Sunday, October 08, 2006

Little Boxes

In 1877, Thomas Edison sang "Mary Had a Little Lamb" into his cylinder phonograph. In 1903, 12-inch records started to be released. For all intents and purposes it has only been in the last hundred years that people have enjoyed recorded music. Prior to that, music was usually a "live" experience.

The first musical box factory was opened in Switzerland in 1815 .

Orchestras are, in a way, giant music boxes made out of people and instruments.

Artists exploring the concept of generative music use computers as music boxes. They set a range of parameters and a level of randomness to "compose" a piece of music. The results are not fixed, it is always a new listening experience.

Brian Eno, discussing generative music, once wrote
I really think it is possible that our grandchildren will look at us in wonder and say: "you mean you used to listen to exactly the same thing over and over again?"

This season, the Showtime series Weeds is using a different artist's recording of the shows theme song, "Little Boxes", for each opening. Albeit, a small one, it's a step away from the idea of listening to the same things over and over and over.

You can listen to the various covers of "Little Boxes" on the Showtime web site.

Here is the opening from the first season.

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