• Nice interview with Tim, largely on _Infinite Detail_, for which there are some spoilers. And I liked this, on how important sound is to the book, and why:

    " It comes from a bunch of places. Mainly wanting to always write a book that addressed the science fictionality of Black electronic music. And to me it’s impossible to separate the music I’m writing about – and love – from the heard environment, the two are entwined."

I’ve greatly been enjoying A History of Music And Technology from the BBC World Service. It’s an eight-part series in conjunction with the Open University, available through the World Service’s “Documentary Podcast” (which syndicates recent documentary programmes). My friend Andy tipped me off to it, and it’s just wonderful.

Presented by Nick Mason, it casts an eye over the role of technology in 20th century music. To do so, it doesn’t just focus on the technical or artistic angles; it also takes time to look at economies of manufacturing, the nature of innovation, and the role business plays; lots of overlaps into STS in the best possible way.

It also manages go deep enough into all its topic areas to be satisfying, picking interesting interviewees – especially from the archive – and telling good stories. The Telharmonium pops up in both Electronic Music Pioneers and The Hammond Organ, for instance, and I enjoy the focus it places on ‘recording’ and ‘the studio’ as topic areas.

Episode 2, Electronic Music Pioneers, is particularly striking. It looks at early electronic music – covering the Theremin, the WDR, and so forth – but manages to retain focused by announcing early that The Synthesizer and The Hammond Organ are going to get their own 50-minute programmes – so it’s freed up to talk about the foundations for later innovation, rather than ramming it all together. (The show on the Hammond is a particularly fine one, looking at the way that instrument developed life and culture outside and contrary to what Laurens Hammond had intended for it).

Yes, there’s a bit in the episode on the electric guitar about the role of the guitar in a culture of increasingly electronic music that has a familiar, wooden clang… but by and large it’s a self-aware series that acknowledges the biases implicit through musical history.

Deep, meaty, and rewarding; I recommend listening before it goes off air. Individual episodes are here to be listened to:

  • A magical, brilliant teaching tool. Ableton's education/explanation team have always been top-notch, but this is great, and I am envious of it and them. I love how it starts with sound, and abstract explorations, before breaking those apart into components – amplitude, pitch, timbre – and only later mapping those to synthesizer components – all of which will work with a keyboard plugged in, thanks to webmidi. Grand stuff, and so great to see them investing in this sort of thing.
  • "…"there is no parallel here. Richter was a genius. He worked tirelessly for many years to perfect his piano playing. The lobster was some aberration. But what if it was not? What if the lobster was *essential*? What if every pianist needs a lobster? What if everyone needs a lobster for something?"

    So much in this huge essay by Errol Morris – on anxiety, on performance, on the piano, on consciousness, and how we offload our consciousness to small advisors – what a programmer knows as rubberducking. There is so much in here to love, and I probably need to reread it at least once.

  • "The things we love create us if we get to them early enough, but when we get to them a little bit later, they show us who we’ve already become, what we’ve accumulated, what we’ve chosen to discard and what we’ve clutched so close to ourselves for so long that its material has leaked into our own." More wonderful writing about The National from Helena Fitzgerald. Wonderfully written, and so on the nose about what loving bands, or people, or things, feels like.
  • "At the turn of the millennium, the internet seemed full of heartfelt pitches. Millions of users singing the praises of their favourite things – crowding around them, talking about them, calling for others to recognize their charms. Not the sturm und drang of social media: just clear-throated whoops, and echoes. Strangers like Pedro logging on to share their passions, not just once but every week, long after they had earned their Into the Grove membership rights, as if they couldn't help themselves."