27 November 2007

Rock Syncopation: Stress Shifts or Polyrhythms?

Citizen Arnold pointed me to this gem of a post at Mark Liberman’s awesome Language Log: an analysis and discussion of whether or not syncopation as observed in rock and jazz is a matter of shifting stress or an expression of polyrhythm. It hits all the right notes: Latin jazz, linguistics nerdery, and Little Richard (who TF else!):

1  2  3  4  5 6  7 8  1  2  3  4   5 6  7  8  
o o
o o o o o o
I been told baby you been bold I won't

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
o o
o o o o
be your fool no more

You could analyze this as a “rock syncopation” in Temperley’s terms — the strongly-accented words “told”, “bold” and “fool” have all shifted from the fifth eighth-note of their bars to the fourth. In the standard, square (4+4) organization of those notes, this is a shift from one of the strongest positions in the meter to one of the weakest. But in the (3+3+2) habanera pattern, the fourth eighth-note is exactly where the ictus belongs.

So was it the “square” setting of the previous line that was actually “syncopated”? Not really — the (4+4) pattern is also simultaneously available. Neither setting really represents a shift away from the strong positions in the musical rhythm. Instead, the setting is shifting between one polyrhythmic definition of metrical strength and another.

Currently listening to: Monolake’s Polygon Cities (Monolake also offers free tracks)

I Think I’m Going to Pee Myself: Somebody Finally Got It Right

Remember when you first got on the Internet and immediately thought to yourself, “This is the ideal way to distribute information goods!” Me, too. Like, say, music. For me, that was 1994 — better late than never.

Musicians are starting to get it: hooking up with techies, getting sufficiently pissed at the bloated goats running the music industry, and doing something about it.

Perhaps not surprisingly, master songwriter Kristin Hersh is one of them. She’s started the Coalition for Artists and Stakeholders, a web site where artists can release music and music lovers can pay for it, download it, and remix it. And there’s no MAFIAA numbnuts taking a cut, either.

Kristin kicks it off at her CASH Music site with ass-kickin’ style: MP3s in two bitrates, lyric sheets, ProTools stem files! so you can remix the song, and artwork. It’s all Creative Commons-licensed and available via HTTP and BitTorrent downloads. The convenient PayPal form is right there, too.

We could have had this in 1994, but it’s better late than never.

23 November 2007

Macrovision “Security” Driver Breaks Windows

[I had this post in my edit queue for over a year. What the hell! But, I am posting it now. Perhaps I will even keep up with this blog again!]

I meant to post this a while back, but as you know I am the laziest blogger evar. Macrovision, a digital restrictions management vendor, is the source of a vulnerability in Windows. The linked article uses nerd jargon like “Ring 0”, but the gist is that a device driver in the Windows operating system, supplied by Macrovision, fails catastrophically when processing data provided by the user. Because it is a device driver, it runs inside the most sensitive part of Windows. When it fails, it mistakenly starts corrupting its memory in a way that can enable the adversarial user who sent it the data to process to run whatever machine instructions they want. (We call this “arbitrary code execution”.) Because the now-corrupted driver runs in the most privileged mode of the computer, the adversary gains complete control over the computer.

The result is that a software component that was created to provide “security” against the user — i.e., to stop you from copying media — can now be used by mean people to break into your computer. For example, if you download a carefully but maliciously crafted file from the internet, and it is of the type that is processed by SECDRV.SYS driver, the creator of that file could break into your machine. (They’d probably make it part of their botnet.)

On the bright side, perhaps this vulnerability can also be used by nice people to break the “protections” on the DRM'd media.

17 November 2007

Neko Case on Poetry

The great Neko Case has the “featured prose” article in this month’s Poetry magazine: “My Flaming Hamster Wheel of Panic About Publicly 
Discussing Poetry in This Respected Forum”.

We all have the right to poetry! How could I still think it’s for other people? Smarter people. What’s doubly confusing is I don’t have the same reservations when poetry is accompanied by music. Perhaps I feel that way because there is music all around us — it’s the wallpaper of our lives. It’s not considered precious in American culture unless a symphony is performing it.

11 November 2007

The Precise Trajectory of the Meteor

Ian Rogers at Fistfulayen gave this wonderfully clear presentation to some music industry dinosaurs on why “convenience wins, hubris loses”.

Instead they commenced suing Napster. We were naive to be sure, but we were genuinely surprised by the approach. Suing Napster without offering an alternative just seemed like a denial of fact. Napster didn’t invent the ability to do P2P, it was inherent in TCP/IP. It was like throwing Newton in jail for popularizing the concept of gravity. [...] Make it easy, I wrote, and convenience will beat free.

Here’s a somewhat more wonky take on the same topic from Stephen Dubner.

Currently listening to: Prince kick a ton of ass in another of Ian’s posts

Henry Kaiser at the Exploratorium in December

On 9 December, you can see “Under the Sea With Henry Kaiser” at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Some friends and I recently saw Kaiser (and a cool found-instrument percussionist whose name I unfortunately forget) at the Luggage Store Gallery (presented by Outsound) and it was hyperfun. He told a wacky story about how not everyone can handle life in the Antarctic and then went nuts on his acoustic guitar...