Recommended reading, news, and so forth elsewhere:
¶ Tinkerer, Hacker, Solderer … Felon?: The idea that when we purchase consumer electronics devices we’re not free to do with them as we wish can feel like this consensual extralegal hallucination, but until it gets to the Supreme Court it’s going to remain in that wonderful zone of Forever Litigation (apologies to Joe Haldeman). We can look forward to “Master Chief v John Doe” on the docket some day — who knows which side Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney will take? — but in the meanwhile, an attempt to convict someone (a man in his late 20s named Matthew Crippen) for modding Microsoft Xbox 360s has ended, albeit on a procedural technicality: engadget.com, wired.com, joystiq.com. There doesn’t appear to be a Crippen entry at freedom-to-tinker.com, but that site, hosted by Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy (CITP), is a treasure trove of issues such as this one. As for the Microsoft case, it always seems remarkable when a company founded by hackers goes to war against hackers. Let’s be hopeful that Xbox’s new Kinect doesn’t get the same sort of helicopter-parent attention. Because the Kinect is proving eminently (intentionally, some might say) hackable: crunchgear.com, hackaday.com.
¶ DJ Hero (Circa 1985): While on the subject of extralegal gaming, this rendition of the audiogame DJ Hero needs to be seen to be believed. It re-imagines the game as if it had been programmed for an NES system back around the time Ronald Reagan was entering his second term as president:
This is no mere retro dream scenario. You can download the actual functioning game at ericruthgames.com. It speaks to the energy within the so-called chiptune, or 8bit, music community. If you think chiptune is just a self-conscious geek fetish, it’s important to understand it’s more than faux arcade music created long after the fact. A game like Ruth’s — which is to say the effort that goes into such games — speaks to the benefit many find in viewing our current technological experiences through the technology of the near past. As chiptune/8bit develops as a culture, it becomes increasingly like a near-past version of steampunk. (I was initially going to say “recent past,” but “near past” is better, because it aligns with the more common term, “near future.”) How 8bit culture differs from steampunk is worth spending more time pondering. One particular strong point is the way a new generation pushes old technology past its previous understood limits, both functionally and creatively; the result raises the bar for software engineering today, when practitioners feel less constrained — a situation that has led to bloatware, feature creep, and other tendencies of our time.
¶ Lacquered Up: Footage of the “Urushi musical interface,” developed by designer and musician Yuri Suzuki with composer/musician Matthew Rogers:
Apparently it resulted from a program led by Emiko Oki, intended to cross-pollinate British designers and traditional “lacquer craftsmen of Wajima, in Ishikawa prefecture.” More on Suzuki at yurisuzuki.com. Found via designboom.com. The photos at designboom.com show that the craft isn’t simply that of the lacquer experts; there’s a lot of detail about the musical interface’s development and production. This is way older than steampunk. This is Kamakura-punk.
¶ System-ing the Game Music: There’s discussion of procedural music systems going on at fe01.redstonewire.com, the Minecraft game’s message board. That’s via twitter.com/dizzybanjo, aka Robert Thomas, who is CCO at RjDj, the reactive-audio tool, and who after some message-board nay-saying by others weighs in with some constructive ideas:
In terms of how procedural music for games / virtual worlds is created – I agree with some points on this thread. When programming procedural music, its important to somehow codify the musical structures that are present in the types of compositions, or improvisations you want the system to create. This is an art form in itself.
¶ The Music Industry vs the Record Industry: Thanks to Alan Wexelblat of copyfight.corante.com for noting the Disquiet.com Despite the Downturn compilation (a multi-artist critique-in-music, or “answer album, to a specious article in The Atlantic by Megan McArdle) in his discussion of Jeff Price‘s “The State of The Music Industry & the Delegitimization of Artists,” which debunks a lot of music-business doomsday scenarios and received wisdom. Writes Wexelblat: “If this argument sounds familiar, it should: Marc Weidenbaum made this point back in May, though he did it artistically rather than by crunching the numbers.” Price’s work is at blog.tunecore.com.
¶ Give ‘Em a Beat: And the Stonesthrow Records weekly Beat Battles are rapidly approaching their 200th (!) consecutive week. Those battles are one of the major locus points of casual copyleft artistry and intense communal creativity on the Internet, a place where musicians, week in, week out, take a single shared sampled and see what they all manage to make with and (for the more accomplished ones) of it, extrapolate from it, limited by time (less than a week) and aesthetic (in the end, it’s all about the beat). Discussion has begun as to what will be the sample for week 200: stonesthrow.com.