Artificial Heart discussion



  • edited September 2011

  • edited September 2011
  • I started listening to the album yesterday on the youtube's unfortunately being a student isn't great finance wise so I'm waiting for my next pay day before I purchase the album. At first I was a unsure what I thought of the album, but after listening to the album pretty much all of yesterday it has grown on me. My favorite is Good morning Tuscon with my stealth favorite being Artificial heart. I am not a huge fan of Nobody loves you like me, but I loved it live, I don't know it just sounds a bit off compared to the live version. Also, I have no idea why but Now I am an Arsonist reminds me of Octopus..

    Payday can't come fast enoush :s

  • This past friday I chatted with Jonathan after the Chicago show and he told me a few funny tidbits.  Concerning down today, he said he'll look at my tab and contact me about any corrections.  I also asked him about the song "Fraud" and he looked deep in thought and said "did I actually play any instruments on that one?"  He thought really hard said "Oh yeah!  I played the electric.....thing?  Also the 12 string guitar....maybe?"  So if I ever tab that one out, I'll be teaching him.
  • @AuntBabe I simply cannot hear Fraud like that. Maybe the intro's got 3 and 4 going on at the same time, but my brain's picked it up in 3 and can't really comprehend it as anything else. Sure, the guitar part in the intro's doing all kinds of weird stuff over the barlines if you notate it in 3, but I still feel that's the underlying pulse. The 3 can be followed straight through the song, no changes or short bars/long bars or anything, although in places the vocal line and the guitar are syncopating like mad. Syncopation is fun. And, actually, can often be notated as a time signature change...
  • @MaW, I always think of Fraud as being in 6, rather than in 3.  The time modulation that happens in each verse involes two 5-beat bars in a row (listen to the ostinato guitar riff).  My guess is that it was originally written without that little quirk, but it makes it such a more interesting song rhythmically, that it's pure genius.  Without that time shift in the verses, the song could become monotonous.  Great songcraft, like the rest of the album.
  • @feelyat Interesting notion...
  • I just had a tweet from JoCo:

    "Mostly 6/8, with 2 measures 5/8 in there (10 beats which the vocal
    subdivides as 4+6). The bloopy sound is doing loops of 8. A mess!"

    Looks like feelyat's closest to the mark.
  • Is time signature kind of the musical equivalent of poetic meter? And the difference between, say, 3/4 and 6/8 is just like the length of a line (e.g. trimeter vs. hexameter) and therefore not necessarily audible, and somewhat a  matter of perspective/opinion/context/whatever?

    Or is it just what I have if I get Father Time to autograph my watch? :D

  • @MaW ; Thank you so much for this!  It has been bothering me since I first heard it! :)
  • @Angelastic yes absolutely there can be a difference between 3/4 and 6/8. Interesting that you'd pick those actually - the convention for music notated in 6/8 is quite different to that in 3/4, but 3/8 is more like 6/8... these don't always apply, but they often do.

    3/4 is straightforward: there are three beats in the bar. The first one tends to be stronger, as with the first beat of the bar in most music, but there's nothing odd going on.

    6/8 is different, and this tends to apply to anything like 6/16, 6/4, 6/2... the latter might be just straightforward six beat bars (there are notational conventions around that distinction) but they will generally be what's called 'compound time'. Effectively, a 6/8 bar actually has TWO beats in it, not six. Each beat is divided into three, so you get this sort of rolling triple feeling which tends to flow very nicely (jigs are conventionally notated in 6/8).

    This is not a new thing - this kind of distinction's been in music since people first started notating time signatures, which they did before they'd even invented bar lines. Of course, you can have a six-beat bar that's not made up of two groups of three - conventions in how you write the music down show where this applies.

    I really like 6/8, and also 9/8, the time signature of the slip jig, which is a great three-inside-three sort of pattern.

    There are other fun time signatures of course, and another one mentioned in relation to Fraud - five beats to the bar! This is a kind of time signature called an irregular time signature, because bars have uneven gaps between the important beats. In 6/8, you get a strong beat every third quaver. In 4/4, you get a strong beat every other crotchet. In 5/8, you get a strong beat on the first and fourth quavers of the bar, so a gap of two followed by a gap of one, which can make the music sound slightly lopsided.

