Wednesday, December 20, 2006


Associated Press has announced that Linksys has released an iPhone, phones that take advantage of VoIP technology, including one with built-in Skype capabilities. With Skype ceasing free web-to-phone calls at the end of 2006, the $30 per year (that's right, per year) that the company is asking users to pony up for continued use still seems like a good deal. And if your one of those people who receives free wi-fi (public works or unprotected wireless routers), the iPhone might be your best choice for keeping those phone bills as low as possible. If they could combine a device like this with some of my ideals for the Zune 2.0, it would revolutionize the way we stay in touch.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Joan LaBarbara's Acrostic

Today I was in Joan LaBarbara's studio and saw one of John Cage's acrostic poems on her wall. It was based on her name. Above it was picture of the two of them playing chess. History as memories.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

I'm sure I'm johnny-come-lately to this, but this video makes me smile every time I see it. Enjoy

Ligeti's Material

The other day, music critic Ben Finane called me up and told me he was doing a big piece for Stereophile magazine on Ligeti, and he wanted to ask me a few questions about the subject. Even though I've spoken quite a bit about this subject, especially after the composer's passing this summer, I'm always shocked by what I perceive to be going on in Ligeti's music. To me, Ligeti is one of the first composers who drew attention away from his material (themes, chords, motives, etc) and asked the listener to follow the process of construction of the work. I'm not speaking here about listening to classical forms and being able to tell where the development end and where the recapitulation begins, but in Ligeti's music, a large part of his work seems to involve objects coming into being or evaporating into the air. Often the objects that do appear are so complex or mobile that it's hard to grasp what they are before they disappear, but it's because the processes of appearing and disappearing are so spectacular that the listener is willing to give up any feelings of confusion and surrender to the piece.

Saturday, November 25, 2006


Just before Thanksgiving, I saw a great young band call Bearfoot on Mountain Stage in Beckley, West Virginia. They are part of what's being dubbed swing-grass, a mixture of bluegrass and early swing-era music. Very talented lot, and they seem like nice folks, too. I haven't been able to stop thinking about "Just Say" on their MySpace page. Check them out if they come by your neck of the woods.

Zune 2.0

When I started reading all of those ads and reviews regarding the new Microsoft Zune, I couldn't help but think that the company was going against one of it's primary strengths, knowing its market. After working with the advertising world a few years ago, I realized that just because Apple seemed "cool" and Microsoft came off as "nerdy", these assumptions were really part of the marketing strategy and had little with the potential of any company on either side of the hipster divide. Both do essentially the same thing, play music and movies, and while I'm not sure that the Zune can function as a portable hard drive (a feature I've used with my iPods for years), Apple doesn't include wi-fi file transfer, which Microsoft has been referring to as "squirting" in their promo material.

Here's where things fall apart for me. The problem of sharing music has been a tricky one for all industries to figure out, but squirting some tunes at my friends doesn't seem like something anyone I know will be taking part in anytime soon. Here's why: it neither improves the listening or social aspect of sharing music. If I want to swap some tracks with my friends, I can do it in a number of ways, but it's always on our own time. A friend can upload tracks to an FTP type site or simply email me the tracks, and I can download them when I have time. When we get together, the last thing I can imagine doing with my friends is standing around waiting for files to jump through the air while we stave off the pressures of work and family (relationships) for a few hours to catch up. "How's work? How's the wife/life partner?" Even if it's for an instant, the thought of squirting reminds me of that scene in Seinfeld when George and Jerry are waiting for a tape recorder to rewind. It's only a few seconds, but it's a few that we abhor spending.

If I had Microsoft's ear, I'd suggest something that would improve both the social and listening aspects of their product: personal wi-fi broadcasts. Imagine this: you're taking a walk along Mercer Street here in Manhattan with your Zune, and as you pass someone, you hear a song from your past. A very obscure song, but one that has a very special and personal meaning to you. Now imagine that the music you heard came from the person who you just passed on the street. In a city of 8 million, you just walked by someone who shares something very close to your heart. Now if you could only find a way to reach out to that person and let them know you appreciate that song, too.

I think all of this can be done by harnessing the Zune's wi-fi capabilities, with the devices operating in two modes, Eavesdrop and Broadcast. Eavesdrop would allow you to hear what others are listening to, while broadcast would let others hear your superior taste in music. Add a Contact button, to beam to Broadcasters that someone in the area likes their tunes, and a Location button to prompt Eavesdroppers to reveal themselves in a crowd. And there you have it: improved listening and social experiences. Let's see if anyone at Microsoft (or Apple) is listening.