We have all heard it everywhere:  the iPhone "tri-tone" notification sound.

It is a commonplace element in our daily aural landscape.  It's recognizable enough to be included in modern movies and TV shows, almost completely replacing the electronic "chirp" as the notification of choice on network police procedurals and dramas.  You all know it, but in case you can't quite bring it up, here it is:
Simple, right?  A three-note sequence, played on a synth marimba.  Attention-grabbing without being overbearing.  A nearly-perfect little bit of noise.  

What we don't always stop to consider, however, is that sound was designed.  Like so many other bits of audio input in our lives, there was care and consideration put into the making of that little three-note riff.

Kelly Jacklin, designer of the "tri-tone" sound, goes into some detail on the thought process and the mechanics of creation surrounding this little iconic bit of audio.  I find it fascinating how she handles the permutation of options (MATHMATICALLY!) and then auditioned each one.  She includes a short track of rejects in her post as well.  

One final detail of note is that her sound was not designed for the iPhone at all, but for a piece of software written by a friend, that was bought by Apple and eventually turned into iTunes, which eventually migrated the sound onto the original iPhone.  Interesting and inspiring how people's creations can take on a life of their own, far beyond the original intent of the creator.  
 
 
Well, this would have been fun to have found prior to I Do, I Do, I Do, but here it is nevertheless.  It's both a nice set of quick examples of British regional accents, and a testament to the skill of the dialect coach who is giving the demo.
Many of us, but especially American student performers, occasionally need a reminder that other countries have regional dialects and accents just like we do.  When developing your character for performance, it's important to consider the region in which they live, and the social context that surrounds that region.

Just like an American southern accent delivers both location and social information about a character to the audience, the same can be said with regional accents from other countries.  It is a little more challenging to develop a foreign (to us) characterization to that degree of specificity, but thanks to the internet, we have a much wider pool of information available to us.

Beside Youtube videos, I strongly suggest the International Dialects of English Archive, which contains a searchable database of English spoken around the world:  sorted by country, region, gender, and age.
 
 
Here's a bit of a secret:  everyone struggles with their own creative work.  

Everyone.

It's hard -- really hard -- to create something that is both meaningful and aesthetically pleasing.  Twyla Tharp, in The Creative Habit, spends a lot of time trying to dispel the myth of the "flash of inspiration" that many creatives think is just around the next bend.  Most creative acts don't happen that way.  They are the result of lots of hard work.... and lots of failure.


Ira Glass, host of This American Life on NPR, offers this inspirational heads-up to those of us who are starting out on a creative venture:
And it still continues even after you begin to create good work.  You can cycle back down through mediocrity into "everything I touch is crap" territory very quickly.  The secret, I think, is to know when to throw out the idea you are working on, and start anew.  That, and the ability to let go without undue ennui.


If we can foster within ourselves the notion that it is perfectly normal to go through these cycles, we can more easily identify when we are at a low, and can be less sensitive about how we push through until we hit the upward slope once again.
 
 
So, I'm pulling another video in from my Introduction to Music Production class (completed with distinction, by the way!)

In this lesson, I briefly cover the "mirror EQ" technique.  Also known as "frequency splitting," it is an EQ technique that allows you to open up "pockets" in the audio spectrum for your key instruments to ride in.  This allows you to make those instruments pop without changing the overall level of the instrument or the track. 
 
 
Another video from my Music Production MOOC.  In this one, I go over a few basic editing tasks, and how to accomplish them in my DAW of choice, Reaper.
 
 
I have been experimenting with MOOCs; that is, Massively Open Online Courses.  These are online classes that you can take, often for free, hosted online by institutions of some prestige from all over the world.  There are several MOOC hosts out there, but the one that I am currently using is coursera.org

For my first class, I chose Introduction to Music Production, presented by Berklee College of Music.
As part of that course, I had to create a five minute video explaining the difference between microphone types found in the common home or small studio.  Below, is the video:
 
 
A music review, in brief:

Why on earth would I care about your opinion on music?
I can hear you saying it already; and really, you shouldn't.  Music is an extremely subjective art form, and one person's brilliance is another person's noise.  I am writing this for me, and so that I can have some content to semi-regularly post when I am not writing about design or other things.  I also hope that this will provide an impetus for me to listen to some of the recordings that I have back-logged.

I like music.  I have not made it my life's work to study the intricacies of its structure, but I know my way around a song.  I'll rate the albums that I review both on their merit as music, and on their potential usefulness in theatre shows.
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Paul and Storm -- Opening Band
  • Novelty/Comedy
  • Released in 2005
  • Some topics/language not appropriate for all audiences.
  • Album enjoyment: High
  • Show potential:  Low
So, this is a bit of a soft ball to get things rolling around here.  Paul and Storm were two members of the very popular comedy vocal group, Davinci's Notebook.  They created, among others, one of my all-time favorite comedy vocal pieces:  Title of the Song.  After Davinci's Notebook disbanded, Paul Sabourin and Greg DiCostanzo went on to form Paul and Storm together.


With that auspicious pedigree, it is not surprising that Paul and Storm's music carries the same smart wit that made Davinci's Notebook so popular.  Their debut album features fun and witty songs from a variety of musical styles, held together with a wink and a nod, and a tight harmonic structure that points back to their days as close-harmony vocalists.

The album is all over the place: a schoolhouse rock style song about swear words, an Irish-style ballad about the life and death of a urinal cake (with obligatory terrible pennywhistle solo), and a sweet tender rendition of the Miranda warning.  Also included are several rejected commercial jingles, and Randy Newman-style treatments of other movie theme songs.

This album is a novelty record, sure.  But it shines out in a genre that is full of mediocrity.  The musical chops of Paul and Storm are not to be belittled, simply because they choose to write funny songs.  It is a well-constructed album, and I found the commentary tracks an interesting idea.  


This album would not be very useful in a production environment, unless you are looking to populate a scene or interstitial segment with some very silly Doctor Demento-style songs.  I'll rate the show potential low, but the enjoyment level quite high.  This is an album to enjoy when you can spare the attention to focus on the lyrics, and want a good laugh.

 
 
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I was all set to give this book a glowing review.  However, as I was pulling up the Amazon page for Jonah Lehrer's new book Imagine: How Creativity Works, I was surprised to find both that the book was no longer available to purchase direct from Amazon, and that it had a relatively low two-star rating.

After reading a few comments, I found the reason for the commenters' ire.  It appears that Mr. Lehrer, by his own eventual admission, fabricated some Bob Dylan quotes used early in the book.  This admission cost Mr. Lehrer his job at the New Yorker, and prompted his publisher to pull his book.

Despite all of the above, I intend to review this book favorably nonetheless.  Even discounting the Bob Dylan segment, the book is an interesting exploration on the nature of creativity.  As a designer, I experience the emotional ups and downs common to the creative enterprise.  I also find at times my production schedule at odds with my needs as an artist, and often question the seed of my own creativity.

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The book seeks to explore the nature of creativity from both a philosophical and psychological / neurological perspective.  It offers a view of insight as a process that requires stimulation of both cranial hemispheres, and describes both a period of struggle, analysis, and a moment of synthesis as necessary to the birth of a new creative idea.

As one who struggles with my own creativity, I find the ideas and suggestions in this book helpful, and the content inspirational as a whole.  I plan to implement some of the suggestions outlined in the book, and will see if my creative output is better stimulated by it.  And as the book is no longer being published, I will be happy to lend it to anyone who might want to read it.