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The Late Movies: Happy Birthday Liberace, Jonathan Richman, Krist Novoselic, Janet Jackson, Richard Page, Robert Fripp, Boyd Tinsley, and "Pet Sounds"

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Today happens to be the birthday of tons of famous musicians. Here's a little roundup of tunes by Liberace, Jonathan Richman, Krist Novoselic, Janet Jackson, Richard Page, Robert Fripp, Boyd Tinsley, and The Beach Boys (whose album "Pet Sounds" was released today in 1966). Other notable musical birthdays today -- unfortunately left out of this wrapup -- include Pervis Jackson of The Spinners, Billy Cobham, Barbara Lee of The Chiffons, Simon Katz of Jamiroquai, and Ralph Tresvant of New Edition. I'm telling you, May 16 is some kind of mega-birthday for musicians. Enjoy:

V?adziu Valentino Liberace - 1919

In this 1978 show, Liberace performs "Blue Danube" in Las Vegas, with the colorful Dancing Waters behind him. Sparkly.

Jonathan Richman - 1951

I saw a YouTube comment that summed Richman up nicely: "Either you love Jonathan Richman or you've never heard of him." My favorite song of his is "Vincent Van Gogh." Here's an early version, performed with The Modern Lovers live in Toronto. The sound quality isn't great, but the dancing and 80s sweater are fantastic. See also: this version from "Not So Much To Be Loved As To Love." I prefer the version on the hard-to-find "Rockin' and Romance."

Krist Novoselic - 1965

Novoselic was Nirvana's bassist, and he wrote ultra-catchy bass lines for songs like "Lounge Act," "Heart-Shaped Box," and my favorite, "Sliver." When I was in high school, this was the go-to bass line you learned when you first got your hands on a bass:

Janet Jackson - 1966

Remember this one? You thought I was going to post "Rhythm Nation," but no, I totally went back-catalogue to "What Have You Done For Me Lately":

Richard Page (Mr. Mister) - 1953

Page was the lead singer and bassist for Mr. Mister. It was a real tossup trying to choose between "Kyrie" and "Broken Wings" to post here. I guess "Broken Wings" is the canonical Mr. Mister song, though, so here goes:

Robert Fripp - 1946

Fripp is best known as the only permanent member of King Crimson, though he did amazing work with David Bowie and Brian Eno (among many, many others). Two highlights: he played the iconic lead guitar line on Bowie's "Heroes" and the guitar solo for Eno's "Baby's On Fire." Here's a solo performance of Fripp's "Soundscapes" -- give it a few minutes to get going:

Boyd Tinsley - 1964

Tinsley is best known as the violinist for Dave Matthews Band, though he's been a musical fixture of Charlottesville, Virginia for decades. In "Ants Marching," the second single from DMB's "Under the Table and Dreaming," Tinsley's violin line forms the primary riff, and he takes frequent opportunities to solo. Check out this live performance from Central Park:

The Beach Boys - "Wouldn't It Be Nice" - 1966

Today also happens to mark the release of The Beach Boys' seminal "Pet Sounds" album in 1966. My favorite cut from that record is "Wouldn't It Be Nice"; here's a video set to outtakes of the recording session, explaining how the complex arrangement came together:

See also: "Wouldn't It Be Nice" used in "Roger & Me" to terrific effect. Amazingly, May 16, 1966 also saw the release of Dylan's "Blonde on Blonde." A good day for music.

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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Art
6 Great (and Not-So-Great) Works of Art Made by Robots
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Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images

Cold, calculating, unfeeling—none of the stereotypes associated with robots seem to describe makers of great art. But that hasn’t stopped roboticists from trying to engineer the next Picasso in a lab. Some machines and algorithms are capable of crafting works impressive enough to fool even the toughest critics. As for the rest of the robot artists and writers out there, let’s just say they won’t have creative types fearing for their jobs anytime soon. 

1. A BEATLES-ESQUE POP SONG

If you heard the song above at a party or in a crowded store, you might assume it’s just a generic pop tune. But if you listened closer, you’d hear the dissonant vocals and nonsense lyrics that place this number in the sonic equivalent of the uncanny valley. “Daddy’s Car” was composed by an artificial intelligence system from the Sony CSL Research Laboratory. After analyzing sheet music from a variety of artists and genres, the AI generated the words, harmony, and melody for the song. A human composer chose the style (1960s Beatles-style pop) and did the producing and mixing, but other than that the music is all machine. It may not have topped the pop charts, but the song did give us the genius lyric: “Down on the ground, the rainbow led me to the sun.”

2. A NOVEL THAT MADE IT PAST THE FIRST ROUND OF A FICTION CONTEST

Will the next War and Peace be written by a complex computer algorithm? Probably not, but that isn’t to say that AI can’t compose some serviceable fiction with help from human minds. In 2016, a team of Japanese researchers invented a program and fed it the plot, characters, and general structure of an original story. They also wrote sentences for the system to choose from, so the content of the novel relied heavily on humans. But the final product and the work required to string the components together was made possible by AI. The researchers submitted the story to Japan's Nikkei Hoshi Shinichi Literary Contest where it made it past the first round of judging. Though one notable Japanese author praised the novel for its structure, he also said there were some character description issues holding it back.

3. A 'NEW' REMBRANDT PAINTING

Robin Van Lonkhuijsen/AFP/Getty Images

In 2016, a 3D printer did something extraordinary: It produced a brand new painting in the spirit of a long-dead artist. The piece, titled “The Next Rembrandt,” would fit right in at an exhibition of art from the 17th-century Dutch painter. But this work is entirely modern. Bas Korsten, creative director at the Amsterdam-based advertising firm J. Walter Thompson, had a computer program analyze 346 Rembrandt paintings over 18 months. Every element of the final image, from the age of the subject and the color of his clothes to the physical brushstrokes, is reminiscent of the artist’s distinct style. But while it’s good enough to fool the amateur art fan, it failed to hold up under scruntiny from Rembrandt experts.

4. DREARY LOVE POETRY

What do you get when you dump thousands of unpublished romance novels into an AI system? Some incredibly bleak poetry, as Google discovered in 2016. The purpose of the neural network was to connect two separate sentences from a book into one whole thought. The result gave us such existential gems as this excerpt:

"there is no one else in the world.
there is no one else in sight.
they were the only ones who mattered.
they were the only ones left.
he had to be with me.
she had to be with him.
i had to do this.
i wanted to kill him.
i started to cry."

To be fair, the algorithm was designed to construct natural-sounding sentences rather than write great verse. But that doesn’t stop the passages from sounding oddly poetic.

5. A CREEPY CHRISTMAS SONG

Christmas songs rely heavily on formulas and cliches, aka ideal neural network fodder. So you’d think that an AI program would be capable of whipping up a fairly decent holiday tune, but a project from the University of Toronto proved this isn’t as easy as it sounds. Their algorithm was prompted to compose the song above based on a digital image of a Christmas tree. From there it somehow came up with trippy lyrics like, “I’ve always been there for the rest of our lives.”

6. A CROWDSOURCED ABSTRACT PAINTING

Art made by a robot.
Instapainter

The image above was painted by the mechanical arm of a robot, but naming the true artist of the piece gets complicated. That’s because the robotic painter was controlled by multiple users on the internet. In 2015, the commissioned art service Instapainting invited the online community at Twitch to crowdsource a painting. The robot, following script commands over a 36-hour period, produced what looks like graffiti-inspired abstract art. More impressive than the painting itself was the fact that the machine was able to paint it at all. Instapainting founder Chris Chen told artnet, “It was a $250 machine slapped together with quickly written software, so running it for that long was an endurance test.”

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