👓 Exspiravit ex machina | Imani Mosley

Replied to Exspiravit ex machina by Imani Mosley (Imani Mosley)
Getting this started has proved more difficult than initially envisioned, who knows why. I say this because I have been completely overtaken by this work and the questions that have arisen from it so, naturally, writing about it should be easy, right? Right. Let's start with a little background...

Congratulations on the new website! Glad to see you’ve got a bigger presence for longer form thoughts that I can follow.

I’d sent you a separate note on your metadata problem, but while I’m thinking about the broader issues, one interesting person who does immediately come to mind (thought not a specialist in microformats) is Kris Shaffer, who is a digital humanist, data scientist, and a digital media specialist. Recently he was a scholar with the Division of Teaching and Learning Technologies at University of Mary Washington before heading into the private sector. I suspect he may have some interest as well as relevant experience for problems like this and could point you in some interesting directions.

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👓 Classical music metadata | Imani Mosley

Replied to Classical music metadata by Imani Mosley (Imani Mosley)

This metadata project came about in a very practical fashion: NPR's in-house music database has a legacy file naming convention for its art music back from when it was digitizing LPs and moving from a physical collection to an online one. I won't go too much into why the system exists as it does but what's important to know is that it is as anachronistic as possible. There is very little connection between it and any other "standard" and makes it nearly impossible to discover anything as the search is exact rather than flexible. So being good librarians, we want to fix it. Making that statement was the easy part.

What followed was a very intense meeting in which my supervisor and I went through the pros and cons of various metadata & cataloging systems (our in-house database, iTunes, and others). There were far more cons than pros. It gave us a lot to consider and some things we could put in place but still left an uneasy feeling.

Imani, I didn’t see a comment box on your website and it doesn’t appear to support the Webmention spec yet, so I’ll post my reply on my site (something I’d do anyway) and send you a ping via Twitter.

I can’t help but thinking that this may be a potential use case for microformats. I notice there’s already some useful pages and research on music and even sheet music on their website.

If nothing else, I’d recommend that you or others delving into the process of looking at music metadata try to emulate the process behind what microformats are and how they work. I think it’s highly useful to take an overview of what and how people are already doing things in real life situations, figure out common patterns, and then documenting them to make the overall scope of work potentially smaller as well as to indicate a best path forward. Many companies will have created proprietary formats and methods which are likely to be highly incompatible or described, but not actually implemented in actual practice. (Hint: avoid unimplemented suggestions at all costs.) Your small polling sample already indicates a lot of variability, and I suspect your poll is very biased give people who would most likely be following your account.

A good starting point for answering your problem might be to do a bit of reading on microformats and then asking questions in the microformat community’s online chat. I suspect there are several people in the community who have done large-scale work on the web and categorization who might be able to help you out as well as point you in the direction of prior art and others who are working on these problems.

If you need help in understanding some of the microformats material, I’m happy to help you out via phone or online video chat and introduce you to some folks in the area.

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🎧 A Million dollars of plastic | Lost Notes (KCRW)

Listened A Million Dollars Worth of Plastic from Lost Notes | KCRW

In 1989 McDonald’s ran the biggest flexi-disc promotion ever, sending out 80 million discs (playing the “Menu Song”) as inserts in newspapers all over the country. A very special copy of this record was almost burned to heat a family home in Galax, Virginia. Instead, it ended up winning the homeowner a million dollars.

A heartbreaking story…

This seems to be a micrososm of the new American story in a post-80’s culture: People scraping by in hopes of a big pay day that will save them all, but in the end it does more to ruin them.

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📺 Wintergatan – Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles) | YouTube

Watched Wintergatan - Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles) from youtube.com
Marble Machine built and composed by Martin Molin
Video filmed and edited by Hannes Knutsson
Costume designed by Angelique Nagtegaal

🎧 Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears | Revisionist History

Listened Season 2 Episode 6 The King of Tears by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

Revisionist History goes to Nashville to talk with Bobby Braddock, who has written more sad songs than almost anyone else. What is it about music that makes us cry? And what sets country music apart?

Why country music makes you cry, and rock and roll doesn't: A musical interpretation of divided America.

