Music & Technology

Musical instruments go through different process of constructions, whether it is because of the nature of the instrument itself or the particular process of wood instruments like a violin, guitars and more, in which the manufacturer does the work, this involves different types of wood and processes

Violin Builder

Terry Borman, a professional luthier shared his opinion on the business of making violins today by saying:

Makers are finding that, aside from the fact that it’s one of those feel-good things, it comes back to you many-fold,” Borman said. “By the time one idea has been churned around by 15 other makers, who have found 15 other opinions of doing it — maybe some of them are brilliant ideas and some of them are not-so-great, but at least you have the option to pick through them. It’s dramatically altered the landscape. It’s more of a camaraderie (now), as opposed to — it was almost like a sect.

Wood

Wood changes everything, from the sound, the weight and the whole way a violin feels. The ideal wood for a violin is Balkan maple for the ribs, the back and the scroll because of its density and light weight, and Spruce for the front part of the violin.

It is known that sometimes other types of wood were used such as cherry wood but only when the best couldn’t be found.

The general consensus amongst people who have studied wood their whole professional careers is that most woods become a little bit less dense, but it’s not a huge difference,” Borman said. When violin makers buy wood from a dealer, they know to test it for its density. “They sell wood that you pick it up and it feels like it’s lead, and you pick up some other pieces and it feels like foam.

Tools

There is of course a certain set of tools needed in order to build a violin, these include many woodworking and carving tools like, planes, chisels, gouges, saws, many types of knives , and scrapers. There are also, a few specialized tools are needed such as a thickness caliper, small curved bottom “thumb” planes, purfling groove cutter, peg hole reamer and matching peg shaver, bending iron, clamps of various types, and patterns.

Sometimes violin makers even make their own set of tools. This just shows the level of commitment and skill with using, and maintaining sharp edged tools.

Violin Strings

Just like any other instrument with strings, they have to be changed from time to time as rust and use begins to affect the quality of the sound, and it can even break for a few reasons.

The strings is the last part of building a violin of course, but essential for testing if everything else is in order.

Testing Wood Density

Violin

Today there are new methods to help with calculating density and information that could help build better instruments while still maintaining the traditional way of making them.

Borman said:

I decided, the easiest way to get a whole bunch of information was to just do a CT scan.

After studying what makes great wood for a violin he found that:

What we found is that makers today can access wood with similar material properties, so basically, let’s just move on to something else

On the other hand it’s interesting how close it came to another way of testing wood density, which is way less high tech than the other method, Borman says:

You slowly lower the wood into a bucket of water (and float the wood). Then you pull it out, and you mark with a pencil the line between the wet and the dry. Then you turn it around and do the same thing, you do the same test twice. Then you average those measurements, divided by the length. Basically, you’re measuring the buoyancy. So if it’s really heavy it’s going to sink farther into the water.

To know more details about how a violin is made, we recommend: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8GuxN5_59c

Terry Borman’s page: https://www.bormanviolins.com/

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There is a lot of going back to the 80s happening since around 2010, and music has made sure to make the most of its “retro” opportunities. There has been shows such as Stranger Things, movies like Blade Runner 2049 and well known artist like The Weeknd that began using sounds from synths very 80s like.

There is however a youtube channel that specializes in this sort of feeling, the channel is called “NewRetroWave” why should you look into it? well the 80s were surely an important era for music in terms of electronic music and music structure.

There is a nice summary of what Synthwave and Retrowave is by Observer.com:

In the past couple of years alone, the sub-genre of electronic music also known by names like outrunretrowave and futuresynth, has transformed from a whisper on a few select Internet hubs into a self-sustaining musical ecosystem hoisting itself up and expanding rapidly.It all began in the mid-2000s, when gamers and horror nerds took a liking to French house artists like Justice, Kavinsky, and College, who were creating sounds inspired by ’80s film score legends (Carpenter, Goblin, Brad Fiedel). Since then—and especially after the release of the 2011 arthouse film triumph Drive—the genre has exploded in a plume of modern electronic fury, with artists emerging around the globe, from Stockholm to Dallas, Texas. That satisfied-but-anxious feeling you had watching Terminator for the first time, that inexplicable sense of comfort you got every time the Beverly Hills Cop intro came on, these sensations might just bubble up again when you hear the dark aggression of artists like Perturbator and Mega Drive or the pure ’80s worship of Mitch Murder and Miami Nights 1984.

Julia Neuman

Cyberpunk and Synths

There is a part of the 80s retro culture that stuck around until today, and that is Cyberpunk, which began to rise as a branch of sci fi and popularized after Blade Runner and Ghost in The Shell.

The music that acompanied these futuristic cities and enviroments was very distinctive and came mostly from synths.

ALEX, a retrowave artist comments on the whole aesthetic of the genre when asked about references from movies such as Blade Runner and games like Cyberpunk 2077.

It’s kind of, in general, the culture right now, it’s sort of edging towards that aesthetic style – yeah I think it’s pretty cool, I think it’s pretty fresh too cause I prefer the – It’s not really about nostalgia, more doing something new with it. Cause I’m not really from the 80’s, I’m 22, so I don’t know what it was like to sort of be in that sort of era. I like the idea of sort of the more fringe aspects of VR coming back in a much more innovative kind of way, and then you’ve got the whole thing about Cyberpunk which is kind of a more 90’s thing I guess.

But at the same time, it’s sort of a revamp. I think it’s something we totally needed as well cause I think there’s a lot of reboots right now as well… … that may be best left alone… … I do like the whole sort of “Retro” thing coming back.

There is an interesting aspect about this whole genre, which is that it has mostly gained traction and listeners through the internet, with platforms like YouTube. This makes it like a somewhat funny wink to the whole cyberpunk aesthetic.

Retro With Digital

retro

While the idea is to come back and capture the vibe of the 80s through 90s, its sounds and the overall feel of the time, there are many new technical aspects that differ from those original sounds, digital most of all.

There are more tools, and it’s easier to produce music today, and while some like to go back to analogue synths, others make the most of the possibilites that come with the digital set of ideas.

The easiest way to make Synthwave or Retrowave is through a MIDI keyboard, which directly connects to the pc and lets you control the sounds through a digital channel. Once this is done, there is a work of sampling old music, and mixing it with new sounds, playing with the tempo and pitch in way that makes the old music heavier and easier to follow as an electronic music song. This proves that no matter how much there is of something, there is always something new to find in the past.

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For a long time music videos have been a part of the music industry, many times as part of the whole promotional plan or to broaden the artistic value of the music.

Golden Age of Music Videos

Videos

Before MTV first launched in 1981, music videos where out in the world, but it wasn’t until they were broadcasted the first 24 hour music channel that it became a big thing.

The way it worked was that from that point onwards, lots of people discovered bands and artists while watching TV, but that was the hook, that people were “watching”. When we listen to the radio sometimes it’s easy to forget, or get distracted, but if you are watching a music video, you see faces, small stories, names written at the start or end of the song, and this became a huge thing.

Songs such as “Thriller” from Michael Jackson, “Sledgehammer” from Peter Gabriel, “In The End” from Linkin Park and “Weapon of Choice” from Fatboy Slim, to name a few, are some of the songs with the most memorable videos within this golden age of music videos.

It wasn’t until the arrival of internet and different social networks and platforms such as YouTube, that this started changing.

Streaming, YouTube and Independent Art

Music videos became the default way to promete and market new music, but when the consumer’s eyes shifted from TV and Radio to the internet, viewers decreased rapidly.

After the internet first established its roots, some time passed until YouTube became the main source of music videos in the world. A lot of things changed, from choosing exactly what you wanted to choose instead of the surprise of watching something new, and in a way a more personal experience.

The music industry took notice of this change and focused more on YouTube and streaming services, while channels like MTV began to make the most of shows and reality shows in order to stay relevant and give something to the young audience they used to have.

Dave Meyers one of the most popular music video directors today, told young aspirers to direction in the music industry:

Times are so much more amenable to them. The birth of influencers is evidence of that—people making $60,000 a month are using their iPhones to shoot little comedy skits. It’s just young people doing what they do. And advertisers want that audience. So I think that the most important thing is to just do it. Find your voice, and then push your voice. And then be humble enough to hear the feedback. If nobody’s checking for what you’re doing, try again. And keep trying

theatlantic.com

YouTube allows a lot of creativity to happen, this of course extends to music videos.

Lyric Videos and Videos for Listening

There is a trend that has been very successful which is to upload a song without a video in the traditional sense, but a video that just shows the lyrics of the song in a way that is aesthetically pleasing. This also comes from the idea that YouTube is a free platform and many people clicked “videos” just to “listen”, some people don’t care about the videos they just care about the music, this is why a faster simpler way to share music was introduced.

Still music videos are very much alive, and while they don’t have the spotlight they used to have on TV there are some that stand out.

Recomendations From The Last Decade

Woodkid, Iron, 2011

Radiohead, Daydreming, 2016

The Voidz, Human Sadness, 2015

Childish Gambino, This Is America, 2018

Arctic Monkeys, Four Out Of Five, 2018

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