Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Vocoder: From Speech-Scrambling To Robot Rock

The Vocoder: From Speech-Scrambling To Robot Rock
by NPR Staff

If you've listened to pop music in the past 40 years, you've probably heard more than a few songs with a robotic sound. That's thanks to the vocoder, a device invented by Bell Labs, the research division of AT&T. Though the vocoder has found its way into music, the machine was never intended for that function. Rather, it was developed to decrease the cost of long-distance calls and has taken on numerous other uses since.

Music journalist Dave Tompkins has written a book about the vocoder and its unlikely history. It's called How to Wreck a Nice Beach: The Vocoder From World War II to Hip-Hop.

Tompkins says the machine played a significant role in World War II. After the U.S. government discovered that Winston Churchill's conversations with Franklin D. Roosevelt were being intercepted and deciphered by the Germans, it decided to invest in speech-encoding technology. So the National Defense Research Committee commissioned Bell Labs in 1942 to develop a machine — and Bell Labs delivered.

The vocoder wasn't without its flaws. Intelligibility of speech sometimes proved a problem, but Tompkins says pitch control was a bigger concern.

"They didn't mind world leaders sounding like robots, just as long as they didn't sound like chipmunks," he says. "Eisenhower did not want to sound like a chipmunk."


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

RMG Idol Competition - Win an Independent Recording Contract with Halogen Records

From an inworld notcard:

RMG Idol Competition -
Live Music Competition that Propels Second Life Artists into Real Life

The RMG IDOL COMPETITION is a Live Music Competition that showcases the Finest Talent in Second Life. This is an opportunity to expose the Thriving Music Community within Second Life to the Real World Music Industry.

Contest Prizes:

1st Prize Winner will receive:

Independent Recording Contract with Halogen Records and Distribution
on an Upcoming Halogen Records Compilation CD.
8 Week Radio Promotion Campaign through RMG Digital
Live performances in Real Life at regional RMG Events
including Local Publicity/Promotion for event.
RL Exposure as a part of RMG Idol Publicity Campaign.

5 Runners Up:

8 Week Radio Promotion Campaign through RMG Digital
Live performances in Real Life at regional RMG Events
including Local Publicity/Promotion for event.
RL Exposure as a part of RMG Idol Publicity Campaign.

All Contestents will receive placement on the website with national
exposure opportunities, as well featured artist status on

Selection Process - Open Calls

Open calls are currently scheduled for Monday, June 21 and June 28, 2010 from 6-8pm SLT. Any SL musician, singer, artist, performer, or group, may participate in the open call. During open call events, each entrant will have a total time of up to 5 minutes to perform their song, and accept review by the judging panel. Should the number of Open Call registrants exceed capacity for the time scheduled, additional dates will be added to accomodate any and all participants.

All performers must complete a Registration Form at, and meet the minimum performance requirements. Registrants will be scheduled to perform at the specific time assigned by RMG Idol staff, based on the order of registration. Deadline for registrations is 11:59pm SL on Friday, June 18, 2010. RMG Idol is open to any Second Life musical performer.

All participants throughout the competition, will need the ability to log into the RMG Idol stream, and encode their performance during their alloted time. While the Open Call is open to any SL Resident, it is recommended that all registrants have at least some experience performing in Second Life. There is no cost to participate in the RMG Idol Competition.

Up to Twenty Contestants shall be selected for the competition phase of the contest at Open Call events. As RMG Idol is a competition based on Talent, performers from all walks of the SL Music Scene are encouraged to enter this competition. Each Performer will have the opportunity to perform 1 song for the Judging Panel, and receive constructive criticizm from each judge. IT IS ENCOURAGED THAT THE ARTIST PERFORM THEIR BEST ORIGINAL OR COVER SONG FOR THE OPEN CALL.

The Judging Panel, at its sole disgression, shall select the Contestants that will move on to participate in the RMG Idol Competition.

RMG Idol Competition: Rules updated: 05/10/10

From the starting pool, Contestants will compete against each other to determine who continues on with the contest. Weekly eliminations will be based equally on Popular Vote and Judging. Popular Vote will be conducted through Voting Boards at the host venue, as well as at participating Venues and Sims across Second Life. Top Vote getters that also receive the majority of votes by the Judging Panel, will move on to the following weeks show.

