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Tenement Talks

I started my internship at the Lower East Side Tenement Museum this week.  On my first day, I had the opportunity to go on a couple tours of the historic 97 Orchard Street tenement building to learn more about the Museum and the history of immigration to the Lower East Side.  I will be mainly focusing on producing podcasts of the Museum’s Tenement Talks lecture series.  Last night’s Tenement talk was a conversation moderated by Robert Sullivan (author of Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants) with Eric Sanderson (author of Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City) and Douglas Hunter (author of Half Moon: Henry Hudson and the Voyage that Redrew the Map of the New World).  I hope to have the audio recording online soon.  Stay tuned, the audio will be available here.

ITP Live Web NYU

Live Web Week 1

Our first assignment in Live Web was to tell a story via a text based synchronous medium online. I was assigned to do it on IRC, which I had never used before. I told my story about an interesting experience I had in San Francisco over the summer.

I found a chat room with a name that looked innocent enough.  But then I noticed the not-so-innocent screen names of those in the room.


Despite all the people in the chat room.  Not much was going on, so I thought I would just start telling my story and see what would happen.  I am “odietamo”:


I didn’t get a response for 15 minutes, and when I did, it was a one-word racial slur.  I signed off soon after that.  Not the most exciting introduction to the world of IRC.  The chat room name seemed general enough, but I couldn’t really tell what the purpose of it was.  I don’t think my story was particularly suited to the medium.  I did not know anybody in the “audience,” and even in real life, it is the kind of story that I wouldn’t normally tell to strangers without a context.  In real life, I would modify how I told the story (if I were to tell it at all) based on the reactions of the people I was telling it to.  In this case, I got no meaningful feedback, so I was basically just broadcasting into the ether.


NIME Week 1

Week 1 of New Interfaces for Music Expression at ITP.

Make a journal entry of all the ways in which you or people you observe ‘use’ music during the next week. It can be music to wake up to, to fall asleep to, to blow off steam, to make the subway ride more private or tolerable, for dancing, etc. Include an one minute example of music you made, heard or heard made.

Music is so ubiquitous in an urban environment like New York that I often try to tune it out, but obviously I can’t, it always gets in my head.  As soon as I leave my apartment and head out, I hear music that is out of my control.  My building has music piped into the elevators and music piped into the lobby.  In fact, there are “theme” elevators tuned to different satellite radio channels– jazz, classic rock, lounge.  They are all pretty cheezy.  I have an iPhone with music on it, but I only listen to music with it during my commute ever so often.  I am more likely to listen to foreign language lessons or news podcasts on my iPhone.  Or I just enjoy listening to the sounds of the subway.  I listen in on people’s conversations.  I love to listen to people speaking in foreign languages or regional accents and try to guess where they are from.  Or I will be serenaded with buskers.  On the R/W between Lower Manhattan and NYU, it’s usually guys who play guitar and sing in Spanish who perform on the subway.  I see lots of people on the subway listening to iPods or other musical devices.

There is always music playing when I go to the gym.  It’s usually thumpy happy techno pop.  I have no choice in the matter really, but the beat does help pass the time.  I work out for vanity, not out of enjoyment per se.  No point in trying to listen to my own music on my iPhone.  I feel like the headphones and the iPhone just get in the way.  And there is no way my own music can compete with the loud music playing on the speakers at the gym.

I met some friends visiting from Barcelona at a bar last night.  There was some cheezy club music playing.  I don’t normally hang out in Chelsea, but it was near where they are staying.  The music didn’t really add value to my experience, in fact it just made it harder to communicate.  They don’t speak English as a first language, and I don’t speak Spanish as mine.  Loud music in bars is frustrating for me even in situations where everybody has the same native language.  I have sensitive ears and I find it difficult to separate signal from noise.  I’m easily distracted by background noise.  I hope I don’t have a hearing problem.  That makes me feel old.

I just listened to the Ghanian Postal Workers’ Song on WFMU. Very haunting whistled melody and catchy beat.  I’ll probably sample some of it for a future musical project.  It reminded me a bit of “Whistle While You Work” from Snow White, even if very different stylistically, it seems to serve a common function of helping to pass time while working.

I am one of those crazy people who like to hum to themselves while walking down the street.  I’m often humming the melody of some popular song stuck in my head, or some new song I am writing.  Inspiration for my songs just comes to me while I’m walking, rarely when I am sitting still.  I try to hum it to work out the melody and to repeat it so I don’t forget.  When I get home, I try to work things out on the piano as I sing the melody line over what I play.  I can’t transcribe music very well, so I just find it easy to write down some basic chord shapes or to record audio of my songwriting experiments.  Sometimes I can write a full song in 10-15 minutes.  Other times I have fragments of songs that take years to write.   Sometimes the fragments remain fragments and never grow up into full songs.

Here is a 1-minute fragment of some lyrics and a melody that I was working out this week.  The words and music just came to me suddenly.  The inspiration was obviously my recent trip back to Arizona.  It’s still very rough.  Maybe a little too earnest and a little cliché.  I don’t know what I will do with it, but I need something to share in class, so here it is.

DesigningTheFutureOfTV ITP NYU

Designing the Future of TV: Week 1

Week 1 of Designing the Future of TV at ITP:
1. Blog an example of an inspirational example of TV Placeshifting/Timeshifting
2. What is one future TV feature you would love to have right now. Why?

Here’s a TV placeshifting story: I remember summer of 2008, I was on a JetBlue flight from NYC to Phoenix.  The Beijing Olympics were in full swing, and it seemed like everyone on the plane was watching the Games on their individual seat-back monitors.  When Michael Phelps won yet another gold metal mid-flight, the airplane erupted in cheers and applause.   All this in an airplane cabin 30,000 feet over some fly-over state cornfield.  TV, it’s not just for the living room anymore.

There are a lot of future TV features that I would love to have, such as an easy way of notating TV, to easily add subtitles, “draw” over a video like in Photoshop, or to add my own commentary track.  I would love to also be easily make mashups of TV programs from within the same program I use to view video, without the hassle of DRM or copyright restrictions.  I would also love to be easily able to make a “mixtape” of video and TV and to be able to share it with friends, or to time/placeshift it for future viewing.  I guess I can do it now, but I have to rip the video if it isn’t downloadable, then I have to put everything in iMovie or Final Cut or something, then re-export it.  I want to be able to remix and mash up video in the same platform or application I use to watch it.

Arizona Art Audio HEPNOVA Holiday Music News Spain Sweden

New HEPNOVA music: “En la plaza de mi pueblo” and “Märk Hur VÃ¥r Skugga”

I just got back to NYC from the latest Hepnova recording sessions in Arizona.  We finished two covers of old songs that got the Hepnova treatment.  The first is called “En la plaza de mi pueblo,” a flamenco-tinged song from the Spanish Civil War, and “Märk Hur VÃ¥r Skugga,” an eighteenth-century Swedish song by Carl Michael Bellman about death and drinking.  “En la plaza” features a guest guitar solo from American Flamenco pioneer José Alarcon.

<a href="">En plaza de mi pueblo by HEPNOVA</a>

<a href="">Märk Hur Vår Skugga (Fredmans Epistel #81) by HEPNOVA</a>

The working title of the new collection is Transistor Troubadour.  We are planning on doing some more covers as well as some Hepnova originals and to continue to develop the unique electro-acoustic sound that has emerged in previous Hep tunes like “You’re For Me” and “Again Tonight.”

Check out the new Hepnova tracks on Bandcamp. More tracks in the Transistor Troubadour collection are in the works, so check back often for more music!

Lyrics after the jump: