Newsletter April 2001

The good Captain Sensible was guitarist and writer for the Damned, one of the three pioneering mid-70s UK punk bands. Dressing in a nurse’s uniform for stage seemed to progress naturally to having a #1 hit with Happy Talk (yes, we do mean the song from South Pacific). But he has done much more than this.

This month, we feature an extensive interview with the Captain in a picturesque Brighton pub with good beer spilling every five minutes or so. You can enjoy it in audio too (Real or Liquid), if you can penetrate the atmosphere and the accent.

One of the Captain's classic songs is covered on Sprawl, Toys Take Over. It's a potentially alarming nursery scene where the action man is up to no good at all. You can hear the background to the song in his interview.

And now from old-time punk to new technology. Claude Shannon, the American mathematician died recently, taking from us one of the giants of information theory. His ideas that data and processes can be represented by ‘bits’, ones and zeros, laid the foundation for what we take for granted in modern computing and the internet. He also demonstrated mathematically that maximum data transmission rate down a standard phone line is somewhat shy of 56Kbps, no matter what the modem box says. So now you know.

Our newly-updated Help Desk isn’t quite at Shannon’s level, but provides easy introductions to the technology, free of familiar jargon and condescending utterances from techno priests in crisp white coats. As equipment gets more user-friendly (we remember with pain the introduction of streaming audio seven years ago), it’s easier to deal with, but if your computer or some Web site behaves oddly it’s helpful to know some basics. It’s not always your fault when things go wrong. The Web is still imperfect science, and it helps to know whether you should be embarrassed or entitled to shout abuse at the screen when the wheels fall off.

We have experienced RealAudio server problems over the last couple of weeks. That's polite for our RealServer company slung 80% of our files off with one minute's notice. Since the 800-pound gorilla really can do what it likes, we've moved, are sharing a new cage, and are now back to full streaming at up to ISDN-2 standard (aka sounds quite good). MP3 and Liquid files have not been affected.

We have been implementing more streaming audio of music relating to our site pages and commentaries (for obvious copyright reasons we don’t offer downloads of those we didn’t make). As an example, Mike Thorne's book chapter, his personal take on The Recording Studio: Rise And Fall Of An Institution, is updated to include sound examples. More chapters will be augmented shortly. You can download these words and other text pieces from Lene Lovich and Johnny Reinhard for leisurely offline/printed perusal. We’re not pushing the idea of electronic books just yet, since without pictures it’s hard to know which way up to hold them.

The landmark recording is Ives’ Universe Symphony recording continues, with layerings of French horn, trumpets, trombones, violins, violas, cellos, basses, flutes, clarinets and bassoons in place so far. Newly realized by Johnny Reinhard, and premiered at Lincoln Center five years ago, it’s about half-done and will be just over an hour long. Sarah Jane Morris was recently in New York singing on and writing for the next Thorne album, provisionally titled The Contessa’s Party, and after a blizzard-delayed plane managed to return overnight to London just in time for her sold-out concert. She has also been active in the studio, anticipating her next album. Lene Lovich has more tracks in place, and we can almost detect a full album coming over the horizon….

Please forward this note to a friend (or an enemy, if that's your style). We had nearly 6,000 visitors in February, but too much ain't never enough. We hope the 400 or so people who downloaded the new free dance mix of Natural Beauty found the waiting time worthwhile (thanks, we really know how long eight minutes of mp3 can take to transmit).

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