The big idea in this episode that there is a bigger divide in America that falls along musical lines more than political ones is quite intriguing and fits in with my general experience living in South Carolina, Georgia, Connecticut, Maryland, Kentucky, and California. Having been raised by a Catholic family with one parent from the city, another from the countryside, and having lived in many blue/red states surrounded by people of various different musical tastes, I do have to wonder if there isn’t a lot of value in this thesis. It could make an interesting information theoretic political-related question for research. This might be the type of thing that could be teased out with some big data sets from Facebook.

Beauty and authenticity can create a mood. They set the stage, but I think the thing that pushes us over the top into tears is details. We cry when melancholy collides with specificity.

Malcolm Gladwell in The King of Tears

He then goes on into a nice example about the Rolling Stones’ Wild Horses:

And specificity is not something that every genre does well.

This reminds me of a great quote in Made to Stick from Mother Theresa about specificity.

Mother Teresa once said, “If I look at the mass, I will never act. If I look at the one, I will.”

There’s something very interesting about this idea of specificity and its uses in creating both ideas as well as storytelling and creating emotion.

There is one related old country music joke I’m surprised not to have seen mentioned here, possibly for length, tangential appropriateness, or perhaps because it’s so well known most may call it to mind. It plays off of the days of rock and roll when people played records backwards to find hidden (often satanic) messages.

Q: What do you get when you play a country music song backwards?
A: You get your job back, your wife back, your house back, and your dog back.

The episode finally rounds out with:

If you aren’t crying right now I can’t help you…

Thanks Malcolm, I was crying…

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🎧 Episode 07 Hallelujah | Revisionist History

Listened Episode 07 Hallelujah by Malcolm GladwellMalcolm Gladwell from Revisionist History

In 1984, Elvis Costello released what he would say later was his worst record: Goodbye Cruel World. Among the most discordant songs on the album was the forgettable “The Deportees Club.” But then, years later, Costello went back and re-recorded it as “Deportee,” and today it stands as one of his most sublime achievements.

“Hallelujah” is about the role that time and iteration play in the production of genius, and how some of the most memorable works of art had modest and undistinguished births.



And here I thought I knew a lot about the story of Hallelujah. I haven’t read any of the books on its history, nor written any myself, but this short story does have a good bit I’ve not heard before in the past. I did read quite a bit when Cohen passed away, and even spent some time making a Spotify playlist with over five hours of covers.

The bigger idea here of immediate genius versus “slow cooked” genius is the fun one to contemplate. I’ve previously heard stories about Mozart’s composing involved his working things out in his head and then later putting them on paper much the same way that a “cow pees” (i.e. all in one quick go or a fast flood.)

Another interesting thing I find here is the insanely small probability that the chain of events that makes the song popular actually happens. It seems worthwhile to look at the statistical mechanics of the production of genius. Perhaps applying Ridley’s concepts of “Ideas having sex” and Dawkin’s “meme theory” (aka selfish gene) could be interestingly useful. What does the state space of genius look like?

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Following Lost Notes from KCRW

Followed Lost Notes (KCRW)

An anthology of some of the greatest music stories never truly told.

This eight-part series includes a look at the FBI investigation into a classic rock anthem, unheard conversations with Captain Beefheart, a critical examination of New Edition’s basketball connection and the chronicle of a man plucked from Folsom Prison by Johnny Cash and thrust into country music stardom.

h/t Kevin Smokler

🎧 Song Exploder | The Daily

Listened Bonus Episode: The Daily from New York Times by Hrishikesh Hirway from Song Exploder

Wonderly – “The Daily” theme song

The Daily is the New York Times’ daily news podcast, hosted by Michael Barbaro. In this special edition of Song Exploder, composers Jim Brunberg & Ben Landsverk (aka Wonderly) break down how they composed the show’s theme song. You can listen on the New York Times website at nytimes.com/dailysong, or below:

footnotes:

Theme to HBO’s Westworld, by composer Ramin Djawadi (hear his Song Exploder episode on Game of Thrones’ theme song here)

A fantastic little podcast breaking down music. I always wish I knew more about music and structure and have some real appreciation for analysis like this. I’m considering subscribing to the rest of their content. Interestingly this looks like the same host as The West Wing Weekly. I suspect this may be how I came across it originally.

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