Thursday, November 15, 2007

Feature from Ladies Room

Full story with images here:

Harpist attracts attention in all kinds of ways

by: Gwen Pawlikowski

When Lori Pappajohn pulls her luggage through the airports of Western Canada this Christmas season, people will notice and stare.

They always do.

Her suitcases just don’t conform to the usual standards. The custom-designed boxes are huge and oddly-shaped. Airport officials in Mexico once asked (jokingly) if she kept a husband inside. She smiled.

Actually, her boxes hold harps. The husband answer makes a better punchline, it’s true, but it takes longer to get through the airport.

Serving as the object of stares in airports is just one of the occupational hazards Pappajohn faces as a professional harpist. Add bags of thick, velvet costumes and you can see another hazard: no light travel. She gave that up when she opted to abandon playing her flute in order to perform on harp. Now, there is no ducking on the plane with a carry-on and scooting out after landing. No. Have harps. Must go to the special West Jet wicket for the fragile items.

All this heavy travel through the airport is quite a different picture from the light and airy music that flows from the mix of fingers and strings as she performs with the six-member Winter Harp group this Christmas season. The transcendent cadences created from ancient instruments flutter into an audience’s ears and then their hearts. Pappajohn says the music strikes a different chord for every person, somehow related to each person’s individual memories of Christmas. She’s received countless emails thanking her for their music. The messages often also include the words “changed my life” somewhere in the body of the text. What happens? I ask. She doesn’t know.

The rest of the story follows here:

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

But will they play "On the Road Again"?

Japan's melody roads play music as you drive

Bobbie Johnson,
technology correspondent
Tuesday November 13, 2007

The Guardian

Motorists used to listening to the radio or their favourite tunes on CDs may have a new way to entertain themselves, after engineers in Japan developed a musical road surface.

A team from the Hokkaido Industrial Research Institute has built a number of "melody roads", which use cars as tuning forks to play music as they travel.

The concept works by using grooves, which are cut at very specific intervals in the road surface. Just as travelling over small speed bumps or road markings can emit a rumbling tone throughout a vehicle, the melody road uses the spaces between to create different notes.

Depending on how far apart the grooves are, a car moving over them will produce a series of high or low notes, enabling cunning designers to create a distinct tune.

Patent documents for the design describe it as notches "formed in a road surface so as to play a desired melody without producing simple sound or rhythm and reproduce melody-like tones".
There are three musical strips in central and northern Japan - one of which plays the tune of a Japanese pop song. Notice of an impending musical interlude, which lasts for about 30 seconds, is highlighted by coloured musical notes painted on to the road. According to reports, the system was the brainchild of Shizuo Shinoda, who accidentally scraped some markings into a road with a bulldozer before driving over them and realising that they helped to produce a variety of tones.
The designs were refined by engineers at the institute in Sapporo. The team has previously worked on new technologies including the use of infra-red light to detect dangerous road surfaces.

But motorists expecting to create their own hard rock soundtrack could find themselves struggling to live the dream. Not only is the optimal speed for achieving melody road playback a mere 28mph, but locals say it is not always easy get the intended sound.

"You need to keep the car windows closed to hear well," wrote one Japanese blogger. "Driving too fast will sound like playing fast forward, while driving around 12mph has a slow-motion effect, making you almost car sick."