Category Archives: Music

http://dmoz.org/Arts/Music/

CELT talk / WWW@15 on Morning Ireland / Ulrich Schnauss

A mixed-up blog post, but I haven’t the energy to write three separate posts, so here’s a three-in-one:

  • On Wednesday, I gave a talk at CELT, NUI Galway about “Learning via the Social Web”, which was a slightly-revised version of the one I gave in February. Again, there was an amazing turnout, and there will be a webcast made available via the CELT website at a later date. For now, you can access the PowerPoint slides here.
  • Yesterday, Damien Mulley and I were interviewed by Richard Downes on RTÉ R1 Morning Ireland about the 15th anniversary of CERN releasing the World Wide Web code for free (podcast available here; alternatively there’s an extracted clip here). I talked a little bit about the WWW versus UMn’s Gopher, and how the Web has expanded beyond the initial target audience of academics and researchers. I gave a slightly-tangential answer to a question I was asked about the importance of the Web to Ireland’s future and economy (FYI: CSO 2007 ICT stats), saying how dependent we are on the Web to do many tasks today, and describing how our work at DERI in NUI Galway will help us to deal with the current over-abundance of websites, by adding more structure to web pages so that computers can help us in finding the right information. “Are you telling me that the future of the Web […] is being designed in Galway?”, Richard asked at one point. Yes!!! Finally, I mentioned how the problems with online video gridlock may have larger consequences as the Web is increasingly moving from the desktop to mobile devices where bandwidth is even more important, so smarter ways are needed to reduce exactly what will be sent to your phone (FYI: Opera Mini is a nice example, a tiny Java browser that works on most phones where the content is pre-filtered server-side before it gets to you).
  • Last night, I went along with friend Conrad to see Ulrich Schnauss at Stress in DeBurgo’s here in Galway. Although I missed the encore (it had been a long day, with a nine-hour session at work), I really enjoyed the night and the support acts: Beatpoet was great playing on his mono-something device, and Airiel were pretty good too 🙂

Jean-Michel Jarre performs Oxygene live in Dublin, 18th March 2008

I went to see Jean-Michel Jarre perform his first live concert in Dublin at the National Concert Hall (NCH) in Dublin tonight. It was great to see him at last, as I’ve been a fan of Jarre’s ever since I first heard Oxygene 4 on the radio / TV as a child at the end of the seventies, coming across the piece later on in secondary school on one of our “Salut!” French learning tapes in 1985. It was a year or two later that I found out from listening to a DJ called Jock Wilson on Scottish shortwave pirate Radio Stella that the artist who played “doooh, doh-doh-doooh, dooooooooh” was known as Jean-Michel Jarre, and it wasn’t long until I managed to get my hands on a copy of the “Essential Jean-Michel Jarre” tape and various other albums and videos including “Zoolook” and “Destination Docklands”. (My first music web page some years later had a picture of Jarre’s legendary “Music for Supermarkets” one-off album at the top of the page.)

In the National Concert Hall this evening, there were a variety of attendees ranging from devout fans to intermediates to newcomers. Some old-school Oxygene and “Concerts in China” t-shirt wearers were in attendance. “Was he Tubular Bells?”, a newcomer to Jarre asked. “No, that was Mike Oldfield…”, another replied. Music from the album “Waiting for Cousteau” played in the background as we awaited Jarre’s arrival. At about 8:20, the light shone on the stage to reveal a giant white egg shape. “Big chicken”, the guy beside me said. The egg turned around to reveal Jean-Michel sitting inside it, and he began an introductory speech with “Good evening, Dublin”. I took a blurry photo and a zealous staff member alighted on me waving a disapproving finger.

Jean-Michel told us how glad he was to be in Dublin to share this special concert evening with us at the beginning of his tour (he began in Glasgow two nights ago, see review). He explained that this is the first time that he has played Oxygene entirely with all of these extraordinary instruments, and he described how great the intimate venue of the NCH theatre was in contrast with the outdoor concerts he normally plays. He talked about how the strange and special instruments behind him on stage were the reason that he (and most other electronic musicians) existed today, being the foundations for part of the mythology behind electronic music.

He made an analogy with violin players who often want to play on Stradivariuses created four centuries ago, saying that modern electronic musicians now want to play on the analogue synths of old, and that the secrets and know-how of the “crazy guys” who invented and designed instruments like the Theremin and various analogue synths between the twenties and the seventies was lost when computers became commonplace. He said that they have a very special sound and are obviously a big part of the sound texture for Oxygene.

He then talked a bit about Oxygene itself and the inspiration for the album (see also his interview in the Times; there was a similar article in today’s Metro Ireland where the idea of an outdoor Irish concert was touted). About the name, he said that his mum asked: “Why are you calling your music with the name of a gas?”. He said that the ideas about Oxygene from thirty years ago were now very much in phase with the thoughts and feelings of people today, and cited this as a reason why he was very happy to perform the album now.

The band was introduced: Dominique Perrier, a regular collaborator and performer at Jarre concerts (I especially remember him dressed in Turkish gear with a very unusual keyboard at the London concert, but he was also in the China video from the early eighties); Claude Samard; and Francis Rimbert, another Jarre veteran.

Jean-Michel said that we could now share the next step with them which was where they would tune these “old ladies”, to try and make them work. He explained that this is different from the days when you had lots of computers on stage, creating a “pure, 100% live, plug-and-play experience” with potential accidents that he said they would be happy to share with us. They warmed up for a while and then began the music with Oxygene 1.

Apart from some spots highlighting the various instruments and a light bar floating above the stage, the effects were discreet and low key, culminating in a spinning Oxygene globe logo projected on-screen towards the end of the album. The music performed was longer than the album release, including some segue pieces where the players no doubt had to re-tune their instruments for upcoming pieces. Jean-Michel also performed on the Theremin to much applause from the audience.

After finishing the main Oxygene album, he played a piece from the follow-up album, Oxygene 7-13, with some black-and-white nature shots in the background. The concert ended, and the performers received a standing ovation and calls for an encore.

On returning to the stage, Jean-Michel went on to describe a personal aspect to tonight’s performance. His PA and best friend, Fiona Commins, who has worked with him for 20 years, recently lost her dad. His name was Patrick, and Jean-Michel dedicated the next Oxygene piece for him on his journey to heaven.

I also met a few people I knew at the concert: beforehand I met Conrad Gibbons (with some fellow Tangerine Dream fans, David, Geoff and Sean), my old college friend Brendan, and afterwards I also bumped into Brian from Daft.ie. All in all, it was a good evening and I would love to be going again tomorrow night. But I have plenty of Jarre memorabilia to keep me happy until I see him again: some t-shirts, a mug and a print for my wall!

Inbox crises / JMJ / i102-104 tests

Inbox crises

After clearing another few hundred e-mails out of my inbox on the plane to London yesterday, and realising that Thunderbird’s tagging of messages wasn’t really doing anything useful for me, I’ve now created five subfolders of my inbox with various levels of priority. I hope this works better, because things have been out of control lately…

20080129a.png

JMJ

I booked a ticket for Jean-Michel Jarre at the National Concert Hall in March. Yay!

i102-104 tests

I haven’t heard anyone playing Tangerine Dream on the radio (apart from myself!), but i102-104 (a new station launching in February) are looping them as part of their test transmissions.

Brewster Kahle's (Internet Archive) ISWC talk on worldwide distributed knowledge

Universal access to all knowledge can be one of our greatest achievements.

The keynote speech at ISWC 2007 was given this morning by Brewster Kahle, co-founder of the Internet Archive and also of Alexa Internet. Brewster’s talk discussed the challenges in putting various types of media online, from books to video:

  • He started to talk about digitising books (1 book = 1 MB; the Library of Congress = 26 million books = 26 TB; with images, somewhat larger). At present, it costs about $30 to scan a book in the US. For 10 cents a page, books or microfilm can now be scanned at various centres around the States and put online. 250,000 books have been scanned in so far and are held in eight online collections. He also talked about making books available to people through the OPLC project. Still, most people like having printed books, so book mobiles for print-on-demand books are now coming. A book mobile charges just $1 to print and bind a short book.
  • Next up was audio, and Brewster discussed issues related to putting recorded sound works online. At best, there are two to three million discs that have been commercially distributed. The biggest issue with this is in relation to rights. Rock ‘n’ roll concerts are the most popular category of the Internet Archive audio files (with 40,000 concerts so far); for “unlimited storage, unlimited bandwidth, forever, for free”, the Internet Archive offers bands their hosting service if they waive any issues with rights. There are various cultural materials that do not work well in terms of record sales, but there are many people who are very interested in having these published online. Audio costs about $10 per disk (per hour) to digitise. The Internet Archive has 100,000 items in 100 collections.
  • Moving images or video was next. Most people think of Hollywood films in relation to video, but at most there are 150,000 to 200,000 video items that are designed for movie theatres, and half of these are Indian! Many are locked up in copyright, and are problematic. The Internet Archive has 1,000 of these (out of copyright or otherwise permitted). There are other types of materials that people want to see: thousands of archival films, advertisements, training films and government films, being downloaded in the millions. Brewster also put out a call to academics at the conference to put their lectures online in bulk at the Internet Archive. It costs $15 per video hour for digitisation services. Brewster estimates that there are 400 channels of “original” television channels (ignoring duplicate rebroadcasts). If you record a television channel for one year, it requires 10 TB, with a cost of $20,000 for that year. The Television Archive people at the Internet Archive have been recording 20 channels from around the world since 2000 (it’s currently about 1 PB in size) – that’s 1 million hours of TV – but not much has been made available just yet (apart from video from the week of 9/11). The Internet Archive currently has 55,000 videos in 100 collections,
  • Software was next. For example, a good archival source is old software that can be reused / replayed via virtual machines or emulators. Brewster came out against the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which is “horrible for libraries” and for the publishing industry.
  • The Internet Archive is best known for archiving web pages. It started in 1996, by taking a snapshot of every accessible page on a website. It is now about 2 PB in size, with over 100 billion pages. Most people use this service to find their old materials again, since most people “don’t keep their own materials very well”. (Incidentally, Yahoo! came to the Internet Archive to get a 10-year-old version of their own homepage.)

Brewster then talked about preservation issues, i.e., how to keep the materials available. He referenced the famous library at Alexandria, Egypt which unfortunately is best known for burning. Libraries also tend to be burned by governments due to changes in policies and interests, so the computer world solution to this is backups. The Internet Archive in San Francisco has four employees and 1 PB of storage (including the power bill, bandwidth and people costs, their total costs are about $3,000,000 per year; 6 GB bandwidth is used per second; their storage hardware costs $700,000 for 1 PB). They have a backup of their book and web materials in Alexandria, and also store audio material at the European Archive in Amsterdam. Also, their Open Content Alliance initiative allows various people and organisations to come together to create joint collections for all to use.

Access was the next topic of his presentation. Search is making in-roads in terms of time-based search. One can see how words and their usage change over time (e.g., “marine life”). Semantic Web applications for access can help people to deal with the onslaught of information. There is a huge need to take large related subsets of the Internet Archive collections and to help them make sense for people. Great work has been done recently on wikis and search, but there is a need to “add something more to the mix” to bring structure to this project. To do this, Brewster reckons we need the ease of access and authoring from the wiki world, but also ways to incorporate the structure that we all know is in there, so that it can be flexible enough for people to add structure one item at a time or to have computers help with this task.

20071113b.jpg In the recent initiative “OpenLibrary.org“, the idea is to build one webpage for every book ever published (not just ones still for sale) to include content, metadata, reviews, etc. The relevant concepts in this project include: creating Semantic Web concepts for authors, works and entities; having wiki-editable data and templates; using a tuple-based database with history; making it all open source (both the data and the code, in Python). OpenLibrary.org has 10 million book records, with 250k in full text.

I really enjoyed this talk, and having been a fan of the Wayback Machine for many years, I think there could be an interesting link to the SIOC Project if we think in terms of archiving people’s conversations from the Web, mailing lists and discussion groups for reuse by us and the generations to come.

Enya receives honorary doctorate from the National University of Ireland, Galway

Eithne NĂ­ Bhraonáin (Enya) was among six recipients of honorary doctorates from the National University of Ireland, Galway at a ceremony held at noon today. The other recipients were Irish traditional music archivist Nicholas Carolan, Reuters chairman Niall FitzGerald, South Africa chief justice Pius Langa, Galway-based composer Jane O’Leary, and Sequoia chairman Bill Walsh.

As an adjunct member of staff, I was fortunate enough to be in the academic procession, and was even more fortunate to meet Enya briefly after the ceremony. She is a very gentle and friendly person, and was accompanied by her producer Nicky Ryan and lyricist Roma Ryan. I’ve been a fan of Enya for some time – the “Watermark” track from her album of the same name is my favourite.

Here’s the official bio of Enya from the NUI Galway press office:

Born in Gaoth Dobhair and educated in Milford, County Donegal, Enya was born into a musical family. In 1980 she was asked to join the family group Clannad at the request of Nicky Ryan, Clannad’s Manager at that time. After leaving Clannad in 1982 she commenced her musical collaboration with the producer and lyricist team of Nicky and Roma Ryan. Enya has become Ireland’s best-selling solo artist in the history of the state and ranks alongside the most successful female artists in the world. She was the world’s biggest selling female artist of 2001 and 2002. To date Enya has sold over seventy milllion albums worldwide.

