Things I Learned From Skimming Through Three Years of American Antiquity

For my new job, I had to scan through the 2011-2013 issues of American Antiquity, an archaeological journal, for site numbers. However, I gained a few additional insights. For example:

  • Looting of archaeological sites is apparently a big problem. The article “Looting of the Fort Craig Cemetery: Damage Done and Lessons Learned,” by Jeffery R. Hanson details the story of one man aliased Gravedigger who took material relics and human remains from the site of a Civil War battlefield called Fort Craig. The extent of his crimes were not learned until after his death, and at least one archaeologist and two historians knew about his activities but did not tell authorities.
  • National Geographic illustrations of prehistoric life aren’t entirely accurate and are in fact colored by contemporary gender roles and norms. In “Picturing the Past: Gender in National Geographic Reconstructions of Prehistoric Life,” Julie Solometo and Joshua Moss discuss not only this but the fact that these illustrations have not been affected by more feminist perspectives on prehistoric humans, despite these viewpoints becoming more prominent in archaeology starting in the 1980’s.
  • Zotero is a freaking amazing tool and I wish I had been using it earlier, especially when I was downloading all of those articles about singing synths. I love having all of my research together in one place!

Graphics Tablets: Surprisingly Useful for Singing Synth

Most of us singing synth users are pretty familiar with using an interface that looks like this:

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The piano roll interface is used for a reason in singing synth programs; it’s intuitive because it alludes to physical musical instruments, not to mention the fact that many other music programs use a somewhat similar interface.

However, imagine this: what if you, as a user of singing synths, were performing live? Suddenly, this parallel becomes way less useful: a keyboard interface doesn’t provide the continuous pitch control that a singing voice needs. Enter the idea of chironomic singing synthesis: chironomic control offers a way to control parameters much more expressively by using an interface that allows for more nuance. From this idea, the “Cantor Digitalis” singing synthesis system was born. This system is detailed in the 2014 journal article “Drawing Melodies: Evaluation of Chironomic Singing Synthesis,” by Alessandro et al. The “Cantor Digitalis” uses a graphics tablet for control; the user can then use gestures similar to handwriting to manipulate the singing in an intuitive manner. In the article, the system is used in a singing assessment study, however I can easily imagine something like this being used for live performances in a more refined form.

My takeaway from the article is that it is fascinating and interesting to see different interfaces used for singing synthesis. Perhaps it shows that the familiar piano roll setup is not the only viable way of manipulating a singing synthesizer. Also, more amusingly, the article mentions a “glove talk” system, where a formant synthesizer is manipulated with gloves and a petal. It is, as the kid in The Wizard says about the Power Glove, “so bad.”

Review: Pilot Petit 1 Fountain Pens

I received my package from JetPens today, and that means I got to try out these nifty little pens I ordered from them!

I will start off with a bit of a disclaimer: I have not tried fountain pens before! I’m mostly into gel and ballpoint pens, so this was a new experience for me.

The first thing that struck me about these pens is that they are small. As you can see from the photo, they’re only slightly longer than my old iPod Nano. Luckily, they’re a little larger when you take off the cap and put it on the end, which is great for when you’re actually writing.

 

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Granted, I do have small hands, so I’m not sure how comfortable they are for those of us of a more ham-handed nature.

After I figured out how to get the ink cartridge ready (Fun fact: the cartridges are interchangeable with other Petit pens, so they’ll work on the brush pens and the felt tip pens, as well), I was ready to write. I was very pleased with how smooth the ink flow was. The pink pen was a little light, color wise, but the blue was perfect. The pens also work well on my two favorite notebooks, so that was a plus, as well.

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All in all, I give these pens a thumbs up.

Next, I want to try the Kakuno, and I think that’s the farthest I want to get into fountain pens.

Let’s Talk About Windbreakers

Let me talk about something that I wholeheartedly, unironically love.

1990’s windbreakers.

Seriously, look at this majestic beauty:

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They come in all different colors:

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And there’s just something about those bright, distinctive blocks of color that speaks to me on a fundamental level:

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Someday, I will own one of these beauties and it will be gorgeous.

