Saxophone Robot Performs Giant Steps Solo by John Coltrane

Watch this video here with a saxophone robot playing John Coltrane’s famous solo over his bebop tune Giant Steps. The song is in up tempo bu you might feel that this solo could be played a little bit faster. Well, there is another version of Giant Steps at a higher speed, 350 bpm to be exact.
Some people say that this solo sounds cold and unpersonal. While this can be admitted it is still amazing that a machine can actually play a saxophone and with a high grade of accuracy. This is not simply a synthesizer or a computer’s sound card that synthetically imitates the sound of a certain music instrument, instead it is a machine that produces an air stream which is directed into the mouthpiece of a tenor saxophone while some artificial hands move the keys of the instrument.
You might want to listen to Giant Steps with John Coltrane’s original sound from the Blue Note record Blue Train on the soundtrack while a computer generated video animation shows the melody written out as sheet music in real time.
Of course there is a difference in interpretation and John Coltrane sounds as human as a musican can sound. We like this video because it helps to illustrate the point of slight tempo variations throughout the performance of a song. This sould be considered by all the ‘musicians’ who insist on the objectivity of a metronomes pulse. Yes, it is true that some sheet music indicates a certain number for the beats per minute the piece should be performed with. However, the japanese robot does exactly this while in real musicians’ interpretations there might be slight variations of the speed. Of course we don’t want to encourage the musicians to play ‘easy’ parts with the indicated speed and slow down during the ‘difficult’ parts, but we want to encourage the performers to put their personal style into an interpretation and that this style should be ruled by the sense of balance and freedom.
We don’t think that this robot qualifies as a suggestion for our poll about the greatest tenor saxophone player ever heard, but it´s up to you to decide now..

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Accoustic Illusions – How We Perceive the Sounds that Surround Us

This is a very interesting video about different aspects of music. It begins with an introduction about the relation between maths and music, talking about the greek philosopher Pitagoras who wrote about the relation between the length of a string and the musical note it produces and then divides the string into different portions, obtaining different musical notes. After these facts about the mathematical relation between the notes, the video continues to the ‘timbre’ which is the part of the sound that makes it identifiable as the sound of a certain instrument. The timbre depends on the mixture of harmonics that vibrate together with the original note. Only synthesizers can play notes without harmonics, all other instruments produce a musical note with a timbre composed by several harmonics of this note.
Then it becomes really interesting: It looks like musical perception does not depend on the musical facts alone but has to do with the culture where the individual grew up. Diana Deutsch shows how a simple interval is perceived as ascending or as descending, depending on the culture of the listener! Culture relates here to the mother tongue or language of the individual.
The video mentions that right handed people from all cultures tend to perceive the low tones on the left side and the higher pitches on the right side while left handed and ambidextrous people perceive music the other way around. This is the reason for the disposition of the elements in an symphonic orchestra. If the elements weren’t ordered the way they are, the musicians couldn’t hear well the other instruments in the orchestra. However, since the orchestras are normally in front of the public, it results that the public must listen the music in an ‘unnatural’ perspective.
The video then mentions a test that shows how our perception is distorted: the listener receives some musica sounds through the headphones and has to decide wethere the low pitches sound on the right or on the left side. Once the person is sure about what he/she is hearing, the person shall swap the sides of the earphones so that the left chanel now is the right chanel and vice versa. One expects that now the low pitches should come from the opposite side. However, this is not the case! People continue to hear the low notes at the same location, no matter where they are really located, spatially speaking.
The video continues to other interesting aspects of music and we recommend to watch it right away, if you are interested in the part about accoustic illusions, you might want to go directly to minute 16.

The Day of Silence and Other New Years Day Celebrations from around the World

All over the globe there are celebrations when a year ends and a new cycle begins. The change dosn’t necessarily happen on december 31 / January 1, as in the western world. In Ubud, Bali (Indonesia), the celebrations take place in march, when the new year for the hindus begins.
Bali is a country full of music. It is a society where music is always present: when the fields are harvested, there is a music group of the town playing while other members of the community cut the fruits or whatever they are harvesting. The same thing happens when the community plants the seeds for the new agricultural cycle and in general terms there is no event in the life of the people from Bali where there wouldn’t be a musical group playing.
At the last day of the year, the people from Bali bring out giant paper monsters that symbolize the evil in multiple presentations and forms. In the night, the paper monsters are brought back to where they were built and remain there for one day. This day is the day of silence and there is absolutely no action on the streets or in the houses. People meditate and rest, stying home since no traffic is allowed on the streets. No cars, no motorcycles and not even pedestrians.
The idea behind this tradition is that on this day the evil spirits will visit the island and when they see the paper monsters and the empty streets they will think that the monsters already have taken over the island and that there are no persons left. So, they will go back to where they came from and will let the land in peace for another year.
That would be a nice tradition to introduce in the western world!

Buddy Rich – Floating Drum Set

Buddy Rich is one of the greatest drummers and drum set pioneers. Watch this video with Buddy Rich on a drumset that elevates about 8 feet over the ground and begins to rotate. I wonder how this was done. My first suspect was that it is only a tv show and that it is an illusion. However, the drumset rotates and you can see the cymbals following the rotation with their movement. Anyway, it’s remarkable how Buddy Rich keeps drumming in any position.