小籠包 (Extra Little Buns)

I was trying to describe a chinese delicacy, called 小籠包, to an american friend but I didn't know its English name. So I went and searched around and I discovered people just call it steamed pork dumplings, What an unsexy name for one of the yummiest things on this Earth. I feel that the name Steamed pork dumplings just don't do justice to the dish. 

It then occurred. The romanized name for 小籠包 is Xiao Long Bao. What if we retained the acronym, XLB, and instead called them eXtra Little Buns? Just one of my spur of the moment crazy ideas. ha ha.

Big Data, Large Scale Machine Learning

I only just learnt that John Langford and Yann LeCun has recently just gave a class on Big Data and Large Scale Machine Learning at NYU. Not only that, they have opened the entire course to the web, for free. I have seen a couple of the lectures and I think they're very interesting.

The Growth of Amy Whitcomb as a Singer

I just found out that one of my favorite undiscovered singer, Amy Whitcomb, has auditioned for The Voice Season 4 and from the promos it seems she has done very well. Congratulations, Amy. I hope you'll be the winner of The Voice season 4! Befitting the occasion, I thought I will showcase her growth as a singer over the years.

2009

This is earliest Youtube video I can find of Amy. Back then she was part of Brigham Young University's all female A Capella group, Noteworthy.

This is her with spikey hair singing Think as lead-singer for Noteworthy when they participated in season 1 of The Sing-Off.

2011

Fast forward 2 years. This is her singing her version of Bruno Mar's Grenade. I have also included her group, Delilah's version of the same song which they sung in The Sing-Off season 3.

2012

Here are two of my favorite songs she has uploaded to Youtube in 2012, Bruno Mar's It Will Rain and Beyonce's Love On Top.

Pentatonix - Just Keeps Getting Better and Better

By now, you know I'm a hard core fan of the up and coming a capella group, Pentatonix. Up till now, I thought their cover of Dog Days Are Over by Florence and the Machines was their best work. Not anymore. Early this month the group went to the Los Angeles Acapella Festival (LAAF) and met up with Ben Brams. Ben is an arranger for The Sing-Off and he has helped many Sing-Off groups polish up their competition pieces. Anyway in just a few days Ben Brams and Pentatonix came up with a cover of Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know.

This has quickly became my new favorite song from Pentatonix.

2012: The Year A Cappella Goes Mainstream?

This is just a sneaking suspicion of mine, but I get this feeling that mainstream musicians will start mixing in a cappella influences in their musical creations in the coming year or years. By influences, I mean vocal bass and vocal percussion (aka beatboxing). Sure, this is not new stuff and I have heard beatboxing done since the 1980s. However, right now I do not think there is a single mainstream album out there that uses beatboxing nor vocal basses.

Thanks to groups like Pentatonix and Urban Method from The Sing-Off, I believe there will be a resurgence in employing vocal basses and percussion as these techniques allow musicians to put emotion into the low end of their sound, something that may not be easily accomplished with musical instruments. This is especially true in live performances and concerts where a human bass and beatboxer (ahem, vocal percussionist) can freestyle and easily adapt to any changes in the music.

Adding to that is Pentatonix. This group has certainly proved that it is possible for an a cappella group to create an authentic hip-hop/club/techno sound. Not only that, their Sing-Off performances have routinely broken into iTunes's top 100 list, and if this blog article is not wrong (no guarantees) they even had a song in the top 10 list on iTunes. So there is a strong possibility that Pentatonix may become the first a cappella group to go mainstream in this century. If this really happens, then 2012 may be the year that a cappella goes mainstream.