Category Archives: Misc

Silent Singing Souls

The Art Newspaper reported on artist Bill Fontana making a sound recording with Notre Dame Cathedral’s bells. When the bells are “resting” they are actually still picking up the ambient noises from the surrounding city. This can be recorded and amplified. The result is intriguingly alive and soulful. Click on the above link to listen to a video about midway down.

What else has a soul singing in the apparent silence if you take the time or have the tools to listen?

Here are quotes I liked from the article:

“It’s a physical fact that these bells are actually vibrating all the time, it’s like a spirit that’s living inside of Notre Dame. It’s not dead, it’s alive,” Fontana tells The Art Newspaper in an exclusive interview. “When I had the opportunity [in July] to climb around in the bell towers, and actually physically access [the oldest and largest bell, named Emmanuel], and put my sensors on it to listen to what’s going on inside of it, I realised I was hearing a sound that probably nobody’s ever heard before that this bell is making and has been making continuously since 1681 [when it was recast]. It’s the voice, soul, the breath of the bell.

To record the cathedral’s voice, Fontana installed an accelerometer on Emmanuel to measure the low-level vibrations the bell emits in response to its environment, which can then be adjusted to levels the human ear can pick up. “You can hear the city sounds in that bell,” the artist says, and in an early test recording sent to The Art Newspaper, which he also shared on our podcast The Week in Art, the whine of sirens and the din of motors can be heard in the ambient hum.

Emmanuel is the oldest of the cathedral’s ten bells, recast on the orders of King Louis XIV in 1681, and considered one of the most harmonically beautiful in Europe, ringing in a clear F sharp. It was the only bell to survive the French Revolution—the rest were melted down to create cannon balls—and it was the first bell to ring out when Paris was liberated from Nazi rule.

Lee Perry Notes

The recent death of reggae producer and artist Lee Perry was covered by two sources in my media diet: Pitchfork and Tyler Cowen at Marginal Revolution. I like reggae/Jamaican/dub/Caribbean sounds as much as the next person but my knowledge does not go far past Bob Marley. Lee Perry was a regrettable blind spot for me.

Over the last couple days I have dived into his work and now understand a bit better why his passing received so much attention. In addition to listening to songs like People Funny Boy I would strongly recommend this five minute mini-doc: Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry at Work. It is a great example of a person with a process producing some magical.

It was fun to look in the Marginal Revolution archives at some older Lee Perry coverage. Why was Tyler so plugged into Lee Perry in 2005?:

  • Oct 2005: It looks like Tyler was as much a fan of Roast Fish and Cornbread 15 years ago as he is today
  • Jun 2005: Did Tyler make a rare miss in not asking Richard Prum about Lee Perry?
  • May 2005: From the post ‘Why satellite radio doesn’t make me happier’ – “I would rather have… a station: “For people who are convinced that James Brown, Sun Ra, Fela Kuti, Lee Perry, and Pierre Boulez are seminal musical figures of our time.”

Would May 2005 Tyler be happy with the music curation services available today? I am both grateful for today’s music discovery choices but also feel I am lacking a way to really grow my familiarity with different sounds and genres not already in or adjacent to my wheelhouse.

On that point, I cannot over recommend FT Alphaville’s Jamie Powell‘s summer playlist which has been my music discovering vehicle of choice this summer (link to Spotify playlist). It gives and gives.

Other notes:


I liked this line from this interview: Lee “Scratch” Perry: ‘I gave Bob Marley reggae as a present’ (1:45, transcription errors mine)

I don’t believe God is normal. God is not normal. God is mad, I am sure God is mad… if God who takes all these people and makes them, I find that he made a mistake but he says it is no mistake, it is an experiment.


These were some parts from Pitchfork piece I enjoyed as well:

he remained committed to music as a process synonymous with life itself—alive and always changing. “The studio must be like a living thing,” he once said. “Then I put my mind into the machine and the machine perform reality.”

For those who believe in sound, Perry’s backyard studio, the Black Ark, was the center of the world from 1973 until the producer allegedly burned it down himself a decade later, in order to, he claimed, rid it of demons.

Simone Bertuzzi of the Italian multimedia art duo Invernomuto, who filmed Perry performing for a 2016 conceptual documentary called Negus, told me: “He was almost 80 years old, and after a five hour drive he jumped in front of the camera for another five hours. At the end we asked, ‘Lee are you OK, are you hungry, do you want to stop?’ He said, ‘I’m a robot, I can go on forever. Whatever is fine for you is fine for me.’” Negus took as its starting point Perry’s notion that the right vibrations—played back over a properly loud soundsystem—can alter the past as well as the future. Countless artists received this type of unbridled, possibility-expanding inspiration from the Upsetter.

So while Perry has phase-shifted to another realm of existence, his body of work continues to echo, feedback, and grow. “As long as me live, I am taking the music to a higher level,” he said this past March. “Because my music has no end, and it make you feel happy, turn you on, and put you to bed.” His recordings captured magic. Now, our task is to dub that magic back into motion.

On Journalism

Journalism ought to act as an inhibitor, dampening the febrile spread of misconceptions and misinformation, helping us to make less knee-jerk, more considered judgements. But for it to play that role, we need journalists who positively enjoy the work of undermining narratives, and who take as their mission something close to James Baldwin’s description of the poet’s responsibility: “to defeat all labels and complicate all battles.” Yet we appear to have fewer of those than ever.

July 28, 2021 Tuesday links

  1. 37 Comparisons Of The Sizes Of Prehistoric Animal Ancestors And Their Modern Relatives (From MR)
  2. Walter Sickert’s Brighton Pierrots (1915) Tate: “Closer to home, Tate Britain is organising a career survey of the British artist Walter Sickert (28 April-18 September 2022). The exhibition of this painters’ painter (and possibly the greatest British painter since J.M.W. Turner) will look at his relationship with contemporaries such as Edgar Degas and, much like the Frenchman, how the rise of photography affected the composition of his paintings.” – The Art Newspaper
  3. The Constant Gardeners consists of four robot arms each weighing more than a tonne that have been repurposed to gently rake and draw in a bed of basalt and granite gravel. The installation was inspired by traditional Japanese Zen gardening and seen as a way to counter the perception of robots as threatening and inelegant, according to the Jason Bruges Studio, which added: “By programming the robots to perform the role of Zen gardeners, we hope to challenge these notions by displaying the machines in a contemplative, graceful context.”” – The Art Newspaper

July 22, 2021 Thursday links

  1. Intraday Timing of General Collateral Repo Markets (Liberty Street Economics): Specifics, Specifics, Specifics! Love the human details this layers on to a niche-ier technical market mechanism.
  2. Three Things I Think I Think – Learning From Bad Inflation Takes (pragcap): Good points about the need for MMT crowd to acknowledge that demand side is probably at least part of the composition of inflation; QE simply shifts composition of money-like assets in real economy, not quantity; and the measures that monetary policy attempts to impact are mainly determined by fundamentals at the primary level, with the fed’s secondary market operations having only marginal effects.
  3. Linus and Lucy: with the Jerry Granelli Trio (youtube): Jerry Granelli was drummer of the Vince Guaraldi Trio and recently died. “People heard the heart in it. Honestly, I turned left creatively with my career after that and never thought about it for a while; jazz musicians are sometimes not as open as they may seem when it comes to people having hits or things crossing over—everybody gets all uppity. But then I matured enough to realize that it went way beyond music. It was the first entry point to jazz for a lot of people. And now that I’ve got my credentials as an artist, I’m proud and delighted to be a part of it.”

July 19, 2021 Monday links

  1. Saul Bass: The Art Of The Title Sequence (youtube, from Ted Gioia): The video has two examples including Catch Me If You Can
  2. Even God Would Get Fired as an Active Investor – stay. in. the. game (if God is your money manager)
  3. We Don’t Sell Saddles Here: Slack’s pre-product launch internal memo | “test & iterate vs scale & optimize” — During first pair, provide people what they want and communicate that to them. | Slack was selling an innovation that would change human behavior. Acme Saddle Company sells horseback riding, not saddles.

FT Alphaville Catchup Part 2/2

Continuation of this:

  1. Everything Wrong with the “Money Printer Go Brrrr” Meme – pragcap: Problem #1 – Jerome Powell Doesn’t actually Print Cash; Problem #2- Jerome Powell Doesn’t Really Have the Money Printer; Problem #3 – Jerome Powell Doesn’t Enable Fiscal Policy; Problem #4 – The Fed’s Powers are More Constrained Than Many Assume.
  2. World War 2, M2 and 2020s vision: Velocity matters!
  3. Man Group analysis shows it pays to own oil, gold and wine, and possibly also a bitcoin if and when inflation bites. – alphaville op-ed
  4. No Floor, No Ceiling – “Today, we face the opposite problem. We are individuals, at the whims of forces we do not understand, trying to convince ourselves that our old institutions have the power to save us. There is no longer a ceiling above us to restrict our earning potential. But there is also no floor underneath.

What is the optimal way to read the internet? Would quaretly intakes of “the discourse” be more efficient? More effective? Would it be a stronger filter and separate signal from noise? I like the ritual of Alphaville, Marginal Revolution, Matt Levine, and the likes everyday but maybe there is a variation on that consumption pattern that would improve my well-being.

