Published on 4 Dec 2013
Press “CC” in the player for the lyrics! Based on “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen and STAR WARS created by George Lucas. Performed by the Star Wars cosplayers of the Arizona geek community!
Produced by the Students and Faculty of the Digital Video Program at University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, Arizona (http://www.uat.edu)
“Star Wars Edition” Lyrics by Stephen Panagiotis, Jamall Richards and Paul DeNigris
“Star Wars Edition” Vocals Produced by Joey Sawhill & Adam Newton
All vocals by Adam Newton
Engineered & Mixed by Joey Sawhill
December 7, 2013
November 8, 2013
Published on 16 Oct 2013
Al Stewart YOTC Classic Album concert. Extended version of this classic song with Al mixing up the words for fun
October 16, 2013
Richard Epstein looks at two recent disputes between unionized employees and cultural organizations:
This past week featured two stories about major orchestras dealing with their adamant unions. The first incident occurred on Wednesday, October 2 at Carnegie Hall in New York City. A fancy opening night gala, featuring the violinist Joshua Bell and the young jazz performer Esperanza Spalding, was called off due to a surprise strike by Local One of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees.
The second dispute, still unresolved, involves the protracted labor impasse at the Minnesota Orchestra. On October 1, true to his promise, star music director Osmo Vänskä resigned because of the inability of the orchestra and its musicians’ union to hammer out a new contract in time to prepare for concerts scheduled at Carnegie Hall on November 2 and 3. The issues in these two labor disputes could scarcely be more different. But each of them, in its own way, illustrates the long-term toll that American labor law takes on the cultural lifeblood of our nation.
The incident at Carnegie Hall raised more than a few eyebrows when it was revealed that the strike was organized by the five full-time Carnegie Hall stagehands who were members of Local One. Their annual compensation in wages and overtime averaged a cool $419,000 per year, making them — one properties manager, two carpenters, and two electricians — five of the seven highest paid workers at Carnegie Hall after Carnegie CEO Clive Gillenson. Other union members in unspecified numbers were called in to help from time to time, presumably at rates on par with those Carnegie Hall paid to its full time workers.
As befits the sorry state of labor relations in the United States, the dispute was not about the status of these five workers. Rather, it focused on the new jobs that would open upon the completion of a new education wing in 2015. Mr. Gillenson was not exactly breathing fire when, well-coached in the pitfalls of labor law, he eschewed any anti-union sentiment and announced that he expected union workers to take the stagehand slots in that new facility. It was just that he insisted on dealing with unions that lacked the clout and the wages of the hardy men from Local One.
The bargaining dynamics could not have been more different in the Minnesota dispute. It is no secret that unionized musicians command a short-run monopoly premium for their members. The orchestra knows that it can earn back some fraction of that wage premium by securing the most talented musicians. But by the same token, any generous deal opens the orchestra up to financial ruin if its endowment shrinks or if its key donors cut back their support in hard times. But usually the large gains for older musicians carry the day.
Unions in all industries — think of the debacle at General Motors — do not do well in negotiating givebacks to management. Yet, ironically, the higher the premium that unions are able to extract during good times, the larger the give-backs are needed to bring the employer’s fiscal position into balance during bad times.
Just that dynamic was in play with the Minnesota Orchestra. The high wages before 2009 led to one round of union concessions. But in 2011, the budget was still out of balance, and management came back with a request for further cuts of about 32 percent. It later softened its demands to insist on wage cuts that would reach 25 percent after three years. Those cuts would be offset by a one time $20,000 bonus, which would, of course, not be part of the wage base in future years.
The union proposals were for pay cuts in the range of six to eight percent. This would have left an annual deficit in the order of $6 million. In the end, no deal could be reached, which precipitated Vänskä’s departure and the subsequent huge hit to prestige of the orchestra’s hard-earned international reputation.
October 8, 2013
Rolling Stone digs deep into the video archives to come up with some particularly interesting (for certain values of “interesting”) Rush videos:
Geddy Lee is the first to admit that Rush do not have a great track record when it comes to making music videos, and their track record of picking stylish haircuts and outfits also leaves a bit to be desired. A few weeks ago, he sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss Rush’s new live DVD and their future plans. Towards the end, we took out an iPad and showed him 10 Rush videos on YouTube. Sometimes, he looked a little horrified at his videos and haircuts, but he had a lot to say about all of them. Click through to see the videos and hear Geddy’s memories. At the end, we also showed him a couple of Rush tribute videos by some super-fans.
