Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Paul Kelly A-Z and more apps

OK - a short geeky iPhone post while the music matures - there's a few reviews on the boil - promise.

Some years ago &etc readers were alerted to the fact that Paul Kelly, Australian singer/songwriter, was giving away an alphabet of live songs monthly (ie the first month's songs all had titles beginning with A, then B etc) from a stripped-down concert series. Not a fan, but I collected them to get to know the music - slightly older than him, his music has been around the airwaves (jj to jjj) and on Countdown etc. Well now the set has been released as a box of CDs The A to Z recordings (somewhat different to the downloads, there are variations between the 2 sets, and the management company tell me that songs are different versions or remastered). Also there is a book How To Make Gravy - for each song a short piece, which might be about the song, could be a memoir or just about music, or all of the above. And there is also an App: you get the text of the book, which is as expected, but also the program can survey your iTunes library and select versions of the song you are reading about and you can play them at the same time (there are also some chapters available as readings by Kelly, and you get the first six songs free). A nice integration of the formats. The music is great, the writing is engrossing and the flexibility is nice (the iPhone is a hell of a lot easier to carry round than the book!) As I said, I wasn't a Kelly fan, but the downloads have brought me to the book & I'll be adding some full group albums to my collection too as he is a fabulous wordsmith as well as being a great Aussie singer/musician.

Other Apps I use regularly
The three from Brian Eno's Opal group: Bloom, Air and Trope - great as either ambient background or 'instruments' to play with, and they have a pleasant generative vision as well. Each has a different sound palette.
FutureAcoustic: I am not sure about the noise-cancelling impact of these, but FutureSound and SoundCurtain are more nice ambient aleatoric pieces. The first uses soundworks created by various artists (including Scanner) to create soundworlds, the second is more related to natural ambient sounds. (Scanner's Whisper is available as a free 'single')

I don't make music but sometimes amuse myself by making noises or playing musical instruments
Balls and Soundrop- two programs that use gravity to knock balls against walls to make sounds, Balls is more complex
Bebot - a touch pad synth that takes up to four fingers and has some great presets - theremin, powerPWM, looper, the eponymous Bebot (sounds like a robot) and more and programable
Ellatron - there are cut down versions of this but go for the full one. Has mellotron samples so you can do King Crimson and more
Beatwave - one of many versions of the sweeping-across-a-field-of-dots synths, this one has four layers plus a randomiser so can become another aleatoric ambient maker

MyFry - Stephen Fry's latest memoir, bought for the iPhone mainly because of the cool interface (plus I wanted to read it anyway)
Instapaper - fantastic for getting those interesting on-line articles which you don't have time to read onto a format where yo can read them at your leisure. Have a website with suggested articles, and also try longform.org for more (you don't need the app to use the sites to find articles of course)
McSweeney's - a diversion. Everyday you get a selection of short pieces of humourous writing, but also some more serious columns (this is free). And then each week a longer piece such as an interview, short story, novel extract, longer piece. These can have related images (such as the article on Kristina in Copenhagen) or be songs, short films or spoken text. You could say aleatoric downloads.

I won't bore you with my few games or news apps (though I suggest getting the Guardian before they go subscription)

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