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Cog: iTunes alternative

Cog

Cog is a minimalistic player for MacOsX, in pretty much the same spirit than foobar2000 or the first versions of Winamp. So if you’re annoyed by iTunes’ One Library To Rule Them All, this is what you were looking for!

It’s still in early stages but the features list is pretty impressive, considering its version number is only 0.06 and can already play formats traditionally neglected in Mac such as FLAC or modules. Admittedly you could play them using VLC or mplayer but the interface isn’t that nice.

Last.fm support is also in the bag, via calls to the last.fm client (which is not iScrobbler, and I was slightly confused as to what was what).

Enjoy!

Sharity music

I stumbled upon the Sharity concept recently while reading several music blogs. It really demonstrates an idea which I have had insistently in mind for some months already: the power of technology for preserving and spreading pieces of culture which would otherwise be destroyed or completely forgotten forever. I somehow link it with Negroponte’s words about distribution of atoms and bits, and it’s really a very good application of the advantages of the digital age he wrote about in his Being Digital book.

There isn’t a definition in wikipedia or anything for this word but it’s pretty immediate to come out with its etymology: Sharity = Sharing + Charity. Basically it’s about music lovers sharing music they like, so that more people get to know about it.

I have found lots of these pages – and I wish I had time for browsing all of them!

Most of them are entire digital samplings of old vinyl records which have been out of print for years: you can perfectly hear those pop’s and clicks that unequivocally speak about those recordings origin. Some are carefully cleaned prior to being ripped; even so, it looks so delicately done than one feels somehow aggressive about using rip for describing that process. Most of them include a cover scan, or maybe if it’s lost or damaged, new cover art is specially handcrafted for each release.

Some blogs specialize in boot sales music, or horror movies music, to say some bizarre examples which come to mind. And all of them denote big love for music, a passion which is not seen on record labels too often, more focused on maximizing the benefits of their current, easy to consume music inversions.

Labels might not be too keen on their back back back catalogue being shamelessly ripped and freely distributed, and that is pretty stupid, I think, and even obstructive, because if those recordings weren’t patiently rescued from the realms of oblivion, they would never get played again. EVER.

So I personally can’t but applaud their hard work, which allows us to hear unexpected little jewels covering music genres that you wouldn’t ever dream of, and pay somehow a late tribute to those (sometimes) unknown composers.

But – there’s always a but! Because these works have been out of print for years but they are not yet in the public domain they can’t be uploaded to archive.org or any of the decent hosting sites which would allow us to preserve culture in a less annoying way than volatile sites such as rapidshare, megaupload, etc, which is where these guys have to upload their jewels (or risk being prosecuted by jealous labels). And the best of all is that the labels aren’t interested in reprinting these works. They would lose money for sure and even if these people are not doing them any financial harm, I bet they would absolutely try to stop and destroy these blogs as soon as they could.

And now, time to form yourself an opinion by having a look at some of these sites:

  • Orgy in rhythm – focusing in jazz and rare jazz records fundamentally
  • That truncheon thing – they write about lots of styles but focusing around rock & decent pop. Has access to an amazing collection of bootlegs and I found some early, quasi pirate and unofficial, works of superstars such as REM here
  • Universal Horror Sounds – if I have to choose a niche sharity blog, I must link to this page, dedicated to 30’s – 40’s horror movies and music. They might look naive but they mean a lot for nowadays culture!
  • Vinyl Room – an amazing compilation of instrumental music with the vinyl warmth featuring even oddities such an album entirely played with an early ARP synthesizer.

All these pages link to dozens more which I guess am right in assuming that in fact link to dozens more; I haven’t had time yet to explore all of them so maybe I am missing something super! Let me know in that case; comments are free! :-)

I hope you enjoy this Sharity concept. It makes me wish I had some old vinyls or recordings to share!

Hands on Tenori-On

Tenori-On's secret

We had the opportunity of playing a bit with the (already) world famous Tenori-On (that strange new instrument build by Yamaha and designed with Toshio Iwai) at turnkey when we went to buy some picks for my new precious.

It is quite strange, but I could describe it like this: it looks a lot like a toy, and acts as a mix of Etch A Sketch1, ableton live plus a 909-style sequencer. But it is best that you try it by yourself or watch a video or something at youtube for understanding what I mean.

The other interesting thing is this interview with Toshio Iwai that mr.doob found. Apart from explaining about the design process behind the Tenori-On, he also makes some interesting comments about music and sharing the creative intricacies of the songs:

I really hope people will share their own creations via the Internet or via the SD card for example. One of my dreams for Tenori-On is that people will create their own music using the instrument, put the file on the computer – a very small file compared to an audio file – and then e-mail this to a friend. This friend, using their own Tenori-On, can then play back the file, listening to this piece whilst viewing all the actions and creative steps that occurred in its creation. This means we’re not just sharing the final piece of music, we’re sharing the patterns and the interactivity.

I think you could replace Tenori-On with tracker and it will have almost the same meaning, don’t you think?

Another sentence that I like a lot is this one:

The reality right now is that many people, including professional musicians and kids and simply passive listeners, have the chance to create their own music.

Leaving aside the fact that he’s obviously speaking about tenori-on, I think it’s a very interesting proposition on its own. We have been given the chance to create new stuff and express our own ideas thanks to the increase in computing power but only a few of us are trying to do anything at all.

I really believe it’s important for people to practice and experiment what they can do in the creativity fields, but traditionally we are told from an early age in life whether we are good for art or not, which is pretty dumb. One may show a certain innate aptitude (or lack of it) at childhood but it doesn’t mean he/she likes it or that he/she can’t gain skills in that field if need be.

So I’m all for things like the Tenori-On and in general every tool which enables us to play and see what can be done – we may learn new things and maybe we’ll create something cool too, while not being a passive listener any more. Interactivity is the key!

1 Telesketch for us the Spaniards

Onward / Jugi

Dope / Complex

Most of you know about the famous tune for Dope by Jugi, whose filename we mistakenly assumed was simply DOPE.MOD (mainly because we ripped it directly from the demo). If you ever tried to open it with a tracker you could see it wasn’t a normal 4 channel mod but a 32 channel one.

It is probably due to the fact that the song was originally composed with Fast Tracker. And it wasn’t titled dope but Onward ride instead. The best of all is that I found another shorter version which sounds neater and more solid than the demo version, maybe because its title is Onward final version, probably.

Both songs are listed in scenemusic, the long demo version here and the shorter final version here.

Since scenemusic follows such an stupid rule as to force people to register to be able to access external mirrors for downloading the songs, I have decided to give you the direct links to the mirrors in the hope that they rectify and make it easier for people to enjoy scene music. Here they are:

But there’s still more! It seems that Jugi contributed with a remix of this song to the Assembly 2004 Instrumental music compo, but it didn’t qualify. In contrast with 2007 edition, where even the non-qualified songs were distributed, that year only what was shown was distributed, and so the song is not in Scene.org ftp.

It wouldn’t be a problem if scenemusic had linked to some decent hosting or something, but we are left with the knowledge that there’s another version of Onward (Onward with the popcorn) and I personally I’m unable to download it from the horrid free downloads page scenemusic links to, even less listen to it.

If some nice guy or gal can download it or finds it anywhere else it would be nice to listen to that remix :-)

Oh and I also tried to look for jugi on irc but ircnet decided that my entire ip range was banned because of something about a blacklisted spam mail proxy or something and I’m unable to connect even if I reset my dsl modem. Anyway, enjoy that little jewel and see you next year! :-)

UPDATE 12th January: Found this page from mod soul brother with information about jugi and a compilation of his mods in zip format. It hasn’t got the Onward with the popcorn version, since it’s an mp3 but I’ll keep looking for it anyway ;-)

Bend, hammer down, pickups, picks and slides

Yamaha pacifica 112V

… and most probably, sore fingers too!

What’s all of this about?, you may be asking yourselves…

When I arrived home on Thursday there was a little surprise waiting for me… an amazing electric guitar, thanks to mr.doob’s spot-on ideas for Christmas :-)

It feels somehow coincidental because while being at Spain I was wondering about how could I bring my Spanish guitar with me to London, but I thought that maybe it would be more convenient to buy another one here and avoid all the annoyances of travelling with a guitar1.

Since the first and last time I had played an electric guitar was in the BASS essays for Breakpoint 2006 (which I think that was in fact the last time I played a guitar) I felt quite clumsy, and almost unable to do any barre chords, but I’m taking it easy, playing a little bit every day; I mostly play until my left hand finger tips begin to hurt a little bit too much, that’s the sign it’s been enough for the day.

It is superb to learn how to play guitar nowadays and with a good broadband connection. When I used to practice with my Spanish guitar, all one could do was to buy some handbooks (selected amongst a very limited offer) and hope they were useful, or share photocopies of chord tables. In contrast, I have found several sites with loads of information and guitar lessons, including videos and audio samples of how things should sound.

And what do I prefer, the Spanish or the electric one? Each one has its own distinctive features but I guess the electric one is more versatile, although you can’t beat being able to bring the acoustic one with you anywhere and busking a bit. Not that I have done that, but I considered it for a while actually!

Also, since the electric guitar uses metal string for the six strings (unlike the spanish one which uses metal only for the three lower strings), I feel slightly scared of cutting my skin when sliding my fingers over them, specially over the highest string.

Anyway, expect some real guitar sounds in my future songs instead of prerecorded samples. I’m doing my best to get my guitar skills back into shape so it could be anytime soon! Fear me!

1 What I read is that you have to either buy another plane ticket and bring the guitar with you into the cabin, which I don’t know if it’s possible with the recent changes which just allow one to have one piece of hand luggage, or check the guitar in as fragile. And the sole idea of checking a guitar is giving me the creeps already…