August 23, 2013
Two Informal Anecdotes About Patronizing Composition Contests
I won a composition contest a few years ago, and a group played my piece, really well, live. The prize was a studio recording. Three months later, no recording, but they tell me they'll be in the area - which means, for them, 500 miles away. (Europe is so weird in this way - If I'm going to Philadelphia, I don't call my friends in NYC and say, hey stop by!). They ask me if I'll come up and come to a concert and hang out with them. We look at the cost - it'll be like $500-600. I think maybe it'd be a good idea to meet them, maybe they want to meet me to talk about a bigger project; so we take the train. We hook up... everything is closed. We finally find a crepe place; we hang out have a great time. I thought they wanted me to come up to talk about a commission or more recordings. They give me a t-shirt, no recording. We go to the concert; sit next to a real dullard academic composer who's having his piece premiered. He asks me who am I. I tell him I won a contest. He smirks. After the concert they all go out to dinner; we head back to the hotel. A t-shirt and a free concert. Thee months later I write them. Where's my recording? Oh, hold on. I thought we sent it to you... 2 days later, oh, one of the members wasn't happy with it or something... finally I get it. But I had to bug them for it.
Here's another story! Just last year. A group has been bugging me to enter their contest. I'm talking 5 or 6 emails, msgs. They've already performed one of my harder pieces. The contest is every two years - gigantic $$ prizes. So I write them a piece. The rules say I have to go to the finals and the audience votes on the best piece, but they pick 6 pieces for the finals. I think, yeah, I've got a shot at that - this group's been bugging me. So, I write the piece, send it to them. I tell them I don't have the money for a hotel room for the finals - do I really have to be there? They say, yes, you have to be there... they then go and arrange for a hotel room for me! So, I'm thinking I've got a really good shot at this. Finally the results of the sub-finals come out - 6 slots. I'm not in the list. Two of the guys I know are amateurs. Whatever... it's still a good piece. One day, a month or so later, I decide to chat with them to see if I can learn what I did wrong. Was it too hard, etc? They tell me they didn't even look at it. I ask them what? I thought you guys were professionals? They start arguing with me about this and that. Finally, I figure out their English isn't that good and they meant to say, "We just didn't like it..." Fine... but the whole process, was so drawn out and painful, I just de-friended them. I just hated seeing their posts; it reminded me of what a pathetic fool I was to play their game.
And don't even get me started on the composition contest I entered this year. International entrants... first prize a performance in Paris. The winner? Two composers they go to school with. You just can't make this stuff up!
March 02, 2013
Late Composition Competition Syndrome
Still no word from the composition competition which leads us to believe we have another victim in what Elsie calls 'Late Composition Competition Syndrome.' It's a syndrome I've had to suffer the results (or lack of results) for years, usually involving a stalemate between judges, no communication to the composers, and it is caused by an inability to judge and apparently, some form of aesthetic quandary.
Eventually, the results are sent out, but once the syndrome occurs, I am never one of the lucky winners. It's because, as I've said my whole life, "Mediocrity always Triumphs over Incomprehensibility."
Last night when I got up to check for an email, I flirted with the idea of putting, either on the score or in notes at IMSLP, for what contest this piece was written and even the judge's names and the number of entrants.
That way, history would have a record of this kind of incompetent decision-making. Amazingly, some calls for scores such as 60x60 expect all of the entrants to dedicate the piece to the performer. It's all part of the commodification of the composer into being a service-provider - that is unless we try to do something unique and unexpected. But I decided I have enough on my plate to risk enmity.
What is amazing about this contest - which I won't name - is that there were only 35 entrants, and there are to be 2 winners. Toss out half of them for being plain old incompetent, that's 8 real competitors.
Please, if you're running a call for scores, treat the composers with professionalism, take risks, don't just throw out the outliers - pick the outliers. Why are you even in the new music field if you can't stand a little controversy? It's more likely they're the future than that watered-down John Adams clone piece you end up picking. And be on time or at least stay in communication with the composers. Every composer who enters your competition or call deserves to know who was picked. I can't tell you how many times I've written a piece for a call for scores and never even received a 'Thank you for your submission' email. You expect our scores to arrive on time. You expect them to be professionally typeset, etc. Treat us with respect.
January 21, 2013
Notes on the Composition of Grand Tango for Solo Violin and its Video
Grand Tango for Solo Violin is a piece that is formed around two traditions, the tango, and the Bach/Paganini solo violin repertoire. When Karen Bentley Pollick asked me if I had any solo violin music and I suggested writing a tango for her, I had already been thinking about what a solo string instrument Tango would sound like. It had to be intense, focused and driven by ferociously rhythmic material with a few interludes between the climaxes and I wanted a soaring theme to climax it, not a driven theme.
I started writing Tangos two years earlier as a new form to explore which was ecstatic and intensely dramatic with energies generated by a kind of spectacular musical violence. Having grown up within the fantastically diverse musical culture of New Orleans, Louisiana, I am very familiar with the Tango rhythm. The 3:3:2 syncopation forms the basis for many of the bass lines of the great blues pianist Professor Longhair. The popular song, Tipitina is a great example. These types of syncopated rhythms have informed my motivic writing since the late 80's in my search for unexplored rhythmic and melodic combinations.
I started the piece on December 3, 2010, the morning after a a few online conversations with Ms. Pollick. The first motives of the music for Grand Tango came together very quickly. As soon as I decided on the material and settled upon an opening, the piece was finished in 6 days. I had a rough draft to show on the 9th. I look back at that period as one of intense excitement and inspiration because I knew I could write almost anything that was violinistic and Ms. Pollick would be able to pull it off. I had been exploring creating the illusion of multiple lines, as Bach does, with single instrument since the late 80's, but here was a performer who would let me experiment with the extremes of that type of compositional problem.
One problem with writing fiery virtuoso pieces, is of the listener experience of virtuosity. The listener becomes overwhelmed by the physical display of sheer technique and ceases to be focused on the music. But, texture changes within the flow of a dramatic single instrument narrative are problematic. It is extremely difficult to create a dramatic playground then, after a series of spectacular runs or a section of combination double-stops and large registral jumps, to go back to a poetic single line of music convincingly. Multi-movement, single texture pieces are the norm for solo virtuosic pieces but I wanted this piece to be in a single movement.
Additionally, I wanted to remain within the parameters I try to keep in my music: that of having the material, melodic and motivic units in their deepest aspects drive the musical discourse. The material has to have its dramatic implications be inevitably realized through the continuity of the music. So any virtuosity had to be a requisite part of the unfolding of that material. And, finally, I wanted the piece, like all of my compositions, to hide the signifiers of its production. I am interested in the creation of a musical world which has, inherently, its own fantastical self-destruction implicit within the imperatives of its content at all scales of differentiation, and one created so that this little universe is additionally allowed to contain a great doubt about the existence of its creator.
Before I got interested in composing, while in high school, I was introduced to Zen Buddhism by a freshman friend. I was introduced to the writings of John Cage at that time while wandering through the Buddhist book aisles of an Oak Street bookstore and stumbling upon a copy of his book, Silence. When I became seriously interested in composing, his thoughts and my continuing Zen meditation practice seemed to be in conflict with my aspirations as a composer. How does the composer create works in this post-romantic age which do not reek of the smell of the composer behind the scenes pulling the strings of musical puppets? It would only be later in my life that I would realize that if Cage had sought a type of egoless organization of sound, I was looking for a form of egoless expression within a traditional musical narrative as an extension of the work of Bach and the late works of Beethoven; a musical third-person narrative where the narrator is not a participant.
Since the late 80's I have been attempting to create a stripped down musical language that can allow for the creation of a music that has a potentially both innovative and a dramatically inevitable quality to it. I have always been interested in extremes of momentum and ecstatic climaxes and these are problematic when using complex musical languages. My theory has always been that if you keep the language simple, it allows both the external, audible process of the music and the internal workings to be more complex and most importantly, more intelligible. I have always believed that the first responsibility of a composer is to treat the material with respect and not depend on moments of incoherence to be exploited as developmental devices. And the energies of the music needed to seem to come directly from the inherent instabilities in the material itself, not from the composer's will. This illusion creates a willfulness in the music which is egoless and expansive. And by simplifying my musical language it allows me to spend time on the actual creation of content and transitions rather than language innovations, because finding new motives to base pieces on with these qualities is extremely time-consuming and difficult.
So, finally, I decided that if I could find a simplified language that could be used in a traditional manner but with new rhythms, harmonies and syncopations then I could create the seemingly impossible: a new narrative, melodic and immersive music outside of the neoclassical tradition that would be able to express egolessness through its own internal momentums. The qualities inherent in the unfolding of the content and the dramatic energies of both the music and the performers would be the driving forces behind the music, not the illusion of the will of the composer.
