THE MILLI VANILLI CONDITION: Faking it, without much consequence, in the 21st century – #bookreview

 

 

The Milli Vanilli Condition

Essays on Culture in the New Millennium

Eduardo Espina

Arté Publico – paperback

 

“When we see Justin Bieber, we do not see a person. We see a haircut,” says Uruguayan poet and writer Eduardo Espina in this insightful and entertaining collection of 13 essays that delve into various aspects of pretending, faking, plagiarizing and even committing serial falsification of events, credentials or objects.

“The same [haircut] thing happens when we come across photographs of Cristiano Ronaldo and Gareth Bale, two of the best paid and most famous soccer players in the world. Or the unmistakable image of North Korea’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un, whose haircut completely characterizes the isolated nation and its ideology, at least regarding its male population.”

With the right haircut, Espina contends, you can fake inclusion in, or affiliation with, a certain trend or movement in society and even get others to follow you.

The Milli Vanilli Condition gets its title from the infamous German pop duo that won a 1990 Grammy for “Best New Artist” and had it taken away a few months later after investigative reporter Charles Alan “Chuck” Phillips uncovered that the two singers merely had lip-synched their song. Other vocalists had recorded the lead tracks.

Eduardo Espina, author of numerous other books, now lives in College Station, Texas. With help from the book’s English translator, Travis Sorenson, Espina brings a refreshing South American and particularly Uruguayan perspective to his observations of modern-day life in the United States and elsewhere and the apparently fading consequences for pretending to be someone or something you are not.

Si Dunn

 

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Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists: Creating Music with ChucK – #music #programming #bookreview

 

 

Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists

Creating Music with ChucK

Ajay Kapur, Perry Cook, Spencer Salazar and Ge Wang

Manning – paperback

Manning’s Programming for Musicians and Digital Artists is enjoyable, informative reading, particularly if you like music and programming and are motivated to combine them in some way.

The book offers plenty of clear how-to content for those who want to take their first deep dives into the techniques needed to make, modify and perform music using computers.

Indeed, this excellent guide can help take you from generating  “Hello, World” and “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” to linking up with MIDI devices and creating sophisticated music and sounds that can be used in live performances and elsewhere.

Don’t be scared by the word “Programming” in the title. Yes, it can help–but it is not required–to have a little bit of programming experience. As you start working with the audio-centric programming language ChucK, you will simply type a few brief lines of code or paste them from downloaded files into a simple on-screen tool known as the “miniAudicle.” With this tool, you can then make changes and hear the results “instantly without interrupting other sounds being synthesized and heard,” the authors point out. You also can save your files, load different files and do other tasks quickly.

The free, open-source ChucK programming language, the authors’ emphasize, “is designed specifically for real-time sound synthesis and music creation.” Their book provides numerous short code examples to tinker with, as well as a few basic physics, math and music pointers that illustrate features and help support the authors’ descriptions.

Note: If your goal is to sit down at a keyboard and immediately start creating digital music, you may want to skip this book and look for other options. The authors concede that “many artists are happy with over-the-counter software systems and controllers for real-time performance work. And there are many who only want to use computers to produce static final products in the form of .wav/.mp3 files, CDs or collections of songs, sound tracks for videos, and more. A large number of those artists are happy to learn and use the packages and tools from commercial or free sources.

“But there are many, and we’re betting you’re one, who want more,” they add. “Maybe you’re coming to this book with a big idea (or many big ideas) and want the tools to help you realize it/them. Maybe you’re looking to shift directions in your art making. Or perhaps you already know how to program in a language such as Java, but you find it doesn’t do what you want.”

ChucK gives you “greater under-the-hood access” than some of the other popular music/sound languages and systems, such as Csound, SuperCollider, JSyn, Max/MSP and PD (Pure Data). And Chuck, the authors note, “is generally more succinct, requiring much less code (lines of typed text) than these other languages in order to accomplish a particular task.”

You learn how to work with many different tools, ranging from oscillators, to filters, to delay generators, reverberators and other audio effects, and MIDI (even without a MIDI interface and cable). You also learn how to generate the sounds of several different musical instruments.

ChucK has a key emphasis on ease of controlling time: for example, how long a tone or sounds occurs, how often it occurs within a set time period, and how long are the silences between tones or sounds.

I have not yet tried all of the code examples in the book, but the ones I have tried in several chapters have worked very well on a Windows laptop and are easily modified and tested in real time using the miniAudicle. (The book also shows how to install ChucK on Mac OS X and Ubuntu Linux systems).

Thus far, I have encountered only one typo in the printed book’s code examples. In Listing 1.8, “Playing notes with integer values,” there is a mistake in the line that is supposed to multiply the frequency of a tone pitch by 2. However, the line is printed “1 *=> myPitch;” — which simply repeats previous pitch. Changing the line to “2 *=> myPitch;” fixes the problem and takes only a couple of seconds to implement in the miniAudicle.

Si Dunn

 

iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition – A clear, concise keeper for your reference needs – #bookreview

iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition
J.D. Biersdorfer, with David Pogue
(O’Reilly – paperback, Kindle)

I own and use a small collection of old iPods, including a Shuffle and a Classic. I play them when I exercise and when I work at my computer in a coffee shop and don’t want to listen to the piped-in music or the surgical nurse at the next table talking too loudly into her smartphone. When she starts started telling someone the gory details of a rare procedure recently performed inside a patient’s skull, I just crank up Adele and drown it all out.

The new 11th edition of iPod: The Missing Manual is a perfect reference book for me. It reminds me how to do certain tasks on my older devices. It shows me how to use features I still haven’t tried but might after the next song ends. The book also has information I could use to help a granddaughter with her brand-new iPod Touch — but somehow I doubt she’ll ever let me touch it.

Anyway, J.D. Biersdorfer has been writing a technology column for the New York Times since 1998, and this is her 11th iPod book. So she knows her stuff. And, of course, fellow New York Times writer and co-author David Pogue invented the Missing Manual series and has authored or co-written some 55 books, including 28 Missing Manuals.

Together, in this new edition, they have prepared an excellent, 331-page guide for how to get the most out of your iPod, whether it is really old, slightly old, or fresh out of the box.

For example, you may want to know how to play slideshows on your TV using your Touch or your Classic. The steps are in there. Want to know how to hook up a Touch or Nano to your car’s stereo? It’s in there. Have you ever tried using the iTunes graphic equalizer (EQ) “to improve the way your songs sound…”? Just follow five well-described steps.

Forgotten how to autofill or manually fill your Shuffle with new songs? When’s the last time you added or deleted a playlist on your Classic or Nano? Ready to edit some photos on your Touch or set it up with an iCloud account ? Don’t remember how to get to iTunesU? Just follow the book’s clear steps and color screenshots.

With several different iPods to care for and optimize, iPod: The Missing Manual, 11th Edition quickly has proven its worth for me. It definitely will be a keeper on my reference shelf.

Si Dunn

Dance All Night: Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands, Past and Present – #bookreview #in #music

Dance All Night: Those Other Southwestern Swing Bands, Past and Present
Jean A. Boyd
(Texas Tech University Press, hardback, list price $65.00; paperback, list price $39.95)

Fans of 1930s and 1940s western swing will find plenty to enjoy in this entertaining book by Jean A. Boyd, a  Baylor University music history professor and native of Fort Worth, Texas.

She celebrates the distinctive music and its Texas roots and highlights several groups that, unlike Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, did not or have not made it into the national spotlight.

Yet these bands have picked, fiddled, strummed and sung their way to regional stardom in Texas and Oklahoma.

Her book likely will also appeal to musicologists and performers. She includes musical analysis and transcriptions of recorded performances, as well as histories and recollections.

Si Dunn 

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Fast Guide to Cubase 6 – Not so fast but packed with good info – #bookreview

Fast Guide to Cubase 6
By Simon Millward
(PC Publishing, paperback, list price $29.95)

I’m not sure a 474-page book should bill itself as a “fast guide.” For Simon Millward’s new work, a better descriptor would be “thorough.”

Steinberg Cubase 6 software is feature-rich and powerful software for music creation and audio recording. And this thick guidebook provides a thorough gathering of details, steps, tips and illustrations that show how to use the software’s many features.

The popular music software package has a reputation for being user-friendly and flexible. And it comes with a manual.

But Simon Millward’s book aims to provide readers with much more, including: (1) “the essential information to get you up and running in the shortest possible time”; and (2) descriptions of “advanced techniques and a wide range of theoretical knowledge which help you get better results.”

The major topics covered are:

  • Installing and setting up Cubase 6
  • Audio and MIDI recording and editing
  • Mixing, mastering and EQ (equalizers)
  • VST (Virtual Studio Technology) instruments and plug-in effects
  • Loop manipulation and beat design
  • Music production tips and tools
  • Media management

That is only a partial list, of course. The author cautions: “Before you can use Cubase you must have some idea of how to record and manipulate MIDI data, how to record and manipulate audio signals, how you are going to get an audio signal into the computer and how you are going to feed it back out into the real world.”

Fortunately, his well-written and helpfully illustrated book includes much of that crucial how-to information. It also provides a macro library, a heavy-duty glossary, and a useful list of Web resources. 

Computer-savvy musicians, music producers, sound recordists and audio professionals — and readers who aspire to be any of those — should consider owning and using Fast Guide to Cubase 6.

Si Dunn‘s latest book is a novel, Erwin’s Law. His other published works include Jump, a novella, and a book of poetry, plus several short stories, all available on Kindle.