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Author Archives: Scott Levine

Sonic Example 2 – I Used to Love H.E.R.

“I Used to Love H.E.R.’ is a song by hip hop legend Common Sense released back in 1994. The song was produced and arranged by No I.D. The beat and accompanying musical arrangement uses a sample from the Jazz song “The Changing World” by George Benson. Benson’s song was recorded using all analog recordings before digital recording was prevalent in the music industry. The recording includes a significant amount of background noise. Common’s “I used to love H.E.R.” was recorded completely digitally, but producer No I.D. decided to leave some of that background noise in the song. 

 The song’s lyrics tell a first person story about Common’s love for a female who over time changes for the worse. The female in the song is actually an analogy of hip hop music and the changes it went through through the late 80’s and early 90’s. Hip Hop during that time period went from mostly underground music with little commercial or financial appeal to music made for the masses. It has continued in this fashion as one of the more profitable music genres in the world. 

This change is analogous of the move from analog to digital music. Hip Hop went from a period of including noise to removing all noise and only featuring the signals that are profitable by large record corporations. Krukowski’s idea of what has changed in the world as we have gone from analog to digital applies to the change in Hip Hip, even though Hip Hop has always been a digitally recorded style of music. It has gone from its pure unadulterated form, to a commercially influenced form which waters it down by removing all the noise, or authenticity.

 

Discussion questions for episodes 5 and 6

Episode 5

  1. At the beginning of this episode, Krukowski asserts, “the marginal-the rejected-the repressed-is whatever the powerful have decided is of no use at the moment.” What does he mean by this statement? He goes on to ask, “But might it [the marginal-the rejected-the repressed] not be a key to alternate approaches-to art, to society-to power itself?” (“Marginalized” is an adjective that describes a person, group, or concept that is treated as insignificant or peripheral.)

 

What is he trying to get at with this question? How does music indicate the differences between the powerful and the marginalized?

 

Krukowski is referring to the items in the world that have fallen out of fashion. The items that society has decided are not popular anymore. Music with time can become outdated and no longer relevant. He refers to power as the people or corporations, or even programs that make the decisions on what should be bought or played or listened to.

 

  1. How are the music listening experiences enabled by Forced Exposure different from those that Paul Lamere is working on with platforms like Spotify?

 

Jimmy from Forced Exposure listens to every single song in his portfolio. It has been hand chosen by him. He has decided himself what he considers great music and he has narrowed down hundreds of thousands of songs to around 50,000. Paul Lamere, on the other hand, is a computer programmer. He creates algorithms that can choose from many millions of songs and predict what songs you will like based on your personal tastes. It chooses things that can be similar to things that you have already heard before. 

 

  1. What distinctions does Krukowski draw between being “surprised” by music and “discovering” music? What are the differences between these experiences and according to Krukowski, why are they important?

 

Krukowski explains that being surprised by music is different from discovering music. The large digital corporations try to steer you towards finding the things you are already familiar with. They use complex programs that can predict what you want based on previous experiences. The digital corporations use the data they have on you to give you what you’re already comfortable with. This prevents you finding new experiences. Krukowski finds that being surprised by something allows one to find new experiences that the large digital corporations would prevent you from finding because their algorithms don’t see you with similar wans. This digital prediction is fine if you only want to experience what you already know, but Krokowski believes there is true value in being surprised by these new experiences.

 

Episode 6

  1. According to Krukowski, what is noise? What is signal? Why are these distinctions important?

 

Krukowski describes signals as the sounds you are trying to listen to. Signals are fluid because our attention can shift based on what we want to hear at any given time. Noise is everything we can hear besides the signal we are looking for. These distinctions are important in music because digital music allows producers to boost the volume of the signals and reduce the volume of noise. This has allowed modern music to increase the volume of the recordings 10 fold.

 

What central idea about noise does this episode convey? Why is it significant?

 

Krukowski feels that noise is very important. That there is something lost when you remove the noise and only keep the signal. He explains there is a richness to noise that allows our brain to choose its signals. He shows that if we cut out noise completely and try to layer signal with other signals, it just becomes competing signals. While if you layer signals with the noise still in the background it can create brand new sounds. When there is noise in the background the audio engineer gets to choose what to highlight as signal and what to leave in back. It allows the engineer to weave sound textures together to create a more complex sound. 

 

How does this episode relate to other episodes? 

Krukowski uses noise to tie all of the episodes together. He uses digital recording’s ability to eliminate noise to represent each episode separately. The elasticity of time in analog recording is similar to the noise in the background. In public when wearing headphones or earpods, we eliminate the noise around us and only hear the signals being fed to us through our headphones. Cell phones eliminate the noise and in the process eliminates some of the feeling or music in our voices. Digital downloading strip away things that go into making music and thus striped it of its noise. Krukowski then uses us as analogous to signals stripped of noise by the large digital corporations that feed us only what they want us to hear. He believes noise and signals represent the shift of humanity from analog to digital, and how this shift has led to a disconnect from each other.

Ways of Hearing Episodes 3 and 4

Episodes 3 & 4

 

Episode 3

 

  1. According to Krukowski, what are the main differences between a microphone and a cellphone and why is this difference important?

 

Krukowski describes the difference between microphones and digital cell phones. He explains that cell phones have lost the feeling in a person’s voice. He explains that because cell phones compress data they lose something. Old analog phones and microphones are able to pick up the distance between your mouth and the phone, they were able to pick up the non-verbal sounds that we use for communication. A microphone can pick up the bass and treble of your voice. They pick up your breath between words, the sounds in the background and convey more than language but also feelings that can’t be interpreted by digital processing.

 

  1. What do Krukowski and Gary Tomlinson, the professor he interviews, assert about the “musical” qualities of the voice and how are these changed by digital transmission?

 

They explain that before we even had language many thousands of years ago, we had utterances. Humans were able to use those sounds to communicate. They also ascertain that there is a huge loss of this musical quality through digital processing. Tomlinson also remarks on the ability humans have to reconstruct those lost feelings even when they are lost to digital compression. He also believes we are musical beings. This can be easily observed in human history in religion. Religion has guided humans as long as we have written history. Religion has evolved to include music as it has become so important to human growth and communication.

 

  1. What is the significance of Krukowski’s comments on the voice to ideas about community and interpersonal connection?

 

Krukowski’s commentary on voice shows a general trend away from community and interpersonal connections that digital technology has aided. Cell phones and digital technology in society have step by step removed a personal quality of communication. I think we can even take that a bit farther than Krukowski did and add how texting has also promoted this human to human disconnect. The internet, video games, and television keeps children at home rather than outside playing with their friends. While technology has enabled us to talk to people and reach people at great distances all over the world, it has also disconnected us from the real feelings we get from seeing and hearing people.

 

Episode 4

 

  1. Krukowski begins by discussing the issue of music file sharing. What is your opinion of this issue? Should music be freely available or should one have to pay? 

 

I believe that music should be free. I think people should pay for things like a live musical performance, but music is an art. Since the 50s and 60s music has become more and more of a business, whose major purpose has been to make money. I think this continued into the 1990s when musical artists became some of the wealthiest people alive. Music has lost something since then. This continues today despite digital music cutting into the wallets of musicians and record labels. But many of the greatest musical artists of the 40s and 50’s were poor. They didn’t make music to make money. They made music to connect with people. There have been, and still are artists that still make music for the art of it, beyond the capitalist tendencies seen today. One of my favorite groups A Tribe Called Quest once sang, ”Rap is not pop if you call it that then stop.” They were saying that rap music, which started as an art form for black artists to express their struggles in America, has slowly become less of an art and more of a way of becoming rich. Common Sense tells the story of rap using the metaphor of a woman who has changed over the years for the worse in “I used to love her”. It also expresses the progression of music from an artform to a product to be packaged and sold. I think most genres of music around the turn of the century have followed this course.

 

  1. How does this episode represent the relationships between music, community, and culture?

 

Music has been a part of human existence since the beginnings of communication. It has been a part of all cultures around the world and has inspired connections between us and our deities. Digital music has allowed us to share that music all over the world. It has allowed us to connect  people across vast distances. There are some artists who may eschew these connections in the quest to acquire wealth and status, but the true musical artists of the world can obtain their wealth from the connections they make to other humans. They take pride in their art and are happy that it can be shared. There is still plenty of money to be made in the music industry, but more importantly there are still many human connections that can be made, and people whose lives can be inspired by the art created by musicians.

