HERE'S A PIECE I wrote about the state of online streaming. I adapted it from an online discussion group for a blog called Music Tectonics. Thanks to Dmitri Vietze for the invitation.
HERE'S A PIECE I wrote about the state of online streaming. I adapted it from an online discussion group for a blog called Music Tectonics. Thanks to Dmitri Vietze for the invitation.
We launched this free channel a week ago at the suggestion of a Texas subscriber in the wake of the terrible incident in Dallas.The response has been overwhelmingly positive—a heartfelt thank you to all who have written and posted acknowledging it.
During the week we added another 29 programs for a total of 50 shows, which means listeners will hear fewer duplicate shows.
We will keep the service free and open this weekend in the wake of the violence in Nice, and now the political chaos in Turkey.
In the long term we are planning to retain the channel for subscribers and further expand the number of shows.
Unfortunately we live in turbulent times.
THE MORNING AFTER the mayhem in Dallas we were contacted by a Texas Hearts of Space subscriber, asking if we could offer some free HOS programs to help calm the raw emotions on both sides.
Well yes, we can. We created a special channel called "Peace, be Still."
The name comes from Mark 4:35-41—the story of Jesus calming the raging waters. It contains 31 50 calm, peaceful programs in rotation. Access is completely free, no account or registration is required.
To listen, go to www.HOS.com and click the prominent direct link on our home page.
click CHANNELS in the main menu bar and then the PEACE banner.
This loads the channel playlist. One more click on the PLAY button and you can hear up to 12 hours of calm, peaceful Hearts of Space music.
The channel is also available free on our 99¢ iOS and Android mobile apps.
THE PEACE CHANNEL will remain open through the weekend and as long as necessary until things cool down. Only sincere communication and mutual understanding will solve these longstanding problems; a calm state of mind can help create a productive atmosphere for discussion.
Thanks to subscriber OG RICO aka FEDERICO RENDON for the idea and the channel name.
:: The Hearts of Space Team
ONE OF THE DEEPEST "innerviews" I've ever seen is with longtime Hearts of Space core artist ROBERT RICH and Innerviews.org founder ANIL PRASAD. It dives into Bob's history and evolves into some truly profound musical and philosophical observations. If you have a serious interest in Ambient/Space/Psychedelic/Shamanic music and sound, you will want to ingest this carefully more than once.
The weatherman seeks warmer spaces and tropical waters. We'll be taking a mid-winter vacation break and scheduling repeat shows for the next three weeks:
JANUARY 23rd: PGM 973 'SOUNDING THE DEEP' a wintry journey for resonant bronze w/music by Deuter, Apollonius+33 Tetragammon, Nebulae, 33 Bowls, Ed Mann and Karma Moffett.
JANUARY 30th: PGM 791 'NORDIC SOUL'—a far north spacejazz and new music journey—slow, majestic and beautiful, w/music by Streif, Jan Garbarek, Francois Couturier, and Valentin Silvestrov.
FEBRUARY 6th: PGM 1037 'THE LONG NIGHT—a nocturnal winter journey w/music by Jeff Greinke, Robert Rich, A Produce, Steve Roach & Kelly David, Sean Washburn, and Nunc Stans & Mystified.
We return with a new season of essential Ambient on February 13th.
Irish music writer MARK PRENDERGAST, author of the definitive book on Ambient music "The Ambient Century," has written an update to the book in the form of a series of articles in the English Hi-Fi Critic magazine. Following up his address at our AMBIcon 2013 Conference last May, Mark wrote the following piece, which covers new work in Europe and in the U.S.
— :: SH
The Ambient Odyssey
Part 2-New Possibilities: Ambient In The 21st Century
The great euphoric rush which accompanied the end of the 20th century was replaced very soon by the earth-shattering events in New York City of September 2001. The Age of Uncertainty was back and music as we'd known it was changed forever. Ambient turned in on itself, becoming spare, isolationist, environmental, arty and philosophical.
High-profile pop figures like John Foxx, David Sylvian and Brian Eno had flirted with the idea of installation music for years. Eno's Place Nos 11-16 were defining sound installations of the late 20th century. But it wouldn't be until the 21st century that "sound art," a discipline which explores the spaces between hearing, listening, perception and environment would take off. Pauline Oliveros, Terry Fox, Alvin Lucier, Bill Fontana, Paul Horn and Toru Takemitsu would all have a huge influence. Soon "sound sculpture" and "sonification" became buzz words. The quartet of Douglas Henderson, Boris Hengenbert, Michael J. Schumacher and Agostino Di Scipio made a huge splash in 2008 at the inaugural exhibition of the Mazzoli Gallery, Berlin, a purpose-built sound art space. In 2010 it arrived big time in the UK when Susan Philipsz won the Turner Prize for Lowlands — a series of intertwined Scottish laments played in variable versions through a loudspeaker system.
Back in the studio, musicians and visionaries kept mining the Ambient seam, but in isolation, no longer part of global movement. One couldn't get more remote than 217 miles inside the Arctic circle; Tromsø in Norway to be precise, the home of GEIR JENSSEN, better known today as BIOSPHERE. A dedicated outdoor skier and mountaineer, Jenssen brought the landscape of Scandinavia to his music which is full of translucent Arctic sounds. In 1997 he was signed to All Saints Records (an offshoot of Eno's Land and Opal projects) and Substrata was released to worldwide critical acclaim. Beginning with the sound of a lone aircraft, along the way we hear samples from David Lynch's Twin Peaks, Russian broadcasts, the customary bird noises, wind, rain and crackling fires. It reminds one of the films of Andrei Tarkovsky but there is a uniqueness to the sound. In 2001 Substrata was voted the greatest Ambient album in the history of the genre and was re-issued alongside Man With A Movie Camera with extra tracks. All latter day Biosphere music is worthwhile, especially 2002's Shenzhou, a brilliant re-working of Debussy utilizing samples from old scratched records.
Mining the isolationist furrow were other innovators — Thomas Koener, Paul Schutze, Mark Van Hoen, Scanner and The Black Dog (especially on their 2010 Music For New Airports). All made worthwhile Ambient, all had their audience. In Britain in the 21st century, two artistic collectives would push Ambient into the mainstream. They were called BOARDS OF CANADA and MARCONI UNION.
Describing their music as oneiric (relating to dreams) Marcus Eoin and Mike Sandison of Boards of Canada based themselves in rural Scotland and avoided cities, the press, and the hype of the London music scene. Accepting of terms like chillwave they disliked the word ambient being applied to their work. Inspired namers of recordings, their first proper album Music Has The Right To Have Children (1998) was followed by the intriguing EPs In A Beautiful Place In The Country (2000) and Trans Canada Highway (2006). Their music blossomed on The Campfire Headphase (2005) and I (2013). The New York Times greeted the latter album with the description "discretionary Ambience." It's odd stuff — with beat structures similar to Aphex Twin, often the music is pure tonal athmosphere derived from old malfunctioning equipment. They admit to loving psychedelia, especially The Beatles, the Incredible String Band, the Cocteau Twins and 'the sounds between notes." They could be termed sound collagists and much of their work echoes Cabaret Voltaire or Throbbing Gristle at their best. There is a cerebral intensity to their sound, a kind of lost world. They prefer absence to presence, their last gig was a secretive playback of Tomorrow's Harvest in the Southern Californian desert on May 27th 2013!
Producing wonderfully consonant records of uplifting beauty, Manchester's MARCONI UNION are the exact opposite of BOC in terms of approach. A trio of Richard Talbot, Jamie Crossley and Duncan Meadows play live ambient - keyboards, guitar , drums and effects. Highly melodic, the band were discovered by All Saints' Dominic Norman-Taylor and kicked off with the superb Distance in 2005, citing Eno, Miles Davis and Martin Hannett's spidery production of Joy Division. Albums like A Lost Connection (2008) and Different Colours (2012) are vintage Union but Richard Talbot considers Beautifully Falling Apart (2011) to be their most genuinely Ambient album as it was subtitled Ambient Transmissions. In 2010 Marconi Union played a 150-minute set of improvised Ambient behind a glass atrium at Manchester's City Art Gallery. In 2011 came their biggest coup, Weightless, an 8-minute composition done in collaboration with the British Academy of Sound Therapy. According to scientists it produced a 65% reduction on anxiety. Though full of piano, field recordings and sound manipulation it's the hypno-beat which characterizes. Its worldwide impact was so great that Time magazine considered the Union to be one of the great inventors of the new century.
Until May 2013, the American Ambient scene was all but unknown in Europe. Having lectured at AMBIcon in Marin County, California, the first Ambient festival ever held in the U.S.A. I have to say the scene over there is in many ways healthier and much more experimental than what is happening on this side of the Atlantic. AMBIcon was the brainchild of STEPHEN HILL, America's very own Ambient guru. As the inventor of Hearts of Space (a syndicated Ambient radio programme which began in Berkeley, California in the mid 1970s; went around several hundred US radio stations weekly; expanded to Hearts of Space Records in 1984, producing 150 releases over 17 years; and since 2001 is the very best port of call for Ambient in America through its independent subscription streaming service with over 1000 programmes available, full-time channels and the definitive weekly Ambient show presented by Hill himself. His luxuriant deep voice is so appropriate he could be called Mr Ambient U.S.A.
"Artistically it's a very healthy genre in the U.S. There's an abundance of recordings and artists." As a former architect, Hill's concentration on the detail is what set AMBIcon as an event and Hearts of Space as a radio/streaming service apart. "Many artists don't seem to understand the implications of the Fletcher-Munson ear sensitivity curves when mixing and mastering. The noise floor of good digital recordings differs radically from others which are compressed or levelled to the max. Sequencing programmes from different sources means a lot of work to produce high-quality audio." Hearts of Space (HOS) has some of the best audio quality on the Web.
At AMBIcon and on HOS four artists stand out from the crowd as making the very best contemporary American Ambient music. [ AMBIcon 2013 videos on YouTube ]
STEVE ROACH, who has over 100 recordings to his name has established his Timeroom studios in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona as headquarters central for Ambient music production in the U.S.A. A brilliant commingler of vintage analogue hardware and digital systems, Roach is the soundscaper extraordinaire who can literally put you in an envoronment. Recordings like Dreamtime Return (1988) based on a lengthy trip to the Australian outback, and Destination Beyond (2009) a single 73-minute track of slo-mo atmospheric music. What makes Roach the best is his awesome commitment and execution. "I grew up in the desert areas of Southern California and I visualized these places in my head with sound. I worked in a record store in my teens and was inspired by Eno, Tangerine Dream, Can, Kraftwerk , Jon Hassell and especially Klaus Schulze because of the relentless immersive nature of his music. After seeing both Tangerine Dream and Kraftwerk I wanted to investigate longer harmonic drifts, slowmotion beatscapes, analogue sequencing and more."
Equally interested in ethnic sounding Ambient is ROBERT RICH, b. 1963 also in Southern California. Influenced by Cage, Riley, Schulze and Cluster early work involved sleep concerts at Stanford where he would eventually take up a post at the Center For Computer Research In Music & Acoustics (CCRMA). A designer of synth presets, engineer and MIDI developer, Rich is extremely bright. His music explores microtonality and favours Balinese, Javanese and Arabic tonalities. Two albums in particular Rainforest (1989) and Seven Veils (1998) are tour-de-forces of sound construction. "Terry Riley is my biggest influence as is the deep listening of Pauline Oliveros. My favourite album is Somnium, a 7-hour recording which best expresses the very slow concentrated side of my musical process."
Probably the highlight of AMBIcon was the collaboration between Idaho-based musician TIM STORY and Indiana guitarist JEFF PEARCE. Since 1993 Pearce has created nearly a dozen albums featuring his heavenly guitarscapes. Both To The Shores of Heaven and The Light Beyond (2000/2001) are masterpieces of beautiful sonic visions. Pearce says: "I wanted to see how slow I could go on the electric guitar. William Ackerman, Harold Budd, and Satie were all big influences. Light Beyond is actually a one hour live recording at Philadelphia's Star's End radio show using one electric guitar, a loop box and two effects processors."
TIM STORY hails from Philadelphia and is by far the most in-depth follower of Satie in his work. Maker of exquisite miniatures, Story imbues his collations of woodwinds, strings, piano and guitar with a rare emotional intensity that uplifts the music into another realm. His own recordings like Shadowplay (2001) and Caravan ST (2005) are recommended but his work with Roedelius; Lunz (2002) and Lazy Arc (2013) are unquestionably essential, marrying aspects of kosmische musik with subtle changes of key and tempo. "In fact I was experimenting with Ambient long before Eno coined the term. I loved Krautrock but also the Velvet Underground and Television. My aim is to create a wholly convincing immersive environment, yet my interests are always the construction of tight, concise miniatures, rather than long drifting soundscapes. To reverse Eno's dictum, I've always leaned to the listenable rather than the ignorable."
Another important American ambientizer but on America's East Coast is ANDREW SHAPIRO. Like Story a follower of Satie, the 1970s born New Yorker also doffs his cap to Jean-Michel Jarre, Sting, Brandford Marsalis, Morton Feldman, Philip Glass and the Cocteau Twins. He has produced half-a-dozen recordings on Airbox of which Numbers, Colors & People (2008) (produced by Michael Riesman at Philip Glass's NY studio and mastered by Jarre's sound designer Michel Geiss in Paris) and 2012's Intimate Casual (2012) (recorded at home on a soft-pedalled upright piano) perfectly sum up his piano art. In 2009 one track "Mint Green" achieved 3.5 million plays on Pandora Internet radio. And following in Satie's footsteps Shapiro spends every Sunday near Wall St. playing a baby grand piano upstairs in a branch of McDonalds. "I've no limitations in terms of listening. Philip Glass paved the way here in the U.S. for someone to get out of that school mentality. Eno also showed it was kind of possible to have your cake and eat it too, to be relaxed but also achieve your serious art, have that simultaneity."
It seems Ambient can never die. Will the form go on forever and ever? I'll let Stephen Hill have the last word:
"I think Ambient music is really old. It goes back to the pre-history of music — to caves, canyons, natural and man-made reverberant spaces and so-called primitive instruments. It's probably one of the oldest alternative forms of music. It's found in many ethnic genres and has been essential in the context of religious, sacred and contemplative music for millennia. It is not limited to electronics, though they have greatly expanded its creative possibilities. We will always have the magic of slow, spatially expanded music and the profound psychological states it can create. If it was ever lost, it would have to be re-invented. We need it."
Copyright © 2013 Mark J. Prendergast (Under Exclusive License To Hi-Fi Critic Magazine)
Our ace videographer Dan Drasin has been busy finishing the interim videos of all the sessions and concerts at the AMBIcon Festival. These are complete concerts or conference sessions with stereo sound from the mixing board. For convenience, all of them are collected on the AMBIcon 2013 Channel page:
AMBIcon 2013 CHANNEL (all videos) :
To stream individual videos, use these links:
1 of 10: Musicians' Panel Discussion and Q&A —
2 of 10: JEFF PEARCE Concert— http://youtu.be/jbgZ9n1PToo
3 of 10: ROBERT RICH Concert— http://youtu.be/c5FZH2Yen-8
4 of 10: TIM STORY Concert—http://youtu.be/7XK19bwqWwI
5 of 10: MICHAEL STEARNS Concert—http://youtu.be/10YGKfUE2hU
6 of 10: STEPHAN MICUS Concert—http://youtu.be/i1SL1rwLQ50
NEW! 7 of 10: STEVE ROACH Concert—http://youtu.be/bNqs9qa9pGM
NEW! 8 of 10: HANS CHRISTIAN Concert—http://youtu.be/a4zssJJLzeo
NEXT UP : STELLAMARA Concert, MARK PRENDERGAST Presentation on the history of Ambient music.
If you couldn't make it to the live event, this is the next best thing!
As previously announced, we are posting free full length videos of all AMBIcon 2013 events on YouTube in the next two weeks. There are 8 concerts and 2 conference sessions, ten total. Here are the first 3:
MUSICIANS' PANEL DISCUSSION : http://youtu.be/T5LC5Y6boTU
JEFF PEARCE Concert : http://youtu.be/jbgZ9n1PToo
ROBERT RICH Concert : http://youtu.be/c5FZH2Yen-8
Coming soon: TIM STORY and MICHAEL STEARNS!
Over the next two weeks we'll be posting full-length videos of all 10 of the scheduled events at the AMBIcon 2013 conference: 2 morning sessions and 8 concerts. In the interest of getting them out sooner than later, these are simple fixed camera videos with clean stereo sound from the mixing board.
If you missed the live stream during the event, this is the best way to see and hear what happened until we are able to release the full multi-camera/surround sound versions of the concerts later this year.
Here's the first session Saturday morning, the Artists Panel Discussion and Q&A:
With less than 2 weeks to go before the event, we're busy tying down all the many details of the production, and focussing on selling the rest of the tickets!
SINGLE CONCERT SALES : Most of the people who will be attending the full conference have already registered and made their travel arrangements, so we are zeroing in on ticket sales for the 4 "double" concerts over the weekend. To that end, the word is going out on multiple performance mailing lists, print and online publications that cover Northern California.
To help this effort we've established NEW LOW COST TICKET TIERS FOR THE CONCERTS. In addition to the $65 Premium Seating, we now have $35 General Admission for the first three concerts, and a $25 General Admission for the final one.
We've created new pages on our ticketing site for each of the 4 double concerts:
CONCERT 1—DEEP AMBIENT : JEFF PEARCE / ROBERT RICH
SATURDAY May 4th, 2PM INFO and TICKETS
CONCERT 2—DEEP SPACE : TIM STORY / MICHAEL STEARNS
SATURDAY May 4th, 8PM INFO and TICKETS
CONCERT 3—DEEP JOURNEY : STEPHAN MICUS / STEVE ROACH
SUNDAY, MAY 5th, 2PM INFO and TICKETS
CONCERT 4—DEEP WORLD : HANS CHRISTIAN / STELLAMARA
SUNDAY MAY 5th, 8PM INFO and TICKETS
GENERAL CONFERENCE INFO: http://ambicon.hos.com
The Guardian (UK) has reviewed the latest album and London concert by AMBIcon performer Stephan Micus. Any musician would die happy for press like this. For Stephan, it's almost routine:
CONCERT 3 : STEPHAN MICUS / STEVE ROACH : SUNDAY, MAY 5th, 2PM INFO and TICKETS
All four AMBIcon concerts on one page:
NEW TICKET OPTIONS!
The big news is that we've put SINGLE DAY tickets and INDIVIDUAL CONCERT tickets on sale now! The effect of this is to give potential attendees a lot more options, especially if you live within driving distance of Northern California.
On the other hand, some of the concerts will sell out much sooner, so if you've been on the fence, now's the time to review the options and decide. See our event page at Brown Paper Tickets for details:
BIG WRITEUP ON AMBIcon
Our longtime colleague JOHN DILIBERTO of the Echoes Nightly SoundScape program is a veteran music writer and reviewer. On the Echoes Blog he's done a major preview of the AMBIcon event and profiled the artists who will be appearing in concert:
AMBICON SCHEDULE and GETTING HERE
We've added a comprehensive schedule and a detailed guide to Airports, Shuttles, Buses and Taxis to the AMBIcon event page on our web site, including printable versions:
Getting Here: http://www.hos.com/#getting-here
With just a little more than two months to the event (May 3-5) we will be posting more frequent updates here.
CONFERENCE SCHEDULE POSTED : For those who have been asking for a more detailed schedule, it's now available on our website at http://www.hos.com/#ambicon-schedule. There's also a PDF version for printing here.
TIER 3 PRICE INCREASE POSTPONED : The full conference ticket price was set to increase by $30 on March 1st. We've postponed this one month to April 1st to encourage more to attend the entire event.
SINGLE DAY and SINGLE CONCERT TICKETS : While we have given preferential access to Full Conference attendees since the beginning of ticket sales, we have enough seats left that we can offer some lower-priced alternatives for Bay Area and California residents:
A limited number of single day tickets will be available in early MARCH.
Tickets for the 4 individual concerts will be available in early APRIL.
See the detailed schedule to choose.
DISCOUNT ROOMS AT EMBASSY SUITES HAVE SOLD OUT : We had the biggest block they offer and they're gone. You can still reserve individual suites at higher rates online at Embassy Suites Reservations, or by calling 415-499-9222 or 1-800-EMBASSY and asking for Reservations for the San Rafael, CA location.
MORE ROOMS, LESS MONEY : For an alternative, we've contacted the nearby FOUR POINTS SHERATON SAN RAFAEL Hotel and arranged for another block of discount rooms at $119/night. You can call 800-325-3535 for reservations; mention AMBIcon 2013 to get the special rate. We will post a link to their reservations page as soon as they provide it. The overflow hotel is across the highway from a large shopping mall with good restaurants and services. It's an easy 10 minute walk from the conference, or a short shuttle ride.
THE MAN WHO WROTE THE BOOK ON AMBIENT — veteran English music writer MARK PRENDERGAST, is now confirmed for a special 2 hour presentation at the Sunday morning session. He will be giving an overview of Ambient music with slides and musical examples. This is the first time Mark has appeared in the U.S. and we're really excited to have him!
More details as they become available. :: SH
IPHONE VERSION 2
Several weeks ago we launched Version 2 of
the HoS service and added some powerful new
features. The main innovation was expanding
from the single full-time "Radio Channel" to eight full-time channels.
We also rebuilt our main menu bar for easier
operation, added additional features to the
MY PLAYLISTS section, and rewrote parts of
our custom Flash web player for smoother
and more reliable operation. A full rundown
of all the new stuff is in What's New in V2?
Until March 1st those features were only available
on the web site. Now we've added those new
features and more to our iPHONE app, and the
update is available free in the App Store if you've
already bought the app for 99¢. If you haven't
tried the iPhone app yet, now's the perfect time
to cough up the big bucks and give it whirl ;-)
Our new iPhone app gives you on-the-go access to all 8 full-time channels — the eclectic All Archive Mix channel, plus seven genre-focused channels: Electronic Space, Ambient/Downtempo, Contemporary Instrumental, Orchestral/Chamber/Choral, Classic HoS Mix, World Fusion Mix, and Celtic Space.
In addition, personal playlists you create on the web site can now be played in the iPhone app.
Not only that, we've added on-demand access to programs within channels and playlists, so you can select any individual program in any of the full-time channel playlists or your personal playlists and go from there.
To answer the obvious followup question: no, you still cannot create personal playlists in the iPhone app. We had to defer that feature to Version 3. Nor can you navigate directly to any program in the archive like you can on the web site — that's also coming in Version 3. But anything you add to one of your MY PLAYLISTS is now available in the app.
So if you are determined and take the time to put all 973 programs into playlists (they're limited to 100 items each and you can make up to 100 playlists), then you can have mobile access to the entire archive now. Sweet!
Caveat user: if you make large playlists (more than 25 items) they will be very slow to load, and you will have to be very, very patient. We are testing a new back end architecture for the service that will speed things up, but for now you've been advised.
To answer the next followup question, we will be releasing a parallel update to our ANDROID app as soon as possible. We love our Android users as much as they love Hearts of Space, but for some reason there are a lot fewer of you, so our iPhone users get priority.
UPDATE, JUNE 9, 2012: Since the paragraph above was written last March, it has unfortunately become more difficult to justify the expense of releasing native Android applications. Some of the reasons are technical — Android devices are far less standardized than Apple's iOS devices, and a program that runs fine on one phone or tablet may not work in part or at all on others.
Furthermore, it is now clear that despite the large numbers of Android phones out there, only 1/5 as many people actually use the HOS Android app compared to Apple devices. Since the cost of developing it is the same as an Apple app, investing in the Android platform for a company our size no longer makes financial sense.
To solve the problem of offering mobile service to Android users (as well as other platforms like Windows Phone and RIM/Blackberry), we are now discussing developing a mobile version of our web site that will allow subscribers to run the service in the web browser of their mobile phone. There are compatibility problems using this approach as well, so we can't promise 100% support for every combination of phone/tablet and operating system like we can on Apple mobile devices. Nor can we give you a solid date for release beyond saying 'as soon as possible.'
Our thanks to stalwart programmer PAUL YAGO for some serious midnight oil burning and even a last minute fix while on vacation! The man is driven to get it right and we love that.
MORE FLASH GOODNESS
Our second announcement is that we've launched an update to our custom Flash web player. First, the little green triangle "play" icons next to programs were too subtle for some users. They have grown up and now tell you unambiguously what they do:
You can also see which program is playing in any playlist and pause the active stream:
Clicking the CHANNELS or MY PLAYLISTS tab itself will refresh the list of channels or playlists. Clicking the PLAY icon next to a channel or personal playlist will start it playing it from the top; to see the contents of any channel or playlist, click the name.
Within any full-time channel or personal playlist we've taken a feature from the iPhone app and now allow you on-demand access to each of the programs. So in addition to being able to switch channels, if you don't care for the show that's playing in a channel you can play any other, and the playlist will continue from there.
Last but not least, we rewrote some of the hidden plumbing in the Flash player for faster operation, and also fixed several obscure bugs that no one but our ace Flash programmer ALEX BURROWS understands for sure. Nevertheless, they are gone.
Enjoy the new software, and let us know about anything you don't understand or would like to see improved in the comments or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
We introduced our iPhone app in December 2010; a virtually identical Android app was released in late April 2011. If you are looking for Hearts of Space on-the-go, follow these links and download the app of your choice for just 99 cents.
Both these apps currently have a reduced set of features when compared to our main web site with its custom Flash player. To be specific, after free registration you can play
Subscribers who purchase our "Radio Channel + This Week's Show" combo plan ($5 to $7 per month, depending on term and billing options) OR our "All Archive Access" plan ($10 to $13 per month, depending), also get unlimited access to our full time radio stream — the "All Archive Channel" — in both the mobile apps and online in all major web browsers. If you turn off the program voiceovers, this service is ideal for uninterrupted background music.
OUR NEXT UPGRADE
We have begun work on the next upgrade to both our mobile apps and our main web service. The enhancements include seven new full time "virtual radio channels" in addition to our current "All Archive Channel." Here's the list of channels:
ALL ARCHIVE MIX (aka "All Archive Channel" — same as the current "Radio Channel")
CLASSIC HOS MIX
WORLD FUSION MIX
Per user request, the next version of our mobile apps will also show and play MY PLAYLISTS that you've created on the web site.
One enhancement already being enjoyed by mobile users is that HOS programs in the ALL ARCHIVE MIX channel always start from the beginning — rather than being joined in progress, traditional radio-style. We will add this feature to our main web service Flash player in the next update.
Our development roadmap for the near future is committed to supporting all features and services on both the web and mobile platforms. This means that whether you use the HOS music service on your desktop, laptop, tablet or mobile phone, the same content and features will be available to you — depending, of course, on the service level you choose. However, we won't get there until the revision after next.
Look for our upgraded mobile apps and upgraded web service with 8 full-time channels this fall. Our "full featured" mobile apps will follow, hopefully in the first quarter of 2012.
:: Stephen Hill and the HOS team
UPDATE: Our Android beta testers really proved themselves this week as we discovered incompatibities with certain models of Android phones like the HTC Eris. And we found one tester with a "jailbroken" phone where the app just didn't work at all. That's where we draw the line, folks: we really can't support "rooted" or jailbroken phones. Look for the finished app early next week.
Now, y'all been very patient about this, and we appreciate that.
Turns out that even when you have a finished iPhone app to model the design, building an Android app is different enough that you wind up doing 90% of the work over again. So naturally, it takes longer than you'd like, but we wanted to get it right. Thanks to our ace programmers PAUL YAGO and JOHN ZORKO, who burned the traditional midnight oil to make it happen.
The app has been in the hands of our beta testers for a week, and we've been discovering and fixing the "device-related" bugs, where it works on one model of phone, but not another. As of today we're pretty much past this, and just waiting for the last few reports to come in to confirm that everything is working as intended. We even managed to make a few improvements here and there.
If all goes well, we'll make the app available in the Android Marketplace next week. We'll announce it here in our blog, on our home page, and via email if you contacted us about the app in the past. GO ANDROID!
Every so often we get an email from one of our subscribers that really makes our week.
Here's a timely one:
I let my subscription lapse - I need my head examined.
I'm back. I'm an addict. I went into withdrawal. It wasn't pretty. Once hooked on HOS, you can't go back to ordinary programming. It just doesn't work. I am ashamed.
I am now contently working with HOS providing the accompiment to my efforts. There is no holiday music that is better - bar none. Blessings on all of you.
Well, it was like watching the proverbial paint dry, but on October 7th Apple finally approved our iPhone app and released it to the app store. Here's the link to the app page at Apple.com. If you want to download the app directly on your iPhone, search for "hearts of space" in the App Store app. It'll cost you the grand total of 99 cents, which will buy some beer and pizza for our programmers.
As an introductory special, we've opened up access to THIS WEEK'S SHOW without a subscription. If you don't already have an account, just register for free — you can do it within the app. Once you've entered you email and password once, the app will remember it and sign you in automatically.You can use the same email address and password for free service on our main web site using our Flash player.
To use all the features of the app, you need either our "AAA" All Archive Access Plan, OR, our "Radio Channel + This Week's Show" combo plan. To keep the price as low as possible, you have to do this on our web site, not in the app.
The app has one feature that we have yet to introduce on our web service: if you have either of the plans above, you can skip a show in the Radio Channel if you'd prefer to hear something else. Just tap the >>| icon on the Now Playing screen.
Here's what it looks like (click the image for a full size view):
A BIG FAT THANKS to ace programmers PAUL YAGO and JOHN ZORKO, project manager JOSEPH JACOBS, code wrangler and API spinner STEPHEN BROSSEAU, and project nervous system and customer support LEYLA HILL. Yours truly did the graphics.
It's really nice to finally see this thing out in the world! Now, on to Android...
Longtime HOS fan Russell Farley asked for a white t-shirt to be added to our store. Seems he has a cat problem and black clothes are a non-starter at his house.
Happily done! Below is the image, a variant on the one on our 'space black' items. While we were at it, we added a variety of different shirt options in white and light colors: organic and regular, sleeveless, short and long sleeve, plus sweatshirts and even white and black aprons, since we'll all be cooking up a storm during the holidays.
Check out all the new products at www.cafepress.com/heartsofspace.
Last week we made a low key announcement here that we'd opened a store for HOS logo merchandise at CafePress.com/heartsofspace. It was a stealth opening because we only had four products — two mugs and two different sizes of the same poster — so we were just exercising the electronic doors while we got the rest of it together.
Last week we got samples of the posters and they look absolutely awesome!...especially the big 23"x35" image. Thanks NASA, the Hubble Space telescope totally rocks!
We also got samples of the mugs. The mugs themselves are good quality, but the printing on them was too dark. So we replaced it with a new image that will print a lot better.
We've also been busy working on imagery for clothing, and we added black t-shirts (both short and long sleeve) a black sweatshirt, and a black cap. We've developed new HOS logos just for these products. Here's the one for the shirts:
and here's the logo for our first Hearts of Space cap:
We'll be sending out an email to our mailing list after Thanksgiving announcing the new stuff at the start of the Holiday gift season. In the meantime, to see everything online, just drop by the HOS store at www.cafepress.com/heartsofspace. Please let us know what you think by leaving a comment here or emailing us at email@example.com.
UPDATE 1: We've also added WHITE t-shirts, sweatshirts, and both white and black aprons. View the design.
UPDATE 2: After receiving a second sample of the black caps, we've pulled them from the HOS store. From what we can tell, no one had actually ordered one, and it's a good thing — the results were very disappointing. The designs are not embroidered as we originally thought from the description on the site, but printed onto white patches using a "dye sublimation" printing process. Whatever they call it, it sucks. We've started looking for an alternative and will post here when we have it.
What with Thanksgiving around the corner and Christmas on the horizon, we finally got motivated to create our first Hearts of Space gift items.
We're working with CafePress.com, the biggest service around for on-demand manufacturing and shipping of customized merchandise. We've started small with just two posters (with a dazzling NASA photo) and two mugs. Check 'em out at http://www.cafepress.com/heartsofspace/
Here's what our "store" looks like:
We're working on a cap next, and then...well, you tell us what you'd like, OK? Just comment here or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Most of the images that go into making our weekly banners come from the giant photo-sharing site flickr.com, which now hosts somewhere over 3.6 Billion photos. It's an awesome resource.
In accordance with Flickr guidelines, we always include a link back to the source page of the image, or the main image if it's a composite of several. If you haven't tried it, the "IMAGE GALLERY" link is found in the bottom left hand edge of the banner, just below the descriptive text. To see it your cursor must be over the banner.
Recently Flickr introduced a new feature: GALLERIES. These allow a Flickr user to group up to 18 photos from other Flickr photographers together in a special set with its own web address. Since I often find a dozen or more worthy images and only use one or two for the banner, this week I made our first gallery to go along with the show. Here's a direct link:
Just click the IMAGE GALLERY link and it will open in a new window or tab on your web browser. Now, instead of one photo, you get a whole gallery to look at while you're listening to the show. To find out more about any photo, just click the larger version and it will take you to the source page. Thanks, Flickr!
As we progress in life things we like change, favorite movies/foods/songs etc evolve and change. We are rarely today what we were 20+ years ago. HOS is just about the only thing I can think of that is still a constant. Obviously some programs strike more of a cord than others but I still look forward each week to that hour where we enter another world.
I'm sure your plate is full but should time permit I think sometime on the blog a short piece on what it takes to make a program would be interesting. How long does it take to put a program together ? Do you decide let's do a space week or a piano week or a change of season week. etc.
Thanks for looking out for us Space Fans.
Thank you for asking. At the risk of creating the kind of disillusionment that famously accompanies seeing sausage made, I'll give this a shot.
WARNING: this post may contain spoilers, read at your own risk.
After 26 years, the process of creating the weekly HOS program has settled into something of a routine, but it has never been 100% predictable. The music gods either smile on your work and allow it to flow with little effort...or they do not. The deadline remains the same in either case. So we long ago decided that when a show was not reaching our standard of quality, it was better to rerun a good one and put more time into the new show.
It must be said that where HOS shows are concerned, we try to take a longer view of our source material. After all, this kind of music has been around for centuries. What's the rush?
Most radio music programmers are focused either on exposing newly released material — a form of music journalism that is supposed to aid the listener in "music discovery" — or optimizing a format composed of classic tracks in their genre.
We do neither, which I realize can be frustrating for the many worthy artists, labels and music promoters who are looking for timely airplay for their new releases. Our answer to music discovery is our online service, which now provides not only a "curated" source of the best music, but also a detailed reference guide to all the artists and albums we play.
From the very beginning of the national show in 1983, Anna Turner and I were concerned primarily with creating an immersive, hour-long contemplative music experience. This is the reason for the uninterrupted format and minimal announcing, and I believe is largely responsible for our longevity as a program.
So while a great new album release can certainly inspire us to create a show around it, it can also sit in our "on deck" circle for years before we find the right material to combine with it and the right moment for a show. I sincerely apologize to any artist or label who has waited in vain for airplay, but we have found that a show where the component tracks truly join together to create something that is greater than the sum of its parts is more than worth the extra time it takes. Not only that, like a classic album, it is the only standard that will support repeated listening.
To prepare, we review new material and collect it around various themes or program ideas until something like a "critical mass" of raw material is reached. At this point we can consider using the material to create a finished show, which is a separate process with its own dynamics.
An additional element in our creative process is the subtle question of seasonal and cultural appropriateness: what show is best for a particular week? The week of 9/11, for example, we completely changed our plans and wrote new voiceovers for a rerun show whose music took on a totally different meaning in the light of the event. (Pgm. 536) There's no formula — it's an intuitive process.
When you are working with ambient music that itself creates a virtual sound environment, this musical "space" also relates to the larger environment we live in — the season, the weather, and the cultural moment. This correlation, whether obvious or subtle, informs many of our scheduling decisions.
We have found that certain ambient sounds and musical genres simply sound more effective at certain times of the year. For this kind of seasonally related material, there is a sense that the music is "locking in" to the surrounding atmosphere, from which it gains a kind of inevitability and power. Other music is more neutral and could be scheduled anytime.
Longtime Associate Producer STEVE DAVIS does most of the initial filtering of the new material that comes our way. I also review and comment on new arrivals as time permits. After 26 years of national syndication, many of the artists whose music relates to our format send us their music automatically. We also go out and beat the bushes by requesting service from new artists we have not previously contacted. As the web has grown, this process has become much easier, since we can listen to samples and full-length tracks online. This year we added a 4 terabyte file server to our in-house network to store downloads, since some artists are now abandoning CDs altogether and only releasing their music online.
Steve and I discuss the upcoming schedule and make initial decisions about what we will work on in a given week. After years of working "just in time," we now produce one week ahead of our broadcast release schedule, which makes it easier for both our public radio stations and Sirius/XM Satellite Radio to process and promote the upcoming shows in their own production systems.
Once we have determined the musical theme and the schedule, the patient is moved to the operating table by loading all the material we have collected for that show onto our Pro Tools digital audio workstation. Pro Tools is a professional audio editor that we have used since it was released, but we could do it with any number of other programs. Our hardware is a little Mac Intel Mini, a 24" flatscreen, and Genelec monitor speakers, which is all we need.
Digital audio has been a great boon to our work, as it maintains the full quality of the original CDs or hi-res files and allows instant and almost effortless editing and experimentation with the music. Nevertheless, there is no substitute for simply sitting back and listening, just like you do at home.
Steve Davis does the initial load in, then takes a pass at establishing the starting and ending pieces and creating a sequence for the rest of the show. This usually happens on Monday. He listens during the day, I listen at night when I can work uninterrupted.
Then we begin a process of adding and subtracting, moving and changing, editing and tweaking that can take as little as a day or as long as three. Regardless of how long it takes, the object is to make sure that the individual pieces feel like an integral part of a larger entity, and the journey through the sequence feels natural, inevitable and correct. If it's just not working we start to think about a rerun, and remind ourselves that we work to a standard of quality, not a schedule.
When we get it right, the program begins to emerge as an entity in itself. At that point, if it hasn't already become clear, it's time for me to give the show a name, and start writing the copy for the intro and the outro. Normally I do this at night when it's quiet and I can really hear the music with fresh ears. In the course of a typical week, I may have listened to the program a dozen times in various stages of completion.
As I listen, I refine the volume levels of each piece using Pro Tools and additional "plug in" processors. The goal is: not too loud, not too soft...just right. This sounds trivial, but along with the editing and sequencing is one of the keys to a program that flows effortlessly from end to end and does not have you diving for your volume control at any time. We want you to relax, listen, and perhaps think about wonderful things, not worry about adjusting your radio or computer.
We must deliver shows that are exactly 59 minutes long every week, so this means that some music editing is necessary just to bring the programs to time. But over the years we have found that we can often improve the flow of the listening experience by making additional edits within the component pieces of music. These edits may be anywhere from a few seconds to 80% of a longer piece. This explains the (edited) and (part) references within our playlists. Remarkably, no artist has ever complained about this.
Now it's time for the voiceover session, which I do first thing in the morning of deadline day. Normally I "rough cut" the voice tracks, then turn them over to Steve Davis for fine editing and a first pass at mixing them into the head and tail of the show. Editing voiceovers with tape and razor blades used to be unbelievably tedious; now it's almost fun with a digital editing system.
When this is done, it's time for some serious tweaking to fit the announcements into the first and last piece of music. 1/10th of a second more or less makes a difference for the pacing to sound natural; tiny volume changes to both the voice and the music allow the words to "float" over the background music and still be perfectly audible. And shorter is always better, so I edit and rewrite as necessary during the session.
When everything has been checked and rechecked several times (more listening) we record the final show to the hard disk and then transfer it to another computer, where it is transformed into several other formats: one for public broadcasting, one for SiriusXM Satellite Radio, and several more for our own online service. We use special "batch encoding" software for this. Then we upload all the different files to distant servers, where they eventually find their way to you.
In the end, the idea is to make every show sound as effortless as floating through a dream you want to have again, and again, and again...