Archive for August, 2009

I heart the front

I heart the front

Once in a while, a listener will write in to Studio 360 asking for a transcript of a story we’ve broadcast. Unfortunately, we don’t have transcripts of the shows (it’s just too time consuming and we have a very small staff), so we normally direct our listeners to the free streaming audio and mp3 downloads available on our website.

Last week, however, we noticed an unusual feature of the WNYC web site (our home station) – an automatic transcript generator. This sounds dull, but bear with us. The automated transcript generator listens to each week’s show and, through what we can only assume is a very complex bit of speech-recognition wizardry, produces a written transcript. One caveat – it warns that the transcript “may not be 100% accurate.”

And, no, it’s not 100% accurate. But as with Google’s translator, the mistakes can be entertaining.

At the beginning of last week’s show, bestselling author George Dawes Green says: “I love the fact that I write thrillers – mean, I just love that word, I love the effrontery of it.” According the auto transcription: “I love the fact that I write thrillers and I just love that word I love the front Korea.”

Then, where Kurt says, “if you spent ten years on one of the best sitcoms ever, like Lisa Kudrow, you’d think you’d have a favorite episode,” the transcription writes: “if you spend ten years on one of the best sitcoms ever likely to cool growth you think you’d have a favorite episode.” Phew, glad all that growing has cooled off since we started watching “Friends”!

Now, it may be asking too much to expect the transcription software to know Lisa Kudrow’s name. Still, the auto-transcriber did a pretty good job here – only a missed word or two. But perhaps our favorite auto-transcription mayhem turned up in the story about Andy Warhol’s soup cans (broadcast 8/8/09). At the beginning of the piece, we hear a series of voices tell us their favorite soup can. Here’s what the auto-transcriber made of it: “Chicken news disorders like excellent Ottawa spirals came out mansion. It’s going to be two minute.”

Come again?

(Listen to the original here:)

– Matt Frassica

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This week on Studio 360, we take an in-depth look at The Wizard of Oz, assuredly one of the most beloved (and bizarre) fables to capture Americans’ imaginations. This year marks the 70th anniversary of Warner Bros’ film adaptation of Frank L. Baum’s children’s book and for the past year the studio has been throwing the movie quite the birthday party. The festivities will come to a gloriously over-the-top conclusion next month with an event Warner Bros. is calling “The Emerald Gala” in New York City.

Betsey Johnson's take on Dorothy's ruby slippers -- try skipping down the yellow brick road in these puppies

Betsey Johnson's take on Dorothy's ruby slippers -- try skipping down the yellow brick road in these puppies

Getting into the event (hosted by Tavern on the Green) seems about as likely as the average munchkin’s chances of seeing the wizard, but if you do finagle your way in, oh the wonders that await! A yellow brick road! Ashanti (fresh from “The Wiz” on Broadway), munchkins! (that is, a few of the actors who played them in the original movie). Most intriguing to me, however, is the exhibition of designer ruby slippers, on display for the last time before they are auctioned off (for charity of course).

For those of us who will not be granted entrance to the Emerald City, Warner Bros is offering a slightly less swanky affair — screenings of the movie in high definition at theaters across the country.

Find a screening location here.

Listen to our American Icons show on The Wizard of Oz here.

– Annie Minoff

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Don’t be fooled by the first 20 seconds of this video– it’s is not just another cute toddler Youtube sensation. Prepare to be impressed and a little freaked out by some very slick video editing. The toddler noises and mugging for the camera get transformed into what could quite possibly be the next dance hall hit. If Kidz Bop were to cover Crystal Castles’ “Vanished”, it would sound something like this.

And for more creative adventures in audio distortion, be sure check out our ‘Auto Tune the News’ story, including Kurt’s Auto-tuned debut, in the most recent Studio 360 broadcast.

-Kelly Sullan

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Reports of the death of Auto-Tune are greatly exaggerated. This week on the show, we hear from the Gregory Brothers, a band that has turned the music industry’s favorite note-correction software on TV newscasters and politicians. With their series of viral web videos “Auto-Tune the News,” they’ve made divas out of talking heads.

Check out our story here:

While we were at it, we asked the Gregory Brothers if they could do their Auto-Tune magic on our own Kurt Andersen. Now, Kurt’s not one to belt out tunes around the office. But the result, as you can hear below, is infectious (and a little bit stirring):

For an introduction to the Gregory Brothers’ unusual genius, check out the video below.

–Matt Frassica

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Our host didn’t have to go far for his most recent media appearance. On Tuesday, Kurt was a guest on  The Leonard Lopate Show— our friendly neighbors in the WNYC office.

Kurt tells Leonard about his new book Reset: How This Crisis Can Restore Our Values and Renew America and shares one of his own ‘aha moments.’ You stream the full interview HERE or watch a video excerpt below.

-Kelly Sullan

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kind of blueFifty years ago today, Columbia Records released Miles Davis’ groundbreaking album Kind of Blue. In a year of amazing jazz releases – among them John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and Charles Mingus’ Mingus Ah UmBlue stands out. Fifty years later, it’s still the album that hardcore jazz buffs and neophytes can agree is one of the all time greats.

In 2007, Ave Carrillo talked to drummer Jimmy Cobb and professors Ashley Kahn and Gerald Early about why a copy of Kind of Blue in your record bin still makes you the coolest cat in the room.

Listen to the American Icons segment on Kind of Blue:

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The Sound of SLOrk

photo credit: Enrique Aguiree

Members of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra at their instruments. Photo credit: Enrique Aguiree

This week, Angela Frucci brings us the story of Ocarina, the iPhone app created by computer programmer Ge Wang that allows you “play” your iPhone by blowing into its microphone (with pleasant, vaguely pan-pipe-like results). A YouTube search yields Ocarina performances of everything from “Stairway to Heaven” to that favorite of high school choral directors “Oh Shenandoah.” It’s not hard to see why Ocarina’s so popular — this is cheery, melodic stuff.

Not so accessible is Ge’s other foray into musical electronics, the musical laptop. Ge is the founder of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra (SLOrk for short). How exactly does one play a laptop? I have no idea. I did not find this explanatory diagram very helpful:


SLOrk’s sound is atonal, atmospheric, buzzy — definately not “Oh Shenandoah.” I’m not sure I like it, but I’m intrigued. Maybe it will grow on me?

Listen to PLOrk (the Princeton laptop orchestra) here.

Listen to Angela’s piece on Ocarina

– Annie Minoff

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