Sonic Examples : The Benefits of Digital Music

I started making my own music back in 2000. I used a program called Fruity Loops. I created original hip hop beats that my friends and I would make raps to. Fruity Loops had a correction method that would take any note recorded and “fix” it by placing the note on the closest ⅛ of a beat. It completely removed the elasticity of the live music or analog music. The program allowed me to take samples of other music and let me stretch it or shrink it to a very precise rhythm. Krukowski feels that something may be lost to the imperfections of digital music, but I think in some musical forms, digital music creates a pleasing symmetry. It allows an amateur musician to create unique sound combinations that can be extremely enjoyable musical compositions. 

The introduction of Musical Instrument Digital Instrument or midi has allowed us to play and create an infinite number of instruments and sounds that can be put together to make new and interesting musical arrangements. These rhythmic songs are great for dancing and I think that is one of the major reasons that digital music has become the standard. While I agree there are times when the elasticity of time in music can add a certain charm, I also see the very distinct benefit to the creation of digital music. I think both analog and digital music both deserve their due place in the world of music.

Ways of hearing Episodes 1 and 2 Discussion Questions

Ways of Hearing, Episode 1 & 2

 

Episode 1

 

  1. What is Krukowski’s main point about how we experience time in the “real” world versus are experiences with “digital” time? Why are these differences significant?

 

Krukowski explains the change in audio ,in terms of time, since the invention and widespread adoption of digital sound. He explains the elasticity of time in analog sound. When Krukowski made music his recordings sped up at certain times and slowed down at others. It is impossible for humans to keep an exact pace of playing, there is always going to be some level of deviation from the tempo. Digital recordings work at an exact pace. Digital recordings keep the pace to an exact beat, “like figures on a spreadsheet”. This grid-like storage of sounds could be considered perfect pace or one could consider that the lack of living tempo has depreciated the charm of the recording. Krokowski also explains latency. Latency only exists in digital music and it is a lag that exists based on the time digital recordings take to process. In analog sound the vibrations travel through a wire or airspace and directly out of a speaker or to your ear. With digital sound the vibrations have to be processed and translated by a computer which creates a delay.

 

  1. What does Krukowski mean when he says that listening has a lot to do with how we navigate space?

 

When Krukowski says that listening has a lot to do with how we navigate the space around us, he is referring to how we use our sens of hearing to identify our surroundings. When we walk down the street the are many audio clues as to what is happening around us. In New York City these audio cues are even more important because of the volume of actions all occurring around us. The automobile traffic, the crowded sidewalks of people walking by, and the bicycles riding are all things we need to be aware of when navigating the streets of New York. Krukowski points out that many people today wear headphones that block the sounds of these moving objects and in a sense blind us because we can’t hear. Humans use all of our senses to process what is happening in the world, and according to Krukowski, hearing is extremely important, possibly second only to sight in navigating the space around us.

 

Episode 2

  1. In the interview at the beginning of the episode, Jeremiah Moss argues that developers in Astor Place are “privatizing public space in a very stealth way.” What does he mean by this? What does Moss say about the distinction between public and private space, and why is it important?

 

Jeremiah Moss says that Astor Place, while still a public space has been privitized. He argues that while anyone is allowed there now there are rules and private security that change the entire fell of the space. Moss comments that in the past Astor Place was a place where “people would protest and there would be public dissent in this space”. Now that there are chain stores all around such as Kmart and CVS, they no longer allow that sort of public display. Krukowski then jokes that even though the area has changed there are still a lot of drugs sold there. He is referring to the Astor Place of years ago, when illicit drugs were sold in the neighborhood, and now there are big chain drug stores.

 

  1. What is the significance of Emily Thompson’s idea that the development of concert halls arose from desires to “control interior spaces”? How is this desire, according to Krukowski, related to earbuds and headphones?

 

Emily Thompson explains that concert halls and auditoriums arose to capture music but control and eliminate any other sounds. They considered other sounds as noise, so they built large halls like Radio City with walls and surfaces that absorb sound rather than allow the sounds to reverberate. Emily stated that people of that era claimed that walls were a nuisance only to be endured to protect from the weather. Krukowski argues that that desire to control sound and keep out what people consider noise is relevant to people wearing headphones which block out all outside sound. It allows people to only hear the music or other audio and the only space that people navigate with their hearing is inside their head where the music bounces around internally.

 

  1. In your own opinion, what are the key ideas from this episode about the relationship between sound and space? What strikes you as interesting about the ways that sound influences our experience of space

 

The key idea of this episode is that technology that has materialized to control sound and deliver it directly to our ears has limited our interaction with the world. We now have less of a connection to our surroundings. We are so involved in our own self whether we are busy staring at our phones or just swept up in whatever we are listening to on our earbuds or headphones. This can be evidenced by the selection of headphones at your local electronics store. Most brag of their noise cancelling ability allowing one to completely block their hearing from the outside world and allowing them to disconnect in one more way from their surroundings. Technology has made us all become more internalized, and we all tend to disconnect ourselves much more from the world around us.

John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Episode 4

 

  1. According to Berger, how do “publicity”–what we would call advertising–images influence consumers and why is this significant?

 

According to Berger, publicity influences consumers by displaying “images of an alternate way of life.” These images pretend to offer the consumer a reward of a better existance if we were to purchase these items. They convince consumers that they will become enviable, which will make them happier. It is significant because we see these images everywhere we go, and even if we don’t remember these images, they still manage to influence our daily decisions.

 

 

  1. As he compares oil painting to publicity (advertising) photography, Berger argues that oil painting “showed what the owner was already enjoying among his possessions and way of life;” “it enhanced his view of himself as he already was.”  Whereas publicity pictures, “appeal to a way of life that we aspire to or think we aspire to.” Why are these differences important? What do they reveal to us about the production of images for publicity?

 

Berger explains that oil paintings like publicity images both revolve around the concept that “you are what you have”.  Oil paintings, however, were used to enhance the self-image of its owner. Publicity images are purposed to persuade people to purchase possessions. These images offer false promises of greater happiness in life, from better relationships to a better home. To achieve this happiness, one needs money to acquire it. These images are all created to enhance the selfish greed that is inherent in human nature. It feeds the need to feel like oneself is better than others.

 

  1. Choose one of the “dreams” he offers or think of your own. How does this dream offered by advertising use imagery to manipulate consumers?

 

One of the dreams Berger alludes to, is the skin dream. Imagery in magazines, on TV, and now on social media offer a dream of beauty by purchasing their products. It manipulates consumers to believe that if you buy them you too will share this beauty by having flawless skin and in turn be more desirable. This deception is furthered by technology, beyond that of the lighting and cameras of Berger’s day, and has evolved to include digital tools that enhance the image to be more visually pleasing than the reality could ever be. This technology has enabled anyone with a computer to enjoy this manipulation of images to sell you their own experiences online.

Ieshia Evans, a Strong Female in Western Art

I am writing this essay to educate and spark discussion on the use of gender roles in art with respect to the Black Lives Matter movement and the photo of Ieshia Evans. Anyone who is interested in the gender art roles or the Black Lives Matter movement may find this interesting. People who have an interest in modern photographic art, Race relation or gender roles in art may find this impactful in their studies. The reader most likely will already have some basic information on the Black Lives matter movement and also some knowledge of John Berger’s ways of seeing. A hook as an introductory sentence will be crucial to keep the reader’s interest. A hook that describes the violence involved in Alton Sterling’s death would be appropriate. Because this is a college level essay, I will use language appropriate for academic study. This paper will feature a solemn tone. This is a serious subject that deserves to be discussed with the gravity it encompasses.  

On July 9th 2016, in Baton Rouge, two white police officers were caught on video camera shooting and killing Alton Sterling. A young New York nurse, Ieshia Evans, who traveled to Louisiana to protest this injustice, stepped ahead of the crowd and made her stand. She was photographed at the perfect moment, and that moment was eternally frozen in time. John Berger in Ways of Seeing discusses gender roles in western art. He maintains that a woman’s passivity in art is a result of western culture’s view of women as objects to be observed for their frail beauty. While images of women in art throughout western history have shown them in a passive role, this image shows a woman in a position of power resisting the male police officers effortlessly.

Ways of Seeing Discussion Episode 2

Reading/Viewing Questions

 

John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Episode 2 

 

After you watch episode 2 of Ways of Seeing (or even while you are watching it), provide short answers to the questions below. 

 

  1. One of the main premises in this episode is Berger’s distinction between nakedness and the nude female form as it is traditionally represented in Western art. What are the differences between these things and why are these differences significant? Do they apply to images you have encountered in your experience?

 

John Berger in episode two of Ways of Seeing, he discusses the difference between nude and nakedness for a woman. He explains that nakedness is just the human female body without clothes. An appropriate example would be a woman in the shower by herself is naked. Nude is when there is an audience there to judge and sexualize the body of a female. This is significant in society as it is a reflection of inequality of women and how women are seen and viewed in western culture. I think this applies equally today as it did during the renaissance, or during the 70’s when this video was produced. I think we have substituted photography for the paintings. As he mentioned in his previous episode the camera, and as time has progressed technology has somewhat changed the perspective of the nude. I think the internet and social media has created a new version of the nude, that encompasses women who are not even naked. They may have a bikini or just a revealing outfit that is meant to entice the male sexuality, but the result is the same. The images have stripped that person of who they are, and replaced their identity with an image “that is first and foremost a sight to be looked at” as Berger states in his video.

 

  1. According to Berger, how have Western works of art depicted and defined different roles for men and women? According to Berger, what is the significance of this? Do these depictions influence the ways we think of the differences between men’s and women’s roles in society today? 

 

Berger states that in western works of art, women are depicted in a subservient role. He explains this is representative of western culture. He uses the story of Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden as a prime example. He notes two striking themes in the story. The first is how they become aware of their nakedness, and the second is the blame god places on the woman. This theme has resonated throughout western history and created a subordinate role for women in our culture. It has been present in Judean-Chrsitian-Muslim cultures for thousands of years. Western works of art are a clear depiction of this as they mostly show women in a passive role. They are there to be viewed for male enjoyment and who they truly are has been reduced to an image only there to be sexuallized for the viewers pleasure. I do not believe these depictions influence the ways we think of gender roles today, but they are rather just visual representations of the culture that has been ingrained in society by traditional religions. Traditional religions have marginalized the role of women in relation to men for thousands of years.

 

  1. How does Berger describe the significance of the mirror in paintings depicting women? What does this object say about the ways beauty is defined in these paintings? What does Berger say about the depiction of the female gaze in the paintings he discusses? What kinds of more contemporary examples does he relate this to, and what significance does he draw from these connections between older European art and depictions of women today?

 

Berger uses the mirror to display the hypocrisy in society’s perspective of women. In western art, and society as well, women are considered narcissistic for examining themselves in the mirror. In contrast, men are justified for seeing a woman for her beauty, and expect a woman to use the tools at her disposal to attain beauty for those same men.  When she does so, she is then considered a narcissist and therein lies the double standard. Berger also discusses how the females in western art are almost always depicted as looking seductively back at the viewer. They rarely are looking at anything in the painting, but rather their expression is meant only to seduce the viewer. They often have almost the same provocative expressions.  He compares a model from what is considered a masterpiece of western art, to “an ill paid model for a photograph in a girly magazine” and finds the extremely similar. I believe we can extrapolate his theory to make conclusions about women and social media today. When viewing pictures on Instagram or Facebook, we quite often see these same or similar expressions. They are intentionally flirtatious and often altered to appear sexier. This ultimately reinforces the same societal gender roles that have existed for years.

Berger’s Ways of Seeing and Starry Night abused

 

Van Gogh’s Starry Night is one of the most famous and recognizable paintings in the world. Its value is priceless and seeing in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City is truly a magical sensation. Berger explains this is partly due to its monetary value. This may be true, but to see it in its silence and stillness, after seeing it everywhere from books to coffee mugs, the real thing transcends just its rarity and authenticity. Starry Night has a brilliance in it’s dark contrasting colors and brushstrokes that are lost in most prints. Berger correctly explains how photography has changed that. Now art can be used or abused as its own language by someone other than the artist. I think John would shudder to see the effects of not just photography but now years after his video, Photoshop and the ability to not only reproduce but severely alter an image into a completely different image. In this ‘meme’ Starry Night has been altered as a joke to make people laugh on the internet. It has been photoshopped so someone can increase their social media presence. Van Gogh painted this scene in a severe depression in a mental hospital. He never intended for his painting to be used as a language of humor. Berger uses the camera as the culprit for this trend of manipulation of art, but I’d argue it goes well beyond the camera. It’s modern technology that is the true offender. If Berger had experienced the digital world, he would see art being metamorphized not just by its context but by actual true digital manipulation. He would see his theory proven to an extreme he never imagined when he filmed this 40-50 years ago. Images today’s day are so accessible to manipulation that anybody with a computer can abuse art for their own purpose. It has ultimately changed the value of visual art and stripped it of its original meaning.

John Berger’s Ways of Seeing Discussion Questions

One of the first points John Berger makes is that the act of seeing something is not as objective as we might at first think. Instead, he argues that what we see is conditioned by habits and conventions. What does Berger mean when he says that the process of seeing is not “natural,” that it is shaped by habits and conventions? What kinds of habits and conventions shape the ways we see and how do they do this?

John Berger states that the act of seeing is not as objective as we think. He makes this argument by explaining we are conditioned to see the world in a different perspective than people over one hundred years ago because of photography and technology. Our habits and conventions, according to John, go beyond just what the eye sees at the moment. Because now our eyes can see things that are miles away with the use of cameras, our entire perspective of the world has changed as human beings. He claims that before the invention of cameras, people could only perceive what was in front of them and their personal experience. He explains that because now we can view art outside of it’s intended environment, as part of a building or church, or museum, we do not get its original purpose because we are conditioned to see things in terms of modern perspective.

How does Berger describe the term “perspective”? How does the concept of artistic perspective make “the eye the center of the visible world” and why is this significant when we think about what artworks like paintings mean for viewers?

Berger describes the term perspective as the opposite of a lighthouse with the light condensing into to the eye instead of branching out. He explains that perspective is the focus of what the eyes see, which then forms our reality.  We carry this perspective with us everywhere we go because our eye travels with us. As humans, our perspective differs for each of us and our reality differ as well.  Berger describes this from a strictly visual sense but it remains just as relevant for all of our senses of the world. The significance of this perspective in terms of painting is that our visual perspective of a painting defines our reality of the meaning behind the  artwork.

According to Berger, how has the camera changed our sense of perception? How has this device brought paintings and other images into the context of our lives? How does this differ from attitudes toward art that existed before the camera was invented?

The invention of the camera completely changed our sense of perspective because now we can see things in places our eyes have never traveled to. It has changed the context with which we view art because we can now see a painting or piece of art in a different setting from the artist intended setting, thus giving us a different perspective of the art.  Before the camera was invented you could only see a piece of art in 1 place. The invention of the camera allows us to remove the art and see it in our normal life settings.  Berger is stressing an importance of the surrounding settings of art which now in the age of photography can differ from its original setting.

Berger describes the experience of being in the presence of an authentic artwork–at a museum, for instance–in terms of “stillness” and “silence.” What does he mean by this? According to Berger, why is seeing an artwork in a museum different from seeing it on a screen or in a book?

Berger explains the stillness and silence of an authentic artwork as a pureness. He believe this silence and stillness are the most important thing about these paintings. He sees it as a way of seeing the picture that transcends time. The action in the painting are all simultaneous. We can see it in its unadulterated form. He explains this is only possible once it’s “false mystery and false religiosity” created by its monetary value. He blames this on the camera making them reproducible. Seeing a painting in a book or on screen allows the reproducer of the art to maniupulate the images and meanings of the picture and eliminate the silence and stillness of the art.

What does Berger mean when he describes reproductions of paintings becoming a “form of information?” Paraphrase what he means by his idea of “talking with reproductions.” What is the significance of this?

Berger talks about how paintings can become a “form of information”.  This is because they are placed in context and in competition with other information and media alongside it. Its meaning is transformed based on its surroundings. It can become ambiguous.  He explains that people can talk using reproductions. People can intentionally change the meaning of the reproductions and use them as their own artist language. By placing them alongside their own art or other reprints they can use them to create the meaning they are looking to purvey. It is significant because it shows a positive aspect of this ambiguity created by reprroducing the paingting. By creating a new meaning. One can take a piece of art and manipulate it as they feel fit to create their own new original work of art which can illicit new feelings.

Write one analytical question you have about this episode of Ways of Seeing.

How can we make art accessible to the everyone without losing its silence and stillness and without manipulation?