Monday, October 28, 2019

A Million Miles [I've been singing again]

Used the weekend to finish my most recent track.


  1. What a sad, but beautiful song! I suspect many of us here must have found ourselves too geeky for our girlfriends/boyfriends.

    Of course, the irony is that in real life you would probably be the geeky one!

    1. Postmodern Deconstruction says it is about communication with the physics community. Very catchy (and German!).

  2. David Bailey, it's interesting: I took this deeply poignant and beautifully done video not as a romantic ballad, but as a commentary on the way tightly knit and often male dominated communities can develop an 'insider speak' that keeps outsiders 'a million miles away'.

    The insider speak seems to include not only intimidating jargon, but also jokes, winks, and nods whose real purposes are to make anyone who has not been 'properly' invited feel dumb and useless.

    (To me, such social strategies are the diametric opposite of the Khan Academy philosophy, and I think also that of Feynman. Khan strategies encourage new folks to join, and help them identify what they need most to get to the next step.)

    1. I don't think feynman was a fan of women (at least not as human beings).

      I also think he was blight on physics, but that is a totally different story!

    2. "I don't think feynman was a fan of women (at least not as human beings).

      I also think he was blight on physics, but that is a totally different story!"

      My question to both claims is "why?"

    3. 1) Google "feynman b*tches"

      2) I'd start with particles traveling
      backwards in time ...

      And end with his crappy and
      pointless popular books

    4. Greg, Phillip: Greg has it about right on Feynman regarding women.

      While Feynman had a very close relationship with his first wife, who died of tuberculosis while Feynman was working at Los Alamos, he literally kind of went nuts after she died (this is by his own admission) in his subsequent relationships with women, pretty much for the rest of his life. I am frankly amazed he didn't get himself shot, since one persistent habit he developed after his first wife's death was trying (and more than once succeeding) in having affairs with the wives of his work colleagues. He was a philanderer in general after her death, and also most loved doing equations while sitting at strip clubs, a habit he continued even after entering into his final and by far most stable marriage later in life.

      Feynman in short absolutely did not treat women simply as fellow humans, again with the qualifier that his dedication and love for his first wife, and the way he stood up for against remarkable family and work opposition, was both touching and powerful. But after that, and again by his own admission ("I think I must have done something to myself" when he focused entirely on his work after this death), Feynman was… well, icky. (And don't get me started on Einstein. There has been plenty of glossing-over in the public mind there, yes indeed!)

      But Greg, your "blight on physics" part? … that one I don't really understand. Can you be a bit more specific? His arrogance (very real!), especially to other physicists? His bongo drums and general disrespect for authority, perhaps? Of course, different folks view those latter behaviors very differently.

      It's amusing that more than once I've seen Julian Schwinger's remark that "Feynman brought quantum field theory to the masses" (via Feynman diagrams) quoted as a compliment. It wasn't; it was intended as an embittered insult. Schwinger, Feynman, and Shin'ichirĊ Tomonaga all three developed methods for making electromagnetic field theory work at the quantum level, and all three got the 1965 Nobel Prize and Physics for that work. Schwinger was the mathematical purist, producing pristine methods that were monstrously difficult to make into usable calculations. Feynman in contrast sort of went "Wheee!" and started winging it with some wild loosey-goosey ideas that were mainly inspired by Wheeler, who made Feynman look like an arch-conservative. But the weird thing was that to the surprise of everyone, emphatically including Feynman, his off-kilter approach worked, and furthermore resulted in huge increases in computational efficiency. [A fascinating heuristic, that: efficiency as a physics insight… some other time…]

      Of the three Prize winners, the one least discussed in the West, Tomonaga, was also arguably the nicest and most human-compatible. He did his amazing work in almost complete isolation. Tomonaga's book The Story of Spin remains to this day one of my all-time favorite physics books.

      The only reason I mentioned (with a qualifier) Feynman in the same sentence as the amazing teacher Kahn, for whom I have only unqualified praise (as does Bill Gates, apparently), is that Kahn and Feynman share a fervent desire to find the simplest and most understandable way to present complex issues. Feynman had no fear of complexity, and frankly relished navigating it and showing up others with his abilities (yet another flaw!). But Feynman also genuinely felt that he had failed his father, a simple tailor, when he finally realized he would never be able to explain his own work to his father in a way his father could fully understand it. A rare and arguably remarkable concern for a Nobel Laureate, that.

    5. Greg, thanks, now I see a lot better where you are coming from on the 'blight' part.

      You said: "… And end with his crappy and pointless popular books"

      Heh! Feynman pretended to 'humble' but in reality loved loved loved the fame, so I think your concern there has teeth. Feynman having another fame-focused fellow as officemate, Murray Gell-Mann (whose very name was a needless and officious respelling of his father's name Gellmann) in the same office was a recipe for disaster, ending with Gell-Mann saying anything but nice things about Feynman after Feynman died young.

      You also said: "2) I'd start with particles traveling backwards in time ..."

      Well, actually, that was Archibald Wheeler's idea, and rather emphatically. Feynman describes how Wheeler once called him up to say "There's only one electron in the universe! It bounces back and forth from the two ends of time, as matter when it goes forward in time, and as antimatter when it goes back in time!" To which Feynman seems to have thought but not said out loud, "Um, Archie ol' buddy… did you remember to take your meds today?"

      But again by Feynman's own description, Feynman did take a much-miniaturized version of Wheeler's idea to heart, in powerful combination with Dirac's amazing little obscure paper on Lagrangian approaches to QED. Why? Because Feynman discovered that the loosey-goosey ways of modeling time that was inherent in the Lagrangian approach, which works with world lines (functionals) instead of points in time, resulted in flatly astonishing gains in his ability to calculate QED results. It's what first got the attention of his elders: They had a hard problem that they expected would take all of them weeks to do by hand, and smart-hiney Feynman with his Wheeler and Dirac inspired Lagrangian approach walks in the next day with the correct answers.

      Bottom line on that one is, like it or not, the backwards-in-time perspective results in a rather astonishing simplification not just of the number of assumptions in the model for modeling electrons, but also a commensurate increase in the accuracy of said model. It remains one of the most accurately predictive models in terms of results and scale magnitudes of any theory ever created.

      So, dislike time reversal if you wish… but it works, and extraordinarily well.

      The other point about Feynman is how meticulous he was. I've had the experience of finding a flat-out error in the Feynman Lectures — an undefined term that was then used inconsistently in the equation that followed — and then discovered that the error did not exist in the audio version. It had been made up by editors (very good physicists in their own rights), who thought they were 'clarifying' what Feynman had said in a lecture when in fact they didn't 'get' the point he was making and thus screwed it up. Even in a casual lecture, Feynman knew exactly what he meant to say, and his words said what he meant.

    6. Hi Terry,

      I always enjoy your comments. There's usually many good insights inside.

      Not a big fan of QFT, tho ... but that's a different story!

      In the end, it will boil down to one or two parameters/constants as some wise person recently said...


    7. 1) Google "feynman b*tches"

      At the first link that Google returns, it is clear from the context that the women were whores. While I agree that it is impolite, to say the least, to call a woman a whore if she is not, it is OK to call her a whore if she is a whore, especially if she pretends not to be one.

      He was a philanderer in general after her death, and also most loved doing equations while sitting at strip clubs, a habit he continued even after entering into his final and by far most stable marriage later in life.

      As long as all involved were consenting adults, where is the problem?

    8. My only point was that he probably wouldn't have been welcoming to Sabine, but that is only conjecture.

      What I meant to say was:

      Great song. Excellent video!

    9. Phillip,

      Feynman was completely open with his wife and children about his preferred location for doing equations, and this healthy approach is reflected by the good family relations he seems to have had during this more settled period of his life. The owner of the club certainly did not mind having Nobel Prize Laureate Feynman attending on a regular basis (er... why would he?), and Feynman's view from the back of the club genuinely seemed to help him concentrate. I suspect we all have habits that help us focus, e.g., I enjoy listening to Infected Mushroom tunes while contemplating topics such as the variety and implications of erasure, split, and hole types in higher dimensional spaces (string theory is so weak there!). I mean hey, where else can you find a really good astrophysics-tinged rap song sung in Hebrew and Arabic?

      Regarding the commonly used phrase "consenting adults": As a lifelong privileged white male, raised a few miles away from where Rush Limbaugh grew up (my family in fact brought his family to our county in Missouri circa 1800, ouch), I would make the observation that "consenting adults" has a rather different meaning to folks who may not have had as many free rides and easy opportunities as I and many others did. I cannot for example recall a single time where my best way out of a difficult economic circumstance was, like it or not, to take off my clothes off and wiggle my rear end at a leering audience. That that may have just been a lack of creativity on my part, mind you. But on the other hand, the wealth of options I had never required me to be quite that creative, did it?

    10. I would make the observation that "consenting adults" has a rather different meaning to folks who may not have had as many free rides and easy opportunities as I and many others did.

      I was thinking more of his philandering and extramarital affairs here than his visits to strip clubs. However, the "strippers might not be really consenting as they are forced to do this (perhaps; we don't know) because they were poor" argument also applies to the waitress serving Feynman. My guess is that she would not be working as a waitress if her net worth was comparable to that of Feynman. So, by this argument, unless all wealth is distributed equally among everyone, anytime someone earning less provides a service for someone earning more, this is also an "abuse of privilege".

      While there are ignorant people who don't realize how easy they have had it, one should not (because it is essentially racism) assume that just because someone belongs to some group(s) which historically have been privileged that the person in question also enjoys or even abuses said privileges. There are many old straight white guys who, by almost any criterion, are substantially less privileged than, say, Oprah Winfrey or Rhianna.

    11. Phillip, good points and well argued, especially the waitress point.

      My only further comment would be that genuinely equal distribution of opportunity is a very different and in some ways much harder concept to implement than incentive-killing forced equal distribution of wealth. In terms of societal-level intelligence, the former tends to lead to a more insightful and efficiently diversified structure, while the latter tends towards giving a brain-dead stupid one.

  3. Was just over at Physics Forums, looking up the MiniBoone experiment, and saw the link to Backreaction. Clicked on it, and saw the new video. A very beautiful song, sung with such pathos.

  4. Is singing more complete than Quantum Mechanics?

  5. Singing again, and in a sense singing the blues.

  6. When this gets out, Taylor Swift is toast.

  7. Here's my review:

    What a voice! Be it by training or a gift of mother nature, it's there.
    Good verses
    Feelings of solitude and longing touch the listener
    Video % Audio match
    A number of out of key notes give the vocal and the song some extra spice
    (The good)

    The criticism I'll give you should be read from the point of view: "This is good, how to make it sound and look (semi-) professional?"

    You underuse your voice potential in three ways:
    Your German accent. Try out British, Pennsylvania-American, Southern accent...
    Your range is wider than this. Consider throwing in a real high vocal part (see later)
    Can you go powerdiva? (4, sorry)

    The song itself misses a very clearly separated middle eight and/or bridge. I would completely overthrow either the chorus or the verses. Different chords, instrument, melodies in one of both. Consider going Whitney Houston or unleashing your volume if you were to rewrite a part.

    I think you are "Sabine" here. Consider creating a persona. "Authentic" is also a persona since nobody is authentic when filmed,and it is one that will be annoying as your success increases. Creating a persona is also fun! (Like acting)

    Use double the amount of shots and angles. Video has become a hyperkinetic medium and that cannot be changed. Ask one or two friends for help with this. Zoom in or out during longshots. They should be the exception, and need to be perfect. Bad shots in the rest of the clip are filtered out by the brain.
    Never shakycam! You are not Steven Spielberg! Use a stand with a good lever for angle changes. How not to get shakycam in the rocking train? You're the physicist...
    Good lip syncing, but could be better. It is either always a little,little bit to soon or too late. Sorry, don't remember.

    Most important: it is a very good song already!

    1. Ward,

      Thanks a lot for the feedback which is very useful. For what the video is concerned, though, this is pretty much as good as it gets. I simply don't have one-or-two friends to help me with this. I pretty much do it all alone. My mom's been helping out with this one. And, as we learned, if you want to film with a tripod at the central station you need permission. Thus the handshake/no tripod (except for the scene we did before the police came). It was too noisy at the train station to hear the audio, hence the lipsynch issues. The other issue is that you cannot synch to better than 1/25 seconds if that's the framerate you are recording at.

      I am telling you this so you understand the major constraint I deal with is practical, not a lack of vision. Add on top of this that the camera simply isn't good enough for ambitious filming. And if you want to move the camera without handshake that requires heavy equipment. The same goes for zooms. I have tried zooms. They look crappy. Have you ever made a music video?

      If you watch my other music videos you'll notice that I create "personas" for those. And this one, tbh, isn't really me either.

      And the German accent, well, trust me, I certainly wish I could get rid of it. Do you speak any foreign languages accent free? I do not have Whitney Houston's voice. If I could sing any better, I certainly would. Do you sing?

      In any case, I much appreciate your advice.

    2. Hi Sabine,

      I have to keep it short. Damn phone...

      100% agreeing on the practical constraints thing. Permission is what killed my own music video. I'll probably outsource the next. DIY doesn't save much money... And I don't want to do the lip syncing again. About that, it must have been your audio then. Don't think the human brain is 25 fps-fast.

      Those tripods are very important. In my experience you need 3 of them. It's a good habit to shoot each scene from 2 to 3 angles to have enough material for editing. Any tripod will do. I manually attach a stick or shaft with a cell phone tightly attached on one end. I knot the shaft to the tripod in an X-like way. I make sure the part that is now the handle is long. That allows for subtle, sliding angle movement. The knot mustn't be too tense or you loss your 3-D manoeuvtebility. I fellow the shaft with my eye, I don't look at any screen. You do need ro look before you set it up to know the width of your frame. You only need expensive (real) camera's for their wide lenses and their zoom functions. In my experience zooming may not happen at a constant rate of change.

      Whitney Houston was meant as a compliment. "You go girl!" something like that. I don't know any mainstream contemporary singer who can sing like she could.

      I do sing myself, yes. You can even listen, on Spotify. My band's name is "Playade" and our album is called "Staring out the window". There's a pretty woman on the cover (with broken glass).

      In the title song you will hear me singing at my best in terms of "no accent".

      I can't speak English (not native) without an accent. But I can sing like that, at least occasionally.
      What works for me is memorize my lyrics very well. I also make sure that at the end of each verse I know the starting word for the next part. I do a few trial recordings on low quality gear like this darn phone. Only to listen to the pronunciation. I can hear it when it's 'off'. It is often trial and error to find the way to get it right. When I m ready I record for real. I then mercilessly redo, even for a minuscule pronunciation mistake. Some of my better singing has been lost that way. But for me it's worth it. I try recording blocks of text as a whole. Good for accent consistency.

      Btw, I like your German accent. I Thzink it szounds cool. Only in music I tend to dislike foreign accents...

      I'll listen to your other songs tomorrow. You've made me curious with these other personae.

      P.S. Turned out not so short after all.

    3. Ward,

      I only have two tripods. And one camera. I have tried outsourcing the music videos but it's too expensive/can't afford it. I do listen to the pronunciation. Don't ask me how many times I have rewound the dictionary recording for "cockatoo". Having said that, I have no issue with accents in singing in general. In fact, I think it makes it more interesting.

      In any case, will check out your songs. I am working on getting some of mine on Spotify. Do you have any advice on this?

  8. Replies
    1. The number of track lines coming out of the station is startling from the Wiki image. It looks like the total width of all the lines combined, must be close to half a mile. Where I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, we lived across the street from a park, the far side of which had 4 parallel tracks. These tracks went up the west side of the Hudson river and elsewhere to the north. To the south they went down to Hoboken, and beyond. In fact, our dad used to take the train to his workplace in Hoboken, before later doing ride sharing. One interesting nugget is that the track width, or gauge, in Europe I'm pretty certain is the same as the US, or 4 feet, 8 1/2 inches, or whatever that is in centimeters. From watching a TV show I found that Spain has a wider gauge, as does Russia.

  9. I couldn't help but notice that this video's theme parallels the season; a time when plant life goes into dormancy, available daylight continues to diminish, and the hardships of winter loom into our consciousness. In contrast, Sabine's "Catching Light" video posted the day before Spring Equinox, 2017, is totally upbeat, full of optimism, hope, and renewal; echoing the promise of Spring, with abundant, increasing, sunshine, the greening of the landscape, and flowers blooming. It's a wonderfully catchy beat, making you want to jump up and dance as if you are in a 70's discotheque. There's no question that we are all affected by the seasons, a biological rhythm imprinted into all living things from earliest times.


      As luck would have it, just last night I heard Art Garfunkel sing that song.

