Friday Dec 12, 2008

Ocarina: My Favorite iPhone App

Ocarina by Smule is the best iPhone app I've bought to date. It is 1) fun, 2) extremely innovative, 3) a cool demonstration app to show your friends, and 4) fun! An absolute steal at 99 cents.

This is Ocarina's main screen:

You hold your iPhone horizontally and blow gently into the microphone. As you "cover" and "uncover" the fingering holes on the ocarina you create different notes. For the musically challenged like me, there is an extensive set of community-contributed fingering diagrams for music of all kinds in the Ocarina Share Your Score forum. Here, for example, is the diagram for "Amazing Grace":

This by itself would qualify Ocarina as my favorite iPhone app, but Smule has taken this expereince one step further by giving you the chance to listen to other people playing their iPhone ocarinas and they've done so in a beautiful way:

You can zoom and spin the globe, watching and listening as others' compositions ascend, spiralling into space. Perhaps it is the quality of the sound--I'm not sure, but something in this invokes in me a profound sense of both loneliness and community at the same time. If you try it, I think you will see what I mean.

One last practical detail before you start playing. As Eric informed me, it turns out Ocarina uncovered a bug in Apple's multi-touch display that causes some combination of finger touches to not register reliably on the Ocarina, which can be quite frustrating. To work around the problem, Smule has implemented an alternate layout for the fingering holes, which you can enable from the preferences screen. See below:

You can also ground the iPhone in a variety of creative ways to avoid the problem. All the weird details are here.

Monday Oct 08, 2007

WaterFire Providence

[oracle of waterfire]

The last WaterFire event of the season will be held on Saturday, October 27th. Go for the fire; enjoy the music.

Friday Jan 05, 2007

Something Snappy from Sun Labs

MaryMary has it right. Sun Labs' Snapp Radio is pretty cool. It was created by Paul Lamere in the Labs and announced here on this blog.

Snapp is a mashup of (Last.FM or Radio Paradise) and Flickr. I'm using the Last.FM version. As I listen to music, Snapp Radio uses Last.FM social tags associated with the current song to make a set of queries into Flickr. It then displays a series of images in my browser that relate in some way to the current song. Read the FAQ for more details.

Sometimes the images really worked for me. While listening to some Kate Bush, I saw a nice sequence of atmospheric landscapes that seemed to go well with the music's mood. Liz Phair's Turning Japanese was accompanied by a stream of Japanese food photos and photos of people eating Japanese food. Not sure whether you'd call that good, though it did make me laugh, and that's a kind of good. Snapp Radio also did a very good job with two different Mary Gauthier pieces: Some interesting and beautiful landscapes intermixed with funky shots of people and objects that worked for me. Many of the landscapes shown with her Sounds of the New West looked like shots from the American West.

Some efforts were less successful, but still interesting. During Beth Orton's Mount Washington, Snapp radio displayed a beautiful series of snowpeaked Mount Washington photos. And then for some reason that wasn't evident to me, it veered off into a sequence of photos depicting vintage electronics equipment with an emphasis on old, electronic learning toys.

While listening to Happenstance by Rachael Yamagata, Snapp Radio displayed mostly concert shots, but then suddenly showed the photo below.

a knight who said ni

Yes, this is a man standing in an airport, dressed as a knight. He's actually a Knight Who Said Ni. Why was this photo selected? In Snapp, you can click on an image and get more information and then click again and view the image in Flickr to see its tags. This image was flagged with the "happenstance" tag because the photo was taken by someone who randomly came upon this knight while on their way to pick up their luggage. That's happenstance.

Saturday Oct 01, 2005

Musical baseline

I'm posting this mix from my iPod to give a sense of the kind of music I like and to establish a baseline for future musical posts. If you like some of these selections, you might enjoy some of the others. And if you have a suggestion for me, please add a comment.

Down to the River to PrayAlison Krauss O Brother, Where Art Thou
Don't Need a ReasonBeth OrtonTrailer Park
Across the UniverseFiona ApplePleasantville soundtrack
Bright As YellowInnocence MissionGlow
Calling All AngelsJane SilberryUntil the End of the World soundtrack
Summer Kisses, Winter TearsJulee CruiseUntil the End of the World soundtrack
Fade Into YouMazzy StarSo Tonight That I Might See
Come Away With MeNorah JonesCome Away With Me
Both Sides NowJoni MitchellBoth Sides Now
So NiceBebel GibertoHear Music, Vol 4
Sweet JaneCowboy JunkiesThe Trinity Session
AnchorageMichelle ShockedShort Sharp Shocked
Sally AnnNatalie MerchantThe House Carpenter's Daughter
Dress Me Up, Dress Me DownRobinella and the CC String BandRobinella and the CC String Band
Bossa NovaShivareeI Oughta Give You a Shot in the Head
BreatheTelepopmusikGenetic World
My Little Corner of the WorldYo La TengaI Can Hear the Heart Beating as One
Streets of PhiladelphiaBruce SpringsteenThe Essential Bruce Springsteen
Somewhere Over the RainbowAselin DebisonSweet is the Melody


Josh Simons


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