the science of music & the Wiimote

the science of music & the Wiimote

This week’s New Scientist has some amazing articles on music.

‘Are animals naturally musical’
reveals that some monkeys really prefer to sit in silence instead of listening to human music of any sort, while birds can learn to differentiate between classical and jazz, whales can perform song cycles up to 21 hours in length and zebra finches and rhesus monkeys can learn to pick out specific melodies.

(link may revert to paying link in a week)

(picture: Sound of colours by Octavian Florescu)

‘Flexible scales and immutable octaves’
discusses how we perceive music when scales and octaves are changed. Scales do seem to be cultural but octaves have an objective acoustic reality that makes them a universal concept (and is probably why some animals can learn to recognise melodies when trasposed). My favourite lines here are from musician Robert Schneider: “When we experience mathematical functions with our ears, we call it sound,” says Schneider. “When the math is particularly elegant and well ordered, we call it music.”


Below is a video from the website of an audio engineer who uses a Wiimote in motion (and his software) to create loop music! Quite amazing I think! (if you are short on time, do fast forward towards the end where the best bits are!) I love the Wii and the Wiimote and hope this will open the door to some amazing applications for the Wii!

We already have some amazing uses. Games are used in nursing homes to get the elderly moving and Wii games are given to young surgeons, apparently the extra dexterity gained during the game translates into more precise movements of the surgeon’s hand during surgery!

Wii Loop Machine Demo from The Amazing Rolo on Vimeo.

Now to something sublime… Rostropovich playing Bach’s cello suit No. 3 Prelude… how amazing that someone puts up footage like this on YouTube…

And finally one of my favourite musical performance pieces, John Cage’s 4m33s in its full orchestral version!! 🙂
(Craig says it’s ancient and boring… but I find it a relevant piece and still quite amusing)



Back from Melbourne.. I’m tired and still a bit sick and need to catch up on sleep. Had a great massage today to help my back muscles and saw my GP.. yep, more anti-biotics… it takes ages sometimes for my lungs to get back to normal. Also my arthritis is flaring… sometimes it gets too much.

But I’m really optimistic again. So many plans and so much happening in the next few weeks! 🙂

Let me see…

* lots of cuddly time with Craig! (and movie time and BlokUs time… and maybe a swim in the ocean)
* poly discussion group
* Wet Spots concert
* Mardi Gras shopping, preparation and then parade in 9 days!! Simone will be marching with me and we’ll shop and prepare with Suze and maybe Sharni… haven’t marched for a few years so this is exciting!
* R&R party in early March… well, if I am healthy and have done enough work 😉

There’s also a lot of work to be done and I’m seeing my PhD supervisor on Monday to do the final draft of the last 3 chapters of my thesis… I’m so ready to offload these!!

Now.. my bed is calling!! 🙂

(artwork from DeviantArt… Abigail by Matthew Scherfenberg (username on DA: Mfenberg)… if he lived closer to me I would have already worked with this talented photographer! His light painting photos are especially gorgeous…)

Melbourne at night

Melbourne at night

Was very tired last night but had a short stroll after the workshop… it’s a cliche but I love Melbourne trams so much I could travel on them the whole day.. and there are lots of quaint and cute things here that Sydney lacks… it was great to watch this huge chess game unfold for instance! 🙂

Tonight I ended up having drinks and dinner with physicists. Yes they do continue scientific discussion after hours but fortunately most are happy to share other stuff too.

I always find it refreshing to be talking to very brainy people! And many are very inquisitive about what I do, my research project and some have even drawn me out on the finer points of philosophy and sociology of science… neat. it’s great answering genuine, smart and creative meta-level questions about what I do. I rarely ever get such great inquisitive questions from sociologists! It makes such a difference in motivation, potential insights and exchange of ideas. Ahhh.

I can feel my motivation for the CQCT research project getting revamped as I write! 🙂

I also had a stroll in the CBD tonight… it was pretty hot and I had a good look of Chinatown and some of the kooky sculptures around… I’m frustrated that my camera is out of action but it should be easy to find photos on the net…

My only problem is that I’m still sick and just can’t get enough sleep… ah well, will catch up on that soon at home!

quantum workshop

quantum workshop

Got up early and wondered off to the quantum computer technology workshop… very sleep deprived and drugged, but resigned to spending a long day indoors… despite it being 34C outside… was nice wondering a bit afterwards before the sun went down.

My brain got quite a workout today, it was good! 🙂

This is my second annual workshop with the Centre for Quantum Computer Technology and as I have interviewed some 60 research staff by now, about half of the attendees know me personally, so I mingle much better and make better use of my time.

It’s great being in the middle of dense discussions and being exposed to lots of the Centre’s work, greatly helps with my motivation in research and writing and getting research ideas flow… wish I could spend more time with physicists and less in my room alone!

(oh and by the way the workshop is more like a conference and doesn’t look at all like the photo above… but the everyday work of research staff in the centre does look something like this… and the workshop is about their work afterall)