It’s Not Fair! Eggheads Breakdown Music Geometrically, But Clueless Musicians Still Get All the Groupies

“Music of the Spheres,” ratio-driven explanations, 12-note scales, circle of fifths, meantone tuning, the Greek genera... music and math have been close acquaintances for centuries, but perhaps never has music been analyzed in such a displayable fashion. Three professors -- Clifton Callender of Florida State University and Ian Quinn and Dmitri Tymoczko of Princeton University -- have devised a method that places musical language into contemporary geometry. Expanding on earlier work by Tymoczko (which is dealt with nicely by Julie Rehmeyer on Mathtrek here), the three profs published “Generalized Voice-Leading Spaces” in the April 18 issue of Science, and the work has been widely praised. As Rachel Wells Hall of St Joseph's University claims, it “stands out both for the breadth of its musical implications and the depth of its mathematical content.” Assigning mathematical structure to families of chords, notes, scales, and using levels of abstraction, the "geometrical music theory" places music into "quotient spaces," ultimately generating geometrical figures.

Callendar, quoted on EurekAlert, tries to layperson the theory:

Imagine being near the peak of a mountain and needing to get to the immediately opposite location. You could proceed clockwise around the peak, counter-clockwise, or directly over the peak. These same three paths represent unique types of motions between major and minor triads in the space of three-note chord types, which is a cone. In fact, these motions and chords have been ubiquitous in Western music since medieval times to the present day.

Callender, you had me at “Imagine...”

Speaking in “future of music” terms, a few interesting questions arise:

- Are there chords and scales floating in geometric space that are rarely used or have yet to be discovered?
- What applications can the theory have in differentiating the superiority of certain musical styles (perfect for jazz snobs who can now mathematically prove their preferred racket is structurally more complex than the preferred rackets of rock, reggae, blues, techno, etc.)?
- Can the theory be applied to Eastern music, or is it just amenable to Western music?
- Can it translate Japanese noise legend Merzbow?
- What good is a geometry-based theory when everyone knows all songs employ the same three chords?

As far as practical applications are concerned, Tymoczko, courtesy of Scientific Blogging, says, “You could create new kinds of musical instruments or new kinds of toys. You could create new kinds of visualization tools -- imagine going to a classical music concert where the music was being translated visually. We could change the way we educate musicians.” Um, I guess he’s never played anything on Windows Media Player?

Tymoczko adds, “The most satisfying aspect of this research is that we can now see that there is a logical structure linking many, many different musical concepts. To some extent, we can represent the history of music as a long process of exploring different symmetries and different geometries.”

Although some will argue that such a deep understanding renders art emotionless or unlovable, that line of reasoning couldn't be further from the truth. Theory lovers know that base understanding only makes something cold if you are cold. Delving and appreciating underlying foundations and multiple levels of anything can lead one to beauty unimagined by shallow surface-dwellers. Imagine the satisfaction you will get when your “Man, this part of Rush's ‘Spirit of the Radio’ kicks ten kinds of ass!” is coupled with an appreciation of its categorization of “OPTIC symmetries?” Forget math rock; mathletes are your new gods!

Nickelback’s Chad Kroeger, The Folk Hero, Gets Served

Justice has finally been served. Not in the sense that justice has been delivered, but in the way Stan and his friends got served by a neighboring dance crew. Let's tip the scales, shall we?

Chad Kroeger, the banal growling frontman of Nickelback, was pulled over by the Canadian authorities at the typically suitable time of 2 AM on June 22, 2006. He was driving his $175,000 Lamborghini at estimated speeds of over 160 km/h (or 100 mp/h). Naturally, given the hour of the incident, he stank of booze and prompted a breathalyser test. His blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. Chad pled not guilty anyway.

By some small miracle of faith, the court didn't go for the innocence plea and sentenced Kroeger with the harshest of penalties. On May 2, He received a $600 fine and a suspended license for a whole year. $600 wouldn't even buy a floor mat from the car he was driving, yet he still plans on appealing the ruling.

I mean, how could he ever afford a chauffeur? It's not like his band hasn't sold some 30 million albums or anything. I would hope if this happened in the U.S., the police would at least have the decency to drag him out the car by his curly mullet and curb stomp him against his diamond encrusted hubcaps untill he sobered up enough to be thrown in jail. He deserves nothing less than the star treatment, after all.

Starbucks Diverts Attention Away From Its Music Label And Back to Its Non-Free Trade Beans

Don't want to toot my own horn, but I saw this coming. Last week, Starbucks reported that it will be shifting attention away from its joint venture label, Hear Music, and back to its bread ‘n’ butter... uh, coffee beans. The decision was made due to minuscule gains in the music industry last year coupled with an overall company drop of 21%, from $150.8 million to $108.7 million.

Starbucks says the nosedive is due to decreased customer traffic. Not that Starbucks ever had a well-defined customer base, but its decision to stock Paul McCartney and Hilary McRae probably didn't do much to attract the younger demographic. Who wants their "Starbucks experience" to signify midlife crisis?

According to Howard Schultz, some Starbucks dude:

"Fiscal 2008 is a transitional year for Starbucks and, while our financial results are clearly being impacted by reduced frequency to our U.S. stores, we believe that as we continue to execute on the initiatives generated by our transformation agenda, we will reinvigorate the Starbucks experience for our customers."

Nine Inch Nails Release Free Album Again, Kinda Pull A Second “Radiohead”

I know a band with a lot of leisure time, and it ain't Lightning Bolt! (Because they're recording a new album in the studio right now.) It's Nine Inch Nails, and I know this because, well, they released yet another album online via their website, a quick "follow-up" to Ghosts I-IV (TMT Review). Titled The Slip, the 10-song release contains "The Discipline," a single that also garnered headlines like "Nine Inch Nails release free single!" when the band posted it on its website a couple weeks back (as if no band had ever done that before).

Take it, Trent:

as a thank you to our fans for your continued support, we are giving away the new nine inch nails album one hundred percent free, exclusively via

the music is available in a variety of formats including high-quality MP3, FLAC or M4A lossless at CD quality and even higher-than-CD quality 24/96 WAVE. your link will include all options - all free. all downloads include a PDF with artwork and credits.

for those of you interested in physical products, fear not. we plan to make a version of this release available on CD and vinyl in july. details coming soon.

And, similar to Ghosts, The Slip, has been released under the awesome Creative Commons license.

The Slip tracklisting:

1. 999,999
2. 1,000,000
3. Letting You
4. Discipline
5. Echoplex
6. Head Down
7. Lights in the Sky
8. Corona Radiata
9. The Four of Us Are Dying
10. Demon Seed

Length: 43:45. Check the tourdates here.

Joe Lally Embarks On Solo Tour, Fugazi Continues On With Frustrating Hiatus

Since 2002, my favorite band in the entire world, Fugazi, has been on indefinite hiatus. Do you know how difficult it is to call a band your favorite when you can’t even see them live or anticipate them releasing new music? I’ll tell you, it’s pretty difficult.

Thankfully, the members of Fugazi don’t completely hate their fans, as they’ve been respectively working on solo projects and producing other bands, keeping themselves just slightly in the public eye. Case in point: bassist Joe Lally, who is embarking on a solo tour this month in support of his newest album, Nothing Is Underrated. Whatever you do, don’t be that asshole in the crowd who yells out for him to play “Waiting Room”; that shit’s not cool.

Joe Lally Is Underrated:


Surprise! While you were smoking pot and passing out on your couch for the 17th night in a row, we gnomes were working overtime at TMT headquarters, running dangerous experiments, and offering human sacrifices to the media gods. Well, our work has finally paid off. Allow us to introduce to you the one, the only, the first, the last, the ultimate... TMT FILM!

That’s right, kids, your favorite music site is venturing into the world of moving pictures. We’ll be bringing you new content every week, including reviews, features, and coverage of film festivals around the country. Because TMT Film emerged organically from the interests of the TMT staff, we’ll be covering the kinds of movies that are most exciting to us and, we hope, to all of you. Our focus will be on independent and underground movies, foreign films, revivals, and cult stuff. That isn’t to say that we won’t offer a unique take on more mainstream fare from time to time, but, as with our music content, we want to spread the word about great work that is flying under the radar rather than add to the overexposure of blockbusters.

We know that change can be frightening at first, so we want to make sure everyone understands that the old TMT that we all love isn’t going anywhere. Music is still the center of our universe, but, as Woody Allen feared in Annie Hall, the universe is expanding. We’re not going for world domination, brand expansion, or any of that other bullshit. And we wouldn’t dream of reducing our music coverage by even a little bit.

So, click here for TMT Film. We hope you love it and can’t wait to hear what you think.

No Band Is an Island. Except Islands. Islands Is an Island; Also, Diamonds Reported on the Human Highway

When you look past the trees and see the forest, you know you’re in a safe, sane state of mind. When you look past the trees and see islands, you know you are in for a long time spent McGyvering tools, spearing fish, and talking to yourself and to painted volleyballs. Not all is lost if you see the right Islands, however. For example, if you see the six good-time goofs that comprise the band Islands, consider yourself blessed for the opportunity, regardless of the given geographical location. Islands have been playing dates already but have announced a more expansive tour that will take them throughout North America, starting May 22 in Washington, DC. Forever exuding optimism, a bit of deadpan comedy, and a love of patchwork quilts (possibly), Nicholas Thorburn and co. are a perennial audience favorite.

La isla bonita:
05.01.08 - Birmingham, AL - Bottletree
05.22.08 - Washington, DC - Black Cat
05.23.08 - Philadelphia, PA - First Unit
05.24.08 - New York, NY - Webster Hall
05.25.08 - Boston, MA - Middle East
05.27.08 - Ottawa, Ontario - Babylon
05.28.08 - Montréal, Quebec - Le National
05.29.08 - Toronto, Ontario - Phoenix
05.30.08 - London, Ontario - Call the Office
05.31.08 - Waterloo, Ontario - Starlight
06.01.08 - Detroit, MI - Crofoot
06.02.08 - Chicago, IL - Logan Square Auditorium
06.03.08 - Minneapolis, MN - First Ave
06.04.08 - Fargo, MN - The Aquarium
06.05.08 - Winnipeg, Manitoba - West End cultural Centre
06.06.08 - Saskatoon, Saskatchewan - Amigo’s
06.07.08 - Edmonton, Alberta - Starlite
06.08.08 - Calgary, Alberta - Warehouse
06.10.08 - Vancouver, British Columbia - Plaza Club
06.12.08 - Seattle, WA - Neumos
06.13.08 - Portland, OR - Hawthorne
06.14.08 - Eugene, OR - U of O Grad Fest
06.16.08 - San Francisco, CA - Bimbo’s
06.17.08 - Los Angeles, CA - Henry Fonda Theater
06.19.08 - San Diego, CA - Epicentre
06.20.08 - Tucson, AZ - Club Congress
06.21.08 - Phoenix, AZ - Club House
06.23.08 - Austin, TX - Emo’s
06.24.08 - Dallas, TX - Granada
06.25.08 - Houston, TX - Walter’s
06.26.08 - Baton Rouge, LA - Chelsea’s Café
06.27.08 - Atlanta, GA - Masquerade
06.28.08 - Charlotte, NC - Neighborhood Theatre

If seeing the Montréal-bred sextet bounce around on stage isn't your bag, you have to at least pick up Arm's Way, Islands' second coming, which will be available May 20 through ANTI-. To not do so would be a crime against both good judgment and sanity. Period.