The first video is a performance of “Working Man” in St. Catharines from 1974 … with their original drummer (John Rutsey) who was replaced by Neil Peart shortly afterwards:
“I haven’t seen this, ever. It’s not a bad recording, either. John was very much a mod, very much in the Paul Weller school of dressing. Alex and I were just long-hairs pretending that we were groovy.”
And commenting on a later video:
You can see the time period in everyone’s haircuts. . . Véronique Béliveau, the French singer, was awesome. . . This was bad, but it wasn’t my worst hairdo. My worst one was the coonskin hat period. That’s when I had my hair in a ponytail and this big poufy thing on the top. That was late 1980s/ early 1990s.
September 28, 2013
If you'd like to make a radio-friendly hit song in our current music climate, you'll need the following three things:
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) September 28, 2013
A kick drum on the quarter note. Some sort of clap/high snare on the two and four. Whiny lyrics. Congrats you've joined the corporate world.
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) September 28, 2013
Yes yes, I didn't mention autotune. That's basically a given at this point. #cherwantsherroyalties
— Chris Kluwe (@ChrisWarcraft) September 28, 2013
September 26, 2013
In The Nation, Adam Shatz looks back at the turbulent and creative career of Jazz giant Charles Mingus:
Mingus rarely left his pieces alone when he took them on the road with his Jazz Workshop, as he began calling his bands in the mid-1950s. When the Workshop played “Fables of Faubus,” a dart of sarcasm aimed at Arkansas’s segregationist governor Orval Faubus, at the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, the jaunty eight-minute tune swelled into a half-hour suite, punctuated by tart allusions to “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and “God Bless America” and a bass clarinet solo of blistering intensity by Eric Dolphy. (The performance is one of five concerts included in The Jazz Workshop Concerts 1964–65, a seven-disc boxed set on Mosaic Records.) In the studio, Mingus was always splicing, dicing and overdubbing, enriching the texture of his music, increasing its density. He tinkered with titles, giving old pieces new and sometimes cryptic names: the tender portrait of a woman he loved, “Nouroog,” reappeared after their breakup as “I X Love”; “Better Get It in Your Soul,” a foot-stomping gospel tune that’s still played on jukeboxes, became “Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul,” a message to junkies that they’d be better off with a boost from the Lord than one from the needle.
Mingus was always true to his ever-changing moods: he wanted to create music that, in his words, was “as varied as my feelings are, or the world is.” For sheer range of expression, his work has few equals in postwar American music: furious and tender, joyous and melancholy, grave and mischievous, ecstatic and introspective. It moves from the rapture of the church to the euphoria of the ballroom, from accusation to seduction, from a whisper to a growl, often by way of startling jump cuts and sudden changes in tempo. Vocal metaphors are irresistible when discussing Mingus. As Whitney Balliett remarked, music for him was “another way of talking.”
Though he wrote only a few songs with lyrics, his compositions — and his own bass playing, which revealed new dimensions of the instrument and helped liberate it from its traditional time-keeping role — were supremely vocal. He collaborated with poets in East Village coffeehouses and never hesitated to call out to his sidemen when the spirit caught him, as if he was leading a gospel choir. Each instrument in a Mingus tune evoked the voice, invariably in conversation with other voices; and each voice was an extension of his famously tempestuous personality. (“We don’t need a vocalist,” he told the trombonist Britt Woodman. “This band can have an argument with instruments.”) Philip Larkin was astonished by “how every Mingus band sounds like a great rabble of players, like some trick of Shakespearian production.” No matter how small the ensemble, he could create a sense of passionate, often combative dialogue: as one of his sidemen put it, Mingus “liked the sound of a struggle.” If his Workshop settled into a groove, he would suddenly change the time signature: he didn’t want anyone to get too comfortable. Struggle — against complacency, against the confinements of race and genre, against the record industry and the American government — inspired him; he depended on it to create. Though he dreamed of finding refuge on some “colorless island,” it wasn’t clear how he’d spend his time there. He needed something to fight against; his anger, in Geoff Dyer’s words, was “a form of energy, part of the fire sweeping through him.”