  10. Eat your heart out Radio-head (British band known for their melancholia), looks like there's a new songstress in town!

  11. I really enjoy this song, thanks! Did you write it yourself?

  12. Excellent expression. Lang blew our minds without sound. Keaton made us laugh with a bad camera and good editing. Don't get caught up with gear. Your content rules. No one is going to care about sync issues (for example) as long as your content is punching them in the face. Someone else here said it best when they suggested that Swift doesn't stand a chance.

    1. Odysseus,

      I certainly wish what you said was true, but it's not. 98% of professional music is about the production. No one cares if you write a good song but it sounds crappy because you don't have suitable recording equipment, software, or don't know how to mix and master (or have someone else doing it for you). And the only reason I even bother with videos is that even if you manage to record and assemble the audio at home using whatever soft- and hardware you can afford, no one will listen to it if you just dump it somewhere online.

      And the videos multiply the problems, starting with the obvious that a high-quality camera will cost you in the thousands of dollars, and then you have to spend further thousands on extra equipment. And even if you get together that money, it won't be of much use unless you have someone who knows how to use it. Not to mention that you somehow need to find the time to get all that done.

      In other words, this is most definitely a case where throwing money at a problem makes a big difference.

  13. I see equal opportunity as probably the most important goal of society. However, for several reasons, I don't think that it would lead to equality, and in some cases, that would be a good thing.

  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

  15. Few artists can bare their artistic souls with such easy and yet I think you do it without realising. which is probably why your songs are so good, your 'all or nothing' uncompromising delivery is the only way you can do it but may leave the viewer in a love it or hate position. "And when I open my mouth, Words will fall out, like dead birds, down to the ground" These are incredibly strong, emotive words for simply 'speaking' so there is a lot of meaning behind them. Lesser people might dismiss them as clumsy words but songs are musical poetry and poetry is written when the author has something to say. "Like the roses need the rain, like a poet needs a pain". Your disarming vulnerability leaves the majority charmed but some might find them hard to listen to, which is their loss. Your uniqueness is probably your greatest strength as there are few artist who can do what you can. Personally I find them totally captivating and amazing, as are you, in this case I find myself wishing the rose could have been for me, you are completely adorable and should never try to change.

    From one of your poor, worthless, unworthy, adoring public.

  16. Sabine, My dear,

    - so much to say,..
    - so little time.
    Please do not publish this.

    - Loved Your video.

    - Always.

  17. HI Sabine,

    All of your songs and music videos are unique and interesting, but so far I think I like this video, along with “Catching light,” and “I’m a little funny,” the best.

    I used to own and engineer a small analogue (as in 16 track reel-to-reel) recording studio back in the 80s and 90s of which, when not recording the public, I would use to record my own original songs.

    So trust me, I understand the tremendous amount of time and effort you have put into not only writing and recording your music, but also in putting them to video.

    Besides doing the vocals, do you also perform all of the instrumentation (keyboards, programming drum parts) on the songs?

    As I watch your physics and music videos...

    (while imagining a small shift in the timeline)

    ...I cannot help but picture Einstein’s inner rock star laying down some violin tracks on your songs and performing them in your video productions. How cool would that be?

    Anyway, you’re an amazing woman, Sabine (a creative dynamo).


    1. Keith,

      Thanks for the feedback and the understanding. Yes, I do it all myself, except that I sometimes have a second person to move the camera. I am glad you like it :)

  18. Having a dodgy heart that required a permanent pacemaker be inserted, I can tell you all that hearts skipping beats is a poetical lyric but not terribly romantic when it actually happens so if anyone experiences that it ain't love doing that to your chest, get your heart checked. :)

    This has been one of my favourite songs to listen to while in hospital, unintended irony aside. It's beautiful.

    1. Hi, C.
      Lordy just passed a rather dark counterpart to me...
      "Uraveled" by Zanias, which was published on July 22nd, 1921 on YouTube.
      I think it could make your heart beat faster, too...
      Take it easy, we need you (8)

    2. Thanks for the recommendation, muck. I'll check it out.
      I'm finally out of hospital and at my mother's place, reunited with my cat.
      I enjoy a good, sad beautiful heartbreak song.

    3. That music is definitely my thing. :)


COMMENTS ON THIS BLOG ARE PERMANENTLY CLOSED. You can join the discussion on Patreon.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.