The amazing classic synth and experimental moments on children’s TV

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Before it reverted to Internet age-blandness, American kids’ TV enjoyed a golden age of music, scored by oddball indie composers and legends alike.

And, wow, it could even teach you about synthesis.

Perhaps the most famous of thesse moments is when none other than Suzanne Ciani went on 3-2-1 Contact in 1980 to step inside her studio:

Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood fame was actually a composer before going into television, and the show’s deep commitment to music education reflected that. That music was generally of the acoustic variety, but he did one day tote a rare ARP Soloist synthesizer along with his trademark shoes and handmade sweaters – and his message and song about “play” might well be an anthem for us all.

Canadian-born composer Bruce Haack made an epic appearance on that same show in 1968, where he demonstrated a homemade electronic instrument. Haack himself as as prolific a composer of far-out sci-fi music for children as he was (much darker) experimental compositions and psychedelic works.

The best all-time “Fairlight CMI on a kids’ program” (because, amazingly, there’s been more than one of those) – Herbie Hancock, Sesame Street, 1983. Herbie keeps a terrific sense of cool and calm that all kids’ shows could learn from in this day of cloying, sugar-sweet patronizing programming:

Synths were all over vintage Sesame Street, often providing sound effects as in this oddly hypnotic Ernie puzzle:

Steve Horelick, the composer behind Reading Rainbow, showed off his Fairlight CMI and how digital sampling worked. (I have vivid memories of watching this as a kid – sorry, Steve.) Steve apparently came up at a time when Fairlight ownership was rare enough to get you gigs – but a good thing, too, as a whole generation still sings along with that theme song. And you probably got a second educational gift from Steve if you ever followed one of his brilliant video tutorials on Logic.

Even better than that is Reading Rainbow‘s synesthesia 3D trip – John Sanborn and Dean Winkler’s Luminaire, which was made for Montrea’s Expo ’86, to music by composer Daniel “No, I’m not Philip Glass” Lentz.

Better video of the actual animation and music, which – sorry, Mr. Glass, I actually kind of prefer to Glassworks:

Somehow this looks fresher than it did when it was new.

A young, chipper Thomas Dolby explained synthesis to Jim Henson’s little known 1989 program The Ghost of Faffner Hall!:

Oh yeah, also, apparently Jem and the Misfits imagined an audiovisual synth in 1985 that predicts both Siri and Coldcut / AV software years before their time. Plus dolls should always have synthesizer accessories:

Suggested by:

Mister Rogers, Sesame Street & Jim Henson Introduce Kids to the Synthesizer with the Help of Herbie Hancock, Thomas Dolby & Bruce Haack [Open Culture]

Apart from education, there’s been some wildly adventurous music from obscure (who’s that?) and iconic sources (the Philip Glass?!) alike.

For a time, an experimental music Tumblr followed some of these moments. Here are some of my favorites.

Joan La Barbara does the alphabet (1977):

And yes, trip out with a composition by Philip Glass written especially for Sesame Street:

You can read the full history of this animation on Muppet Wiki,

More obscure, but clever (and I remember this one) – from HBO’s Braingames (1983-85), evidently by a guy named Matt Kaplowitz.

Not growing up in the UK, I’d never heard of Chocky, but it has this trippy, gorgeous opening with music by John W. Hyde:

American composer Paul Chihara’s 1983 score for a show called Whiz Kids is hilariously dated and nostalgia-packed now. But the man is a heavyweight in composition – think Nadia Boulanger student and LA Chamber Orchestra resident. He has an extensive film resume, too, which now landed him a position at NYU:

From Chicago public access TV, there’s a show called Chic-A-Go-Go, which in 2001 hosted The Residents.

But The Residents were on Pee-Wee, too:

Absurdly awesome, to close: “The Experimental Music Must Be Stopped.” This one comes to us from 2010 and French animation series Angelo Rules:

Thanks, Noncompliant, for the suggestion!

