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The Time a British Judge Called Hip-Hop a 'Foreign Language'

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Hip-hop was a somewhat late arrival in the UK, and the genre didn't develop a cultural foothold until decades after its emergence in America. Given hip-hop's newness across the pond, it might be understandable that three British judges were confused when hearing a legal dispute between two artists in 2003—so perplexed that one of them declared that, for the sake of the law, hip-hop should be considered a “foreign language.”

As with so many legal battles involving hip-hop, this conflict revolved around a sample. In 2000, electronica group Ant'ill Mob released a song called “Burnin’.” Two years later, London hip-hop trio the Heartless Crew used it as the basis for a single on their album Heartless Crew Presents Crisp Biscuit, Vol. 1. Their track was also titled “Burnin’.”

In 2003, Ant'ill Mob’s label Confetti Records sued the Heartless Crew's label Warner UK over the sample. According to Digital Copyright and the Consumer Revolution by Matthew Rimmer, the three-judge panel heard arguments about how too much was taken from the original—a similar argument to the ones used in cases involving The Verve's “Bittersweet Symphony” or Biz Markie's “Alone Again.” Confetti’s lawyers also argued that the Heartless Crew damaged the reputation of Andrew Alcee, the Ant’ill Mob member credited with writing the song, by using references to drugs and violence in their version of “Burnin’.”

It was on this point that the three judges were stumped. Justice Kim Lewison remarked that the case “led to the faintly surreal experience of three gentlemen in horsehair wigs examining the meaning of such phrases as ‘mish mish man’ and ‘shizzle my nizzle’.” He told the court that they had listened to the song at half speed but still could not understand its lyrics and had also tried looking up phrases on websites, including Urban Dictionary. He concluded that the slang was “for practical purposes a foreign language." Lewison pondered aloud the option of bringing a drug dealer to court as an expert witness to testify because "the meaning of words in a foreign language could only be explained by experts."

While the judges decided against bringing a drug dealer to the stand ("the occasions on which an expert drug dealer might be called to give evidence in the Chancery Division are likely to be rare," Lewison said), they ruled that Confetti Records had failed to show damage to Alcee’s reputation. The notion that he’d been defamed by references to illicit activities inserted onto one of his tracks took a hit beyond any perceived language barrier when the justices found a music video of Alcee and his Ant’ill Mob bandmates dressed as 1930s gangsters.

The court also rejected the claim that the track had been used without permission because a valid licensing contract had in fact been signed. (It was not signed in a foreign language.)

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Stradivarius Violins Get Their Distinctive Sound By Mimicking the Human Voice
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Italian violinist Francesco Geminiani once wrote that a violin's tone should "rival the most perfect human voice." Nearly three centuries later, scientists have confirmed that some of the world's oldest violins do in fact mimic aspects of the human singing voice, a finding which scientists believe proves "the characteristic brilliance of Stradivari violins."

Using speech analysis software, scientists in Taiwan compared the sound produced by 15 antique instruments with recordings of 16 male and female vocalists singing English vowel sounds, The Guardian reports. They discovered that violins made by Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari, the pioneers of the instrument, produce similar "formant features" as the singers. The resonance frequencies were similar between Amati violins and bass and baritone singers, while the higher-frequency tones produced by Stradivari instruments were comparable to tenors and contraltos.

Andrea Amati, born in 1505, was the first known violin maker. His design was improved over 100 years later by Antonio Stradivari, whose instruments now sell for several million dollars. "Some Stradivari violins clearly possess female singing qualities, which may contribute to their perceived sweetness and brilliance," Hwan-Ching Tai, an author of the study, told The Guardian.

Their findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. A 2013 study by Dr. Joseph Nagyvary, a professor emeritus at Texas A&M University, also pointed to a link between the sounds produced by 250-year-old violins and those of a female soprano singer.

According to Vox, a blind test revealed that professional violinists couldn't reliably tell the difference between old violins like "Strads" and modern ones, with most even expressing a preference for the newer instruments. However, the value of these antique instruments can be chalked up to their rarity and history, and many violinists still swear by their exceptional quality.

[h/t The Guardian]

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The Unsolved Mysteries Soundtrack Is Coming to Vinyl
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Terror Vision

If you never missed an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, just listening to the opening theme of the series may be enough to raise the hairs on the back of your neck. Now, you don't need to wait to catch reruns of the show to experience the haunting music: The original soundtrack is now available to preorder on vinyl—the first time it's been available in any format.

Terror Vision, a company that releases obscure horror scores on vinyl, has produced two versions of the soundtrack: a single LP for $27 and a triple LP for $48. Both records were compiled from the original digital audio tapes used to score the show. Terror Vision owner and soundtrack curator Ryan Graveface writes in the product description: "The single LP version features my personal favorite songs from the ghost related segments of Unsolved Mysteries whereas the triple LP set contains EVERYTHING written for the ghost segments. This version is very very limited as it’s really just meant for diehard fans.”

Both LPs include various iterations of the Unsolved Mysteries opening theme—three versions on the single and five on the triple. Customers who spring for the triple LP will also receive liner notes from the show's creator John Cosgrove, composer Gary Malkin, and Graveface.

Over 30 years since the show first premiered, the theme music remains one of the most memorable parts of the spooky, documentary-style series. As producer Raymond Bridgers once said, "The music was so distinctive that you didn’t even have to be in the room to know that Unsolved Mysteries was on.”

You can preorder the records today with shipping estimated for late June.

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