Online Tonal Toys

A random link led me to a series of fantastic tonal toys. Some of these are simply diversions, and some are elaborate programs that can be used to create amazing compositions. Here’s a quick run-down of what I found…


aM laboratory.png by RndConnections on Aviary

Think wind chimes. This little Flash app by Andre Michelle is hypnotic and addictive. Clicking on the black work area will create a circle that expands from the click-point. The circle will continue to expand until it touches another circle, so you need to create at least two for this thing to work. When two circles touch a bell-like tone is generated, and the circles reverse direction. If they had been expanding they now contract. A contracting circle will contract until it reaches a single point, then start expanding again.

The pitch of the tone is determined by the size of circles. A larger circle will create a deeper tone, and a smaller one a higher pitch. An interval is created, but sometimes the larger circle’s pitch is so low that it’s hardly audible. It sounds like the app is tuned to a pentatonic scale to minimize dissonance, much like a set of wind chimes would be be tuned.

Rhythm is determined by the expansion rates of the various circles. You can create very complex patterns by positioning circles closer to or farther away from each other. Circles within circles also create neat patterns. I find it fascinating to start with a simple pattern of three circles, and gradually make the pattern more complex by adding more circles.

Here’s a short video of one of my creations. However, I suggest that you follow the link and create your own to get the full sensation. Continue reading “Online Tonal Toys”

South Carolina Digital Library

Today I discovered an excellent new online resource.  The South Carolina Digital Library is a collaborative project between several agencies, organizations, and colleges which brings together several digital libraries.  The collections include historical images, documents, audio, and other ephemera.  These items are still housed in their previous locations, but the SC Digital Library brings all … Continue reading South Carolina Digital Library

Multitrack Madness

Sgt Sony

A CappellaBack in 1985 my brother Houston introduced me to Todd Rundgren’s innovative album, A Cappella [sic]. Rundgren used digital sampling to create an album made up only of the human voice. He added distortion and manipulated the sounds to emulate drums and other instruments. Back then this was really impressive, and I was amazed that one human voice could create such music.

Of course, now this is common place. Beat-boxing came in with rap music about the time Rundgren’s album came out. TV shows like Glee have renewed interest in a capella singing, specifically with Do Wop and other popular music that wasn’t originally arranged for voices only. Combine that with technology that can turn just about any computer into a multi-track recording studio, and you have many people turning out their own a capella renditions. Continue reading “Multitrack Madness”

Exploring an Aviary

UPDATE: Sadly, Aviary has discontinued this wonderful series of products. The links below are no longer available.

Today I got word that has released a new online audio editing tool called Myna. This joins Aviary’s growing collection of online tools with bird names, including Phoenix, the image editing program, and Raven, a vector graphics program. Myna is a loop-based editor, and has many of the same functions as Garage Band or Acid Music.

I’ve only had a few minutes to play with the program, but so far I’m impressed. There is an extensive library of existing audio files. These are categorized not only by style by also by keyword. The samples are further broken down into files that would make good intros, files for loops, and ending files. You can also record samples directly into the program with your computer’s microphone, or upload your own files. Continue reading “Exploring an Aviary”

Discovery Education MediaShare

The citizens of South Carolina really have some wonderful online resources available to them. For ten years now the State Library has made available a wealth of research and reference materials through the DISCUS project. This is available in all schools, libraries, and colleges, and available at home if you obtain a free password from one of those sources. Then there’s and all of the other amazing resources from SCETV. One of the best of these is the Discovery Education video clips available from StreamlineSC. Like DISCUS, this is available free to all schools in the state through a special licensing arrangement with Discovery. At the SCETV conference this week I learned about a new feature that Discovery is promoting called MediaShare. This new service looks really cool, and looks like it will be another great resource for teachers.

As the name suggests, MediaShare allows users to share files of various types – PowerPoint slide shows, Smart and Promethean files, podcasts, and video clips. The idea is that these types of files often take up more space on servers than some districts allow, so Discovery has created this place to host the files. MediaShare is monitored for appropriateness of content, and districts can also set approval levels for files uploaded by their users.


Continue reading “Discovery Education MediaShare”

That’s LIFE

Google has partnered with Time/LIFE to make a massive collection of images available online through the Google Image Search funtcion. The announcement was made on the Official Google Blog today. This collection includes film, negatives, and even glass plates dating back as far as 1750, which have been digitized and are now hosted by Google. … Continue reading That’s LIFE

Embeddable Google Books

From I stumbled across this post on the Google Operating System Blog about a method of embedding Google Books into blogs and web pages… Google made it easy to embed in a site any book available at Google Book Search. You can add a fully-functional widget using this code: <script type=”text/javascript” src=””></script> <script type=”text/javascript”> … Continue reading Embeddable Google Books