Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Whale and Bird Song - The Biological Music of Sea and Air

The social ties of whales are strangely similar to those of a community of humans.  Humpback whales continuously migrate thousands of kilometers throughout their life times back and forth, north in the summer for food and ever south towards the equator in the winter where they breed.  They accompany their journey by singing elaborate group improvisations that actually seem to be the same songs over and over.  The songs are usually 5 to 35 minutes and range from 30 to 4000 hertz.  A song contains up to ten themes that are always sung in the same order.  A pause that lasts over a minute is considered a cycle.   The longest song cycle recorded (by Howard Winn) lasted 21 hours.   The Choir of whales with no leader will change phrasing, often staying on a certain phrase for a long time or shortening others.  Phrases evolve over time a phenomenon known as song drift which is closely related to language drift discussed in  "A Language" by Edward Sapirs.   Over time portions of the whale group songs will become completely different, sometimes unrecognizable from their earlier versions.   However, the main context often remains the same. It has been observed that the song cycles have start and stop themes for the most complex songs.  So why do the whales sing, maybe they just like the sound of it swelling in the water bouncing off under water mountains.  Perhaps whales make aesthetic choices. It has been speculated that the chorus of whales sing for the purpose of building bonds between pods of males,  but honestly no one knows why they sing the songs. Some think its for mating reasons but no one has observed those particular songs while mating.  instead in the tropics during the mating time the whales will sing territorial songs. 
     This is about as close as I think the songs of whales come to those of birds, which sing to repel males and to attract females.  Males sing songs to other males as a competition an alternative to going to physical war over territory or any other resources that could be used to attract mates.  The reason that the singing wars work is because signals that are more costly to produce are likely to be "honest". A weaker bird will be outclassed on every front physically and intellectually and instead of chancing injury will just leave. The intimidations of song rivalries can be seen through increases in intensity which take more energy & show the male condition. Overlapping another bird is a very aggressive move.  It has been learned from territorial playback and observation that territories brodcasting song stay unoccupied longer. 
    The other reason birds sing is to attract mates.  The number of songs that a bird knows shows the ability of the birds survival because an older bird will live longer and thus be able to learn more songs. Birds that match their neighbors songs are better breeders because we all know "chicks dig the songs they hear over and over again" (thats why Pop Music works) My real interest is in song switching which serves to confuse both birds and human observers.  Different birds use song switching differently.  Often birds will just sing a going through song where they say "hey I'm a robin, hey I'm a robin, hey I'm a robin"  According to the Sarah Collins "vocal fighting and flirting"  the song sparrow switches more frequently when aggressive, Redwing Blackbirds and Banded Wrens switch less.  In other birds the female is more likely to switch to attract males.  It all depends on the default non-aggressive state of each bird.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Work of Tripp S. Nestor

I would like to share the work of a friend and collaborator I met traveling in Europe. I have used a few of his Images before but will be turning to him for whatever custom art this blog needs.

Ladies and Germs,  May I present Tripp Nestor.

"A good portion of my friends are visual artists... I have been watching and admiring them for some time.  Sound is an excellent medium,  but my jealousy of the eyes became too great.   So I got a Wacom tablet,  and tried my hand at the whole Photoshop digital painting thing... I haven't gone back since"  -  Tripp Nestor

Saturday, March 6, 2010

SPOILER ALERT: Alice in Wonderland

Expect more Disney channel than Tim Burton or better yet don't bother...it's inevitable that you will anyway,  and I cant blame you.  I had high hopes too,  A director I respect, excellent actors, a timeless amazing story to serve as inspiration.  How could it go wrong?

I keep telling myself that it was not a lack of vision that movie suffered from but an over bearing corporation shadowing that vision and reigning it in, nullifying what could have been really special about it.   Instead you get watered down Tim Burton fingerprints scattered about Wonderland: dark circle eye shadow, serpentine trees, asymmetrical jail cells, doors and so forth.   The movie achieved the stereotype yet lacked the soul.  I spent the whole 109 minutes in anticipation for the movie to be removed from its leash,  and instead was rewarded with fortunate buoys placed to save the audience from drowning on a  sinking ship.

So fair enough, the animation was well made, the acting and voice talent was on par,  though I would have liked to see more of it than the cameo like quick snippits borrowed from the heritage of  Lewis Carrol's original Tale.   Helena Bonham Carter executed her part as the pouting Red Queen perfectly,  and in the end turned out to be the redemption of the film.  Sorry Johnny... Even Elfman who is notorious for using ghost writers and continuously declining in his creativity as a composer seemed to be doing pretty well with the music,  something that I was expecting to be frustrated with.   Thus I was almost willing to except the work as at least entertaining,  and then...

WHAT THE FUCK is up with that shit song for the ugly ass end credits... it forever ruined everything... All the waiting, all the watching; right down the toilet. All the talent wasted by crap producers... For what?  So disney can masturbate all over your face and laugh at you for buying a ticket. I could not get out of the theater fast enough.

I hate the world now... Art is dead.   Are money people really that tasteless.  How is it possible to suck that much...  Do your self a favor and start leaving the theater as soon as Alice gets on a boat.  Trust me.