It must be disheartening work learning a musical instrument. You would think that Society, for its own sake, would do all it could to assist a man to acquire the art of playing a musical instrument. But it doesn’t!
I knew a young fellow once, who was studying to play the bagpipes, and you would be surprised at the amount of opposition he had to contend with. Why, not even from the members of his own family did he receive what you could call active encouragement. His father was dead against the business from the beginning, and spoke quite unfeelingly on the subject.
My friend used to get up early in the morning to practise, but he had to give that plan up, because of his sister. She was somewhat religiously inclined, and she said it seemed such an awful thing to begin the day like that.
So he sat up at night instead, and played after the family had gone to bed, but that did not do, as it got the house such a bad name. People, going home late, would stop outside to listen, and then put it about all over the town, the next morning, that a fearful murder had been committed at Mr. Jefferson’s the night before; and would describe how they had heard the victim’s shrieks and the brutal oaths and curses of the murderer, followed by the prayer for mercy, and the last dying gurgle of the corpse.
Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.
July 19, 2014
June 30, 2014
Published on 30 Jun 2014
Guild Wars 2 composer Maclaine Diemer gives a sneak peak of the soundtrack for Season Two, which was performed and recorded by a live orchestra in Germany.
To know more about the Living World of Guild Wars 2, make sure to regularly check the Releases page of the website: https://www.guildwars2.com/en/the-game/releases/
June 7, 2014
I first heard about Liquid Tension Experiment through ESR, who also posted this link, saying:
Skip the cheesy Wagner quote and the purple lava lamps at the beginning and prepare to be awed.
Most of the bad music of my lifetime is redeemed somewhere in this two hours; every grunt of crappy three-chord rock, sigh of excessively involuted jazz, and squeal of self-indulgent “progressive” bloat was worth living through because they fused and in the hands of genius gave rise to… this.
Liquid Tension Experiment, Live in LA, 2008.
May 13, 2014
CBC News reports that Nash the Slash has died:
He started the independent record label Cut-Throat Records, which he used to release his own music. Among his albums was Decomposing, which he claimed could be listened to at any speed, and Bedside Companion, which he said was the first record out of Toronto to use a drum machine.
His biggest hit was Dead Man’s Curve, a cover of a Jan and Dean song.
More recently, he played at Toronto’s Pride Festival and toured up until 2012. In 1997 Cut-Throat released a CD compilation of Nash the Slash’s first two recordings entitled Blind Windows. In 1999 he released Thrash. In April 2001, Nash released his score to the silent film classic Nosferatu.
Plewman retired in 2012, bemoaning file-sharing online and encouraging artists to be more independent. “It’s time to roll up the bandages,” he wrote.
In the last few years, Plewman also became a vocal supporter of Toronto Mayor Rob Ford.
He will be remembered for his experimental ethos as well as his unusual stage presence.
“I refused to be slick and artificial,” Plewman wrote of his own career.
There has not been word on how the musician died.
H/T to Victor for the link.
Update: Kathy Shaidle has more.
May 10, 2014
Actually, more than a few things, as the Freakonomics team of Dubner and Levitt explain:
King Solomon built the First Temple in Jerusalem and was known throughout the land for his wisdom.
David Lee Roth fronted the rock band Van Halen and was known throughout the land for his prima-donna excess.
What could these two men possibly have had in common? Well, both were Jewish; both got a lot of girls; and both wrote the lyrics to a No. 1 pop song (“Jump” in Mr. Roth’s case and, in Solomon’s, several verses from Ecclesiastes that appeared in the Byrds’ 1965 hit “Turn! Turn! Turn”). But most improbably, they both dabbled in game theory, as seen in classic stories about their clever strategic thinking.
And so it was that David Lee Roth and King Solomon both engaged in a fruitful bit of game theory — which, narrowly defined, is the art of beating your opponent by anticipating his next move.
Both men faced a similar problem: How to sift the guilty from the innocent when no one is stepping forward to profess their guilt? A person who is lying or cheating will often respond to an incentive differently than an honest person. Wouldn’t it be nice if this fact could be exploited to ferret out the bad guys?
We believe it can — by tricking the guilty parties into unwittingly revealing their guilt through their own behavior. What should this trick be called? In honor of King Solomon, we’ll name it as if it is a lost proverb: Teach Your Garden to Weed Itself.