The Ways of The Arm:

1. The Arm
2. Pieces of You
3. J’aime vous voir quitter
4. Abominable Snow
5. Creeper
6. Kids Don’t Know Shit
7. Life in Jail
8. In the Rushes
9. We Swim
10. To a Bond
11. I Feel Evil Creeping In
12. Vertigo (If It’s a Crime)

Thorburn (don’t you hate it when musicians grow up and revert to their given surnames? Bring back Nick “Niel” Diamonds!), together with Canadian singer-songwriter, former Islands player, and Royal City/Three Gut Records lynchpin Jim Guthrie, have formed an old-fashioned r ‘n’ r combo called Human Highway. Human Highway will release its album Moody Motorcycle August 19 on Suicide Squeeze (Secret City Records in Canada). Expect an orgy of Everly Brothers-styled oldies and, according to label monkeys, “hot man-on-man vocal action.” Hmm, about time!

In addition to Jonathan Richman’s assertion that Pablo Picasso was never called an asshole, the chameleonic Cubist was good for a quote or two, too. Speaking about the still-life paintings of Cezanne, he said, “If there were not anxiety behind those apples, Cezanne would not interest me any more than Bouguereau.” The same thing can be said about the music of Ray Raposa, who plies his trade under the guise of Castanets (minus the Bouguereau thing). Although he often adds a deft dose of experimentation to his brittle beauties, it is what is not on display that is so admirable and intriguing. There's always tension beneath the sparse but passionate surface.

Few labels embrace the audio/visual relationship quite like Asthmatic Kitty Records. Not that long after issuing their first DVD collection Encyclopedia Asthmatica, which details the rich history of the label from early, charming (I won’t say amateur) works to full-bloom works of art, comes the announcement of Tendrils, a DVD of Castanets cover songs to be released May 22 by the label. In keeping with his own declaration that “The recorded version of the song is not necessarily the definitive version of the song,” Raposa sees his songs interpreted by a host of friends and past collaborators, including Phosphorescent and members of The Dirty Projectors and Vanishing Voice, as well as original vids by director Mia Ferm. Pre-orders and orders will come with a download card for an exclusive new Castanets EP.

1. Rain Will Come (Dave Longstreth)
2. Remix On Post Apocalyptic Music (G. Lucas Crane)
3. This Is The Early Game (Golden Ghost & Silver Spokes
4. Jump Cuts And Hip Hop (John Chavez)
5. Strong Animal (Sayard Egan and Angel Deradoorian)
6. Dirty Jokes & Billiards (Jesse Ainslie)
7. Sway (Marla Hansen)
8. Lost Lyrics (recited by Matt Lorenz in Farsi with Polish subtitles)
9. Three Months Paid (Jesse Ainslie)
10. Interlude At Miller's Pond I
11. Night Is When You Can Not See (Tucker Dulin and Ben Piekut)
12. Interlude At Miller's Pond II
13. Noise Prelude To City Of Refuge (Ray and G. Lucas Crane)
14. On Genre/Spaces (Ben Piekut)
15. And the Swimming (Phosphorescent)

Well, you can call him Ray, or you can call him Jay... um, on second thought, you should call him Ray because that is his name! Ray being Ray Raposa, Castanets’ one steady soul, who will be playing a bunch of dates, with Meg Noe in tow. Go and see these, Euro buuuu-ddies (and you can call me Pauly Shore)

05.02.08 - Haarlem, Netherlands - Patronaat
05.03.08 - Offenbach, Germany - Hafen 2
05.04.08 - Lille, France - La Malterie
05.05.08 - London, England - Windmill
05.06.08 - Hove, England - Greenhouse Effect
05.07.08 - Manchester, England - Dulcimer
05.08.08 - York, England - The Basement
05.10.08 - Coventry, England - Taylor John's House
05.11.08 - Nantes, France - Cafe Grimault
05.12.08 - Rennes, France - 1929
05.13.08 - Paris, France - Le Point Ephemere
05.15.08 - Basel, Switzerland - Kaserne
05.16.08 - Düdingen, Switzerland - Bad Bonn
05.17.08 - Ravenna, Italy - Hana Bi
05.18.08 - Trieste, Italy - Tetris
05.19.08 - Zagreb, Croatia - Kset
05.20.08 - Maribor, Slovenia - Pekarna
05.21.08 - Prague, Czech Republic - Skutecnost
05.22.08 - Berlin, Germany - Schokoladen
05.23.08 - Hamburg, Germany - Ãœbel und Gefährlich #
05.24.08 - Bremen, Germany - Spedition (Guterbahnhof)
05.25.08 - Cologne, Germany - Kulturbunker-Mulheim
05.26.08 - Trier, Germany - Ex_Haus
05.27.08 - Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso
05.28.08 - Utrecht, Netherlands - Ekko

# Stereo Total

Get Me A Double-Disc of Patti Smith, Stat. Kevin Shields and Grandmother of Punk Team Up To Save Your Soul With Coral Sea Release

Oh, shit! Insipid enemy pop music has infiltrated your brain, triggering a meaningless obsession with sing-song melodies and catchy, vapid lyricism that makes you both docile and boring as hell. Is it too late for you? Probably. But look! Here comes bad-ass musical vigilante Patti Smith, arriving live, on the scene to save your soul from the black hole of Vampire Weekend CD-Rs from which there is no return. And by her side? None other than Bloody Valentine/upcoming ATP curator Kevin Shields.

Their master plan: take two live recordings of sold-out performances of The Coral Sea, Smith's posthumous tribute to friend and photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, dust ’em off, shine ’em up, and inject them into your C-G-D chord progression-loving veins.

The double-disc is set to be released July 11 on the duo's own imprint, PASK, and will be the first official issuing of the 2005/2006 recordings of the two London shows. Now, this ain't no pussyfooting around. Shields and Smith are serious about emotional resuscitation, and you best not let them down. Dealing with Mapplethorpe's terminal illness by way of frenzied spoken-word prose and backed by a climactic storm of drone and noise, Coral Sea is an epic elegy of what can only be described as "a kind of screaming requiem." Nineteen years after Mapplethorpe's death, Smith's performance is as raw and anguished as ever, which should move your cold heart to feeling a little compassion, a little distress, a little empathy -- anything? No? You selfish bastard, you.

Lemuria Touring with The Queers, Bomb the Music Industry; What the Hell Kind Of a Band Name is Bomb the Music Industry

Lemuria are from Buffalo, New York. I’m told there’s a house in Buffalo that used to be a funeral parlor where they put on shows and have loud parties. The basements of funeral parlors are traditionally (and probably) used to hold terrifying things. As a person entrusted with an audience of millions, I feel obligated to inform any potential attendees of the shows listed below that Lemuria is probably haunted.

Lemuria are, however, a fine band. You may be considering taking the risk and seeing them anyway. I certainly am. As such, I have included here a list of notable ways to ward off various kinds of popular monsters:

- Vampires: Garlic, holy water, wild roses, sprinkling mustard seeds on your roof -- sometimes vampires can’t come into your house unless you invite them.

- Werewolves: Wolfsbane and pure silver (which will cause more pain) are the easiest ways. Contrary to popular belief, you probably can’t become a werewolf just by being bitten by a werewolf. You usually need to be the seventh son or to run afoul of a satanic sorcerer.

- Cthulhu: Neither your memory nor the written word itself will have any use, but if you know one of the Air Beings, you might want to give him or her a call.

- Banshees: Don’t worry too much about banshees; they probably only mean one of your friends or family is about to die. They are also attractive.

PS: Lemuria’s newest LP, Get Better, was released a couple of months ago on Asian Man Records.

News You Can Use:

^ The Ergs!

% Los Nervios, Hay Silencio

# Anti Sociales, Gio y Los Policias

& Diente Perro, Juventud Crasa, Un Final Fatal, Jenny Fatale & Los Degolladores

* The Queers, Bomb the Music Industry, Andrew Jackson Jihad, and Kepi Ghoulie



  • Recent
  • Popular