TagMusic

Sonos and iTunes

We recently bought a Sonos system for our home. It’s a simple starter set (Bridge + 2 Play:1 speakers). I was looking for an audio system for our home to pipe music simultaneously to two or more rooms without getting too technical and by not breaking the bank. We’re a Mac-only family so AirPlay was our first option but unless you rig things up right, you can’t pipe music in two rooms simultaneously. Anyway, we heeded Wirecutter’s recommendation and took the leap for Sonos. It cost us ~$400 for the three items; add $200 for an additional Play:1 speaker.

Setup with Sonos is one of the easiest I’ve experienced for something non-Apple. You set up the Bridge by plugging it in the router and then plug in the two speakers to electic outlets wherever you want and then go through the steps via the app to detect them and create a network. No passwords, no granting of  access, etc. You can do the ‘Trueplay Tuning’ if you want to ensure music sounds good in all parts of your room. If you subscribe to a streaming music service like Pandora, Spotify (paid), and Apple Music (Dec.15 onward), you can log in and start listening to music instantly.

The only hitch was getting iTunes to work just as seamlessly. The steps were not as obvious although quite simple in the end so I’m listing them here if you’re looking to Sonos for your audio needs via Mac.

If you’re using the iCloud Music Library to sync your iTunes music, Sonos will not let you stream it directly from your phone. So if you click on the ‘Music Library’ section or ‘This iPhone’ of your Sonos app, it will be empty unless you have music files on your phone. To get around that without having to copy music files on your phone, you’ve to first install the desktop app on your Mac and let it detect your music (I hope it is also stored on your Mac or a connected physical drive in your home). Once you do that, voila! Your ‘Music Library’ on the Sonos app on your phone will show your iTunes music.

But if you look carefully, your ‘Imported Playlist’ folder may still be empty especially if you’re using the latest version of iTunes. That’s because iTunes no longer produces or updates an iTunes Music Library.xml file. You have to select the option to ‘Share iTunes Library XML with other applications’ in Preferences in iTunes to generate and update the file. 

yos-itunes12-preferences_advanced

Once you do that, go to your Sonos app on your desktop > Manage Music Library > Update Music Index Now and now your ‘Imported Playlist’ list will be populated with your iTunes playlists and songs. You may want to schedule future music index updates everyday in the middle of the night so all your playlist changes are reflected in Sonos.

The only minor quibble I have is that if you play your songs via Sonos now, your iTunes play count doesn’t update. Well, that’s because you’re no longer using iTunes as your music player and that can be, from what I’ve heard, a good thing or a bad thing.

7 Reasons Nerds Should Listen to Classical Music

If you’re like me then you’ve probably listened to quite a few classical pieces, but haven’t ever really, really gotten into them — at least not in the same way as your favorite non-classical pieces of music. Here are 7 reasons why if you are a true nerd you should seriously consider giving classical music a more serious listen

I found this link thru SkepticGeek’s excellent primer on Western Classical Music that I’m currently reading (and listening). As the author says, I too have listened to several classical pieces without really understanding although enjoying them. Perhaps I should give it another try.

[Link to 7 Reasons Nerds Should Listen to Classical Music]

Our Guitar Hero on the iPad

Does A R Rahman also cry when he doesn’t like the composition he just created?

Beat Boxing and Fusion

One of the awesomest displays of beat boxing and flute fusion music I’ve heard (and seen) on the web [via Suyog].

Bridge Demolition to Opera

Bridge demolitions set to opera music [YouTube link] by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Has any action movie tried this? And nope, I’m not counting The Fifth Element.

Trying Out iPod Touch

iPod Touch

Thanks to my dear wife, I’m the proud owner of the latest iPod Touch (16GB). Most of my afternoon today is spent in exploring the features of this amazing piece of design and engineering. As much as you try to hate Apple, when it comes to design and usability, they are the kings. My earlier iPod was a 4GB Classic model gifted by my brother on my Masters graduation more than three years back. So you can imagine my sense of wonder upon seeing the level of advancement. The new iPod synced perfectly with my library and now I’ve plenty of space to add a lot more songs.

The primary attraction of these iPods is the ability to add apps. Most of them work just fine on Touch and don’t require you to have an iPhone however you need a wireless Internet connection. I’m still playing around trying out different apps and will list them later. You must have seen my updates on various other web apps to that effect. Drop in your recommendations on your favorite apps. More later.

Please Stand for the National Anthem of…

After the amazing interactive medals count map for the Olympics, The New York Times collects and links to national anthems of 27 different nations that have won gold in these Olympic Games [via]. It’s so damn pleasing to see Jana Gana Mana in the list.

Jingle Mein Mingle

The age of an advertising jingle is unfortunately past us and current advertising campaigns merely use soundtracks from established recording artistes. Sometimes advertisers may choose to use relatively unknown soundtracks like in the ads by Apple or Geico which in turn boosts the song’s popularity. But using original ad jingles have declined even to the extent that Charlie Sheen’s character in Two and a Half Men no longer composes ad jingles but writes children songs. Even when they have to tell a story, advertising uses the plain narration style much in the spirit of Surf Excel’s Bhala uski kameez mere kameez se safed kaise? Of course, it doesn’t help that most advertising is focused either on alcohol products or pharmaceuticals. In case of the latter, they use fake-real people who mysterious recover from relatively uncommon illnesses like old men peeing often or unable to get it up and in case of the former, the ads although superior in terms of production quality have little recall value.

I’m no advertising executive but I’ll be glad to have consumers ‘singing’ ads that sell my products. Ad jingles have that unique ability of sticking in your head making you hum them sometimes at inopportune times. Doordarshan during the 80s had terrible programming but some of the ad jingles have lived on whether it is that of tandorusti ki raksha karta hai Lifebouy or Milk Cooperative’s Doodh Doodh [video] or even jab mein chhota bachha tha…Bajaj bulbs or Galle Mein Kichkich kya karoon, Vicks ki goli lo khichkhich door karo [video]. These jingles weren’t great songs but were catchy enough to have you sing them the next day or even a decade later, as I was humming the Bajaj bulbs tune during grocery shopping. In my case, the more ridiculous the jingle sounds, the more likely I’m to remember it and hum it at wrong times.

Since I no longer have access to Indian advertising, I’ve to make do with american ads which as I mentioned sadly lack jingles. But fortunately, in the past few months there have been few commercials with some awesome jingles.

FreeCreditReport.com

The slacker band guys of FreeCreditReport.com have two catchy and extremely hummable tunes. It has transformed the otherwise spam-like online service of asking for your personal details by trying to give you something free into something respectable. If people like a product’s ad, they might be likely to trust the product as well, right?

Well I was shopping for a new car, which one’s me?
A cool convertible or an SUV.

Too bad I didn’t know my credit was whacked,
cuz now I’m driving off the lot in a used sub-compact.

F-R-E-E, that spells “free,” credit report dot com baby.
Saw their ads on my TV. Thought about goin’ but was too lazy.

Now instead of lookin’ fly and rollin’ phat,
my legs are sticking to the vinyl and my posse’s getting laughed at.

F-R-E-E, that spells “free,” credit report dot com baby

The jingle with its simple lyrics accompanied with apt visuals of guys in a second-hand car and getting laughed at by girls at the light yet appearing so cool resonates with college guys or just-out-of-college struggling guys with a hacked credit history. Although FreeCreditReport.com is not really free (annualcreditreport.com is), I’m sure its white rap lyrics have won over some fans.

Subway Five Dollar Foot-long

Another jingle that is making the waves is Subway’s Five. Five Dollar. Foot long. The ad features a variety of characters showing an open palm for five and stretching out their hands to show a foot-long distance. Beware of singing this aloud amongst people who haven’t heard the jingle before; you can cause some preferred yet serious misunderstandings. You don’t want to appear to be a cheap gigolo or perhaps, that connection is just in my head. Mind numbingly simple, this jingle cuts straight to the chase of Subway’s new offer of promoting their traditional foot-long sandwiches. So much so that Quiznos has come out with its competing five-dollar offer albeit with a horrible 5-dollar-eating Asian woman ad with no sound. On the other hand, you have a bright green Godzilla towering over a Asian chick in a flouroscent city, among other characters. Which will you remember more? And more importantly sing more often.

K9 Advantix – Ain’t No Bugs on Me

Kittens and puppies always make the best subjects in ads for pet care. And when you have a cute Labrador pup singing praises of his anti-flea medication in a childish voice while taunting other kids, it instantly reminds you of your competitive childhood. There might be bugs on you mutts but there ain’t no bugs on me. Listen to it and try not humming it later. You might just want to go get that medication, sprinkle it on you and sing that jingle to your friends. Or maybe it is just me. Nevertheless a cool jingle.

Another jingle featuring Band Aid, I am stuck on Band-Aid, and a Band-Aid’s stuck on me sung by two kids mostly a cute black girl reminds you of your childhood because this product was/is widely popular in India as well. It might be unknown to most that this jingle was a rejected tune from Barry Manilow. Rejected or not, it fits perfectly for Band-Aid.

