Start stopping

Start stopping

We’re into well March but there’s something new-years-resolution-y about a couple of things I’ve been reading recently — less is more / stop grasping the new / focus on what’s important…

Your old gadgets are likely good enough
The TV I watch with my wife when I’m kicking back is close to 12 years old. It pushes out pixels in 1080p. I don’t care about the fact that it doesn’t provide me with the sharpest image or that it’s not as thin as new models are. I love it because my wife and I can cuddle on the couch in front of it and share an experience together. A newer model wouldn’t do much to change that. My smartphone is two years old. It takes decent photos and lets me stay in touch with people. Sometimes I watch a movie on it. I can’t imagine myself saying anything different about this year’s handsets. Would I love an iPhone X? Probably. Do I think that it’s worth forking over $1,000 for? Not for a second. I’ll use it until the wheels fall off because it’s good enough.

Couldn’t agree more. I was prompted to resuscitate our old iPod Classic after reading this from The Verge. I’d forgotten how well designed it was.

My original iPod is a time capsule from 2002
As for me, the moment I plugged my headphones into my freshly charged iPod and listened to music that had lain dormant for the past 16 years, it was like being transported back in time. Nothing had changed. The music sounded as good as it did back then. Some tracks even sounded better on my old iPod than they do on my Google Pixel 2 XL. My iPod may be scratched and dented but it still looks cool as hell and is a joy to use, even if it is just for a short while before its ancient battery gives out. And at least it has a headphone jack.

Our iPod Classic isn’t quite that old (and I found a first generation iPod Shuffle too, which I’d completely forgotten about), but using that again, for the first time in ages, felt great. That click wheel is still a marvellous thing, much more tactile that all this featureless glass-stroking that surrounds us now.

Speaking of which:

It’s not you. Phones are designed to be addicting. (YouTube)
The 3 design elements that make smartphones so hard to put down, explained by Google’s former design ethicist.

If you can get past the use of the word ‘addict’ as a verb or the term ‘design ethicist’, there are some interesting points here about colour theory and user interaction.

And here’s an interview with Tristan Harris, the man behind that video:

How technology is designed to bring out the worst in us
… I say this because addiction with teens, developmentally, it’s not good for them. When you talk about regulation, or we talk about how we’re going to get out of this, the specific things you do is another question. I just want to say that we know there’s a huge public health problem here. We have got to do something, because the current thing that’s happening now is not working.

Pretty pessimistic, really. It sounds intractable. He’s persevering, though:

Center for Humane Technology
Since 2013, we’ve raised awareness of the problem within tech companies and for millions of people through broad media attention, convened top industry executives, and advised political leaders. Building on this start, we are advancing thoughtful solutions to change the system.

Mii, myself and I


Our kids are getting a little older now, and are happy to let the Wii gather dust, so we don’t hear this catchy little tune half as much as we used to.

Mii Channel Music but it’s played by a saxophone quartet
My arrangement of the Mii Channel Music for a saxophone quartet. Uses one soprano, one alto, one tenor, and one bari. Video was compiled in Premiere Pro and audio was compiled in Audition.

Compare that with this, something that can generate random variations on the original Mii theme. Not quite Elgar, but fun nonetheless.

Mii Channel Theme Markov
Made with Band.js and my own markov generator, Markov.js. All transcribing of the original music was done by hand, with help from Pianoletternotes. Not completed yet.

And here’s how it sounds with a fuller orchestra.

Mii Channel Theme Band Prank
The Liberty University Wind Symphony decided to prank our band director by playing the Mii Channel Theme instead of a Bach Chorale.

A different kind of classical music

Different kind of classical

Melody, rhythm and piety: the rich forms and meanings of Indian classical music
Accompanied by performances from top Indian classical musicians of the time, Music of India examines the form’s essential elements, including its deeply spiritual character, and the concepts of ‘raga’ – a musical piece’s central, often partially improvised, melodic form – and ‘tala’ – its recurring rhythmic pattern.

And then there’s Konnakkol, which sounds extraordinary.

MadRasana Unplugged Season 03 Episode 01 – V Shivapriya & BR Somashekar Jois
MadRasana Unplugged brings artist and the art form closer to the listeners of music. We begin Season 3 with the most traditional, classical & ancient vocal percussive art form of India; the mother of all percussive languages – Konnakkol.

Michael Nyman's new (to me) stuff

Ok, so these aren’t new but I’ve not heard them all before. To mark Michael Nyman turning 70, the Guardian’s picked five pieces that we may well be less familiar with:

Michael Nyman: five of the best
For those who know him only through music such as this track from The Draughtsman’s Contract, Chasing Sheep is Best Left to Shepherds, with its Purcell-based hi-NRG, or the serene/soporific/instantly-memorable/instantly-annoyingly-catchy theme music for The Piano, now’s your chance to delve deeper into Nyman’s many soundworlds and the huge range of his output.

So here they are, but scroll down for some exciting news.

So yes, Michael Nyman’s complete catalogue is now available physically and digitally (in MP3 and FLAC format) from, including this from 1981.

Practice makes perfect music

I have to admit my cello practice schedule does tend to slip sometimes. I love the idea of being able to play it, the sounds it can make are wonderful, but after a year and a bit I’m still hacking away in first position, getting my sharps and naturals all mixed. And don’t get me started on backwards extensions.

So, to keep me motivated, some videos of what can happen if you keep practicing:

Sotheby's to auction $45 million Stradivarius viola


“This viola represents the pinnacle of human achievement in instrument-making, and it is in incredibly good condition. Almost as though you ordered a viola from Stradivarius and 300 years later he handed it you.”

Don’t know what’s going on with that jacket, though. #missingthepoint