Category Archives: Technology

Prosody

Having recently attended Music: An Explanation by a Guitar Hero, which concluded with some deliberations on prosody (the music of speech which amplifies meaning), I chanced upon an inspirational TED talk by film critic, Robert Ebert, who lost his lower jaw, and his speech, through cancer.

Exploring text-to-speech technology, he found that, unless he entered very time-consuming XML coding, the prosody was never quite right. Work is currently in progress with Edinburgh-based company, CereProc to refine his voice, using recorded material from Ebert’s television archive. Exploring their site, I was quite astonished at how far along the speech synthesis road things have travelled. You can hear some of their voices here or type in your own text and choose a voice here. While CereProc finish their refinements, Ebert is using Apple’s Alex voice.

It is very touching to see how Ebert responds during the talk. The words are his own but his wife and two other close friends help out with reading. Despite the fact that the oral delivery is at one remove, he gestures as though delivering the words personally.

Let me, once again, flag up some interesting lectures on prosody by Peter Roach.

The end of remembering

As revision classes kick off in East Lothian schools, I chanced upon an interesting talk, on LSE podcasts, about learning and memory by science journalist, Joshua Foer – author of Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything. Entitled The End of Remembering, this turned out not to be exactly the talk I was expecting. While the risks of outsourcing our memories and memorising skills to technology is certainly touched upon, there is more in the way of practical advice and theory of learning: Baker/baker paradox; spatial memory and mnemonics; cognitive/associative/autonomous phases of learning a skill (Fitts and Posner).

Although the mp3 of the talk lasts for 1:04:01, much of this is given over to questions. The talk lasts for 26 mins.
An interesting coining in the Q&A was artificial synaesthesia – choosing to summon up and make use of making use of the kind of associations about which synaesthetes have no choice.

You can download/listen to the talk here.

Gateshead Granny Cloud

I always felt that Martyn Lewis was unfairly pilloried in 1993 for opining that there should be more good news on the news. Is news meant to be a reflection of life, or merely a litany of human failing?

I caught an interesting story (in the car, as always) on Radio 4’s new technologies programme, Click On yesterday which typified, for me, the type of under-reported philanthropic instinct to which I suspect Lewis was referring. Chasing the idea today, I found the following video on YouTube which explains the story. You also get to see what must be a unique three-word sentence: Gateshead Granny Cloud:[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/IXxYgpQhsrU?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

The originator of the idea, Sugata Mitra, explains a little more fully here on TED:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/dk60sYrU2RU?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

 

East Lothian Showcase Concert 2011

Many thanks to all who participated in the East Lothian Showcase Concert last night in Edinburgh’s Queens Hall. The pupils really enjoyed the venue and the performance. Thanks to James Leslie for the use of his video-camera tripod and to Don Ledingham for agreeing to operate the video camera:

Rondo:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/tz9xJdYeQg8?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Birdland:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/oB8muigtSaU?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Bohemian Rhapsody

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/w0CSGhuSWEo?rel=0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Thanks to David Gilmour for making the audio recordings featured below. Perhaps pupils – especially those for whom this was the final Showcase – would like to download these mp3s as an iPod memento.

Rondo Birdland Bohemian Rhapsody

Many thanks, also, to Julia Wilson of NBHS who supplied the group with 20 clip-on tuners. Holding the tuning of 34 guitars  (204 strings) under the glare of stage lights is a nightmare and these were a great help.

Thanks, finally, to David Ryan (S6 @ Knox Academy) for agreeing to lead the group. You’ll see this particularly in Bohemian Rhapsody, where a nod helps the group navigate some severe changes of tempo and time signature.

Well done to all involved.

p.s. bereft of software to divide the original video into three separate ones, I downloaded some nifty, free software here.

Sight-reading, rhythm, recording…

Coping with the abstractions of music, when teaching, often relies on analogy to help pupils grasp otherwise elusive ideas. Consequently, you end up with a bank of ideas of all the things to which music seems comparable. However, this doesn’t often run the other way round – and, in my experience, people using music as an analogy for something else often don’t quite hit the spot.

Listening to Radio 4’s Open Book the other day, I caught an article about a new, unabridged audio book version of George Eliot‘s Middlemarch. At nearly 36 hours on 28 CDs, recording this 800-page novel is a gargantuan task. The reader, Juliet Stevenson, completed it in 12 days – a feat of which many musical recording artists would be extremely proud. She talks here about the many features involved – notably rhythm (of character and also of writer), inhabiting character, and coping with paragraph-long sentences – scroll forward to 19′ 20”

p.s. if this doesn’t seem like a big deal, why not try recording yourself reading a few paragraphs?

Midi snags sorted

Congratulations to my colleague, Liz Woodsend, for identifying the snag which had prevented 4 out of 5 midi files of Bohemian Rhapsody from playing. The problem lay in having the character “%” in the file name e.g. Bohemian Rhapsody – Performance Speed – 10%. The names have now been changed and “%” has been replaced by “percent.”

If you’re wondering why the usual formula e.g. Rondo 80, Rondo 90 etc. was not used, it was simply becuase the metronome speed changes several times in this piece. That’ll teach me to be pedantic 🙂

The fixed files can be found here.

Tickets for the Showcase are selling fast. Make sure not to miss out by contacting the Queens Hall asap.

Last rehearsal this Friday (18th) in NBHS from 13:15 to 15:15

The Guitar Whisperer

Don’t you love it when a hunch pays off? Having flagged up in a previous post Richard Durrant‘s appearance at The Brunton Theatre as a promising idea for a school outing, the evening exceeded all expectations. A party of 16 pupils from Campie and Wallyford enjoyed a marvellous and varied recital and spent an excited interval meeting Richard, asking him questions, seeing his guitars close up (and holding one) and having programmes autographed. We couldn’t have hoped for a more personable and encouraging performer who was genuinely delighted to see so many young, animated faces at a gig.

Featured in this picture is the signature model of an intriguing guitar with a beautiful sound, made by Gary Hearn. The pupils were impressed to hear that this particular one weighed in at £6,500, which must make their own ¾ sized guitar/case/book package seem a bargain at £30.

The staff at the Brunton were extremely helpful and friendly and, at the end of the evening, offered the pupils posters as souvenirs.

Many thanks to Sheila Laing, Iain Bruce, Debbie Beverage, Mrs. Fleming and Lesley Smith for their work in making the evening possible.

We look forward to a return visit of this wonderful and creative player and wish him luck for his trip to Paraguay where, in the late composer’s house, he is to launch his CD of music by Agustín Barrios entitled “The Number 26 Bus to Paraguay

Why not visit Richard’s YouTube Channel – where you can also get an idea of the many captivating animations and films which form part of the programme?