Sunday, November 22, 2009

Delia Derbyshire, Alchemist of Sound

The amazing Delia Derbyshire, pioneer of British electronic music, demonstrating tape loops. A clip from the documentary "Alchemists of Sound" on the history of the BBC Radiophonics Workshop, where Derbyshire worked from 1962-1973.

Derbyshire is best known for her realization of the original Doctor Who theme-- from Wikipedia: Derbyshire's interpretation of Grainer's theme used electronic oscillators and magnetic audio tape editing (including tape loops and reverse tape effects) to create an eerie and unearthly sound that was quite unlike anything that had been heard before. Derbyshire's original Doctor Who theme is one of the first television themes to be created and produced by entirely electronic means. Much of the Doctor Who theme was constructed by recording the individual notes from electronic sources one by one onto magnetic tape, cutting the tape with a razor blade to get individual notes on little pieces of tape a few centimetres long and sticking all the pieces of tape back together one by one to make up the tune. This was a laborious process which took weeks.

From her web site: A recent Guardian article called her 'the unsung heroine of British electronic music', probably because of the way her infectious enthusiasm subtly cross-pollinated the minds of many creative people. She had exploratory encounters with Paul McCartney, Karlheinz Stockhausen, George Martin, Pink Floyd, Brian Jones, Anthony Newley, Ringo Starr and Harry Nilsson.

Friday, November 20, 2009

High Speed Sequencing

This video dedicated to my undergraduate degree in biology, in which it was never deemed necessary to introduce the fact that sequencing technology more sophisticated than the Sanger method exists. This is an animation explaining the process behind Helicos's new single-molecule sequencing technology. Like all other modern sequencing methods, this technique is based on short-read sequences-- DNA is replicated and then broken into millions of tiny fragments (25-50 base pairs at the low end), all of which are sequenced simultaneously. Given about 30-fold coverage of your genome, you can align these fragments to confidently reconstruct it as a single sequence.

Also of note, the Velvet algorithm is one cool sequence assembly program which, instead of aligning DNA fragments by simply looking for overlapping regions between them, plots all the fragment sequences generated onto a De Bruijn graph, and then uses principles of graph theory to condense them into a single sequence. Yay math!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Solomon Burke-- None of Us Are Free

Jazz organ: great instrument, or the greatest instrument?