Brian Eno on the Loss of Humanity in Modern Music

In music, as in film, we have reached a point where every element of every composition can be fully produced and automated by computers. This is a breakthrough that allows producers with little or no musical training the ability to rapidly turn out hits. It also allows talented musicians without access to expensive equipment to record their music with little more than their laptops. But the ease of digital recording technology has encouraged producers, musicians, and engineers at all levels to smooth out every rough edge and correct every mistake, even in recordings of real humans playing old-fashioned analogue instruments. After all, if you could make the drummer play in perfect time every measure, the singer hit every note on key, or the guitarist play every note perfectly, why wouldn’t you?

One answer comes in a succinct quotation from Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies, which Ted Mills referenced in a post here on Miles Davis: “Honor Your Mistakes as a Hidden Intention.” (The advice is similar to that Davis gave to Herbie Hancock, “There are no mistakes, just chances to improvise.”) In the short clip at the top, Eno elaborates in the context of digital production, saying “the temptation of the technology is to smooth everything out.”

But the net effect of correcting every perceived mistake is to “homogenize the whole song,” he says, “till every bar sounds the same… until there’s no evidence of human life at all in there.” There is a reason, after all, that even purely digital, “in the box” sequencers and drum machines have functions to “humanize” their beats—to make them correspond more to the looseness and occasional hesitancy of real human players.

This does not mean that there is no such thing as singing or playing well or badly—it means there is no such thing as perfection. Or rather, that perfection is not a worthy goal in music. The real hooks, the moments that we most connect with and return to again and again, are often happy accidents. Mills points to a whole Reddit thread devoted to mistakes left in recordings that became part of the song. And when it comes to playing perfectly in time or in tune, I think of what an atrocity would have resulted from running all of The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street through a digital audio workstation to sand down the sharp edges and “fix” the mistakes. All of its shambling, mumbling, drunken barroom charm would be completely lost. That goes also for the entire recorded output of The Band, or most of Dylan’s albums (such as my personal favorite, John Wesley Harding).

To take a somewhat more modern example, listen to “Sirena” from Australian instrumental trio Dirty Three, above. This is a band that sounds forever on the verge of collapse, and it’s absolutely beautiful to hear (or see, if you get the chance to experience them live). This recording, from their album Ocean Songs, was made in 1998, before most production went fully digital, and there are very few records that sound like it anymore. Even dance music has the potential to be much more raw and organic, instead of having singers’ voices run through so much pitch correction software that they sound like machines.

There is a lot more to say about the way the albums represented above were recorded, but the overall point is that just as too much CGI has often ruined the excitement of cinema (we’re looking at you, George Lucas) —or as the digital “loudness wars” sapped much recorded music of its dynamic peaks and valleys—overzealous use of software to correct imperfections can ruin the human appeal of music, and render it sterile and disposable like so many cheap, plastic mass-produced toys. As with all of our use of advanced technology, questions about what we can do should always be followed by questions about what we’re really gaining, or losing, in the process.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2016.

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Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

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Watch Rare Videos Showing Steely Dan Performing Live During the Early 1970s

The band performing in the video above is Steely Dan. Yet it doesn’t sound quite like Steely Dan, an impression partially explained by it being a live show rather than the kind of perfectionist studio recordings for whose meticulous construction (and repeated reconstruction) the group’s very name has long been a byword. But its founding masterminds Walter Becker and Donald Fagen hadn’t yet settled into that complexly pristine aesthetic at the time of this appearance, which aired fifty years ago next week on The Midnight Special. Back then, having put out only their first couple of albums, they could still present their project as a relatively conventional early-seventies rock band.

It helped that they had a relatively conventional frontman in singer David Palmer, who handles lead vocals on their Midnight Special performance of “Do It Again,” Steely Dan’s first hit. That he didn’t do so on the studio recording underscores that the band is genuinely playing live, not miming to a backing track, as was standard practice on other music shows.

It also constitutes another reason this version sounds “off” to a serious Danfan, but it would take a truly blinkered purism (a condition widespread among the ranks of Danfans, admittedly) not to appreciate this performance, especially when it gets around to the solo by the band’s original guitarist Denny Dias — another of which comes along in “Reelin’ in the Years,” played in the video just above.

Not that one guitarist could suffice for Steely Dan, even in this early lineup: they also had Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, now regarded as one of the finest studio players in the subgenre of “yacht rock.” Baxter appears prominently in their live rendition of “Show Biz Kids,” albeit as just one element of the full stage necessary to reproduce that song live. Unlike “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ in the Years,” two singles from Steely Dan’s album Can’t Buy a Thrill, “Show Biz Kids” comes from their then-newly released follow-up Countdown to Ecstasy, which offered a richer realization of both Steely Dan’s distinctive sound and even more distinctive worldview. To the refinement of that sound and worldview Becker and Fagen would devote themselves less than a year after their Midnight Special broadcast, when they quit live performance entirely for the comforts and rigors of their natural habitat: the recording studio.

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Watch David Bowie’s Final Performance as Ziggy Stardust, Singing “I Got You Babe” with Marianne Faithfull, on The Midnight Special (1973)

Chuck Berry & the Bee Gees Perform Together in 1973: An Unexpected Video from The Midnight Special Archive

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

A Surprising Animation Revisits the Miracle on the Hudson & the Cause of US Airways Flight 1549’s Crash

Nearly 15 years ago, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from New York City’s LaGuardia Airport, bound for Seattle by way of Charlotte, North Carolina.

Shortly after takeoff, the aircraft plowed into a flock of migrating birds, and its engines failed.

In less than four minutes, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger guided the vessel down to the frigid Hudson River.

Office workers on Manhattan’s west side were riveted by the spectacle of passengers standing on the wings, awaiting rescue by two NY Waterway ferries and other local boats.

Everyone on board survived, and few of their injuries were serious.

The incident was quickly framed as “the Miracle on the Hudson” and Captain Sullenberger was hailed as a hero.

Captain Sullenberger credited his successful maneuver to his 42 years as a pilot:

I’ve been making small, regular deposits in this bank of experience, education and training. And on January 15, the balance was sufficient so that I could make a very large withdrawal.

Such modesty only emphasized his heroism in the eyes of the public.

Such narratives preoccupy animator Bernardo Britto, whose 2020 short Hudson Geese comes at this historic event from another angle:

Narratives become our way of explaining and understanding the world. They are a part of how we build our identities and the stories we tell about ourselves. And stories by definition are exclusionary. Because you can’t fit it all in a story. They’re reductive. They’re simplified, easily digestible versions of a chain of events that’s way too complex for us to wrap our heads around.

(His interest in looking beyond established narrative boundaries carries over to the land acknowledgment in his short’s final credits: ”Before Chesley, before airplanes, before the apartment in which this short was conceived, “New York City” was the home of the Lenape, Canarsie, and Wappinger people.”)

Revisiting the Miracle on the Hudson in the thrall of the Rashomon effect may mute your rageful impulses the next time a flock of Canada geese toilets its way across your favorite green space.

Even though Hudson Geese clocks in at a tight five, we get enough time with its nameless lead to become invested in his travels, his dedication to his life partner, Sharona, his migration history, and his connection to his animal essence:

As we take to the air, I feel a familiar emotion, a deep sense that this is where I really belong, more so than the lake in Shawinigan, much more so than the golf course on the Potomac, I belong here, in the air, flying safely over all the noise, high above the city, that unintelligible mess of spires and skyscrapers, that island that became for reasons unknown to a simple goose like me, the very center of all the world.

Captain Sullenberger and co-pilot Jeff Skiles receive animated cameos in Hudson Geese, as do Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood, leaving our anti-hero to wonder who will immortalize Sharona and who will remember the day’s “fallen fowl.”

(With regard to the last question, possibly, Tom Haueter, the National Transportation Safety Board‘s former head of major accident investigation. The Federal Aviation Administration failed to implement many of his proposed safety measures following the crash.)

The human media’s hot take was that “thankfully no one was hurt.

The goose can only conceive of the Miracle on the Hudson as a “complete and utter massacre.”

