Kongsberg Jazz Festival

I’ve been to the Kongsberg Jazz Festival this weekend.

It’s mostly a blur.

I think we saw like a dozen free jazz concerts.  Most of them excellent.

Some stand out in particular.  Like the very quiet and magical John Tilbury concert.  And the very inventive  Augstí Fernández thing.

Oh, and the surprising Selvhenter concert.  And the Per Jørgesen thing.

Trey nice.

CDO

I’m going to the I’ll Be Your Mirror thing next weekend.  They’re doing a tape swap thing.  I probably won’t be participating, because I’m lazy, but I did start thinking about what such a tape would consist of.

Fortunately, Emacs has kept track of all the albums I’ve played over the last decade, so I could just let it pick the albums I’ve played most. I’d have to pick the songs myself, though, since it only keeps track of this stuff on a per-album basis.

Here’s the list it came up with.  The most played album per release year.

1957 Sun Ra Sun Song
1958 Kurt Weill Die Dreigroschenoper
1959 Ornette Coleman The Shape Of Jazz To Come
1962 Sheila Jordan Portrait of Sheila
1964 Eric Dolphy Out to Lunch
1965 Bert Jansch Bert Jansch
1967 Shirley Collins The Power Of The True Love Knot
1968 Joni Mitchell Joni Mitchell
1969 David Bowie Space Oddity
1970 Vashti Bunyan Just Another Diamond Day
1971 David Bowie Hunky Dory
1972 David Bowie The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
1973 David Bowie Aladdin Sane
1974 David Bowie Diamond Dogs
1975 Joni Mitchell The Hissing Of Summer Lawns
1976 Joni Mitchell Hejira
1977 David Bowie “Heroes”
1978 Kate Bush The Kick Inside
1979 Talking Heads Fear Of Music
1980 Talking Heads Remain In Light
1981 Japan Tin Drum (1)
1982 Eurythmics Touch
1983 Kate Bush The Dreaming
1984 Eurythmics 1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother)
1985 Kate Bush Hounds Of Love
1986 Tuxedomoon Ship Of Fools
1987 Tuxedomoon Holy Wars
1988 The Cure The Top
1989 Kate Bush The Sensual World
1990 Kate Bush This Woman’s Work II
1991 Pet Shop Boys Behaviour
1992 Jane Siberry When I Was A Boy
1993 Kate Bush The Red Shoes
1994 Joni Mitchell Turbulent Indigo
1995 Moloko Do You Like My Tight Sweater?
1996 Vinicius Cantuária Sol Na Cara
1997 Stephan Mathieu Wurmloch Variationen
1998 Arto Lindsay Noon Chill
1999 Arto Lindsay Prize
2000 Vinicius Cantuária Tucumã
2001 Vinicius Cantuária Vinicius
2002 The Notwist Neon Golden
2003 Other People’s Children Delete.Control.Escape: The Selective Memory of OPC 2000-2003
2004 DJ Rupture 58.46 Radio Mix
2005 Kate Bush Aerial (2)
2006 Arthur Russell Another Thought
2007 Tracey Thorn Out Of The Woods
2008 Laura Jean Eden Land
2009 Circlesquare Songs About Dancing And Drugs
2010 Oneohtrix Point Never Returnal Remix
2011 Men Talk About Body
2012 Actress Faceless

Music Distribution

The main issue when I moved to the new flat, oh, three-ish years ago? I think, was how to listen to music.

I want to be able to walk between rooms, listening to the same music.  This means that there has to be some kind of way to distribute music between the rooms.

I looked into various ready-made wireless systems like Sonos, but these all made The System the central point.  I don’t want that.  I want to be able to control the music in any way that I want to, which means from Emacs.

So I wanted (sort of) passive systems that would allow me to say “the volume in room X is Y”, and that would allow me to pause and skip the music from any room, while still tying into my own Emacs-based playing system.

The first element is the sound card.  I settled on a RME Multiface box.  It’s really a semiprofessional music routing card. It has a lot of inputs and a lot of outputs, and you can route any combinations of any inputs to any outputs, while controlling the volume.  You see how this would work for me: I’d just play a flac file, while having each room be one stereo output, and I’d set the volume per output.

RME Outputs

I now had all these outputs, but how would I get the music to the various rooms?  I first tried a couple of wireless systems.  They both had two problems: 1) There was a half-second latency, so if you heard sounds from different rooms, it sounded kinda psychadelic.  2) They didn’t work.  That is, they had frequent drop-outs, and made beastly noises while doing so.  I know, I know — nothing that’s wireless actually works.

My second idea was to try a powerline audio thing.  The bandwidth requirements for audio are pretty minuscule, so I thought there might be a chance that something like this would work.  But, as with the wireless systems, it 1) had a beastly latency and 2) didn’t work.  The drop-outs were even more brutal.

So: Wires it is.  I’d have to install wires between all the rooms to get music to them.  But what kind of wires?

That’s when I learned the magical word: balun. It means “balanced/unbalanced”, or something like that.  Basically, a balun is a device that takes an unbalanced signal (like RCA audio) and makes is balanced (or what we computer people call differential). 

Doing research over the intertubes I found a few companies selling this stuff.  The baluns are generally non-powered, and use cat5 cabling.  Like these babies:

Two Baluns
Cat5 Port

They are just perfect!  You just hook them up to your audio outputs, string some cat5 to a different room, plug another one in there, and plug the audio output into whatever amplifier/speakers you have there.

The sound quality is totally fine, too.  That is, I can’t hear anything obviously bad.  There’s bass, and there’s treble, and there’s the middle part.  Perfect!

The main problem is, of course, all the cabling.  That means a lot of these:

And some stretches off wall that look like this:

Cat5.  Wouldn’t bet on the e

Ok, some of those are Ethernet.

That’s a lot of hammering and drilling, but it’s totally worth it.  It just works 100%.  No drop-outs, no odd noises, no latency.  And the fi is so hi.

Wired is the new black.

Digital Audio Extraction from Emacs

Triple Threat
SATA Multilane Connector

So my CD ripping situation is that I put a CD into the CD reading thing there (more about that in a thrilling later blog article), hit a key in Emacs, slap a CD cover onto the scanner, hit another key in Emacs to say that the format is (usually RET), and then inspect the CDDB data that Emacs presents me with, and then I `C-c C-c’, and then I repeat. Since I have three CD players, I can do three CDs in parallel.  The time to process one CD is about two minutes, but with the parallelism going on, I can usually process about twenty CDs in ten minutes.  (Unless the CDDB info is missing and I have to type stuff in.)

I started on this journey in 1997, when mp3s first became viable.  So over the years, I’ve ripped CDs as I bought them.  The earliest mp3-encoded albums started sounding pretty crappy to me, since the early mp3 encoders were pretty crappy.  By 2007, disks had gotten so cheap that it was viable to store the music in a lossless format, so I decided to re-rip them all and store the music in flac.

Now, I have around 4K CDs.  Ripping them all in the traditional, sequential way would just take too long.  I don’t really deal well with repetetive, boring, manual tasks.  And since I had ripped all these CDs before, all the data was already in freedb, so it would be a totally mindless manual job.

So I bought the Addonics cabinet seen above, which has a SATA multilane connector, and put three DVD readers into it.  The only problem in getting it to work reliably was that since all the readers were identical (I mean totally), and the SATA cabinet would bring them up in random order, the poor Linux udev system would name them /dev/scdX at random.  So I would never know how to address the top one until after trying 0, 1, 2.

Until I came up with the brilliant idea of uploading different versions of the available Optiarc firmware on each DVD reader.  They worked just as well with any firmware, but the firmware versions allowed me to create udev rules to differentiate.

scsi 7:0:0:0: CD-ROM            Optiarc  DVD RW AD-7170S  1.02 PQ: 0 ANSI: 5
scsi 5:0:0:0: CD-ROM            Optiarc  DVD RW AD-7170S  1.00 PQ: 0 ANSI: 5
scsi 6:0:0:0: CD-ROM            Optiarc  DVD RW AD-7170S  1.03 PQ: 0 ANSI: 5

With the 3-way parallel ripping setup I think I did all 4K over four nights, if I remember correctly.  While listening to music very loudly, and watching some tv series on DVD (Smallville?), and being totally shit-faced drunk.

Ah, fun times.  At least I think it was fun.  I can’t really remember, for some reason or other.

Anyway, here’s the source code for the Emacs parallel DAE interface.