September 22, 2013
Wired‘s Douglas Wolk looks at the Station to Station train tour:
Adam Auxier is Station to Station’s train producer – an energetic, affable guy who just happens to know pretty much everything there is to know about trains and their history. He put together the assortment of gorgeous old train cars that make up the vehicle for Doug Aitken’s coast-to-coast art-and-music tour (and helped Aitken to select the stations where it’s stopping), and he’s been overseeing the train and telling fascinating tales about its provenance and its route.
The cars on the Station to Station train were built between 1916 and 1953; Auxier arranged for them to be chartered from private owners who maintain them as a labor of love and rent them out to offset the cost of keeping them railworthy. (He has contact with all of them through his tour company, Altiplano Rail.) “A car like this seems wonderful,” Auxier says, pointing up at the skylights of the double-decker “Superdome” that serves as the train’s dining car and kitchen, “but it’s 65 years old. Imagine taking a 65-year-old car at 90 miles an hour across Missouri!”
The train’s individual cars all have stories of their own, all of which are at Auxier’s fingertips. “The Mojave, which is the Levi’s car, actually ran on this route, between Chicago and L.A.,” he says. “The Santa Fe Railway was a big promoter of the Southwest as a place for tourism – they did up the interiors of their cars with beautiful Southwestern art and carpet patterns. The lounge car up at the front was built for the president of the Norfolk & Western railroad in 1916, and it’s basically the private jet of its era. It was a mobile office, so an executive of that time would put it on a scheduled passenger train and take along a chef – he’d have a bedroom, an office and a kitchen for himself. It allowed him to go to any point on the railroad and conduct business.”
September 20, 2013
Sippican Cottage posted this the other day, and I have to admit I was vastly impressed with the skills of these workers:
That workshop has nothing that I don’t understand going on it it. It’s a very safe place to work, although the State of California would tell you that every single thing in it is known to give you cancer. But they say that about a glass of tapwater. The finish that the woman’s applying is shellac, which you can eat after is dries, and the glue pot is filled with hide glue, which is just horses that came in last, and most of the tools make wood shavings, not sawdust, and the sanding is done by hand, so the sawdust isn’t copious or particularly dangerous. No one in the video is missing a digit, or has any visible scars from working with their hands all day. They all have fans pointed at them, but that’s no doubt because it’s too warm for comfort wherever they are. That place is not full of toxic fumes. You’d pay money to smell the smells in there. Shellac and hide glue and wood shavings smell wonderful. I hear laughter in there, and people smile when a camera is pointed at them. It’s a sheepish smile I understand. They are not used to people being interested in their mundane life. No one is wearing safety glasses or ear protection, and no one needs them, either.
No one is LOVINGLY CRAFTING anything in the video, although the violins they make will be sold for huge money in Europe, and the customers will be told that their violins were… LOVINGLY CRAFTED. But then again, no one I’ve seen in five thousand LOVINGLY CRAFTED videos have one-tenth the hand skills I see demonstrated by everyone in the video. It’s important work to them, so they do it to the best of their ability. People that do things over and over get really good at them. I wish them all well — and hope on my best day, I’m as good as they are on their worst.
September 18, 2013
Before Auto-Tune, if you wanted to make money in pop music, you sort of had to be able to sing. It wasn’t absolutely necessary, of course. You used to be able to mumble into a microphone, then the producer would put all sorts of sturm und drang all around it, and you could have a hit; see: Don’t You Want Me Baby, by Human League. But crooners have an easier time of it, and have less trouble having more than one bite of the top forty apple.
Crowded House was one of those eighties bands — A Flock of Seagulls; ABC, The Bangles; Thompson Twins; Duran Duran; Escape Club; The Fixx; Simple Minds; Simply Red; Howard Jones; XTC; Dan Hartman; Icehouse; Level 42; Psychedelic Furs; Hair Cut 100; Tears for Fears; Wang Chung; World Party — bands that are growing interchangeable with the decades slipping by. If you put them all on the same bill, and they all wore matching suits, they could all play each other’s tunes and not many people would notice. But you always notice when people sing well.
Sippican Cottage, “Pure Pop For Then People — Crowded House”, Sippican Cottage, 2013-09-17
July 21, 2013
Tim Harford has a few interesting economic examples to look at from the world of music:
Lesson two is about globalisation. A new article in The Economic Journal from Fernando Ferreira and Joel Waldfogel asks whether in a world of MTV and YouTube, national musical cultures are being crushed by American imports. Ferreira and Waldfogel have assembled more than a million data points covering chart hits in 22 countries, in some cases going back to 1960. In practice this covers pretty much the entire global music market, and the data are used to estimate the value of music sales.
At first glance, worries about the cultural dominance of the US seem justified: US artists are responsible for 60 per cent of world music sales. But US artists were responsible for 80 per cent of world music sales in the early 1960s before dramatically losing market share to the British. (We are now, alas, in sharp decline.)
In the early 1980s, less than 50 per cent of music sales were by domestic artists — that is, French artists selling in France, or Brazilian artists selling in Brazil. By 2007 that figure was around two-thirds. Domestically produced music is having a renaissance — proof that globalisation has more complex effects than we tend to assume.
July 18, 2013
We open to an orgy in a god’s sex cave.
Tannhauser, a bard in the Germanic middle ages, is the boy-toy of Venus, eternal goddess of hot sex that you thought would be totally worth all her baggage but in the long run isn’t. Remember the wisdom of the bros: even if he or she is literally an unearthly gorgeous sex god, somewhere there is someone who is sick of putting up with his or her bullshit.
Tannhauser and Venus are shacked up at Venus’ place, which with typical German lyricism is called “Venusburg.” Tannhauser and Venus are lounging in bed. They’re watching a dance/orgy/cage match among Naiads, Sirens, the Three Graces, fauns, satyrs, nymphs, Baccchantes, and cupids. No, really. I could quote the libretto I just linked, but even the description of this is abusively long. Wagner could have just said “enter the entire Monster Manual, which humps.”
That’s the ballet. There’s no dialogue, and it’s not Wagner’s best music, though it’s not terrible. It does, however, answer the question “can an orgy be tedious?”
Ken White, “Popehat Goes To The Opera: Tannhauser”, Popehat, 2013-07-17
June 15, 2013
In Maclean’s, Stephen Skratt talks about a new book on prog rock:
Let the hating begin. ELP are often cited as the reason punk had to happen. After the Beatles and before the Sex Pistols, they, along with Genesis, Yes, King Crimson and Pink Floyd, sold millions of records, topped critics’ polls and ushered in a golden era of prog rock. There were capes, songs about supernatural anaesthetists, a trilogy of albums about a “radio gnome,” and King Arthur on ice — literally, with skating pantomime horses (courtesy of a Rick Wakeman show). Prog virtuosos fused rock, classical, folk, jazz and Renaissance music, and took little from blues. The music couldn’t get more white — or more unfashionable. Twenty-minute songs performed by earnest young men trying to sound like an orchestra, hopping from one instrument to another, or playing several at once: this was large-scale, ambitious music meant to accompany grand lyrics and stage spectacles. Gone was sex, drugs and rock ’n’ roll, replaced by Kubrickian space-outs, Eastern philosophy and walls of synthesizers — or guitars trying to sound like synthesizers.
[. . .]
Now the music is crawling out from under its toadstool in Yes Is The Answer, edited by Tyson Cornell and Marc Weingarten. Cornell, founder of L.A.-based Rare Bird Books and a musician himself, admits the idea of having respectable writers challenge the accepted gospel about prog was far-fetched. “When Marc and I started doing this,” he says, “everybody we talked about it with was just laughing at us. But then people started to tell their stories, and it just unfolded.”
[. . .]
The book — a tribute to what Weingarten identifies in the introduction as “prog rock’s grandeur, its mushy mysticism, its blissed-out mystery” — is a high point in a renaissance that’s been building: a reverential 2009 BBC documentary (Prog Britannia), a magazine (Classic Prog), and a growing number of festivals, including Prog Angeles, organized by Cornell and featuring members of Weezer and others. Tastemaking online music journal Pitchfork drops the P-word on an almost weekly basis in describing some impossibly cool band’s music, from metal monsters Mastodon to French electronic duo Justice — an admission, finally, that someone was listening. And there is the full-on revival of the band responsible for a concept album about hemispheres of the brain: Rush. As Nirvana’s Dave Grohl said in his speech inducting Rush into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “There’s one mystery that eclipses them all: when the f–k did Rush become cool?”
For all this, it’s unlikely prog will get the reappraisal its supporters feel it’s due. The biggest strike against the genre has long been that it’s bloated, corporate, the antithesis of punk — even though in spirit prog may not have been all that far off from punk. They shared a broad political ideology. Henry Cow and the other bands make up “rock in opposition,” a popular subgenre of prog, which, aside from influencing avant-garde jazz musicians over the years, make the Clash look like weekend protesters. King Crimson’s 21st Century Schizoid Man opens with the snarl of, “Nothing he’s got he really needs.” Prog explored dystopian worlds of environmental apocalypse and corporate greed, occasionally with more subtlety and whimsy than punk. And prog rockers were as committed to their outlandish musical vision as punk was to its three chords; far from all being pampered middle-class kids, they too struggled for an audience and money during their formative years. The average punk band just imploded within a few years of forming — they never stuck around long enough to be derided as “dinosaurs.”
June 14, 2013
May 29, 2013
At TechDirt, Mike Masnick discusses the things we learned from Napster:
Last fall, law professor Michael Carrier came out with a really wonderful paper, called Copyright and Innovation: The Untold Story. He interviewed dozens of people involved in the internet world and the music world, to look at what the impact was of the legal case against Napster, leading to the shutdown of the original service (the name and a few related assets were later sold off to another company). The stories (again, coming from a variety of different perspectives) helps fill in a key part of the story that many of us have heard, but which has never really been written about: what an astounding chill that episode cast over the innovation space when it came to music. Entrepreneurs and investors realized that they, too, were likely to get sued, and focused their efforts elsewhere. The record labels, on the other hand, got the wrong idea, and became totally convinced that a legal strategy was the way to stem the tide of innovation.
The Wisconsin Law Review, which published Carrier’s paper, asked a few people to write responses to Carrier’s paper, and they recently published the different responses, including one from a lawyer at the RIAA, one from another law professor… and one from me. This post will be about my paper — and I’ll talk about the other papers in a later post. My piece is entitled When You Let Incumbents Veto Innovation, You Get Less Innovation. It builds on Carrier’s piece, to note that the stories he heard fit quite well with a number of other stories that we’ve seen over the past fifteen years, and the way in which the industry has repeatedly fought innovation via lawsuits.
You can read the whole paper at the link above (or, if you prefer there’s a pdf version). I talk about the nature of innovation — and how it involves an awful lot of trial and error to get it right. The more trials, the faster what works becomes clear, and the faster improvement you get. But the industry’s early success against Napster made that nearly impossible, and massively slowed down innovation in the sector. Yes, a few players kept trying, but it developed much more slowly than other internet-related industries. And you can see why directly in the Carrier paper, where entrepreneurs point out that it’s just not worth doing something in the music space, because if you want to actually do what the technology enables, the kinds of things that are cool and useful and which consumers would really like… you’ll get sued.
May 26, 2013
Remember back in 2011 when the US government raided Gibson Guitars for alleged violations of Indian law? (Posts here, here, here, here, and here.) Now that we’re learning much more about the IRS witch hunt for Tea Party organizations, Investor’s Business Daily points out that the Gibson raids now make sense:
Grossly underreported at the time was the fact that Gibson’s chief executive, Henry Juszkiewicz, contributed to Republican politicians. Recent donations have included $2,000 to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and $1,500 to Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn.
By contrast, Chris Martin IV, the Martin & Co. CEO, is a long-time Democratic supporter, with $35,400 in contributions to Democratic candidates and the Democratic National Committee over the past couple of election cycles.
“We feel that Gibson was inappropriately targeted,” Juszkiewicz said at the time, adding the matter “could have been addressed with a simple contact (from) a caring human being representing the government. Instead, the government used violent and hostile means.”
That includes what Gibson described as “two hostile raids on its factories by agents carrying weapons and attired in SWAT gear where employees were forced out of the premises, production was shut down, goods were seized as contraband and threats were made that would have forced the business to close.”
Gibson, fearing a bankrupting legal battle, settled and agreed to pay a $300,000 penalty to the U.S. Government. It also agreed to make a “community service payment” of $50,000 to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation — to be used on research projects or tree-conservation activities.