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June 4, 2007

Sound Wizard makes any violin into a Stradivarius

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Where can I get one (a Sound Wizard, not a Strad, booboo)?

Scientists at the University of Manchester (UK) have invented an electronic device that can make a cheap violin sound like a Stradivarius.

James Randerson, science correspondent for The Guardian, described the work in an April 26, 2007 story, which follows.

    How to get the Stradivarius sound from any violin (and better hi-fi)

    Their tone and dynamic range make them a favourite of string players and classical music fans. But according to researchers in Manchester University, anyone can now produce the sound of a Stradivarius.

    They have developed an electronic device that takes the violin sound picked up by a microphone and alters it electronically to give the "Strad" tone. They say the digital processing software can be adapted for other uses, such as filtering hiss on records and improving hi-fi output.

    Patrick Gaydecki [above], professor of digital signal processing, who heads the team, said the distinctive violin sound came from the body of the instrument and not the strings, whose sound was essentially the same for any violin.

    "The violin is like a bell or any resonant system. It vibrates with a characteristic signature," he said. To extract this signature, the researchers ping the instrument with a laser pulse and then record the vibrations. The Sound Wizard system [pictured above] his team has developed can extract the sound of the string from the full violin sound and then give it the amplification provided by the body of a Stradivarius.

    "In effect, the processing system becomes the violin body," he said. The team's work could also yield clues as to what it was about the craftsmanship of the Italian master that lends a Stradivarius its unique tone.

    Turning pub fiddle into classic gold is just one of Sound Wizard's tricks. It can also tidy up the sound of recordings with background hiss or LPs with scratches and improve the output from loudspeakers. If a hi-fi system routinely underplays some frequencies and overplays others, the Sound Wizard can rebalance the sound or adjust it for the particular acoustics of its location.

    "It corrects for the imperfections of the loudspeaker," said Dr Gaydecki, "but even though you might have a fantastic set of speakers the sound will also be influenced by the acoustic limitations of the room. The room will have dead spots."

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Now that your brain is all warmed up and the circuits are humming, it's time for a complementary description of the work reported by Yakub Qureshi, from the April 25, 2007 Manchester Evening News.

    Scientists wired for sound

    Forget the awful screeching — Manchester scientists believe one day they will be able to make even cheap violins sound like a Stradivarius.

    Acoustic experts at Manchester University have found a way to make computers mimic the legendary violins' unique sound.

    Instruments made by Italian Antonio Stradivari 300 years ago are highly prized for their tone and sell for millions.

    But city scientists, working with colleagues at Cambridge University, say they have found a way of reproducing the Stradivarius tone by measuring not just the movement of a violin's strings but the way the instrument's body vibrates.

    Prof Patrick Gaydecki said: "People wax lyrical about the Stradivarius and how it sounds so rich. But you can actually record its properties and programme them into a computer to get the same sound. We could also build new instruments with the same properties as the original. It would mean we could create cheap violins that sounded exactly like expensive ones."

    Prof Gaydecki said scientists have been running tests on a violin using precision microphones to measure how it responds when played and then turning the sound into a mathematical equation which can be recreated again as sound.

    Prof Gaydecki added that the innovation had far reaching implications, as it can make cheap amplifiers sound like equipment worth thousands of pounds.

    As well as reproducing tone accurately, the mathematical formulae also minimise impurities in sound.

    The versatile computer invention can dramatically boost the quality of loudspeakers, remove pops and scratches from old records and even be used by spies to filter out background noise while tapping telephones.

    Prof Gaydecki said: "What the system can do is correct a lot of imperfections.

    "If you buy a cheap loudspeaker and an expensive one, the expensive one will resonate the whole range of frequencies but the cheap one won't represent them all equally. What the system can do is create a corrective filter that fills in the missing areas of sound and create a fuller richer sound."

    The system can also distinguish between noise and music and could be invaluable to spies and the security services.

    They would use it to remove sound imperfections from telephone taps. It can also be used for restoring old and scratched vinyl records or other archive audio sources by silencing imperfections.

    The team have used their research to build a portable computer, dubbed Signal Wizard, which will allow electronic speakers to replicate acoustic sounds and they hope to sell this to sound engineers and music experts.

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Oh, yeah, I almost forgot: while I was working on this post my crack research team went deep and brought back product information on the Signal Wizard/Sound Wizard.

Hey, it's a lot cheaper than the alternative.

$699.

June 4, 2007 at 04:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

What is it?

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Answer here this time tomorrow.

June 4, 2007 at 03:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack

Aimee Mann on Sgt. Pepper — 'P.S. I Loved You'

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The singer/songwriter occupied pride of place on yesterday's New York Times Op-Ed page with a wonderful essay on how the Beatles' iconic album, released 40 years ago this past weekend when she was a completely clueless 8-year-old girl, "changed the course of my life."

The piece follows.

    P.S. I Loved You

    My big brother was always the one to bring new music into the house. Until I heard the Beatles playing on his stereo in the basement, my favorite music had been Glen Campbell singing “Galveston” or my father playing “Won’t You Come Home, Bill Bailey” on the piano.

    I was young enough to giggle when my brother changed the words of “P.S. I Love You” to... something more puerile, and four years later, young enough to think that “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” was really a band, and not the name of a Beatles record. In those intervening years, a transformation had taken place, and both the sound and the look of the Beatles had completely changed. Also, I was a little slow on the uptake, and didn’t notice the name “Beatles” spelled out in flowers on the cover.

    Is it a testament to the quality, or purity, or beauty, or timelessness of that record (released 40 years ago this weekend) that it appealed so thoroughly to an 8-year-old, one who had virtually no contact with pop culture? I could not have been more out of tune with the zeitgeist — it would be two more years before I discovered radio, and even then I would have only the vaguest notion of what was out there. I bought my first LP solely on the basis of the cover (one of the reasons today I try to take extra care with the packaging of my CDs). It was pure dumb luck that it turned out to be Elton John’s “Madman Across the Water,” still one of my favorite albums of all time.

    But the favorite is, and was, and must remain “Sgt. Pepper’s.” I had a love affair like no other with that record. My brother had bought it, of course, and when I heard it, I braved his wrath and smuggled it out to my friend’s house so I could play it over and over. You’d have had to know my brother back then to fully understand how daring that was.

    In a way, that record seemed made for children: the fun false mustaches that came with the package, the bright shiny outfits, the cheery melodies, the jaunty horns. The band itself seemed almost irrelevant — scruffy mustachioed men in costumes, lost in a sea of collaged faces. I ignored them.

    My ignorance extended to the opening song, which I took at face value as a real live introduction of the singer Billy Shears, who, whoever he was, became my favorite, with his dopey baritone, in humble gratitude for his pals — bless them, it all was so innocent, those marmalade skies and winking meter maids (whatever they were). The darkest moments were with the runaway girl — although a throwaway line in “Getting Better” (“I was cruel to my woman, I beat her...”) gave me pause. He beat her? What the heck? But hey — things were getting better all the time, so ... I shrugged and let it go.

    And then things took a weird turn: a nightmare cacophony of strings, someone blowing his mind out in a car — what was that? Did he get shot in the head? What were the holes in Albert Hall? Things had gotten creepy and dark, and it lost me. I started skipping that last song.

    I can’t listen to “Sgt. Pepper’s” anymore. As a musician, I’m burnt out on it — its influence has been so vast and profound. As a lyricist, I find that my ear has become more attuned to the likes of Fiona Apple and Elliot Smith, and though the words of “Sgt. Pepper’s” are full of vivid images — Rita’s bag slung over her shoulder, Mr. Kite sailing through a hogshead of fire, the runaway girl with her handkerchief — there’s an emotional depth that’s missing. I’m ashamed to say it, but sometimes John Lennon’s melodies feel a bit underwritten, while Paul McCartney’s relentless cheerfulness is depressing. The very jauntiness I used to love as a girl feels as if it’s covering up a sadder subtext. And what’s bleaker than a brave face?

    The whole experience is uncomfortable, like realizing you can beat your own father at chess or arm-wrestling. I don’t want to go back and find that the carcass has been picked clean. Because I know without a doubt that “Sgt. Pepper’s” changed the course of my life. If the magic is gone, it’s only because first loves can’t be repeated. When I was 8, I’d never heard anything like it, and I can honestly say that if I live to be 100, I’ll never hear anything like it again.

June 4, 2007 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (4) | TrackBack

Hermès Tape Measure

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British gallery owner and interior designer Rabih Hage raved about his in an interview with Nicole Swengley that appeared in the June 1, 2007 Financial Times "How To Spend It" supplement; the story follows.
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Pleasure Zone

My Hermès leather tape measure gives me immense pleasure. When I was studying architecture at Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris I dreamed of owning one because the tutors encouraged us always to carry a tape measure. I could only afford a metal one which made holes in my pockets.

On graduation, my parents gave me a leather Hermès tape measure and I carried it around with me constantly. When I lost it a few years ago I was in mourning because I felt quite naked without it. Happily, my wife Ghada gave me a replacement last Christmas.

As a gallery owner and interior designer, I use my tape measure all the time. It's useful when clients can't visualise the scale of plans and for measuring furniture and room space. It also acts as a calculator because inches are marked along the top and centimetres along the bottom.

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What I love is that it's a classic Stanley metal tape measure which springs back into an integral Hermès white-stitched leather container. The tape is very thin — about 6 mm — extending to three metres and slips easily into a jacket or jeans pocket. I've been known to whip it out and measure the distance between seats and tables in restaurants to get ideas for my furniture designs, as well as using it on building sites. The leather develops a patina over time and adds to its beauty. The older it gets the nicer it feels — while showing clients proof of my long experience in the business!
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Device dimensions: 6 cm x 6 cm (2.36" x 2.36")

Tape length: 3 meters (119 inches)

Tape width: 6 mm

$377 in natural Barenia leather (pictured above and below).

Also in classic Hermès Orange or Black at Hermès stores worldwide.

Don't bother trying to order from Hermès online store: my crack research team spent over 100 hours cumulatively attempting to do so, without success.

Not a big surprise, really.

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No, I don't mean the failure of my daunted crack research team: that's par for the course and as you would hope and expect, they were given their walking papers immediately upon successful completion of their failed search.

Now there's a verbal visitation from the Bizarro World.

But I digress.

No, I'm referring to what I am going to call, for want of a better term, bookofjoe's First Law of Luxury Goods Websites, which states, "The more exquisite and desirable the product, the more dysfunctional the website of the company behind it."

It's been 100% accurate to date and I see no reason for it ever to become obsolete.

Not so long as these idiotstick companies continue to hire web designers who think that the Internet is the same thing as the real world.

But I digress yet again.

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Perhaps you don't feel like spending $377 for a pocket tape measure.

I can see how that could be the case.

Well, guess what?

The identical Stanley tape measure without the Hermès packaging (below)

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will set you back $4.13.

Just pretend, visualize if you will, like with those whirled peas, an exquisitely soft leather housing enclosing it, and keep the remaining $372.87 in your pocketbook.

No one but me will ever know what you've done.

And you can be certain I won't be telling.

Trust me....

June 4, 2007 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Thomas Keeley — Episode 3: The Woosta Interview

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Here's a link to the interview, which appears on woosta.

Examples of Keeley's work appear above and below.

From woosta:

    About us

    woosta is an interview driven website that is dedicated to the promotion of artists and their work. As our readership grows, we are expanding our content to include more and more interviews, features and support to artists and the arts.

    Our goal is to inform and inspire by digging down to shed some light on artists in their respected industries. We want to know who they are, how they got there and what really pushes them to thrive in the arts.

    As artist are constantly changing and influencing the landscapes in which we live, we want to continue to enlighten, promote and engage our industry to those that want to know more and love what we do.

    We hope you enjoy the interviews!

    We are dedicated to inspiring those around us and you can be a big part of this whole crazy thing. If you have someone that we need to hear about and you want others to expierence their hip old-school meets new-school style, then drop their info for us and we will definitely check them out.

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Episode 1 is here.

Episode 2 is here.

Here's a link to Keeley's website.

June 4, 2007 at 12:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Glass Pie Plate — With Handles

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Remember how depressed you were when... well, I don't need to elaborate, do I?

And the mess!

Never again.

From the website:

    Glass Pie Plate With Handles

    Get a handle on homemade pie.

    The classic glass pie plate just got even better.

    This one has handles so you can easily lift it in and out of the oven, without damaging your perfect crust or losing your grip.

    Freezer-, dishwasher-, oven- and microwave-safe.

    13"L x 10 1/4"W x 2"H.

    Bakes a 9-1/2" pie.

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$12.99.

June 4, 2007 at 11:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

BlogNetNews comes to Charlottesville

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Last evening I was just strolling along the treadmill, watching the Red Sox-Yankees game on ESPN, with Joe Morgan doing the color commentary alongside Jon Miller, as good a team as any out there, when in came an email from Dave Mastio, editor of BlogNetNews.com, informing me that they were launching a Charlottesville edition.

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I took a look and lo and behold, they sure have.

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It's nice to be king – even if it's of a very small country.

June 4, 2007 at 10:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Interactive Cheeseburger — 'Baby's first junk food!'

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This could be the scariest item of the year.

From the website:

    Interactive Cheeseburger

    This Interactive Cheeseburger plush plaything is 100% fat-free — but full of fun!

    Activity cheeseburger teaches building skills and stimulates baby with textures, crinkle, squeaker, rattle, button, and Velcro®!

    5" tall.

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Here's a great bookofjoe MoneyMaker™® for whomever wants to take it and run with it.

A how-to book entitled "The Interactive Cheeseburger Diet," complete with Interactive Cheeseburger and a detailed, meal-by-meal plan describing how to deploy it, should be a slam dunk.

Named Official Cheeseburger of the Muppets.

$10.98.

June 4, 2007 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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