Monday, June 3, 2013

Literature Is News That Stays News

There have been recent developments in some news stories we reported in 2012. Let's catch up.

1. The Voices of the Little Monsters Were Exceedingly Unpleasant

In 2012 scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley Labs used non-contact 3D imaging technology to "play" the audio from an 1888 tin sound cylinder from an Edison Talking Doll. This feat enabled the cylinder to be enshrined in the Library of Congress National Recording Registry of "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant" recordings.

Now, they've done it again, digitally recovering a 128-year-old recording of Alexander Graham Bell's voice, enabling people to hear the famed inventor speak for the first time. The recording ends with Bell saying “in witness whereof, hear my voice, Alexander Graham Bell."

In the case of the Bell recording, 2D scanning technology was used to map the surface of a circular disc to rectangular format, a technique developed over many trial runs harvesting audio from damaged 78 rpm records. The great inventor's voice can be heard here. Details and images from the project are here as Cat. No. 287881-A.

2. The Social Bandwagon: Everyone {Likes, Retweets +1's} a Winner

Artistic works that build their audience slowly and sustain it for long periods are becoming rare. Most works live and die with their debut. Hollywood has known this for a long time. Cast, director, genre, story, and production values are irrelevant. The only thing that can predict the long-term box office success of a film is its opening weekend numbers.

But now,  according to the New York Times, a former statistics professor named Vinny Bruzzese has started to aggressively pitch a service he calls script evaluation. For as much as $20,000 per script, Mr. Bruzzese and a team of analysts compare the story structure and genre of a draft script with those of released movies, looking for clues to box-office success.

At best, the results confuse correlation with causation, the so-called Nickels Paradox. At worst, the analysis ignores originality. While, according to Mr, Bruzzese, bowling scenes tend to appear in many films that fail [TGD: for other reasons] and are thus "statistically unwise," bowling figures prominently in the enduring hit The Big Lebowski. Bet on the Coen Brothers for a hit, no matter what the historical numbers say.

3. Would Pandora Survive Russian Winter?

Since October 2012, Apple has been hinting they would introduce a streaming audio service in iTunes to compete with Pandora. Google already beat them to the punch, announcing Google Play Music All Access for $7.99/mo. But I don't think Google is a Pandora-killer.

However, Marketplace Radio now reports that an Apple announcement is imminent. Using their industry clout, Apple is securing support for "more functionality, like the ability to rewind or advance or announce the next five songs that are coming up. Things you can’t do on Pandora.” The temperature is dropping.

            Vinyl-to-Digital Restoration #57            

Artist: Steve Kuhn
Title: Last Year's Waltz
Genre: Jazz
Year: 1982

[] For a time, singer Sheila Jordan was a regular member of pianist Steve Kuhn's quartet, a group also including bassist Harvie Swartz and drummer Bob Moses. This live set finds the band performing five Kuhn originals, one apiece by Swartz and Steve Swallow, plus "I Remember You," "Confirmation" and a brief medley. Although Jordan functions as a member of the band, her highly appealing singing is the main reason to acquire this memorable and well-rounded disc. (The presence of this disc in my library may explain why I also own one title by Bob Moses as bandleader. Follow the metadata.)

© 2013 Thomas G. Dennehy. All rights reserved.