Enya’s musical compositions have brought her many accolades. A four-time Grammy award winner, Enya and her production/writing team were nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar for their work on The Lord of the Rings. Enya has won six World Music Awards and the coveted American Golden Plate Award.

Enya has released many albums including: Enya (1987), Watermark (1988), Shepherd Moons (1991), The Celts (1992), The Memory of Trees (1995), Paint the Sky with Stars (1997), A Day without Rain (2000), Amarantine (2005). Enya was commissioned to write songs for the following films: The Frog Prince, produced by Lord David Puttnam (1985), Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard (1992) and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) directed by Peter Jackson. She has also contributed to many other film soundtracks such as Toys (1992) and Calmi Cuori Appassionati (2001).

Enya supports many charitable causes – Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin and the New York City Uniformed Firefighters Association’s Widows and Children Fund are just two of the charities which have benefited from her generosity.

Lackluster's Lax EP – "an emotive slice of layered sounds & soothing electronics"

I’ve been listening to music from the new Lax EP by wonderful artist Esa Ruoho, also known as Lackluster. It is highly recommended and available to download from:

digilog.gr (net)label | diginet002

Here’s a blurb from their site:

Finnish born and bred electronic music composer Esa Ruoho, better known as lackluster, offers digilog a collection of seven lush & melodic summer tracks. Heart-yearning melodies, crisp percussion and beautifully arranged soundscapes create an ep that oozes warmth and fragility. Just sit back, relax and enjoy those 30 minutes of aural bliss..

"Website is curbed in Oxegen row", Evening Herald, 26th July 2006

LEGAL THREAT: MCD stung by criticism

Website is curbed in Oxegen row

Evening Herald, 26th July 2006

by Mark Hilliard

MCD has sent a solicitor’s letter to a popular website after several users criticised conditions at the Oxegen music festival.

Concert goers had flooded the site with numerous allegations relating to a range of anti-social incidents in the camp sites.

But shortly after the contentious observations appeared, Boards.ie told its users that a legal communication had been received on behalf of the promoter warning against any further defamatory comments.

The move sparked outrage and criticisms of MCD itself, leading the system administrator to completely close down all debate on the subject.

An official posting simply stated that it was “closing this thread before it slips in the wrong direction.

“Apologies to those who just want a good discussion, but despite being asked not to post any more (perceived) defamatory remarks about MCD and Oxegen they just keep coming.

“Although I am not happy to do so, this thread is being closed with the best interests of this forum’s users and of the other 70,000 users of Boards.ie.”

The initial legal communication appeared mid-week and warned the system administrator against publishing any content that might be seen to be defamatory or libelous.

It is unclear how accurate the criticisms were regarding the event but MCD were unhappy about it publication of material it deemed to be defamatory.

A spokesperson for MCD said: “As this is an ongoing legal issue we have no comment to make.”

Requests by users of Boards.ie for the publication of the original legal letter were treated with caution by the system administrator.

It stated: “There is to be no discussion of MCD or Oxegen on this thread. Any poster who tries to discuss either will get a week’s ban and this thread will be locked.”

But the move has in turn sparked furious debate.

The argument evokes memories of the recent scandal surrounding Ratemyteacher.ie in which students gave on-line reviews of staff in Irish schools.

However, music industry sources have insisted that MCD have no difficulty with fair and balanced criticism and comment on events but that in this case the matter was sparked by very serious, unsubstantiated allegations.

I have little more to say on this MCD issue at the moment (thanks to Vexorg who has mainly been dealing with it), and as I’ve blogged, we have had a number of other legal threats issued against us recently.

We still feel that users are responsible for their own comments (just as someone on the radio [Edit: Andrew says below that radio stations are liable :(] would be responsible for stuff they say, without the communications channel being liable). However, we will happily remove defamatory messages as soon as we are notified of them as they obviously must be deleted, but we’d prefer if these legal proceedings aren’t issued as we don’t want the actions of a few people to ruin this service for 70,000 others.

Does Google get a legal letter for every defamatory message posted on its Google Groups service? With millions of users it must happen all the time…

More at boards.ie (Discussion of MCD and their concerts = completely banned this week – boards.ie), Indymedia Ireland (Oxegen, Poxegen: The Modern Rock and Roll Experience.), P45 (MCD covering up allegedly), Irish Independent (How we feared for our lives at Oxegen . . . festival-goers relive their nightmare), Blurred Keys (MCD threatens Indo and board.ie over Oxegen music festival campsite claims), Soundtracks for Them (Beware The MCD Hoover.) You can also search Planet Journals for Oxegen.