The video I created for Grand Tango was a fantastic opportunity to return to an art form I had experimented with since the late 80's. Then I had made videos to go with my electronic music using early computers like the Amiga 1000 combined with early graphics software. Here was my chance to use the most sophisticated effects available to today's video artists. I chose a Tango video from Archive.org that was free for re-use. It had been a fairly sophisticated video to begin with, using multiple cameras and reverse-colorings as it had been used for the backdrop of an art event. I immediately began experimenting with its visuals by dumping the entire video to a set of individual frames. I then began running various custom software filters over the images and putting them back together. I chose 10 salient moments within a recording Ms. Pollick had given to me for the timing goals and there I put strategically dramatic texture changes. I decided to focus on an hallucinogenic approach that would showcase the ecstatic states I was exploring in the piece. Throughout the video I use symmetrical image placement to enhance that shamanistic effect and help integrate the musical experience of the composition so that the video dancers, distorted into gigantic deities of color and projected onto the violinist, transform the entire sound and light experience into a fantastic ritual dance.
January 19, 2013
April 26, 2011
How I Invented the Free Culture Movement
I was asked this weekend by someone teaching a course in Digital Musicianship to explain my music distribution strategy and how it developed. Here's the text I just finished for anybody who's interested. Please pardon the informal nature of it...
My strategy... is basically to get my music into as many people's hands as possible without expectations of renumeration. What happened to my wife and I in the early 80's informed the process where I invented the free culture system.
We'd both had to drop out of college, me from Juilliard and Elsie from Pratt because of money problems. We were quite angry about this and started a street art project. This was 1982. At the same time we started showing Elsie's paintings on the street in the West Village, right on Spring Street to be exact in the heart of Soho. We showed these huge paintings with a sign saying, "Not for Sale."
This was pretty shocking to people and we started getting more and more interested in seeing where that could take us. We created series of non-destructive art works in chalk and with rubber stamps and displayed them all over NYC. Eventually, we became so famous (or infamous) that we started a whole mini-art movement in NYC and started receiving death threats... we ended up having to flee NYC, broke and regroup in New Orleans.
In New Orleans we continued giving our art away through the mail art networks. These were exchanges where you'd send a piece of art to somebody and then they'd send you something back. These turned into zines eventually, and from there into multiples and even gallery shows. When the computer networks started up in the early 80's with BBS's it was a natural progression to take our art give-away there.
I was probably the first serious artist to use the BBS system to distribute art, although I'm sure there were a few more; nobody at the time seemed to have come from the street art/mail art networks. I uploaded the score (as a set of GIF images) to my Variations for String Quartet onto a BBS in 1987 which is probably the earliest music give away. I started distributing MIDI files of my pieces around this time. It was very interesting to upload a MIDI file or a graphic and then watch it get uploaded by a fan to another site. At about the same time I started embedding my music into synthesizer patch downloads. I first distributed my Acid Bach series as a component of a synthesizer patch library I created for the purpose of having a compelling download. That is, I designed the patch library so that people would want it and coincidentally listen to my music. This way they'd have a high quality musical experience akin to the MP3 playback today through the use of the same synthesizer.
In the early 90's I started using FTP sites to distribute Postscript files and MP2 and later MP3 files. The first IRCAM website actually distributed for a short time the MIDI file to my piano piece BlueStrider. In 1995, the LA Times, wrote an article saying that David Harrington of the Kronos Quartet had set up a website where he was engaging in guerrilla action to freely distribute contemporary music. I called them up and corrected them - it was me they were writing about and I was only distributing my music that way.
Since then, of course the whole music world is used to free downloads. My strategy has always been that I'd love to sell my music, but I'm more interested in getting new listeners than I am in making a few thousand dollars. I've told people that there is a greater risk that you'll miss 1000 listeners by selling your work than there is a chance of you making $1,000.00. As far as my scores go, I have a few pieces that are published, but I am not that interested in pursuing publishers especially with the risk that they might stymie the discovery of my music or even have them get locked up in limbo. I distribute my PDF files at several different locations and get hundreds of downloads of them a day.
This has still been a fairly risky proposition, but in no way as risky as being unpublished, unheard and ignored. I have to constantly run searches on Google to find performances. I only recently learned of a premiere in New Jersey of my big piano piece BlueStrider last October. I find that some of my MP3 files have lost their indicators of authorship. My quartertone electronic piece, Acid Bach is found all over the web, and is often found without my name. People believe because you give your music away that they can perform it without notifying you.
I keep my music copyrighted with reserved rights and non-derivative rights because I don't want my music to be used in commercials or in any commercial activities. I also sell my scores through Lulu.com and I accept donations. I believe it helps create a more professional appearance in that it suggests supporting the artist and slightly obviates the appearance of being a cultural anarchist.
When you look at the consequences of self-publishing the costs can be quite huge for a successful composer to give their pieces away. When I dropped out of college however, I effectively destroyed any hope of becoming a truly successful composer in America. Without the network of college affiliation, a composer is at a very serious disadvantage. In effect, my pricing is a discount into the advantage my competitors have, that is, I have to compete with well-networked, famous people, thus I have to discount my work in order to garner attention.
Regarding social networks, I was also the first composer to set up online communities in order to promote my new music in general and my work. I helped establish the newsgroup, rec.music.compose in 1991 and was the moderator for comp.music.research for its first 5 years. I established an online community for new music NetNewMusic in 1994, which was basically a links list with forums. I added news feeds and publishing in 2000 and it later became the hugely successful Ning group, NetNewMusic which I was forced to destroy because of trolling and harassment in 2010. I also set up the first websites for the American Music Center, and was webmaster of Sequenza21 between 2005-2009. I set up these networks and participated in them to draw attention to my music. My idea was that if you established yourself as an interesting or provocative person you could draw attention to your music. Today one can use Twitter or Facebook in the same manner.
In the end my philosophy is that my main problem is lack of exposure. I believe that if people knew my music that they'd like to play it. The biggest consequence now is something that everybody suffers from - the lack of both serious criticism and the lack of curation. I get performed between 20-60 times a year all over the world and composers much more famous than I get less performances and more exposure. The network which supports them either through academia or through affiliations with famous composers such as Philip Glass, etc. enable their careers to have a stronger referral and promotional network. It's very hard to generate a 'buzz' without being mentioned in magazines or NPR. I don't know what the answer is except more exposure.
I was lucky enough to get in on this early and make a certain reputation. I recently attended a workshop put on by the American Music Center where representatives from a well known orchestra gave a presentation about developing an online presence. They went on and on about having compelling graphics, about how to submit professional materials - it was all very ordinary and expected. Finally I raised my hands and asked them, "When was the last time your orchestra played a piece that was submitted by email or that you discovered through their website or through social networks?" They looked surprised and honestly confessed, "We have never played a piece that was submitted by email or that we discovered from a composer's website."
January 01, 2006
Developing Chaotic Systems
So, Cacophonous.org is taking off, getting a few postings and a few downloads. It's being used in ways I didn't at first think was kosher, but have decided, usage is more important than policing abuse. It's weird how setting up these new systems/communities without completely developing expectations about how they'll be used changes their basic concept. I've decided to announce it at various active new music scenes, the microtonal community, the Csound community, Sequenza21. I guess it'll shortly be out of my hands.
If you do use it, please don't abuse it! Thanks!
December 24, 2005
New Music is Too Cacophonous.org
Cacophonous.org is really getting into shape now. There's a Cacophonous.org Podcast RSS Feed and when you add notes to your del.icio.us entry it now turns links into valid HTML. This will let composers add program style notes to their announcements with links to scores and parts and commentary. The coolest thing about setting up something like this is watching how usage generates new ideas about how the service should be run.
Please visit, listen and add your comments. Unfortunately for the few comments that were there I accidentally deleted them in part of my code tweak. This won't happen too often, I hope! And please, lets keep it down to only new MP3's and not overburden the system. I'm still approving by hand, so they won't get through anyway, hehe... but it's a pain for me. This means, write lots of new music people, so we can aggregate it into oblivion!
Oh yeah, I've also added a XSPF Flash MP3 Streaming Player at the top of the page. If you'd like your MP3's to stream well, of course, keep them encoded 128K or below. And I'm going to try and add those cute little play buttons that Fabricio uses in his GreaseMonkey script next to the MP3 URL's. Any more ideas, please cough them up... Cya at cacophonous.org
December 22, 2005
Cacophonous.org is Ready for Business
Got the parsing and generation of blog entries working this afternoon. Cacophonous.org now periodically grabs and parses the mp3_classical_contemporary tag RSS feed from del.iciou.us and, using the Movable Type reBlog plugin generates blog entries for every new MP3 that is announced over the service. I'll be adding playlist creation and a player shortly. Comments are open, but moderated, so feel free to praise or diss any of the first few announced works.
My provider, doesn't give subdomains except to full packages, so I went ahead and got the cacophonous.org domain too.
The basic principals of the service:
Use del.icio.us to tag URL's for deep-linked (or not so deep-linked) MP3's. You'll need to set up a del.icio.us account which takes approximately 2 seconds. I propose 2 tags for our community, but can envisage a few more:
Whenever a new work is tagged in this fashion, it'll show up for anybody who has subscribed to mp3_classical_contemporary tag in their inbox. You 'post' your MP3 URL and tag it with one of those tags. I'd suggest we begin using it for new works and not for our entire catalogs. Users that want to see these new works can subscribe to these tags in their inbox or the RSS feed at cacophonous.org or by visiting the cacophonous.org website.
Cacophonous.org is basically going to be a addon service provider to the del.icio.us tag feed, for adding comments, and getting the service into full blown activity.
Also, please ignore that default bloggy look at the site. Will be spiffing it up into coolness this weekend.
December 18, 2005
Full of Color and Utterly Boring
Full of color and utterly boring... haha your comment, Ian Moss (in a comment at S21), reminded me of the NY Times article this morning about movie flops:
Where Have all the Howlers Gone
But the very worst films achieve a special distinction, soliciting membership in a kind of negative canon, an empyrean of anti-masterpieces. It is this kind of bad movie - the train wreck, the catastrophe, the utter and absolute artistic disaster - that seems to be in short supply.
And this is very bad news. Disasters and masterpieces, after all, often arise from the same impulses: extravagant ambition, irrational risk, pure chutzpah, a synergistic blend of vanity, vision and self-delusion. The tiniest miscalculation on the part of the artist - or of the audience - can mean the
difference between adulation and derision. So in the realm of creative achievement, the worst is not just the opposite of the best, but also
And another comment Elsie made a few weeks ago, after listening to too much Murail and Hurel, that 'spectralists aren't bungee jumpers.'
And something I say all the time on my blog and in the newsgroups for years it that it is mediocrity that is recognized today, and has always been recognized in the day. Trying to write something different is dangerous and if you depend on your reputation for your $$$, such as most academics do, or even most careerists do, then it is problematic to say, 'ah fuck iit' and write something totally off the wall, disgusting, dirty, or even perfect and clean, but totally true to yourself. That was a decision I made after a family incident... to just go ahead and risk it. Even if it was horrible, eventually something awesome would come out or else I would prove that I do in fact suck. Anything is better than sticking with the tried and true, the muddling middle, the competent and forgettable.
December 15, 2005
Generalizing the Announcement Service
So, I'm starting to see how there's a real need for all types of musicians to have this service. I'm not sure if I want to create a community for commenting on all types of new music, but I think it would be interesting to have hundreds of genre-specific RSS feeds representing announcements of new MP3's as they come online.
I've got a XML-RPC server up and running and am getting to the API. It'll be like a blog ping server where an artist or an OMD or a rep can do a XML submit of the info I need, or a full blown XSPF playlist or fill out a form DIY style.
December 11, 2005
Cac.ophono.us - Building A New Music Announcement Aggregator
OK, the Cac.ophono.us site is up and I've wired up the del.icio.us feed to one of the columns. This is not even a pre-alpha site yet. Initial ideas are in the previous article, A Proposal for Announcing New Music Recordings on the Net. At the moment, I'm still experimenting with how to auto-generate blog entries from the del.icio.us mp3_classical_contemporary RSS feed. Once that's done and I settle on a look, this should get rolling.
Current plans are:
1. Auto-generate blog entries from new items in the del.icio.us RSS feed.
2. Auto-modify a playlist at Webjay.org which can also serve as a podcast for people that just want to subscribe and watch the new MP3's just drop in.
3. More as I remember/think them up and digest your comments.
What I could really use a hand in is how to make it so that when we do start promoting the service (especially the use of del.icio.us tags) it gets some traction. Am I forgetting anything that would make it more compelling as a new music announcement service? Is requiring a del.icio.us account going to stymie this service? I can certainly use the post to generate new tagged entries, by way of the Cac.ophono.us site or an email list, but I'm afraid that's just inviting spam. Also, there's a real advantage in slowly identifying composers who use the list through their announcements. Del.icio.us allows for subscription to a tag by tagger and that could pave the way for a privileging that could be helpful in maintaing this micro-community service.
I'm thinking of ways to invite the electronic music community, also. That's a can of worm for sure, since every kid with a computer now is a composer. Requiring a del.icio.us account identifier might be key here in keeping the list maintainable and interesting.
I'm leaving comments open here and in the announcement below for the moment, until it gets googled and blog-spammed. Please help me out with your thoughts and ideas. If you're reading this through the New Music ReBlog site, please comment at beepSNORT.
December 10, 2005
A Proposal for Announcing New Music Recordings on the Net
I've got an idea, and I'm working on an implementation, of a generalized way to announce new MP3's on the net. Been thinking for a while, about what a loss of community, the demise of MP3.com was. We've experienced a diaspora of sorts, spread out all over from Ampcast to Download.com. We no longer have any site that welcomes comments or even just pointers to new recordings.
And it's not just the community that's been lost, its the mechanism for attracting the release of new net-distributed recordings. So, a modest proposal is in order.
I'm setting up a new site, which is now up and empty, called Cacophonus. I don't intend to re-create Sequenza21 or even the MP3.com Classical Forum. It's main purpose will be to aggregate new music announcements and at some point, possibly critiques and commentaries in an informal way.
But the first step, that we can all begin doing, so that we can find each other's new recordings is to use del.icio.us to tag URL's for deep-linked (or not so deep-linked) MP3's. You'll need to set up a del.icio.us account which takes approximately 2 seconds. I propose 2 tags for our community, but can envisage a few more:
Whenever a new work is tagged in this fashion, it'll show up for anybody who has subscribed to mp3_classical_contemporary tag in their inbox. You 'post' your MP3 URL and tag it with one of those tags. I'd suggest we begin using it for new works and not for our entire catalogs. Users that want to see these new works can subscribe to these tags in their inbox.
Now when, somebody posts a new MP3 URL in this manner, I will see it in my inbox, because I have subscribed to that tag. Notice there is an RSS feed to that page. You can subscribe to that almost as a podcast and that'll play into some of my plans on how to aggregate these announcements and at some point create a comments system.
At a Loss for Compositional Ideas?
Nick Didkovsky on the JMSL list reminds us all of Webhamster Henry's Top 10 Imaginary Recordings of 2005. a brilliant spoof/sendup/ideafarm of conceptual possibilities in sonic design.
Return To Sender (Mail Ops, 2005)
Experimental sound artist Holga Becker modded up her Mp3 recorder to run extra slowly, stuck it in a package and mailed it to her self. Hear the sounds of travel, other packages (what's that ticking noise?), sorting machines, mutterings of the postal employees and lots of bumps.
December 08, 2005
Exposing MySpace Artist Exposure
I've recently joined MySpace after a year or two (how long has it been around?) of avoiding it cuz it looked so HotOrNotty. My page has BlueStrider and a few other 'hits' of mine and I've been wondering where the music promotion scene was going from there. I've actually met quite a few interesting composers there, FWIW, and even have the Kronos Quartet as a friend. Woo hoo! Hint to Kronos, my string quartet Anamorphosis would be a compelling addition to any of your concerts!
I found an article about a band that was featured on the front page there for a week and what that meant in CD sales. They shared the feature with Madonna and 2 other big names. They got tons of downloads, friend requests and sold... well... 0 that is a big naught CD's.
Overexposed is an article by Scott Andrew about this and its pretty interesting. What is exposure now? What can one reasonably hope for with online exposure?
I received an email from a friend last week about some radio airplay he'd had with a few of his pieces. It seemed so old-skool I thought it was a little funny. The show probably has 200 listeners. How is that different from 200 downloads?
Not sure... but there is a difference, I'm sure. People do download without listening and people do listen to the radio without listening. Does getting real world exposure, a Wire feature, or a TV spot add up to anything in the current scene when there is so much music competing for our attention?
I keep telling people that we're in a new scene now, that online exposure will become more and more important. That an online buzz will be THE buzz that propells great artists to the top. We'll see I guess, it sure is taking a long time.
On that note, I guess I should mention here that Stirling Newberry, composer and political blogger of fame wrote a very flattering article about yours truly recently focussing on my music and my activities in the net music world to create a classical music scene.
December 07, 2005
DMCA Penalizes Classical Net Radio
Because classical net radio must play many works from the same CD (usually in a row, snicker) many classical net radio stations, including Reblogged because as I've reminded him, his Microsoft chars violate good XML!
November 30, 2005
BBC Pulls Back on Free Downloads
Caving to industry pressure and the threat of job loss, the BBC has decided to limit downloads in its upcoming Bach series. The controversy is that a public broadcasting network would in this manner forsake the educational agenda begun with the Beethoven download series. No doubt whatever downloads are allowed will be incomplete in some way.
That a public broadcasting network, funded with tax payer dollars would favor the recording corporations (and it is multi-faceted for sure) over a public which doesn't really know what they're missing is disturbing.
The fantastic part of the Beethoven giveaway was that its audio 'freeness' made a stuffy old dead guy cool.
I'd like to see some real stats about the cost (percieved cost) to the industry. I would be willing to bet that if anything, there was a net gain, if not in sales, in attention, in interest, in a new fascination with one of the wonders of the universe, previously available only by chance (on the radio) or by spending money.
The idea that you would give away such phenomenal beauty and then stop the process because of corporate pressure is frankly, shocking. Booo....
November 06, 2005
Kyle Gann on Nancarrow
He was humble, reticent, full of integrity, sure of himself, but imposing no expectations on others. Taking John Cage's politics with a grain of salt, he once told me, "Cage isn't really an anarchist, he just doesn't want to be bothered!"
October 23, 2005
Internet - The End of MusicoPolitical Theatre?
A few more words about Rzewski's comments during Kyle Gann's pre-concert interview Thursday night. He recommeneded an 'open source' approach to all musical scores. He claimed that he was putting all of his scores that weren't under contractual agreements online for free download. 'Music should be free' he claimed.
This was after his previously mentioned comments bashing the iPoddification of music away from live performance. I'm just trying to figure this guy out... So he sees the Internet solely as a means to promote performances but not listens. Now, why would someone pitch that to an audience of Columbia students/New Music Fans?
My theory is that there is a confusion at work here with regards to what listening is. If the Internet essentially functions as asynchronous radio, how is that a bad thing for music?
It seems that Rzewski, because he looks at his ouevre as very political and ritual music theatre, needs to believe that the iPod will never become the predominant venue. His extra-musical message is lost. You can't insist that the listener to 32 Variations look at a red curtain for an hour like he could at the concert. This extra-musical infatuation with ideas, ultimately is what is problematic about Internet distro.
Heh, he also could not explain the dearth of political music. It's my guess that he blames the Internet for that too. Right, the 60's were not a generation of me-obsessed narcissists. The draft drove the anti-war movement. Not music. Duh? Old Hippies... what can I say. Do everything my way cuz I'm old and angry and know better!
October 21, 2005
I'm typing this from the new Flock browser with builtin blog editor. It's built off of Firefox and looks like a great new tool. Maybe this will get me off my ass to post more and probably shorter commentaries.
Went to the Rzewski concert at Miller Theatre last night for the premiere of "Bring Them Home". Kyle Gann interviewed Rzewski before the concert where he made some entertainingly luddital views (like a luddite) about how music was going to shortly return to a live-performance centered activity and that iPods would no longer rule.
Almost fell out of my seat. ;)
The music was well performed and reminded me how, Rzewski can really write great music. Too bad he seems he'd rather play with ideas. I don't mean the politics. I just don't find watching two great pianists slapping their knees intersting. Call me a luddite in that regard!
August 23, 2005
WikiNews Story on Fascist Rave Bust
August 22, 2005
Music and Fascism in Utah
Watch this video. Save it and spread it around. This is the U.S. military attacking ravers in Utah. Police Raid Outdoor Music Event. These are not police. Seems like a warm-up for Bush's visit and the ensuing anti-war protests? First hand account on Daily Kos.
August 12, 2005
Brian Eno on the Microsoft Boot Sound
'I made 84 pieces. I got completely into this world of tiny, tiny little pieces of music. I was so sensitive to microseconds at the end of this that it really broke a logjam in my own work. Then when I'd finished that and I went back to working with pieces that were like three minutes long, it seemed like oceans of time.'
August 03, 2005
Sony Fake Critic - Class Action Lawsuit Won
From BoingBoing.net not exactly a new music-related story, more of an indicator of things to come as industry embraces viral/subversive marketing techniques; another indicator of an industry OUT OF CONTROL!. Sony has been forced to pay $5 to any moviegoer who can claim they were tricked into seeing a movie based on a review by their David Manning, fake film critic. Not only do we have government producing fake criticism (US Agriculture Department, US Education Department), now industry is doing it to itself.
August 02, 2005
Audience Like Flood's Problems
Since I've been so forthright in my promotion of the music like water service, I'd like to backtrack a second and point out my views of the problematic nature this system will create. What are the problems inherent in creating a primarily online audience base? In my experience, there are several important ones, including:
1. Anonymity of Audience
I have no way of knowing that some taste maker, somebody who could potentially shift some $$$ or audiences or performances my way has downloaded and totally dug my music. There is an implicit assumption that the downloading of music is always anonymous and not something such as a purchase that might benefit from some type of validation. Admittedly, this is a leftover part of the online::offline critical machine, but it still effects how the online audience responds and how even millions of downloads can produce no effect whatsoever in the offline audience.
2. Assumptions about offline credibility
There are still assumptions that if you deploy your content primarily offline that it is because you have to. That you've been forced to, from a lack of interest in the real world, typically because you suck. Amazingly, my friends who shell out $$$ to record and press their CD's in what used to be called vanity projects can more easily get online reviews with 1/100th of the number of listeners.
3. Bandwidth Costs
Even one recommendation can lead to a catastrophic failure in your ability to maintain a decent pipe of content.
4. Limited Offline Recognition
No matter how many listens I've received, the offline critics are primarily focussed on live performances and real CD's. No matter the size of the audience (often miniscule) or the number of CD's the musician has sold.
Anyways, I've been pitching more musicians get their music online and give it away... these are a few of the pitfalls that await this type of distro methodology. I'll be adding a few more as they wack me across the head.
August 01, 2005
In the Music Like Water World Flows the True Artist
Gerd Leonhard, self-proclaimed Musical Futurist writes an article getting a lot of attention at NewMusicBox. In it he examines the implications of a world where music is so commoditized, through online subscription services, such as Yahoo and the new Napster, that music has become a utility, like water.
From the article, Once music is unleashed and the dinosaurial fight for the simple privilege of having access to it is over for good, distribution ceases to be a barrier to entry: all music, all artists, and all writers will be in those pipeline... ...the real challenge and the real opportunity going forward: getting exposure and being discovered—the rest is already built into the pipeline.
What Gerd misses out on, is the fact that this is a great thing, because, it levels the playing field. In this type of world, the cream rises to the top, not the merely over-promoted and well-connected. Music that matters will be noticed because it is listened to.
Other writers including Pliable at On an Overgrown Path fears for the artists. His blog haiku:
Water from faucets
sounds like a listener's dream -
will hurt true artists
Hurt true artists? Huh? The majority of true artists now are fighting to get through the ear canal. They're not the ones on the radio, getting recorded. They're the artists that are not getting promoted in record stores, getting performed in concert halls. They're the ones that didn't spend the money to hire an agent like so many composers, didn't spend the money to hire an orchestra and record their own music while pretending its a real record company recording and promoting their music.
The Music Like Water flow will be huge, it will be meritocratic and it will create giant new opportunities for curators, critics, musician-networks. The main problem in getting paid, which is what everybody always focusses on, in this world is the over-abundance of musicians, not the collapse of the inherent assumptions about music distribution. This glut of artistry is one of the real problems and its a good problem. We need competition, to make better music. We need to hear everybody so that for once, the Nancarrow's don't have to almost die in obscurity.
The big question, is will we be up to building the future curatorial forums? I see the music blog as a prime contendor and the reblogging movement, re-mixing aggregated micro-content into forms that will promote more better variety and more better personalization.
July 31, 2005
While thinking about how this reBlogging stuff is going to change the nature of RSS distribution it became apparent that it would change not just blogs, but Podcasts and Webjay playlists, too. Microcontent aggregation is how the general process is being described and now Yahoo is supposedly building a tool to do just what reBlog does now.
For a Podcast reblogger to be interesting, I think you'd need to have it be able to stream Podcasts as easily switchable auto-pausing channels. So you'd have an app that would essentially let you 'scan' the dial for new Podcasts. And when an ad or a boring part came up, the app would pause that channel as you switched to another. Something like that... Just an idea... iTunes of course is already doing this to a certain extent. What other features would a playlist reblogger have? Faster scanning, of course, is the reblogging feature and direct contact with content.
July 30, 2005
ReBlogoSpherical Contextual Distortion Devices
This week I started the New Music reBlog as a way to promote and disseminate new music blogginess throughout the galaxy. It uses software from Eyebeam called, reBlog which lets you subscribe and aggregate multiple RSS feeds for later commenting, quoting, or merely pointing to. Several issues about identity and authorship have come up by Robert Gable at awoks, et al because reBlogging essentially creates blog entries from RSS feeds and their inherent context is morphed by the act of re-associating the texts away from their home space. Also, some feeds quote in their entirety the blog entry while others have no text at all. Kyle Gann's PostClassic blog's RSS feed doesn't even have his name in it, nor his text. I've been trying to hand-edit those, but at a certain point, the RSS feed itself determines the reblogged content.
I use RSS readers from time to time (when I remember to look at them) but I've noticed I'm reading more music blogs since I set up this reBlog. So, maybe, the loss of context will encourage a curiosity about their home blog planet and the reader will voyage into their native blogospace.
Although it's been talked about a bit already, I'm heartened by the recent news that studies have proven that people who Online file sharers buy 5 times the amount of music that non-pirates do. Sounds like all this talk about attacking piracy is just hurting their strongest and fastest growing customer base. Who'd have thunk it!
July 13, 2005
Mashups and Quodlibets Have Driven Us Apart - BBC in Hot Water for Huh?
Talking with a friend about the mashup phenomenon this morning got me thinking. The effect certainly is musico-symbolic; the tunes resonate in the memory as past experience signifiers and having those points morph into other points is interesting and pleasurable. We have in a sense, created with mashups a musical gateway into Kierkegaardian moments of rotational and repetitional experience. Nostalgia triggers, apperception moments, all rolled into one piece of sonic experience.
The real paradigm for a many of these morphogenetic musical anomalies is the classical variation. Harmonies, tunes, are essentially intact but the backing tracks are replaced in a way that Beethoven, Brahms or Bach would have found interesting - because - the accompaniments are from other pieces of music.
Maybe Bach's quodlibet from the Goldberg Variations is the original mashup. In that short, final movement, Bach used 4 pieces of street music (including the ever popular, "Cabbage and turnips have driven me away, Had my mother cooked meat, I'd have chosen to stay"). Through these contrapuntally-expressed street songs, Bach melds pop music, the Goldberg harmonies and original music. It's not the greatest piece of music, but conceptually it is mind-boggling and Bach knew it. One of his last pieces, it represents a return to the use of musical symbolism inherent in the Renaissance when composers would use tunes from pop songs in their masses and these tunes would represent, of course, emotional symbols of their prior uses.
Probably my favorite mashup so far, for its technique and for its emotive value is DJ Earworm's Stairway to Bootleg Heaven. A re-assemblage of Dolly Parton - Stairway to Heaven vs. Eurythmics - This City Never Sleeps vs. Beatles - Because vs. Laurie Anderson - O Superman vs. Art Of Noise - Moments in Love vs. Beastie Boys - So Whatcha Want vs. Pat Benetar - Love is a Battlefield into one smooth and poignant package.
Speaking of free music, the BBC has got itself into hot water from the big classical record companies for uh.... popularizing a dying art form?, re-invigorating the symphony? No! But for
undermining the value of music and unfair competition! Sorry, it's hard to
type when I'm laughing so hard.
The record companies shall reap what they have sown.
June 30, 2005
Listening to the Freed
While setting up the Listening Room at the Sequenza21 wiki I remembered a cool Webjay feature, InstaM3U. Basically use the URL, http://webjay.org/insta.m3u?url=url by passing in your URL and it'll automatically generate a stream-worthy correctly mime-typed M3U file.
I'm sure I'm missing quite a few listens, because of IE's inept handling of MP3 files and naive users not knowing to right-click and save when that happens etc. Now I'll be taking all of my MP3 url's and turning them into streamers.
Which got me thinking, how many more ways are there that I'm losing listens by not handling naive users better. And I know for a fact many of my listeners are newbies because the whole classical music world is barely web literate. They've missed the heady MP3.COM online independent artist hysteria, the rush to try micro-payments, the selling of CD's online.
The new world is scary, free and a little lonely. A world of zero CD sales, reviews only if you pay, and distribution only if you pay. Many classical artists now assume that giving away a recording for 300 copies of a CD is the norm for distribution. I think of course, that all channels must be used to make your music heard, but I just can't get up the whatever, to cut that check, to print those CD's, to buy that ad, to mail that CD off for review. Not when I"m getting 10,000 or more downloads a month.
Come on down real classical music world. It's hopeless, it's hot and it's lonely not knowing who your listeners are but there are greedy ears everywhere. The BBC proved that this week with their BBC giveaway! Beethoven Downloads. Free stuff rules. When will it stick as legit?
June 26, 2005
The Wiki as 2nd Generation New Music Community
This Monday I installed and configured a new music wiki at the Sequenza21 web site. At first, I was questioning why bother, given my experience with MP3.COM. For those that don't remember those good old days, MP3.COM started out focussed, progressive and then slowly slipped into an anything goes type of scene which ultimately led me to start NetNewMusic and The Classical MP3 Portal. Curation seemed to be a necessity to keep every kid who had an MP3 that used a string patch from claiming their music was contemporary or classical.
Now that the site is up, I'm beginning to see some interesting differences. For one, there are a zillion places to promote your music now, so the S21 site is probably off of most spammers scopes. Perhaps another reason the S21 scene is working is that the good folks at S21 never seemed to go through the MP3.COM era of new music excitement, disappointment and then disgust. They seem to think that sharing MP3's is fun, hence the Listening Room. Ouch I had thought that after 150,000 downloads BlueStrider had been heard by everyone on the web. It seems not to be the case and from that participation, my piece is now being featured at Kyle Gann's PostClassic Radio.
As the web has become the primary music distribution system, perhaps micro-communities can thrive now without stepping on each other's toes? Is it possible that there won't be the need to have genre cops anymore because there will be super obvious places to place your links? Does that mean that these communities might actually thrive and promote each other's music in a genre-relevant manner? Wo...
You just never know where the web is going to turn or what opportunity is going to present itself to you. I see that I have to not make assumptions about how web communities are built, what they know, how they're going to react, how they work together. It's all exciting again. Who'd have thunk it?
June 15, 2005
Mashups and Ives and Everything All at Once
I've recently been listening to some excellent mashups, most notably found through the Radio Clash (at least I was, before it turned into a gay audioblog - since issue #29). I've been into mashups since they first started coming out, and it's been easy to notice the increasing slickness in the combining of the tunes.
Elsie pointed out to me after hearing the Clash Killers that this was the first completely successful (iho) post-modern art form. That all the pieces had maintained their integrity while allowing for a new content layer to be created. This got me thinking as to why I was enjoying them so much. It wasn't just the raw humor of hearing Abba plus Echo and the Bunnymen, it was something else, something Ivesian.
Living in a big city, I've always enjoyed the all-at-onceness of the sound experience. The halal meat market blaring Umm Kulthum over a car's subwoofer beats with the police improvising a car siren solo on top. (Some cops should really become noise artists - they do the weirdest things with their sirens). Being forced to experience a sonic space in this way, has gotten us all used to parallel musical streams as a part of our daily experience.
The simultaneity of this new art form in its paradoxical at-onceness can allow for a thrilling artistic exposure of parallelism - unparallelled since Ives. As we all have heard, Ives' father would forceably expose him to exprerience multiple brass bands simultaneously, make him sing in parallel keys, etc. This experience is now a part of our daily lives.
I realized that this parallellism of musical streams has been a musical interest for years of mine. My music has always tried to force a melodic layer to the middle and the bass line to a melodic theme. Its an area, that many artists have explored, certainly, from Ockeghem's simultaneous use of chanson in his secular works to Bach's quodlibet in the Goldberg Variations. Of course one could cite Cage and the other Chance-aholics in this vein also, but I find the intentionality of the musical parallelism to be the key to its enjoyment. The skill of finding the right moment to bring in the hook after absolutely the 'wrong' chorus can be amazing and a real commentary on our audio experience today.
Obviously, the hooks, the choruses, all function potentially as symbols, which can be a source of amusment (Abba and Echo for example). This symbolic mixing is something that not many composer's have taken advantage of. One thinks of Stockhausen's Hymnen, a monumental failure of symbolic musicality but an amazing one nonetheless. Hymnen is a mashup in that context of course. (Even given the ring modulations - today's pop mashups employ bandwidth filtering frequently to bring in new elements).
