Category: Technology

Spotify's new apps help the quest for love


A week after Spotify released its long-awaited iPad application, the popular online music streaming service is helping its millions of users look for love with two new apps.

Tastebuds and Fellody, which were released Thursday, plug into users’ musical tastes and provide matches based on their personalized playlists –- those who find it a deal breaker if a potential mate hates Kanye West or Katy Perry can find out online instead of during an awkward first date.

Tastebuds matches users with a potential partner based on the artists they have listened to the most on Spotify, and Fellody lets users drag and drop their playlists before searching for matches. Both apps allow users to filter results by gender, age and location.

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George Harrison guitar collection explored in new iPad app

George Harrison guitar collection explored in new iPad app

Beatles fans and guitar freaks have a fun new toy coming their way in February with the Guitar Collection: George Harrison, an iPad app that takes users on a virtual closeup tour of many of the instruments played by one of the most celebrated musicians in history.

The app will cost $9.99 and will be available on iTunes starting Feb. 23, two days before what would have been Harrison’s 69th birthday. It was developed by Harrison’s son, Dhani, a technologically facile musician who also plays in a couple bands of his own, thenewno2 and the mellow L.A. supergroup Fistful of Mercy with Joseph Arthur and Ben Harper.

It’s currently in use at the Grammy Museum’s exhibit “George Harrison: Living in the Material World," allowing visitors to closely examine the instruments through detailed photos and to explore each one’s history with documentation that shows when and where they were made, how Harrison acquired each one, and on which Beatles and solo Harrison songs they can be heard.

Here's a preview video for the app:

The George Harrison Guitar Collection from George Harrison  on Vimeo.

Photos by Steven Sebring offer a 360-degree view of each instrument, and each angle can be enlarged for the minutiae-minded to explore every scratch, dent and modification Harrison made to his musical arsenal.

There’s also a video section, not currently part of the Grammy Museum version, that includes recent footage of various musicians, including Dhani Harrison, Harper, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell and Queens of the Stone age/Eagles of Death Metal member Josh Homme, playing the iconic instruments.

Much of that footage was shot while the guitars have been on loan to the Grammy Museum for the L.A. exhibit.

Dhani Harrison also discusses the unique aspects of various instruments with Conan O’Brien, and former Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore is interviewed about George Harrison’s influence in the world of rock music.

The app reportedly will be updated as more guitars from Harrison's estate are documented, and updates will be available free to those who buy the app. The name of the app suggests it will be the first of a series that could offer a similar exploration and celebration of any number of guitar heroes’ collections.


Documentary examines George Harrison

Ringo Starr at the Troubadour for Sirius XM Town Hall session

Touring George Harrison's 'Material World' at the Grammy Museum

--Randy Lewis

Photo: George Harrison's "Rocky" Stratocaster guitar, currently on exhibit at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Credit: Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times.

Facebook makes listening to music downright social

Just heard a great new track you can't wait to have your friends experience? Facebook now makes it easy to listen to it together.

Facebook makes listening to music downright social
Everywhere you look, people are going about their lives to the tunes of their own personal soundtrack. They sweat through “YMCA” at the gym, pound out programming code to Rammstein's brutal beats and nurse broken hearts with a mournful Bach cello concerto.

In the last few decades, technology has transformed music from a social gathering experience to an intensely solitary one in which donning a pair of headphones in public is equivalent to shouting, “Leave me alone!”

But in a move that shows the pendulum is swinging back toward a more social listening experience,Facebook just rolled out a feature that allows users to listen to music online with their friends — and host virtual DJ parties.

“You can listen to the same song, at the exact same time,” Alexandre Roche, a product designer at Facebook, wrote in a blog post last week announcing the new feature, “so when your favorite vocal part comes in you can experience it together, just like when you're jamming out at a performance or dance club.”

The concept of “social listening” is a modern day twist on the days when friends got together to take turns playing music for each other. A Saturday night's entertainment meant bringing a stack of albums and a six-pack to someone's house.

On Facebook, listeners can be miles away, engaged in different activities but still be sharing a narrow slice of life.

“Someone else can be going about whatever they are doing, and through music, you can just jump into that reality and experience what they're experiencing,” Roche said in an interview. “If they're having a bad day, you can experience that with them. If they see that a friend is listening with them, it might even brighten their day.”

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Beats by Dr. Dre to sever ties with Monster Cable


Beats by Dr. Dre is parting ways with Monster Cable Products at year's end, according to a report from Bloomberg Business Week.

Dr. Dre and co-founder Jimmy Iovine partnered with the company to release their line of high-end headphones in 2009. Together they have released a host of hot-selling headphones, and even teamed with other artists such as Justin Beiber, Lady Gaga and Sean "Diddy" Combs for their own branded lines. Beats accounted for 53% of 2011's $1-billion headphone market according to market research company NPD Group, surprising given the explosion of celeb-fronted headphones from Quincy Jones, RZA, Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z and now 50 Cent.

At the end of the year, Beats’ five-year contact with Monster will end and Dre and Iovine have decided not to renew. Though both companies maintain the split is amicable, Bloomberg Business Week reported the two had been in disagreement over revenue share and who should take credit for the original concept.

Rumors that Iovine quickly dismissed to Pop & Hiss on Friday.

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Dinosaur Jr. reissuing its first three albums as 'Cassette Trilogy'

Dinosaur Jr Dinosaur Jr
Could there be a more fittingly named champion of the nascent revival of the audiocassette tape than the Amherst, Mass., indie rock group Dinosaur Jr.?

On the heels of the quick sellout earlier this year of the cassette reissue of the trio’s 1988 album “Bug,” Dinosaur Jr. is reissuing its first three albums in a limited-edition "Cassette Trilogy" package housed in a wooden box. It will be available for $39 through Joyful Noise Recordings' website beginning Dec. 13.

The band’s 1985 debut album, “Dinosaur,” and its sophomore effort, “You’re Living All Over Me” (1987),  will join “Bug” in the new set, which will be limited to 500 copies, the strategy a growing number of musicians are carrying out in the production on cassette tape, a term that coincidentally was dropped from the Oxford Dictionary earlier this year because editors deemed it antiquated.

The Joyful Noise also offers cassette versions of albums  from such acts as Of Montreal, Deerhoof, Marmoset and Joan of Arc.

The Dinosaur Jr. cassettes, it is noted in the press release, will be high-quality chrome tape. No word, however, whether they’ll use Dolby B, Dolby C or dbx noise-reduction systems, all of which also seem ripe fodder for the ancient audio format revivalists.

Dinosaur Jr. will come through the Southland on tour next month for performances in which the band will play “Bug” in its entirety. The local stops include a Dec. 12 date at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach on Dec. 13 and the Music Box in Hollywood on Dec. 14.


A sonic rewind

Reunited Dinosaur Jr roars back from near extinction

Oxford Dictionary removes 'cassette tape,' gets sound lashing from audiophiles

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Dinosaur Jr.'s "Cassette Trilogy." Courtesy of Joyful Noise Recordings.

Peter Gabriel's 'New Blood' tour documented on new CD, DVD/Blu-ray

Peter Gabriel's 'New Blood' tour is documented on a new CD, DVD/Blu-ray set
Maybe artistic freedom isn't everything it's cracked up to be. Just ask Peter Gabriel, the British rocker whose bold and innovative career choices musically, visually and theatrically would seem to make him the poster boy for the benefits of the unfettered artistic imagination.

Yet, as he's about to release the latest manifestation of a constantly evolving vision -- a new CD and a DVD/Blu-ray set from his "New Blood" tour for which he reconceived his own songs and favorites by other writers for full orchestra -- Gabriel talks like a musical Dirty Harry: a man who not only knows his limitations but welcomes them.

"I always think that the best way to frustrate an artist is to give him absolute freedom," Gabriel, 61, said in the same gentle, sandpapery voice that characterizes his signature songs "San Jacinto," "Biko," "Don’t Give Up," "Red Rain," "Shock the Monkey" and "Sledgehammer," some of which he revisited as part of his collaboration with the New Blood Orchestra, some of which he intentionally left out.

"If you want to give artists some support, make rules about what they can't do," he said. "So I've been trying to generate those rules for myself. In this case, John [Metcalfe, arranger for the New Blood Orchestra] and I wanted to strip away the rock crutches: the guitars and drum kits. Obviously, we use classical percussion, but we thought this created a situation where I couldn't hang on to the side any longer; I'd have to dive into the deep end of the pool and really explore the dynamic range of an orchestra. … What wasn't played was every bit as important as what was played."

Gabriel looks at the "New Blood" CD, released earlier this month, as an extension of last year's "Scratch My Back" album and tour, in which Gabriel recorded his interpretations, with John Metcalfe’s edgy orchestral arrangements, of songs he admires by other musicians such as Lou Reed, David Bowie, Randy Newman, Stephin Merritt and Arcade Fire. 

For the second leg of that tour, he included a larger dose of his own songs, newly arranged for orchestra. He alludes in the DVD to the originally planned second half of the “Scratch My Back” project -- an album of other artists interpreting his songs -- as still alive and well, albeit with no specific release date.

More than just adding strings to his best-known tunes, he and Metcalfe conceived a set list from the ground up.

Gabriel described the possibilities -- and limitations -- of working with the orchestra as "absolutely critical" in choosing which songs to adapt, and which to avoid. Jagged violins and ominous cellos and basses lay the sinister undercurrent for "Intruder," timpani provide the percussive thunder while violins and violas saw metronomically and insistent horns and woodwinds build the tension in "Rhythm of the Heat," and strings pulse powerfully rather than sweetly caress for "In Your Eyes."

"I didn't want to do a hits record," Gabriel said, "So 'Sledgehammer,' 'Big Time' and 'Games Without Frontiers' were consciously left out." That didn’t, however, stop some hits-minded fans from shouting out those titles when Gabriel first brought the project to the Hollywood Bowl in the spring of last year, before embarking on a more extensive tour last fall and winter.

"I was also trying to choose songs that might fit together as a sequence," he said. "I'm still old-fashioned enough to like an album that told me a story from start to finish. When I go to a film seminar, I may love the short films I see there, but I also sometimes want a film that may take an hour and 10 minutes or an hour and a half to get me to some other place.

"I'd rather have that when I want them than just the fast-food version for every little bit," he said, "which is obviously the way the culture has gone."

For the "New Blood" album, that left space for deeper cuts such as "Intruder" from his 1980 "Peter Gabriel" solo album, "Digging in the Dirt" from 1992’s "Us" and "Darkness" from 2002's "Up."

The DVD/Blu-ray set, which arrives today, also incorporates the evocative visuals that Gabriel, one of the masterminds of the music video in the early days of MTV, fully integrated into the New Blood performances. The "New Blood" DVD was shot at his performance earlier this year in London, which was enhanced with 3-D visuals. (A deluxe three-disc Blu-ray version also will be available.)

Yet there's another limitation that arises in shifting from the live arena to home video: the drastically reduced  size, which compromises the emotional impact those visuals contributed in the live setting. Gabriel embraces it as one of the givens of presenting his ideas across different media platforms.

"We did the 3-D version of the show in London, and one thing I love about the 3-D gimmick is that you can sit inside a space," Gabriel said of the presentation that included crimson-hued raindrops deluging the audience in "Red Rain," among other special effects. "In the same way that we were born with two ears, so stereo seems more natural than mono -- it’s spatial -- somehow, I feel exactly the same way with the visual.

"You can hold a slow pan much longer in 3-D and deliver more than you can maybe in 2-D because people can sense it from the inside of the space rather than looking from the outside," Gabriel said. "I don't know if it's perfect yet; it will be much easier when we don't have to wear glasses. But I love the fact we can do that; maybe that will be that future of the visual medium."


Peter Gabriel's "Big" deal

The future is his to download

Live review: Peter Gabriel at the Hollywood Bowl

-- Randy Lewis

Photo: Peter Gabriel during a London performance on his "New Blood" tour. Credit: York Tillyer

Steve Jobs gave 'the blind eyes; the deaf ears' -- Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder 
Stevie Wonder offered a perspective on Steve jobs’ impact on the world that didn’t get a lot of attention in the first round of reports about his death at age 56 on Wednesday from cancer.

“The one thing people aren’t talking about is how he has made his technology accessible to the blind and the deaf and people who are quadriplegics and paraplegics,” Wonder said when he called me Thursday afternoon. “He has affected not just my world, but the world of millions of people who without that technology would not be able to discover the world.”

Wonder first put his recording engineer, Femi Jiya, on the phone to talk specifically about how the various Apple products Jobs introduced over the last few decades had revolutionized the recording process.

“Because of what Apple has done with their technology, everything we’re using in the high-end recording situation is now accessible to everybody,” Jiya said. "A lot of that is through Steve Jobs and his love of music, and him wanting to get that technology to everybody at a reasonable cost.

“He developed Garage Band [recording and music editing software], so now a 15-year-old kid can be in his bedroom with his iPad playing around with Garage Band and come up with unbelievable ideas, which can then be taken to the next level… He has leveled the playing field; nobody else had done that.”

Jobs also expanded that field to include groups of people who previously had little or no access to many technological innovations. That’s what left the biggest impression on the 25-time Grammy Award winning singer, songwriter, instrumentalist and producer.

“His company was the first to come up with technology that made it accessible without screaming out loud, ‘This is for the blind, this is for the deaf,’ ” Wonder said. “He made it part of the actual unit itself; there were applications inside the technology that allowed you to use it or not use it. The iPhone, iPad touch, iPod touch, all these things, even now the computer, are accessible to those who are with a physical disability.

“In another sense, he has given the blind eyes to see the world, the deaf ears to hear the world," Wonder said. "I had wanted to meet him for a long time, and I’m just happy that before he passed away, I was able to meet him and say to him, ‘Look, you’ve changed the lives of millions and millions of people you may never ever meet. Truly you’ve been a blessing for those of us who’ve needed that kind of technology to do more things, to be part of this world, to be in this millennium.'

“I’m just hoping that his life and what he did in his life will encourage those who are living still and those who will be born, that it will encourage them and challenge them to do what he has done,” Wonder added, “and not making the whole concept so complicated that people can’t use it -- you just make it one of your applications, it’s in your technology. That will then create a world that will be accessible to anyone with any physical disability, and anyone can buy it, even if that person doesn’t have lots of money.”


Jobs rocked music business

Steve Jobs dies at 56; Apple's co-founder transformed computers and culture

Steve Jobs: More than a turnaround artist

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Stevie Wonder playing at the Hollywood Bowl in July. Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.

Music Tech: Mike Greene’s Realivox Vocal Palette gives voice to those ‘la-la-las'

Greene’s Realivox Vocal Palette software adds the female ‘oohs,’ ‘aahs’ and ‘la-la-las’ to a song. Coming soon is the male version of the software. 


Television and film composer Mike Greene was turning heads over the weekend at the 2011 National Assn. of Music Merchants show in Anaheim as he ran his fingers up and down the piano keyboard in front of him. Instead of the piano, organ or synthesizer sounds that typically emanate from such instruments, passersby heard the tones of a female voice singing “la-la-la-las,” complete with lifelike vibrato. It’s part of a Realivox Vocal Palette software package that Greene has created. Initially, he was just looking for a way to help himself in recording his own scores.

“I’d hire singers to come in,” Greene said, “then inevitably after they left, I realized I should have gotten them to record some background ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs,’ or something on a new part I wrote later.” His Realivox program contains some two dozen syllables — “ooh,” “aah,” “bop,” “doo,” “wah,” etc. — that he recorded with a variety of male and female singers, programmed in a way that brings them to life.

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Tech industry to RIAA, radio biz: Keep your 'legacy technology' demands away from our cellphones

NANO_EPA_3_The battle between recording and radio industries over performance rights royalties has moved to a new platform: your cellphone. The Consumer Electronics Assn., the trade group behind the annual CES event, has lashed out at the radio industry's push for FM radio tuners to be a government-mandated addition to mobile devices. 

"We believe that product design is the domain of innovators in the marketplace -- not the government," reads a letter signed by Gary Shapiro, CEA's president and chief executive. "As such, we will vigorously oppose any effort to force manufacturers by legislative fiat to include legacy technology in devices."

This isn't the first time the CEA has voiced opposition to the idea of FM tuners becoming a requirement for cellular devices. The concept was introduced by the National Assn. of Broadcasters earlier this year as part of its ongoing negotiations with the RIAA -- the Recording Industry Assn. of America -- over the introduction of performance rights royalties to the U.S. market. Currently, U.S. broadcasters pay only songwriters/music publishers for songs played on the air, whereas most countries also compensate the musicians and record labels.

Congress has requested the RIAA and NAB to work out a compromise after the House and Senate judiciary committees backed the Performance Rights Act, which would require broadcasters to pay royalties to musicians and labels. In agreeing for stations to pay about 1% of net revenue -- a figure that is estimated to generate an additional $100 million for the music industry -- the NAB has requested that FM tuners become mandatory in cellular devices. 

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Elvis Costello accelerates to 78 rpm for 'National Ransom'

Elvis Costello- 
Elvis Costello’s forthcoming album, “National Ransom,” mines a century’s worth of pop music history in both the characters, scenarios and themes in his songs, and in the atmospheric sound that producer  T Bone Burnett has given the record. 

So it makes perfect sense that Costello, a voracious fan of music of all styles, would want to add a vintage touch of some kind in conjunction with the album’s release come Nov. 2.

Vinyl LP version? Everyone’s doing that nowadays, so Costello is going one step beyond: He’s releasing four songs on a pair of 78 rpm discs.

A whimsical announcement about the 78s has been posted on Costello’s website, sounding much like the fancifully stylized introductions he gives his musical guests on the Sundance Channel “Spectacle” show:

“Lupe-O-Tone -- Purveyors of fine flat phonograph records & cylinders since 1913. Our motto is ‘Ego sum satus infremo.’ Lupe-O-Tone present 78 rpm discs in full Lycanthropic Sound. …‘A Slow Dance With Josephine’ b/w ‘You Hung the Moon’ and ‘Jimmie Standing in the Rain’ b/w ‘A Voice in the Dark,’ by the Lupotonians with vocal refrain by Elvis Costello.”

The 78s will be pressed in limited editions of 25 copies, each signed by Costello. No price is mentioned, but the announcement promises more details to come.

-- Randy Lewis

Photo of Elvis Costello during a 2009 performance at Amoeba Music in Hollywood. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times


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