Electron Luv tube amps

Electron Luv tube amps are a work of art. Wonderful craft and art. But at 190lbs it’s not something i will have shipped to Taiwan any time soon.
tube.jpg “Josh’s Design Philosophy to seek out the ultimate aesthetic/musical quality in audio. In the pursuit of the best reproduction of recorded music, the audio world is populated with many outstanding products. What could be different, better? Why not use the BEST sounding tubes, components, and circuits possible? Why not build the most creative and cool looking chassis’ possible? Why not use tubes that look as good (and cool) as they sound, and present them prominently and artfully? If it sounds better, use it. tube2.jpg
A ‘no compromises’ approach to the circuit design and parts, together with a completely fresh and creative way to house them is the basic design goal. These amps are designed and built from a standpoint of extensive listening… what does this sound like, what does that tube, choke or rectifier sound like. This results in an understanding of the sonic consequences of each and every part in the circuit, and the contribution that each component makes to the resulting tonal and musical reproduction. As with thoughtful, experienced gourmet cooking, this results in a wonderful, delicious feast of audio delights.”
electronluv tube amps

Protect the family jewels!!

There is never a dull moment here in Hsinchu, Taiwan. It may be hard to believe since Hsinchu’s claim to fame is primarily a science park full of high tech. factories and work hour traffic congestion. Yesterday’s slice of excitement helped provide the kind of wake up kick that coffee can’t come close to providing.
The shower in my house has trouble from time to time. Having only one water pump the water pressure tends to slack off as you reach the top floors. The result is almost always water that is too hot. Here in Taiwan (and many other places I am sure) we heat our water with a gas heater situated near the shower. This one is outside a window by the shower head allowing quick death if it ever explodes. Yesterday in yet another attempt to regulate the water temperature I opened the window to adjust the heater when what dropped in on my naked body was a bat. Quickly I covered my private parts in case it’s one of those ‘penis chomping vampire bats’ and yelled some expletives. Bats falling on me during my shower is not an experience I generally think of in the shower.
Luckily for me and ultimately unlucky for him the bat was not quite as alert as I. I proceeded to cover him/her/it with a plastic trash can and continue with my shower. After I showered and got dressed I grabbed some gloves and tongs with the intention of grabbing him/her/it to return to the ‘wild’. Unfortunately the bat had started to be more alert this time and was threatening to do unspeakable things like fly around my house and shit over everything. Well I assume bats are not to be taken too lightly as God knows what happens after a bite so I couldn’t let him/her/it escape and in the process I killed it. I’m a bit soft and felt pretty bad about it.
A rather traumatic start to my day but yet another in a long line of offbeat experiences that form my life in Taiwan.

Digitimes Interview

My apologises if the text is garbled below. It’s the opening paragraph for a recent interview I had with the Digitimes here in Hsinchu. I have been doing a number of interviews lately and have used the opportunity to promote the projects I am on. I’ll post a radio interview I did in the coming days as well. Once I get over my atypical shyness I become chatty it seems.

在工研院工作五年多,加拿大籍的克拉克·麥克勞(Clark Macleod),因為陪著一歲女兒玩玩具,觸發設計音樂椅的想法。在工研院創意中心的支持下,很快地,這張坐上去就能參與音樂演奏的椅子,即將跟大家見面。

Read the interview (Chinese)

Kitundu, Sound Artist

“Kitundu is a, sound/visual artist, graphic designer, composer and instrument builder. He uses an interdisciplinary approach to develop compositions-installations-instruments that blur the boundaries between media. He has constructed elemental turntables that rely on wood, water, fire and earthquakes for their power and pitch. Kitundu is the creator of a family of Phonoharps, beautifully crafted multi-stringed instruments made from record players. He strives to reconnect the technology of new music to fundamental principles drawn from the natural world.”
The great sounds of Kitundu, Sound Artist.

Bootleg culture

Pete Rojas’ article provide a good summary of the “mash-up” or bootleg culture or remixing or whatever the hip term is now. Can’t really say I agree when he talks about how easy it is now to create music except in relation to a life time of learning a musical instrument. We still have a long way to go to allowing ‘every-man’ the opportunity to express themselves in a sophisticated way musically.

While there have been odd pairings, match-ups and remixes for decades now, and club DJs have been doing something similar during live sets, the recent explosion in the number of tracks being created and disseminated is a direct result of the dramatic increase in the power of the average home computer and the widespread use on these computers of new software programs like Acid and ProTools. Home remixing is technically incredibly easy to do, in effect turning the vast world of pop culture into source material for an endless amount of slicing and dicing by desktop producers.
So easy, in fact, that bootlegs constitute the first genre of music that truly fulfills the “anyone can do it” promises originally made by punk and, to lesser extent, electronic music. Even punk rockers had to be able write the most rudimentary of songs. With bootlegs, even that low bar for traditional musicianship and composition is obliterated. Siva Vaidhyanthan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and the author of “Copyrights and Copywrongs,” believes that what we’re seeing is the result of a democratization of creativity and the demystification of the process of authorship and creativity.
“It’s about demolishing the myth that there has to be a special class of creators, and flattening out the creative curve so we can all contribute to our creative environment,” says Vaidhyanthan.

Read the full article

The Basics of Customer Experience (Mark Hurst)

Why are the basics so important? The simpler an interface is, the more people will be able to use it. And if there’s a benefit to using it (such as good search results), then the easier it is to use, the more people will use it. Multiply this by the size of the customer base online, and you have a lever that moves entire industries.
It bears pointing out that the success of the Web itself owes a lot to this principle. Well before Berners-Lee coded his first hyperlink, there was a global network of computers in place – computers which could share text, photos, music, and anything else representable in bits. There were programs to navigate this Net: FTP, Gopher, Telnet, and others. There was just one problem: it was way, way too hard for the average user to use. So practically no one used it. But with Berners-Lee’s hyperlinks, suddenly people could traverse the Net with the ease of a mouse-click. One small change in the interface – not the hardware or the underlying network – was the catalyst to the explosive growth that followed. Basics sell.
All this must seem odd to marketers who, in decades past, were taught to create the longest possible list of high-tech features… and then sell those features with lots of happytalk and faux excitement. That’s how the wireless carriers still operate, and how the search engine industries used to work, until Yahoo and Google became successful. Without Berners-Lee’s hyperlinks, imagine what technologists might be marketing today: the latest Gopher interface, “now with trans-Boolean metafiltering!”

Read the complete article

Yamaha’s digital EZ trumpet

005a.jpgCourtesy of Engadget comes this bit of news, “Yamaha has come out with an electronic trumpet that lets you avoid having to do the intense cheekwork yourself, like all that buzzing and blowing that the analogue version demands. Instead, you can eiether hum into the mouthpiece and have it convert your mumblings into trumpet-sounding melodies, play using the valves, or just use some combination of the two.” Is this the answer to my dreams? Though purists will shudder with disgust I’m all for any device that eliminates any barrier to the music making process. If this can 005h.jpgconnect to my Mac via midi and is available outside of Japan than I may just be forced to buy one. Though I suppose it has to happen some day, I just hope it’s not too good. After spending over 20 years trying to play the analogue version, to have a device remove the need for years of practice is well as depressing as it is exciting.
Yamaha’s digital EZ trumpet (MYCOM PC WEB)

The lost art of meaningful mixtapes

Mixtapes and playlists are an essential part of a balanced music lifestyle. I’ve always believed that music is a contextual experience, and the slow, careful creation of a compilation can reveal deep relationships between songs. The relationships can be shallow, like putting Usher’s “Yeah!” next to Nina Sky’s “Move Your Body,” (both are recent dance songs); or deep, like Jurassic 5’s “React” next to Incubus’s “Battlestar Scralatchtica” (both feature talented turntable work by the DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark).
But the real beauty behind the making and the receiving of a compilation tape is far beyond that of the songs itself. A good mixtape facilitates a wonderfully diverse type of communication, where each selected song sings its poetry within the context of a greater meaning.

Creating mix tapes was for me was an even of almost religious proportions. Long before cd’s. Long before mp3’s and the iPod we had the state of the art compact cassette. I remember using an ancient phonograph to play songs I dug and then record them through a condenser microphone to a tape player. Even before that my mother would bring home her real to real and we would splice together our own radio show.
Saturday or Sunday afternoons would be spent creating the ultimate mixes to share with friends. When “ghetto blasters” (what a horrendous term) became the norm creating mix tapes took on even greater importance as you then had the means of sharing your musical tastes on a great sounding portable. My musical listening revolved around mixes.
Somehow sharing a playlist doesn’t have the same impact as receiving a cassette in the mail that contains the efforts of an afternoon in front of the stereo.
The lost art of meaningful mixtapes – Daily Trojan – Lifestyle

What’s in a title anyway?

These are a few short paragraphs I wrote awhile back in response to both my constant confusion about what to call my professional self. Today I find that my confusion is no less abated. Of course nothing compares to the array of BS titles you see in larger web and non-web business environments.

designer noun person who designs
I have a problem with titles. I feel that in an environment of mutal trust and respect they are unnecessary. We just do what is necessary to do good work unrestricted by the boundries set by roles and titles.
I have only experienced that environment for mere fleeting moments. And what about people outside this wonderous environment?
Talking on the phone to a musician friend a year ago I mentioned that I was no longer performing and was focusing my attention on being a designer. He jokingly said what Haute Couture?
Titles are useful on some levels. In the country I work now they are absolutely necessary – if you don’t have director or manager in your title you seem to get no where with people. But what do I call myself? This industry has spawned an incredible array of job titles. Based on the roles I have taken here is a partial list of titles I might give myself: Art Director, Art Designer, Creative Director, Creative Lead, Educational Technologist, Facilitator, Graphic Designer, HTML programmer, Information Architect, Information Designer, Production Artist, Production Manager, Lead Designer, Lead Web Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Producer, Project Lead, Senior Designer, User Experience Designer, User Experience Lead, Visual Designer, and Web Designer.
Does any one title apply?
For now I’ll stick with designer and deal with the jokes about creating dresses for runway models (which come to think about it, wouldn’t be so bad).

For job title fun check out: Job Title Generator and Bullshit Job Titles.

Steven Poole on sound art

“The history of recorded music is a history of creating virtual spaces. Classical CD recording, for example, places you in a prime stalls seat in a nonexistent concert hall, by virtue of the way the instrumental sections are distributed in the stereo field. Much abstract sound art is interested primarily in the structure of the virtual space itself. And then there is Cardiff’s work, which projects a virtual space – the recorded sounds of a walk through Whitechapel – on to the original space from which it was modelled. You experience two realities at once. And you can begin to play this game afterwards, imagining that the apparently random street scenes around you are carefully choreographed and soundtracked to a mysterious design.
This, perhaps, is the primary value of sound art: that it encourages you to pay attention to how you listen, and to experiment with new ways of listening. I’m not going to start sitting down and listening to CDs of traffic and iron-smelting every evening, but perhaps I will take more interest in the uncontrollable sounds around me, rather than blocking them out as unwanted noise. If nothing else, it makes waiting for a bus less boring”
Read article

The Conet Project

Found via Veer, “This massive collection of recordings of so-called ‘shortwave numbers stations’ is at once, both eerily beautiful and poignantly cryptic.” You have to listen to these very specific genre of sound creation. Who knew this whole other world existed. Fascinating and excellent material for your next remix project.
Of particular note is the the swedish rhapsody irdial featuring childrens music and voice, and the oriental language irdial where a voice is repeating the same phrase over and over “I am ..[hong kong region] Good bye doctor”.
Check out: Conet Project – Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations [ird059]


“SimpleTEXT is a collaborative audio/visual public performance that relies on audience participation through input from mobile devices such as phones, PDAs or laptops. SimpleTEXT focuses on dynamic input from participants as essential to the overall output. The performance creates a dialogue between participants who submit messages which control the audiovisual output of the installation. These simpletext.gifmessages are first parsed according to a code that dictates how the music is created, and then rhythmically drive a speech synthesizer and a picture synthesizer in order to create a compelling, collaborative audiovisual performance. SimpleTEXT was originally funded by a commission from Low-FiM, an new media arts organization based in the UK.”
SimpleTEXT focuses on mobile devices and the web as a bridge between networked interfaces and public space. As mobile devices become more prolific, they also become separated by increased emphasis on individual use. The SimpleTEXT project looks beyond the screen and isolated usage of mobile devices to encourage collaborative use of input devices to both drive the visuals and audio output, inform each participant of each other’s interaction, and allows people to actively participate in the performance while it happens.Our purpose with the performance is to create the possibility of large-scale interaction through anonymous collaboration, with immediate audio and visual feedback. SimpleTEXT encourages users to respond to one another’s ideas and build upon the unexpected chains of ideas that may develop from their input.
SimpleTEXT is a rare example of an interactive piece that works in crowded public spaces such as social and unruly atmospheres where heckling, irony, criticism, and sarcasm are common modes of communication. We are unaware of such a large-scale interactive piece in terms of scale of audience interaction, where the interaction is as tangible, direct, and therefore individually satisfying.”
SimpleTEXT: a mobile phone enabled performance