The post The amazing classic synth and experimental moments on children’s TV appeared first on CDM Create Digital Music.

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Elon Musk Shatters Flat Earth Conspiracy Theory With One Tweet

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Earlier this week, Neil deGrasse Tyson trolled flat-Earthers with fake photos of a lunar eclipse so hard. Now another prominent luminary has poignantly debunked the flat Earth conspiracy theory. On Wednesday, Elon Musk destroyed the flat Earth conspiracy with one blistering tweet.

The SpaceX and Tesla founder tweeted, “Why is there no Flat Mars Society!?” Pretty simple. You could go even farther and ask, “Why is there no Flat Moon Society!?” As well as asking, “Why is there no Flat Sun Society!?” There is, of course, a Flat Earth Society and they are verified on Twiter and they chimed in with an attempt to explain why there is no Flat Mars Society.

Some argued that Mars is flat.

Their rationalization was, “Unlike Earth, Mars has been observed to be round.” Not exactly a compelling and persuasive argument. The society believes that the Earth is a flat disc instead of a sphere, but they are conceding that Mars is round. So why would the laws of physics create the moon as a sphere, Mars as a sphere, and the sun as a sphere, but the Earth is a pancake? And why aren’t cats knocking shit off the edge of flat Earth?

[DailyMail]

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Your Happiness Is Built With the Little Things

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Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Welcome back to Mid-Week Meditations, Lifehacker’s weekly dip into the pool of stoic wisdom, and a guide to using its waters to reflect on and improve your life.

This week’s selection comes from Zeno, as quoted by Diogenes Laertius. He believes it’s the little things in life that matter most:

“Well-being is realized by small steps, but is truly no small thing.”

Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, 7.1.26

What It Means

Happiness, or a general state of contentedness, is a lofty goal, and not always an easy one to achieve. It requires you take “small steps” that accumulate over time and gradually shape your character and predicament. There are no shortcuts, tricks, or overnight metamorphoses. It’s something you develop within yourself throughout your entire life, not something you find in a moment of happenstance, like loose change on a sidewalk.

What to Take From It

Your pinnacle of contentedness resembles a home made of bricks, and each brick in this structure is a tiny symbol of happiness, a little thing that makes you smile, that makes you feel safe and warm. A brick can be anything—your family, your friends, finishing a task at the office, choosing to stay home instead of going out, a hot cup of coffee on a cold morning, a joke that makes you laugh, the feeling you get when you kick off your shoes after a long day at work, the way the light hits a particular patch of leaves … anything. Some bricks are found through gratitude and appreciation, while others must be earned through work, discipline, and passion. Finding your state of perfect well-being requires you collect and build with them all in a style of your choosing.

But do not feel downtrodden as you build. Remember, it takes time to construct your contentedness, which is “truly no small thing.” Wake up each day ready to take those “small steps” toward your happiness, and recognize that it will always be a work in progress. Take good actions, no matter how small; make beneficial choices, no matter how simple; and show gratitude for what you have, no matter how basic. In time, the small things will add up to a genuinely great thing.

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Goldman Sachs’ Currie: Bitcoin is a commodity

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Jeff Currie, Goldman Sachs’ head of commodities research, explained in an interview with Bloomberg TV why he believes that Bitcoin is a commodity, instead of a security or a currency.

Key Quotes via Business Insider:

"It’s a commodity. A security, by definition, has a liability attached to it. Take a dollar bill, it has a liability to the US government. Commodities do not have liabilities. They are bearer assets, and when you think about it in that context, you look at bitcoin, it’s not that much different than gold. I don’t see why there’s all this hostility toward it."

“Central banks control an enormous amount of the supply of gold, which does not make it a complete substitute between bitcoin and gold."

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs CEO Llyod Blankfein has stated previously that he is "still thinking" about bitcoin and hasn’t come to any conclusions yet. 

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FDA clears AliveCor’s Kardiaband as the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch

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The Food and Drug Administration has just cleared AliveCor’s Kardiaband EKG reader as the first medical device accessory for the Apple Watch.

