Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘music’

09 NOVEMBER, 2010

The Music Animation Machine


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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03 NOVEMBER, 2010

Smigly: Jazzy Tales of Misfortune


What giant logos have to do with the digestive difficulties of the Twitter bird.

We’ve been longtime admirers of writer, director and animator Allen Mezquida‘s Smigly series — the animated tales of a lovable misfit (or, to reach into our bag of cross-cultural linguistic treats, a Shlemazl — that’s Yiddish for “unlucky person”) who, despite his smarts, somehow always manages to have his dreams crushed for your comedic benefit. It’s Droopy with getting the girl, Dilbert without the office supplies, Frasier without the pompous dialogue and laugh track.

If you pay attention, life’s a soul-crushing shit storm. Smigly pays attention.”

Mezquida, whose work has previously graced Disney, Warner Bros., Sony and Nickelodeon, happens to also be a talented saxophonist, so he scores most of the films himself.

Today, we’ve curated five of our favorite Smigly episodes – enjoy.


Smigly spins in the existential hamster wheel and we hope you aren’t. (If you are, see this.)


Timely, in light of this week’s U.S. elections, a time when economic and political fluff phrases are being tossed around like giant balls of toxic cotton candy.


So many phones, so little talking.


Somewhere between Big Brother, Uncle Sam and The Man, Smigly is on the brink of pushing daisies.


If you happen to have a bit of a social media…problem (and we should know), you’ll no doubt reluctantly relate to this one.

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29 OCTOBER, 2010

BBC’s John Lennon Tribute Rap


We love John Lennon, but the BBC seems to love him more, or at least better: Lennononandonandon is a wonderful Lennon tribute track by UK rapper Dan Bull, composed of oh-so-many Beatles song titles — test your Beatlemania by counting how many you recognize.

Needless to say, it’s an absolute treat. (So great, in fact, that it even got a nod from Yoko Ono.)

The track celebrates the newly revealed English Heritage blue plaque at John and Yoko’s London home at 34 Montagu Square. The blue plaques are a 140-year-old British tradition honoring and commemorating the link between cultural icons of the past and the buildings they lived or worked in. Roughly 850 have been awarded to date, recognizing greats like Mahatma Gandhi, Charles Dickens, Isaac Newton, Virginia Woolf and Vincent Van Gogh.

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28 OCTOBER, 2010

Beethoven Reimagined as Jazz


For the past 16 years, Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey has been reinventing impressionistic and improvisational contemporary jazz. LUDWIG is their most beautifully belabored project to date — a reinterpretation of Beethoven’s 3rd and 6th symphonies in jazz, three years in the making.

JFJO’s new album, Stay Gold, is a treasure trove of melodic experimental jazz magic — we highly recommend it.

Thanks, @teddyz

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