Tag: music (page 1 of 2)

My information environment (July 2017)

A couple of years ago this month, I created a page on my wiki to keep track of my information environment. Not long before, I’d written Curate or Be Curated: Why Our Information Environment is Crucial to a Flourishing Democracy, Civil Society for DML Central, and I was concerned to ensure I was getting a rich and varied information diet.

Fast-forward to 2017 and the world is a very different place. So different, in fact, that I’m not so concerned that I’m choosing to read more ‘biased’ stuff. There’s a war of attention going on and, in any case, there’s no such thing as non-theory-laden consumption of information.

I’ve quit Facebook and Twitter, the former completely, and the latter I now only post links to. Consequently, I converse with my friends on Slack, and in a very nice left-wing bubble on the Mastodon-powered social.coop. I’m OK with being partisan at this stage of my life.

So below is my current information environment, give or take a couple of things I’ll inevitably have managed to omit. The wiki page can be found here.

Newspapers

Aggregators

Newsletters

I try out other ones, but these are my favourites:

Podcasts

As with the newsletters, I subscribe to other podcasts on a regular basis, but here are my go-to ones that I wouldn’t want to miss:

Routines

Internet culture

Music


Recommendations welcome! I’m always on the lookout for high-quality sources of information.

Image CC BY Alexander Svensson

#runningtunes

Tom Barrett and I have set up a collaborative Spotify playlist for ‘music to run to’. It’s called #runningtunes and is accessible here:

Please do contribute, no matter what music you’re into and feel free to use the image above on your own blog post/sidebar!

I’ve been using the playlist with Spotify Premium on my iPhone and putting it on random for my last few runs. Great stuff! 🙂

Weeknote #14

This week I have been mostly…

Travelling

It was time for the annual pilgrimage to the inlaws who live in Devon. We fly the rest of the time (Newcastle –> Exeter) but once a year we go down for a bit longer with the car. This time, instead of doing the 6 hours or so in one day, we stopped off in Doncaster and then again at a National Trust property. It made for an enjoyable journey!

Updating

Whilst there was nothing particularly wrong with my portfolio page at dougbelshaw.com when I came across this free ‘personal branding’ WordPress theme I couldn’t resist updating. I like the result. 🙂

Reorganizing

I’ve decided that listening to music mainly by album on Spotify is slightly anachronistic. So I’ve been reorganizing my playlists into ‘Running’, ‘Train’, ‘Deadline’, ‘Working’, etc. I’ve kept the album-focused playlists for the moment, but situational playlists seem to be the way forward!

Considering the future

Whilst I’m only four months into my new job (and greatly enjoying it) I’ve got to think about the future. I’ve got a two-year contract with JISC infoNet. Specifically I’ve been considering:

  • What (if anything) do I want to do with my Ed.D. when I finish it?
  • Is Northumberland where should we bring up Ben and his sister (when she’s born)?
  • Do I want to stay in the FE/HE sector, move back into schools or do something entirely different?

I haven’t made any decisions and, if past experience is any guide, things tend to come out of the blue when you least expect them… :-p

How to find your ‘productive song’.

I can remember last year reading a post by Matt Mullenweg, lead developer of WordPress, about the way he works. In it he mentioned how he gets ‘into the zone’ whilst coding by listening to the same song over and over and over again:

Music is my muse and I listen to it all day. There’s a lot of jazz — Dexter Gordon and Sonny Rollins — but I’m also a big fan of Jay-Z, Beyoncé, and Method Man… When you’re coding you really have to be in the zone so I’ll listen to a single song over and over on repeat, hundreds of times. It helps me focus.

(my emphasis)

Music can have a massive effect on your productivity and it’s really important to find music that puts you in the zone that Matt talks about. I can only speak of what works for me, and what is currently my ‘productive song’, but I don’t think you’ll got too far wrong if you follow the suggestions below! :-p

1. Long

The track needs to be fairly long. Not your 3 minute pop song. You’ll get sick of that very quickly.

2. Repetitive

It needs to have a steady beat that’s not too fast and not too slow. I can’t tell you how fast that is (I think it probably varies between people). It’s probably about 100-120bpm for most of us, though.