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Maybe 90’s windbreakers aren’t as gorgeous as Paul Saunders, but damn if they don’t come close.

If you want to own any of these beauties for yourself, the images link to Etsy where you can buy them. I will also be able to live vicariously through you, so there’s that, too.

 

A Different Definition of “Auto-Tune”

Here’s something that I thought was somewhat nifty: a system that generates tuning for Vocaloid based on parameters from a database of singing samples. Here’s some additional audio that contains a comparison between baseline untuned audio, manually tuned audio, and the audio with the generated parameters.

While the results section from the article reports that the version generated by the system tested the best in terms of expressiveness and naturalness, I still think that it soundsĀ  slightly off compared to the manually tuned version, but I do like it better than a lot of the results people often get with Vocalistener/Vocashifter/similar technologies.

Here’s the article, for those who are interested.

Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need User-Friendliness

A small while back, I had a conversation with Lystrialle about how Vocaloid’s UI is a terrible, terrible thing and how the humble freeware program UTAU, which was written in Visual Basic 6 and looks the part, has a better interface. I wondered to myself, “how could a program that was written by professionals and costs a not-insignificant amount of money have such a bad interface?” Well, as it turns out, Vocaloid doesn’t even have the worst UI of any singing synth program, because most pre-Vocaloid singing synthesizers were not commercial products and thus did not concern themselves with things like “usability” or “user experience.”

Witness MUSSE DIG, an academic singing synth project developed in 1989 by researchers at KTH, the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology, in Stockholm. “The KTH Rule System for Singing Synthesis” by Gunilla Berndtsson, which, much like the title suggests, outlines the rules for singing synthesis MUSSE DIG used. Unlike modern synths, MUSSE DIG, as far as I can tell, did not use actual human samples; that didn’t seem to be a thing until later in the 90’s, as far as I can tell. Getting back to the point, this is how “score files,” roughly equivalent to a VSQ in Vocaloid or a UST in UTAU, were written:

“The lyrics and the corresponding notes are first typed into a score file. The lyrics are written in a type of phonetic transcription containing information on vowel length, etc. The metronome value is given, and the notes are specified in terms of pitch name, octave number, and nominal duration [Berndtsson 1996].”

In other words, no piano roll, no visual way of doing pitch correction, and no GUI period. Everything was typed up using good old text. Here is a small excerpt of a score file the article provides:

MM100

Q0-

KY:=B34

RI:=B38

E=B34

Damn.

Of course, it’s no surprise that researchers don’t often think about user friendliness when creating programs, if you’ve ever seen samples of the code they write. Ideas of good programming standards tend to go out the window, especially in the face of deadlines. This is understandable. None of this was meant for any kind of general consumer base; it was mostly meant as a study of how singing works. In fact, I wish I could see some of this code myself out of academic curiosity.

Vocaloid doesn’t have this excuse.

The Nature of Certain Unreleased Vocaloids

(This post was inspired by Lystrialle’s daily tweets about VY2V4.)

Kings have started wars over it.
Fair maidens have wept softly into silken pillows because of it.
Bards have dedicated sonnets to it.
Warriors have fought to the death to defend its honor.
I am, of course, talking about VY2V4.
VY2V4 is a myth, and yet it is real.
VY2V4 is anything you want it to be.
VY2V4 is simultaneously a social construct, and a tangible object.
VY2V4 has the power to both destroy and save the universe.
VY2V4 is everyone’s alter-ego.
VY2V4 is…VY2V4.

Hello!

So, I’m trying my hand at blogging again, this is a novelty.

I am known as abyssalCompiler on the internet, and I mostly post art stuff and dumb things on my Twitter. I started this blog not for any particular purpose, but because I wanted a venue for things that don’t fit in 140 characters. I hold no promise that I will post regularly, or that said posts will be interesting. I may show off interesting things I make here, again, no guarantee.

If you’re wondering what the hell the blog title means, it’s a reference to this video.

Also, man, those raspberries in that placeholder image look delicious.