From the category archives:

Music

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Even though he’s already met his goal, I think this is such a great project that I just supported it:

And you still have time to support it, too.

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From a New York Times article about the International Music Score Library:

“In many cases these publishers are basically getting the revenue off of composers who are dead for a very long time,” Mr. Guo said. “The Internet has become the dominant form of communication. Copyright law needs to change with it. We want people to have access to this material to foster creativity. Personally I don’t feel pity for these publishers.”

This comment by Mr. Guo has personal resonance:

“Composing is very good until you have to pay your bills,” he said.

As does this one, however much at odds it is with the last one:

“As a musician I have a duty to promote music. That’s the basic philosophy behind it.”

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“I couldn’t imagine a life in which I would not be surrounded by music. It shelters you from the world, which protects you, which keeps you at a certain distance from the world. Because I think that the only advantage that any artist has, the only thing that any artists can really write about, and all artists do write about it, whether they know it or not, is that distance from the world. I do realize it, and I know that I obtain it through media, and I know that I would be very unhappy as a 19th-Century man.”

– Glenn Gould, in the new film Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould

The embedded video is from nowness.com. For some reason — probably some intellectual property law absurdity — only Canadians can view video on the promo site for the film, even though it’s now playing in the US.

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Céleste Boursier-Mougenot at London’s Barbican from The Wire Magazine on Vimeo.

Video footage of musician and artist Céleste Boursier-Mougenot’s installation of electric guitars and zebra finches at London’s Barbican Curve gallery, 23 February – 23 May 2010

I’d like to hear a longer version of this, without the camera crew chasing the finches from guitar to guitar.

A proposed sequel: finches in a room full of lid-less grand pianos, with cement blocks on the damper pedals to let the strings sound. Why didn’t Henry Cowell ever get animals involved? Other than human animals, that is.

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Motorized Glass

January 6, 2010

in Music,Place,Sound

I went to see Transference last weekend, and it’s not the kind of work I’ll try to summarize in words.

The tone of the bowls is enchanting, but so is the clicking and tapping of the motors which turn them.

The piece is installed right next to the entrance, so the ebb and flow of people adds another layer to the work. Though I must say: talking loudly about your latest knitting project in the middle of a sound installation is sort of like flicking the lights off and on in the middle of a movie theater.

I feel like I’m channeling Rodney Dangerfield: “Sound gets no respect!!!”

From the second floor of the museum, it’s a quite different experience: almost all tones, and none of the tiny sounds. I prefer the first floor.

Does a sound installation count as craft? Megan Driscoll explores that question and has some great photographs of the piece.

Transference can be heard and seen at the Museum of Contemporary Craft through January 9th. (On the east side of the North Park Blocks.)

Hurry, Portlanders! (But please take your time once you get there…)

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Amanda Palmer said:

artists need to make money to eat and to continue to make art.

artists used to rely on middlemen to collect their money on their behalf, thereby rendering themselves innocent of cash-handling in the public eye.

artists will now be coming straight to you (yes YOU, you who want their music, their films, their books) for their paychecks.
please welcome them. please help them. please do not make them feel badly about asking you directly for money.
dead serious: this is the way shit is going to work from now on and it will work best if we all embrace it and don’t fight it.

i am shameless, and fearless, when it comes to money and art.

i can’t help it: i come from a street performance background.
i stood almost motionless on a box in harvard square, painted white, relinquishing my fate and income to the goodwill and honor of the passers-by.

i spent years gradually building up a tolerance to the inbuilt shame that society puts on laying your hat/tipjar on the ground and asking the public to support your art.

i was harassed, jeered at, mocked, ignored, insulted, spit at, hated.
i was also applauded, appreciated, protected, loved….all by strangers passing me in the street.
people threw shit at me.
people also came up to me and told me that i’d changed their lives, brightened their day, made them cry.

some people used to yell “GET A FUCKING JOB” from their cars when they drove by me.
i, of course, could not yell back. i was a fucking statue, statues do not yell.

if you think i’m going to pass up a chance to put my hat back down in front of the collected audience on my virtual sidewalk and ask them to give their hard-earned money directly to me instead of to roadrunner records, warner music group, ticketmaster, and everyone else out there who’s been shamelessly raping both fan and artist for years, you’re crazy

via Walt Pascoe et al

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Quite an Exercise

September 7, 2009

in Music,Process,Video

György Ligeti’s etudes are a bit more compelling than most piano exercises…and what an ending!

Bonus: Here’s Ligeti’s Etude No. 2:

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No, I don’t mean Marshall McLuhan.

