Master of your Public Domain

To all of my copywriter friends with scripts based on the use of the song “Happy Birthday” only to be told that it is not free to use, get ready to dust off those scripts. The song may become public domain just yet.

According to the NY Times article, new evidence is being presented by Good Morning to You Productions to prove that it precedes the 1923 copyright threshold with a published version from 1922.

So Warner Music may have been collecting royalties from the use in movies, tv shows, and public performances without actually having a valid copyright.

Happy Birthday to you, America.

Ornette Coleman – A Legend Passes

One of my favorite songs has the storybook title, “Richard Pryor Addresses a Tearful Nation.” And Ornette Coleman gives a gut wretching solo that struck deep the first time I heard it. Take a listen:

Ornette adds so much pain and emotion to a song that is already somber to begin with. I absolutely love it.

There is even more Ornette on this album that I fear will be missed or overlooked in the digital era. Two minutes of silence follow the last track on the CD, only to be followed by a raw Coleman solo that twists the gut even further. All the breath, all the pad noise, and all the age. This is not Ornette at the peak of his game physically, but captures a man who has seen life and can still express it though his horn.

Ornette died today at 85 years of age. But he left a legacy that will live forever.

Paul’s Boutique Re-imagined

Some people have time to do some amazing things. Like finding all of the sampled recordings from Paul’s Boutique and creating a refreshed version 25 years after its initial release. And creating a masterpiece in it’s own right.

Take the time to click through to the Soundcloud page to see the list of samples used. Solid Steel DJ Cheeba, DJ Moneyshot and DJ Food created something spectacular. Copyright criminals or Aural Artists?


Interactive Music in Advertising

I am floored by the new Old Spice ad. First, the planning to put this thing together. Second, the skills of Terry Crews. And then there is the “how the hell did they do that” with the interactive part at the end of the video.

Take a look for yourself. And then create your own Muscle Music after the video.

Celebrity Voiceover Spotlight

Have you seen the new Nike spots? No? OK, check it out.

They’ve been getting a lot of press and rightfully so. The spots are just overall good advertising. Copy, visuals, concept… But I scratched my head trying to recognize the voiceover actor. The voice is familiar and knew it had to be a heavy hitter. I admittedly had to look it up.

Well it is the same guy who is so good (but less intelligible) as the villain in the new Dark Knight/Batman movie. Tom Hardy.


I Rumble for You

Oscar Albeiro Figueroa Mosquera - Clean and Jerk - Bar Drop

photo credit: Peter Dean

In 1996, the Olympics were held in my home town of Atlanta. I mainly work in post production so other than a few promo pieces and some prerecorded opening and closing ceremony segments, I didn’t think there was much in the way of audio production or sound design for the games. That was until a colleague mentioned his freelance work at Lake Lanier, where the Olympic rowing events were taking place. He was tasked with performing the rowing sounds on a sampling keyboard to match the visuals in the live rowing competition. Outside of theater, this was the first time I had ever heard of someone creating sound effects for a live event.

Foley Room at the Sound Design Campus
photo credit: Vancouver Film School

So I was delighted to see The Atlantic’s article about the “Sometimes Fictional Sounds of the Olympic Games” a few weeks ago. It’s a behind the scenes look at how audio is focused, refined and embellished to bring out the drama in sport. Mics are placed on the high dive as well as in the pool so we hear perspective. Contact mics are placed on or inside beams or targets to give you additional perspective that the live audience doesn’t even hear. And, in some cases, where camera wielding helicopters and support vehicles make the real sound unusable for broadcast, the sound may be recreated entirely.

So make sure to pay attention as you watch the Olympic coverage this year. Because the audio person involved needs to hit their marks as accurately as the athletes. And it may be the only place where cheating to increase the drama is actually encouraged.



I listen to a lot of music that harkens back to days past. Jazz from the 40s thru 60s. Rock from the 70s. Pop from the 80s and 90s. But lately, it seems there are more new groups digging back into the old crates and pull out classic sounds. Maybe the popularity of Amy Winehouse and Adele has sparked people to look back for inspiration. Maybe there is a backlash against fabricated pop and a push toward musicianship. Whatever the cause is, I like the effect.

Check out¬†Michael Kiwanuka’s take on Zeppelin. Then, grab his new album.

Or watch Alabama Shakes bear some soul.

Then there is J.D. McPherson with some pure rock n roll.

Musicians playing music. Beautiful.

A Few Sensations

Day 302: My Hand Observes

photo credit: Gary Jungling

Our senses are the path from the physical world to our brains. They take what is concrete evidence and convert it to something our brain can process. A sort of analog to digital conversion. It’s a conversion that happens so fast and fluid that we aren’t always conscious that it is happening. But it occurs hundreds of times a second and keeps you alive and productive your entire life.

So what sense do you rely on most in your daily pursuits? Which the least? In the audio world where I spend a great deal of time, you’d think hearing would be the most relied on sense. And it is. But over the last decade or so, sight has increased it’s market share of sensory input in my profession. With digital editing, the ability to see waveforms has added new sensory information to the mix. And with more data, we are able to predict and make correct adjustments quicker and more efficiently.

