From the category archives:


An updated recording tries to get closer to the sound of the Gyuto monks before they were exiled from Tibet fifty years ago:

Yet the sounds that thrilled Smith and Hart’s ears were not, technically, consummate. Smith’s 1967 tape is limited by several factors, primarily by the technology of the day, but also with the number of voices. Smith only heard the remnants of the choir — the few monks that survived the perilous trek into India after the Chinese invaded in 1959 and killed or imprisoned most of them. In the original Gyuto monastery, there were over a hundred monks in the choir.

“No one’s really heard a hundred monks outside of Lhasa for many years,” Hart notes.

People have heard smaller groups. Seven monks from the only other monastery that practices the chants won a Grammy recently. So, to re-create the sound of a full choir for this CD, Mickey Hart recorded each monk multiple times to make 10 voices sound like a hundred.

“We overdubbed, and now there’s over a hundred-voice choir here, which has never really been sounded in the West,” says Hart.

To hear a 24-minute track from this  overdubbed version, click on this link, then look at the box on the left side titled “Hear the Monks” and click on the link labeled “From Tibetan Chants for World Peace, produced by Mickey Hart: ‘Blessing The Offerings’”. (Sorry for the complex instructions. I don’t see a way to directly link to the recording.)

The voices are astounding — but so are the interlocking patterns of the percussion.

It’s worth a couple of listens.


In the midst of our virtual-instrument-on-laptop era, it’s so refreshing to see and hear new physical and tangible sound-making devices.

On Sunday, NPR profiled Ranjit Bhatnagar, who made a new instrument every day in February:

“For a long time,” Bhatnagar says, “I thought that there was no place for me in music because I have no formal training. I found that there’s a space for experimenting, for making my own music. I really want to encourage everybody to get out there, make some instruments, make some sounds. Maybe what they make will be beautiful, maybe it’s not, [but] you should enjoy it either way.”

Here’s a video of him cranking his Möbius music box:

I like the koto-esque bend built in to this one:

And a motor moving beads against the head of a drum:

More images and videos on Flickr and Thing-a-day.


From “Writing in the Dark” by Moody Black:

“…deep in their spirits they know
that weeping may endure for a night
but joy –
joy’s going to come in the morning.

But I was never a morning person
until the electric company
cut off my lights…

After one of my performances
a young lady told me:
‘I’d give my whole life
to write and perform
beautifully as you.’

I said:
‘Ma’am, I have.’”

Listen to the whole poem on the IndieFeed Performance Poetry podcast.


Cappella Romana, rehearsing for a recent concert:


YouTube Symphony Orchestra

December 3, 2008

in Sound,Video

Don’t worry: symphonies haven’t started selling naming rights to corporate sponsors…yet.

YouTube is seeking audition videos for a new orchestral project:

1. Prepare – Select your instrument to access the sheet music and rehearse with the conductor
2. Submit – Upload your performances and submit them to join the YouTube Symphony Orchestra
3. Entries – Browse videos to get ideas and check out the competition

The musicians selected will be brought to Carnegie Hall next April to perform a new commission by Tan Dun.

In this interview, Tan Dun explains his desire to bring street sounds and the symphony orchestra together:

There’s also a set of twenty four videos in which musicians from the London Symphony Orchestra (one of the participants in the project) offer master classes on the new piece.



November 26, 2008

in Sound,Tools

Tod Machover on the future of musical instruments:

“Imagine if [Guitar Hero] were truly expressive, truly personal, truly creative. The wonderful thing about Guitar Hero is that it opens up the door for everybody to be not just a passive listener but a real active participant in music,” Machover says. “I think that is the future of music: music that is a collaboration between what we traditionally think of as composers and performers and the audience.”


Enter the world of the Dewanatron:

“Obsolescence is really about a strange compulsion to define things by
time or by their time,” Dewan says. “They’re still what they were.
They’re still as good as they ever were. So you might find some other
way of doing it to be more useful. That doesn’t mean the previous way
is dead, or we aren’t allowed to think about it anymore because it
belongs to another era. All these things have their own virtues.”


NPR remembers Studs Terkel.

His epitaph: “Curiosity did not kill this cat.”

Thank you, Studs.


A longer piece from Weekend Edition Saturday



October 15, 2008

in Sound,Video

Brian Eno brings his interest in generative music systems to the iPhone with a new application called Bloom.

A 2 minute example of how it works:

A longer, more diffuse demonstration: