NPR - November 21, 2011
A sense of humor comes through The Goat Rodeo Sessions, the latest Americana exploration for the world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma. He’s joined by three other virtuosos, all in the world of bluegrass: Nashville bassist and composer Edgar Meyer, Nashville session player and fiddler Stuart Duncan and, at 30, the youngest of the bunch, mandolinist Chris Thile of Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers.
What’s a “goat rodeo,” you may ask? Thile says it’s an aviation term “where so many things … go wrong that you need to go right for everything to turn out not utterly disastrous.”
“We kind of felt a kinship with that concept,” Thile says in an interview and performance with All Things Considered host Melissa Block.
Ma says the album title, The Goat Rodeo Sessions, came about because so many of the songs’ working titles had the word “rodeo” attached to them. When Thile looked up “goat rodeo” one day, he says, they thought, “Gee, that’s a version of us.”
“Everybody could be a leader or everybody could be a follower at various times,” Ma says. “And I think the vast amounts of fun that we have — which is, for me, that’s the goat rodeo part: How can we ever get any work done when we’re laughing all of the time? That’s actually the part that we love the most. It’s a great balance between the two.”
Poking A Bow In The Ear
That fun extends beyond the studio to live shows. Bows get poked into fellow members’ ears during performances, while the band sometimes writes lyrics to instrumental songs that, Ma jokingly says, “you’ll never, ever hear.”
“Part of having fun … I think Stuart [Duncan] said something very interesting. He said that some of the best playing that he feels he has done was when he wasn’t focused on himself, on trying to get something right,” Ma says. “The idea of poking a bow in someone’s ear, for example, while [he’s] about to do something serious actually makes him not think about the seriousness of what he’s about to do, which actually releases him to do what he needs to do.”
With all four musicians in a circle, The Goat Rodeo Sessions was recorded at James Taylor’s barn studio in Massachusetts.
“Because we were using the overhead microphones, for a balance, we were talking about maybe the mandolin being on up risers so that it was equal with the violin as far as how close it was to the overheads,” Duncan says. “Upon hearing this, James Taylor goes down in his shop and builds a five-by-five riser for Chris [Thile] to sit on. You think about one of the world’s greatest finger-picking guitarists with a power saw in his hand.”
“I’d like to think of it as James Taylor putting me on a pedestal,” Thile says, laughing.
School Of Fish
Edgar Meyer says working in a tight circle affects each member’s playing.
“That’s actually an aesthetic that we want, both in the local sense of one measure or one phrase, but also in the longer sense of a year or two years,” Meyer says. “You want to come out different people than when you walked in.”
“We all like to go to the edge,” Ma adds. “And we like to take calculated risks to go to the edge. And all of us, in some weird way, are also perfectionist[s], so the tension between the two is what we play off of each other. Therefore, the visual cues. Therefore, the tight quarters. So when somebody does something that you know is special to them or going in a different direction, we almost intuitively will follow. It’s like a school of fish, you know; suddenly they will turn direction. And that’s part of the thing that makes a performance or music come alive.” [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]
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“Solar cells and wireless coils provide options for power supply. We used this type of technology to measure electrical activity produced by the heart, brain, and skeletal muscles and show that the resulting data contain sufficient information for an unusual type of computer game controller.”
- August 11, 2011
Researchers have created a new thin flexible sensor that can be applied with water, like a temporary tattoo. Measuring activity in the brain, heart and muscles, the innovation could cut down on the number of wires and cables medical personnel use to monitor patients, among other applications.
The electronics can bend, stretch and squeeze along with human skin, and maintain contact by relying on “van der Waals interactions” — the natural stickiness credited for geckoes’ ability to cling to surfaces.
In addition to being designed with a hardy serpentine pattern that resists tearing, the sensors are thinner than a human hair.
“These devices were made through ‘transfer printing’ fabrication processes that create flexible versions of high-performance semiconductors,” according to Science.
The sensors could even be integrated into actual temporary tattoos, making patients feel a bit less Borg-like — and even offering a chance for style points.
In one test, a device that included a microphone was applied to a person’s throat. The computer hooked up to the sensor could make out the words “up,” “down,” “left,” and “right” — opening up the possibility that the sensors might help people with disabilities.
In an abstract of a Science article publishing their research, titled “Epidermal Electronics” (the full article is available only to subscribers), the study’s authors say the “tattoos” could run on solar cells — and may eventually be used to create a new class of game controller:
Solar cells and wireless coils provide options for power supply. We used this type of technology to measure electrical activity produced by the heart, brain, and skeletal muscles and show that the resulting data contain sufficient information for an unusual type of computer game controller.
“The skin represents one of the most natural places to integrate electronics,” materials scientist John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, told Science. “As the largest organ in our body, and our primary sensory mode of interaction with the world, it plays a special role.”
The new sensors were developed by Rogers and his colleagues in Singapore, China and the United States. According to Technology Review, the researchers see many uses for the technology:
Ultimately, Rogers says, “we want to have a much more intimate integration” with the body, beyond simply mounting something very closely to the skin. He hopes that his devices will eventually be able to use chemical information from the skin in addition to electrical information.
The new electronic tattoos should not be confused with the Digital Tattoo Interface, a 2x4-inch touch-screen implanted subcutaneously and powered by blood. And that, in turn, should not be confused with the more common “plasma display” used in many TVs. [Copyright 2011 National Public Radio]