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Kara Swisher

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Earlier today, Yahoo said it had acquired the trendy and decidedly stylish news reading app Summly, along with its telegenic and very young entrepreneur Nick D’Aloisio.

Yahoo said it plans to close down the actual app and use the algorithmic summation technology that the 17-year-old D’Aloisio built with a small team of five, along with a major assist from Silicon Valley research institute SRI International, throughout its products.

While Yahoo did not disclose the price, several sources told me that the company paid $30 million — 90 percent in cash and 10 percent in stock — to buy the London-based Apple smartphone app.

And despite its elegant delivery, that’s a very high price, especially since Summly has been downloaded slightly less than one million times since launch — after a quick start amid much publicity over its founder — with about 90 million “summaries” read. Of course, like many such apps, it also had no monetization plan as yet.

What Yahoo is getting, though, is perhaps more valuable — the ability to put the fresh-faced D’Aloisio front and center of its noisy efforts to make consumers see Yahoo as a mobile-first company. That has been the goal of CEO Marissa Mayer, who has bought up a range of small mobile startups since she took over nine months ago and who has talked about the need for Yahoo to focus on the mobile arena above all.

Mayer met with D’Aloisio, said sources, although the deal was struck by voluble M&A head Jackie Reses.

Said one person close to the deal, about the founder: “Nick will be a great person to put in front of the media and consumers with Mayer to make Yahoo seem like it is a place that loves both entrepreneurs and mobile experiences, which in turn will presumably attract others like him.”

Having met the young man in question, who was in San Francisco in the fall on a fundraising trip, I can see the appeal. He’s both well-spoken and adorkable, as well as very adept at charming cranky media types like me by radiating with the kinetic energy of someone born in the mobile world (you can see that in full force in the video below with actor and Summly investor Stephen Fry).

Still, D’Aloisio is very young and presumably has a lot of other entrepreneurial goals and that’s why he agreed as part of the deal to only officially stay 18 months at Yahoo, multiple sources told me. In many cases, startup founders strike such short-term employment deals with big companies, agreeing to stay for a certain determined time period.

He will also remain in England, where he lives with his parents, said sources. In addition, only two of Summly’s employees will go to Yahoo with D’Aloisio.

That’s $10 million each, along with a nifty app Yahoo will not be using as is (too bad, as it would up the hip and fun factor of Yahoo’s apps by a factor of a gazillion if it were maintained).

“It works out on a lot of levels,” said another person close to the situation. “Nick is a founder that will make Mayer and Yahoo look cutting edge.”

Cue the parade of PR profiles of the young genius made millionaire, helping Yahoo become relevant again.

I have an email for comment into the always friendly D’Aloisio. But I don’t expect a reply, since he has apparently been specifically instructed by the martinets of Yahoo PR not to talk to me any longer — well, for 18 months at least! (Don’t worry, Nick, I don’t blame you and will still listen to whatever you are pitching next, since you are so dang compelling and I enjoyed using Summly!)

Until then, here’s the faboo Summly video, with the best chairs ever:

Summly Launch from Summly on Vimeo.

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You know you’re in for something different with an article that contains this line: “as 256 bytes is becoming the new 4K, there has been ever more need to play decent music in the 256-byte size class. ”

In just a single line of code, Finnish artist and coder countercomplex, working with other contributors, is creating “bitwise creations in a pre-apocalyptic world.” What’s stunning is to listen to the results, even if you have trouble following the code – the results are complex and organic, glitchy but with compositional direction, as though the machine itself had learned to compose in its own, strange language.

This is, naturally, the opposite of the musical coding in the previous post: in place of human-readable languages representing abstractions atop other abstractions, this is pure algorithm transformed into music. Geeky, yes, but it also says something about musical composition and thought independent of the computer. It is as compact an expression of a human musical idea as one could imagine.

I recommend reading the whole blog post (and following the blog for new developments). Embedded in this whole exercise are thoughts about musical algorithms, the history of chip and 8-bit music and the demoscene, and, most interestingly, the question of whether digital music might yet yield “new” (or at least largely unknown) discoveries:

Hasn’t this been done before?

We’ve had the technology for all this for decades. People have been building musical circuits that operate on digital logic, creating short pieces of software that output music, experimenting with chaotic audiovisual programs and trying out various algorithms for musical composition. Mathematical theory of music has a history of over two millennia. Based on this, I find it quite mind-boggling that I have never before encountered anything similar to our discoveries despite my very long interest in computing and algorithmic sound synthesis. I’ve made some Google Scholar searches for related papers but haven’t find anything. Still, I’m quite sure that at many individuals have come up with these formulas before, but, for some reason, their discoveries remained in obscurity.

Algorithmic symphonies from one line of code — how and why? [countercomplex]

But can you dance to it?

Matt Ganucheau contributed to this story from San Francisco.

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What makes music software popular? Simple recording, DJ, and remix apps unsurprisingly do well. But perhaps as a testament to the importance of individual music expression, some stranger entries do, too. And those less-typical software creations can give you new ways of exploring music creation and performance. Just take Nodal.

GarageBand sits comfortably at the top of the sellers list on Apple’s App Store. But, at least briefly, a generative composition tool has rocketed to second place. Nodal 1.7, available for both Mac and Windows, is unlike most music production tools. In place of linear track arrangement, clusters of graphical nodes represent musical structure, awaiting real-time experimentation. In a network you create, “virtual players” produce patterns by traversing a geometric map defining pitch, rhythm, and sequence.

Nodal and tools like it have always been able to create musical machines from simple elements, letting the user define an arrangement and then set it in motion. But Nodal 1.7 is a major release in that it allows MIDI control, so that you can actually “play” the structure and not just sit back and let it roll.

This isn’t just for ambient music lovers, either – sync features mean you can use Nodal just as easily in rhythmic pieces or even dance music.

Developer Peter Mcilwain tells CDM:

We think new features make [Nodal 1.7] a serious composing tool. Firstly, it can be synced to other applications. Next, individual networks can be triggered (like clips in Ableton) from MIDI notes. The velocity levels in these networks can be scaled according to the velocity of the triggering note. Also, the edges or connections between nodes can now contain MIDI controller curves. This is all demonstrated in [the YouTube clip at top].

The triggering aspect means that you can perform with a generative system in a very intuitive way. Also, I have been working on a piece for a flute ensemble in which I create a triggering score in Logic. This information is then sent to Nodal. Nodal then sends back MIDI which is rendered and recorded in Logic. I’m finding this a fascinating and natural way to work.

Nodal has slipped a bit since Peter first contacted me, but seeing this among the top Mac App Store apps to me is tremendously satisfying. Peter tells us they’re not giving up their day jobs, but it’s nice just to get to support great software.

Nodal: Generative Music Software

I’d love to hear more about Nodal here, especially if you’re making interesting stuff with it. Of course, to discuss with other Nodal users, your best bet is the Nodal discussion group:

Support | Nodal Google Group

The development team – Jon McCormack, Alan Dorin, Aidan Lane, Jon McCormack and Peter McIlwain of Monash University’s Centre for Electronic Media Art in Australia – have published technical papers, too:

Nodal R&D / Technical Papers

Nodal fans / users … or other folks doing development … we’d love to hear from you.

For more generative goodness, see also:

Intermorphic and Noatikl / Mixtilk, a cross-platform system that also includes mobile tools for iOS, from the same team that collaborated with Brian Eno and worked on the landmark SSEYO Koan system.

Hans Kuder’s Tiction uses graphical nodes as does Nodal, and, built in Processing, works on any OS (including Linux). Unfortunately, I’m not sure what happens to Hans or the tool; if anyone knows, let us know.

There are probably others I’m forgetting as the coffee settles in, so chime in in comments.

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