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Music, culture and tech roundup

January 18, 2010

Fun stuff from around the web:

Konks release vinyl + circuitry: Possibly the coolest answer ever to the ‘why should I pay for a physical version of music?’ Boston band The Konks released their new vinyl 7″, “Nerves,” in a limited edition of 500 that comes with an electronic music device built into the cover of the LP. Says Bob Konk, “…you can touch the letters of our logo and the board makes a bunch of squeaks and squawks that sound kinda like a theremin. It has an on board speaker as well as an output jack so you can plug it into an amp to annoy the maximum amount of people at maximum volume.” While it can be purchased pre-assembled, by far the cooler option is to do your own soldering (you can either get a bag of the requisite parts, or a link to an online retailer to buy them yourself). Naturally, it comes with a bunch of other goodies too. Look for it at Static Eye Records shortly.  (Via Boston Band Crush, and special thanks to Sophia for bringing it to my attention.)

Prehistoric bird named after punk/country band. World, meet Late Cretaceous bird Hollanda luceria, named after the band Lucero. As well as being quite the honour in its own right, it puts them in pretty good company. (Via The Stranger’s LineOut blog.)

What makes music emotional? Why does music in a major key sound cheerful and in a minor key sound sad? Researchers at Duke University may have part of the answer. They compared the frequency distributions of sounds in minor- and major-key music with that of speakers reading monologues in either a subdued or excited tone of voice, and sure enough they matched. More details in this New Scientist article, or you can read the abstract (or, if you’re Mike Epstein, the whole thing) here. (Via @danlevitin.)

Does music get popular because it’s good, or just popular? Columbia scientist and network-theory pioneer Duncan Watts did a gorgeous experiment to see if music gets popular because other people say it’s good, or because people actually think it is good. The answer, it turns out, is both. Watts uploaded 48 songs to a website, had people listen and rank them, and then repeated the same experiment with many different groups of people but the same songs. A few songs consistently did well, a few badly, but the rankings of most varied widely with each group. Go read Clive Thompson’s article for full details of the study, including a devious tweak.

MP3: Lucero – Darken My Door [buy]

2 comments

  1. You called me out and sure enough, that article is already in my list of articles to read. The brief descriptions are more than I had noticed before and now I’m much more excited to read it.


  2. To be fair, Mike, I’ll probably try to get my hands on the full article as well, via the magic of interlibrary loan. It is pretty neat – the first good answer I’ve come across to why minor and major keys sound different.



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