The Web's most intriguing music-related destinations. This week: N.A.G., Z100 and Pearl Jam.
ALL MIXED UP:: While much of the talk about peer-to-peer file-sharing technology has centered around the swapping and downloading of illicit digital music files, New York-based artist/composer Jason Freeman decided that there might be more interesting ways to use the much-discussed services.
Gnutella, the decentralized P2P file-sharing protocol on which services like Morpheus, LimeWire and Bear Share are based, intrigued Freeman, who has previously created interactive art projects using downloadable software with unique remixing abilities.
"I'm simply fascinated by the chaotic and unpredictable process of searching for and downloading music on the Gnutella network -- everything from unexpected search results to inconsistent and constantly changing download speeds," Freeman said last week in an e-mail interview. "I wanted to do something that would turn this fascinating process of acquiring music into a musical experience itself."
So Freeman created N.A.G. (Network Auralization for Gnutella), which is downloadable from Turbulence.org, a site run by experimental arts organization New Radio and Performing Arts. The program uses Gnutella searches and downloads to create musical art collages (think sample-art like the Beatles' "Revolution No. 9"). A user enters one or more search terms into N.A.G., which scans the Gnutella network for matching MP3s and begins downloading them. The software then begins playing material as it downloads, with multiple songs or song snippets weaving back and forth to create a unique "new" sound composition.
For example, a search for "boys" yielded a medley of portions of songs by the Beach Boys, the Backstreet Boys and the Five Blind Boys Of Alabama. After a minute or so, other elements crept into the mix, including raps by Nappy Roots ("Country Boys"), the punk-pop of Good Charlotte ("Boys and Girls") and the familiar pulsing rhythm of Don Henley's "Boys of Summer."
N.A.G. users can control a number of settings in the program, including how many songs can be played at once, whether the playback speeds vary and how often it skips between song snippets. The program doesn't let you keep any downloaded material, and due to all the variables, each sound "composition" is unique. "I like to think of it as a very simple instrument that lets you play the network," Freeman says.
Freeman's creation allows the curious to experience P2P services in a new way, and he says N.A.G. offers a different perspective on the moral and legal issues that surround P2P networks: while the majority of users may be using the services in unauthorized ways, the technologies themselves open a lot of other windows for the imaginative.
"I'm bothered by the idea of sharing copyrighted material with anonymous strangers; artists work hard to create the music they produce and they deserve credit and compensation for their work," he says. "P2P networks encourage a broader mindset which ignores the rights of intellectual property owners, and this worries me."
"But I'm even more concerned that commercial online music services are protecting their content in such a way that severely limits what consumers can do with it. I'm afraid that all the cool things that digital music facilitates are going to become increasingly difficult to do."
N.A.G. itself also raises legal and moral rights issues, but for now it stands as an example of the Web's mind-expanding possibilities.
INSTANT REQUEST: Renowned New York top-40 station Z100 yesterday (July 21) unveiled a new Instant Messaging service in partnership with messaging software company GTV that will allow registered users the chance to request songs to be played on the radio station as well as get news and other information from the station and participate in interactive contests.
The Z100 Messenger will run on GTV's new Global Instant Messaging (GIM) platform, which allows users to interoperate with other IM services such as Yahoo, AOL, MSN and ICQ. Users can import various "buddy lists" from these other services into the Z100 Messenger and interact with friends as well as the radio station. The service is available for download at the station's Web site.
JAMMING UP THE CHART: Pearl Jam's online sales of concert "bootlegs" have been picking up as the group's Riot Act world tour wound down. A total of 11 double-disc full-show recordings, which, as reported here in March, are only available via the band's dedicated Pearljambootlegs.com site, have found their way onto Billboard Top Internet Album Sales chart, including three new titles this week.
The majority of the sets are not sold in stores and haven't cracked The Billboard 200, but "E. Troy, WI: June 21, 2003" jumps one spot to No. 22 in its third week on Top Internet Album Sales. Two other sets, "Columbus, OH: June 24, 2003" and "Detroit, MI: June 25, 2003," debut this week on the chart at No. 10 and No. 12, respectively.
An official two-disc Epic release documenting the group's March 3 concert in Tokyo debuted at No. 182 on The Billboard 200 in June, and the commercial release of three-disc offering from a May 3 show in State College, Pa., could make its way onto the chart this week. An as-yet-undecided show from the second leg of the North American tour will be released Sept. 16 in stores.