Category Archives: Music

And now for something completely different. . .

Would you believe underwater music.

Yep, music played by musicians immersed in large aquaria and played on specially developed musical instruments.

From FuturePerfect Productions:

Between Music / AquaSonic Tour Begins May 27-29 2016 at Operadagen, Festival of New Music, Rotterdam

Program notes:

AquaSonic is the most ambitious project to date from Danish musicians Laila Skovmand and Robert Karlsson, in collaboration with members of their ensemble Between Music. The work presents five performers who submerge themselves in glass water tanks to play custom-made instruments and sing entirely underwater. Transformed inside these darkly glittering, aquatic chambers, they produce compositions that are both eerily melodic and powerfully resonant. AquaSonic is the culmination of years of research into the exciting possibilities of submerged musical performance, breaking barriers and challenging existing paradigms. The artists conducted countless experiments in collaboration with deep-sea divers, instrument makers and scientists to develop entirely new, highly specialized subaqueous instruments. These include an underwater organ or hydraulophone, crystallophone, rotacorda, percussion and violin. The team also perfected a distinctive vocal technique for underwater singing. The result is a concert experience completely out of the ordinary; a deep dive into a magical new universe of images and sounds.

The 2016 tour begins in Rotterdam, Holland at the Operadagen Festival of contemporary music.

FuturePerfect is a New York-based interdisciplinary production company focused on the intersection of live performance, media, visual art and technology. Wayne Ashley, the former Director of Arts in Multimedia at Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), founded the company in 2008.

FuturePerfect develops works through close and often long-term relationships with some of today’s most interesting artists, scientists, researchers and organizations. Through ongoing collaborations FuturePerfect generates and supports new directions in performance and visual culture through commissions, touring, consulting, residencies, presentations, and conferences. / /

Heavens above!: Hubble captures clusters

From NASA:


Hubble Sees a Swarm of Ancient Star Clusters around a Galaxy

This NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image shows star clusters encircling a galaxy, like bees buzzing around a hive. The hive in question is an edge-on lenticular galaxy NGC 5308, located just under 100 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Great Bear).

Members of a galaxy type that lies somewhere between an elliptical and a spiral galaxy, lenticular galaxies such as NGC 5308 are disk galaxies that have used up, or lost, the majority of their gas and dust. As a result, they experience very little ongoing star formation and consist mainly of old and aging stars. On Oct. 9, 1996, scientists saw one of NGC 5308’s aging stars meet dramatic demise, exploding as a spectacular Type la supernova.

Lenticular galaxies are often orbited by gravitationally bound collections of hundreds of thousands of older stars. Called globular clusters, these dense collections of stars form a delicate halo as they orbit around the main body of NGC 5308, appearing as bright dots on the dark sky.

The dim, irregular galaxy to the right of NGC 5308 is known as SDSS J134646.18+605911.9.

Image credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA; Acknowledgement: Judy Schmidt
Text credit: European Space Agency

Mike Luckovich: Graduation present

From the editorial cartoonist of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

BLOG Lucko

The image is drawn from a famous movie poster for a 1967 classic that may be unfamiliar to younger viewers, co-starring the spouse of Mel Brooks and with a sound track that includes a Simon and Garfunkel hit song later covered by everyone from Frank Sinatra and Chet Atkins to the Lemonheads.

BLOG Graduate

Puerto Rico, red meat to predatory banksters

The power of predators to draft American financial laws should be apparent to anyone by now, but it’s still shocking to see how viciously those laws impact the lives of men, women, and children who are both citizens and colonial subjects.

Puerto Rico is the classic example, a territory whose natives are by birthright U.S. citizens, yet are simultaneously exempt from laws created to protect citizens who happen to be born in states rather than territories.

Leave it to John Oliver and his gifted staff of researchers to get to bottom of things, with a little musical help from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the hottest ticket on Broadway.

From Last Week Tonight with John Oliver:

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Puerto Rico

Program notes:

Puerto Rico is suffering a massive debt crisis. Lin-Manuel Miranda joins John Oliver to call for relief.

And now for something completely different. . .

Take some old photographs of American cities, add some animation chops [including the coolest steampunk time machine we’ve ever seen], and some timely music [Al Bowlly’s rendition of “Guilty”], and presto. . .

And do pop it up to full screen!

From seccovan [where you’ll find more delightful animations]:

“The Old New World” [Photo-based animation project]

From PetaPixel, where we spotted it:

Here’s an amazing short film titled “The Old New World” by photographer and animator Alexey Zakharov of Moscow, Russia. Zakharov found old photos of US cities from the early 1900s and brought them to life.

The photos show New York, Boston, Detroit, Washington, D.C., and Baltimore between 1900 and 1940, and were obtained from the website Shorpy.

