Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

10 MARCH, 2011

What Pi Sounds Like

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We love the intersection of math and creativity. And we have a soft spot for unusual ways to create music. (Previously, we’ve seen that anything from produce to the HIV virus to your apartment can make music.) Earlier this week, we explored extraordinary mind of autistic savant Daniel Tammet, whose synesthesia allows him to experience numbers in color, sound and texture. But what if one could use ordinary tools to translate one source of cognitive input into an entirely different sensory experience?

That’s exactly what Michael John Blake did in his musical interpretation of the number Pi, translating each of the first 31 decimals into a note and performing the piece on varioius instruments to a tempo of 157 beats per minute. Priceless.

via Coudal

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01 MARCH, 2011

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day One

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This week, we’re letting our brains explode so you don’t have to.

This week, we’re reporting live from TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder. Earlier, we warmed up with 5 must-read books by some of this year’s speakers and a lovely urban revitalization art project by TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, we’re back with highlights from Day One. Ingest, enjoy and ponder.

TED curator Chris Anderson, one of our big cultural heroes, opens the first session of Day One: Monumental. It certainly was.

In an exclusive TED reveal, Martin Scorsese revealed a new project using cutting-edge digital technologies to restore Luchino Visconti’s iconic 50-year-old film Il Gattopardo to its full glory. A partnership between Scorsese’s nonprofit, The Film Foundation, and Gucci, the effort will grow the collection by at least one film from a visionary filmmaker every year.

Astronomer and physicist Janna Levin asked some mind-bending questions about the nature of the universe and played some incredible black hole demonstrations by Andrew Hamilton.

Astronomer Janna Levin tickles the underbelly of the universe with the profound touch of human curiosity.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

We have to ask, is it possible that our universe is just a plume off some greater history? Is it possible that we are just one patch in a multiverse? Are there others wondering who else is out there?” ~ Janna Levin

New York Times columnist David Brooks, one of our favorite magazine writers, probed into social psychology and the depths of consciousness.

The effectiveness of a group is not determined by the IQ of the group but by how well they communicate.” ~ David Brooks

David Brooks points out that the human mind takes in about a million pieces of information per minute, of which it's onl consciously aware of about 40.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Emotions are not separate from reason, but they’re the foundation for it because they tell us what to value.” ~ David Brooks

Eric Whitacre told the story of his deeply inspirational virtual choir, which brought together nearly 200 talented singers from around the world in a spellbinding collaborative performance of “Lux Aurumque” via YouTube:

Whitacre finished with the premiere of the project’s sequel, “Sleep 2.0,” bringing together over 2,000 videos from 58 countries in an ambitious collaborative performance of Whitacre’s original 1999 song, “Sleep.” It was revealed to the world for the first time here at TED and debuting online in April.

Al Jazeera founder Wadah Khanfar offered timeless insight on human rights and democracy, wrapped in timely insights from the recent Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. He shared that Al Jazeera has been banned from Tunisia for years, but the people in the streets became the network’s “reporters,” filling Al Jazeera’s newsrooms with raw footage, tweets and constantly flowing real-time information.

Al Jazeera's Wadah Khanfar delivers an impassioned defense for the monumental importance of journalism in today's global politics.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The values of democracy and the freedom of choice sweeping the Middle East right now are the best opportunity for the world to see stability and tolerance and peace.” ~ Wadah Khanfar

The lovely Sunni Brown goes bold in defense of doodling as a way of making sense of the world and sparking the kind of thinking at the root of innovation. Her book, Gamestorming: A Playbook for Innovators, Rulebreakers, and Changemakers, is an absolute must-read.

Doodling has a profound impact on the way we process information and solve problems.” ~ Sunni Brown

The Handspring Puppet Company brings to life the Joey the War Horse.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company demonstrated their remarkably lifelike puppets that live at the intersection of design and engineering, with a delightful Steampunk feel. Here’s a little teaser from the Indaba design conference:

British architect and designer Thomas Heatherwick showcased some of his remarkable, thoughtful architecture projects, including the mind-blowingly brilliant Seed Cathedral UK pavilion from Shanghai 2010 and London’s astounding rolling bridge.

Seed Cathedral was the only project we ever built that when it was done, looked more like a rendering than the rendering.” ~ Thomas Heatherwick

Arctic photographer Paul Nicklen took us on a bittersweet journey to a frozen wonderland, showcasing the breathtaking beauty and vibrant character of its inhabitants and stressing that by losing polar ice, we risk losing this entire fascinating and rich ecosystem.

Polar photographer and conservation advocate Paul Nicklen made friends with a female leopard seal, who kept bringing him dead penguins as a token of her love. We all have our ways.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

See more of his breathtaking work in the most excellent Polar Obsession:

Looking towards an uncertain future, a huge male bear triggers a camera trap, taking his own picture. Leifdefjorden, Spitsbergen, Norway

A gentoo penguin chick peeks, checking for patrolling leopard seals before tempting fate. Port Lockroy, Antarctic Peninsula

Mother bear and two-year-old cub drift on glacier ice. Hudson Strait, Nunavut, Canada

As longtime fans for Bobby McFerrin, whose insight on music and emotion is unmissable, we were overjoyed to see him take the stage and call on TED audience members to join him in some incredible improvisation.

The one and only Bobby McFerrin unleashing his improvisational magic.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

Improvisation isn’t about music or talent. It’s about doing what you do and keeping on going.” ~ Bobby McFerrin

Carlo Ratti of MIT’s SENSEable City Lab made a compelling case for using digital tools to better understand and engage with cities. He spotlighted the brilliant Trash Track project, which we’ve raved about before.

Cities account for 2% of the land’s surface, 50% of its population, 75% of its energy production and 80% of its carbon emissions.” ~ Carlo Ratti

Ratti proceeded to demo MIT’s stunningly futuristic FlyFire swarm of bioluminescent robotic mini-helicopters. By the end of the year, Ratti expects to have a working cloud of these “flying pixels.”

We were thrilled to see our friend Aaron Koblin, wildly talented visual artist and data visualization mastermind, finally take the TED stage and showcase some of his brilliant projects, including The Sheep Market, an early creative project using crowdsourcing long before crowdsourcing was a buzzword, Bicycle Built for 2000, an audio-visual collage of 2,088 voice recordings stitched together to sing the iconic “Daisy Bell” HAL song, and The Johnny Cash Project, a mesmerizing global collaborative “resurrection” music video for the legendary artist’s final studio recording.

Data viz wunderkind Aaron Koblin, an authentic geek-rockstar.

Image credit: James Duncan Davidson / TED

The day wrapped up with the announcement of TEDED, an ambitious new effort focusing on global education, currently seeking educators, filmmakers and other creative professionals to contribute to the TEDED Brain Trust.

Keep an eye on our live Twitter coverage and come back here tomorrow evening for highlights from Day Two.

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22 FEBRUARY, 2011

Inside the Mind of Kanye West: Typographic Phrenology

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Just when we think the world couldn’t possibly need another bit of Kanye “Overexposure” West, the fine folks at Column Five manage to prove us wrong with one of their signature infographic gems: A typographic phrenology of Kanye’s mind.

Though, not to be neuro-nitpickers, we have to point out that the little “Grow up, Kanye” voice is least likely to come from the cerebellum, the “little brain” responsible for our reptilian, primitive, most selfish impulses — the part that keeps us immature and self-centered. But then again, if phrenology itself is a pseudoscience, what do we expect of typo-phrenology?

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