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Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why Techonology Is Perfect For Chamber Music "Although we might first think of rigidity and mechanization when we discuss technology, its real power comes from its very openness and flexibility. Technology gives us the ability to dream, to imagine new forms of music and performance, and to invent ideal relationships between composer and performer, performer and listener, composer and listener. In careful and creative hands, technology can expand the expressive power of virtuosi, build gorgeous hybrids of natural and artificial sounds, and allow amateurs to again fully participate, helping to re-establish a much healthier 'creative ecology' than now exists." Chamber Music Magazine (pdf) 09/06

Buildings That Change In The Wind (Or Rain) A new breed of architect is looking at buildings that respond to their environment and adapt. They're called "responsive structures that observe their internal and external environment and change form to suit any situation. A building that mimics a living system would be able to sense and respond appropriately to exterior conditions like varying winds, temperature swings or changing sunlight. Inside, the building might change to accommodate crowd flow or better circulate warm air." Wired 08/31/06

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Vital Signs Poor? Cue The Harpist! A study at New Jersey's Morristown Memorial Hospital, where a harpist strolls the recovery room, is looking into the effectiveness of harp music as a healing aid for heart-surgery patients. Researchers believe "the gentle arpeggios of the harpist might have helped regulate ... heart rate, blood pressure and breathing.... Results will be collected as part of a four-week study, one of several around the country trying to measure the health benefits of music in hospitals. One research project by a doctor at the Carle Heart Center in Urbana, Ill., has suggested that harp music in particular helped stabilize irregular heartbeats." The New York Times 08/28/06

Monday, August 28, 2006

The Pitchfork Phenomenon "Though the music industry has seen drastic changes in recent years, what has remained constant is the fact that most listeners still find their music with the assistance of a filter: a reliable source that sifts through millions of tracks to help them choose what they do (and don't) want to hear. The filters we traditionally depended on – music magazines, radio stations, music video channels, even the recommendations of a trusted record store clerk – have diminished in influence enough to give a player like Pitchfork room to operate." Wired 08/28/06

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Today's Media - Consumer Control, Marketers' Sophistication "Where the old-media system was one-way, today's new media technologies allow consumers to talk back -- and tune out. On Internet message boards and blogs, people can slam products they don't like, celebrate certain brands over others, and help shoppers find the cheapest prices. New technologies do give consumers unprecedented leverage over the marketplace. It's crucial, however, to realize that marketers are using these same technologies to undermine that leverage, making it harder than ever for audiences to escape, and resist, their advances." Boston Glob 08/27/06

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Neuroscience Of Talent (There Isn't Any) "I think we've debunked the myth of talent. It doesn't appear that there's anything like a music gene or center in the brain that Stevie Wonder has that nobody else has. There's no evidence that (talented people) have a different brain structure or different wiring than the rest of us initially, although we do know that becoming an expert in anything -- like chess or race-car driving or journalism -- does change the brain and creates circuitry that's more efficient at doing what you're an expert at." Wired 08/23/06

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What Motivates Fame Seekers? "For most of its existence, the field of psychology has ignored fame as a primary motivator of human behavior: it was considered too shallow, too culturally variable, too often mingled with other motives to be taken seriously. But in recent years, a small number of social scientists have begun to study and think about fame in a different way, ranking it with other goals, measuring its psychological effects, characterizing its devoted seekers." The New York Times 08/22/06

Monday, August 21, 2006

Demystifying The Conductor What makes a good conductor? For that matter, what exactly does a conductor do to influence the course of a musical performance? Justin Davidson explores the dark art of leading an orchestra The New Yorker (video) 08/21/06

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Challenging The Copyright Order "These parallel dogmas — free speech and intellectual-property rights — through corporate intervention and governmental abdication, are now on a collision course, and may in fact collide next month with the theatrical release of Kirby Dick’s incendiary This Film Is Not Yet Rated. A jihad against the Motion Picture Association of America, movie studios and the corporations that own them, Dick’s documentary plans to get around the prohibitive costs of copyright licensing by employing a “fair use” defense — a safeguard built into the Constitution but largely untested in the courts. Like the last time a foreign body slammed into the earth’s surface, disrupting gravitational orthodoxy, watch for sea changes, atmospheric gloom and toppling dinosaurs." LAWeekly 08/17/06

The Biology Of Narrowing Thinking "The link between ageing and intransigence is commonly put down to a combination of world-weariness, experience and impatience." But "researchers at Harvard Medical School believe that they have found the biological mechanism that makes people become set in their ways as they get older. They have identified a protein that stops new neural connections forming in adult brains." The Times (UK) 08/19/06

Why Solving Deeply Theoretical Math Matters So the landmark Poincare problem has been solved by a mathematician, and there's much rejoicing across the land. But "it won't help anyone build a bridge, aim a rocket, crack a code, or privatize Social Security. Mathematicians, no dummies, like to point out that, in some unspecified future, Perelman's theorem might pitch in to help with these problems in ways that aren't obvious now. But its real significance is like that of the fact that a times b is equal to b times a; it's a basic structural statement about how the world is organized. If you prefer order to chaos, that's something worth caring about." Slate 08/18/06

How About Getting Movie Fans To Pay First, Before The Movie Is Made? The usual movie production formula is to raise the money to make it, then hope it sells enough tickets to make a profit. But Robert Greenwald has turned the formula upside down - he raised money from fans first, thn set about distributing it... Washington Post 08/20/06

Thursday, August 17, 2006

How Our Brains Got On The Fast Track "In just a few million years, one area of the human genome seems to have evolved about 70 times faster than the rest of our genetic code. It appears to have a role in a rapid tripling of the size of the brain's crucial cerebral cortex, according to an article published Thursday in the journal Nature." Yahoo! (AP) 08/17/06

College - It's Not What You Learn But How You Learn To Think Ever notice how many college graduates aren't doing the jobs they were trained for in college? Was their education a failure? Not necessarily. College taught them how to think. So is there a danger in demanding that colleges measure the specific results of the courses they are teaching? InsideHigherEd 08/17/06

Jolt! The Rise Of Unconnected Culture Trivia books have become a publishing phenomenon. "Each tidbit or bound collection of factoids may be so insignificant that calling it trivia is almost an honorific. However, this growing genre signals a profound trend in America: The rise of Jolt Culture, which combines our quest for information -- this is, after all, the Age of Information -- with our lust for immediate gratification." The News & Observer (Raleigh) 08/13/06

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

In Japan: Fan Art Flourishes Japan's relaxed attitude about copyright has allowed a flourishing of fan-created art and literature. "That it not only exists but thrives is a testament to Japan's relaxed attitudes on copyright, which have facilitated a flowering of both creative and commercial activity. American media companies, take note." Wired 08/16/06

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

A Landmark Of Human Thought? A Russian mathematician solves one of the great proofs an then disappears. "Mathematicians have been waiting for this result for more than 100 years, ever since the French polymath Henri Poincaré posed the problem in 1904. And they acknowledge that it may be another 100 years before its full implications for math and physics are understood. For now, they say, it is just beautiful, like art or a challenging new opera." The New York Times 08/15/06

Monday, August 14, 2006

The Da Vinci Coda As The Da Vinci Code movies falls off movie screens, a blockbuster that failed to meet expectations, and the book on which it's based also ends a long run on the best-seller lists, Jack Miles has some reflections on a cultural phenomenon and what it says about our times... ArtsJournal 08/14/06

How We Search The Internet (What Kind Of User Are You?) How do people use the internet? Studies are fine, but who knows whether people are being truthful. AOL though, released data on how its users search the internet, and it hasn't taken long for some enterprising person to categorize the searches and make some observations on how people search. Slate 08/14/06

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Back Away From The Child, Now! Pushy parents are an unpleasant and unavoidable fact of modern life, but some experts say that the phenomenon is spiralling out of control, and kids are caught in the crossfire of adult one-upsmanship. "Where your three-and-a-half-year-old attends nursery school determines the rest of his life… from this school, he gets into the top primary, the top prep, the top public school and then, of course, Oxford and a brilliant career." The Telegraph (UK) 08/11/06

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Can Friendships Survive Ideas? Principled disagreement can be a powerful force that tears apart a friendship. "These days, such principled disagreements tend often to involve ideas, and to be endemic among supposedly educated people and especially among intellectuals. The ideas themselves are as likely as not to involve politics. Even more than differences over religion, political disputes seem to ignite ugly emotions and get things to the yelling stage quickly." Commentary 08/06

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Will Monet's London Paintings Teach Us About Smog? "Although we know that smog was a problem at that time, we don't know much about it. Now we can potentially get real air quality information from a time when scientific instruments weren't around." New Scientist 08/08/06

The Difference Between Men And Women? It Starts In the Brain "Male and female brains are different in architecture and chemical composition. The sooner women -- and those who love them -- accept and appreciate how those neurological differences shape female behavior, the better we can all get along. Start with why women prefer to talk about their feelings, while men prefer to meditate on sex..." San Francisco Chronicle 08/06/06

Sunday, August 6, 2006

Reconstructing A Document Of The Ancient World "Previously hidden writings of the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes are being uncovered with powerful X-ray beams nearly 800 years after a Christian monk scrubbed off the text and wrote over it with prayers." Wired 08/06/06

Thursday, August 3, 2006

The Last Word John Updike writes that interest in the last words of great artists seems to have waned. But there is much to learn from the last utterances of the great... The New Yorker 07/31/06

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Your Brain As A Computer Scientists are building a microcomputer meant to mimic functions of the human brain. "The Spinnaker — short for 'spiking neural network architecture' — system will not only help scientists better understand the complex interactions of brain cells, but it could also lead to fault-tolerant computers that, like the brain, work despite malfunctions in tiny circuits." Discovery 08/02/06

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

The Good Kind Of Clutter Music snobs have always been famously opposed to the ever-increasing daily load of aural clutter in the modern world, preferring silence to background music, and talking in lofty tones of how all this focus on "multitasking" is really just an excuse not to listen deeply. But at least one expert says that our growing ability to focus while shutting out any number of layers of clutter is a sign that all the disruptions are good for our brains. Wired 08/01/06

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