It’s a “photo-based animation project” that offers a “travel back in time with a little steampunk time machine,” Zakharov says. “The main part of this video was made with camera projection based on photos.”

Another alien invader, this time it’s botanical

We open with a video from the University of California, Riverside:

The Good, the Bad and the Tumbleweed

Program notes:

University of California, Riverside researchers found that a new species of tumbleweed dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

And the story from the UCR newsroom:

Two invasive species of tumbleweed have hybridized to create a new species of tumbleweed that University of California, Riverside researchers found has dramatically expanded its geographic range in California in just a decade.

The UC Riverside researchers believe Salsola ryanii is likely to become an important invasive species that could spread beyond California to other states.

“Given how quickly it has spread, this species has the potential to be a problematic invasive,” said Shana R. Welles, who is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Arizona but did the tumbleweed research as a graduate student at UC Riverside. “We want to make sure people know that and try to manage this species when it still had a relatively narrow range.”

Welles outlined the findings in a just-published paper co-authored by her Ph.D. advisor, Norman C. Ellstrand, a professor of genetics and a member of UC Riverside’s Institute for Integrative Genome Biology. The paper [An $8 paywall — esnl], “Rapid range expansion of a newly formed allopolyploid weed in the genus Salsola,” was published in the American Journal of Botany.

The new species of tumbleweed (Salsola ryanii) was first documented by California Department of Food and Agriculture scientists in 2002. Surveying throughout California, those scientists found the species in two areas of the state’s Central Valley in 2002. It was also documented by a wider group of scientists in a third area of the Central Valley in 2009.

The UC Riverside researchers did their field work in 2012, collecting tumbleweed from 53 sites throughout California. They found the new species at 15 of those sites. They found it throughout the Central Valley, but also in coastal areas around San Francisco and as far south as the Ventura area.

The results strongly contradict predictions in earlier studies that Salsola ryanii would not likely become invasive.

Salsola ryanii is an allopolyploid, an organism with two or more complete sets of chromosomes derived from different species, formed via hybridization between two other invasive tumbleweed species: Salsola tragus and Salsola australis. (Allopolyploids are not rare among plants. For example, wheat and cotton are also allopolyploids.)

Salsola australis is invasive in California and Arizona and is likely native to Australia or South Africa. It was not recognized as a distinct species until 2000.

Salsola tragus is a problematic weed in 48 states, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and has been described as having the most rapid spread of any introduced species. Its native range extends from north Africa and western Russia, through Asia into northeast Siberia and northeast China.

The three species of tumbleweed are not distinguishable to the average person, said Welles, who earned her Ph.D. from UC Riverside in 2015. She used DNA testing to determine the species of the samples she collected.

The researchers believe the population expansion of the Salsola ryanii species is due to two reasons: dispersal of seeds from individual plants due in large part to the “tumbling” phenomenon and multiple independent hybridizations of the two original tumbleweed species. Future research will further examine this issue.

We have to say that the university definitely went with the wrong music on their video. Here’s what we’d have used:

Slim Whitman – Tumbling Tumbleweeds

And now for something completely different. . .

Image Rube Goldberg had become a pop musician instead of one of America’s greatest-ever political cartoonists.

Reuben Garrett Lucius Goldberg was born in San Francisco in 1883 and by the time he died in 1970, his name was both a household word and his first name was on the award given to the Cartoonist of the Year by the National Cartoonist’s Society.

So what was a Rube Goldberg Machine?

Here are some examples of his work, starting with a pre-iPhone selfie machine:

BLOG Rube 3
And an inspiration that struck whilst on a trip to Europe:

BLOG Rube 2

Marvin Glass, directly inspired by Goldberg’s delightful madness, invented a game which most parents will know: the ever-popular Mouse Trap:

BLOG Mousetrap
Now that brings us to our video, a remarkable musical Rube Goldberg machine created by Martin Molin of the Swedish pop group Wintergatan:

Wintergatan – Marble Machine (music instrument using 2000 marbles)

Program notes:

Marble Machine built and composed by Martin Molin

Video filmed and edited by Hannes Knutsson

Costume designed by Angelique Nagtegaal

Swedish band Wintergatan will play live concerts starting from summer 2016. For booking inquiries email:

The marble machine isn’t their first venture into the literal genre of, well,  technopop.

Here’s a 2013 video of a performance in which an old-fashioned slide projector becomes not only a visual feature but the band’s percussion instrument as well:

Wintergatan – Starmachine2000

Program notes:

Welcome to the World Of Wintergatan

In May 2013 we will release our debut album and go on tour playing live starting up in mostly Sweden and Norway and a little in Europe. Hope to see you there!

All the best from Sweden and us and take care.

Martin David Evelina Marcus – Wintergatan

And to close, another 2013 performance, including a look at the amazing array of instruments they use:

Wintergatan – Sommarfågel