3. Minimal lyrics

If you’re doing anything that involves writing words then you want as few lyrics as possible. Some lyrics are OK so long as it’s easy not to focus on them. 🙂

In addition, I’d suggest that even if one of your favourite songs of all time meets the above criteria that you don’t use it as your ‘productive song’. Why? The association it will carry will displace the original reason you liked it…

You may find that you wear out your productive song after a while and my need to find another one. What’s my ‘productive song’ at the moment? Slightly randomly it’s a track by Apparat called Arcadia (Telefon Tel Aviv Remix) <–Spotify link. Don’t ask how I came across it – serendipity! 😉

Image CC BY skippyjon

Music I’m running to at the moment,

CC BY-NC-SA el patajo

As those who have joined me in the #uppingyourgame project will know, I believe it’s important to get a ‘virtuous circle’ of productivity started. One of the best ways of doing this is by doing more exercise and, more specifically, running.

But running without music is like Laurel without Hardy, or Batman without Robin. And it’s important to get the music you run to right, as it makes running that much more motivational and enjoyable.

Recently I’ve been listening to one of two albums whilst running:

Morning run

My good friend and collaborator Nick Dennis pointed me in the direction of De La Soul’s Are You In? Nike+ mix on iTunes (£7.99) a few weeks ago. It’s great. The reason it’s perfect for running in the morning is that it starts off nice and gently with mention of getting up and ‘reaping what you sow’. Then, after some quality beats, around the 17-minute mark, steps it up a gear with exhortations to “Pick up the pace”. Awesome. 😀

Evening run

Being a big fan of mashups, I visit Mashuptown and The Hype Machine regularly. A couple of months ago I stumbled across The White Panda, a couple of guys mashing up hip-hop and rap with all kinds of stuff. The mashup album entitled Versus that they’ve released for free features NSFW language but is fantastic. I’m a massive fan of Passion Pit vs. T.I. What You Know About Little Secrets? Did I mention it’s free? 😉

Do you have runningmusic that you find motivational? Share it in the comments below!

LastHistory: a great way to generate Last.fm visualizations

(click image for larger version)

As you can see from the above visualization of my Last.fm history I’ve been using it for a fair while (since 19 March 2003 according to my profile). Recently, as I’ve gone Spotify-only, everything that I listen to is ‘scrobbled’ to Last.fm. Which makes the data from the latter part of 2009 onwards much more representative of my listening habits.

The time of day is down the side and putting your mouse over each ‘node’ links to other times you played that track. Sweet. 🙂

You can download LastHistory, the free Mac OSX app used to create this at: http://www.frederikseiffert.de/lasthistory/

(via FlowingData)

Tenori-on, Little Boots and Melodica

This is another one of those blog posts best told through images and videos than text. Watch this:

That’s a Tenori-On. They’re expensive and perhaps not-quite-worth-it.

Fortunately, there’s an app for that:

There’s the official video on YouTube here. Version 1.2 of Melodica is $0.99 (£0.59) and Version 1.0.2 is free. The video above shows v1.2. 😀

My favourite music of the ‘noughties’.

You can listen to all of the music I mention below through this Spotify playlist!

My Last.fm history, June-October 2009

So 2000-2009, commonly referred sniggeringly as the ‘noughties’, has come and gone – and with it the majority of my twenties. For all of it I listened to what I would deem quality music, and for a good deal of it used Last.fm to track what I listened to (and make recommendations). The visualization above shows my listening habits for part of 2009, courtesy of LastGraph.

It’s not always the case that what you listen to most is the music you actually love the most. In fact, quite often it’s the case that you save music for special occasions or ration it so familiarity doesn’t breed contempt. So here are the three tracks that were made in the ‘noughties’ that I love the most – and why. The links will enable you to listen to the song on Spotify. 🙂

John Mayer – 3×5 (2001)

I remember being in Café Rouge in York with Hannah when we heard this for the first time. It must have been 2003 as we were just married. We asked the waiter which album was playing and he replied it was John Mayer’s Room For Squares. I went home and immediately bought the CD. Annoyingly, however, it’s the only album of Mayer’s that isn’t available on Spotify (which I now use instead of CDs and MP3s).

What I love about 3×5 is the feeling of distance, the sense of the inexpressible in the lines:

Today I finally overcame
tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame
Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to
lose my way but let me say
You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
it brought me back to life
You’ll be with me next time I go outside
No more 3×5’s…

In perhaps my first use of the term, I’d call it a ‘bittersweet’ song. It’s positive yet mournful at the same time. I wish the live version did the studio version justice. It’s legendary – perhaps even more so in the context of the rest of the album. 🙂

The Cinematic Orchestra feat. Roots Manuva – All Things to All Men (2002)

When this came out I was working at HMV in Meadowhall, Sheffield. The Cinematic Orchestra produce that sound that’s all encompassing and envelops you. I absolutely adore, for example, the soundtrack to the film The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos they did recently. The first three-and-a-half minutes is Cinematic Orchestra at the top of the game. Then Roots Manuva’s rhyming kicks in.

His lyrics make little sense. That doesn’t matter. It’s more than the sum of it’s parts. Wonderful. :-p

Bon Iver – Woods (2009)

Like the rest of the known world, I found Bon Iver’s album For Emma, Forever Ago to be beautiful and with an engaging backstory. However, it was when I started using Spotify that I came across the excellent EP Blood Bank – containing the sublime Woods. It’s rare for a track to be perfectly matched in sound, concept, and execution, but that’s exactly what we find here.

Wondeful melodies combine and build up to a crescendo. Use of auto-tune actually adds to atmosphere of the song, being used to make elements sound almost like wolves howling. It’s an extremely atmospheric track. One to play with headphones on, alone. I love it. 😀

Honorable Mentions:

Conclusion

Although you wouldn’t know it from the above, my tastes are fairly eclectic. I’m as likely to listen to The Prodigy as I am to some Ludovico Einaudi. But the above are those I come back to time and again. I’ll no doubt have made some glaring omissions – if so I’ll come back and edit this.

Hope you enjoy the above songs as much as I do!

New music section at dougbelshaw.com

opentapeI’ve decided to add a music section to dougbelshaw.com. If you head over to /music then you’ll find an installation of Opentape, some Open Source software that is very similar that used to power version 1 of Muxtape. I’ve added a link to the navigation menu at the top of this blog.

Every Sunday I plan to upload a new playlist of music I’ve been listening to during the week. This first playlist represents the amount of time I spend listening to ‘mashups’!

Teacher as Game Show Host?

A couple of years I wrote a post exploring a metaphor of the Teacher as DJ. It was well-received and stemmed from the amount of music I use in an average lesson! Today, I came across another metaphor that ‘got at’ something central to my life in the classroom: the teacher as a gameshow host!

Joel at So You Want To Teach? (an excellent blog in many respects), wrote a post entitled Pacing: What Every Great Band Director Knows about the importance of transitions, engagement and procedures in the classroom. It struck a chord with me as I’ve been stressing these things to the student teacher currently in our department. You need to be smooth – and it pains me to see it when colleagues are otherwise.

Some of this comes through experience, but much has to be planned. I’m far from perfect, but if you’re starting off on the journey, here’s some tips:

Make everything look professional

Don’t give out badly-photocopied worksheets, use Powerpoints with awful, clashing colour-schemes, nor recycle folders to keep work in. Show some respect, get some respect back. The students in front of you are used to highly-polished media environment. Put some effort into your ‘stock lesson’ to make it better by seeking relevant help. My tip? Subscribe to blogs like Presentation Zen!

Focus on engagement

You can know your subject inside-out, use the best metaphors and diagrams you can muster, but if students aren’t engaged in your lesson, very little learning is going to take place. Play games with them that test their understanding of topics. I love, for example – and this is very relevant to this post – Game Show Presenter. Cheesy, but fun! Another favourite is Andrew Field’s marvellous ContentGenerator.net products, some of which are free. 🙂

Develop a winning formula

Never let it be said that teachers shouldn’t mix up lessons a bit, but there needs to be a basis on which this can be done successfully. As I’ve mentioned above and many times previously, I use a lot of music in my lessons. For example, students enter the classroom to a theme tune (think: Rocky, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, etc.) and know to write down the date, title and lesson objective. I then take the register whilst slower writers catch-up and those finished consider what the lesson’s keywords might mean. It works for me!

During the lesson, I play a variety of music – for example the Countdown 30-seconds-left tune, to fun stuff like the Oompa Loompa songs, to a bit of Speed Garage (if they’re working too slowly) or the occasional Mashup. You can close your eyes, but you can’t close your ears… 😉

Work on your transitions

After a while, links between classroom activities come naturally. As a teacher you’re prepared to go off at somewhat of a tangent to explore an arising issue, then bring things back-on-track smoothly. But to begin with, this takes work! Anecdotes and interesting facts are really useful in this regard – as a History teacher I tend to glean these from Horrible Histories books and suchlike. The lesson should have an obvious progression toward meeting the objective that is clear to the student. Framing the title of lesson as a question works well in this regard.

If you’re a teacher, do you consider yourself to be like a gameshow host? a DJ? or something entirely different?

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