As contestants are eliminated each week, remaining contenders will be given the opportunity for more time in front of the judges and audience. CONTESTANTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO PERFORM THEIR BEST ORIGINAL OR COVER SONGS! Due to Performance Rights Obligations, Artists with Original Music will be favored by the Judging Panel. As Audience Voting is an equal part of the competition, all artists are encouraged to "bring out their crowd" to the performance venue or satellite stages, where Voting Boards shall be placed. Anyone can vote as often as they like for each artist on the RMG Idol Vote Board, at a cost of 50 L$ per vote. Proceeds from Voting Boards will be split, with each contestant receiving 25L$ for each vote cast on their behalf.

To allow fairness to all contestants, voting will commence immediately following each show, and will be open until 11:59 pm SLT the following Sunday. Votes will be tabulated for each artist with the Elimination held at the beginning of the subsequent week's show on Monday. The final 2 contestants will be selected based on Popular Vote from the 2 week voting period prior to the Finale.

The competition shall run from Monday, July 12 through August 16, until the Top 2 Contestants are selected. The "Finale Show" will be held on August 30, 2010. The Judges Panel will choose the Final Winner based on the following criteria:

Vocal Talent
Musical Ability

This same criteria will also be used by Judges throughout the competition. Voting will make up 50% of the competition, with the final 2 contestants chosen by Popular Votes. Then, the final 2 contestants will each perform a 15 minute set for the Judges, who will deliberate to determine the winner, based on this criteria.

Judges will include non-Second Life executives from Relax Music Group and Halogen Records. Guest Judges from the RL Music Industry will also participate. Bones Writer from Trax Live Music Resource Center shall serve as the SL Judge. The competition will be hosted by Trick Rembrandt (Patrick Rule, RMG Co-CEO) and broadcast on

All Runners-Up will be invited back for a Final Performance, with the Winner closing the show with a final song. The first place and runner up winners shall receive prizes as listed above.

All Contestants will receive airplay and exposure though,, and participating partners web sites. A national publicity campaign conducted by Halogen Records will also occur throughout the competition to expose all the participating artists to the RL Music Media. As this is a promotional opportunity based in RL, it will bring the Live Music Community in Second Life a great deal of exposure with the real world entertainment industry. Relax Music Group is committed to exposing the Thriving SL Music Scene throughout the Music Industry, giving deserving SL performers opportunities to advance their careers in RL, as well as RL performers their introduction to the SL Music Scene.

Show Format:

RMG Idol will be held at various venues throughout Second Life and broadcast on online and across the grid. The show format will be hosted by an SL Personality, with each Contestant given an equal amount of time to perform. Multiple Venues, Sims, and Shops will be encouraged to Sponsor RMG Idol, host Voting boards, receiving mentions in the stream in exchange for carrying the competition. Again, Voting will commence following each weeks show, allowing people ample time to vote for their favorite performer. Eliminations will be announced at the beginning of each week's show, commencing on July 23.

The Show Host and Judges will be linked to the broadcast via Skype, with each judge weighing in on the merits of each artist. Judges will comprise members of Relax Music Group, Halogen Records, and Distinguished Members of the RL and SL Music Community. While Voting will predominate the majority of a contestant's score, the Winning Contestant will require a combination of winning votes and Judge's Consensus.

The RMG Idol Winner, will be offered a recording contract with Halogen Records and featured on an upcoming Compilation CD release. The Winner and 5 Runner's Up will receive an 8 week Radio Promotion Campaign through RMGDigital.NET, receiving airplay across their network of Registered Programmers at College and Public Broadcast Stations and Internet Streams. Timed for promotion throughout the Fall College Radio Season, the Winner and Runner's Up will receive Prime Airplay Exposure, generating even more interest for the Live Music Scene in Second Life.

Please note: Finalist and Runners Up must provide Original Recordings, or procure Performance Rights to any Cover Material that is Released, Distributed and Promoted following the RMG Idol Competition.


All registrations must be made at Once we receive your completed registration form, you will be assigned a performance slot for one of our Open Call events.

You will also receive, via the E-Mail Address you provided with your Registration, a complete information packet on or before June 19, 2010. Should you have any additional information requests, contact Patrick Rule via e-mail at patrick (at)

RMG Idol Schedule:

Monday, June 21, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday, June 28, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)

Monday July, 12, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday July, 19, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday July, 26, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday Aug., 2, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday Aug., 9, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)
Monday Aug., 16, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)

Monday Aug., 30, 2010 - 6-8pm SLT (Pacific Time)

*Please Note: We are planning a Special Open Call Event for artists outside of US Time Zones. European and Asian artists, please REGISTER so we can make arrangements to accomodate your time zones.

Second Life Venue Locations will be announced on June 19, 2010!

For the latest Competition Rules, please visit

Friday, May 7, 2010

Social Media Revolution 2 (video)

Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media and mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman.