Brain Pickings

The Music Animation Machine

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In the 1970s, composer, inventor and software engineer Stephen Malinowski had a hallucination. He envisioned an easier, more visual way of reading music scores. A friend of his suggested he animate the bar-graph scroll and another proposed doing it with a… gasp… computer. In 1985, Malinowski created the first version of the Music Animation Machine and, a quarter century later, it remains a treasure trove of mesmerizing music visualizations. From Tchaikovsky’s Dance of the Sugarplum Fairync to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons to Chopin’s Nocturne in E-flat Major, the project brings an intuitive, visceral, almost synesthetic understanding to some of the most musically complex masterpieces in history.

Music moves, and can be understood just by listening. But a conventional musical score stands still, and can be understood only after years of training. The Music Animation Machine bridges this gap, with a score that moves — and can be understood just by watching.” ~ Stephen Malinowski

Malinowski has made the MIDI player available as freeware (sadly, Windows-only) so you can download it and create your own visualizations.

You can support the project by buying a DVD of the visualizations, but Malinowski has kindly offered the DVDs free of charge to any public schools, libraries, music schools and educators of music theory, appreciation, or history. Many of the animations are also available on the Music Animation Machine YouTube channel.

As a hidden treat, the site also features a free visual harmonizer for iPad — a wonderful educational tool exploring the relationship between pitches.

via Quipsologies

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The Cassiopeia Project: Free Science Education Online

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What a mysterious retired physicist has to do with the future of learning.

In 2008, The Cassiopeia Project began quietly publishing high-definition videos exploring in an intelligent yet digestible manner nearly every corner of the science spectrum, and releasing them online for free. With more than 100 videos to date available on iTunesU and YouTube, the project offers an invaluable resource on everything from quantum mechanics to evolution to the theory of relativity — another wonderful piece in the ever-expanding puzzle of free educational content online that is changing how we think about learning.

We believe that if you can visualize it, then understanding it is not far behind.”

The project, operating under the slogan “No science teacher left behind,” is funded by an adamantly anonymous retired scientist who, after weighing the benefits of helping academic institutions versus helping teachers, he chose the latter and made it his mission to champion science literacy in the US.

All the content is open-source and educators are encouraged to edit, remix and otherwise customize the footage. While all videos are self-contained, a companion sci-fi / romance novel, CounterClockWise, is used as a contextualizing plot vehicle to pique interest in the project.

The project is named after the Cassiopeia Constellation at the edge of the Milky Way, known for its wayfinding capcaity; once you find Cassiopeia, you can easily locate all other constellations in the Northern hemisphere — a beautiful metaphor for the illuminating mission of the project.

Sadly, the effort appears to be in stagnation since 2009, but we sincerely hope to see it resurface with more fantastic content. Meanwhile, explore the existing video library and appreciate the wonders of grassroots, web-enabled education.

via MeFi

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Brené Brown on Wholeheartedness

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Happiness is something I’ve been intensely interested in, both from a research and from a cultural perspective. And one thing that consistently cooccurs with true happiness is the notion of authenticity — being, as the contrived but universally accurate saying goes, “true to ourselves,” something that inevitably necessitates a degree of vulnerability most of us are conditioned to be uncomfortable with. Brené Brown‘s fantastic talk from TEDxHouston deconstructs vulnerability to reveal what she calls “wholeheartedness”: The capacity to engage in our lives with authenticity, cultivate courage and compassion, and embrace — not in that self-help-book, motivational-seminar way, but really, deeply, profoundly embrace — the imperfections of who we really are.

It’s the perfect way to start your week — enjoy.

In order for connection to happen, we have to allow ourselves to be seen — really seen.” ~ Brené Brown

Brown’s new book, The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are, came out last month and is the most eloquent refutation of the “What will people think?” inner dialogue I’ve ever stumbled across.

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Designing Media: Lessons from Today’s Greatest Media Innovators

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Design titan Bill Moggridge has formidable credentials — designer of the world’s first laptop, director of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, co-founder of design innovation powerhouse IDEO, and celebrated as a pioneer of interaction design.

His new book, Designing Media, is exactly the kind of ambitious, compelling volume you’d expect from his reputation.

The book explores the evolution of mainstream media, both mass and personal, looking closely at the points of friction between old and new media models and the social norms they have sprouted. From design to civic engagement to the real-time web, Moggridge offers a faceted and layered survey of how our media habits came to be, where they’re going, and what it all means for how we relate to the world and each other.

To be fair, Designing Media isn’t exactly — at least not only — a book: The tome features a DVD containing 37 fascinating interviews with some of today’s greatest media innovators, including This American Life‘s Ira Glass, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, prominent New York Times design critic Alice Rawsthorn, Twitter founder @Ev, statistical stuntsman Hans Rosling, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

The laws of narrative are the laws of narrative. What engages us is what engages us.” ~ Ira Glass

Designing Media is out via MIT Press this month and atop our must-read books list this season.

via @HelenWalters

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