Category Archives: Music

Custom interfaces in Mathematica using Dynamic Module

In our last post, we explored how Fourier transforms can be used in Mathematica to make a frequency filter for audio files. That post was primarily concerned with implementing the appropriate transforms (and, of course, paying homage to the amazing talent of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis). The accompanying interactive tool had an extremely cumbersome interface. Here is a slightly better attempt, featuring a more widely known piece of music:

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Macklemore and Fourier

The Heist by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis is a masterpiece. It is clearly the best album of 2012, and I suspect it will go down alongside classics like IllmaticThe ChronicThe Marshall Mathers LP, and The College Dropout.

The lyric, symphonic, and emotional range of The Heist is impressive. You’ve probably heard the playful number one song “Thrift Shop”, but the heavier songs like “Same Love” (about gay marriage and civil rights) and “Starting Over” (about getting off the mat following relapse) show the Seattle duo at their most virtuosic.

In the video below, they are joined by Ray Dalton for a live radio performance of “Can’t Hold Us” on KEXP. Stay tuned until the end, when Dalton opens up his full register. I suggest you sit down before hitting play.

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Call it the decline and fall of popular music… maybe?

You’ve probably already experienced the agony that accompanies an infection of Carly Rae Jepsen’s inane earworm “Call Me Maybe”. You’ve probably also been subjected to the current number one song in America, Flo Rida’s “Whistle”, a ditty whose only creative merit is its ability to evade censorship despite its explicit subject material. These two songs are representative of a dismaying trend in popular music: songs are becoming symphonically simpler and more predictable.

Were Mr. Rida to read my pretentious lament over the state of popular music, he would undoubtedly counter that I lack data to support my claim. Do I have metrics to quantify a song’s banality? No. Fortunately, a group of researchers lead by Joan Serra of the Artificial Intelligence Research Institute in Spain does. In a recent Nature paper, “Measuring the Evolution of Contemporary Western Popular Music”, Serra’s team concludes that popular music is headed “towards less variety in pitch transitions, towards a consistent homogenization of the timbral palette, and towards louder and, in the end, potentially poorer volume dynamics.” So yes, Mr. Rida, there is science behind my assertion that popular music is becoming increasingly stupid.

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