Posts Tagged music

I did a poetry show, and you can watch it!


IMG_2370April 28 is Great Poetry Reading Day, so I’m going to share some videos of myself reciting my poetry for an audience. It isn’t reading, but it is poetry! Back in February, Johanna Van Tan asked me if I’d like to recite some poetry at her Sing, Talk, Feel event, along with Matylda Q and Stephanie Ora. The performance was two days before I flew off to JoCo Cruise, so I had a lot of other things to do, but, as you’ll hear in the second poem, this sort of opportunity is exactly what I’ve been preparing for. So I said yes, wrote a script to randomly generate a coherent setlist, ran the script enough times to get a setlist I wanted, and in whatever time was left after that, practised.

I recorded it, because it’s my first show and that’s quite a milestone. Besides, I record everything. I hope that some day I will be good enough that I’ll look back on this and cringe, but for now I’m pleasantly surprised by how well it went and how easily I can watch it without being self-conscious. Johanna improvised piano music behind my poems, which added a lot.

I think I did really well on my segues during this performance, and I love that Johanna played music through them, but that made it hard to find good points to split the recording without leaving comments that pertain to the wrong poem. I would recommend watching the whole playlist to get the full effect. There are links in the individual video descriptions with more information about each poem. Thanks to Thomas for pressing the button on my camera at the right time.

I wore an astronaut flight suit (bought from Kennedy Space Center, with patches from ESOC and a cosmonaut exhibition at London Science Museum added), because they say you should dress for the job you want, not the job you have. In future I plan to have all my props in various pockets of the suit, so I don’t have to bend down and get things out of bags and so on.

A week or so later, I performed a couple of poems as part of the ‘A Bunch of Monkeys Read Some Stuff’ event on JoCo Cruise. Here’s a playlist of the whole event, and here’s my part:

I also performed at the open mic on the cruise, but I haven’t uploaded my video of that yet; I record all of the shows I am allowed to on the cruise, and for the most part, upload them in order. I’m currently up to the afternoon of the fifth day. Subscribe to my YouTube channel if you want to keep up with my latest JoCo Cruise, poetry, or other videos. Once I’m done with the cruise videos and have checked with the other performers, I’ll also upload the video I have of the rest of the Sing, Talk, Feel event.

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Logan Awards Finalists (with links)


Recently I had the honour of being a fan juror for the Logan Whitehurst Memorial Awards for Excellence in Comedy Music (Logan Awards for short.) It was great to finally have an important reason to listen to comedy music for several full days, and a response to the eye-rolling of my friends when I mentioned yet another funny song, although deciding which songs to vote for was pretty tough. As a juror I had to listen to or watch all the songs and music videos nominated by the general public, and choose my favourite five nominees in each category. I can’t tell you which ones I voted for, but the finalists (chosen based on the votes of all the jurors, with ties broken by Dr. Demento) have been announced. Since the page on the Logan Awards site doesn’t link to the songs in question, I thought I’d link to them here. In alphabetical order:

Outstanding Parody Song

Out­stand­ing Orig­i­nal Com­edy Song

Out­stand­ing Com­edy Music Video

Here’s a YouTube playlist of the music video finalists:

The winners will be announced at FuMPFest on 5—7 June in Wheeling, Illinois. If you like funny music and are anywhere near there, I recommend going; it sounds like great fun. Many comedy musicians will be there, including guests of honour The Arrogant Worms. I saw some of the same performers and fans at the MarsCon 2014 dementia track, and it was a blast.

I’d like to give the other nominees a bit of publicity, but it’s difficult to do that without people making inferences about my votes, so here is a YouTube playlist of all the videos nominated in open nominations for the ‘Outstanding Comedy Music Video’ category, sorted in ascending order of views because the ones with the fewest views need the publicity more.

If you’re a Paul and Storm fan, you might be wondering why no songs from their 2014 album Ball Pit are in the finals. Some of their songs were nominated in the open nominations, but they became ineligible for the award when Paul Sabourin joined the jury. In honour of Paul’s noble sacrifice, I present to you a nominated video of this song of theirs which would have made the judging harder for me, if only because of all the freeze-framing to see the details:

If you’d like to hear more comedy music, consider subscribing to The FuMP podcasts, where you can get several comedy songs a week for free. You can find even more funny music on the Mad Music Archive, the Dr. Demento Show, or Songs About Science & Math. Also, check out the Logan Whitehurst website to find out about the awards’ namesake and buy his music.

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Better (Robot-to-Human version)


I’ve been thinking of getting my robot choir (an app I wrote to make my Mac’s speech synthesis sing) to sing Jonathan Coulton covers for a while, but as many of his songs involve robots, singing them with a robot voice forces a change of perspective. I rewrote Better to be from the perspective of a robot whose partner is becoming human, rather than a human whose partner is becoming a robot. Here‘s a rough recording of it using the Trinoids voice and the karaoke file for the song:

Here are the lyrics:

Where did we go?
When was the moment that we came unplugged?
I think I know.
In fact I am sure ’cause I’ve had your chips bugged.

I remember the first big surprise,
the day you came home with your infant-bred eyes.
I looked inside them and lased you a note
but your return signal was smoke.

But it’s not smoke, it’s fire,
and your burning desire
to turn into something
that I don’t require.
You used to be OK
and I liked you that way,
but I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

Started out small:
some lungs and a heart and your lasers unwired.
Now you’re just six feet tall.
Even when fully charged your organics get tired.
And I’m tired of the evenings I spend
making small talk with your new human friends
and their stupid insistence on blocking my lasers
when they know I know the three laws.

And you climbed the wrong way out
of the uncanny gorge.
You went from bad data
to bad Geordi La Forge.
You used to be OK
and I liked you that way,
but I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

So that’s how it goes.
Tap my interface once if you still understand.
No data flows.
Wait, are your digits just five on your hand?
I can tell by your insider art
There’s more than a pump in your chimpanzee heart.
I tried to reason, but something’s gone wrong.
Why am I singing a song?

Well, I like to think different, but it’s not quite the same.
If this is a trojan, I know who to blame.
You used to be flawless; now you’re F-ing lawless,
and I don’t think that I like you better.
No I don’t think that I like you better.

Some lines stay close to the original when I perhaps should have struck out and gone with something completely different. If you have any suggestions, let me know; the beauty of robots is I can change the words and make a new recording in seconds.

The tune is based on Spektugalo’s UltraStar file for that song. I had to make some changes to the robot choir to handle the one-beat gaps between notes, and I made a few tweaks to timing after that, which probably messed up more than they fixed. When I started writing this parody, I assumed I had the source tracks of the original song to work with, but it turns out that song is not on JoCo Looks Back, so all I have is the karaoke version with some backing vocals. I’ve turned the volume of my vocals way up, both so they’re easier to understand and to obscure the backing vocals more when the lyrics are not the same. Consider this a demo.

Now that I have the tune done, I’ll probably record the original song and my entitled hipster parody of it soon. Maybe not too soon, though; I have a cruise to go on!

On the subject of cruises, I’ve just had some copies of my They Might Not Be Giants poster printed, and I’ll bring them with me on JoCo Cruise Crazy. If you are going on the cruise (or will just be in the area the night before) and you would like to buy one from me for less than it would cost through Zazzle, let me know and I’ll make sure I bring one for you. I can’t sell them on board the ship due to the cruise line needing a cut, but I can do so at the hotel before the cruise, the cruise port or airport after, or we can work out some kind of trade involving upcharged food or drink on the ship. They are A3 sized (just a tiny bit smaller than 11×17 inches) and printed beautifully on 300gsm silk-coated paper.

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Video: Christmastime is Wunnerful (Robot Protectors cover)


I felt a bit bad about having to truncate the full-length instrumental that Colleen and Joseph made for JoCo Day is Wunnerful, so, having already taught my robot choir the main melody, I decided to record my own cover of Christmastime is Wunnerful. I was toying with the idea of making it a mashup with Jonathan Coulton’s other Christmas classic, Chiron Beta Prime (since the source tracks for that are available), when I realised that even without modification, Christmastime is Wunnerful is quite amusing to listen to while watching Tom Ellsworth‘s music video for Chiron Beta Prime. So I decided to edit that video (with Tom’s permission) to match my cover. Here is the result:

For comparison, here’s the original Chiron Beta Prime video. I didn’t have to change very much, really:

I had to pretty much abandon the ‘daily’ part of Holidailies because ended up flyng to New Zealand, which in itself takes more than a day without internet. But here’s some more holiday for you.

The voices I used were, in order of appearance:

Adult human male: Alex

Standard robots: Zarvox

Festive holiday figure robots for the purposes of augmenting human morale and productivity: Trinoids

Adult human female: Victoria

Human male emulation for the purposes of undetectable redaction: Ralph

Juvenile human: Junior

I also used the bells and ‘Message redacted’ tracks from Chiron Beta Prime, and the ‘Machines’ track from The Future Soon.

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Dinosaurs and Meteors (Arrogant Worms Parody)


Yesterday I read an article about quasicrystals in New Scientist (which I am still several issues behind in) in which Paul Steinhardt is quoted as saying:

It turns out with wealthy people there are two subjects they’re interested in: dinosaurs and meteors. We just had to find the meteorite people.

I immediately read the phrase ‘dinosaurs and meteors’ to the tune of ‘Tylenol and Clearasil’ from The Arrogant Worms’ song ‘The Prescription Drugs Song‘, and I put down the article to start writing a parody. This kind of thing happens to me a lot; I’m halfway through writing another parody inspired by a New Scientist headline I read last week.

I had the chorus written in pretty short order, then had to look up the rest of the lyrics to remember how it went. The verses have a lot of pauses for dramatic effect where I expect there to be more unstressed syllables, and it’s all somewhat irregular due to the way the quoted speech is read. Since I didn’t have the song available to listen to at the time, I just added in the syllables in most cases, making the verses sound a bit more like the chorus. Hopefully you understand how it’s meant to be sung, because as usual, I’m probably not going to sing it. Here are the lyrics:

I ended my first quarter, as broke as broke can be.
I wondered if my customers were twice as broke as me.
So I went to a rich man with the stock I hadn’t sold
hoping that he’d pay each worthless trinket’s weight in gold.

He said, “Fellow dirt-poor fellow, the highness of my birth
means I am far above the things that still are made on Earth.”
He pondered for a minute then he said, “I’ll tell you what,
I’ll give you the Earth for these two things I haven’t got.”
He asked for:

Dinosaurs and meteors, not diamond ores or needy orph-
-ans taking police academy course to fight crime dressed as bats,
chromatophores, or Apple stores, extant apex carnivores,
or coffee laced with fungal spores that’s pooped by civet cats.

I ended my second quarter, half-starved and far in debt,
with dust from Hayabusa that I shot a star to get
and amber-cased mosquitos that had dined on dino blood
and went back to the rich man, gave his door a torpid thud.

He said, “Fellow, dirt-poor fellow, this asteroid is dust.
If you can’t provide the meteor right, the rest I cannot trust
I’ll have to grow a dinosaur before you get your pay.”
He had his lawyer shut the door and tell me, “go away!”
I gave him:

Dinosaurs and meteors, not diamond ores or needy orph-
ans taking police academy course to fight crime dressed as bats,
chromatophores, or Apple stores, extant apex carnivores,
or coffee laced with fungal spores that’s pooped by civet cats.

I came back the third quarter, too poor for skin or bone
to ask if he could pay me for the dino he had grown,
but as I sat there chewing the remainder of my shoes
I faintly heard the rich man deliver his bad news.

He said, “Fellow, dirt-poor fellow, oh, I should have known!
My dinos were wiped out by your infernal deep-space stone!
So I have failed in my travail to ‘teach a man to fish’
but worms have turned and I have learned: be careful what I wish
’cause I got:

Dinosaurs and meteors, not diamond ores or needy orph-
ans taking police academy course to fight crime dressed as bats,
chromatophores, or Apple stores, extant apex carnivores,
or coffee laced with fungal spores that’s pooped by civet cats.

Dinosaurs and meteors, not diamond ores or needy orph-
ans taking police academy course to fight crime dressed as bats,
chromatophores, or Apple stores, extant apex carnivores,
or coffee laced with fungal spores that’s pooped by civet cats.”

…and I died and that was that.

Now, you might complain that Hayabusa is an asteroid, not a meteor, but since there’s no way to get a meteor, the rich man should have specified in the first place whether he wanted an asteroid, a meteoroid, or a meteorite. I’m not sure if rich people are particularly interested in chromatophores, but I like the word (and I especially like the rhythm of ‘cephalopod chromatophore‘) so I included it anyway. The other things all seem to be things certain people will pay a lot of money for.

Without planning it, I managed to mention the Arrogant Worms album titles ‘Dirt‘ and ‘Torpid‘ in this song, so I changed the original ‘shooting stone’ to ‘deep-space stone’ in order to mention ‘Space‘. The song this is parodying is on Beige.

On the subject of song parodies, I think I forgot to mention that Glen Raphael recorded a parody of Oasis’s Wonderwall about the van der Waals force, and I contributed some of the lyrics over Twitter.

If you need yet more funny music, James Dempsey has finally released an album of his songs about Cocoa development. I’ve been listening to him since a song he sang at WWDC 2003 was put online. You can see that 2003 Model View Controller song in the background of my music video for A Laptop Like You, at around 2:13, so who knows, perhaps that stealth advertising sent an average of half a viewer his way. Anyway, I saw James Dempsey do another song at WWDC 2004 and asked when he was going to release an album. Last week at NSScotland I even met a conditional Breakpoint (an occasional member of his band) and he said the album was doing really well on the Billboard comedy charts. Anyway, I love the new album and you should listen to if it you’ve ever done software development or if you just like listening to great-sounding funny songs you don’t understand.

Another thing you might want to do if you like geeky comedy is back the Kickstarter for the Full Frontal Nerdity DVD, featuring Helen Arney, Matt Parker and Steve Mould. Oh, and check out my friend Black Pig’s comic, and if you’re in Vienna, come to Open Phil! And I almost forgot, support Arrogant Worm Trevor Strong‘s Patreon. Gosh, there’s really too much cool stuff out there. Don’t worry if there isn’t time and space to do it all.

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Shit Your Inner Voice Says (a song)


I am learning about four-part harmonies, so I wrote and recorded [mp3] a short song about self-confidence and poop. Anyone with a head and a butt should understand; understand also that I do not condone headbutting buttheads. These are four voices that might accumulate in one’s head as a child grows up and vacillates between self-confidence and self-doubt.

Here are the lyrics:

Soprano: Look how in-control my bowel is. Clearly I know where my towel is.
Alto: What if all I do is shit? How do they put up with it?
Tenor: Push and push and I’ll improve. Know my shit, my bowel will move.
Bass: Everyone poops.

All: If everyone poops…

Soprano & Tenor: Maybe I’m no better than them.
Alto & Bass: Maybe I’m no worse than them.

All: Maybe I am just as good.

It is sung by my robot choir (a program I wrote to make my Mac sing using the built-in speech synthesis), with the voice Princess as the soprano, Victoria as alto, Fred as tenor and Ralph as the bass, unless I’ve misunderstood how the parts are named or which octaves they were meant to be singing in, which is entirely likely after one half-hour lesson on the topic.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m doing music lessons with John Anealio over the internet. A couple of weeks ago I decided I wanted to learn about harmonies. We picked out some chords and random and then decided which notes each voice would sing from them. I checked out what they sounded like using instruments in GarageBand, then I decided I may as well write some words with it, with each voice singing the same sequence of notes over and over. I remember thinking about making them conflicting inner voices, but I’m not sure what made me decide that those inner voices were full of shit. Of course, I can’t tell whether this song is shit, good shit, horse shit, or the shit; when it comes to music, I’m still figuring out how not to soil myself. But it’s about poop, so it ought to entertain someone.

One of these days I’ll find a more convenient way to host podcasts so that I actually bother to put things like this on mine.

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A Song For Angelastic to Sing With Worm Quartet


Me saying 'Hi, ShoEboX! Will you sing with me?' and ShoEboX replying, 'Sure! I have a blender right here. Pull down your pants!'When you’ve let what is left of your pride go,
let your own song beset the FuMP sideshow! — Brush Up On Parody

Remember that parody I wrote of ‘A Song for Worm Quartet to Sing With TV’s Kyle’? Well, I recorded myself singing it. Sorry! It’s coming up to my birthday, so it’s time for me to embarrass myself publicly again.

You can thank ShoEboX of Worm Quartet for providing probably the only part of this that sounds good (the backing track) and also blame him for encouraging me. When I first emailed to ask about it, he played his part perfectly by not responding, and I recorded said lack of response for use in the song. When I actually met him at MarsCon 2014 and reminded him about it, he kindly and foolishly sent me the backing track. Some blame also falls on DJ Particle for singing (also at MarsCon) a song encouraging people to submit to the FuMP sideshow. This should appear on the sideshow around May 31, and I’m pretty sure it’ll be my best sideshow ever; it has twice the worms of my only other attempt, and one fewer html-parser-destroying character in the title.

I also met TV’s Kyle at MarsCon, and I understand why ShoEboX found his sideburns so compelling. In a world of musicians controlled by sentient beards of dubious alignment, TV’s Kyle is leading the resistance; he will not allow his binate bristly battalions to collude, not by the hair on his chinny chin chin. I forgot to ask him if he consented to [not] appearing in this track, though. Sorry, Kyle!

The lyrics I wrote originally had noticeably fewer nipples than the average Worm Quartet song, so I replaced ‘nebulae’ with ‘nipple gas’. It has similar consonants and constituents, so I don’t think this change affects either the form or function significantly. I also attempted to actually make my voice audible rather than covering it up as much as possible with the backing track, since after all, if people are going to endure my singing, they may as well at least hear what the words are. It’s difficult to record all of those words clearly, and to the right tune, and then overdose on testosterone and expect it to still be comprehensible. Here are the current lyrics: Read the rest of this entry »

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King of Hearts: A Song For Me to Sing With Worm Quartet


King of Hearts with the Shakespearean insult, 'You play the spaniel, and think with wagging your tongue to win me' against a backdrop of a Worm Quartet Songs of the Maniacs posterThis is a parody of ‘A Song For Worm Quartet To Sing With TV’s Kyle‘ by Worm Quartet (featuring TV’s Kyle.) The tune is pretty flexible, but I made this fit with the original tune verse-for-verse so it’s easier to figure out how to read it. Perhaps some day, if Shoebox (the guy from Worm Quartet) agrees, I will record myself singing it just barely audibly above the backing music, but for now your ears are safe.

This is a song, it’s a song I wrote
so I could sing it with Worm Quartet
’cause Worm Quartet does really swell songs
and I wanna do a song with him.

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
Sure, I get it, you won’t sing this.
I’m just not as special as TV’s Kyle,
but I really thought we could do a duet;
should I have asked you first?

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
Well I see I’m not going to make you sing
till I write nonsensically and I grow some sideburns.
I’m going to sit in my parents’ basement
and devour testosterone pills.

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
Okay, Shoebox, why still no words?
Now my sideburns are a planet; you’re orbiting me.
And if you think you’re still better than me,
why don’t you go orbit your mom?

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
There’s no use acting like you can’t breathe.
You don’t need to be conscious for nonsense words
like “chairs crochet nebulae into glum proofs
Of the wax insurance of nines.”

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
Well I think I’m starting to understand:
you’d like to scream along silently.
How about for the next verse of the duet
you keep your pie hole shut.

Shoebox:

 

 

 

Me:
Well that was a *beep*ing terrible act;
you lack pizzazz and you’re out of key.
I’ll just sing all the rest myself,
so be quiet for this bit too.

So now we’ve come to the end of the song
The song I wrote that you refuse to sing
I bet TV’s Kyle, after singing your drivel
Will happily sing this song.

TV’s Kyle:

Me:
Well *beep* it then, I’ll ask John Cage.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Seven of Hearts: mp<3 (Half-Assed Rapper Version)


IFRemember that poem I wrote about heart-drive based music players, which I said I imagined as a rap? Well, here’s a recording of me ‘rapping’ it (now with new cover art.)

I wore my MC Frontalot glasses while recording it in case they would imbue me with talent. It’s probably still terrible, but I don’t care if you laugh at me or with me, as long as you laugh.

According to The Burning Hell, apart from all the rabbit, chicken, worm or artificial hearts, inside every one of us there also beats the hearts of a mother, a father, a trapper, a cult leader, a comedian, and an amateur rapper. The hearts of a mother and father in me went into cardiac arrest when they saw what parenthood was like (to quote the same song again, where would I find the time to build my compound, my comedy career, my empire of rhyme?) but maybe the hearts of a trapper, cult leader, comedian and amateur rapper still beat in me. In fact, they’re probably quite easy to beat.

It’s pretty light on instrumental stuff, because every time I tried to add something I realised that I’m not very good at making things line up with beats properly, and I was probably making things worse. This is a clear sign that I am a half-assed rapper and should stick to normal poetry, but I’m not going to cudgel my brains about it. Edit, one day later: You know what? I bet you could do better than I could. Here, have a remix kit consisting of all of the parts not already linked from this post or easy to find on the internet, plus a different version of ‘Copy Protected!’. Most of the backing tracks I did use are there more for pun value than anything else: some heart beats, the omnichord track (cheesy panning added by me) and artificial heartbeat sampler track from Jonathan Coulton’s Artificial Heart, the start of Worm Quartet’s I Want To Be Taken Seriously As An Artist (when I start talking about worms) and of course, Devo Spice’s Earworm at the end. My robot choir sang the ‘copy protected!’ part in the Trinoids voice. I would apologise to the artists whose sounds I used in this monstrosity, but when you release music under a Creative Commons license, you have to be prepared to face the consequences. This is also my second song-like-thing in a row containing a Wilhelm scream. Perhaps I should include one in every song; my terrible music screams, so you don’t have to! If Possible Oscar can include Wilhelm screams in songs, so can I.

Fill their briefcase with cut out hearts bloody 400Am I being too self-deprecating? The ad at the beginning just happened to come out at 30 seconds, which I think is a standard length for an ad, so that was nice. Also, I quite like the ending; the intro of that song happens to loop quite nicely at the right length for my words. I hope you get it stuck in your head.

I set the artist name to Angelastic, because rappers never seem to go by their real names, and the song is quite gelastic. I’ll probably submit it to The FuMP sideshow, because I’ve always wanted to submit something to that, but it was difficult because I don’t normally sing when people can hear me, and most of what my robot choir has sung so far isn’t really suitable. Edit: I submitted it.

One thing I discovered while recording this was that I have great difficulty pronouncing the word ‘earthworm’ quickly without making some kind of weird flap or trill sound between the r and the th. That’ll teach me for pitying the unpronounced r’s enough as a kid to adopt a rhotic accent.

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VI of Hearts: The Cantor Ternary Set Cantor Ternary Set


It’s self-referential! It’s self-similar! It would give Jonathan Coulton nightmares! It’s the Cantor Ternary Set Cantor Ternary Set: a representation of six steps in the construction of the Cantor ternary set using sped-up and slowed-down samples of Jonathan Coulton singing ‘Cantor ternary set’ in his song Mandelbrot Set, in which he professes to fear said set. I suppose you could say Jonathan Coulton is the cantor, but would it make him turn a reset?

Six of Hearts on a Jonathan Coulton Mandelbrot Floyd shirtI added a Wilhelm scream to the end, because that seemed appropriate. Here’s the audio-only version.

The Cantor ternary set is what you get if you take a line (technically a line segment, but we’ll call it a line), cut out the middle third, then cut out the middle third of the lines that remain, then cut out the middle thirds of those, and so on. If you continue doing this forever, you end up with just as many points as you started with (isn’t infinity grand?) but they’re nowhere near each other. I made the ‘lines’ at each stage out of clips of Jonathan singing ‘Cantor ternary set’ at different speeds; first at one 27th normal speed, then at one ninth, then one third, then normal speed, then three, nine, and 27 times normal speed. Then I put all the lines (i.e. audio clips) from the different steps on top of each other, positioned according to where each line came from in the original line, to make the full canticle (cantorcle?) You can see how it works in the video. To make it easier to differentiate the different layers, I put the second and fifth layers (counting from the slowest one at the bottom) toward the left ear and the third and sixth toward the right, leaving the other three (1/27-speed, original-speed, and 27-times speed) in the centre.

This didn’t take very long to make, in the end, but there were a lot of false starts. A long time ago I decided to make some kind of song about mathemusician Vi Hart using snippets of the various source tracks I have of Jonathan Coulton songs — a Hart-shaped box, on the table, and far too late you see the one inside the box is Vi Hart, who’s not a real heart but is a real bad-ass mathematician… that kind of thing. I realised some time ago that it would have to be the six of hearts, because in Roman numerals that’s the vi of Hearts. But that didn’t stop me from putting off starting it till about a week after the last minute. It’s a good thing I set my own deadlines.

A couple of days ago I finally started to actually work on this. I cut some sounds together (‘my heart’ and a ‘v’ sound from When You Go) to make Jonathan sing Vi Hart’s name, and collected relevant phrases from other songs. But I needed some kind of musical background track to tie it all together (like the Mr. Fancy Pants choir I used in my ‘Code Monkey Like…’ thingy.) I had considered using Vi’s piano music that she played on JoCo Cruise Crazy 2, but in the moment I didn’t feel like looking for it, and also didn’t feel like I could do it justice; I’ve just recently started listening to a basic and hilariously over-dramatic audio course on music theory, but most of what little I know about music, I learnt from Douglas HofstadterLeonhard Euler, Leon Harkleroad, and Vi Hart herself. While I’m okay with the mathematical side of things, I don’t think I remember enough to make a fitting musical tribute. So I asked myself, as I often do, what would Vi Hart do? Probably something symmetrical, mathematical, brilliant. So I hit on the idea of making a Cantor ternary set of Jonathan Coulton singing Vi Hart’s name, and using that as a backing track for the song.

Well, that was interesting, but it sounded terrible. The gap in the middle (the middle middle, not all the other gaps in middles which make the Cantor set what it is) sounded like a lawnmower, most of the rest sounded like a bad choir being massacred by a possessed lawnmower, and the 3x-speed ‘Vi Harts’ were more prominent and understandable than the ones at the original speed. I fiddled with levels for a while, and tried to make the lawnmower sound better by adding more words from other songs, but no dice. The fact was, using a Cantor ternary set of Vi Hart’s name (sung in that particular way) as a backing track was a terrible idea. And now that I think of it, I seem to recall that Hofstadter mentioned experimenting with fractal music and finding it didn’t work very well. That’s fine, though; I’m no musician, so I figured I could make it work to my low standards eventually. But just to take a break, on a whim I decided to try making a Cantor ternary set out of Jonathan singing ‘Cantor ternary set’.

Five minutes later, I discovered that the greater variety in syllables and pitches makes this sound quite interesting even without added lyrics, and you can fairly easily hear the words at several different speeds, so you can tell what’s happening well enough for it to be a demonstration of the Cantor ternary set in itself rather than just a backing track. Plus it’s a Cantor ternary set made up of the words ‘Cantor ternary set’. Why on Earth did I not think of that in the first place? Sorry Vi Hart; you’ll get your tribute song some day, and hopefully from someone better at music than I am.

On the subject of Vi Hart, last weekend I was at my physicist friend Aidan‘s place and noticed he had made some pretty neat things with Geomag, so I asked him to explain it all on video. He did mention Vi at one point. Here’s the video, in which we talk about RF cavities, conservation of angular momentum, triangles, and various kinds of pole, among other things:

Aidan also makes a lot of videos explaining particle physics; you should check them out.

Also on the subject of physics, and cool people I’ve met on JoCo Cruise Crazy (Vi Hart being one of them) here’s an LHC-related comic that Randall Munroe from xkcd drew for me on JoCo Cruise Crazy 3.

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