Monday, May 3, 2010

If my grade suffers in this class....

It will be primarily from lack of blogging! I have apparently phased the responsibility out of my memory completely. To get everyone up to speed, I have finally been doing a lot of the busy work and footage collection necessary to put together the final video. The process has been greatly rewarding thus far, but I have yet to dig into the actual contents of my interface and have to admit I am a little scared of After Effects....but that time will come soon enough. After compiling a demo reel (below) to get a feel for the aesthetic and audio flow that will be present in the final video, I realize I need to be recording audio on some higher fidelity instrument as the little mono mic in the camera just isn't cutting it. Besides lacking much frequency response, the thing just loves to pick up those horrible buffeting wind noises everyone is so fond of in their home movies shot on a cheap camcorder at the beach. That being said, I am enlisting the help of my roommate to get a mobile sound rig set up for the next footage excursion. That's really all for the update, I will be setting out the content and framing the layout for the interface and website soon, hopefully in time to have them included in my presentation on Wednesday.


Capstone Demo Reel from Tim Damon on Vimeo.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Describing the parts to make the whole

Lately, everything surrounding this project has been ever-present in my mind, but physically on the back burner. I need more than anything to define the spaces from which recordings are made, exactly how they are exchanged and compiled between those spaces, and what forms they take when they recirculate into other places in the city and on the web for listening.

I've been considering more ways in which the people on the street can participate, and I think the whole idea of these installations is expression of a city and its citizens. I think it would therefore be interesting to have these places available for people to use as an audio blog of sorts, a totally anonymous place, almost like a secular confessional booth, where one can vent or talk about problems, life's joys, and of course create music. This opens up the spectrum of use for the recording nodes, and offers a more useful and interesting variety of material for participants and viewers alike to experience.

The component that has most plagued me is the online presence of the recordings. What exactly goes on there and how everything is handled from a design standpoint is going to be extremely important to define and define clearly, which is something I simply haven't gone in depth with yet, so that of course is something I will have to have by Wednesday for our interim presentations.

"Sigh," so much time and so little to do, wait, strike that, reverse it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Picking it up again.

Wow, so it's been way too long since I've blogged at all, and it's time to step up the game, get back on the wagon/horse, etc in hopes that I can pull my ADD self together and get some serious work done on this capstone project.

In recent news, the final format for the project will more than likely be a short video, which will allow me to get the whole idea across much quicker and in the most believable way. This decision came as a result of my recent discovery that video editing is alot easier and incredibly more fun than I ever anticipated as I worked with it during my final project for Axel's 483 class. This will also help avoid the embarrassment that could come from actually installing a working prototype of one of the recording spaces and watching people confused by it. The whole point here is that when a public space and a new level of interaction are introduced simultaneously, what it gets used for may take time to develop as people get used to it being there and learn what it's all about. Even with instructions, it may be unclear to people how to use the space in such a way that will really show the possibilities for use of the design. (Thanks Dominic for making this clear to me, although I may cling to the idea of a working prototype for at least another week before I realize how much work it will be).

Here's to the beginning of a successful final quarter everyone!

Monday, March 8, 2010

How the music will surface

So I spoke of recording and archiving the music and engagements that take place within the stage/natural PA/resonator installation, and of the possibility that real talent and creative passion may be discovered in doing this. Given the nature of many of those who choose to keep their music on the street, (in that they do not wish to ever step into the limelight) the idea of providing their creative work world-wide and subjecting them to solicitation makes the situation a bit dodgy.

Clearly, it is important to preserve the privacy and creative choices that these artists make, and that is why I am choosing to create an open archive that, rather than exploit the people that contribute to it in any way, simply lets others observe what they may have never experienced in their lifetimes, a new source of the culture that is in it's most raw form: on the streets of a city. In turn, those artists may have their first chance at recording their work in some way, and instead of having to navigate a corporate system to affect people with what they are most passionate about, they can just do what they do best: play out in the open on the street.

Friday, March 5, 2010

I think I know what I want to do....

Alright, latest idea:

This almost fully rejects the online-based collaboration that I had in mind before. Picture a high-foot traffic public area such as a city park or a busy arterial with a large sidewalk that could accommodate street musicians. What I'd like to do is design type of permanent acoustic aid for music performance and collaboration, a sort of stage+background resonator that acts as a sort of natural PA, allowing users to affect their volume by the position of their instruments further in and out of specific areas within the setup.

This idea stems from a concept presented at the pacific science center where two dishes are fixed perpendicular to the ground, aimed at one another, and placed something like 100 feet apart. Users can speak into these dishes and have the sound of their voice be transmitted through the air to the other dish and another user can hear them clearly on the other side:

With this technology we can establish place where all are welcome and can equally have their voices and instruments heard while playing together.

The second part of the design will involve permanently installed drums and other percussion instruments that passers by can create rhythm and music with even if they don't have or play an instrument of their own. This allows for people of all levels of musicianship to play together, as we all have voices and some natural instinct and appreciation for rhythm.

The third possible addition to this design would be a hidden or embedded microphone of some kind to archive and/or broadcast the music that people in different regions create. This adds another dynamic in which the music that comes from these public places can be shared in meaningful ways. With this capability, I could imagine themes for songs and performances being shared across the internet and watching the interpretations of them unfold across neighborhoods and cities and countries and cultures.

I realize I have once again opened a whole new can of worms with the addition of the third element of this design, but think of the possibilities! What incredible talent and beautiful song might surface on an ordinary day in the middle of the street?

Let me know of you think I'm crazy, or if this whole thing is stupid and I'd especially like thoughts on the idea of making these installations "plugged in." Is this a step too far or does it make the entire design worthwhile?

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Useful Question Set

These came from a writer for indiefeed networks and is a writeup for panel discussion on the topic of online music curatorship. Pretty pertinent information for this project.

  1. Why is the internet changing how we discover music?
  2. What are possible definitions of music curation?
  3. Why are consumers having a harder time discovering music today?
  4. How does the abundance of free music impact the need for music review?
  5. Who are the new influencers/providers of online music curation?
  6. Is Pandora/LastFM, etc. enough and why do we need critical review of music?
  7. Does the new "free" music economy gut incentives for professional music review?
  8. Are amateurs (bloggers, podcasters, UGC) a help or a hinderance to music discovery and fan attraction?
  9. Where do artists fit and play in this new world of fragmented abundance?
  10. In this new world, why or why isn't traditional music criticism needed?

Monday, February 22, 2010

Undergraduate Symposium Abstract

As it stands today, true music collaboration still only finds itself born out of person-to-person connection. Whether it be on the level of a simple jam session or the writing of a major composition, the spark of ingenuity, feelings of euphoria that come from real creative chemistry, and the sense of accomplishment that comes from a well written song are extremely personal connections that exist between people working closely together. Contemporary solutions for bringing musicians together act simply as tools to extend the range of communication between people working together on any given project. This is not a bad thing in and of itself, but of the more than fifty websites dedicated to music collaboration online, the majority claim to be established upon the idea of bringing together musicians that have never even seen one another, and yet the evidence of this kind of connection is surprisingly hard to find. In light of this discovery, I will be researching the processes and methods of musicians and the aspects of a working musical relationship that make things "click." Using personal interviews, previously recorded interviews, surveys, shadowing and other similar research methods, I will seek out and refine to something more tangible the driving force and incentive that makes music collaboration work. In gathering several viewpoints on the subject, it should become easier to break these ideas into types or categories, which will allow for application into a new system of collaboration.Upon identifying an incentive and a connecting force by which collaboration becomes natural, I will design a system that serves as a platform for "true" collaboration, one hinged on the very thing that draws musicians to work together.


Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Musicmaking and Songwriting Process: Ever-elusive and as of yet, unidentified. Part 1

In the name of writing in this blog more often, I've decided to try my hand at somewhat of a series of studies involving posted videos, mostly interviews, of musicians speaking on their process when it comes to making music. Ideally, I'll be able to get a wide-ranging sample of genres and techniques in order to get a feel for what makes us all tick, for as you'll soon see, most musicians have no idea where any of their tendencies come from beyond initial inspiration. For this evening's post, we have the beautiful and incredibly talented Ms. Regina Spektor.

After a look at this interview, you may feel even more convinced that even those who seem to be some of the best in their discipline have little to say when it comes to articulating how they get from point A to point B. But there's where the beauty, mystery, and indescribable value come in. The analogies of lego-building that Regina uses in talking about her songwriting are at the same time completely understandable and impossible to fully interpret. It may take all the effort that an artist can muster to give us a glimpse of how they do what they do best, and besides, if they could make blueprints, would what they were doing still be considered art (maybe this is where design come into play)? This is why those that find a way to harness their creative energy and use it towards a certain end are incredibly important in this world, for though we may all hold the potential for such an achievement, we don't all see it through in our lifetime.

Anyways, departing from creative force rhetoric, there is one topic that Regina speaks on that I think is great to consider in any creative medium: the question of too much. In the interview, Regina speaks of concerns she has about being too pretentious, and this is curious issue to bring to light, as it deals with the idea that one who possesses certain exceptional abilities may display themselves beyond "layman" comprehension or acceptance and render their work useless to the eyes of the majority. It's the songwriter's answer that made me beam: " I just want to say, people are smart and cool and most of the time I just think I wanna make stuff good enough for them, interesting enough for them.....and I really feel like I have something to say that's in my own voice, in my own perspective." In throwing out the notion that people will just think she is being pretentious in what she is doing as a songwriter, Regina turns the other way and says that's it's all in striving for something real and meaningful, let's hope she keeps it up.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Pecha Kucha - An Online Experience

So, it may be time to start blogging again, and what better way to resuscitate the creative flow than to say what I was going to say on Wednesday here for everyone to access at their convenience?

First, a look at the nature of the online music collaboration playing field:

As you can see, there is a certain confusion taking place for the mere fact that every contender:

A. Claims the same sensational outcome.

B. Does so in complete redundant in a metaphorical shouting competition

C. As a result of this, completely steamrolls the original goal (in this case represented by Kirk Douglas - "the real spartacus")

In checking out various sites catering to the idea of music collaboration, I see less and less innovation, and more and more sites (61 are listed on a blog that keeps track of them, and on top of that, there are another 29 disabled sites listed!). As a result, what was purposed as a gathering place for musicians has become a useless nobody-wins competition, something similar to format wars in the media industry, where we see intense initial competition by manufacturers seeking to produce the best medium for music or video in order to gain the right to universiality for the next few years and profit from it (most recent example: HD-DVD vs Blu-Ray). The key difference between format wars and the mess we see with music collab sites is, format wars end quickly and someone takes over. So far, this isn't happening with music collaboration sites, becuase as a service, they don't depend solely on fidelity, there are a few other things to address.

Beyond the obvious features a service needs to address (usability, utility, rich features, etc) are the unspoken bits that draw a person into using it, and I'm finding through the parallel design of another service in Axel's Microsoft class, that it's usually not just a need to use that service. Also, the draw to a service, and more importantly the service itself may not necessarily be the only goal in its creation. This idea is what we are trying to grasp and hone in Axel's class, where what a serice lets a person do is not only fulfill an explicit want or need, but also create social connections as a healthy and purposefully targeted by-product. In using this type of thinking, the function of the role of service naturally becomes more intuitive and simplified in order to produce the desired outcome.

In summary, my project will need to pull back from the typical vast feature set that alot of these sites are boasting, and think of what really matters to a person that wants to create music with another person. The end goal here would be the natural high that comes when two musicians click mid-song or jam, a drive to more creation with something like album or song theme contests, and of course the deeper social connection this kind of interaction affords.

Oh yeah, there's another video I wanted you all to see. This one is a TED talk exemplifying the power of bottom-up influence in the ultimate level playing field where everyone has a chance to be heard: the internet. The take-away here is just to note the strange ways in which you can influence people and create momentum, and in many cases unintentionally.

Hope this helps the people working on more pervasive and influential themes.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Design's Role at Present (and perhaps the reason for degrees like ours and IxD)

I had an awe inspiring class last Thursday. First, if you haven't read the course brief, I'll let you take a look:

"The 2010 design challenge explores the emerging role of designing services and the intersection of Social Networking technologies and trends. Service design is a meta design activity for intentionally integrating systems of interaction with customers—via physical systems, information systems, and human systems—to create value and differentiate providers. Think everything from getting a coffee at Starbucks to being treated at your local hospital, from government services to financial services. Social is all about people building and connecting through communities and sharing information and influence. What happens when service meets social? There are some precursors in services such as Patientslikeme™ and some micro financing services—but what happens when service meets social in the mainstream and everyday life? "

In the course of......the course, my group and I have been working on a sort of glorified craigslist, a system by which people can trade their goods/services/skills, with an emphasis on fostering the neighborly stereotype of yesteryear, of the days when people watched out for one another and frankly, did things together. Somewhere along the way, we got am little lost in the green aspect of sharing and reusing resources and lost some focus on the social impact we desired.

Let it be said that we are working towards both of those aspects to play important roles in this design, but the primary focus is the social change we seek to encourage/inspire, and the saving of resources is a natural by-product of using the service.

This is where Axel's inspiring words come into play. He spoke of the future of Design as less and less an issue of creating beautiful things that work well and streamline our lives to incredible efficiency. He went even further to say that in fact, the majority of the products the design world has put out have inadvertently helped spur on the sense of isolation becoming apparent in a world where direct physical interaction between people is becoming less and less of a necessity. The very objects and systems created to help us all live life more efficiently have also served to separate us socially. This is true whether we're talking about full isolation, or just placement in a different social context and removing on some aspects of the original or traditional interaction.

But this was by no means a cynical look at the design world or an accusation of any sort. This was all to underscore the future of design, to let us know that in fact, we as students are beginning work on something new. For the first time, the design world is beginning to focus on what can be done to bring people together on the most basic level, and that job is in our hands.

Exciting isn't it? I think this will be invaluable information to hold throughout the process of this capstone, especially since it is a service that I am working to design, and it really is relevant to all of our projects as well.

Thank you Axel!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A.A. Bondy

Perhaps raving about a new musical find is slightly irrelevant to my capstone topic, but I feel compelled to let everyone know of the greatness of the man featured in the title of this post. I attended a show at the Tractor last night, and it began with a host of disappointments, the first being that the artist I had come to see exclusively was, to my surprise, opening the night. The second was that he was halfway through his set by the time I got inside. The end of disappointments almost made me leave altogether, because the band following the beloved Willy Mason was horrible, just bad, nothing really more needs to be said. Everything changed when A.A. Bondy took the stage and filled my soul with heartfelt grit ( the good kind) and several mind-blowing walls of melodic feedback and oscillating harmonic waves that had somehow begun with country and folk roots and had arrived at their beautifully noisy destination somehow....subtly? My point here is that we've all seen artists/bands that overdo it in terms of trying to cover too many sounds, these are the types who set aside ten minutes or so to tell you what their sound entails when asked (and actually need it).

That all aside, these guys had their proverbial shit together, and every single explosive moment in their songs were on point, signaled by eyebrows and flailing arms in between strums. What if this kind of nuance could take place overseas? This is what should be accomplished by this project! (see, this is TOTALLY applicable to what we're doing in class!)

Yeah, so go check out A.A. Bondy, he's great, and so is the band he's currently touring with featured in the video below (that doesn't do them justice but will have to do).

Ooooooooooh, That's a Bingo!

First off, I'd like to thank Hans Lander for such an amusing hack job on a apparently english-derived phrase (watch Inglorious Basterds). The Gestapo really had a way with words (it's totally PC if it's a movie reference), and I couldn't help but use his version to underline my excitement at finding another great source for inspiration and study for this project: The World Music Centre. This page has some really great mission statements focused on the future of globally diverse music education, specifically in universities, but I believe it will prove invaluable to the progress of this project.

The only drawback (as you will quickly notice if you peruse the site) is that it does not seem to be a very active place. Nevertheless, I hope to contact somebody from the site if education becomes a large part of my project and see what someone taking on such a huge idea might think of what I am conceptualizing.

An example of the work the site fosters:

"From the 1990’s, cultural diversity in music education has developed explosively in terms of frequency, locations, people and institutions involved. It has also raised many questions on position, content and methodology. Cultural Diversity in Music Education (CDIME) is an informal network for institutions and individuals working in this field. It is a platform for exchange of ideas, experiences and practice in an area that is still gaining ground in music education at all levels throughout the world. The Call for Papers is closed, the programme is being made as we speak. Keep an eye on the website for further information. "

Love it!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Internet or Kiosks? (IxD summarized)

How would this perfect network that lets musicians of any level interact on endless levels exist in this world? The default method of interaction for all participants is of course through the internet on PCs with the necessary interface hardware to plug instruments or microphones into their computers, but my mind has been wandering lately. I realize that thinking of form at this stage of the game is probably a little pointless, but that's why I wrote my flawless metaphor, so that I can easily get back on track regardless of where my ADD mind takes me! (note: I have no idea whether or not I actually have ADD, but I can't say I'd be surprised).
I dream of odd kiosks placed in public places, but then again, so does every other interaction designer when they are wondering how a system they are working on might be placed in the real world (I am joshing 100%, but these do pop up from time to time, and it speaks more to the state of technology than anything else. Besides, what good would designs in the field be if they all existed on some unique platform? You think Sega vs Nintendo and Mac vs PC are strong feuds? Imagine every intangible system existing on it's own hardware..........eeeek). Ok, so interesting or unique interfaces are few and far between for a reason, got it.

Next time, a useful post!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

And now it's time for a weak metaphor!

