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cheyenne_h's Blog

cheyenne_h on 01/25/2017 at 02:44PM

FMA Q&A: "The Gateway Bug" Soundtracked with FMA's Help

A still from the film's trailer. Find it here.

A few weeks ago we got a message from a couple of producers, Johanna Kelly and Cameron Marshad, who were working on a film. They wanted some help getting in touch with the band Atlantic Thrills, because their song "Bed Bugs" from a WFMU Live performance had caught their attention. They wanted to use it to accompany the ending credits of their upcoming documentary, "The Gateway Bug."

The film is an exploration of 'entomophagy,' or, as you might call it in plain English, eating insects! Many have touted this practice as a way to conserve natual resources and take advantage of a food source that is nutritious, easy to cultivate, and plentiful, especially in parts of the world that have not embraced the practice. The film will debut at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival on February 2, 2017. More info can be found here.

FMA: Tell me about your project, "The Gateway Bug."  

Johanna: Our fully independent documentary exposes America's disconnect with food as pivotal tipping point for climate change and global warming. Following the terrifying paper presented in 2013 by the UN that food production must double by 2050 to feed Earth's exploding population, and their warning that at this rate, that’s impossible - we needed to know how and why. Upon finding that nutrition is direct result of culture and policy, everyday activities like eating, gardening and grocery shopping become revolutionary acts. This film converts viewers into activists, inviting exploration of taste, ethics and taboos to ignite social change through education.

Cameron: "The Gateway Bug" explores the booming edible insect industry now taking hold in Western countries as a direct response to the unsustainable agricultural practices we’ve witnessed over the last several decades. We discovered the topic through our friend studying at UCSB, and for his thesis he was tasked with developing a business that solves an ecological problem. The problem he was most familiar with was the overfishing of our oceans, and he proposed we start using insects as fish feed, rather than wild fish. Johanna and I found this fascinating, especially when we started talking about insects for human consumption.

FMA: Why did you want to make a film about this topic?

Cameron: The earth and its population are facing many crises at the moment, and food is one big part of that puzzle. We can't survive without it. I am an adventurous eater, and when I heard about humans starting to eat insects in the US, the land of the free and home the quarter pounder with cheese, I was immediately entranced. The reason I wanted to make this film was to tell the story about climate change from a different perspective, one that involves food culture breaking social norms.

Johanna: I'm a filmmaker because I'm a film-lover and I watch a lot of documentaries. It's kind of my favourite way to learn these days and I think a lot of people feel the same way. You can spend weeks trying to finish a book on something you want to know more about, or you can just sit down on your couch and be an expert in a couple of hours. These issues and solutions stand to change the world, so what better way to share them than in the easily digestible (HA!) form of a film? I hope our film helps people see how easy it is to help the planet and minimise climate change. Which in turn hopefully also makes them feel damn good about themselves, improving their health through better nutrition is just a happy side effect in my eyes.

FMA: Do you consider the purpose of the film educational, social, culinary, or something else?

Cameron: I believe the purpose of the film is to enable free thought around how our food is made and how we define what is food. It's a mix of educational, social, and culinary commentary; we meet chefs, farmers, celebrities, and Washington leaders, so we show the burgeoning edible insect industry from multiple angles. We also use archival footage throughout, which is meant to invoke a feeling of "Wait, we've been talking about this stuff for years, why hasn't anything changed?" I think it is a call to action, to encourage new ways of thinking about food production and food culture and their environmental consequences.

Johanna: I think it covers a lot of ground: social impact, environmental, culinary exploration of culture, what it means to survive in America, eating an American diet and how that's a vastly different experience depending on where you were born. We go from cricket farms in food deserts across the rust belt and the water crisis in Flint Michigan to high end restaurants on the lower east side in New York City. From tech geeks in Silicon Valley to Aquaponic farms in Santa Barbara and everything in between.

>>READ MORE below for more answers, further reading, and links!


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cheyenne_h on 01/17/2017 at 02:47PM

FMA Q&A: Australian Radio Producer Michael Schubert, Winner of National Features and Documentary Award

Michael with his National Features & Documentary trophy (+ FMA shirt!)

Every once in a while, we get a message about something special happening to tracks from the Free Music Archive. Recently, we heard from Michael Schubert, a radio producer whose work was nominated for Australia's National Features and Documentary Award. His work featured FMA audio prominently, so he wanted us to know about it. We love and deeply appreciate news of cool stuff happening with audio sourced from our little ol' archive. A few weeks later, we heard from him again - he won!

Michael has had a lifelong interest in audio, and is now Broadcast Manager at his local community radio station BayFM Byron Bay, which is also home to multiple award winning shows and documentaries, including his own, In Search Of Silence. He is also involved with the production of SoundMinds, a 15-minute weekly program that features the work of a university researcher in their own voice, and mindwaves, a program that "explores ideas, drawing from philosophy, psychology, sociology, biology and science in general; providing a point of intersection between these disciplines; creating an opportunity to cross over between different "ways of seeing".

You can listen to "In Search of Silence" below:

 

 

We followed up with Michael to find out more about his creative process and how the Free Music Archive factors into his work.

FMA: Can you give a quick overview of "In Search of Silence"?

MS: In Search of Silence is my personal project and my first venture into a longer form documentary. Being on radio and producing a documentary about silence seemed like the perfect match. In Search of Silence is a 30 minute documentary that does include radio silence (a suspenseful 8 seconds), as well as interviews with a conductor, movie sound producer and cognitive science hearing expert. I also got myself locked in an anechoic chamber and was honoured to be proclaimed winner of the National Features and Documentary Award 2016. The award recognises the value of such work and in a not for profit sector such as community radio, it is not an easy journey. It gives me the confidence to move forward on other projects in the future.

FMA: Why did you want to explore the theme of 'silence' for your audio documentary?

MS: In mindwaves earlier seasons I had taken on the concept of silence several times, each time finding new perspectives and new ideas.  And silence is such a juxtaposition to audio production.  On radio we call it "dead air" and avoid it.  To be honest, the fact that you can't really explain what silence is intrigued me, because it is realistically the absence of sound and does not "exist".  There's absolute zero for temperature, absolute zero for speed, but no absolute quiet. And the more you go down the rabbit hole of silence, the more perspectives there are.  When I started talking about the idea, no matter who I talked with, they got excited.  Not just musicians and sound engineers, but artists and accountants.  Everyone had an idea and everyone wanted to know what I might do with it.

FMA:  Did you learn anything new or interesting about silence while you were making the documentary?

MS: I keep coming back to something I know, but it still is a bit weird and freaky. There is no sound in your head. None.  Just electrical and chemical connections that we interpret as sound. There are sound waves in the world, but not in your head. It's a bit weird to contemplate, particularly when you talk to yourself. Who are you listening to?

FMA: What went into making "In Search of Silence"?

MS: I was used to doing a 15 minute piece, but 30 minutes is long, and if it's not interesting, it's really boring. That was my main challenge: getting the pace right. Silence is not in itself exciting, so the story had to be compelling. 

One day I drove 40 miles, flew 500 miles, caught a train to a university, got locked in the anechoic chamber and completed three interviews, flew back home and picked my own daughter up from university. That was huge, particularly when I realised I had not recorded my first session in the anechoic chamber (lesson: don't take new equipment to important gigs) and had to go back later in the same day. I realised later how lucky I was for and the generousity of essentially 'rock stars' in their own fields of research, conducting and film sound recording.

My main mentor was honest, really honest.  The first draft file was, to say the least, a bit underwhelming.  It was as he said, 'more about your script writing skills than the talent' and it had 'not delivered' on what he thought would be an interesting idea.  Good to hear about the script writing skills, but back to editing. With the help of another couple of mentors (sound and tech guys who listened to the entire piece) and armed with 5 pages of notes, I went to work.  And the deadline was real, the documentaries had a time booked to go to air.  Many hours listening to the same piece of audio, tweaking here and there.  And a very understanding family (including my wife as the 'voice of silence') who looked at my back as I edited for what seemed like  forever to them.  They are used to me getting SoundMinds done within a day. At one level it is all about the workflow and file management, boring I know. But if you just get a system that works for you, so you can find what you need (even if it is all in one huge folder, with backups), you are way ahead.  And don't try new things 'on the fly', just use what you know and ask lots of questions.  People are remarkably helpful.

>>Read more below, including Michael's Top Ten tips for audio documentaries!