The Church of the Transfiguration

From The Art Newspaper: Newly reopened 18th-century Church of the Transfiguration, topped with 22 domes, is said to have been built without a single nail.

Located on a remote island in Lake Onega, the Russian Orthodox church is part of an ensemble of storied wooden buildings known as Kizhi Pogost, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site since 1990
“According to legend, the lead builder, known as Master Nestor, built the church with a single axe, which he threw into the lake after his masterpiece was completed. He said “there never had been and would never be another church like it again””

Calculations by contemporary engineers and builders have not been able to fully explain how the structure holds together, because of its complexity and also the unpredictable nature of wood, “which behaves just like a person, completely differently in different situations”, Nezvitskaya says…

For now, those will be held just once a year, on the Orthodox Feast of the Transfiguration on 19 August.

More images here and google maps location here.

Solutionism: ratcheting towards a much better world…

Debates about technology and progress are often framed in terms of “optimism” vs. “pessimism.”

The constant drumbeat of “the world is coming to an end” has the strange effect of simultaneously causing me to think that might be true while also demoralizing me from doing anything about it. I also believe (inconsistently I guess with the prior statement) that the world is as good as it has ever been and is only getting better. Sort of the whole Progress Studies spiel/rhetoric.

Jason Crawford (author of The Roots of Progress, a website about the history of technology and industry) wrote a cool historical case study looking at times when commenters have predicted their would be an imminent crisis in producing enough food to feed everyone. The contingent alarmism and unexpected innovations that confounded pessimistic and optimistic forecasters show how a “solutionism” mindset can temper optimistic complacency with pessimism and pessimistic defeatistism with optimism.

The risk of adopting an “optimistic” or “pessimistic” mindset is the temptation to take sides on an issue depending on a general mood, rather than forming an opinion based on the facts of the case. “Don’t worry,” says the optimist; “accept hardship,” counters the pessimist…

To embrace both the reality of problems and the possibility of overcoming them, we should be fundamentally neither optimists nor pessimists, but solutionists.

Solutionism sort of acts as a ratchet mechanism towards a better future. We still have to work hard to apply force but once you push past the next “click,” you can work towards the next one from a position of security. Rather than yo-yoing between unbridled optimism and pessimism, we can crank along acknowledging the difficulty of progress while feeling confident that we can figure out the next thing too.

July 14, 2021 Wednesday links

  1. Conversations with Tyler – Richard Prum on Birds, Beauty, and Finding Your Own Way (Ep. 126): “Well, that’s a really cool thing. Actually, if you go back to the gait of a crocodile or any tetrapod, the front legs and the hind legs were really coupled. You have to do that well. Going back, probably, in the very long bipedal theropod dinosaurs — long history of bipedality in theropod dinosaurs. Those things had to be uncoupled, and it required a lot of rewiring both of the motor movement, the brain, the muscles, et cetera. That’s ancient in the lineage of birds.andWe usually thought that you have social monogamy, at least two birds helping raise the young, because the young are so needy and they have to grow up quickly. But there’s another possibility, which is that they could evolve to be so needy and grow up quickly because they managed to get males at the nest.” andNow, sometimes albatrosses don’t breed until they’re 20 years old or even, on average, maybe it’s what — 10 years old. What are they doing in the meantime that’s so important?andThe real fundamental mystery is why do flowers smell beautiful? That one does not have [laughs], at least immediately, appealing answers because, it turns out, there are no receptor genes in common between a bee and a human, and they’re responding to the same flower odors in a similar way.andBees are making choices, and they’re making aesthetic choices based on the memorably rewarding experience of using a flower.and I think one of the things that can impress a person without the experience to understand that the hard work is worthwhile, or will be worthwhile, is spectacle.andThe scale of cat death — I don’t know the numbers, but way more birds are killed by cats than are killed by all the wind power in America. It’s devastating. It’s billions of birds.
  2. The Art of Fishing With Birds – youtube
  3. Sun Ra UFO Story as told by Brother Ah – youtube, via Ted Gioia
  4. Slow Boring on “Protesting Joe Biden thanks to a fundamental misreading of the situation” – hits on big points about how “people trying to defend the status quo almost always win in U.S. legislative fights because we have a lot of veto points” and how naming the solution is sometimes not the most productive course if “you are actually interested in constructive social change.” From interfluidity: “Durable change does not in fact come from crushing a near-equally-matched social enemy. It comes from cooptation until the rump social enemy is small, and can then be cleanly defeated… At home as abroad, the real struggle is always for hearts and minds. The rest is just carnage.”