Any other ad jingles that you have heard in recent times and have been unable to get out of your head?

Beatles-inspired Across the Universe

Sometimes you wonder if your life could have a soundtrack. If you lived in the 60s in the United States, your life could have a soundtrack composed by the Beatles. And what a soundtrack that would make. Across the Universe is such a movie that puts your imagination together with the awesome music of the Beatles. It is difficult to know whether the 60s made the Beatles or it was the other way around. I am not a Beatles expert but once you listen to the sounds of their world, you are hooked. You may not understand why their music moves you so much but it sure does rock your world.

Across the Universe is a simple story of a lovestruck couple – Jude and Lucy – who meet in the United States after Jude crosses the Atlantic as a stowaway in search of his father. They live together in New York City with Max, Lucy’s brother who drops out of Princeton to get away from it all. Soon they get together with a motley crew of characters – Sadie as the consummate female rocker, Jojo as the black guitarist, Prudence as the innocent Asian chick, and other characters from the 60s era. They are joined by cameo appearances by Bono, Eddie Izzard, Joe Crocker, and Salma Hayek. While watching the movie, we recognized these characters but didn’t think they actually were really those people. Although I am not a big fan of musicals, I loved this movie for its real-life characterization unlike those show dances we generally associate with musicals. I was momentarily bored by the whole circus act featuring Eddie Izzard as the ring master but probably that reflected the psychedelic world the hippies of that era loved to be in. Also, you will easily associate the secondary characters with real-life characters of that era. For e.g. Sadie perfectly embodies the Janice Joplin and Jojo may be inspired by Jimi Hendrix.
The best part of this movie is the Beatles soundtrack. The entire movie incorporates 34 songs written by the Beatles juxtaposed with the storyline. The characters in the movie are also named after people in the songs. You’ll definitely recall songs like Hey Jude, Sexy Sadie, Dear Prudence, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, among others. The soundtrack doesn’t simply play in the background but in fact is sung by the characters (as in a musical) with a unique twist to the original composition without taking away from the beauty of the songs.

Life in the tumultuous 60s is aptly depicted with the political protests, the Vietnam war, and the tussle of love between individuals caught between it all. The Beatles soundtrack provides the icing on the cake. If for nothing else, watch this movie for the Beatles. If you loved them, you’ll definitely enjoy this movie.

Chaha ya Coffe?

The first thought I got after I listened to “Chaha Maine Chaha Bas Tujhi ko Maine Chaha” from the movie, Supari was, what? No coffee?

Free and Legal Music

Music will never be free, says RIAA. Mashable begs to differ as it compiles a list of places to get free and legal music. Plenty of choices there.

Update: You might also want to check out this option where you can download music in a barely legal way.

Blue Skies

blue skiesThis wonderful picture captured by Twilight Fairy reminded me of the song I last heard on the GE commercial (I think). Thanks to my awful memory, I couldn’t recall anything apart from Blue Skies but thanks to Google, the complete lyrics could be unearthed. Incidentally the song was the most popular one in 1929 especially on Wall Street; ironically just before the Great Depression hit. The lyrics are as follows:

Blue skies smilin’ at me
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see
Bluebirds singin’ a song
Nothin’ but bluebirds all day long

Never saw the sun shinin’ so bright
Never saw things goin’ so right
Noticing the days hurrying hurrying by
When you’re in love, my how they fly

Blue days, all of them gone
Nothin’ but blue skies from now on
Blue skies smilin’ at me
Nothin’ but blue skies do I see

Blue days, all of them gone
Nothin’ but blue skies from now on
Nothin’ but blue skies from now on…

A little bit more blue as I captured the skies behind our apartment complex:

Blue Skies over Wolf Pen

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom – your quintessential Bollywood movie

As summer sets in, the carefully packaged movies pop out of the woodwork all gleaming and ready to impress but lately the deluge of sequels has been less than satisfying. But this weekend was entirely different as we watched two immensely enjoyable movies – Live Free or Die Hard and Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Although I meant to write up on Die Hard 4.0 first, the sheer joy that I experienced from Jhoom Barabar Jhoom makes it jump the queue.

As I mentioned in my one-line nine-star review on the sidebar, Jhoom Barabar Jhoom is unabashedly Bollywood fare and best of all, it doesn’t pretend to be anything else. The movie has gotten intensely negative reviews from the mainstream critics. But I have learnt to trust only one reviewer and usually his recommendations are closest in taste to ours. His review and love for musicals had first introduced us to Jaan-e-man which being a Salman movie we would have skipped in the first place but ended up enjoying so naturally when he gave a big thumbs us to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, we didn’t have to think twice. The one-and-half-hour drive to Houston to the nearest Bollywood theater and the experience of having burnt our retinas with insanely stupid movies has made us wiser and we make the trip only after being absolutely sure.

The best thing about JBJ is that it doesn’t pretend to be a different movie especially in an age when every Bollywood director tries to be different and instead ends up dishing the same crap. The plot is simple. Rikki Thukral (Abhishek Bachchan) and Alvira Khan (Preity Zinta) end up chatting at the railway station after the train bringing in their respective fiancees is delayed. They end up talking and telling stories about how they hooked up with their fiancees. Any more revelation of the plot will spoil the fun. Honestly, the plot doesn’t matter. It could have been about anything and yet the sheer love for making this movie would have still be difficult to hide. Rikki Thukral is your typical, as someone put it, Fobbie especially with his ringtone that goes “Ae Handsome! Ae Handsome!” He is the Bhatinda da puttar and a con man who profits from bringing in folks like him. Of course, if you ask him, he has a multitude of professions that can somehow be made to look honorable. He is a desi at heart and touts cricket match tickets but still loves Chelsea FC enough to get the sports news and night blanket. He is a kid at heart and loves comics especially Superman. On the other hand, Alvira is a wannabe socialite with big dreams of mansions and prince charming. A tad racist by being blatant that she prefers gooras instead of dark-skinned Indians or Pakistanis but then that’s what she wants to be but really isn’t. Both Rikki and Alvira are at heart asal desi and rib each other on India-Pakistan differences. They make no bones about wanting to be crowned Mr.and Ms.Southall respectively. The American counterpart would be Jackson Heights in NYC, Devon Avenue in Chicago, and Hillcroft in Houston so as to get an idea of the extent of their ambitions.

Believe it or not, the best sequences in the movie are its fantastically choreographed songs. The music is catchy and you have to fight hard to keep yourself from joining in the fun. Kitsch songs with lyrics like Kiss of love, kiss of love…stay away from kiss of love and Lautade…Ticket to Hollywood…Lautade are not meant to be dissected and analyzed but enjoyed to the hilt by letting yourself go in the rapid flow of color, riot of extras, and dances. Even the otherwise out-of-place song Bol Halke Halke soothes your nerves through beautiful visualization and a die-hard romantic spirit that is so typical of Bollywood. As a smart commenter over at Baradwaj’s blog notes, is one of the few dream sequences about a couple sitting in a foreign land and visualizing themselves back in desh (strangely the subtitles for the song said, “Hold me halke halke” which strangely also made sense). But the best is reserved for the title song which repeats itself several times in the movie, in the terrific 25-minute dance off routine in an obvious homage to typical Nasir Hussain style of film-making. I was ready to stand up and applaud at the end of it.

What many critics missed was that this movie doesn’t aim to break any new ground and instead is even content on doffing its hat to several of its predecessors that are etched in our memories. The subtle tributes to Qurbani, Sholay, Aradhana, Zamaane Ko Dikhana Hai and Coolie are obvious yet subtle enough to hide a deeper relationship. For e.g. the Sholay tribute has the long-legged Abhishek Bachchan riding in the carrier car of a motorcycle alongside Bobby Deol with the song Yeh Dosti playing in the background but only after you think a little that you get it that these guys are the sons of the original actors. As Preity Zinta says, “”Chhoti chhoti details mein bada lutf hota hai.” I couldn’t have said it better. Amitabh thankfully doesn’t play a sutradhaar aka main-samay-hoon and is content popping up on the screen dressed in his colorfully jhatak embroidered jacket and two-headed guitar dancing to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom. Those trying to make sense of his appearance fail to get it that he is merely providing a transition in the narration of a musical. The foot-tapping music and choreography of his interludes actually makes you look forward to the next one.

Lara Dutta and Bobby Deol play their characters as the ‘respective fiancees’ remarkably well especially Lara Dutta since her characters before and after interval are so different (you’ve to see the movie to know why). Other characters like Huffy Bhai only add to the eclectic quality of this movie frequently reminding us not to take either ourselves or the movie too seriously. The Shakespearean style of addressing the audience in Alvira’s narration of her tale is as fun as it is over-indulgent in imagination. The nature and content of their narration reveals much about the narrator as the story unfolds. Of course, there are couple of inspired moments from Hollywood movies like Before Sunset and Usual Suspects but it is genuinely inspiration as opposed to blatant copying that we are usually subjected too.

I am sure you’ve heard horrid things about this movie and how you should avoid it like the plague. But if you have to trust me once, do so now and watch this movie preferably on the big screen. Further more, if you want to give your American friends a taste of real dance-n-music Bollywood fare, take them along.