June 11, 2005
Online Audience Building and a Flood of Pirates
Sorry about the dearth of postings recently; it's been a rough few months. The crazy real estate market forced us to leave our super-cheap apartment of 16 1/2 years, the move was physically exhausting to illness. Big cities can seem like mere traps for artists these days, providing little or no real benefit while sapping every ounce of your strength.
On to the topic. We did luckily have a vacation planned - planned one week after our move! But after returning I noticed that my MP3 hosting site - Harrington MP3's was down. In a mere two days, I had had 16 GB of downloads. Now who or what power in the world could promote my eccentric classicisms towards that lofty audience size?
Russian MP3 collectors. Pirates. Piano Funky - Collection. There I was - sandwiched between Gorillaz and Chill Out Dreams. Featured like a commercial artist of value and not the forgotten American 40 something 'artiste de demain'. The unwashed, uncultured masses were downloading and sharing my music in an unprecedented manner - as if I were worthy of their criminality.
And what had happened of the barriers between classical music and pop? Where were the 'Serious Concert Music' banners that my genre absolutely requires to be intelligible? Where were the provisors - 'If you like Stravinsky or Schoenberg - this music might be up your alley'. They were non-existent - I had been curated as if I were a pop star, another underground hero to be mixed in with the eccentric noises of today's genre-bending multitude.
I felt honored and then I felt a bit frightened. If every Russian, Chinese, Indonesian, Turkish illicit MP3 site (a few other pirate sites I've found mention of myself) were going to feature my music - I wouldn't be able to afford to provide MP3's to the (ahem) civilized and cultured American/European audience that my career requires! Now the pirate free-for-all was turning my music into another online commodity that you had to have now and I wouldn't have the bandwidth to be ready to tackle the world of the real if and when it ever comes calling for 'yours truly'.
The net has opened up vast vast vast audiences. I know, I hope, that my music can speak to millions of them - I am that deluded. And I know, I hope that many musics of all flavors will be able to be heard by these audiences, also. But how can 'le deluge' of anybody with a PC and a wire be controlled?
Of course it can't. It can't be channeled, it can't be charmed. It is the Baudrilliardian mass that lurches one way and the other. I played a game - a game of creating a site that looked like a pirate MP3 site and I became a pirate player. I've merged the roles of apparently illegal sharing and music promotion and been burned. Now how do I proceed?
Since that happened (actually even before as my 40GB limit had been approached) I've had to take my site offline the end of each month. I've been mirroring my site at Parnasse, but Elsie needs her share of the bandwidth for all the people looking for 'Anime' and finding her painting called 'Anime.'
The web's chaotic audience takes and takes and takes... when will it give?
December 11, 2004
Criticism and Legitimacy - Net vs. The Real
Reading some of the discussions at other blogs on this issue, I came upon a comment about a fellow electronic musician who had just gotten signed onto an IDM label. He'd been forced to announce that all his tracks were coming down and that he'd no longer be giving them away for free.
So, what did he accomplish? Why was he willing to risk losing his entire net audience? People now would have to buy his album to hear his music. Would they follow him into being an artist they would pay to hear? That was the risk. And it is a huge risk because labels that don't cater to popular tastes typically do CD pressings of less than a thousand copies. So, there's a hope this musician will sell that many CD's. An unknown electronic musician would stand a better chance of getting into the record stores and getting heard by giving away his CD's; sneaking fake-barcoded home-made CDR's into Tower herself! And in a year from now, without his net audience, he'll be a nobody, with perhaps a few hundred bucks in his pocket but many less ears jamming to his work.
Two worlds are colliding. The net music world, with its assumptions of popular validity and sharing, typically beyond fair use standards, and the old music world, with its hierarchies, promotional methodologies and assumptions about fat paybacks. I believe, of course, as an early net music adopter, that the net music world is destined to win; one can't fight free music; the net will encompass everything at some point and become the global library.
So we're fighting for what now? Sales as a symbol of legitimacy? Print reviews or awards as a symbol of quality? That is bordering on pointless now. A write up now, a feature in say, Computer Music Journal or even Rolling Stone haha would produce in my life nothing. I've heard that even Putlitzer prizes now no longer guarantee a string of commissions.
Without the metric of the sale, legitimacy has become the playground of the elites. In the contemporary classical world, its increasingly reverting back to the playground of the idle rich. I don't believe its unconnected to point out that the first composer of my generation to win the incredibly prestigious Grawemeyer prize (first awards went to Ligeti, Lutoslawski and Takemitsu) is coincidentally a multi-millionaire, George Tsontakis. I'm not sure how it helped; he's a good composer IMO, but I am absolutely certain that without his fortune he'd likely be in the same boat as the rest of us poor mugs. Nowhere. The rich have to hide their connectedness or their privilege would be exposed. And the rich, still control, to an astonishing degree the playing field that we play on, when we engage the real world. Another reason the real music world, within the arts, is crumbling. We want a world without favorites. We want a world that rewards attentiveness not mere connectedness. We want a world where what I say to my bud matters, that artist X does in fact rock even though he's a poor shmuck working at Kinko's during the day.
For most musicians, frankly, who are not pandering to the popular tastes, any review, is to the point of being practically futile. I won't get a record deal, I won't get a fat commission from the NYPO, even if Alex Ross calls me the next Beethoven. That is how impotent the print media has become and its partially a consequence of the blogosphere and partly a consequence of the increasingly non-hierarchical way that fame is being distributed.
Again, what are we fighting for? I think we're fighting for listens, and if the audience is receptive, we're fighting for a type of placement in a loosely defined database of musical references. We're fighting to get listed in web wikis, and in directories of personal faves. We're fighting for more listens to the point where a rave review by a big name critic - even a cover feature in a magazine - become a mere anecdote in the well-linked conglomeration of pointers to one's favorite musics.
Another example. Yesterday I received a fund raising mailing from Elliott Carter. The man himself, my very very old ex-teacher and not coincidentally a multi-millionaire himself, begging at my door for the American Music Center. Curious as to what they were up to lately, I read the usual hype and noticed one intriguing new program. They're going to be putting up some type of online radio show. Maybe something like Kyle Gann is doing. Of course, the station will represent, not the desparate futile masses who are the AMC membership, but instead, the selected favorites of both non-members and members alike. How do I know this? Because I know the AMC. (They can prove me wrong, but I'm certain it won't be a random selecting of member MP3's). So if I join, I have a shot at getting featured in their radio show. What would happen, in the best possible situation if I were featured on every radio show they put on?
Nothing. I'm not being bitter or cynical, I am beginning to recognize the futility of combatting the hiearchies of the real musical world AS THEY CRUMBLE. The real music world, won't commission a piece from a nobody. They need the map of the resume, to prove that the artist is in fact on the road to Rome. Without this certified map of on the wayness that artist is a nobody. This dependency on mapped legitimacy, with the implicit recognition all players in this world have - that it is in fact bullshit; a pointless listing of favoritisms, connections through friends, and lucky happenstances - is one reason these hierarchies are crumbling. If there are 20,000 American composers all with vaguely interesting resumes how can we make our decision as to who to promote - or even who to listen to? Organizational recognition is pointless and only feeds the aspirations of the most mediocre careerist today.
So what does web recognition look like? I've noticed over the years, web pages that list my name, right underneath Beethoven and before Haydn. Are these listings incompetent? Are they a rave review of my genius? Neither - I believe. They are indicators of 'check this shit out' by amateurs; they point but do not praise. They nestle together in the Googlesphere like the crowds at a red carpet reception. Given enough of these pointers anything is possible. The real world cracks. The critics gasp at their pointlessness. And billions of friendly ears begin to listen.
Why risk that for a few sales? The real world exists today to be the audience. Not to be the critic. We are bees in a hive singing and listening to each other without concern for symbolic hierarchy. The real critic today is the multitudinous fluidity of the net.
December 05, 2004
Electronic Music Workflows - Some Rambling Thoughts
In the act of responding to an interesting thread on an electronic music BBS about 'composition' and how traditional composition differs from the methods most popular electronic experimentalists I attempted to explain how the workflow itself can stymie or encourage promising musical moments...
IMO, he process most interesting emusicians use, is more a process of 'discovery' than it is of composition. What you need to develop, IMO, is a workflow which allows for rapid and intense experimentation over sections of interesting material. You need to get good at 'constructing' machines, as SP put in a recent interview, which allow themselves to be broken until their destructive capacities become interesting.
It is this destructive process that I believe enables good emusicians to go places that say, a contemporary classical experimentalist might not. Its a violent, and chaotic workflow. And developing this workflow, itself is problematic. Intutively, one would think that using something like Max or AudioMulch would make it easier, but in the real world, getting quick with simpler tools like CoolEdit Pro or Cubase, will probably lead to more interesting results, as you seem to be searching for.
While contributing that bit of pomposity, it ocurred to me that workflow itself was the big electronic music problem. The idea that good electronic music can be 'found' or even that it is 'composed' or even 'constructed' I think is to lose fact of the powerful way we use software now to continually disassemble and reassemble its pieces. Regardless of whether the music is beat-driven or not, finding a good workflow, that allows for the musician to experiment live with morphing processes is incredibly important to the productivity of new musics. To this end, as a dedicated hardware enthusiast I've recently purchased, for $12.95, a P5 Essential Reality Glove and a Control Freak 16 slider MIDI controller. Running these controllers on top of randomly cycling MIDI CC data with my FS1R produces astonishing timbral differences. This process was first used on my pieces A Moist Mirage in Desert Eyes and Arddha Jangala. Finding new morph targets (as 3D enthusiasts call their object morphing controller sets) through randomized control of cyclic streams presents a powerful and teleologically interesting musical process that I'm just begining to explore.
October 31, 2004
Money and Music, Legitimacy and Recognition
I've been thinking recently about impediments that can cause new music to miss out on opportunities for getting heard. This past summer, I'd uploaded some MP3's to MP3RIA.COM, a micropayment OMD; it seemed like a good idea at the time. I also recently saw an article (and lost its reference) to somebody online writing that it was silly to charge $5 for a new music concert. You'd scare away half the audience cuz it was too cheap and the rest probably didn't have the $5! Plus wouldn't the organizers really rather get 50 people than 20?
Six months later, and watching the stats that MP3RIA brings in (rather pathetic at the moment), I started realizing that once again, I'd created an impediment to getting heard. Did I really want a few hundred bucks or would I rather have a few thousand listens? I'd spent the better part of a month re-mastering my Obliterature album (off and on) and had toyed with the idea of getting it pressed through Oasis or on demand distro like Mixonic. But I could just never get up the nerve to cut that check and thoughts haunted me that the on demand CDR pressings would be sub par.
So I started looking around for sites where I could house hundreds of megabytes of MP3's and have a lot of bandwidth too for dirt cheap. There are quite a few bargains online now in this regard. I've since uploaded 3 albums and a SVCD.
A friend of mine keeps telling me, online distro is dead. It just gets in the way for the search for 'legitimacy.' You won't get written up, reviewed, or mentioned in offline publications as long as you're focussed on online distro, he says. I think he's being naive. He's disappointed that his fame since MP3.COM days has dissipated and he doesn't see the merging between art worlds online and off.
For example, my spouse, Elsie Russell, was recently quoted in the New York Times magazine. (She only found out through clicking around the New York Times Online one day; we stopped buying the paper years ago). Why did she get mentioned? Because of an essay she wrote at her site. The article uniquely did not mention her as being an 'online artist' or a 'web writer'. It said, Elsie Russell, a neo-Classical painter, has described Arcadia as ''the anarchist state inhabited by uncontrollable misfits.''
That is how the merger of online and offline media recognition will take place. Online artists will begin to get recognized, finally, as artists. It won't matter that the artist was found online by chance or by word of mouth. It won't matter that they've never heard of the artist or that they've never been raved about by critic X. What matters is the art.
What ultimately matters is getting heard. Using arcane file formats, charging money through systems that require registration, being cheap with concerts and then not doing it for free, all become ways that you disenfranchise the listener.
It would be nice to get paid, like the big name artists do, for what I simply do. But I'll wait. I have to wait. Because with so much content, both purchased and free, legitimately or illegitimately licensed, available at once, when the listener comes by, I want to start whistling in her ear before she leaves the room.
September 15, 2004
Music Notation - The Source of Weakness in Contemporary Classical Rock?
It struck me in responding to Steve that perhaps the reason that groups like BOAC et al, appear to contemporary rock fans as irrelevant or behind the times is likely a result of their notational and performance practice. Perhaps the integration of composer with ensemble in groups like GYBE, Radiohead and Sigur Ros encourages the type of experimentation that such a timbrally fluid entity needs to be cutting edge.
Notating a guitar feedback yelp is possible, but playing it just right and according to the needs of the composition is problematic. We have no real rock music ensemble notation and a record of the recording process that Sigur Ros uses would be a record of experiments (as evinced by their recent interview in TapeOp magazine).
Maybe a valid notation (and not merely a record of experiments) is the next step in the cannibalization of rock?
September 08, 2004
Experimental Rock as Contemporary Music - Just Another Crossover Gambit?
The acceptance of the rock band as a contemporary music ensemble - is it really deliciously subversive or another ploy to garner audience share with music that couldn't cut it with the classical crowd?
Art rock ensembles can certainly be considered an attempt to not just create a popular avant garde, but to act childish in the face of this current contemporary music gerontocracy. But what really is the difference between experimental/minimalist rock and a band like Godspeed You Black Emperor or Sigur Ros in the end? Has the language of rock really been enhanced by the inclusion of random or polyrhythmic elements and atonal melodic stylings? And in the end, how often is this new complex rock that much different than those horrible Chick Corea records where the entire ensemble played simultaneous and complex modal octaves until they were blue in the face?
For me, song structure, in particular, the placement of dramatic solos, forms the basis of great rock music. If the textural elements become so complex, the integral distortions of the instrumentation can become merely fatiguing rather than an enhancement to the capabilities of the small ensemble.
David Harrington, in a recent interview commented that he doesn't even listen to new music that much anymore; that Radiohead, Sigur Ros, et al are just as interesting because they've incorporated contemporary music stylings into their rock.
And let's face it, you can play practically any random notes on an electric guitar, vaguely on or off the beat, add drums and a repetitious bass and get that impression of uh... kickin' ass.
In fact, some groups, do merely that as their primary working method - algorithmic rock. The real question is there any really interesting music being done with rock band ensembles or is it all an excuse to hide under-rehearsed ensembles and ordinary minimalism by adding drums and bass? I have to admit, I've yet to hear a rock ensemble that is more compelling than recent Tortoise or Sigur Ros records. If the contemporary rock ensemble can't even blow away a few Icelandish 20-somethings I can't imagine the future of the ensemble is much to contemplate.
I will admit to a fondness for early Branca guitar orchestra work, however, but that seems to defy the definition of experimental rock as it was the misuse of gigantic numbers of electric guitars that made his early work so compelling.
And I'd like to mention the work of Daniel Stearns, in particular as a standout, original example of an Ivesian approach to rock music with his combinations of microtonal melodies and bizarre theatrical climaxes.
Why couldn't a rock ensemble, well-rehearsed, with great instrumentalists, and really compelling music, be the model for a contemporary music that actually maintains and grows an audience? I suspect, though, that the temptations to degenerate into silliness, the egocentric mannerisms of the soloists and the nature of the popularity of the ensemble in the marketplace, stale as it is, might make that impossible. The beat and the buck enslaves all, it seems, to mundanity.
August 24, 2004
Audioscrobbler Wants to Know Your Listening Habits and That's a Good Thing
Audioscrobbler is a plugin for computer music players that aggregates the listening habits of people that use MP3 player software on their computer. Why is that a good thing? First, wait a minute, it does what? From their website:
Audioscrobbler builds a profile of your musical taste using a plugin for your media player (Winamp, iTunes, XMMS etc..). Plugins send the name of every song you play to the Audioscrobbler server, which updates your musical profile with the new song. Every person with a plugin has their own page on this site which shows their listening statistics. The system automatically matches you to people with a similar music taste, and generates personalised recommendations.
Audioscrobbler records your listening habits as shared data. Here's my recent listens, and notice the obvious badly tagged MP3's I've been listening to:
One slight problem, we had a little party and left a beautiful recording of Bonporti's Inventions playing over and over and that has skewed my listening results! Tokyo Metropolitan Symphony Orchestra MP3's are Takemitsu and James Levine MP3's are Schoenberg, Berg or Webern. It appears composers are getting shafted in how the ID3 tags are being used.
Now, back to the original question. How is the tracking of listeners a good thing? What if the RIAA got a hold of this data!
For one, it helps you to find interesting music. By recording the diverse listening habits of hundreds of thousands of computer music listeners (people that use their computer to listen to music, right?) we can compare our listening habits to others and find strange pieces of music that we might be interested in.
For two, I can track my fans and see what they've been listening to. (Mostly my guitar music it seems).
Because of its dependency on the ID3 tagging system, of course, it's much harder for me to find another person who actually thinks the new Ligeti Hamburg Concerto is cool. That MP3 is most likely tagged by the orchestra name and the MP3 might not even have Gyorgy's name in it!. Well, that is a problem but one that can be overcome by his fans:
Unfortunately, for this article it appears that the Top Fans capability is broken. Needless to say, this site handles a ton of traffic and has been a bit flaky of late. They appear to finally be over that bandwidth hump though and are now letting in new members.
Big brother is o.k. it seems, if big brother is us watching us.
August 22, 2004
Postscript to Critical Conversation - A Critic Confesses
The discussions generated by ArtsJournal's Critical Conversation: Classical Music Critics on the Future of Music continue both online and offline. August 7, at the Aspen Music Festival, all critical participants (and no composers?) were publically engaged at a symposium. Gann's ongoing critique of contemporary music criticism seems to have finally been acknowledged although the outcome of this critique is likely to be business as usual, more continued coverage of the big names at the big venues and thats it.
Basically, today's critics need to wake up to the fact that their job no longer is merely going to a few concerts a week and writing a column. Today's musical environment is of magnificent diversity and requires critics with imagination, drive and a true curiosity for what is new. This implies, of course, a curiosity about the online music scene, a venue currently completely ignored.
Anne Midgette in today's New York Times reflects adequately about her problem. She expresses surprise about her friend having a Tan Dunn disk (and not the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon CD) while she had no interest in classical music and then goes on to speak specifically about the ongoing failures of her ilk. From her article -
We beat the drum about the need for more new work, trying to encourage it when it comes, pointing at every young face around us as evidence of the longed-for audience of the future. We hope to convince people like my friend, potential Tan Dun listeners, that there is something here for them. In essence, we're demanding of classical music that it be a living art.
But focusing as we do on the larger institutions, we're not necessarily keeping abreast of the latest trends in composition ourselves. Sure, there are many composers who write music for the orchestras, chamber ensembles and opera companies that we cover. But are they really the future of the field?
The history of music criticism is littered with people who were blind to the greatest things that were happening around them. We want to be better, smarter, more perceptive, so we seek to demonstrate our understanding, our foresight, our vision.
Ultimately, we're helpless. We never really know what's going to interest even the people we're closest to. The audience will blithely go about figuring out what it wants, or doesn't want, whatever we may want for it. And try as we might, cast our nets as wide as we will, there's a good chance that if a big idea does prove, 50 years hence, to have emerged from the morass of the early 21st century, the critics will probably have missed it.
This is a powerful admission, and one that hopefully will encourage all critics to stop merely covering the world of Adams, Reich, Boulez and Carter and to venture forth into all the possible niches of the real new music world, small clubs, online, micro-labels, et al.
August 18, 2004
The Rise of the Composer Gerontocracy and the Collapse of Pluralism
Why is it that no young composers are able to make a splash? Is it purely that there is not enough $$$ to effectively promote a newcomer to the point of name recognition (given the insular nature of the community).
Or has modern medicine finally created the famous 'gerontocracy' predicted in science fiction and cyberpunk novels for years. A world where the very old aggregate so much wealth and power that they effectively control culture.
What would be the symptoms of such a culture neuroses? Is it possible that recent new music programming evinces a rejection of pluralism and the seeming re-acceptance of European high modernist culture is symptomatic of such a phenomenon?
Every year we see more spectralists, more Boulezian clones getting orchestral performances here in the US while the native composer speaking a native language (like Rzewski or James Drew) seems under-represented. Yes, I know John Adams is over-represented. I don't believe his case is representative because of his seeming brand name power. (He's now like John Williams is for mega-budget Spielberg-type movies. Have a contemporary tragedy, need an American composer? Get Adams on the blower. As proof - how many so-called Totalist composers were performed by major orchestras last year?).
In NYC it is easier to find a performance of a lesser Boulezian composer than it is a minimalist now. Do we need the French now to teach music because so many American composers have accepted the poison of pluralism?
Has the Carter/Boulez cabal reasserted itself through simple longevity? Color me not completely convinced, however, I'm seeing signs, including frustration in Europe with the control of the high modernist camp and the seeming death in NYC of the downtown scene (or at least its collapse into rock music mannerisms).
August 16, 2004
Webjay Announces Open Web API
Lucas Gonze and other programmers have been working on opening up the Webjay system of listener created playlists of songs on the web with an API and now is producing example PhP scripts:
Try typing 'idealord' as the user and 'ContemporaryMusic2004' as the playlist to get a listing of one of my playlists.
What this opens up is going to be interesting because Webjay is essentially aggregating MP3 url's plus a semblance of curation, one of the missing ingredients in the discovery of interesting new music. MP3 blogging has become mainstream as evidenced by Warner Bros. recent attempt at co-option of a popular site - Music For Robots Sell Out. The numbers of legal (and quasi-legal) MP3's online now is vast. Systems for exploring them are needed which will encourage meta-commentary and curation to allow the great unknown musics available today to be heard. Recent discussions at ArtsJournal have exposed to many of us just how jaded and non-interested new music critics are about the web music scene. Tools are required to expose these new musics to interesting critics.
If I like X's playlists will I like all of the MP3's she has Webjayed? One ongoing capability within the Webjay system is the basing of playlists on others playlists. Typically diverse almost college radio-ish arrangements of materials abutting each other portend a difficult meta-curation process, but one rife with potential. Another interesting capability is the 'Play this page' system which automatically adds all MP3's of a given page to the Webjay system. In fact, one of the added benefits of using the Playthispage functionality is that you get immediate feedback about related playlists that duplicate the MP3's you've just scraped.
If we can use our imaginations, combination Webjay-powered blogs and portals hold the promise of a golden age of independent online music which is able to critically compete with the big boys.
July 31, 2004
A response to Critical Conversation
Could it be that the current impasse in classical music is chiefly the fault of critics? Perhaps cowardice, and a lack of commitment to champion a new lion or lioness is to blame? Given the implosion in funding and audience share, given the lack of consensus amongst the academics about the health of a pluralistic contemporary music economy, is it no wonder that the criticism hasn't coalesced around a movement or a composer?
Kyle's St. Matthew Effect article was a profound guide to this anomalous situation. How can a composer rise to the top of the heap when most critics are confused, dispassionate, and often gloating about the failure of the classical music world? Perphaps the claim that a critic made that Aaron Jay Kernis was the new Beethoven had implications above and beyond his career? Perhaps there is an embarassment caused by that claim, a fear, as that was seemingly the last act of lionization before the current spate of critical impotence.
Composers take risks. Why can't the critics? Stick your head up and say who you like. We don't care who is good. We don't care who is up and coming. Who is great now?
June 19, 2004
Naxos Records Puts all 5000 CDs Online for Annual Subscription
I've just discovered that Naxos Records has put all 5000 of their CD's online for subscriber listening. That is for $19.95 or E19.95, one can listen to a 20K (they claim FM radio quality) stream of any of their tracks. Naxos Subscriptions
Its great seeing classical CD labels understanding the potential for on-demand music, even if it is without downloading. Of course one could always TotalRecord the stream. But that would be in violation of federal copyright law and no beepSNORT reader would ever do that!
Webjay Contemporary Music Playlists
I was surprised to see how many downloads I'd been getting as a result of creating a few Webjay playlists. Robert Gable had pointed them out to me in response to a previous beepSNORT article about online stream aggregation.
So, I've decided to attempt to keep the playlist fresh and add artists and tracks newly pointed to at NetNewMusic.
Enjoy! No promises about freshness... In this playlist, I add and Eric Lyon track I heard premiered at the OughtOne Festival, and two new additions to the NetNewMusic listings, Le Quan Ninh and a live recording of Helmut Lachenmann's "allegro sostenuto" (1988) [geoffrey gartner (cello), christopher jones (piano), matt ingalls (clarinet)].
June 13, 2004
Anthony Tommasini and the Plight of the 21st Century US Composer
Something struck me recently on reading Tommasini's review of a recent Lee Hyla CD, in particular, this paragraph:
THE composer Lee Hyla has a rigorous conservatory training and a formidable musical intellect. Yet he has been as excited by the gritty power and raw surface energy of avant-garde jazz, rock and punk as by the brainy modern music of Elliott Carter and Stefan Wolpe. This merging of styles has tagged him as a kind of downtown renegade in some establishment quarters. Though Mr. Hyla, 51, has been commissioned by prestigious chamber ensembles, including the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, he has evidently scared away the major orchestras.
First of all, there is an assumption, that composers today, known and well known are being considered for orchestra performances because they are good composers and compose well and if a composer does not receive orchestral performances this may imply some type of 'popular aesthetic intimidation' or 'stylistic impropriety.'
One would think, with the dearth of activity in the US orchestral arena, the demise of the American Composer's Orchestra (it's coming very soon) and the constancy of the composers receiving commissions, that critics would be more open to the idea that perhaps, the system is cracked. Perhaps Mr. Hyla does not receive orchestral performances because nobody can receive orchestral performances, except for the same 5 names. