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Humor: July 2008 Archives

Prize-Winning Clarinetist is Machine


Linux-powered clarinet playing robot wins international prize

Entire computer-driven orchestras not too far away, says NICTA's chief technology officer

By Andrew Hendry

A team of experts and students from NICTA and the University of NSW have won first place in a major international technology competition for developing a robotically operated, computer-driven clarinet running Linux.

Developed over the last eight months, the automated clarinetist beat a Dutch developed guitar playing robot to the top gong in the Artemis Orchestra competition, thanks to its playing ability and the high level of complexity in its mouthpiece design.

Head of the project, NICTA's Dr John Judge, described the robot as an embedded computer system connected via specially constructed electronics to actuators – brass plungers with rubber nylon feet – that control the keys and mouthpiece of the clarinet.

Read more about this at the ComputerWorld website:;277215722

Wine and Music

Wine & Music

Music 'can enhance wine taste'

BBC News

Playing a certain type of music can enhance the way wine tastes, research by psychologists suggests.

The Heriot Watt University study found people rated the change in taste by up to 60% depending on the melody heard. The researchers said cabernet sauvignon was most affected by "powerful and heavy" music, and chardonnay by "zingy and refreshing" sounds. Professor Adrian North said the study could lead retailers to put music recommendations on their wine bottles. The research involved 250 students at the university who were offered a free glass of wine in exchange for their views.

Brain theory

Four types of music were played - Carmina Burana by Orff ("powerful and heavy"), Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker by Tchaikovsky ("subtle and refined"), Just Can't Get Enough by Nouvelle Vague ("zingy and refreshing") and Slow Breakdown by Michael Brook ("mellow and soft"). The white wine was rated 40% more zingy and refreshing when that music was played, but only 26% more mellow and soft when music in that category was heard.

Read more about this at the BBC News website:

Classical Music is for Babies

Babies listening to classical music

Can't get it out of my head

A father's yearlong quest to grasp the infant musical mind

By Jeremy Eichler
The Boston Globe

I've never felt so paralyzed standing before my CD collection as the day I brought my newborn son home from the hospital and decided to play him his very first music. So much was at stake. Should it be modern or Baroque? Orchestral or opera? Would Mozart make him smarter? Would Schoenberg instill in him revolutionary tendencies? Would Wagner make him loathe his Jewish roots?

I settled on Bach's "Art of Fugue" in an arrangement for string quartet. Why not begin at the summit, and what's more, I imagined, all that searching counterpoint would be like honey for the infant brain. He responded with aplomb, conveying his wise, wordless mastery of the material by slipping into an eyes-closed, meditative state. OK, he fell asleep.

But my yearlong quest to understand the infant musical mind had begun. As it turns out, my timing was good, as the cognitive and neuroscience research on music has been exploding these days, driven by techno logical breakthroughs in brain imaging and a newly widespread openness toward music as a legitimate field of scientific study. It's hard to miss the reverberations. Keith Lockhart has been outfitted with sensors on the podium of Symphony Hall; Oliver Sacks's "Musicophilia" has brought strange tales of musical obsession to the bestseller list; the journal Nature has been running a nine-part essay series on the science of music; and a conference this weekend at Tufts University is convening more than 100 researchers from 13 countries to discuss the subject of "Music, Language, and the Mind." The art form that Claude Lévi-Strauss once dubbed "the supreme mystery of the science of man" is, one note at a time, becoming less mysterious.

Read more about this at The Boston Globe website: