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Posts Tagged ‘music

“That’s what music’s all about, messing with people’s heads”*…

 

Musicians and dancers, stair riser, Pakistan, first century.

I look at music and language in their deep histories, reaching back to a point before there was any music or language in their modern forms. So we’re talking, say, a 500,000-year stretch, perhaps all the way back to Homo heidelbergensis. I see the antecedents of these things falling into place along parallel tracks that overlap one another but are not the same track, and I follow the parallelism and the distinctness of those tracks from a very deep period. Which is to say that what we are left with as human beings in the world today, as the product of those tracks, is in fact a set of overlapping yet distinct capacities, functions, and capabilities in dealing with our world and our environment and in our social interactions with each other.

And so these things are loaded into both language and music in very complex but different ways…

Explore the deep history of humans and music with Gary Tomlinson, author of A Million Years of Music: “The Prehistory of Music.”

* Jimi Hendrix (whose third album, Electric Ladyland, was released on this date in 1968)

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As we get the beat, we might recall that it was on this date in 1965 that the Velvet Underground (see also here and here) made their live debut, playing at Summit High School in New Jersey; the group was paid $75 for the show.

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“All that is solid melts into air”*…

 

The end of ‘The End of History’ arrived together with the end of belief in reality. The Cold War world was a world of warring ideologies; in the twenty-first century, both American capitalism and post-Soviet oligarchy employ the same public relations specialists catering to gangsters with political ambitions. As Peter Pomerantsev described in Nothing is True and Everything is Possible, in the Russia of the 2000s, distinguishing between truth and lies became passé. In this world of enlightened, postmodern people, ‘everything is PR’.

Reality television has rendered obsolete the boundary between the fictional and the real. Truth is a constraint that has been overcome; ‘post-truth’ has been declared ‘word of the year.’ In Washington, the White House shamelessly defends its ‘alternative facts.’ At the beginning, American journalists were taken off-guard: they had been trained to confirm individual pieces of information, not to confront a brazen untethering from empirical reality. The New Yorker captured the desperation with a satire about the fact-checker who passed out from exhaustion after the Republican debate. He had to be hospitalized; apparently no one replaced him…

Postmodernism was conceived largely by the Left as a safeguard against totalizing ideologies. Yet today, it has been appropriated on behalf of an encroaching neo-totalitarianism of the Right. Is French literary theory to blame? And can a philosophy of dissent developed in communist eastern Europe offer an antidote?…

(Some of) the ironic roots of the situation that we’re in: “A pre-history of post-truth, East and West.”

* Karl Marx

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As we consult the Wayback Machine, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955, at J & M Studio in New Orleans, that Richard Wayne Penniman– better known as Little Richard– recorded the song (that he co-wrote with Dorothy LaBostrie) that became his first hit: “Tutti Frutti.”

A wop bop alu bop, a wop bam boom!

 

Written by LW

September 14, 2017 at 1:01 am

“I’d never just want to do what everybody else did. I’d be contributing to the sameness of everything.”*…

 

Skrillex and Diplo… or Skriplo and Dillex?

Drummer Greg Ellis wants listeners to begin thinking about sound like food—as something they physically ingest that has a quantifiable impact on their wellbeing. These days, he believes most people are consuming the musical equivalent of McDonalds: processed, mass produced, and limited in flavor.

A lot of this aural blandness has to do with technology. It begins with the producer who relies on a computer rather than live instrumentalists and ends with the devices we use to consume our music, which cut out the dynamics captured in the recording studio. Ellis, a session drummer who can be heard in the background of Hollywood blockbusters such as Argo, Godzilla, and The Matrix series, is exploring this phenomena in a forthcoming documentary, The Click.

The “click” is a digital metronome that musicians listen to while recording to ensure their rhythm is exactly in time with the tempo. A simple and now nearly ubiquitous part of the recording process, it has had a profound effect on the music we listen to.

While the click was originally intended as a tool for precision and cohesion, Ellis says its perfect uniformity ushered in an expectation that the rest of musical parts should follow. Suddenly singers, instrumentalists, and drummers were expected to sound like machines. When vocalists were slightly off key, they could be auto-tuned. If a bass player wasn’t perfectly in-time with the drummer, their parts could be processed in a recording program that syncs them up. Of course, that’s if a live musician is used at all—many producers in pop, hip hop, and R&B now use samples or synthetic sounds generated by computers instead of using their human progenitors…

More at “This music production tool is the reason why all new music sounds the same.”

* Captain Beefheart

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As we tap our toes in perfect time, we might recall that it was on this date in 1955 that The J.P. Seeburg Corporation introduced the Dual Music System Jukebox– the first of its kind to hold 100 45’s, for a total of 200 selections, and to allow for dual pricing (one play or three).

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Written by LW

September 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Why would heavy metal ever go away?”*…

 

Metalheads all the world over can agree on one thing: its culture, just like its music, eschews pretense. Nowhere is this better reflected than in Dumisani Matiha, lead singer and rhythm guitarist of Metal Orizon, one of Botswana’s heaviest outfits.

On an unseasonably warm afternoon, the 41-year-old is taking time out of his day job as a farmer to explain what distinguishes this metal movement from other scenes spread out across the globe.

“We see ourselves as warriors and poets,” says Dumisani. “This is a calling. We use metal to speak to our social conditions as Africans: the struggles, the climate we operate in… It might be cheesy to you but, to us, metal is just another way of speaking about romance. To us, love is hardcore, yo!”…

Botswana is 70 per cent desert and most of its metalheads dress in old-school biker gear – made even heavier with studs, chains and all kinds of trinkets – topped off with leather cowboy hats. They are a throwback to a purer time, an era when no heavy metal fan would have dreamed of Metallica and Lou Reed making an album together, let alone calling it Lulu.

Musically speaking, the metal scene in Botswana is neither heavy nor metal. It’s a combination that sounds impossible when articulated: a mix of African hard riddims, mid-70s Manchester punk, cacophonous dub, psychedelic swamp music, free-wheelin’ progjazz and some sped-up Ohio funk thrown in for good measure…

Far beyond driven: “The hell bangers of Botswana’s underground metal scene.”

* Scott Ian (founding member and lyricist of Anthrax)

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As we celebrate the shred, we might recall that it was on this date in 1966 that the Beatles said “thank you, and goodnight” for the last time– at the end of their last public concert, at Candlestick Park in San Francisco. (This is, of course, not counting the 1969 impromptu performance on the roof of Apple Records headquarters in London — the Beatles’ last public appearance together.)

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Written by LW

August 29, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Acting is all about big hair and funny props… All the great actors knew it. Olivier knew it, Brando knew it.”*…

 

* Harold Ramis

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As we dress the set, we might that it was on this date in 1983 that Prince played a 75-minute benefit concert for the Minnesota Dance Theatre at the recently re-branded First Avenue club in Minneapolis.  It was there that the budding pop star debuted many of the Purple Rain album tracks, and recorded the versions of “Purple Rain,” “I Would Die 4 U,” and “Baby I’m A Star” heard in the film and soundtrack.

Screen shot taken from video of Prince and the Revolution’s debut performance of Purple Rain, August 3, 1983

The night also included performances from the company, including a piece choreographed to Prince’s “DMSR.”

More on this extraordinary evening, including a set list, here.

 

Written by LW

August 3, 2017 at 1:01 am

“Imagination creates reality”*…

 

Wagner was and is so controversial before and after his appropriation by the Nazis, before and after 19th-century radical antisemitism led to the Holocaust, because art-making and self-fashioning on the scale on which Wagner worked are terrifying, at once attractive – drug-like, dream-inducing, mesmerising – and repulsive. Few of us are comfortable travelling so near the gravitational field of a man “who had access to parts of his psyche that most nice people hid from themselves” and who created from such a murky source dramas and music of horrible beauty…

A provocative review of a provocative book, Simon Callow’s Being Wagner: The Triumph of the Will: “What makes Wagner so controversial?

See also this fascinating piece on a man often linked with Wagner, Friedrich Nietzsche.

* Richard Wagner

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As we grab for The Ring, we might send melodic birthday greetings to Francesco Manfredini; he was born on this date in 1684.  A Baroque composer, violinist, and church musician, he was a contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.  Much of his music is presumed to have been destroyed after his death; only 43 published works and a handful of manuscripts are known.  But they are sufficient to have earned him a reputation as an accomplished composer (more in the vein of Vivaldi than Bach).

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Written by LW

June 22, 2017 at 1:01 am

“What do you do when your kid can only count to four? Buy him a drum kit and call him gifted!”*…

 

It may be that familiarity breeds contempt, and if that’s so, we should all be very glad of the wealth of excellent documentaries correcting the monolithic commercial story of punk, which goes something like this: The Sex Pistols and The Clash explode into the world in 1977 purveying anarchy and revolution and designer BDSM gear, and the status quo freaks out, then discovers many savvy marketing opportunities and here we are at our local punk boutique before the punk arena show at Corporation Stadium.

That’s a boring story, mostly because all the most interesting parts, and weirdest, most violent, gross-out, angry, experimental, queer, black, radical, feminist, etc. parts get left out, along with nearly all the best bands. Even if we date punk from the early seventies in New York with Patti Smith and the Ramones, we’re missing key progenitors from the 60s, from Detroit, Germany, Tacoma, Washington…

From the “liner notes” to a extraordinary Spotify playlist, “The Evolution of Punk in Chronological Order.” More background (on Open Culture), along with a link to download the Spotify app lest one need to, at: “The History of Punk Rock in 200 Tracks: An 11-Hour Playlist Takes You From 1965 to 2016.”

[TotH to Brad DeGraf]

* Frank Edwin Wright III (Tré Cool, Green Day)

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As we make three chords work, we might recall that it was on this date in 1967 that The KFRC Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Festival opened on Mt. Tam in Marin County, California, featuring Canned Heat, Dionne Warwick, Every Mother’s Son, P. F. Sloan, The Seeds, Blues Magoos, Country Joe and the Fish, Captain Beefheart, The Byrds (with Hugh Masekela on trumpet), Tim Hardin, The Grass Roots,  The 5th Dimension, Jefferson Airplane, and the Doors (in their first major appearance, contemporaneous with the rise of their first hit, “Light My Fire”), among many others.  At least 36,000 people attended the two-day concert and fair– the first of a series of San Francisco area cultural events known as “the Summer of Love.”  Admission to the festival was $2.00 and all proceeds were donated to the nearby Hunters Point Child Care Center in San Francisco.

While the (much more completely documented) Monterey International Pop Festival is widely remembered as the seminal event of that epochal summer, the KFRC Festival took place one week before Monterey and is considered to have been America’s – if not the world’s – first rock festival.

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Written by LW

June 10, 2017 at 1:01 am

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