Andy Carvin's Waste of Bandwidth

June 20, 2008

Discussing Twitter, Liveblogging and Journalism at the Guardian in London

Filed under: Media & Politics,Podcasts,Social Media — Andy Carvin @ 2:14 pm

For those of you wondering why I’ve been quiet for the last couple of weeks, I was in London with limited Internet access (stupid US phone doesn’t work there) and then moved into our new house. I’ll talk about the move later, but for now I wanted to share the podcast that was recorded of the event I attended in London, hosted by The Guardian newspaper. The event was part of a two-week series of forums on the future of journalism, and it focused on how real-time publishing tools like live-blogging and Twitter are actually tools for generating conversations journalism and how to make journalism better. It’s 90-minutes long, but if you’re interested in the subject, it’s worth a listen. You can hear it by playing the streaming media file below or downloading the of the event.

April 19, 2008

Utterz Demo at PodcampDC

Filed under: Mobcasting,Podcasts,Social Media — Andy Carvin @ 2:40 pm

This is a mobcast I recorded using my mobile phone at PodcampDC. You’ll hear me explaining Utterz, the tool I used to create the mobcast.   Replies.  mp3

March 11, 2008

Oh Lord, Won’t Ya Buy Me an N95

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 10:43 pm

My biggest takeaway from SXSW: I must get me a Nokia N95 video phone. So I thought I’d offer it up in a song.

Mobile post sent by acarvin using Utterz Replies.  mp3

March 10, 2008

Live From Austin City Limits: Spinto Band

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 12:34 am

Spinto Band & Austin City Limits

Mobile post I recorded after having the honor of introducing Spinto Band on stage at Austin City Limits.  Replies.  mp3

March 9, 2008

How Dev Hynes Got His Star Wars Jacket

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 8:59 pm

Interviewing Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion

Mobile podcast I recorded with Dev Hynes of Lightspeed Champion talking about where he got the awesome Star Wars jacket he was wearing during their soundcheck at Austin City Limits.  Replies.  mp3

April 23, 2007

Sitting for my Second Musical Portrait with Pete Townshend’s Computer

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 8:54 pm

While Susanne was putting Kayleigh to sleep tonight I decide to sit for another music portrait with Pete Townshend’s online music generator, The Lifehouse Method. You may recall I sat for my first portrait last year after being invited to beta-test the tool. The system, created by Townshend electronic composer Lawrence Ball, asks you to input several unique pieces of content, which it uses to interpret your musical portrait. It asks for a sample of your voice, which you can record with the website’s flash recorder. I recorded a short message in a soothing voice, saying “Isn’t my voice oh so soothing?” Then, it asked for a photo, so I supplied it with this photo of me taking a picture of the coliseum of El Jem in Tunisia. When asked for an audio clip, I gave it the opening bars to the Dresden Dolls song, “Coin Operated Boy,” which we use in the opening credits of our Dirty Diaper Diaries videos. Finally, I needed to give it a rhythm. So I tapped out the opening bars to the Rush song “YYZ,” which spell out the letters YYZ in morse code, in a 10/8 time signature.
The result? Have a listen.
For one thing, you can’t dance to it. In some ways, it’s reminiscent of some of the more dissonant musical studies my late father-in-law David Cornwall used to compose. It’s rather slow, with strings and keyboards plodding along at a modest tempo, while a bass and piano interject themselves at inopportune moments. There are very few chords – mostly individual notes from each instrument overlaid with each other. I can’t decide if it sounds like Morton Feldman revved up or Conlon Nancarrow slowed down. The first minute or so doesn’t do much for me, but then it gets a bit more coherent, as several instruments fade away and elements of bassoon and marimba pop up, but in a very minimalist way. There’s also a haunting, high-pitched whistle that weaves through the piece, not unlike a theremin. Fascinating stuff, but probably not for everyone.
Thanks again to Pete and his colleagues for letting me experiment with it. -andy

March 13, 2007

Podcast of My Interview with Dan Rather

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 12:54 am

The video is still being edited, but I’ve got a quick and dirty podcast of my 25-minute interview with Dan Rather. The audio quality leaves much to be desired, as it was compressed multiple times while transferring formats. Once I get the raw footage from Chuck Olsen I hope to make a better quality recording, but for those of you eager to hear what we talked about, this version is better than nothing, I guess. (UPDATE: I’ve created a much higher quality recording of the interview and posted it, so when you click on the link now you’ll get the better version.)
Before the interview, I put together around a dozen questions, including a mix of my own and some from suggestions posted to the blog. In the end, we got around to tackling only half of them, due to his long responses and our time being cut short by a few minutes. Nonetheless, I feel like we covered some interesting ground, including these questions:

You alluded earlier to the effects of media concentration and cross-ownership on journalism and civic discourse. Could you say a bit more about the effects of media concentration at both the local and national level?
If the relationship between media, corporations and politicians has gotten too cozy as you have suggested, how can the system change for the benefit of the public interest, given the fact that it’s not in their interest to change the system?
In your talk today you lamented what you described “the ability to be anonymous and say scurrilous things” on blogs. How do you balance this with the role played by anonymous bloggers in places like China and Zimbabwe, who feel forced to blog anonymously to speak truth to power? Are there times when anonymity is the only solution?
Can you picture yourself ever publishing your own blog?
Video blogger Josh Wolf has been spent just over 200 days in jail for contempt of court for refusing to turn over footage he shot during a protest, with prosecutors arguing that his is not a “real” journalist. In France, they’ve just introduced a new law that would criminalize citizens from recording or broadcasting acts of violence if they’re not accredited journalists. Do you see a growing clash between governments and citizen journalists, and if so, why now?
Do you worry that the public lacks the media literacy skills to recognize when bloggers have ulterior motives and when they don’t? Has the rise of the blogosphere made media literacy even more important? (Built upon a question suggested by Shava Nerad)
You also talked today of one of the roles of a journalist is to hold politicians accountable. Do they have a similar role in holding their peers accountable, given the coziness you alluded to between beltway journalists and politicians?

Again, sorry about the crappy audio. What can I say; I’m a video guy. But I’ll try to get a better version of the audio online later. Enjoy the new version of the podcast. -andy

February 20, 2007

NPR Social Media Forum, Part 2

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 5:33 pm

Here’s part two of the podcast from last week’s social media forum at NPR. Part one can be found here. Participants in the podcast include David Weinberger, Doc Searls, Jay Rosen, Zadi Diaz, Euan Semple and Jeff Jarvis. NPR media reporter David Folkenflik moderates, and Michel Martin chimes in as well. -andy

NPR Social Media Forum, Part 1

Filed under: Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 5:21 pm

Given the amazing response we’ve received from the social media advisory group I co-hosted at NPR last week, we’ve decided to release the full audio of the two-hour forum as a pair of podcasts. Each podcast is about an hour long. As far as I know it’s the first time NPR has released the audio of one of its in-house “Digital Den” forums before, so I’m really excited to share it. The podcast includes a discussion featuring David Weinberger, Doc Searls, Jay Rosen, Zadi Diaz, Euan Semple and Jeff Jarvis, moderated by NPR media reporter David Folkenflik.
Here’s part one of the podcast. -andy

November 25, 2006

Sitting for a Musical Portrait by Pete Townshend

Filed under: Cool Tools,Podcasts — Andy Carvin @ 5:44 pm

This afternoon I helped compose a song with Pete Townshend of The Who.
Okay, not exactly. It was actually with Pete’s computer.
I can see you’re skeptical, so I better provide some context. To do that, we’re gonna have to go all the way back to 1971, the year I was born. Because that was when Townshend began work on a musical project known as Lifehouse.
The Who had just found great success with their rock opera, Tommy, and Townshend was now working on a new musical project called Lifehouse. A science fiction story in which the world has suffered an ecological disaster, Lifehouse included a major plot line based around the idea that the world’s music was controlled by a small group of powerful media conglomerates, which in turn pumped its mediocre muzak into the minds of humanity. (In some ways it’s similar to Rush’s 2112 album, which came out in the late 70s, without the Ayn Rand influence.)
Pete explains:

“The essence of the story-line was a kind a futuristic scene…. It’s a fantasy set at a time when rock ‘n’ roll didn’t exist. The world was completely collapsing and the only experience that anybody ever had was through test tubes. They lived TV programs, in a way. Everything was programmed. The enemies were people who gave us entertainment intravenously, and the heroes were savages who’d kept rock ‘n’ roll as a primitive force and had gone to live with it in the woods. The story was about these two sides coming together and having a brief battle.”

As part of their revolutionary struggle, the heroes of the story utilized a technological weapon called The Method, which would combat the soulless music they were literally being force-fed.
“What Lifehouse was about, at its root, was to reaffirm that what’s important is that music reflects its audience as absolutely and completely as possible,” Townshend explains on his website. In the early 70s, he was exploring Sufi mysticism, which no doubt put him in touch with qawwali music, like that of the famed Pakistani singer Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, whom I got to interview in 1992. Qawwali concerts, which often extend to four hours or more, intend to use the trance-like power of lengthy musical performances to bring the performers and audience into a state of spiritual ecstasy. This, of course, is often a complete contrast to rock concerts, where performers and the audience show up, do their thing and leave. Townshend says:

Standing on stage and waving your arms about is wearing a bit thin, I think. There’s going to have to be a way of listening to music which doesn’t mean that you’re going to have to face in a particular direction, there’s going to have to be a way of listening to music that doesn’t mean that you have to go out to a concert hall between eight and ten in the evening. I’ve seen moments in Who concerts where the vibrations were becoming so pure that I thought the world was just going to stop, the whole thing was just becoming so unified. But you could never reach that state because in the back of their minds everybody knew that the group was going to have to stop soon, or they’d got to get home or catch the last bus or something – it’s a ridiculous situation.

For various reasons, Lifehouse didn’t come together as planned, even though Townshend composed many songs for the rock opera. Instead, these songs were published as part of the album Who’s Next, arguably one of the greatest rock albums of all time. But Lifehouse – and the musical weapon known as The Method – never fully vanished from Townshend’s creative consciousness.
This brings us to last February, when Townshend was wrapping up work on his novel, The Boy Who Heard Music. The novel was released chapter-by-chapter on a blog, and he invited the public to comment on the story and help improve it. When the novel was complete, Townshend announced that some of the bloggers who participated in the story’s development would be invited to participate in his next project – the rebirth of The Method as online software that would interpret the images and sounds submitted by a person and convert it into music.
As I explained on my blog:

A partnership between Townshend, programmer Dave Snowdon and composer Lawrence Ball, The Method will perform musical works generated by a computer based on interactions with a real person, referred to by Townshend as a “sitter.” Initially the website will feature works generated by The Method through interactions with Lawrence Ball and others, but Townshend plans to invite bloggers to “sit” with The Method and generate music of their own. At least that’s the way I understand it from his description on his blog. From what I’ve heard of Lawrence Ball’s work, his music is reminsicent of Erik Satie and Arvo Part. Adding Pete Townshend to the mix, along with a community of 500 bloggers, will hopefully lead to some exciting, unusual results.

Yesterday, I received an email informing me that I was being invited to serve as one of the first beta-testers of The Method. I’d have a chance to “sit” and have three musical portraits painted for me. So this afternoon, I logged into and gave it a shot. The website asked me to upload a series of original audio clips, as well as a photo. This data would then be interpreted by the website to create an original electronic composition. I wasn’t sure if it would take the content I gave it and sample it, or just be inspired by it. First, I supplied it with a photo of me from my honeymoon. I then gave it three audio clips:

  • A loop of me saying “The moving walkway is ending; please look down.”
  • A sample of me doing babytalk to Kayleigh, and her response.
  • A loop of a Tunisian malouf trio I recorded in Tunisia last year.

Once this was done, The Method went to work, composing an original work based on my inputs. The result is this song. It’s just over five minutes long, and is very reminiscent of the work of Terry Riley, Michael Nyman and Phillip Glass, each of whom often utilize electronic-like repetition in their compositions. Personally, I like the piece a lot, though I can see how people might dismiss it as being too repetitive. (It also has some crackle noises at the beginning, which must have occurred when The Method saved the mp3 file.) I’ll be very curious to see if my future experiments with The Method produce similar results. I’ll have to go out of my way to submit a photo and audio samples that are very different from the ones I just used.
So what’s next? For one thing, The Method is still in beta, so it’s not totally ready for prime time yet. Eventually, more people will be invited to sit for musical portraits, and even be invited back repeatedly to work with Townshend and his collaborators to expand them into major works. They’ll also take their show on the road, doing live performances of some of the compositions, with sitters like me invited to attend and potentially participate.
Meanwhile, any musical works produced by The Method will be co-owned by Townshend and the sitter. For all practical purposes, that means that if you sit for a musical portrait, you can do whatever you choose with the results, as can Townshend. We just can’t veto the other’s uses of it. That way, we can both use it, refine it, sample it, license it and perform it. Not like I would ever say no to Pete if he wanted to incorporate it into a concert or anything like that. :-)
So that’s the result of my first experienced with networked musical composition. I can’t wait to do it again. -andy

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