I’m doing some research on Glenn Gould at the moment, and was floored at the prescience of this passage:

“Electronic transmission has already inspired a new concept of multiple-authorship responsibility in which the specific functions of the composer, the performer, and, indeed, the consumer overlap. We need only think for a moment of the manner in which the formerly separate roles of composer and performer are now automatically combined in electronic tape construction or, to give an example more topical than potential, the way in which the home listener is now able to exercise limited technical and, for that matter, critical judgments, courtesy of the modestly resourceful controls of his hi-fi. It will not, it seems to me, be very much longer before a more self-assertive streak is detected in the listener’s participation, before, to give but one example, “do-it-yourself” tape editing is the prerogative of every reasonably conscientious consumer of recorded music (the Hausmusik activity of the future, perhaps!). And I would be most surprised if the consumer involvement were to terminate at that level. In fact, implicit in electronic culture is the acceptance of the idea of multilevel participation in the creative process.”

– From “Strauss and the Electronic Future” which appeared in the Saturday Review on May 30, 1964

I wonder what he’d make of GarageBand, MySpace and YouTube?

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Writing about music is difficult. How many times have you read a well-written review of a concert or recording, and then still had no idea at all what to expect when hearing the music?

That’s why I find this excerpt from a Tang Dynasty poem so remarkable:

“The thick strings splattered like a rain shower,
the thin strings whispered privately like lovers,
splattering and whispering back and forth,
big pearls and small pearls dropping into a jade plate.
Smooth, the notes were skylarks chirping under flowers.
Uneven, the sound flowed like a spring under ice,
the spring water cold and strained, the strings congealing silence,
freezing to silence, till the sounds couldn’t pass, and were momentarily at rest.
Now some other hidden sorrow and dark regret arose
and at this moment silence was better than sound.
Suddenly a silver vase exploded and the water splashed out,
iron horse galloped through and swords and spears clashed.
When the tune stopped, she struck the heart of the instrument,
all four strings together, like a piece of silk tearing.
Silence then in the east boat and the west.
All I could see in the river’s heart was the autumn moon, so pale.”

From “Song of the Lute” by Bai Juyi (772-846)
Translated by Tony Barnstone and Chou Ping

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As if this free preview of their new album isn’t enough, Jónsi & Alex also offer a raw food cookbook for download. (I never thought of biting the lemon to get every last drop of juice out…)

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Charles Blow’s column yesterday featured this extraordinarily effective visualization of the diminution of the music business, as it has shifted from medium to medium:

Getting smaller over time...

Dwindling...

And in the text of the article, this:

A study last year conducted by members of PRS for Music, a nonprofit royalty collection agency, found that of the 13 million songs for sale online last year, 10 million never got a single buyer and 80 percent of all revenue came from about 52,000 songs. That’s less than one percent of the songs.

When Chris Anderson introduced the idea of the Long Tail, his enthusiasm was focused on all the new ways once obscure idea-makers might find audiences, however small. Looking at the above statistics, what’s remarkable is how much of what we consider mainstream culture is actually in the tail — and the tail isn’t making much money.

Of course, such a study doesn’t measure all music sales, and it certainly doesn’t capture the experience of discovering music, sharing our discoveries, live performances, making music, or any of the other ways that music impacts our lives.

And it reminds me of a Claude Debussy quote I recently read, via Ray Kurzweil:

“At a time like ours, in which mechanical skill has attained unsuspected perfection, the most famous works may be heard as easily as one may drink a glass of beer, and it only costs ten centimes, like the automatical weighing machines. Should we not fear this domestication of sound, this magic that anyone can bring from a disk at will? Will it not bring to waste the mysterious force of an art which one might have thought indestructible?”

Given the resiliency of thought and self-expression — musical and otherwise — I’ll venture a “No” vote to that question.

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“Software options proliferate extremely easily, too easily in fact, because too many options create tools that can’t ever be used intuitively. Intuitive actions confine the detail work to a dedicated part of the brain, leaving the rest of one’s mind free to respond with attention and sensitivity to the changing texture of the moment. With tools, we crave intimacy. This appetite for emotional resonance explains why users – when given a choice – prefer deep rapport over endless options. You can’t have a relationship with a device whose limits are unknown to you, because without limits it keeps becoming something else.”

– Brian Eno, Wired Magazine (January 1999)

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In a recent edition of BBC’s From Our Own Correspondent:

Even in your own language, it is difficult to catch accurately the words of a song if they are not written down in front of you, and in France, which imports most of its music from the US or UK, there is even a word for the appropriation of lyrics.

It is “yaourt”, or “to yoghurt”.

You start singing confidently… and then trail off into inarticulate “yoghurting” when your lexicon runs dry.

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Ge Wang has assembled MoPho — a mobile phone orchestra — at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (aka CCRMA).

As a fan of drones, I’m keen on the possibilities demonstrated in the ensemble piece Drone In/Drone Out. (It’s a Quicktime video, so you’ll have to click through to see it. Thanks for the link, Ge!)

More information:

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