Category Archives: IT

Distant Voices

There’s always something a little ghostly about hearing voices thought to belong to a distant past. Thanks to Open Culture for flagging up this recording of the voice of Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893), recorded in 1890:

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I remember being amazed at hearing the voice of Florence Nightingale (1820 – 1910), recorded in the same year:

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What is thought to be the oldest known recording originates from 1860:

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I recall one of the best cases of corpsing on Radio 4’s Today when Charlotte Green found herself in the unfortunate position of having to follow coverage of this with an obituary. We’ve all been in situations where the inappropriateness of the laughter multiplies it to an uncontrollable level – you can hear this episode here.

Open Culture also posted (a while ago) a link to a recording of James Joyce reading from Finnegan’s Wake. In our world of silent reading, the importance of the voice – the exception being audio books – has diminished somewhat. Step 4 of these instructions on How To Read Ulysses explains the importance of reading aloud.

I recall once seeing a photograph of a man who had played with Mozart (1756 – 1791). This unlikely outcome simply requires that one live long enough. Domenico Dragonetti (1763 – 1846) lived to be 83.

 

WolframAlpha

Having been interested at first mention of WolframAlpha, I decided to spend some time on it to see what it’s all about. The site is not short of explanatory material – ranging from an explanation of its goals, through examples to a video demonstrating what’s possible.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that the six major towns of East Lothian featured and decided to find out a little more about population etc. (I imagine that the info might have come from the 2001 census and, in some cases more than others, might be qutie out of date by now). Why not see if you can predict the populations of these towns – or rank them in order before clicking the links? Dunbar; North Berwick; Haddington; Tranent; Musselburgh; Prestonpans

I was also curious about the population of towns which feed into larger secondary schools e.g. East Linton; Longniddry and couldn’t help wondering if all the schools were being located from scratch now, if Cockenzie/Port Seton would merit its own school. The population, at nearly 6,000, must rival that of larger towns at the time schools were establishing themselves.

Then, simply to test-drive Wolfram Alpha, I simply entered random terms in the search box:

a chemical element e.g. Boron; a chemical compound e.g. NaCl (Sodium Chloride); ozone

Pi; a calculation e.g. 7.39 + 17.5%; 10 Factorial aka 10!

today’s date; my date of birth (it seems I’ve been alive for 18,159 days); a random year – 1939

the note Middle C; the interval of the perfect 5th; the major 7th chord; C diminished chord; the term Hertz; human hearing range; speed of sound; speed of light;

the sum of £21.34 which, without asking, was converted into other currencies

a random temperature e.g. 37 degrees C, which was converted into more scales than I knew existed

a random length e.g. 100m; Sun distance Earth; Moon distance Earth; volume of sea;

and finally a random word – sound, which is explored in all its uses – the etymology and first recorded use of words are given – very much like another favourite of mine – etymonline

The results of searches can be saved as pdfs – which must be handy for many classes.

Why not try it out?

Desert Island Mashup

I’m in the process or preparing a short CPD session for colleagues on the free, open-source sound- recording and editing program, Audacity. When pitching the idea, I suggested that we could each prepare a Desert Island Discs CD, featuring 1 minute each of eight tracks. In addition to learning such aspects of the program as fade-ins and fade-outs, it would encourage us to discuss music with one another – a thing which, somewhat ironically, rarely happens. The other irony is that, in seeking accommodation, I discovered that the room containing the most computers, loaded with Audacity is not in a Music department, but CDT.

To experiment with cross-fading, I’ve cut down my original Desert Island Disc extracts to a few seconds. This is the sort of mashup one could use to give an overall flavour of, say, a school concert. While I think you’ll agree that this selection desert-island-discs-mashup doesn’t represent the ideal dinner party mix, it probably doesn’t matter as, on a desert island, one tends to dine alone. “Just as well,” some of you may say upon hearing these extracts.

 

Music Matters

Increasingly, differences between some aspects of the real and virtual worlds feel virtually negligible – with one notable exception. Walking past the bookshelves in the hall, my eye is frequently caught by the spines of books I hope soon to read or re-read. Undeservedly neglected blogs seem to reach out less and I often return to one to find a treasure trove of fascinating reading/watching/listening/testing matter. One such is Music Matters* – a music cognition blog put together by Henkjan Honing of the University of Amsterdam.

This morning’s visit threw up the following topics:

How well would you do as an expert?

Can music cognition save your life?

Gene for music?

Although apparently published last week, this study was thrown my way by Hilery Williams last term!

Can you point at it?

Is beat induction special? (Part 5)

Does rhythm make our bodies move?

Infant-direct speech

* somewhat confusingly, this is also the name of weekly podcast in my feed-reader from the Radio 3 programme of the same name.