Tag Archives: music

Ear Candy: The Headphones Roundup

Plywood headphones designed by David Burel. Via Selectism.

Ear adornment these days don’t just mean piercings and earrings, but now quite often include those mini loudspeakers we know as headphones. Originally such audio equipment were used for military and professional sound production applications, but have since become more widely used by people who wish to enjoy their music without imposing their decibels to people around them or while on the go.

It seemed that the headphones that people walked around in have gotten smaller, more subtle to the point that I thought that they’d eventually become invisible! But no, they’ve gotten bigger once again, and unapologetically so. I look around and see that they are now worn proudly as a badge and integrated into an entire generation’s standard everyday ensemble.

Whether on not the headphone mania inhibits socialization promotes an increasingly isolationist culture is a different matter altogether. Suffice it to say that this trend has certainly caught the fancy of designers who have come up with innovative and very stylish takes on the headphones. Here are some of my favorites.

Golden Seahorses. Via Antibromide.

The use of prints and patterns do impress that headphones are indeed fashion accessories, and are meant to coordinate with outfits.

Porsche Design Headphones by Jules Parmentier. Image from the designer's website.

The Porsche Design headphones have the design qualities we’d associate with the Porsche brand. Sleek, streamlined, and sexy.

Noisezero O+ headphones by Michael Young. Via Fascodesign.

It’s gold and bold — what a statement this one makes! Moreover, it’s made from recycled materials and boasts of zero noise.

Prototype by Brian Garret Schuur. Via Moco Loco.

Designer Brian Garret Schuur used 3D printing technology to create this prototype of personalized headphones that feature the names of the user’s favorite artists.

One Sense headphones, designed by Joe Doucet. Image via Gadget Wiki.

These headphones are not for walking, as they shut out optical stimulation so as to enhance auditory enjoyment. The forbidding spiky red exterior is probably meant to say, “do not disturb”.

Plug It In! headphones by Dorien Van Heijst. Via Design Milk.

Plug It In! headphones by Dorien van Heijst. Via Design Milk.

Aside from being made with earthy materials such as wood, leather, and porcelain, these headphones are probably more social than most. Outside the earcups are portals into your world — jacks that others can plug into and listen in your music.

Earphones

The less conspicuous earphones, while remaining small, have come out of their shells as well, so to speak. Some of them are no longer designed to be invisible, but are rather meant to make a statement of their own.

Beats by Dr. Dre gets vamped up by Lady Gaga. Image via Demi Couture.

Via Fashion Pixel

Via Fashion Pixel.

Zip Up headphones. Via Design Milk.

The zipper feature in these headphones make them look cool and stylish and incredibly practical — untangling the wires is a daily battle that a lot us would surely want to do without.

Ripple headset. Via Yanko Design.

These are actually clip on earrings! And they look very chic!

Image via Design Boom

Another take on earphones-slash-jewelry. This time in includes an mp3 player disguised as a bangle.

Elecom Designer Collection earphones. Via Novoskins.


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Musical Chairs, Couches, and Other Things

I’ve still got Grammy fever. They put on a fabulous show last Sunday, a feast for the eyes just as much as for the ears, but I want some more. So to extend the Grammy experience, here are unforgettable music videos of some of the winners and nominees. The music’s awesome, and some of the furniture are too.

Bruno Mars – Just the Way You Are
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance – Winner

There certainly is a lot of magic taking place on the couch here. So sweet and romantic. Styling and art direction gives a nod, and a wistful smile, to decades past. Makes me miss the old-school Walkman.

La Roux
Best Electronic/Dance Album – Winner

The duo’s 80’s influences are not only reflected in their synth-pop sound, but also in their videos, especially in this one’s unrestrained use of dizzying geometry. And you gotta love that funky white “Lego”-like chair!

Train – Hey, Soul Sister
Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals – Winner

Aside from have a melody and cadence that won’t come off your head, the song has a very stylish video featuring animated hand-drawn letters and graphics crawling all over the place. Also noteworthy is the beautiful white on white treatment in the living room shots.

Beyonce – Halo (live)
Best Female Pop Vocal Performance – Nominee

Still loving the white against white; this whole video is bathed in a soft hazy glare, radiating the quiet and serene joy that permeates the song. And as for those sofa scenes–what can be more beautiful than lounging in a couch, and just staring into the eyes of the beloved?

Lady Antebellum – Need You Now
Record of the Year – Winner

When I’m not sighing over the great song, I’m loving the hint of details in Hillary Scott’s shadowed room–the flowers scattered on the floor, the rumpled beddings, the suggestion of carving on the headboard…

John Mayer – Half of my Heart
Best Male Pop Vocal Performance –  Nominee

Amazing how John looks all sweet and soulful seated on this delicate-looking Victorian love seat, upholstered in this most delightful blush-y shade, with only his guitar for company. It’s heart-meltingly adorable!

Norah Jones – Chasing Pirates
Best Female Pop Performance – Nominee

Although Gaga made one heck of a dramatic entrance in an egg, and claimed the award for this category, I would like to take a breather from the in-your-face awesomeness of her fantasies and fetishes and enjoy some good old-fashioned cuteness with Norah Jones. How can one not be charmed by her sweet little ditty of a song? And the video is just as darling, with its surreal, whimsical pirate theme, complete with teeny tiny Norah playing captain from a rooftop, raising anchor and going forth with billowing sails towards some unknown land.

For a more comprehensive list of winners and nominees, visit the Grammy Awards Nominees Page.


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The Sight of Sound

I find the idea of sensations crossing over between and among senses immensely fascinating. It seems a waste for beautiful things such as paintings, music, or fabulous flavors to be enjoyed with just one of the five senses. I think that’s why music videos exist, and beautiful perfume bottles, and why chefs take such great care in plating and garnishing their creations. And of these, I find the idea of sound manifesting itself visually the most intriguing.

Fantasia

Saw this film in the theater when it was re-released in the early 90’s, and I loved it so much that I came back to watch it again! I loved the dancing flowers, hippos, and the bumbling Mickey as the magician’s helper. But my absolute favorite part was the first part, when the orchestra faded away, and all that was left was this choreography of colors bleeding into each other, clouds of colors swirling, abstract forms that hinted at bows, strings and other things… it felt like the music was painting the picture. I felt like I was seeing sound.

Watch a clip from Fantasia (1940)

iTunes Visualization

What amazes me about this iTunes feature (which a bunch of other media players also have) is that the stunning visuals are fed by the sound, flowing and throbbing in time. I would get lost in this sometimes, because with the right music, the visualizer promises countless hours of trippy fun.

Check out this sample.

Cymatics

I was unaware of the word up until last weekend, when I caught a Nat Geo show which gave an all-too-brief introduction of it in one of its segments. Cymatics is the science of visible sound and vibration. (Wow, people actually devote themselves to studying this!) I got to see sound moving sand around on a plate to form them into funky patterns.

Here’s an interesting intro to the subject by a creative technologist Evan Grant.

And then there’s this wonderful scientific instrument, the CymaScope®  that generates visual images of sounds, opening doors to new levels of understanding in study of animal sounds, music, or the Big Bang.

Poking around the internet, I got dazzled by the amazing images I found, and how cymatics has become a source of inspiration and knowledge for artists and scientists alike.

visualization of a the sound waves emanating from a violin

Sonic bubble from a violin. Image from cymascope.com

A visualization of a dolphin's greeting

A “hello” from Merlin, a dolphin. Image from cymascope.com

A graphic depiction of "Ode to Joy"

Beethoven’s 9th Symphony “Ode to Joy”

Sound makes pretty ripples on the water

This is an image of water set in motion by sound, captured by German photographer Alexander Lauterwasser.

Sound displayed visually on water

Another image from Lauterwasser

A photograph of sound passing through water

Another cymatic image on water, this time by photographer Wesley Buckingham on http://geminiwb.deviantart.com/


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Going, Going, Gong

Chinese gongWind or Feng Gong

Good vibrations. Sweet sensations. It seems a lot to expect of home décor, but ancient Asian peoples have looked to gongs to bring just that.

Gongs were the first musical instruments. Although they were used in Asia for the functions of European bells—to announce, to warn, to call to prayer—their uses went far beyond being the popular mass communication medium in the pre-radio ages. Gongs were said to be endowed with powerful, other-worldly, mystical properties. Their good vibrations would resonate in the atmosphere and surrounding bodies, spreading the good vibes, quieting the mind, effecting relaxation, healing, and even enlightenment.

Gongs were also considered good luck, even to just touch them, and countless families in Burma, China, Annam, Java, and the surrounding territories were proud to have these objects in their homes.

People still want gongs in their homes, and not just in Asia. Nowadays, gongs are as coveted for their aesthetic appeal as for their powers, and have become just as much for skeptics as for mystics. Their beauty, symmetry, and history make enough good vibrations to bring satisfaction and sweet sensations.

Fine detail in a Thai gong

Feng Gong

Some gongs are shaped flat like discs (above) and make crashing cymbal-like sounds, while some are nippled or bossed (below) and make rounder sounds with less “shimmer”.

Gong

Some gongs are hung, as in the case of this nippled gong.

Gong

These gongs from Southern Philippines are laid flat on the floor or placed on wooden mounts.

Drummer Steve Hubback makes his own instruments and creates these magnificent gongs and other sound sculptures

Another Steve Hubback creation

some gong music:

Steve Hubback


Kulintang, Philippines


Gong and singing bowl, Tibet


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