About Julian Benson

Student journalist who is determined to continue being a drain on society for years to come. Follow me on twitter @jbenson

Regular service to resume shortly

we’re going on a break. it’s not you, it’s us.

For the next two weeks, we here at The Phonograph are going to be very busy. We are building ourselves a brand new website, writing the in-depth articles we’ve always wanted to do but never had the time, working with new writers and publishers, and making all those little changes which will make our site just that little bit better.

Yet, we’re not going to leave you bereft of quality (cough cough) blogging. No, Julian’s been off moonlighting this week writing for lovely folk over at Rock Paper Shotgun on the subject of transcribing games…say wah?

In it he says things like:

Gaming is one of the few media without an instructional notation. The other arts have tools to relate concepts into symbols that can be digested at a glance, allowing great detail to be condensed into a conventionalised code. Musicians use musical notation, movie makers – story boards, writers – short hand, linguists – phonetics, and so on. If musicians were stuck with the same methods we use – strategy guides, walkthroughs, and videos – each composition would be an interminably long tome that lost all immediacy and comprehension – “Pluck the G-string on the third fret, then immediately after the A-string on the fourth fret, pause, play the G string again”. The other arts developed their own notation systems, yet we haven’t. Why?

You can read the rest here.

It’s somewhat good stuff. But don’t just take out word for it, here’s what Kirk Hamilton wrote about it over at Kotaku:

At first blush, the article looks similar to the kinds of cool musical analyses that Dan Bruno sometimes does on his blog Cruise Elroy. But keep reading, and you’ll see that Benson is actually transcribing the game like it’s music, drawing on the work of minimalist composer Steve Reich to put Braid’s shifting, backtracking flow into context, building a modified type of music notation in order to express the events on the screen.

He then pushes beyond Braid to other platformers, wondering if we could form a universal form of music-notation… for all games.

So, we’ll be seeing you in two weeks. Till then, happy listening.


Mashups, autotune, and the bedroom satirist

The past decade has seen the rise of the mashup and auditorial as a tool for satire. we take a look at its power.

Sunday Bloody Sunday. That’s how I remember George W. Bush. That’s not to negate his other actions in power, it’s not like I’ve forgotten the Iraq war, nor the Afghanistan war, nor that time he said he believed we could co-exist peacefully with fish; all of those stay fairly clear in the mind too. But it wasn’t until a video of him singing the Sunday Bloody Sunday came along in 2006 that I understood what he was about.

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Grudge match: political reprisals against musicians

Are the pussy riot arrests just one in a continuing chain of political reprisals aimed at musicians?

The continued incarceration of members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot begins to raise questions of reason and motive. The band members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhin were arrested in February following a flash gig in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour cathedral, where they sang Punk Prayer: a song containing the lyrics that appealed to the Virgin Mary, asking her to “chase Putin out”. The five minute performance ended with the band’s eviction from the building. Within a fortnight the two had been arrested, and they’ve been held without the possibility of bail since.

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Between the lines: what charts tell us

a recent entry into classic.fm’s hall of fame has made us question what charts actually show us.

Each year Classic FM opens up a poll to the public to decide the most popular piece of classical music. For the first time, this year a piece from a game’s score managed to get into the chart, Final Fantasy’s VII’s Aerith’s Theme. It didn’t simply scrape in at around the #300 point, it managed to get all the way to #16. Now Final Fantasy VII was released back in 1997, a year after Classic FM began its Hall of Fame chart, so how is it that in 15 years this piece is only now making an entry, and one so high too?

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A response to the response to the off feature on Odd Future

a response to Tim Jonze’s criticism of Newsnight’s Odd future feature.

Newsnight ran a feature earlier this week that suggested L.A. Hip Hop band Odd Future were puerile and – for all their anti-capitalist and counter-culture talk – a deeply commercial band that financially exploits its fans. Tim Jonze responded to this feature in The Guardian’s G2 supplement. He claimed that the report revealed Stephen Smith, the Newsnight journalist behind the feature, “exposed his deep fear of the band” by using an aloof and mocking tone to describe them.

Jonze’s response ignores the fact that Odd Future come across as vacuous and mainstream, far from the image their fans would portray, but Smith’s feature glossed over the shift fact that Odd Future recognise that making money in the music industry isn’t about the music anymore.

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Extradition: a dangerous precedent for the digital age

What does the recent Afghani massacre and a Computer Science student from Sheffield have in common, and how do they relate to music? Read on to find out…

We’ve frequently written about how large industry and government legislation has yet to have a handle on the current state of technology. There’s a growing awareness, and in time well-informed legislation will appear. Until then there is a legal pattern that we should be well aware of: extradition. Particularly as the current 2003 Extradition Treaty is lopsided and being wielded by uninformed politicians.

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Who are stringent copyright controls supposed to protect

This week we look at what SOPA, PIPA and Acta would have meant for a blog like ours, and what they meant for the people they were supposed to protect.

Last week saw the largest protest to have ever taken place on the Internet. It was an attempt to stop two anti-piracy bills from making it through Congress and the Senate, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA). But why were they so opposed, and what does it mean for the artists they were supposed to protect? Continue reading

Legacy, reformation, and sober reflection

This week brought the news that Refused and At the Drive-In have reformed for the Coachella festival, we take a look at the potential of these reformations.

Bands often burn out. We see it every year, a band splitting up after internal arguments, tour exhaustion, disillusionment with the lifestyle. It’s common for the band members to go their separate ways, or form new groups with other musicians replacing those whose opinion they differ with the most. This week brought the news of two burnt-out bands reforming: Refused and At the Drive-In.

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Why collect music memorabilia?

This weekend saw the last of Michael Jackson’s possessions put up for auction. The items garnering the most attention were the signed wardrobe and kitchen chalk board that still had a message from his children inscribed upon it. As part of our weekend exploring the collection habit we’ve taken a look at the culture and psychology surrounding the hobby. Yesterday we gave you our top 10 weirdest pieces of music memorabilia and today we’re going to lift the lift a little on why people collect.

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TP’s Top 10: Weirdest Music Memorabilia

This weekend sees the auctioning off of Michael Jackson’s household items. To mark the occasion we’ve written up two articles on the habit of collection, the amassing of music memorabilia. Kicking off the weekend’s words we’ve compiled a list of the 10 strangest items to go through the auction block: condoms, medical equipment, human waste, we’ve got it all for your reading…enjoyment?

Let’s jump right in at the deep end with…

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