But one must be careful to not disable the dominant sense in the process. The additional input is good and can make us better, but substituting one for the other grants us no gain. And in some instances can garner incorrect or confusing data that leads to errors in judgement.

Many examples exist of sensory deficiencies leading to heightened proficiency in other senses. The blind generally develop a keener sense of hearing. The deaf develop visual skills sharp enough to read lips from across the room. But the ability to develop one sensory abilities on top of each other is a special gift that allows an individual to excel at their chosen game.

Take Maria Gandara at Buddhapesto. She uses her sense of hearing to know when the pesto is finished by the way her food processors sounds. Or Cesar Milan, The Dog Whisperer. Who has figured out what senses our canine friends are utilizing to interpret our actions and intentions. It isn’t always what you think it is.¬† And only the best car sales people know to appeal to all of the senses to get the deal done. From the look of the sleek lines and shiny exterior, the smell of a interior, the sound of the solid door close, the feel of the leather and the firm handshake of trust. If they could figure out a way to make you taste the car, they would add that too.

Growing up the son of a mechanic, I remember my father interpreting the sound of a running car to determine a problem. My first mentor used his sense of smell to diagnosis problems with broken electronics. Now, when editing audio, I am able to see specific consonants, words, mouth noises and breaths in waveforms. I began my career “rocking reels” to gain the audible cues to make these edits, and I still technically can in the digital world. But the visual cues are an added sensory cue that gives me that extra advantage. Not only can I hear what an “s” sounds like in slow motion, I know what the sound looks like too.

So start approaching your favorite pursuit with the intent of figuring out how to get your other senses involved. It may make you enjoy the learning process that much more and make your final product that much better.

Dumbed Down Digital Downloads


photo credit: turkletom

These days, we’re all purchasing or listening to music via some digital music service. Whether it is iTunes, Pandora, Spotify, or any other of the many services available, music lovers have found their favorite way to consume music in the digital world. Gotta love that phrase… “consume music.” The sound quality may be up for debate, but who can deny the convenience and portability that digitized music offers us.

But there are a few things that the current state of these music services doesn’t offer us. Things that LPs, cassettes, and CDs included in the package. For one, we don’t get a list of the personnel on the album. The producer, band members, engineer, art director (if artwork is still available), even management. In addition, we have lost the lyrics, special thanks and any other special message the musicians wanted to share with their adoring public.

Why have these things been lost in the translation to digital? Isn’t anybody interested in this stuff anymore? Well, at least for one group, it is a big concern. The members of NARAs (The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences) have joined a growing movement to give credit to the many fine people involved in creating the music. So at least we know someone is paying attention. But I have a little trouble believing that the music services haven’t realized the value of this information. Anything that makes me linger longer on your site/app helps your business. And this information can’t be difficult to source. With the data mining capabilities of the internet, the information is out there. Just find an elegant way to display it.

So what would we like to see for the next generation of digital music services? First, give me the personnel involved in the recording. Producers, band members and additional musicians, engineers, recording dates… all the stuff that was available on LPs and CDs. And of course add the lyrics, special thanks, endorsement connections (i.e. Phil Collins plays Sabian Cymbals), and so forth. Then give me the information that wasn’t possible on physical mediums. Release dates, chart dates, awards, units sold, tour dates. All the stuff that is ongoing and dynamic. I’ll bet dance music and workout fanatics would love to know beats per minute.

And what about visuals. When I listen at home, I sometimes have a slide show of my personal pictures playing on the screen. Take this to the next step, a slide show of photos from in studio sessions, concert tour photos, or hell, even the video. At least make it an option. Now, give me the ability to search using these terms. Let me find other material produced by this same producer and create a playlist. Or search for a band member’s side project. Maybe the singer wrote a book or had a film role I’d like to know about. If I am listening to Queen, let me know that their music is featured in the movies Flash Gordon and Highlander. Or that lead guitarist Brian May is an astrophysicist.

Sure this stuff would be like the commentary track on Blu-Rays and DVDs. Only a handful of people will be interested in it. But those handful of people will be spending time and money on your site. Eyes and ears for your advertisers. And if you want to set yourself apart from the competition, here is a way to stand out.

Come on. How hard can this be in the digital world? The information age? We are humans. We like to connect dots. Discover similarities, go on a savager hunt. Give me something more to connect with the music. Because I am sick of consuming it.


Things That Make You Go Vroom 2

New 2011 2012 BMW M5 Blue Goodwood Festival
photo credit:
Louis Rix –

The last post wasn’t intended to have a sequel, but apparently there are more car companies tricking our ears with supplemental engine noise.

Take the 2012 BMW M5. The M5 utilizes the same idea of pumping additional engine sounds into the cabin with its Active Sound Design technology. But BMW designers decided to port the sound of the engine directly into the audio system. One of the advantages of doing it this way is the even distribution throughout the cabin.

The good folks at Bimmerpost wanted to demonstrate the difference between Active Sound engaged and Active Sound disengaged for all to judge for themselves. Check out the clip below and tell me which you prefer.