A couple of day's time has witnessed my first step back from the most recent out-pour of of slightly-more-focused-than-day-one energy, and as I still sit here, scribbling attributes and verbs on notebook paper for tomorrow's pecha kucha, I've formed a lackluster metaphor that I think may be a good shrine to return to from time to time in order to realize the fundamental concepts that define and give purpose to whatever my project ends up being:

It begins with a swimming pool, let's not delve into it's location or its means of operation, that may come later when there is a more certain range in view for who the project will affect, or it may very well never be that important. The important aspect of said pool is how it serves those who use it, and let's assume that everyone has a more or less equal amount of access, time, and other resources necessary for partaking in positive experiences that the pool provides. The pool's experience and meaning changes, it can be used for competition, teaching, coaching, casual exercise, partying, etc, and each of these is an experience controlled (if we assume the pool is not a restricting factor, aka it is a "perfect design") by those participating in and conducting the experience.

If the pool is a design, in this case a system of service, and the people who use it, from lifeguards to.......senior swim aerobics students are the users, than where should the designer look besides the pool itself in order to provide a meaningful/useful/helpful experience for the people enjoying it? My thoughts go first to the surrounding facilities, anything on the same property certainly, but perhaps also other buildings and establishments in closest proximity to the pool, or in the case of a generic design, the closest links that design has to the world: its market, it's relative and complimentary designs, its competition, etc. But where does the designer go next? The first two controllable mechanics are obvious and intuitive to the process of any design, but I would argue the part that matters most is in the first assumption of the scenario - the accessibility of those who would use your design. In a world of markets that becomes more and more diverse, choice-laden, exclusive, and tiered, my desire as a designer is to make something that reverses such a concept, and not by reducing choices or trying to find something everybody likes, but by building a "pool" that is, in every aspect, inclusive, and inspires it's participants and users to help one another in learning, creating, communing, etc.

Wow, at this point, I have no idea if any of that makes any sense, and I'm losing the battle to stay awake. What I want anyone reading this to get out of it is my belief in the importance of inclusive design, (a founding concept of the practice really), and the clear connection this makes when we talk about designing a service. I want whatever this project becomes to be something that encourages people to experience one another on a level beyond any simple economical transaction, I want a sense of community to be omnipresent in the experience.

That's enough for now, editing and clarification to come.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Another great example of collaboration

This one was shared by our own Senior ID student/dear friend, Kristen Bales. It may be a stretch to call it collaboration, but this was for lack of a better term/in lieu of an overly wordy title. Maybe it's involuntary collaboration? Song painting? Label it with whatever buzzword you wish, but you have to admit, it fits somewhere within the realm of my recent explorations.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Encouraging Words

According to wiki, the best current example of non-textual mass collaboration is in open source software, though it could easily be argued that this is still, at the level of creation and editing, a form of text, regardless of the fact that it is not a traditional language. Even more interesting is the suggestion given in the same paragraph citing music as the next platform for mass collaboration in non-written form. I found this pretty exciting, because although it's great to have similar examples of your ideas already functioning in the real world, it's nice to have a chance to think of something that may not have already been done to death. You can check out the text for non-text mass collaboration under the definition for mass collaboration here.


Right, so let's think, what've I got lined up so far in respect to my capstone project? Well, it's going to be musical in nature that's for certain, it's use will involve collaboration on an ideally massive scale, it will bring people together from all backgrounds (like a pixar movie, only better), it will be age-independent, and finally it should be in some open-source/DIY form. It should be noted that the last attribute will not require extensive amounts of work or money to participate, the ideal situation being that each participant merely creates some artifact that allows them to participate and exists as their very own "weapon of choice."

So the flow of inspiration can be seen as trickling and vague at best right now, but visions of vast musical collaboration networks are already beginning to blossom within my meager mind. For now, take a look at these:

We have games that allow us to play songs with real instruments

We have musical collaboration utilizing systems not necessarily meant for musical collaboration.

Finally, we have teachers and schools posting examples of classwork and lessons online.

Maybe there's a way to merge it all into something meaningful for everyone who plays or wishes to play, practice, or learn an instrument (including voice) with someone else, at any level....

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

So about this whole capstone thing.....

It's finally time. I've been wondering what this would all be like since I first laid eyes on the visual schedule for the design major. We all have this daunting pair of classes senior year dedicated solely to the project that........I'm not sure, defines our entire undergraduate experience? I'm glad to see that this quarter will be spent deliberating and honing down the idea upon which our project will be based, and I was encouraged by the conceptual and theoretical nature of the projects reviewed in class, though I feel like I'd be more inclined to create something with more tangible aspects than some or most of those we viewed in class yesterday. Now, it is time to assemble the first Pecha Kucha.....