Watch more of Bernardo Britto’s animations on his Vimeo channel.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Hokusai’s Action-Packed Illustrations of Japanese & Chinese Warriors (1836)

Katsushika Hokusai created his best-known woodblock print The Great Wave Off Kanagawa — or rather he finished its definitive version — when he was in his early sixties. That may sound somewhat late in the day by the standards of visual artists, but as Hokusai himself saw it, he was just getting started. At the Public Domain Review, Koto Sadamura quotes the artist’s own words, as included in the book One Hundred Views of Mt. Fuji: “Until the age of seventy, nothing I drew was worthy of notice. At seventy-three years, I was somewhat able to fathom the growth of plants and trees, and the structure of birds, animals, insects and fish.”

Sadamura goes on to introduce a different, lesser-known, and even later series of Hokusai’s artworks: “Wakan ehon sakigake, which assembles images of famous Japanese and Chinese warriors, both historical and legendary. The Japanese term sakigake in the title signifies outstanding figures or leaders (Wakan means Japanese and Chinese, and ehon is a picture book).”

Like many a hardworking ukiyo-e artist, Hokusai created these images to order, his publisher having asked him to “fill three volumes with ‘wisdom’ [chi], ‘humanity’ [jin] and ‘bravery’ [], using examples of widely celebrated mighty heroes as reminders of military arts even in times of peace.”

The results, which you can see both at the Public Domain Review and the site of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, clearly fulfill their mandate of revivifying from a glorious past, real or imagined. But they also exude a certain aesthetic familiarity even today: in Hokusai’s depiction of the Heian-period warrior Hirai Yasumasa “subduing a monster spider,” for example, “lines in the background trace the motion of the gigantic arachnid as it tumbles and its sickle-like legs flail in the air, emphasizing the movement and force in a way that resonates with the visual effects of modern manga.”

All the more surprising, then, not just that the Wakan ehon sakigake (or at least two of its planned three volumes) are now 187 years old, but also that Hokusai himself was seventy-six at the time. “Each tiny leaf growing on the rocks and each textural mark on the ragged surface is animated, filling the picture with vibrating energy,” Sadamura writes. “Every single strand of hair is charged with life.”

But the master foresaw greater achievements ahead, only after attaining the experience that would attend an even more advanced age: “At one hundred and ten, every dot and every stroke will be as though alive.” Alas, Hokusai died in 1849, at the tender age of 88, leaving us to imagine the level of artistry he might have attained had he reached maturity.

via Public Domain Review

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Psychedelic Animated Video for Kraftwerk’s “Autobahn” (1979)

Ah, yes, “Autobahn.” From the moment the door slams and the ignition starts, prog rockers and pre-new wavers know a journey is afoot. Though the members of Kraftwerk made three albums before this, the members still looking like well meaning bookish hippies, 1974’s “Autobahn” is considered Year Zero for the denizens of the electric cafe, the four German robots who made human music with machines.

Created in 1979, but bopping around again in pop culture orbit is this cel-drawn animation by Roger Mainwood, created to promote “Autobahn” after most of the culture had caught up. By that last year of the ’70s Omni magazine was a year old, music was sifting through the shockwaves left by Bowie’s Low and Heroes, analog was flirting with digital, and the world was ready to drive on that long, electric highway.

Mainwood’s protagonist is part alien, part human, and he begins looking around in awe in his hip goggles, then setting off for a run straight out of a Muybridge loop, only to wind up floating, flying, sailing and swimming through a landscape indebted to Peter Max, PushPin Studios, underground comix, and 1930 modernism.

Mainwood had just graduated from London’s Royal College of Art Film and Television School, and was commissioned by John Halas, the Hungarian immigrant who became known as the Father of British Animation, for Kraftwerk’s record label. The label wanted to put out one of the first music Laserdiscs. (Halas, by the way, directed a very UPA-influenced short called “Automania” in 1963). According to Mainwood, he still doesn’t know if the band liked the short or even if they watched it.

Mainwood avoided any direct representation of driving or automobiles, much to his credit, which may be why the film holds its fascination. The animator continued in his field, winding up a producer of several classics of British animation, including The Snowman and the chilling When the Wind Blows. As for the meaning of “Autobahn,” we’ll let Mainwood have the last word:

Thinking back to my thought processes at that time, I remember wanting to specifically not have conventional cars in the film. I wanted a sense of a repetitive journey, and alienation, which I took to be what the music was about…hence the solitary futuristic figure, protected by large goggles, moving through and trying to connect with the journey he is taking. The automobile “monsters” are deliberately threatening (I have never been a big fan of cars or motorways!) and when our “hero” tries to make human contact (with different coloured clones of himself) he can never do it. In the end he realises he is making the repetitive and circular journey alone but strides forward purposefully at the end as he did in the beginning. All of which sounds rather pretentious…but I was a young thing in those days!

You can read more of an interview with Mainwood here.

Find more animations in our collection, 4,000+ Free Movies Online: Great Classics, Indies, Noir, Westerns, Documentaries & More.

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Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the artist interview-based FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills, read his other arts writing at and/or watch his films here.

Why You Have an Accent When You Speak a Foreign Language

One occasionally hears it insisted that, outside certain culturally distinct regions of the country, Americans “don’t have an accent.” This notion is exposed as nonsense the moment one of those Americans starts speaking a foreign language, sometimes at the very first word. “Hold the palm of your hand up in front of your mouth and say ‘Paris’ in English,” advises the host of the Economist video above. “You’ll feel a little puff of air on your hand. Now, try the same thing again, but try to remove that puff of air, and you’ll get something closer to the French sound.” While this test works best for Americans, native speakers of many languages other than French should feel a difference.

No matter where they’re from, “people find themselves subconsciously adapting words of a foreign language to fit the rules of their own,” combining, emphasizing, and dropping sounds in the manner to which they’ve been accustomed since early childhood: the native Arabic speaker pronounces children as childiren, the Spaniard says he comes from espain, a Frenchman calls Texas’ biggest city yoo-STON.

It’s one thing to master a foreign language’s library of sounds, but quite another to nail its “stress patterns” that dictate which syllables are emphasized. That no syllables are emphasized in Japanese reveals the native stress patterns of its foreign speakers: listen to how clearly the distinctive American English rhythm comes through in, say, the name of the famous novelist ha-RU-ki mu-ra-KA-mi.

Some languages, like Italian and Cantonese, are “syllable timed,” which means that “every syllable has roughly the same duration.” This is quite unlike English, whose “stressed syllables come at roughly regular intervals, and the remainder are less distinctly pronounced.” Non-native English speakers who ignore that aspect of the language will always sound foreign, no matter their level of fluency. Of course, having an accent isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and indeed, we all know individuals who have played it up to great advantage in their personal and professional lives. But as an American living abroad, I do feel a certain responsibility to contradict our reputation for blithe ineptitude outside English. Such an effort must begin with taking any language, whatever its particular set of technical or cultural characteristics, one sound at a time.

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Chuck Berry & the Bee Gees Perform Together in 1973: An Unexpected Video from The Midnight Special Archive

During the 1970s, Burt Sugarman produced The Midnight Special, a late-night musical variety show that featured great rock and pop music performances. In recent months, Sugarman has started bringing the show’s archive to YouTube, allowing you to revisit vintage performances by David Bowie, Steely Dan, Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, Blondie, Richard Pryor and much more. Above, you can watch one such gem in the archive–that is, Chuck Berry & the Bee Gees performing Reelin’ and Rockin’ (a song originally released as a B-side with “Sweet Little Sixteen” in 1957). As one YouTuber put it, “what an odd combination that absolutely works; one of Chuck’s most satisfying performances of this era; his guitar’s in tune, the band is hot & supportive (who’s that piano player?!), and it’s always cool to hear Maurice sing solo.” The performance took place on October 12, 1973. Enjoy.

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Revisit “Turn-On,” the Innovative TV Show That Got Canceled Right in the Middle of Its First Episode (1969)

It may give you pause, at least if you’re past a certain age, to consider the disappearance of the word computerized. Like portable, it has fallen out of use due to the sheer commonness of the concept to which it refers: in an age when we all carry portable computers in our pockets, neither portability nor computerization are any longer notable in themselves. But there was a time when to call something computerized lent it a futuristic, even sexy air. Back in 1969, just a few months before the United States’ decisive victory in the Space Race, ABC aired “the First Computerized TV Show,” a half-hour sketch-comedy series called Turn-On. Or rather, it would’ve been a series, had it lasted past its first broadcast.

Turn-On was created by Ed Friendly and George Schlatter, the producers of Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In on NBC. With that sketch comedy show having quickly become a major cultural phenomenon, Friendly and Schlatter used their new project to purify and greatly intensify its concept: the sketches became shorter, some of them lasting mere seconds; the material became more topical and risqué; the humor became more absurd, at times verging on nonsensical.

But Turn-On‘s most striking break from convention was the elimination of the role of the host, replacing them with a formidable-looking computer console that was ostensibly generating the show according to the instructions of its anonymous programmers.

Though its central computer was a fiction, Turn-On really did use technology in ways never before seen or heard on television. Instead of a laugh track, it was saturated with the novel sounds of the Moog synthesizer (whose capabilities had been popularly demonstrated the previous year by Wendy Carlos’ Switched-On Bach). Instead of proper sets, its troupe performed against the kind of white void later associated with Gap commercials; often, that space would separate into comic-strip panels right onscreen. Its dance sequences even made use of an early motion-capture system. Alas, none of these innovations saved the show from being pulled off the air just fifteen minutes into its debut by Cleveland’s WEWS. That decisive rejection set off a cascade, and several stations on the west coast subsequently elected not to broadcast it at all.

Schlatter remains a defender of Turn-On, blaming its rejection on a vindictive fan of the show whose time slot it took, the declining prime-time rural soap opera Peyton Place. Now that both the first and never-aired second episodes have surfaced on Youtube, you can watch and judge them for yourself, assuming you can handle a frenzied disjointedness that makes TikTok videos feel stately by comparison. The objects of these often-absurd salvos  — campus protests, anti-communism, “the new math,” nuclear annihilation, the pill, Richard Nixon — may be dated, but at this historical distance, we can better appreciate what Ernie Smith at Tedium calls a “sharp commentary on an increasingly direct and impersonal culture.” And if we also take Turn-On as a statement on the nature of entertainment generated by artificial intelligence, we can credit it with a certain prescience as well.

via Boing Boing

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Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Death-Cap Mushrooms are Terrifying and Unstoppable: A Wild Animation

Mushrooms are justly celebrated as virtuous multitaskers.

They’re food, teachers, movie stars, design inspiration

…and some, as anyone who’s spent time playing or watching The Last of Us can readily attest, are killers.

Hopefully we’ve got some time before civilization is conquered by zombie cordyceps.

For now, the ones to watch out for are amanita phalloide, aka death cap mushrooms.

The powerful amatoxin they harbor is behind 90 percent of mushroom-related fatalities worldwide. It causes severe liver damage, leading to bleeding disorders, brain swelling, and multi-organ failure in those who survive. 

A death cap took the life of a three-year-old in British Columbia who mistook one for a tasty straw mushroom on a foraging expedition with his family near their apartment complex. 

In Melbourne, a pot pie that tested positive for death caps resulted in the deaths of three adults, and sent a fourth to the hospital in critical condition.

As the animators feast on mushrooms’ limitless visual appeal in the above episode of The Atlantic’s Life Up Close series, author Craig Childs delivers some sobering news:

We did it to ourselves. Humans are the ones who’ve enabled death caps to spread so far beyond their native habitats in Scandinavia and parts of northern Europe, where the poisonous fungi feed on the root tips of deciduous trees, springing up around their hosts in tidy fairy rings.

When other countries import these trees to beautify their city streets, the death caps, whose fragile spores are incapable of traveling long distances when left to their own devices, tag along.

They have sprouted in the Pacific Northwest near imported sweet chestnuts, beeches, hornbeams, lindens, red oaks, and English oaks, and other host species.

As biochemist Paul Kroeger, cofounder of the Vancouver Mycological Society, explained in a 2019 article Childs penned for the Atlantic, the invasive death caps aren’t popping up in deeply wooded areas. 

Rather, they are settling into urban neighborhoods, frequently in the grass strips bordering sidewalks. When Childs accompanied Krueger on his rounds, the first of two dozen death caps discovered that day were found in front of a house festooned with Halloween decorations. 

Now that they have established themselves, the death caps cannot be rousted. No longer mere tourists, they’ve been seen making the jump to native oaks in California and Western Canada.

Childs also notes that death caps are no longer a North American problem:

They have spread worldwide where foreign trees have been introduced into landscaping and forestry practices: North and South America, New Zealand, Australia, South and East Africa, and Madagascar. In Canberra, Australia, in 2012, an experienced Chinese-born chef and his assistant prepared a New Year’s Eve dinner that included, unbeknownst to them, locally gathered death caps. Both died within two days, waiting for liver transplants; a guest at the dinner also fell ill, but survived after a successful transplant.

Foragers should proceed with extreme caution.

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– Ayun Halliday is the Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine and author, most recently, of Creative, Not Famous: The Small Potato Manifesto and Creative, Not Famous Activity Book. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

Robert Reich’s UC Berkeley Course on Wealth & Poverty Is Free Online

Once the Secretary of Labor under the Clinton Administration, Robert Reich spent 17 years teaching at UC Berkeley. This past spring, he taught his final course there, and it’s now available online. Above, you can stream 14 lectures from “Wealth and Poverty,” a course “designed to provide students with a deeper understanding of both the organization of the political economy in the United States and of other advanced economies, and why the distribution of earnings, wealth, and opportunity have been diverging in the United States and in other nations.” Usually attended by 750 Berkeley undergraduates, the course is also “intended to provide insights into the political and public-policy debates that have arisen in light of this divergence, as well as possible means of reversing it.”

“Wealth and Poverty” will be added to our list of free Economics courses, a subset of our larger collection, 1,700 Free Online Courses from Top Universities.

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If you would like to support the mission of Open Culture, consider making a donation to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your contributions will help us continue providing the best free cultural and educational materials to learners everywhere. You can contribute through PayPal, Patreon, and Venmo (@openculture). Thanks!

via Kottke

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Neuroscientists Reconstruct a Pink Floyd Song from Listeners’ Brain Activity, with a Little Help from AI

Anyone who’s worked in an operating room knows that many surgeons like to put on music while they do their job, and that their working soundtracks often include surprising artists. It hardly requires a leap of imagination to assume that there are more than a few scalpel-wielding Pink Floyd fans out there — scalpel-wielding Pink Floyd fans who will surely feel their musical taste vindicated by a study that involved playing “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)” to patients undergoing epilepsy-related neurosurgery. Afterward, with help from artificial intelligence, the researchers were able to reconstruct the song from those patients’ recorded brainwaves.

That this turns out to be possible offers “a first step toward creating more expressive devices to assist people who can’t speak,” writes the New York Times‘ Hana Kiros. “Over the past few years, scientists have made major breakthroughs in extracting words from the electrical signals produced by the brains of people with muscle paralysis when they attempt to speak. But a significant amount of the information conveyed through speech comes from what linguists call ‘prosodic’ elements, like tone.”

It is the musical elements of speech, one might say, that have so far eluded reproduction by existing brain-machine interfaces, whose sentences “have a robotic quality akin to how the late Stephen Hawking sounded when he used a speech-generating device,” as Robert Sanders writes in Berkeley News.

You can hear a clip of “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 1)” as generated from the researchers’ AI work with brainwave data in the Euronews video above. Indistinct though it may sound, the song will come through recognizably even to the ears of casual Pink Floyd fans (irked though they’ll be by the video’s accompanying it with the cover image from The Dark Side of the Moon). They may also feel the urge to continue listening to the rest of The Wall, especially “Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2),” with its school-choir delivered declaration that we don’t need no mind control. But as for just-dawning technologies that allow us to control things with our minds — well, that wouldn’t be so bad, would it?

Related content:

Neurosymphony: A High-Resolution Look into the Brain, Set to the Music of Brain Waves

Music in the Brain: Scientists Finally Reveal the Parts of Our Brain That Are Dedicated to Music

Hear a Neuroscientist-Curated 712-Track Playlist of Music that Causes Frisson, or Musical Chills

The Neuroscience of Bass: New Study Explains Why Bass Instruments Are Fundamental to Music

How Pink Floyd Built The Wall: The Album, Tour & Film

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

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