Stewart, you don’t totally absolutely mind if they end up going off for a little while to a very clean and nice prison (sorry Martha, I’m just following the metaphor, I don’t really mean it) so you don’t have to see them being perfectly organized all the time, making a mockery of your unclean life. Maybe a show of hands: who would like a short moratorium on performances or recordings of the Goldbergs, so we could all hear it freshly again? Who will be the first pianist to unilaterally disarm? (Not me!)

Let’s revise the Martha Stewart metaphor. The Goldbergs are like a friend you have who always does everything right. This friend always answers his emails, keeps a clean house, has a kind word for everyone, behaves properly at concerts, writes thank you cards, grooms himself assiduously, knows how to tie a tie, never eats Burger King at 2 AM, and never ever writes silly blog posts saying he hates pieces he really loves. He’s an example to the world. He’s smiling at you over drinks, listening as always with benevolent patience, and you realize through your gritted hateful envious teeth that he is certainly not your enemy, and what would it hurt to admit, you wouldn’t want to face life without him?

Jaapi jab:  DoTheMath.

  1. It can happen that the sensory input you experience over a short interval of time makes no sense to your brain until some last thing happens which reveals the theme and gives context to everything that came before.  At that moment your brain goes back and reprocesses everything that just happened in order to make sense of it.  The feeling is like experiencing a whole chunk of time condensed into one moment together with the satisfying feeling of resolution that comes from making order out of chaos.  Musicians use this trick to great effect.
  2. It’s less of an insult to say someone is “disingenuous” than to say she is a liar.  But we all know that the meaning is exactly the same.  Disingenuous is a more obscure word and there is less common knowledge of its meaning. Given two words that are synonymous is it generally true that the one with the more nuanced connotation is also the one that is longer, rarer, more obscure?
  3. In almost all Western music every note begins and ends K/2^n units of time after the last note for some integers K and n.  Isn’t that rather limiting?
  4. A nurse at my kids’ pediatrician tells them she will count to three before giving them a shot but she actually gives the shot at the count of 2, surprising them.  It seems to make it less painful.  How does that work?

Reality shows eliminate contestants one at a time. Shows like American Idol do this by holding a vote. The audience is asked to vote for their favorite contestant and the one with the fewest votes is eliminated.

Last week on American Idol something very surprising happened. The two singers who were considered to have given the best performances the night before, and who were strong favorites to win the whole thing received among the fewest votes. Indeed a very strong favorite, Jessica Sanchez was “voted off” and only survived because the judges kept her alive by using their one intervention of the season.

The problem in a nutshell is that American Idol voters are deciding whom to eliminate but instead of directly voting for the one they want to eliminate, they are asked to vote for the person they don’t want eliminated.  This creates highly problematic strategic incentives which can easily lead to a strong favorite being eliminated.

For example suppose that a large number prefers contestant S to all others. But while they agree on S, they disagree about the ranking of the other contestants and they are interested in keeping their second and third favorites around too.

The supporters of S have a problem:  maintaining support for S is a public good which can be undermined by their private incentives.  In particular some of them might be worried that their second favorite contestant needs help. If so, and if they think that S has enough support from others, then they will switch their vote from S to help save that contestant. But if they fail to coordinate, and too many of the S supporters do this, then S is in danger of being eliminated.

This problem simply could not arise if American Idol instead asked audiences to vote out the contestant they want to see eliminated. Consider again the situation described above.  Yes there will still be incentives to vote strategically, indeed any voting system will give rise to some kind of manipulation.  But a strong favorite like S will be insulated from their effects. Here’s why.  An honest voter votes for the contestants she likes least.  A strategic voter might vote instead for her next-to-least favorite.  She might do this if she thinks that voting out her least-favorite is a wasted vote because not enough other people will vote similarly.  And she might do this if she thinks that one of her favorite contestants is a risk for elimination.

But no matter how she tries to manipulate the vote it will be shifting votes around for her lower-ranked contestants without undermining support for her favorite. Indeed it is a dominated strategy to vote against your favorite and so a heavily favored contestant like S could never be eliminated in a voting-out system as it can with the current voting-in system.

This is an absolutely fantastic article, I highly recommend it.

Most of the songs played on Top Forty radio are collaborations between producers like Stargate and “top line” writers like Ester Dean. The producers compose the chord progressions, program the beats, and arrange the “synths,” or computer-made instrumental sounds; the top-liners come up with primary melodies, lyrics, and the all-important hooks, the ear-friendly musical phrases that lock you into the song. “It’s not enough to have one hook anymore,” Jay Brown, the president of Roc Nation, and Dean’s manager, told me recently. “You’ve got to have a hook in the intro, a hook in the pre-chorus, a hook in the chorus, and a hook in the bridge.” The reason, he explained, is that “people on average give a song seven seconds on the radio before they change the channel, and you got to hook them.”

The article goes into great detail about the creative process.  They are clearly master craftspeople.  Once they have a hit, they find a star to give it to.

Rihanna is often described as a “manufactured” pop star, because she doesn’t write her songs, but neither did Sinatra or Elvis. She embodies a song in the way an actor inhabits a role—and no one expects the actor to write the script. In the rock era, when the album was the standard unit of recorded music, listeners had ten or eleven songs to get to know the artist, but in the singles-oriented business of today the artist has only three or four minutes to put her personality across. The song must drip with attitude and swagger, or “swag,” and nobody delivers that better than Rihanna, even if a good deal of the swag originates with Ester Dean.

You might think that a story like this will confirm your cynicism about pop music but in fact it will make you appreciate it much much more.

This is a beautiful instrument, invented only 10 years ago.  I want one.  For more music from Manu Delago, including tour dates with Bjork (!), visit his web site.

He plays drums, he has a blog,

i am in a world title fight with a mid life crisis and im kicking its fu#$%$ing ass. i weigh 171lbs (4 lbs less than when i graduated from high school with a 1.9 grade point average) which means i’m trim and ripped and i drive a 1976 mercedes benz with a little more than a little rust on it because i drive it in minnesota winters and its only really worked for a little while but i look like a pbs, nova, paper chase watching mother fucker in it. I WILL ASK THIS ONLY ONE MORE TIME!!! DOES ANYONE WANT TO WRESTLE ME??? ive been watching college wrestling late at night on cable and wait………does anyone say “cable” anymore?? side note: i want to bring back the innocence of motel signs that say “free HBO” on them. I think it would be funny if i stood outside a courthouse with an old motel sign that said free HBO and just check out the reactions. you know…as in HBO should be let out of jail. IM SURE I CAN GET A GRANT FOR THIS. THIS IS POST MODERN.

and there is a new movie about him, called King For Two Days.  I think the title means that it follows him for two days but not necessarily that the movie is two days long, although I haven’t checked to be 100% honest with you.

This is worth your Friday (or your employer’s as the case may be.)  Check out Jarrett playing/talking Bach (1:30ish), Manfred Eicher’s take (5:10ish), Keith Jarrett listening to Jack DeJohnette and Gary Peacock playing a piano duet! (7:00ish), KJ’s hippie brother (14:00 ish), small hands (3:45ish on part 2), obligatory squeaking questions (6:15 part 2), Miles Davis (part 3), Koln (halfway part 3), Chick Corea (end of part 3-part 4), playing soprano sax (middle part 4), American quartet (end part 4), European quartet (part 5), chronic fatigue (part 6).

Thanks to Tobias Schmidt for the link.

Comedians are loath to follow a better act.  But musicians not so much.  Definitely not academics.  Why?

  1. Comedy is more vertically differentiated.  It’s really funny, just a little funny, or not funny.  The subject matter adds another dimension but that’s not so important for the ultimate impact.  Music is more horizontally differentiated.  So the opening act can be really good at what they do, but you can still please the audience if you’re not quite as good but do something different.  On this score academics are more like musicians.
  2. Laughs are physical.  You only have so many of those to give in a night. Wheras good music has the effect of putting you in a mental state that makes you more receptive to even more music.  Here academic talks are more like comedy.  The audience gets taxed.
  3. Headlining musicians always degrade the quality of the opening act by giving them less stage space and limited lighting and other effects.  In large conferences academics do the same thing by distinguishing the “plenary” talks from the rest.  (Get this:  in Istanbul this summer I am giving a semi-plenary talk.)  There is no obvious way to do this for comedy.
  4. Music is played by groups, comedians are always solo.  Somehow the head-to-head comparison is less exact for groups.  Solo singers are probably more reluctant to follow better singers than groups are when following other groups.  Academics get to blame their backstage co-authors.


The live recording finds the Imposters in rare form, while the accompanying motion picture blueprints the wilder possibilities of the show, as it made its acclaimed progress across the United States throughout the year.

Unfortunately, we at find ourselves unable to recommend this lovely item to you as the price appears to be either a misprint or a satire.

All our attempts to have this number revised have been fruitless but rather than detain you with tedious arguments about morality, panache and book-keeping – when there are really bigger fish to filet these days – we are taking the following unusual step.

If you should really want to buy something special for your loved one at this time of seasonal giving, we can whole-heartedly recommend, “Ambassador Of Jazz” – a cute little imitation suitcase, covered in travel stickers and embossed with the name “Satchmo” but more importantly containing TEN re-mastered albums by one of the most beautiful and loving revolutionaries who ever lived – Louis Armstrong.

The box should be available for under one hundred and fifty American dollars and includes a number of other tricks and treats. Frankly, the music is vastly superior.

If on the other hand you should still want to hear and view the component parts of the above mentioned elaborate hoax, then those items will be available separately at a more affordable price in the New Year, assuming that you have not already obtained them by more unconventional means.

By now those means are in fact the conventional ones, but we get the point. Slouch slouch nimpupani.

  1. The Bad Plus are going into the studio next week.
  2. The price of his masterclass is rising from Free to $20 per three-hour session.
  3. If you live in Seattle you can see The Bad Plus play with the Mark Morris Dance Group Dec 1-3

and more.