Update: Annie also loved the movie and its little quirks. I agree especially with this part:

“The theme song (and dance) grows on you, and it assumes a special growth curve when you ‘see’ it. Listening to it is just not the same thing. Once you’ve seen it on the big screen, the song somehow slips into your blood and throbs there, willing you to get up and jhoom-o-fy.”

Will Sanjaya Malakar be Hillary Clinton’s running mate?

Sanjaya Malakar is now the topic of Presidential campaigns:

During a radio call-in on WOKQ-FM, Sen. Hillary Clinton was asked what the United States can do about Malakar, the Fox television show’s underdog candidate who critics say lacks any shred of talent.”That’s the best question I’ve been asked in a long time,” Clinton said. “Well, you know, people can vote for whomever they want. That’s true in my election, and it’s true on ‘American Idol’ “[source].

Well, of course I hope she is joking although I would love to see Hillary in a mohawk. As Uber Desi notes, Sanjaya definitely has more name recognition than any of the presidential candidates. Not surprisingly for a country that gets more riled about about voting on American Idol than the national polls. But in case, Sanjay is pondering life after American Idol, he will be interested in this Cafepress Store. Sanjaya, better protect his trademark before people cash in on his name. He will not be winning any elections with the above poster at least not in America. With his Spanish rendition of whatever he sang last week, he might still make it in South America :)

Update: Incidentally, Sanjaya was named as ‘Today’s Girl’ [April 17th] by Maxim Online:

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow: You’ve no one but the Devil’s lawyer to blame for this androgynous American Idol stowaway, who, despite being detested by the judges, somehow remains in the hunt for the show’s coveted prize as this year’s top 40 footnote. We stopped watching after the auditions (the only digestible part of the show), but it’s our understanding that we have Sanjina to thank for the “ponyhawk,” a hair-novation destined to tickle your underarm as you noogie hordes of copycat hipsters.

Ouch! That must have hurt. Now only if they put him on the cover of Maxim. Wait! I take that back.

Sanjaya Malakar is America’s Revenge against American Idol

It is time again for our mandatory Sanjaya post and although I was simply going to post couple of pictures I found circulating over the web, I read an awesome dissection of the Malakar phenomenon in today’s Houston Chronicle. The article rightly goes beyond Sanjaya and attributes his success on the television’s most popular show to America’s disgruntled public. Just before this season started, American Idol was gloating from the success of Carrie Underwood’s win at the Grammy’s and Jennifer Hudson’s almost-certain win at the Oscars. An article in the NY Times even suggested that Idol was different from all reality TV shows due to the high success rates of its contestants post-season. If you looked at the past year, you also might be inclined to believe so but we forget the failed singing careers of Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Burrino, and last-year’s winner, Taylor Hicks, who probably was a better version of Sanjaya (according to the Chron).

I always believed that American Idol was reality television at its pompous best (or worst). The show’s producers arrogantly suggested that it was probably the only way America was going to discover talent. The Chron article puts it better:

Malakar has become the most concrete example that Americans have come to understand the joke and American Idol’s bubble is deflating. Until Malakar came around, voters have faithfully given the talented, most marketable singers their support, and most importantly, they’ve played by judges’ and producers’ rules. American Idol has existed in an alternate universe, one that demands a 24-like suspension of disbelief.For six seasons, viewers have taken advice from the strangest arbiters of good talent: Randy Jackson, who touts his stint with Journey far more than his stint with Aretha Franklin, and Paula Abdul, a long-forgotten ’80s singer who danced with an animated cat in her best-known hit, Opposites Attract. And viewers have let themselves sink into a world where real-life lounge singers such as Celine Dion become luminaries.

The number of people that believe that Sanjaya Malakar is squashing the dreams of many talented singers is astounding. They forget that it is the American public that keeps voting him in and the only way to counter that is to vote in larger numbers for others. The cell phone company (AT&/ Cingular) and the show wins either ways, thanks to the ‘standard text messaging charges apply.’

The Chron article then hammers the final nail in American Idol coffin:

It all flies in the face of what has made AI a success — the idea that the American public can use its free will. So when the winners aren’t really winning and producers fill casts with the same types of people — row after row of attractive girls who can wail like Mariah Carey — viewers feel manipulated, and that’s when the likes of Malakar become the perfect revenge.

However, American Idol will still continue to attract viewers albeit in declining numbers until it loses its base to the next stupid reality show. Anyway, since most of the visitors to this blog aren’t interested in any cultural or social dissection of a television show and come down here only for Sanjaya’s pictures, I cannot help but oblige [from People].

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