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.  
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.
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.