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April 15th 2008

Ever had a melody in your head and you just couldn't figure out what song it was from? If so, how about a music search engine? Basically just like Google, but instead of letters you enter the melody you have in your head - rhythm doesn't matter. If no matching array of notes could be found, there would be the obligatory "Did you mean..." phrase with a slightly altered melody suggested. Since most songs are made of various layers of instruments, you could have an advanced search and maybe select the type of instrument you know the melody of (voice being also an "instrument" in this case). It should also work for percussion, but that should be a separate option. Maybe instead of piano keys you could see a set of drums to input whatever you have in mind.

Interestingly, such a search engine could be used to make melodies that are more or less new by finding combinations of notes that haven't been stored in the database yet. Even more interestingly, you could finally find all the similarities in a large collection of songs. With another added function you could search purposely for songs that use similar melodies to the one given, sorted by relevance.

There could be more options, such as to search for harmonies, for a specific rhythms, accords, and maybe even popularity or complexity of melodies.

A quick search through the internet has shown me that there are already people implementing that idea, such as Melody Hound or Musipedia. There's even already some kind of patent that describes the process in detail. Also, Wikipedia shows an article about the Query by Humming method. Song Tapper lets you search a song by tapping the space bar to the melody in your head - a very interesting and intuitive solution, making it accessible to people who don't have the knowledge of playing the piano or the talent to sing a (more or less) exact tone.

Further investigation led me to a research document called "Query by Humming: How good can it get?", which basically describes the experiment of how a QBH system performs against simple human listeners. Unfortunately I couldn't find out when this document was published. But the research's result was that QBH has still a long way to go.

The QBH entry on Wikipedia led me to sloud, a website offering the QBH solution for implementation in other projects. It is however limited to singing "DA-DA-DA" and, according to the website, the search results "depend on your ability to sing". Their list of potential applications suggests the idea that you could create a contest for your music store: The better your customers sing their favorite tune, the higher the chances of getting a discount for that song (or maybe for the CD the song's featured on). They mention that this technology will draw instant attention to your online music store. And last but not least they add that this search by voice technology is part of MPEG-7, apparently the standard for description and search of audio and visual content.

Searching for melodies is still more or less in its infancy. Though I guess that in the next few years Amazon will have a Query by Humming feature and they will tell you to have a listen to songs which people bought who also hummed that tune.

March 31st 2008

And now it's time for Gary Ordinary.

March 07th 2008

Professor Layton gets reminded of a puzzle yet again.

Professor Layton and the Curious Village

March 03rd 2008

Ghosts - another Nine Inch Nails album - got released. Now, I haven't listened to the 36 tracks yet, and after Year Zero and Y34r Z3r0 R313373d I'm a bit cautious regarding new stuff of NIN in the first place. But what I'm really excited about is the distribution model. NIN are completely independent now, there's no label pulling the strings, resulting in a lot of freedom and possibilities. There are several options to get "Ghosts" on the official website. Either you download the first nine tracks for free, or download the whole album and a 40 page PDF for five bucks, or purchase a 2CD-package for $10, a deluxe edition for $75 or the ultra-deluxe limited edition for $300. Or, and this is the most exciting option of them all, you can just download it via torrents. Hold on, isn't that illegal? Well, that's the fun part. "Ghosts" has been released under the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike license. If you still can't believe it, there's even an official torrent created by NIN themselves (although it only includes the first nine tracks). Also important to note: all MP3s are DRM-free 320kbit files.

No matter what you think of the music itself, the utilized distribution model is leading the way into a better world. Now imagine if everyone would release their products like that. Want to watch a movie? Go to the offical website and either download the free file with a resolution of 480p, or pay $7 for the 1080p version, or purchase some kind of deluxe ultra-shiny edition for $20-$30. We're not quite there yet, but the independent film The Man From Earth became a success only because of illegal downloads. Emerson Bixby, son of the movie's writer, even thanked the people for downloading the film, spreading the word, and finally increasing DVD sales and donations.

Some may think the whole thing wouldn't work. Why pay money for some movie which can be downloaded from any torrent site (or rapidshare or any other "abused" download network)? That's easy, because most people aren't quite fond of performing illegal actions (best example: the success of iTunes). The best result of such a business model would be that you download the movie, and if you like it, pay for it. If the movie's bad, nobody's gonna spend any money on it. That's probably one of the things that big film studios want to avoid...

What about games?

Take Mass Effect, for example. BioWare's action RPG is set for PC release on May 6th 2008. Imagine being able to visit the official website on the date of publish, and choose "download". Not a demo - the full game. Second option, pay $10 to support the game and maybe even get higher download speed. Another option would be the boxed edition for $25, with instruction booklet, and a map of the galaxy the size of a poster (and a high-speed download link for immediate access). And as a third option, the obligatory Collector's Edition for $60 with an art book, soundtrack CD, galaxy map, booklet, and one random poster.

Would it work? I believe so. People who're tight on budget but still want to support the game (because they enjoyed it!) should easily come up with $10 - and that's better than the $0 BioWare gets if somebody downloads it through torrents. Providing a free - and legal - download spreads the game, increases interest (if the game's good), which in the end brings more people to the website, which results in higher sales, which in the end tells BioWare to produce more gaming-goodness.

In general, developers are already shying away from the PC market because of the high pirating level. Maybe it's time for publishers and developers to realize that one of the reasons for such a high rate of piracy is because an increasing number of people have broadband connections. Somebody should take advantage of that.

Games on the Nintendo DS are pirated like the seas of the 14th century. According to ELSPA, "90 per cent of all DS users in North America are playing pirated games via the notorious R4 cartridge". Imagine Nintendo would react and open a website where you could download roms for the DS for free, or $5 to $15 each. Wouldn't that be heaven? Test the game, enjoy it, pay for it. Or, test the game, hate it, delete it. No harm done.

The current model of digital distribution is new and old already. For example, we have Valve's Steam, XBox Live Marketplace,, Wii Shop - all of them digital, and yet still somehow connected to conservative market habits. CDs and DVDs will sooner or later fade away. Sony's BluRay may have won the format war against Toshiba's HD-DVD, but it has already lost against the internet.

So has everybody else who's trying to swim against the stream. Whenever I hear about a CEO whining about piracy and the obvious need for more ways to restrict the consumer, I can't help but think of old websites, that displayed a Javascript alert message upon right-clicking, telling me that the displayed content isn't available for download. Maybe deactivating Javascript should be made illegal.

February 22nd 2008

The EXP Manager for organizing music projects is now available for everyone who's trying to make music with others over the internet.

And thanks to kowi, you can watch the first few parts of Halfquake on YouTube now. More will be added sooner or later.




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