Europe has been able to use a version of the Kardiaband for Apple Watch for some time now but, thanks to the new FDA approval, the device can now be used in the U.S., marking the first time an Apple Watch accessory will be able to be used as a medical device in the States.

Up until now, AliveCor has used the KardiaMobile device, which was stuck to the back of your smartphone and paired with an app to detect abnormal heart rhythm and atrial fibrillation (AFib). The new Apple Watch accessory, Kardiaband, clicks into a slot on the Watch band to do the same thing.

However, rather than needing to hold your smartphone with both hands for 30 seconds to get a reading, you can get an EKG reading continuously and discreetly just by touching the band’s integrated sensor.

Along with the new Kardiaband for Apple Watch announcement, AliveCor is introducing a software feature called SmartRhythm, which uses a deep neural network to give you insight into your heart rate and can potentially detect an abnormal heart beat using the Kardiaband or KardiaMobile EKG reader.

Note, there have been a couple studies conducted using just the Apple Watch’s built-in heart rate monitor to detect an abnormal heart rhythm. This spring, UCSF and Cardiogram conducted one such study, concluding the Apple Watch could detect an abnormal heart rhythm with a 97 percent accuracy when paired with an AI-based algorithm called DeepHeart.

Later, the same eHealth study concluded the Watch could also detect sleep apnea and hypertension with similar accuracy using its built-in sensor.

But, as AliveCor CEO Vic Gundotra points out, it’s one thing to be able to detect and another thing to get FDA approval to use your sensor as a medical device.

“Apple might be able to say ‘oh your heart rate is high’ …but what does that mean? Does that mean you should go to the hospital? And if you go to the hospital what are they going to do?. Any doctor will say ‘ok come in, lets get an EKG reading’,” Gundotra told TechCrunch.

EKGs are usually only available in offices and hospitals — and only after a life-threatening event. Having one on your wrist that you can use to check your heart and then send a readout straight to your doctor is vital to prevention of a heart attack or stroke.

And, as Gundotra also points out, “It’s not possible to diagnose atrial fibrillation without FDA clearance. That is a big, big play.”

It’s worth noting Apple could easily replicate what AliveCor is doing. It has all the right equipment within the Apple Watch and  the manpower to do so. However, it doesn’t seem likely Apple would want to go through the hassle of FDA approval for the Watch, which is a general purpose device used for numerous other applications besides getting your heart rate.

The FDA has also told TechCrunch in the past that it would be the software, not the platform on which it operates, that would be regulated anyway.

That’s not to say someone else couldn’t come up with an FDA-approved EKG reader but so far AliveCor seems to have the market on that for both the KardiaMobile and now the Kardiaband.

That’s an important marker for the company. AFib is the most common heart arrhythmia, and a leading cause of stroke. In fact, one in four adults over the age of 40 could be at risk.

“This is a medical device. This is not a toy that says your heart might be irregular. This is an FDA-cleared device. It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my life,” Gundotra said.

Those interested can get their own Kardiaband starting today for $199 on AlivCor’s site. The band does require a subscription to AliveCor’s premium service for $99 a year.

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Justin Timberlake finally reveals the startling inspiration behind ‘SexyBack’

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You may have been under the impression that you knew exactly what Justin Timberlake’s 2006 hit song "SexyBack" was about, but unfortunately you’d be quite wrong.

Timberlake appeared recently on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert where, nestled on a blanket beneath the stars, he revealed the true inspiration.

"Sexy was actually just the name of my neighbour’s rabbit," he says in the clip. "You see, they were in Nebraska for the weekend, and I was pet-sitting. But they were worried I wouldn’t return the rabbit. So I wanted to assure them, via song, that I was indeed bringing Sexy back. Read more…

More about Funny, Stephen Colbert, Justin Timberlake, The Late Show With Stephen Colbert, and Sexyback

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