The Planets Speak

March 28th, 2013

DownloadedFile

I’m sure you’ve often heard people talk about the earth as an entity. Put your personal beliefs aside for the moment, and let’s say that this is true. If the earth is an entity then what does it sound like?
As you know, from watching Battlestar Gallactica, there is no atmosphere in space and therefore no sound, which makes battles in space kind of lame. But let’s leave that discussion for the sci fi convention.
According to Nasa, the earth and other planets do make sounds.
What? You just said there is no sound in space!
True. However, planets do emit electromagnetic disturbances and charged particle fluxes that can be measured. The frequency of the disturbances and particles can be converted into sound waves, which is called transduction. Isn’t this cheating or kind of stretching the truth? Well no, not really as it’s the same principle as a radio which picks up radio waves and coverts them into sound.

The Voyager space probe (tee hee) measured such emissions and you can listen to the earth here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AVHXMLDvWA

and the sun here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANCC6MlG_kg

Nasa also released a 5 cd set of Voyager’s meanderings through the stars and here is a brief compilation:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UAPNfKADA7Y

Unfortunately, Nasa has stopped production of the series but you can still find it on ebay and there are lots of videos on youtube.

Until next time…

Videography

March 25th, 2013

Videography – Chris Hind
800px-TV_crew_shooting_a_documentary
Videography – Chris Hind

Most of my professional accolades have come from film music composition and sound design. However another aspect of my company, Chris Hind Entertainment Productions, is videography. I’ve just posted my latest reel on this site so you can get a feel or a taste of Chris Hind Videographer.

Chris Hind Director Demo 2017 from Chris Hind on Vimeo.

Just Sing Already!

March 21st, 2013

hrp-4c-diva
Remember when people could sing? Yes, it was a long, long time ago – way back in 1997 and of course the years previous to that. In 1997, autotune was released by inventor Dr Andy Hildebrand and the very next year Cher released “ Believe “ the first song to be published using the pitch correcting software. It’s mind blowing that 15 years later, autotune, is so prevalent in popular music – so much so It’s hard to find a vocal performance that hasn’t been affected. When “ Believe “ was released, it was cute and a real novelty and had a certain wow factor. However, in 2013, popular music has been autotuned to death. There is no life in popular music because thanks to autotune, music has lost its soul.

But it’s really not Dr. Andy’s fault and I recently spoke to him via Skype from hell where he currently resides. Ok, ok, just kidding – I didn’t talk to him on Skype!
The software was originally designed to fix bad notes that vocalists had recorded in the studio. There are a number of scenarios that I can think of for using autotune in a legitimate manner. If you are recording on a budget and you don’t have the time and or money fro multiple takes then autotune could certainly come to the rescue. Or perhaps at 3:30 in the morning, exhausted and cranky, you thought the last take sounded pretty good. The next day, however, you discover a sour note or two and instead of booking another studio session, you fix it with autotune. I guess, the third scenario would be just using the software as a creative tool regardless of how good or bad the vocal performance was. This is the worst scenario as it’s been done to death and it’s as if record companies and producers are afraid to publish any music that hasn’t been autotuned. Sadly, the result is robotic shite that has no depth, charisma, soul or heart. It all sounds the same and I’m sure it makes programming quite easy for radio stations.

But what about performers like Kanye West, T Pain, and Black Eyed Peas etc? Are they just avatars that some producer has decided to make into stars? Could a producer use autotune to create any Frankenstein? The answer, I’m sad to say, is yes and here is the proof…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fTh0WRJoX4

But let’s get down to brass tacks. If you can sing – you don’t need pitch-correcting software. Previous to 1997, professional singers could sing! They practiced and had vocal lessons and coaches and took pride in their ability to sing. They caught a music producer’s ear and were brought into the recording studio because they had TALENT! And I’m not saying that they all had perfect pitch and could nail every note. Some of my favorite singers are not perfect by any stretch of the imagination and yet they have talent bubbling out of their pores 24/7.

Even in the age of pitch correction, there is hope. There are many talented vocalists out there who either don’t need pitch correction or have the intestinal fortitude and pride in their singing to say, “ NO “!

Here is a studio recording of Christina Aguilera singing beautiful …
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAfyFTzZDMM

Love that song and maybe I chose it because of Michelle Shocked’s recent behaviour. Christina has a great voice and she proves that she doesn’t need autotune as she sings beautiful live…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmxQRVQZTjM

That’s it for this week. See you next time and keep on singing!

Fiddle dee dee

March 14th, 2013

Stradshp
It’s hard to beat the emotive expression of a well-played violin. Who can forget the simple yet heart wrenching theme from “ Schindler’s List “ or the shower scene from “ Psycho “? We all have our favorite virtuoso’s but what about the instruments themselves? Why to instruments made in the 1700’s sound so incredible and why are they so sought after?

The Stradivarius, and Guarneri violins, named after their makers, Antonio Stradivari and the Guarneri family, are without question the two most sought after instruments in the world. Both instrument makers were trained in the violin workshop of Nicolo Amati whose workshop was located in Cremona, Italy, where the Stradivarius violin shop was also located. The Guarneri family made violins in Cremona and also had shops in Venice and Mantua as well.

There are two main differences between the Stradivarius and Guarneri and they are tone and playability. The Guarneri is said to be more difficult to play and has a lower tone which as been proven scientifically.

1700-1725 is considered the golden age of violin making and Stradivarius made over 1000 violins over the course of his luthery career.

The Stradivarius violins tend to be higher in price. The highest price paid for one as of 2011, according to Strad Invest, was $20,000,000, while a Guarneri was recently sold for $7,000,000. Currently, there are known to be 650 Stradivarius instruments while only 135 Guarneri violins and one cello are in existence.

Just like a famous painting, these few remaining violins are treasured art works and highly sought after by collectors. But unlike a painting that can only be admired from a distance, the violins of collectors are played regularly. In fact, many of the violin virtuoso’s both established and up and coming play violins loaned to them by the violins owners. If you’re interested, you can see who owns and who is playing the various violins at
http://www.theviolinsite.com/violin_making/strad-violins.html
I found it very interesting that quite a few of the Strads have been stolen and imagine having to fess up to your patron that you lost his/her violin in Starbucks!

So why do they sound so good?
According to http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1878425,00.html
One theory is Europe’s “little ice age” of the 15th-17th centuries, in which low summer temperatures led to slow but uniform growth in the Spruce trees used for instruments, and that the wood’s uniform density explains the instruments’ high quality of sound. Last year, researchers in The Netherlands and the U.S. used medical imaging technology to confirm that the wood came from slow-growing trees, and researchers in Sweden have argued that Swedish Spruce in the country’s cold North are the closest specimens Europe now holds to the wood of the Stradivari era. But Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus of biochemistry at Texas A & M University. doesn’t believe the growing conditions of local forests to be an important factor.
“The problem with the Little Ice Age Theory,” he says, “is that the same wood was available to French, German and other violin makers in Europe, but only instruments made in Cremona were any good. I believe that’s because of the special, preservative varnish used there.”
Varnish you say? Nagyvary argues that Stradivari probably had no idea what made his instruments special because the crucial factor, an externally applied varnish on the wood, was beyond his apprehension or control.
Using the ashes of minute wood samples, Nagyvary analyzed the chemical makeup of violins made by Stradivari and a contemporary Cremonese maker Giuseppe Guarneri del Gesù, whose violins are thought to be near equals to Strads. The ashes of the Strad’s wood contained numerous chemicals — most notably borax and chromium — that suggest it had been aggressively treated with a varnish designed to protect against infestation. The analysis also found that the organic matrix of Stradivari’s wood was damaged and weakened, almost certainly by the application of the mineral preservative, leading Nagyvary to speculate that the wood’s porous quality allows Stradivari instruments to resonate with a rich, powerful tone.
“There is a possibility here that Stradivari received the wood pre-treated and so did not even know these minerals in his wood were the crucial factor for the sound, and this is why, despite almost surely having apprentices, the art of his instrument making was not passed on,” he says.
Nagyvary believes this evidence upends the widespread belief among instrument makers that only the strongest wood can produce a lush, full sound. According to Nagyvary, the opposite is true.
So perhaps it’s a combination of many things. I think the scientific and musical community have missed the most obvious reason though. If the Guarneri family and Stradivarius apprenticed under Nicolo Amati, then it seems likely that it was Amati’s skills that resulted in the wonderful sound. No one in the world at that time created anything like his pupils violins and I think Amati isn’t getting the credit he deserves. That’s just my humble opinion though.
My blog wouldn’t be complete without some video though and this one is really fun. Here is my favorite virtuoso playing a Guarneri and putting the orchestra through its paces. Enjoy!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuF4oYRktcA

Robots and cancer

March 7th, 2013

alynx1

I usually don’t talk about incidents in my own life on this blog but today I have a true anecdote that I thought I would share.

Way back, before the dawn of time, when I was about 5 years old, my family were on vacation in Ontario, Canada, and my parents wanted to look up an old friend. To a 5 year old this activity would be extremely boring and add to that we were supposed to be on summer vacation which in my mind meant swimming, cycling and poking things with sticks. Anyway, we finally get there in the hot sticky car and I’m just happy to get out and stretch and run around. The neighbour of my parent’s friends is outside doing yard work. He waves and comes over all neighbourly like because he is a neighbour. So far so good. When he gets close enough that I can see the colors of his eyes, I notice there’s a hole in his throat and then he holds a small tubular device to his throat and starts talking like a freakin robot!! I was scared out of my wits and ran like the wind far down the street. I was really freaked out and finally my Mom calmed me down but there was no way I was going anywhere near the robot man.

Poor man! He must have had to witness my reaction over and over again. I know now that he had lost his larynx – probably to cancer and using an electrolarynx was the only way he could communicate.

According to http://www.innovateus.net/health/why-electrolarynx-used

An Electrolarynx, introduced in the 1940’s, is an automatic machine that is used to aid in producing speech in people who have had a laryngectomy, the surgical removal of part or the entire larynx. Usually, Laryngectomy is done to treat cancer of the larynx. The vocal chords before the surgery created the vibration which formed the sound we use to speak with. Without this vibration, there is no sound.

To create sound, a person uses a small hand-held device that has a vibrating plastic diaphragm

In one type of Electrolarynx unit, used by Ned Gerblansky of South Park,
a person places it against his throat, pushes a button, and the machine transmits a vibration noise to his/her throat and they form into words and sounds with their lips, teeth, and tongue.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v55NAjqltEI

In the second type, the vibration sound is transmitted directly into the mouth by means of a small tube. Words and sounds are produced in an identical way in this type also.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&v=x9sXr7LhdtA&NR=1

And there you have it. Apologetic but traumatized no more! The people in the video example I used are quite proficient at forming words. Apparently this takes lots and lots of practice and in essence is learning to speak in a new way. Another example of how resilient and inventive we humans are.

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