Consider an infinite-horizon decision problem consisting of a sequence of beats. Each beat is divided into two eighth notes and you have to decide when to play them.  If you have standard exponential discounting you will evenly space your beats through time.  You will play a classical rhythm.  But if you are what behavioral economists call a hyperbolic discounter and you have present bias, you will procrastinate the first eighth note.  But then in order to complete the beat you will need to play the second eighth note in quick succession.  This pattern will repeat through time.  You will play a swing rhythm.

Two radio stations compete for advertisers.  They run ads during 10 minute slots that they can locate anywhere within a given hour of air time.  They know that listeners don’t like ads and will switch to another station to avoid them.  Will their commercial times be disjoint, overlapping or will they exactly coincide?

Whatever they do, the listeners will adjust their behavior.  Disjoint advertising intervals would mean that listeners, regardless of which station they are currently tuned to, will switch as soon as the ads start and always be listening to music.  So that’s not an equilibrium.

Suppose they overlap.  Radio station B is trying to be clever by starting its ads just a minute later than A.  Those listening to radio station A switch to B when the ads start to get an extra minute of music.  But when the ads start on B, the listeners know that the music will begin sooner on radio station A.  But since you don’t know exactly when the ads will end, and in the meantime you have ads on either station, the time to switch to A is now.  That’s not an equilibrium either.

If the ad intervals exactly coincide then listeners learn there is no point in switching.  And if listeners aren’t switching then the stations can do no better than to have their ad intervals coincide.  So that’s the equilibrium.

This paper by Andrew Sweeting shows empirically that stations coordinate their advertising intervals and explores the motives.

My simple model omits NPR.  What programming runs on public radio during the ad intervals on commercial radio?  Do commercial radio stations change their behavior during NPR pledge drives?

Ethan Iverson has the rundown.  Some highlights:

6) My Old Man (Joni Mitchell): “Blue”, a masterpiece, turned me upside-down when it came out in 1971. Her lyrics, way with harmony, her chord progressions and the uniqueness of her voice are unsurpassed. She is one of the great setters of text of all time. I had a hard time trying to figure out these chords as a high-schooler!

11) If I Were A Bell (Miles Davis): This is the record (“Live at the Blackhawk”) that made me want to play jazz as my life’s work. Wynton Kelly’s comping under Miles’ and Hank Mobley’s solos, his energy and time feel and the live-ness of the recording are still great to listen to today – so direct and swinging.

12) 1 X Love (Charles Mingus): This is the record that made me want to be a jazz composer. It sounds like Ellington on acid.

15) Old Devil Moon (Ahmad Jamal): This trio (with Israel Crosby and Vernel Fournier) is one of the two greatest of all time (the other being Bill Evans, Scott LaFaro and Paul Motian). Ahmad had the most beautiful sound and touch of any jazz pianist – and his sense of drama and arrangement is unsurpassed.

19) Serpentine (Earth, Wind and Fire): My favorite soul/R&B band had the most killing grooves – and many of their songs carried social messages as well. Played by real musicians, not machines.

27) Nancarrow: Study for Player Piano #1: He became frustrated that live musicians couldn’t play the complex rhythms he imagined, so he composed for the player piano. His off-kilter – yet tonal – style really appeals to me. I wish I could play like this!


  1. Among the males in my family tree, underwear preference alternates generations:  briefs then boxers then briefs…
  2. Smoking guns for this theory.  Italians who pronounce the hard b in the word “subtle”, and pronounce “differ” as in “diffAIR”  (they have no trouble with water, later, etc.)  Also, the hard p in “psychology.”
  3. Here’s the best way to get your wife to agree to a parenting strategy X:  “My mother tried not-X and that didn’t work.”
  4. I want to play a negative drum:  it makes a sound except when I hit it.
  5. What is the effect on equilibrium search models and assortative matching when once-matched, husbands can use headscarves to hide the quality of their mate from potential poachers?

The voice is the most expressive musical instrument and it also is the most directly connected to the creative engine.  Shouldn’t it be the premier instrument for improvisation?  That would be scat.  Indeed scat is the most expressive form of improvisation but it is not very popular.  A trumpet solo carries us along but scat just sounds weird.  Why is that?

The words “scat” and “virtuoso” leave Google cold.

Could it be that a big part of what we appreciate about improvisation is the awesome physical skill that comes from training on an external instrument?  Scatting is too easy.

Could it be akin to the uncanny valley?  Audiences feel uncomfortable watching animated characters that look too similar to real people.  Is scatting too much like singing?

Why are vocalists not using electronics to digitally transform their voice into something that sounds more less like a voice.  Then they could utilize the expressiveness and fluidity of the voice and fool the audience into thinking it was an instrument.  Autotune?

Would it be more attractive if the scat made sense?  Why are there no vocalists who take written lyrics and then improvise them into a melody?

Listen to Clark Terry.

If someone could make a trumpet sound like that they would be heralded as a genius.

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