Lots of Gadgets Are Spying On You

I covered it last week here. Samsung gets called out for their smart TV’s listening and transmitting everything we say to a third party. Very 1984. You might have thought ‘Samsung isn’t the only one doing it’ – and you would be right: Lots of other gadgets are spying on you.

Do you really need to talk to your devices, when a simple button press works just as well?

The Ghost in the MP3

Excellent work by Ryan letting you hear an approximation of what they are removing from MP3 files when doing “lossy” compression.

This is what the MP3 programmers deem unimportant in your music. You can play the video with it’s own lossy audio, or go here to hear the full version of what they pull from your music to make MP3 files.

Most of what is cut out is spatial — reverbs, room sound, delays, decays, fade outs, dynamics, lots of pre-delays, layering of sounds, attacks, breathes, etc..

This is the movement and the emotional content of the song. The interacting layers is the kind of data that computer programmers (and digital internet babies) can’t quite measure, so they disregard it. That’s scientific method at work – if you can’t measure or control it, disregard it.

This is important listening and will help you to understand that hearing music is more than frequencies.

I would love to see someone do this type of experiment with a 24bit mix and a 16bit mix of the same music.

 

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Don’t take away my reverb and delays! The power of Bonzo is a result of decay, delay, and room sound.

Stewart’s Daily Show Coming To An End

For 17 years Jon Stewart has given much of late night America their politics and culture in a groundbreaking comedy format. The Daily Show was uniquely funny and timely like very few other formats, and the gamut of guests kept things interesting. But the real stars of the show are the comedians doing pre-packaged and in-studio bits.

Jon was the perfect straight man to all their bumbling, and he announced on his show that he won’t be renewing his contract and that he wants to have dinner on a school night with his family because he has heard through multiple sources that they are quite pleasant.

Here’s a funny look back at all the big names in comedy that got their fame starting with The Daily Show, along with some of the clips that made the show legendary.

 

 

The Office of the Future

Many of us don’t “go into the office” anymore. New cubicle farms are not spreading across the land.

 

 

The coffeeshop is the office, the extra bedroom is a command center, or you do your work while mobile through phones and laptops, drive a truck, talk to real humans and avoid the computers. Home offices are very common and not going away.

 

So the architects are trying to figure out how to build the new modern office.  Pretty interesting read.

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The pictures reminded me first of Starbucks…. no, a little more like a Schlotski’s…. no wait, where have I seen that place before?

 

First I gotta meet with HR about health benefits.

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Then the client is coming in for that review meeting at 11 and I have a feeling he’s gonna give us a hard time about the project.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Complicated World of Hearing

What do you hear?  

Everything you can. 

How do you hear?  

Binaurally through the ears using mechanoreceptors in the form of tiny hairs called follicular receptors. Additional data is picked up by other mechanoreceptors throughout your skin including under every hair follicle and inside many of your joints. Our brains then use both heard and felt sound data to understand what we are facing.

What are properties of binaural sound?  Also known as sound localization, this details the time- and level-differences between both ears, such as

  • Spectral information
  • Timing analysis
  • Correlation analysis
  • Pattern matching

This overall intelligence of the 3-dimensional sound helps form the timbre, room ambience, and performance dynamics of the sound. This happens whether the sound is a lawnmower outside your window, an oboe solo, your cell phone buzzing, or all three at once.

This binaural data is all added to frequency when we determine a sound and its total quality.  Frequency is the note being played and the sound tone being generated on a measurable scale – basically wavelength at a particular moment in time.

The problem is that modern science only has reliable measurements for frequency. Frequency, besides being easily measured, is easily displayed on our 2D displays, and thus has been studied thoroughly for over 70 years. The field of Digital Signal Processing (DSP) is based on the study of frequencies and human’s interactions with them.

But there’s much more happening when you hear a song you love than frequency analysis and musical recognition, and modern math has yet to capture and replicate it. This leaves people that insist on having math behind everything in the natural world in a bad place, disregarding most of this sound data as being outside their realm of importance.

But the spatial and sizing data is critical, in some ways more than frequency. Examples: You always know if what you hear is real or a cover band. If it is the original artist you also know if it’s been degraded at either the source (a bad copy), or on playback (bad headphones, bad cable, bad reception, etc.).

If it’s a playback problem you start looking for the damage to correct it asap. If it’s damaged source you usually just accept it as all you have and try your best to enjoy it. This all happens without thinking and without training or education. We just understand it as how the physical world works.