AudioBored & AudioBored Machine

“AudioBored is a public online audio messaging board that allows for anyone to call in, record a message, and post it to the server. Simply dial the free 1-800 number from the website and record your note. Visitors to the board can click on the sound clips and listen to all the recordings collected. Like an online bulletin board, AudioBored allows for candid opinions, thoughts, ideas, exclamations, etc… to be posted live in a shared online space as recorded audio through a phone interface.
audiobored.jpgThe AudioBored Machine allows people in a physical space to access all the messages left on the AudioBored. It is dynamic and networked, grabbing all call information as new calls are logged into the server. The machine is a physical version of a traditional online bulletin board allowing you to navigate through threads of messages (topics) as well as the messages themselves.”
AudioBored & AudioBored Machine

Made Unique T-shirts

I have been in love with the ubiquitous t-shirt just about all my life. Despite a brief period where I decided that t-shirts sans graphics were the new cool my collection has never stopped growing. “Corporate Design made me Mediocre” is a t-shirt that I can easily relate to made by a Brooklyn based shop which was founded by a couple creatives who spent a little too much time in cramped offices.
tshirt.gif “Made Unique is a way of living, a way of thinking without all the heavy philosophical stuff, it

ID3v2 spec made easy

ID3v2 is a new tagging system that lets you put enriching and relevant information about your audio files within them. In more down to earth terms, ID3v2 is a chunk of data prepended to the binary audio data. Each ID3v2 tag holds one or more smaller chunks of information, called frames. These frames can contain any kind of information and data you could think of such as title, album, performer, website, lyrics, equalizer presets, pictures etc. The block scheme to the right is an example of how the layout of a typical ID3v2 tagged audio file may look like.
One of the design goals were that the ID3v2 should be very flexible and expandable. It is very easy to add new functions to the ID3v2 tag, because, just like in HTML, all parsers will ignore any information they don’t recognize. Since each frame can be 16MB and the entire tag can be 256MB you’ll probably never again be in the same situation as when you tried to write a useful comment in the old ID3 being limited to 30 characters.
Speaking of characters, the ID3v2 supports Unicode so even if you use the Bopomofo character set you’ll be able to write in your native language. You can also include in which language you’re writing so that one file might contain e.g. the same lyrics but in different languages.
Beyond cool.
Read ID3v2 made easy

Google Audio Search

Audio content on the internet is in chaos. To reign in the chaos, and to capitalize on internet audio file assets, Google will launch an audio search engine or audio file search tool by 2006, but probably sooner.

The Four Ways that Google Audio Search Will Work
First, like current MP3 search engines, you will be able to find MP3’s (and other audio files) based on file names.
Second, the search engine will be able to hunt down semantic web information.
Third, the search engine will allow you to find songs based on the words used in the song.
Finally, the audio search will allow users to find files based on associations between songs.

Read article

Experiential components create an emotional resonance

Advertising specialists and marketing managers have long tried to appeal to the emotional element. But a growing number of companies are starting to feel that designers are more tuned in.
“With a marketing person, 90 percent of the time is spent trying to do everything to shape the buying decision,” said Earl Powell, director of the Design Management Institute, a forum for industrial designers and the businesses that use them. Designers are “more committed to the user experience. That experiential component has an emotional resonance: It sticks.”
Read: When looks count the most

Emotion and Design

“Scott Adams had some fun showing how product aspects, such as quality and functionality, can be neglected when attempting to emotionally connect a product with a consumer. This line of humor is based on the premise that quality and functionality cannot coexist with form and feel. The emotional impact of products is currently receiving a great deal of press, with several newly released books and articles emphasizing the importance of creating products that not only accomplish tasks, but also ‘connect’ with users.”
Read the article