July 2012 Archives

From 1976, "Daddy Cool" by Boney M. is a certifiable classic Disco tune. Below are Boney M. singing and dancing "Daddy Cool." And I think Bobby Ferrell's dancing might be a perfect reflection of cocaine use.



To me this is nearly perfect Disco: a square four on the floor with that typical open hi-hat between beats (this time with a flange!), simple yet memorable figures for strings and saxes, bass, female voices, and don't forget the sexual content! The only thing really wrong with it is that the track is no longer than 4 minutes. (And I would like a funkier bass-line.)

Now consider this 1993 remake by a pop group in Hungary.
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Although note for note they are just about the same, to me from the get go the latter is a sequenced and sterile version missing the essential hihats of the original. But is it so far away that I would not classify it as Disco?
Here is Faron Young in 1956 covering Don Gibson's "Sweet Dreams" for him and his eyebrows to get a ticket for the Checkerboard Showboat to continue "following those girls."



Now, here are the Pioneers covering the song 12 years later in a recording released 1968 (is that a ukulele I hear?).



When I listen to this version, my own eyebrows raise as if to reach across space and time some 44 years to bring the vocals into key. It is precisely because of this, in our autotune saturated world, that I really like this recording.

Here is Jim Reeves in 1959 singing "He'll Have To Go", this time without the pressure of enduring the Checkerboard Showboat.



Now, here is David Isaacs covering the song 10 years later in a recording released 1969.



Those back up singers, with their bizarre harmonies intentional or not, are precisely why I can't stand to listen to this recording at a low volume. My wife rolls her eyes when I play it loud, just as I want to always hear it.

Now, from his 1974 masterful record "Rhapsody in White," here is "Love's Theme" by Barry White performed by The Love Unlimited Orchestra.



Aside from the rich orchestration combining two rhythm guitars, roiling piano, lush strings, sweeping harp, and the drums and bass I could listen to four hours alone, I love this particular recording for a few reasons. First, popular music these days that combine classical elements like strings, is essentially boring. I am looking at you The Verve, and Guns 'N Roses. Second, around 1m45, when the horns take in the bridge, there is a wonderful maybe-flub by one of the players. Then from 3m07 to 3m11 the piano loses it, before nearly everything is taken away by a quite artificial but delicious rapid fade out at 3m16, leaving naked the rhythm guitars shivering alone with the bass and drums.

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Disco in Bulgaria

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Disco --- the music, the dress, the life style --- was a phenomenon that has a clear beginning, peak, and denouement, at least in the USA and the UK. Contrary to the hundreds of "Now that is what I call Disco" compilations available, Disco made inroads to many other places in the world --- places other than Western Europe and Scandinavia (ABBA).

I have been communicating with a colleague (NN) who is an expert in Bulgarian popular music, and he has graciously given me permission to quote our conversation. I indent his notes below.

On leaving academia

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Terran Lane provides an excellent discourse on why he is leaving academia in the USA for a position at Google.

I immigrated to Europe from the USA right after finishing my PhD in 2009, and will remain here because of many reasons, some of which Lane states quite well. In particular, I continue to be repelled by the hyper-religious anti-science climate of public and political discourse in the USA, as well as the bold-faced contradiction of the USA being a "moral authority" while bowing to the "authority of money." I probably penned twice as many words on those subjects during my PhD as there are in my dissertation; but since coming to Europe, I have not felt the need to fight such things. Religion, science, and intellectualism are treated quite differently in Europe, which in no small way has to do with the blood it has shed due to innumerable arguments over woo. To be sure, Europe has its problems too. The only time I have really missed the USA was when I experienced a particularly overt display of racism. Many parts of Europe have a ways to go to reach the multicultural experience of the USA --- which I find ironic since distances here are so small.

Anyhow, I commend Lane on writing such a nice piece.
This is one of the best mash-ups I have seen. We need so much more of this.



If you are wondering, that mad piano-playing dancing man is Neil Sedaka singing "Bad Blood":



The second singer is Teddy Pendergrass singing "Close the door":



The man in the beginning is Bob McGrath from Sesame Street. Seeing him takes me back to my childhood when I was an avid watcher. :)

Plagiarism

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It started when I read the first sentence of the introduction of D. P. L. and K. Surresh, "An optimized feature set for music genre classification based on Support Vector Machine", in Proc. Recent Advances in Intelligent Computational Systems, Sep. 2011. They write:

Music is now so readily accessible in digital form that personal collections can easily exceed the practical limits on the time we have to listen to them: ten thousand music tracks on a personal music device have a total duration of approximately 30 days of continuous audio.
Then I googled "Music is now so readily accessible in digital form", and look at this! The top first hit is from an article in press: Angelina Tzacheva, Dirk Schlingmann, Keith Bell, "Automatic Detection of Emotions with Music Files", Int. J. Social Network Mining, in press 2012. I can't read the entire article; but the first two sentences of the abstract are:

The amount of music files available on the Internet is constantly growing, as well as the access to recordings. Music is now so readily accessible in digital form that personal collections can easily exceed the practical limits of the time we have to listen to them.
The source of this text, however, is in the third search result: M. Casey, R. Veltkamp, M. Goto, M. Leman, C. Rhodes and M. Slaney, "Content-based Music Information Retrieval: Current Directions and Future Challenges", Proc. IEEE, vol. 96, no. 4, pp. 668-696, Apr. 2008. The first sentence of their introduction is an exact match to the text in L. and Suresh:

Music is now so readily accessible in digital form that personal collections can easily exceed the practical limits on the time we have to listen to them: ten thousand music tracks on a personal music device have a total duration of approximately 30 days of continuous audio.
I don't care to search for other examples of plagiarism in this publication, or that of Tzacheva et al. Even finding one lifted sentence in a work tells me how much time I should spend with it. Better for me to just write a blog post about it, and then send a complaint to IEEE.

Added 20120705:

If you are coming from Nuit Blanche, or even if you aren't, I want to make clear that my aims with this post are not to complain about peer review, or to claim I have been wronged, or to poke at what I really believe is good work from nine anonymous and competent reviewers. Peer review is an awesome privilege; and I try to take it as seriously as I can when I review. With the ICASSP deadline more than a few months away, I have time to put more thought into the next revision, and to address all the comments that have been raised.

Just to be clear on my overall intentions, I use my blog as a hypertext record of my research and ideas, a public account to the Danish tax payer, and a personal experiment in presenting in near real-time how my research unfolds. (When I collaborate with others on work though, I do not discuss it here unless we all agree it is fine to do... which is why it has been quiet here for a while.) Research is rough, and yet so much fun. It is not as clean as the final journal paper appears --- which took me time to appreciate during my PhD.



What follows is a synopsis of the submission and review process of particular work of mine I have been trying to publish for over a year. Since I will submit it again, I am reviewing all of the helpful comments by the nine reviewers so that I make sure the fourth time is the charm!

First, in March 31, 2011, I submitted it to IEEE Signal Processing Letters. My submission was a summary of the outcomes of several experiment I performed in which I measure signal recovery performance by eight different algorithms from compressive measurements of sparse vectors distributed in seven different ways. I only considered noiseless measurements, and all my experiments were run with an ambient dimension of 400. I tested a range of problem sparsities and indeterminaces, and looked at transitions from high to low probability of recovery. The "big" result, I assumed, is that things change dramatically based on how the sparse vector is distributed. All of a sudden, my world was changed when I saw error constrained \(\ell_1\) minimization is sometimes not the best. It can be significantly beaten by something as simple as a greedy approach. (I also proposed an ensemble approach, where the best solution is selected from those produced by several algorithms. I wanted to see what how much better all the results could be.) On June 4, 2011, my submission was rejected.

In general, the reviews were good:
This looks like a really rewarding thing to solve, but after listening to the sounds myself while viewing the labels, I am not sure it is so solvable with audio features alone. Still, I might try a little something to see what happens.

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