May 6, 2014
Lorraine McBride talks to Rick Wakeman about his career.
Has there ever been a time when you worried how you were going to pay the bills?
Yes, there have always been times like that. In the late Sixties, when I played at the Top Rank ballroom, being an organist meant carting my organ around to sessions, which cost two thirds of my earnings, on top of running a car, which was when I learnt the word “expenses”.
My rent cost £8 a week and I can remember being really short. In 1970, I was up in London looking for session work and Marc Bolan who was a great mate, gave me a session for Get It On. All I had to do was a glissando on the piano. I said to him afterwards, “You could have done that,” and he replied, “Well, you want your rent money don’t you?” Tough times, but when I joined Yes, I went from £18 a week to £50 a week.
Yes made a fortune, what did you spend it on?
We were all told to go out and buy a nice house, which was an eye-opener because I’d only known a two-up, two-down and a Ford Anglia. Suddenly we were talking five-bed, des-res. I remember looking around one house for sale in Gerrards Cross and the lady said, “This is the breakfast room.” I said: “What, just for breakfast?” because it was just a different world.
Lots of rock stars get ripped off, did you learn any tough lessons?
Yes, everybody in the business did. One thing you start to learn, usually too late, is that being top of the tree doesn’t last forever. You drop down a few branches and find your position but you set yourself a lifestyle that requires “top of the tree” earnings to pay for it. Then of course, you have the unexpected events like a divorce of which I’ve had three.
Suddenly you grow up very quickly and certainly when a problem hits, you back-pedal to try and work out how to sort it out. I was lucky. I had a very good accountant who helped tremendously and I learnt to listen but it took a long time. It probably wasn’t until the turn of the millennium when I found myself in yet another divorce, when the situation seems unbelievable, you really start to listen.
What’s been your best financial move?
Undoubtedly listening to David Bowie who said: “Be your own man and don’t listen to people who don’t know a hatchet from a crotchet and try to fulfil their own ideas through you because they haven’t got any.” I wanted to do Journey to the Centre of the Earth with an orchestra but there wasn’t enough money from the record company. I ended up mortgaging my house, selling everything I owned. I begged, borrowed and stole to do it. But the record company didn’t want it and I faced losing everything because I was so heavily in debt.
Eventually my record company in America loved it, insisted it was released and it sold 15 million copies and that really taught me to be my own man. Spending money I didn’t have was simply my best financial decision because if I hadn’t done it, 40 years on, I wouldn’t be doing my shows now.
April 29, 2014
The music business has flipped 180 degrees in his lifetime, and he led the charge a bit. It used to be that the bandstand was filled with disreputable drunks and drug addicts, womanizers, and plain bums, and the audience was filled with staid drones, dressed for Easter, who instructed their teenage daughters to stay away from musicians and marry a nice accountant, maybe. Nowadays it’s more likely for the audiences to be filled with disreputable cave people, higher than a kite and all dressed like a roadie for Metallica, while the stage is filled with the hardworking, sober people. And the only work for an accountant these days is counting a musician’s money. No one in the audience knows where their next meal is coming from.
Lots of cool cats in attendance in the video. Music used to be more intimate like that. The world would be a better place if you could get dressed up like you’re going to be buried, take the chariot down to a supper club, slide into the banquette, and listen to jazz made fresh daily over the sound of your glasses clinking. It sure beat today’s version of a concert: getting groped by amateur TSA diddlers, then standing three hundred yards from a stage, looking at the TFT side of ten thousand crummy phones pointed at the replacements for the bandmembers that died in bizarre gardening accidents.
Sippican Cottage, “The State Of The Art In 1959: The Ahmad Jamal Trio”, Sippican Cottage, 2014-04-28
April 26, 2014
B-Classic presents The Classical Comeback: a new music video format that gives classical music the same recognition as pop and rock music by combining the timeless emotion of classical music with the visual talent of a contemporary director.
H/T to Michael Vincent who initially wasn’t impressed.
April 24, 2014
Inc. Magazine isn’t where you’d normally expect to find profiles of famous musicians, but Jeff Haden’s article covers both the musical and the entrepreneurial sides of Joe Satriani:
Put aside selling millions of critically acclaimed solo albums. Put aside touring with Mick Jagger, Deep Purple, and Chickenfoot. Put aside teaching legendary guitarists like Steve Vai, Kirk Hammett, Andy Timmons, and Alex Skolnick and creating signature guitar and equipment lines. Put aside founding the long-running G3 concert series.
World class musician? Absolutely — but inside 14-time Grammy nominated guitarist Joe Satriani also beats the heart of a true entrepreneur.
This month marks the release of Satriani’s new book, Strange Beautiful Music: A Musical Memoir, as well as his career retrospective box set, The Complete Studio Recordings. It’s the perfect time to talk to him about the business of Joe Satriani. (Spoiler alert: While you might think entrepreneurs have nothing in common with musicians, you’re definitely wrong.)
It’s almost a given in the music business that artists eventually regret the terms of their first contract. They’re so happy to get signed that they will sign almost anything. Yet your experience was very different.
Success came to me in my late 20s. I had started touring when I was a teenager so I had already seen the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the music business. Plus setting up my own record company taught me a lot.
I walked into Relativity Records as a musician who could not be taken advantage of. That’s why I wound up owning all my own publishing and making a deal that was quite advantageous for a new solo artist. But I really didn’t think of myself as an entrepreneur. I thought of myself as an artist who felt strongly he should control every aspect of his art.
From a business and market opportunity point of view, instrumental rock was not exactly a happening genre. If your goal was to strike while the musical iron was hot your timing was way off.
What you just said is perfect. You encapsulated what I came to grips with when I looked for funding for my first record.
I remember getting turned down by everyone in my local community, and I was just looking for a few thousand dollars. If I had been starting a company to make plastic cups I could probably have gone to a bank and gotten a loan. But a guitar player getting a bank loan to record a record? That was just never going to happen.
After a week of being rejected by local studios and engineers I found this credit card offer in my mailbox. I was pre-approved because of, “My good standing in the community.”
April 20, 2014
It was my business for a long time to tell people that approached the bandstand that their favorite song was of absolutely no interest to everyone else in the room, and we weren’t going to play it. It’s a delicate thing to tell people that the song that contains both the name of their illegitimate children and their pit bulls, and whose album cover is featured on both a tattoo on their chest and painted on the side of their van, isn’t very entertaining. Such information upsets people, like going to the monkey house at the zoo and throwing your poo at the apes. Those monkeys stop in their tracks and stare at you, I’m telling you.
Don’t ask me how I know that.
Sippican Cottage, “Well, I Put The Quarter Right In That Can, But All They Played Was Disco, Man”, Sippican Cottage, 2013-05-06
April 19, 2014
Mike Masnick reports on an inadvertent natural experiment that just came to light:
We’ve written a few times in the past about research done by Paul Heald on copyright and its impact on the availability of certain content. He’s recently published an interesting new study on how the DMCA’s notice-and-takedown regime facilitates making content available by decreasing transaction costs among parties. As we’ve discussed at length, the entertainment industry’s main focus in the next round of copyright reform is to wipe out the notice-and-takedown provisions of the DMCA. The legacy recording and movie industries want everyone else to act as copyright cops, and hate the idea that notice-and-takedown puts the initial burden on themselves as copyright holders.
However, Heald’s research looks at music on YouTube and concludes that the notice-and-takedown system has actually enabled much greater authorized availability of music, by reducing transaction costs. The idea is pretty straightforward. Without a notice-and-takedown provision, someone who wants to post music to YouTube needs to go out and seek a license. Of course, getting permission from all the various rightsholders is frequently impossible. The transaction costs of getting permission make it such that it’s way too high. Yet, with notice-and-takedown, the person can upload the content without permission, and then the copyright holder is given the option of what to do with it. On YouTube, that includes the option of monetizing it, thus “authorizing” the use. That creates a natural experiment for Heald to explore, in which he can see how much content is “authorized” thanks to such a setup. And the result, not surprisingly, is that this system has enabled much greater authorized (and monetized) access to music than an alternative, high transaction cost system, under which uploaders must first seek out permission to upload everything.
April 18, 2014
Opera, to a person genuinely fond of aural beauty, must inevitably appear tawdry and obnoxious, if only because it presents aural beauty in a frame of purely visual gaudiness, with overtones of the grossest sexual provocation. The most successful opera singers of the female sex, at least in America, are not those whom the majority of auditors admire most as singers but those whom the majority of male spectators desire most as mistresses. Opera is chiefly supported in all countries by the same sort of wealthy sensualists who also support musical comedy. One finds in the directors’ room the traditional stock company of the stage-door alley. Such vermin, of course, pose in the newspapers as devout and almost fanatical partisans of art; they exhibit themselves at every performance; one hears of their grand doings, through their press agents, almost every day. But one has merely to observe the sort of opera they think is good to get the measure of their actual artistic discrimination.
The genuine music-lover may accept the carnal husk of opera to get at the kernel of actual music within, but that is no sign that he approves the carnal husk or enjoys gnawing through it. Most musicians, indeed, prefer to hear operatic music outside the opera house; that is why one so often hears such things as “The Ride of the Valkyrie” in the concert hall. “The Ride of the Valkyrie” has a certain intrinsic value as pure music; played by a competent orchestra it may give civilized pleasure. But as it is commonly performed in an opera house, with a posse of flat beldames throwing themselves about the stage, it can only produce the effect of a dose of ipecacuanha. The sort of person who actually delights in such spectacles is the sort of person who delights in plush furniture. Such half-wits are in a majority in every opera house west of the Rhine. They go to the opera, not to hear music, not even to hear bad music, but merely to see a more or less obscene circus. A few, perhaps, have a further purpose; they desire to assist in that circus, to show themselves in the capacity of fashionables, to enchant the yokelry with their splendor. But the majority must be content with the more lowly aim. What they get for the outrageous prices they pay for seats is a chance to feast their eyes upon glittering members of the superior demi-monde, and to abase their groveling souls before magnificoes on their own side of the footlights. They esteem a performance, not in proportion as true music is on tap, but in proportion as the display of notorious characters on the stage is copious, and the exhibition of wealth in the boxes is lavish.
H.L. Mencken, “The Allied Arts: Opera”, Prejudices: Second Series, 1920.
April 16, 2014
In the Telegraph, Michael White explains why Handel’s Messiah really was the 18th century equivalent of Live Aid:
Every year, his masterpiece reliably comes round, filling musicians’ diaries with unending renditions of the Hallelujah Chorus and “Surely he hath borne our griefs” (or “worn our briefs” as choirboys have it), like a tonic for the flagging bank balance. And it will be the same this week, with a performance of some kind or other guaranteed to come your way, unless you’re living in the Outer Hebrides without a choir in sight or sound.
But for good measure, there’s also a BBC TV programme on Saturday in which the historian Amanda Vickery is looking at Messiah’s back story. And it seems her interest isn’t in the piece as a gift to musicians but as a gift to the poor — focusing on a London performance in 1750 that was, as she says, an 18th-century precedent for Live Aid.
This performance took place at the Foundling Hospital in London, which these days is a museum but was then a children’s home attracting the support of celebrated figures in the arts world. Painters including Hogarth gave it canvases to exhibit; composers such as Handel gave it music to perform. And the funds raised helped keep it going — in something like the manner of that other famous children’s home, the Ospedale della Pietà, Venice, where Vivaldi gave his services.
The only problem was that Handel depended for commercial success on operatic ventures that proved disastrously expensive and went sour when public tastes changed (as they always do). Hence his interest in writing English oratorios: they were cheaper to produce than opera, avoided over-priced Italian singers and attracted decent audiences.
Hence Messiah, which was written not for London but for Dublin, where it was premiered in April 1742. A large crowd was clearly expected because notices published in advance begged gentlemen to leave their swords at home and ladies to attend “without Hoops”. The critical information on those notices, though, was that making room for more people would “greatly increase the Charity”; because even this initial Dublin try-out was a fundraiser, designed for the relief of prisoners and an infirmary.
So it was good causes that helped swell the turnout. And from what we know of how it went, the audience was high-minded, entering into the spirit of an entertainment that was happening in a concert hall but none the less used sacred texts.
Jonathan Swift, the Dean of Dublin’s Anglican Cathedral, had initially tried to stop his choir being involved, on the grounds that a concert hall wasn’t the right place for such things, and that one of the soloists, Susannah Cibber, was a woman of loose morals. But when she sang “He was despised” she did so with such beauty that another clergyman in the audience stood up and shouted “Woman, thy sins be forgiven”: the kind of engagement you might wish of modern audiences, if only they could be distracted from their iPhones.
April 4, 2014
In sp!ked, Tom Slater reflects on the life and work of Kurt Cobain:
… it’s impossible to separate the man from the music. Cobain was widely hailed as the last great rock icon — someone whose life, work and time coalesced to form one totemic legend. Any claim that pop music, in and of itself, can attain some level of immortality, as if, like the great works of antiquity, we can easily separate the work from the man and the myth, is ludicrous. Popular culture is always intertwined with the conditions, and often the person, that helped create it and make it cool. The question, two decades on, is what do we make of it all; of Nirvana, Generation X and Cobain himself.
The slacker generation marked a clear decline in rock youth culture, the point at which all that once made it vital, exuberant and exciting collapsed. Generation X was not about young teenagers railing against an unjust society but cutting themselves off from it and sneering at all the bigoted sheeple. On the day that Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna famously spray-painted the words ‘Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit’ on the walls of Cobain’s flat, giving birth to the name of an anthem, Cobain, Hanna and a gaggle of their mates had been out spraying ‘God is gay’ on religious centres. In the scrawled liner notes to Nirvana’s 1992 compilation Incesticide, Cobain wrote: ‘If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of a different colour, or women, please do this one favour for us — leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.’ Of course, it’s unlikely many Nirvana fans were card-carrying bigots or fundamentalist Christians — but that didn’t matter. Teenage rebellion had given way to putting the fucked up world to rights in the confines of your box bedroom.
Cobain disdained his own success, mainly because it meant people he didn’t like might like him. ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ and Nirvana’s platinum-selling second LP, Nevermind, sent his band into the rock stratosphere, but the idea the jocks he hated in high school might be buying his music sickened him. Their follow-up, In Utero, which enlisted lo-fi legend Steve Albini as producer, was an attempt at culling the unenlightened from their fanbase. The original mixes, before their record label softened them up, were vicious, lacking the more tuneful accessibility of Nevermind that helped catapult the band from Seattle basement bars to suburban minivan tape-decks. It was a calculated move, and one that, to Cobain’s chagrin, didn’t come off.
An almost visceral misanthropy runs through Cobain’s work. In Utero’s ‘Scentless Apprentice’ was inspired by the odourless antihero of Patrick Süskind’s Perfume, who is disgusted by the stink of mankind: ‘I can relate to that’, quipped Cobain in an interview. But this disgust for humanity went both ways: as Chuck Klosterman remarks in Eating The Dinosaur, ‘overt self-hatred defined the totality of [Nirvana’s] being’.
Cobain’s place in rock history is well earned. He left behind a sadly truncated canon of hard-edged, fraught and often beautiful songs. And like no other of his peers, he embodied the spirit of navel-gazing disaffection that defined Generation X. That is, rightly, his most salient legacy; forget the gory details of his death and his fraught personal life. But while Nirvana’s music stays with us, a stalwart resource for teens to listen to and thrash out their angst, we should hope that the sentiment he so perfectly articulated has all but faded away.
March 27, 2014
One of my all-time favourite jazz albums is turning 50, and the Smithsonian is marking the occasion:
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will kick off the 13th annual Jazz Appreciation Month March 26 at 11 a.m., with donations from Ravi Coltrane, son of international music legends, John and Alice Coltrane, and from notable jazz photographer, Chuck Stewart. Coltrane will then discuss his father’s career and the famed studio album, A Love Supreme, widely considered one of the greatest jazz albums of all time and celebrating its 50th anniversary. During its own 50th anniversary year, the museum is displaying Coltrane’s original score in the “American Stories” exhibition through June 17. The ceremony will be webcast live online.
Ravi Coltrane will donate his father’s Selmer Mark VI tenor saxophone, made in Paris about 1965, the year that A Love Supreme was released. The saxophone is one of three principal saxophones Coltrane played and will be on view in the “American Stories” exhibition starting June 17. An accomplished bandleader and composer in his own right, Ravi Coltrane tours extensively with his own groups and with many other artists, including jazz musicians. He is a Blue Note recording artist.
“Today, a cherished and beloved Coltrane family heirloom becomes a national treasure and through Stewart’s never before seen images, our view of Coltrane expands,” said John Gray, director of the museum. “These generous donations help us preserve not only the legacy of individual artists, but of jazz music as a whole and its integral role in the history of music in America.”
H/T to Julian Sanchez for the link.