August 2003, Issue 60

Published by Sonaris Consulting, Felix Bopp, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
[formerly Music for New Media Newsletter]

You can find the online version at:


Scientific findings: The Millipede, Mystery of Musical Harmony
For the blind or deaf
: The Clerc Center catalog, The Sonic Pathfinder
: Toy Symphony
Toyland: Photon, Totally Absurd Inventions
For musicians
: FinalScratch, Har-Bal
Hot developments
: The Future Store
Conferences & events
Subscription & feedback

: Scientific findings

The Millipede: A future AFM-based data storage system
IBM, Zurich Research Laboratory: "Will micro- and nanomechanical systems be the building blocks of tomorrow's storage technologies? Our "Millipede" concept suggests the feasibility of a high-density data storage system based on micromechanical components borrowed from atomic force microscopy (AFM): tiny depressions melted by an AFM tip into a polymer medium represent stored data bits that can then be read by the same tip. This thermomechanical storage technique is capable of achieving data densities in the hundreds of Gb/in range, well beyond the expected limits for magnetic recording (6070 Gb/in).

Whereas the readback rate of an individual probe is limited, high data rates can be achieved through the use of massive parallelism: in our Millipede system concept, the read/write head consists of an array of more than 1000 thermomechanical probes, fabricated on a single silicon chip using VLSI microfabrication techniques, which operate simultaneously."

Solving the Mystery of Musical Harmony: Insights from a Study of Speech
For over two thousand years, musicians and scientists have puzzled over why some combinations of musical tones played together sound more harmonious than others. Now, Duke University Medical Center perception scientists David Schwartz, Ph.D., Catherine Howe, M.D., and Dale Purves, M.D., have presented evidence that variation in the relative harmoniousness, or "consonance," of different tone combinations arises from people's exposure to the acoustical characteristics of speech sounds.

In their Journal of Neuroscience paper, the neurobiologists present a statistical analysis of the patterns of frequency and amplitude in human speech sounds, based on a collection of recorded utterances spoken by more than 500 people. They found that the points at which sound energy is concentrated in the speech spectrum predict the chromatic scale - the scale represented by the keys on a piano keyboard. Moreover, the difference in the amount of sound energy concentrated at these points predicts the relative consonance of different chromatic scale tone combinations.

These results suggest that certain pairs of tones sound more harmonious than others because they are physically similar to the patterns of sound energy most familiar to human listeners from their exposure to speech, said the researchers.
(Source: Dukemed News)

: For the blind or deaf

The Clerc Center catalog

The Clerc Center catalog offers a comprehensive listing of educational products and services available from the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. These products are valuable resources for educators and parents as well as other professionals working with deaf and hard of hearing children. They are also good sources of information for the general public.

The Sonic Pathfinder

The Sonic Pathfinder has evolved out of the work of the Blind Mobility Research Unit at Nottingham University, England. It is the product of a research program dedicated to achieving an understanding of mobility and the information requirements of the independent blind traveler. The Sonic Pathfinder embodies many of the findings of the Nottingham program; the emphasis is on achieving a simple display. For instance, the device does not attempt to provide the user with a sonic picture of the visual world. Instead it is selective; it displays only that information, which is of immediate practical interest to the moving pedestrian. The device uses an auditory display but one which has been chosen so that it does not mask the user's ability to hear, and make use of, environmental sounds. The display comprises the notes of a musical scale, which make a familiar tonal progression as the user approaches an object.

: Extra-audionary

Toy Symphony
With Toy Symphony, Tod Machover and his team at the MIT Media Lab strive to bridge the gap between professional musicians and children, as well as between audience and performers. This three year project, combining children, virtuosic performers like violinist Joshua Bell and conductor Kent Nagano, composers and symphony orchestras around the world, is intended to radically alter how children are introduced to music, serving to redefine the relationship between professional musicians and young people.

Through the use of innovative technologies to create musical instruments and compositional tools designed for an individual of any skill level, as well as weeklong workshops culminating in an integrated performance with children and professional musicians, Toy Symphony is designed as an utterly inclusive experience, one that will infuse the orchestra with youthful and enthusiastic collaborators, and the instruments, sounds, and ideas of the 21st century.

"My goal," Machover said, "was to put together a suite of musical activities that children can do with other children and with grown-ups and that could end up in a concert."

Beatbugs are hand-held percussive instruments which allow the creation, manipulation and sharing of rhythmic motives through a simple interface. When multiple Beatbugs are connected in a network, players can share and develop rhythmic patterns to form larger scale compositions. The players themselves choose between manipulating existing motives and entering their own material, in essence creating a dynamic and collaborative music that is truly more than the sum of its parts.

Music Shapers are soft, squeezable instruments, which allow players to mold, transform, and explore musical material and compositions. Using capacitive sensing and conductive embroidery to measure the squeezing gesture, Music Shapers allow children access to high-level musical parameters such as contour, timbre, density and structure, rarely accessible through traditional musical instruments or pedagogy except after many years of study and mastery. The effect is that of "conducting" musical phrases and forms in a very tactile, visceral and enjoyable way.


The Club of Amsterdam is an independent, international think tank, which reflects our future: How we want to live, to communicate with each other and what tools, cities we need, how we want to commute and how culture or industries should develop. In brief: what we want our future to be.
The Club of Amsterdam provides a bridge between industry, education and science. We organise events, seminars and workshops.

: Toyland

Photon was established in 2001 by Hidenori Watanave with the aim of creating interactive games with a focus on non-violence. Photon consists of a team of media artists, computer graphics creators, musicians and game planners.

RhythmEngine (REg) is a real time spatial communication / session tool using sound and visual effects over the Internet. Users navigate in a world of orbiting planets and avatars that meet and interact. The way to establish a dialogue is to make 'physical' contact with other fluctuating avatars. Upon contact, sounds and letters are emitted. These 'sound-signs' remain as traces that reflect the relationship between conversing entities. Photon emphasise that this type of environment favours a non-simultaneous communication style, quite different from the current trend of instant text messaging. More than 10,000 users per day have been recorded.

Totally Absurd Inventions
An example:
12 Gauge Golf Club US Patent 4,176,537* Issued / 1979

"Golf game got you down? Now you can have explosive drives every time with the 12 Gauge Golf Club! This special woody features a barrel, muzzle and a trap door in the rear for loading your explosive charge. The firing pin is aligned with the clubs sweet spot for blasting your balls into oblivion (careful)."

: For musicians

FinalScratch is a bridge for the professional and home DJ to enter and control the digital world. By using any standard turntable/mixer setup, a DJ can now manipulate digital music the way they have always done hand and by vinyl. DJs can now mix both analog records and digital files the way they have always been accustomed to and prefer.

Just load any digital audio file onto your computer, then pick and choose from your own playlist. Your computer becomes your record box. As well for the professional, save and load any production, remix, or new edit you have created and play it that very moment or take it to gig the same night without the need to cut an acetate or make test pressings.

FinalScratch allows mixing of digital audio files, controlled with any DJ turntable. The FS10K package includes three special vinyl records, the Scratch Amp to connect the computer to your existing turntable/mixer setup, and the Final Scratch software. An FS10K system, which supports 2 turntables, includes the Final Scratch software, the Scratch amp, and 2 FS vinyl records.

The FinalScratch software allows the user to save the audio files in various playlists, called Record Boxes, as well to search and assign the audio files to either turntable. The software provides a visual representation of the music, needle position for each audio file, and remaining time of each audio file.

The vinyl records included in the FinalScratch, which contain digital information, are used to mix digital audio files like MP3, WAV, AIFF, and audio CD. All mixing is done directly from the turntables, including pitch shifting, cuing, spinning up and down, and even scratching. The FinalScratch records can be used in combination with traditional analog records when mixing your set.

Har-Bal is a mastering equalization system for Windows systems (95,98,ME, NT, 2000 or XP) that corrects inconsistencies in mixed track sound files.

The software is composed of two parts: a spectrum analysis engine and a high-resolution linear phase digital filter to perform the EQ'ing so there is imperceptible degradation in quality (i.e. noise wise). Har-Bal analyzes a recording, which gives a measure of the average and peak spectrum content (displayed graphically) from which any user can judge the spectral balance. Through a user interface, the software allows you to design a matching digital filter. This differs from conventional approaches in that you no longer need golden ears to judge the problem areas of a particular recording.

The spectrum measurement provides you with an indication of any problems in the recording. Frequencies felt in the body, i.e., low frequencies, with high amplitudes and throbbing, pulsing envelopes can make listeners sick to their the expression goes. There definitely seems to some connection with the corrected resonant frequencies of a song that has been harmonically balanced as opposed to mastering.

Har-Bal states that you will no longer need to test your mastered CD in cars, boom boxes, walkmans, etc. The software uses an 8192-point linear phase FIR filter whose characteristics are designed to match and compensate for the average spectrum as closely as possible.

: Hot developments

The Future Store

The METRO Group Future Store Initiative is a cooperation project between METRO Group, SAP and Intel as well as other partner companies from the information technology and consumer goods industries. Its objective is to promote innovations in retailing on a national and international level. The initiative shall be understood as a platform for technical and process-related developments and innovations in retailing. Within the METRO Group Future Store Initiative, technologies and technical systems are tested and further developed in practice. In the long run the initiative is aimed at setting standards for retailing that can be implemented on an international scale.

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Copyright 2003 Sonaris Consulting, Felix Bopp. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without written permission is prohibited. Sonaris Consulting cannot accept responsibility for the accuracy of information supplied herein or for any opinion expressed.