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cheyenne_h on 01/06/2017 at 01:17PM

Issues with FMA's Search Function

Put on your special banana sunglasses to help us look for issues with the site! Report stuff to contact[at]freemusicarchive[dot]org. Photo via flickr commons.

Hi everyone, Cheyenne here.

Just a quick note to let you know that we are aware of a problem with the search function on our site. Unfortunately, we had an issue with our server earlier this week. Though *that* problem has been fixed, another has popped up in its wake - it doesn't seem to be indexing things that have been added since then. Things are being saved in our database, and are listed in the "Recently Added" results list, but since our site gets new tracks daily, it may take some scrolling before you find what you're looking for if it's a recent addition.

All recent additions are coming up when you use the "Site Search" function, so I recommend using that for now if you can't seem to find something. I'll update this entry when we get it fixed. 

I'm really sorry for the inconvenience or confusion this may have caused, and I want to thank artist Fleslit for alerting FMA to the issue. As always, if you see something weird (in a bad way), let us know! Our users are often using the site in ways we don't on a daily basis, and reporting issues is a great help to us.

UPDATE! ***THIS HAS BEEN FIXED! HUZZAH!***

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cheyenne_h on 01/04/2017 at 12:05PM

Hidden In Plain Sight: FMA's Pop-Out Player

Look at all those fancy features!

We often get messages from users asking how they could preview songs efficiently, without having to download everything that looked interesting. Well, friends, you can! And it's right at your fingertips! 

Ever notice the little symbols next to tracks on our site? There's a star (for those of you who log in -- clicking the star marks a song or album as a 'favorite' and allows you to find it again later; all favorites are stored in a big ol' list at your profile page), a plus sign (which launches the pop-out player), and a 'down' arrow (which is the download button). 

We know, the plus sign isn't the most obvious ideogram for "add this song to the pop-out player," and we're sorry about that. But now you know what that arcane little symbol means. 

Anyway, once you click, it'll launch a separate player that has features you've come to expect from audio players across the web: the ability to scrub and skip through a track, and the ability to control the volume. The tracks you click on will add themselves to the queue in this magic little box. If you've made playlists in the past, you'll be able to find them in the drop-down menu (the default is called "Working," as in "Working on my next killer mix"). 

You can add and remove songs, or even clear the whole playlist and start fresh. This tool is indispensable for anyone who wants to leverage the full power of the FMA to their advantage! Go forth, FMA'liens, and mix like the wind! (And if you are proud of your mixes, send us links, we always wanna share new & exciting selections from our community.)

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cheyenne_h on 12/28/2016 at 05:00AM

2016 Year In Review, Part VIII: 56 WFMU Highlights

Sadly, there are too many good bands in the world to know about or listen to in our too-short human lifespans - but WFMU endeavors to being in as many as possible, as often as possible. WFMU shares many of these sets with us at the FMA, all collected here! We are eternally indebted to the freeform behemoth and its genre-bending DJs and guests.

2016 was a phenomenal year, in terms of live music added to the FMA, and we've selected 56 WFMU-flavored tracks to entertain, amuse and confuse you. If you liked the sets here, consider visiting the artist pages on FMA, or better yet, pay wfmu.org a visit and see what the fuss is all about. If you already know and love WFMU, maybe you should browse our collections of live sets organized by DJ/show. WFMU's concert venue, Monty Hall, has its own collection as well. 

Listen or download below, or visit the playlist page here.

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cheyenne_h on 12/27/2016 at 02:22PM

2016 Year In Review, Part VII: LizB's MegaMix

As we look back on the soundscape of the last 12 months, one thing is clear: our curators have been busy this year! FMA has reached new heights in recognition, use, traffic, and killer playlists! One of our most dedicated and regular mixmakers is LizB, who often peppers her weekly WFMU radio broadcast with FMA tracks, and she broadcast 3 hours of FMA tunes to wrap up 2016. Liz's show happens every Tuesday afternoon from 12-3pm Eastern, which you can listen to as an FMA playlist (featured every week on our iOS app and at the bottom of the main page), in the WFMU archive or subscribe to it, since it's also distributed as a podcast. She also created a monstrous mix of her TOP 100 tracks!

Listen up:

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cheyenne_h on 12/23/2016 at 11:52AM

2016 Year In Review, Part VI: Highlights from Needle Drop Co.

As the end of 2016 approaches, some of our curators are looking back on what 2016 had in store for them. Needle Drop Co. is a curator whose music is intended for use in noncommercial videos and broadcasts. They shared some highlights of this year with us. There will be more highlights coming next week, but this should last you through the holiday weekend!

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cheyenne_h on 12/21/2016 at 11:40AM

2016 Year In Review, Part V: ccCommunity's Indie, Rock & Punk

We've made it to the last of the 2016 ccCommunity compilations - part 5 of 5: Indie, Rock & Punk!

Indie, Rock & Punk is the fifth of our 2016 Year In Review series (which will be appearing on this blog all month long), and the final installment of the ccCommunity Year In Review playlists. There'll be more Year In Review features from other curators, so stay tuned for the next installment! The ccCommunity is a vibrant & diverse group of artists who are not affiliated with other formal FMA curators, who ask the FMA directly to join the party. Not everyone makes the cut, but we encourage artists to contact us if they want to be included in the FMA's collection. And please bear in mind: these are just from one curator page, our ccCommunity, and these songs loosely fit in the genre designations we gave them, but not everything by all of these artists is the same -- you may find a wide variety of genres represented in one album. 

Here are some of 2016's indiest, rockin'est, and punkest ccCommunity cuts:

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cheyenne_h on 12/20/2016 at 05:41PM

2016 Year In Review, Part IV: ccCommunity's Experimental & Miscellany

We're decking the blog with ccCommunity mixes - and we're on part 4 of 5: Experimental & Miscellany.

Experimental & Miscellany is the fourth of our 2016 Year In Review series (which will be appearing on this blog all month long). There will be separate playlists for other genre groups, so stay tuned for the next installment! The ccCommunity is a vibrant & diverse group of artists who are not affiliated with other formal FMA curators, who ask the FMA directly to join the party. Not everyone makes the cut, but we encourage artists to contact us if they want to be included in the FMA's collection. And please bear in mind: these are just from one curator page, our ccCommunity, and these songs loosely fit in the genre designations we gave them, but not everything by all of these artists is the same -- you may find a wide variety of genres represented in one album. Without further ado, here are a few highlights from the weirder end of the ccCommunity spectrum: 

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2016 year in review
cheyenne_h on 12/15/2016 at 02:07PM

FMA Data Set for Researchers Released

Oh, Flickr Commons, how I love thee. "Science Gossip" from flickr commons/Internet Archive Book Images. No known copyright restrictions.

A team of researchers recently released three data sets with music from the Free Music Archive. The team is from the Signal Processing Laboratory at the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

The FMA data sets consist of audio excerpts and metadata from a collection of songs from the Free Music Archive which will be used to 'train' and 'test' music information software. The sets provide a legal and up-to-date alternative to other available music data sets, which are outdated, sometimes inaccessible, and fettered by copyright concerns. By embracing the "some rights reserved" philosophy of Creative Commons, artists are not only making their music available for the public to listen to, but also for educational and research applications.

Kirell Benzi, a PhD student at the lab, said "[R]esearchers now have access to large datasets for image processing, pushing science forward... However, because of copyright issues, Music Information Retrieval researchers had no equivalent. As a results the image processing community methods are more advanced than the ones for audio. Indeed, the former biggest dataset was the Million Song Dataset with Echonest features but no access to raw files. We noticed that Echonest features are subject to intellectual property [laws] and are outdated. Worse, the website Echonest for developers seems down for good, leaving MIR [Music Information Retrieval] researchers with the old GTZAN dataset of 1000 illegal mp3 excerpts. With the new FMA dataset, all these issues are history!"

"The main goal is to advance Machine Learning research for music, and we think this dataset can have a great impact," said Michaël Defferrard, another member of the team.

If you're interested in learning more about the rationale behind the project, or see a quick survey of other data sets that are currently available to music researchers, you can read their article (PDF) here: https://arxiv.org/abs/1612.01840

The actual sets can be found here (small and medium are the only ones available at this time) and the code is on github.

Thanks to Kirell Benzi, Michaël Defferrard, Pierre Vandergheynst and Xavier Bresson for sharing the FMA in a new way!

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