    Or you might have a strong beat on the first and third instead - there's no rule about whether the three is at the start or the end, and composers freely play around with that within the same piece. In longer irregular bars, like 7/8 or 11/8 or some unusual forms of 9/8, the short and long gaps can be anywhere at all, and 7/8 although usually made of 3, 2 and 2, can sometimes be 3, 3, 1 instead.

    However, in Fraud it just seems to be a short bar, so it doesn't emphasise the irregularity very much, instead just surprising you by hitting another bar-starting beat earlier than you expected. Changing the length of bars is great fun :)

    I know that's not very coherent, but it might give you an idea...
  • Hmm… so if there were an analogy with poetry, it would be more like the first number says how many syllables are in the line, rather than feet, and (for small numbers) gives some indication of which ones are stressed. I'm going to have to reread the explanation of time signatures in the book about maths and music I read recently.
  • Actually, the analogy with poetry breaks down a bit there, because the first number says how many beats to a measure, and the second simply says what value to give a beat.  In American notation, that means eighth notes (@MaW mentioned quavers -- same thing). If the signature is 6/4, it's basically the same, but simply written with quarter notes (crotchets?) instead.  The time signature is very mathematical.

    The question about which ones are stressed is a little more complicated and nuanced.  The time signature doesn't really tell you that -- the music does.  The statement that 6/8 is two beats, subdivided into threes is generally correct, but not actually required by the time signature.  It's simply convention.  The same is true for other time signatures -- 9/8 is typically three sets of three, but for a good counterexample, listen to Dave Brubeck's Blue Rondo a la Turk.  It shifts around a bit, but the intro and outro are in 9/8, with a 2+2+2+3 pattern mixed in with a 3+3+3 pattern. For that matter, listen to all of Brubeck's Time Out album for lots of interesting time signature manipulations.  Classic stuff.
  • edited September 2011
    @Angelastic: Classic example of 6/8 vs. 3/4 is "America" from the musical West Side Story.

    When the song proper starts after the intro (around 4:00), they sing, "I like to be in America..." When they do, count "1-2-3-4-5-6-1-2-3" in place of the syllables. The second 1-2-3 will sound slower, because you're fitting three counts into the same space as the previous six, so they have to be twice as long. Either way, it's six eighth notes, it's just a matter of how they're grouped: one group of six (or two sets of three, as @MaW pointed out), or three groups of two.

    On topic, this has probably already been discussed above, but there are several songs with mixed meter goodness going on in this album. All the funnier to me, because when I asked JC a while ago about doing more mixed meter songs, like I'm a Mason Now, he said that mixed meters seemed kinda pretentious to him. Like Sting, he said. ;-)
  • AIEEEE! Changing (weird) time signatures! The bane of the student musician. :)

    My claim to fame(?) is that I played the Eflat Alto-contrabass (also known as an EEflat contra-alto) clarinet in high school (the instrument on the far right of this picture), which nobody wrote parts for, so I either played baritone sax or transposed tuba (pretend the bass clef is a treble clef and add 3 sharps to the key signature). I spent far more time at band contests, etc., answering questions like "what the heck is that thing?" than playing it...
  • Yes, as @feelyat and @Colleenky rightly emphasise, the subdivision stuff is all just convention, and notation really helps with it. Music in 6/8 intended to be two groups of three per bar is notated with the quavers in groups of three, so you can see it right there on the page. 6/4 is slightly harder to portray that in (as crotchets don't beam together like quavers do), but it's still eminently possible. Thinking of something I recently played, "The Fairy Round", a five-part dance by Holborne, is notated in the edition that most people have (actually it might be the only complete edition of Holborne's dances) in 6/4 and 3/2 - to the point where both time signatures are marked at the start of the piece! Then each bar has to be considered in the light of which one it belongs to in order to play it properly, and sometimes that's not the same as what the other parts are playing at the same time! It's great fun actually. The point being that one of the ways you figure it out is by looking at the music. Obviously a bar which has three minims in it is going to be the 3/2 feel rather than the 6/4 feel, and you kind of go from there, looking at where notes stop and start and how the notes lie across the boundaries of possibly stressed beats, and seeing which pattern it fits to.

    Of course some bars are syncopated and don't fit either pattern, but that just makes things more interesting.

    What I really wanted to say though was that the entire piece could be notated in 6/4 without the 3/2 marker as well, because it's perfectly valid to write in 6/4 (or 6/8 or 6/16 or whatever) and not adhere to the two-groups-of-three subdivisions at all. It's just not normal - some conventions have to exist to help people learn a piece of music entirely from written notation without the aid of recordings or input from somebody who already knows it.
  • I entirely lost track of this discussion about 11 posts back. All of a sudden it just devolved into math? What's with all the fractions?

    I am not a musician by numbers.
  • Gotta love all the theory geekery, @skyen! :)
  • No, @skyen, if it were math, I'd understand it. This is [terrifying booming voice]music theory!
  • @skyen Yep.  I could follow it, even though I left music theory behind me when I was in high school.  If it were math I'd probably be looking shifty eyed while trying to pretend I was following it.  =P

    Time signatures are easy.  The top number tells you which note gets counted as an entire beat.  The bottom note tells you how many beats are in a measure.  (The measure being the space between vertical lines in music notation.)  You *can* get math involved in it , but most musicians aren't the greatest at math in the world and will keep things as simple as possible.  (Those who are good at both have my respect and a bit of envy.)

    When you just double the numbers in the time signature you're not really changing the nature of the beast.  You're usually changing things visually just so people can read the music easier, such as when you've got a whole bunch of notes all rushed and crammed in there together but you're keeping the same pace.  (You can still count 1-2-3, or 1-2-3-4, when all the sudden there are eight notes between each count instead of one or two.)  It looks more confusing, and sounds more complicated, than it really is.  ^_^
  • So aside from Tom Waits, any other interesting covers of Nobody Loves You Like Me?  I absolutely love the way JoCo does it, but I think there's a lot of potential for other interesting takes on it.  Barber shop quartet anyone?
  • @oddaustin also covered it. I haven't listened to it recently because I'm too lazy to open a bandcamp preview compatible browser, but I remember liking it and thinking it was interesting.

    It would be interesting to hear the Barrytones do it. Actually, I did see Paul and Storm sing a little bit of it.
  • Loving the music theory discussion -- can it be shifted here?

  • That's the thread I was looking for earlier! @Bry can always find them.
  • I still need to finish Artificial Heart.  What I've heard so far isn't....AMAZING, but I suppose not everything is at first glance.  
  • Wowholycrap I've got a lot of reading to catch up on if I'm going to get my bearings and not make a noob of myself again.  That's a really handy link right there.  Thanks for finding it @Bry, and thanks for thinking I'd want to see it @Angelastic.

    I suppose back on topic, I really wanted to say I got an Icarus vibe from Now I Am an Arsonist and I can't even put my finger on it.  Every time I listen to it I'm transported back to when my grandpa told me the story of Daedalus and Icarus, because he had Icarus engraved on his wedding ring.  It just seems to be the tragedy of striving for too much...but what a way to go.  It's brilliant and hopeful and sad all at once to me.  I had similar thoughts about the Challenger and Columbia that were mentioned in the thread before, but that was just my first impression before my mind found another image to latch onto.
  • edited October 2011
    Interesting tweet by [S] of @paulandstorm...!/paulandstorm/status/121325319469809664

    Damn. I should be sleeping but can't resist a puzzle.

  • @elliomeg ;

    Then how would the symbols make sense on the rest of the CD packaging? This is driving me mad....for a while I was positive this must be nerd sniping
  • No. NO. I will have no part in this. This will grab hold of me and never let go. I'll wait for greater nerds to solve it, lest I sacrifice what little is left of my free time on the altar of this dark temptation.
  • edited October 2011
    Hehe. I was amused by the references to Tucson Diagnostics on the order/quiz pages (I did google it at the time, in case there were obvious clues, but didn't find much), but didn't think they'd make a website for it. :D
  • BryBry
    edited October 2011

    In case anyone hasn't clicked through, spoilers for symbols (and the only non-"under construction" link I found on the page after like twenty seconds of mouse-hovering) are here.

    (Also, Tucson Diagnostics aren't any better than I am at consistently spelling "Tucson" correctly.)

    ETA: this would've been lots more helpful if I'd, y'know, saved the results from the little quiz they made me take.

  • @bry I know! In my hurry to get the biggest and best I don't seem to have saved a screenshot of my nemesis... (or who I really am or want to be).
  • I don't believe the Tucson Diagnostics site is affiliated with JoCo & Co. It may, however, be related to the twitter account @TucsDiag.

    I asked Sam Potts for clues about the symbols on Twitter, but his reply was unhelpful.
  • Ahh, I'd meant to do a Whois but didn't have time. Would have saved myself looking like a fool!
  • I did a whois, but thought I'd wait until somebody expressed a doubt before mentioning it. Ninja'd by @Bry!

  • Shame on you Angela for willfully withholding information merely to spring it on some poor unsuspecting soul.
  • @TamChronin slight correct on time signatures - the top number is how many beats, and the bottom number is which kind of note has been used to mean a beat in the notation. The note type numbers relate directly to American-style note names - 1 for a whole note, 2 for a half note, 4 for a quarter note etc. I suspect the names actually came from the time signature notation, as 5/4 looks a lot like '5 quarters in a bar', thus 5 quarter notes.

    Being British, I like being all archaic and mysterious, so I call whole notes 'semibreves', half notes 'minims' and so forth. Being an early musician, I also encounter breves and longer notes quite regularly too. Sometimes I think people who engrave the final chord of a piece as a longa (that's four breves, or eight semibreves) with a fermata over it are just taking the mick.

    But further music theory discussion to the music theory thread.
  • Ok, Kate and I figured out what Dissolve is all about. Let's break it down, shall we?

    First, for those who have been talking about it, the "dissolving" is figurative. As is the box, for that matter. :)

    The thing in the (figurative) box is his broken heart because she up and left him. And how the world is spinning because, well, his woman just broke up with him. "something secret" "precious and rare". 

    And at the end, where he left a box on the table for the listener? Well, he's just gone on to break someone else's heart in the same manner in the way his was broken. And he's fled the scene, so to speak. It's not unheard of for one person who is in pain to pass that pain onto someone else, but that's delving into deep psychological stuff.

    Pretty good, eh? ;) Kate gets all the credit for the discovery.

  • So the narrator in "Good Morning Tucson" says what he has to say, kills everyone in the studio, sets the building on fire, returns to broadcast his final sign off, makes his way out of the flaming inferno, and calmly drives away?
  • srdownie >> Well, that, or some Elder God bursts through reality into the studio, driving him insane and, yes, probably killing everyone and setting things on fire.
  • Or it could be "Brazil" redux, where the happy ending occurs only in the narrator's mind?
  • edited October 2011

    Oh, I thought he set a timed car bomb* before going into the studio, so that it would explode during his broadcast and he could say what he needed to say just before and during the inferno. It doesn't seem like he leaves to set a fire during the broadcast. I presumed he intended to die in the blaze with everyone else. Well, maybe some or all of the others escaped, since they would have tried to get out rather than staying to give some insane message on camera.

    * that's why the smoke comes from beyond his parking space. Was that 'behind' in some early performances, or did I just mishear it?

    ETA: I'm imagining the studio has floor-to-ceiling windows in front of the presenters, which is how he sees the smoke and the billboard. I guess they'd have to be west-facing, though, so they don't get the sun in their eyes (presuming it has risen by the time they actually start filming) and this might make the studio impractical to use for other shows later in the day. In fact I suppose variable natural light would be a problem for any TV broadcast. But I don't think about the logistics of a field I've never been involved in when I'm listening to a song. Now you've ruined it for me! In protest, I'm going to go burn down a building with a tram bomb.


    For those who haven't got theirs yet, it says:

    Thank you for your patience. Finally here is news about the materials you requested as part of your participation in the Jonathan Coulton Artificial heart program. Your order id is [message redacted].

    Level 1: You have already gotten all you're going to get. We hope you're happy. That sounds sarcastic, but is actually sincere.

    Level 2: Your compact discs are being signed, and will be in the mail to you by the beginning of next week.

    Level 3: Your compact discs are also being signed, though the assembly of your shirts and posters will take a little extra time. Expect your materials to ship sometime in "the beginning of November."

    Level 4: Obviously participation at this level is not to be rushed. Anyone could send you a bunch of garbage in a box TOMORROW if they wanted, but we do not want to send you a box of garbage. We will let you know when a date can be determined with more certainty, but expect something like "the beginning of December." It will be worth the wait - the materials you receive will make you the envy of everyone you know (except of course for your nemesis, who will have the same materials that you do). We are also hard at work on tools that will help you deal with your nemesis problem, and your nemesis's nemesis problem (i.e., you).

    and then there's a link to confirm shipping information and shirt sizes.
  • …and on that link, it says '

    Please also make sure you have selected the right size shirts, using this sizing chart if necessary.

    But there's no chart that I can see. :/ I just sent an email asking about that.
  • Angela, it's a real artificial chart. I also sent them an email.
  • Well, now it just says 'If you require a sizing chart, check this page tomorrow for a link.'
  • I really liked the idea the the song Artificial Heart was about joining a cult.  It turns out the whole album is full of hidden messages about a cult created by Tucson Diagnostics.

    Sticking It To Myself

    This refers to when the Artificial Heart asserts itself as the dominant conciseness. This can happen on occasion, but fear not you are still in there and you have the ability to take back control. It's a great opportunity for growth.

    Artificial Heart

    When patients attain Level 1 they are implanted with a new "heart". This gives them the sense of a second consciousness. Everything will become clear.  You are on the path to becoming the best that you can be.


    One of the things that Tucson Diagnostics promotes is competition. You will not always know who this person is and if you give them an opportunity they will end you. Be vigilant. It also refers to the competition you will have with your Artificial Heart.

    The World Belongs to You

    The Lead Technician designed this program after many years of studing the Universe. He realized everything we thought we knew was wrong but he could prepare everyone for what is to come. Since attaining level 5 diagnostics he has become able to create a plan for everyone to better themselves. You can probably only get to level 4 even if you are completely dedicated but that pretty good and we don't really need more than one level 5 anyway.

    Today With Your Wife

    When you start diagnostics it's possible you will have to leave some things or people behind. They will be fine and would only stall your progress.

    Sucker Punch

    Life without an Artificial Heart is chaotic.  Some people will disappoint you others will use you like a windup toy.  Receiving an Artificial Heart will make other people thoughts and demands irrelevant to you.

    There is no shame in altering your body to circumvent its limitations.

    Je Suis Rick Springfield

    One of the more famous patients is rock legend Rick Springfield; isn't he awesome? Did you know he speaks French?.

    Alone at Home

    A prime candidate for an Artificial Heart.  The sooner he starts testing the sooner he will be able to pursue his own dreams.


    Often an Artificial Heart will act like an analyst and force you to question your thoughts and actions. This is essential to the process

    Good Morning Tucson

    This information is only for those that have attained level 4. The Artificial Heart is not just to help better yourself it's also a second soul, yep souls are real. Also Cthulhu is coming to tear the world apart but fear not he can’t eat two souls in one body and all that money you paid us was used to build a great bomb shelter. The end of the world will as we know it will be pretty bad you will have all the tools you need to continue one once Cthulhu has had his fill.

    Now I Am An Arsonist

    Another depiction of a relationship with an Artificial Heart.  Before she received the Artificial Heart her life felt unfulfilled, dying a little each day.  When she began testing she saw the Artificial Heart as something to aspire to.  Once they were joined the change had begun.  She rose to the height of the Artificial Heart burning away here old life.

    Down Today

    This is an example of another successful bonding.  Again the feeling is floating above everyone and throwing away what was keeping you down.


    Sometime receiving an Artificial Heart is overwhelming. Your whole outlook on life will change and you will have to abandon your normal routines. It will take some time to adjust but when you do enjoy everything more and you will hardly notice the heart is there. In the end you will want everyone to have an Artificial Heart.

    Nobody Loves You Like Me

    Continuing on with the idea that the Artificial Heart is a distinct person implanted inside you. Someday you may want to leave the organization but it's not so easy since the Artificial Heart never wants to leave. This song describes the tale of one such defector that tried to get the Artificial Heart drunk when the attendants tried to find him in his room that evening he had fled into the night. Unfortunately he got so drunk suppressing the Artificial Heart he didn't look while running down the street and was hit by a car.

    Still Alive/Want You Gone

    The content here isn't particularly relevant since they take place in the future but isn't it interesting that Aperture Science and Tucson Diagnostics are both obsessed with constant testing?

    The Stache

    A mustache is required here at Tucson Diagnostics. Why you might ask? Because they're awesome. To the ladies( and some men) who can't grow a regulation stache, fear not we have the solution you were looking for.  It’s like Rogaine but for your upper lip.

  • I'm starting to see things clearly now. GlaDOS wrote all of Jonathan's songs, and tried to make it look like it was the other way around. I have a hypothesis about everyone's favourite nemesis Wil Wheatley, too.

    If I'm not here in the morning, eat some cake in my memory, will you?
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