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Posts tagged with "music"

Libratone’s Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2 Portable Wireless Speakers: The MacStories Review

I love my two HomePods. One sits in my living room and the other in my studio. When I finish working for the day, I can ask Siri to move my music from the studio to the living room where I continue what I’m listening to as I make dinner and relax. Most of the time, both HomePods are also within earshot for issuing Siri commands to turn lights on and off, add items to my grocery list, and kick off shortcuts.

Here’s the thing though: it’s summertime. I’m spending time outdoors and going on road trips to visit family. Meanwhile, my HomePods remain tethered to the wall by power cords. They’ll be there waiting when I return, but when I’m on the go, my HomePods are useless, which prompted me to start looking at portable speakers that could reach beyond the walls of my home.

My research led me to Libratone’s Zipp 2 and Zipp Mini 2 wireless speakers, two of the only wireless solutions I’ve found that support Apple’s AirPlay 2 audio streaming technology. Libratone sent me one of each model for testing, and I’ve spent the past few months using them in different spots around my house, in my backyard, and at the beach. Both speakers deliver on the versatility I was looking for, extending the ways and places I can play music. However, neither of the Zipp speakers was quite as simple to use or reliable as the HomePod. The few issues I ran into are balanced out in no small measure by the versatility of the Zipp speakers though, which depending on your needs makes them a worthy replacement for or supplement to the HomePod.

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Miximum Review: Smart Apple Music Playlists on iOS

Leading up to WWDC last month, rumors indicated that iTunes on the Mac was being split into multiple apps, including standalone Music, TV, and Podcasts apps. It was expected that Apple might use its Catalyst technology (formerly known as Marzipan) to base the new Music app on Music for iPad, or vice versa. The hope among many iPad users was that the iPad might benefit from a more robust Apple Music client featuring power user features already available on the Mac, such as Smart Playlists.

WWDC came and went, and that wish was left unfulfilled. While macOS Catalina does introduce a new Music app, it wasn’t built using Catalyst, and as a result the iPad version of Music is light on meaningful improvements this year.

Filling the void left by Apple, however, is a new third-party app called Miximum, which is an Apple Music-integrated utility dedicated to smart playlist creation on iOS.

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I Won’t Sit Down: Songwriting with Frank Turner (Part 2)

Today on Dialog, we published the conclusion of our interview featuring musician and songwriter Frank Turner.

To wrap things up with speak to Turner about the democratization of the creation, access, and distribution of music and other media, the role of hard work and luck, the songwriting process, when to listen to feedback and from whom, editing your work, the role of technology in songwriting, the state of albums today, and a whole lot more. It was a fantastic way to finish up, so be sure to check it out.

You can find the episode here or listen through the Dialog web player below.

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Next Tuesday, we’ll have the first part of a two-part interview with screenwriter and director John August, who has written screenplays for movies like Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Frankenweenie, and many others. August is also a podcaster and is behind the variant of Markdown for screenwriters known as Fountain, the Highland 2 text editor, the Courier Prime typeface, and the Arlo Finch series of books. Join us the next two weeks for a fantastic wide-ranging discussion of screenwriting, productivity, apps, typefaces and lots more.


I Won’t Sit Down: Songwriting with Frank Turner (Part 1)

In the fall of 2013, I sat in the first row balcony of The Vic theater on Chicago’s north side. I was there to see Frank Turner and the Sleeping Souls for the first time. Can you see me stage left in the baseball cap?

Today, we published the latest interview of Dialog Season 1 featuring musician and songwriter Frank Turner.

You can find the episode here or listen through the Dialog web player below.

There’s something about Turner’s songs that grabbed hold of me in 2013 and has brought me back to several live shows since. Aside from Turner’s music, which I love, part of the draw was his abrupt break with his musical past. I found Turner’s jump from post-hardcore band Million Dead to a folk-inspired, acoustic guitar-based solo career inspiring as I contemplated a career departure myself.

There’s also something in Turner’s autobiographical, personal style of songwriting that connects with listeners and transcends differences in their experiences, which I find intriguing. It reminds me of the discussion Federico and I had in episode 1 about writing personal stories. Those are often the hardest stories to write, but they can also be the most rewarding when, despite different backgrounds, others draw something useful from them. In today’s episode, we explore that aspect of Turner’s music, his relationship with fans, and the interpretation of his lyrics.

We also trace Turner’s early years of constant touring and how he’s managed to find the time to write new songs and books while on tour. We talk about social media’s dual nature as a useful tool and destructive force in society too; a topic that has become a common theme among Dialog guests. Finally, we touch on the evolving music industry and how it’s affected Turner’s career as a musician.

Photo Credit: Nicole C. Kibert

Photo Credit: Nicole C. Kibert (View full size)

The title of the episode is drawn from Turner’s song Photosynthesis:

I won’t sit down,
And I won’t shut up,
And most of all I will not grow up.

The lyrics reflect a stubborn defiance of authority and expectations combined with a restless energy that I think captures Turner’s musical career and the mindset of many of the other writers we have already interviewed and will interview soon.

I hope you enjoy the interview. When we sat down to plan Dialog, Frank Turner was precisely the sort of guest I had in mind: someone working in a creative field affected by many of the same technological issues other writers face, but with a unique perspective on them. Be sure to check out the show notes for the episode to learn more about Turner and his music, and stay tuned for the conclusion of our interview next Tuesday.

Also, we’d appreciate it if you would rate Dialog in Apple Podcasts, recommend it in Overcast, or simply tell a friend about it.


Marvis Review: The Ultra-Customizable Apple Music Client

Marvis is a music player that launched on iPhone just two months ago, yet in a 3.0 update today expands its usefulness immensely thanks to a major new feature: full Apple Music integration. With today’s release, Marvis joins the growing list of third-party apps that use Apple’s MusicKit API to offer access to and control of your Apple Music library.

Marvis follows in the footsteps of Soor, which Federico reviewed earlier this year, in prioritizing layout customization as one of its hallmark advantages over Apple’s first-party Music app. Pushing beyond what even Soor accomplished though, in Marvis customization is taken to a whole new level, with fine-grained design options that no other app can compare with.

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PageTurn Uses Facial Recognition for Hands-Free Navigation of PDFs, Perfect for Musicians

Developer and musician Stephen Coyle just released a new app that enables hands-free page turning of PDFs via facial expressions. The aptly-named PageTurn utilizes the power of the TrueDepth camera system found in all iOS devices that support Face ID – the iPhone X, XR, XS, and XS Max, plus the 2018 iPad Pros – to enable turning pages of a PDF using only your face.

There are two options of facial gestures available to control page turning: mouth control, which is the default, or wink control. Mouth control works by tracking the movement of your mouth: if you move it right, you’ll advance forward a page, while moving it left goes back a page. Wink control advances forward with a right wink, and goes back with a left wink. With both of these options, PageTurn provides the ability to set sensitivity so you can customize each gesture to whatever’s most comfortable for you. It feels odd at first making these gestures to turn pages, but in my experience it quickly became comfortable.

PageTurn was designed primarily for musicians, who often bear the unenviable task of turning pages of sheet music while both their hands are occupied playing an instrument. It works with any PDF though, so readers can have hands-free page navigation as well. You can get PDFs into the app via the import button in the upper-left corner, which opens a Files picker, or if you have a PDF open in another app, you can copy it to PageTurn using the share sheet.

PageTurn is a simple utility, but for those who could benefit from it – musicians in particular, and also users with accessibility needs – it’s a potentially revolutionary tool that enables new ways of doing a common task that weren’t previously possible. The app is a shining example of the creativity of indie developers.


Zane Lowe on Why Apple Music Is in the Storytelling Business

Speaking of Apple Music and Billie Eilish, Tim Ingham, writing at Music Business Worldwide, has an interview with Zane Lowe. It’s a good interview that covers a range of topics from how Lowe builds relationships with artists to what differentiates Apple Music and what they see in Billie Eilish.

An artist like Billie Eilish thinks in sounds, she thinks in colors, she thinks in visuals, she thinks in collaborations, she thinks in all kinds of different forms of creativity. When you’re dealing with an artist like that, it opens all these other areas that you can help build things around.

With Billie, there’s color everywhere, this attitude and it’s like, ‘Wow, this is really interesting.’ At Apple, because of where we’ve all come from, we understand streaming, but [we’re thinking], ‘How can we make a streaming service that is deeper and more layered and speaks to the aspects of music we grew up loving?’

I don’t ever want to look back on my time in the streaming era and think, ‘Yeah man, great job at just building a utility.’

Functionality is so important; [a service] needs to work and it needs to be intuitive. But there should 100% be room for creative discovery and it should be 100% driven by the artists, or at least in collaboration with artists.

See also: this interview with Billie Eilish and her brother/co-writer Finneas and Zane Lowe from last month. It was originally posted on Beats 1 but you can also watch the YouTube video below.

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Apple Music, Exclusive Extras, and Merch

Apple and Billie Eilish, whose highly anticipated album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO? (out March 29) has set a new record for pre-adds on Apple Music, have launched an interesting new kind of partnership on the company’s streaming service. At this link (which is not the same as the standard artist page for Billie Eilish on Apple Music), you’ll find a custom page featuring an exclusive music video for you should see me in a crown, the upcoming album that you can pre-add to your library, an Essentials playlist for Billie Eilish’s previous hits, two Beats 1 interviews, and, for the first time on Apple Music (that I can recall), a link to buy a limited edition merch collection.

The merch drop is available at this page, which is a Shopify store with Apple Music branding that offers a t-shirt and hoodie designed by streetwear artist Don C, featuring Takashi Murakami’s artwork from the aforementioned music video. The purchase flow features Apple Pay support; both the website and email receipts contain links to watch the video, pre-add the album, and listen to the Essentials playlist on Apple Music.

For a while now, I’ve been arguing that Apple Music should offer the ability to buy exclusive merch and concert tickets to support your favorite artists without leaving the app. The move would fit nicely with Apple’s growing focus on services (you have to assume the company would take a cut from every transaction), it would increase the lock-in aspect of Apple Music (because you can only get those exclusive extras on Apple’s service), and it would provide artists with an integrated, more effective solution to connect with fans directly than yet another attempt at social networking.

This collaboration with Billie Eilish feels like a first step in that direction, with Apple actively promoting the limited edition sale and embedding different types of exclusive content (video, merch, Beats 1 interviews) in a single custom page. I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple continues to test this approach with a handful of other artists who have major releases coming up in 2019.