When music you love comes to you, regardless of the quality, it lands. Since you can only comfortably take in 1 version at a time you eat it up.

 

There's a lot going on inside your ears.

There’s a lot going on inside your ears.

 

Complicated stuff, right? There are lots of variables. All of this independent to you and you only. I have totally different listening spots, gear, and favorite songs than you do. We all do. Emotionally we are all different, minute by minute, week after week, living within our altering moods.

I can project that this “hearing thing” is perhaps impossible to measure with all of the variables.


 

So how else to model this? The marketplace is one way, which will both benefit and hurt the argument.

The fine art market has experts, moneyed customers, and various business interests building value on pieces of art, which as you know sell  from dollars to millions of dollars per piece. These experts hunt down and remove fakes to protect the quality of the masters at any cost.

More people bought Justin Bieber posters last year than fine art. That’s the marketplace, that’s mass duplication.

We can’t let the digital generations burn and loot the art vault with resolution assumptions based on bad science. We have a century of recorded music that could be upgraded and distributed to this centuries people, and it should be done in highest quality 21st century digital can offer.

Imagine if in 1978 two paper companies invented a printing method that output 2,200 colors at 160dpi, perfectly matching their new poster stock, and then sold millions of fine art posters at that resolution. Then for the next 40 years people walked around saying “it’s the same as the original” and couldn’t even accept there was any better quality possible. This is exactly what has happened with CD audio.

 

The point of all of this: Team Ear, baby! Don’t let technology worship cloud your views of what the human body is capable of.

The human ear has an extraordinarily large sensitivity range of a trillion to one, allowing us to hear a rocket launch or the footfalls of a cat on a carpet.  According to Werner Gitt, the ear is our highest-precision sense organ, capable of responding over twelve orders of magnitude without switching (The Wonder of Man, p.21).  Some of this sensitivity is amplified by the eardrum and middle ear ossicles, but the paper reported above shows even more fine-tuning inside the cochlea.  Gitt’s book is highly recommended for generating a profound feeling of awe over the design of our senses.  Proverbs said, “The seeing eye, and the hearing ear, the Lord has made them both” (Prov. 20:12)

Read more details on one of the studies of the cochlea here.

 

 

Word of the Day: Provenance

Provenance - Noun : originsourceplace of originbirthplace, fountrootspedigreederivationroot

You hear it on antiques shows and now you hear about it in digital music, and it’s actually pretty cool because it’s about credits and the people behind the music.

One of the many complaints about mp3 was “where are the credits?”.  Sorry, go to the website. But the website can update all the time, what if I just want the proper credits for my own music lover nerdiness?

There’s a more serious side to it also, one of attribution and authenticity. Algorithms can now determine what song is playing and credit the composer and lyricist, but they cannot determine origin of the file (which version from which mastering session).

As MP3 fades in popularity and we look to the next digital format, efforts are being taken to improve this issue of provenance in music. Sites like ProStudioMasters.com list details of which version you are buying but standardization is needed here.


My provenance proposal, off the top of my head:

Top level (spine):  Artist / Song / Cover art

Sub level (liner): Lyrics / Liner notes / Additional artwork

Physical level (provenance): Year / Composer / BPM / ISRC / Label / Label Number / Original Mix date / Original Mix format / Remaster Date / Remaster format


[This data could be used by next-gen streaming too, giving lots of interesting information and images to be displayed while the song streams.]

Katy Scary

The Super Bowl halftime show was a total disaster. It had none of the demographics pleased.

I was at a party with a bunch of people and their kids, some of who were teenage Katy Perry fans, and even they were cracking on her voice, her stage show, her fashion. Ouch.


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Derp


Of course the adults with an ounce of taste (or ears) were non-plussed.

The highlight of our viewing was several people calling for Timberlake to appear and pull her top off.

I also got a laugh by imagining they left her hanging in that contraption and during the 2nd half the QB’s had to throw around her.


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A proper half-time music show needs very strong material that cuts across all groups, a band and performance that can deliver physically in a way the players on the field do, and a decent amount of sex of the old-fashioned S&M-lite style that we prefer.

Katy Perry had none of the above. She’s a pretty girl but nothing in the show was sexy. Way more trippy and creepy.

Singing was horrible, no band, poor Lenny Kravitz dancing around pretending to play guitar for 1 minute. The highlight was Missy Elliot doing her 2 hits. That’s my review.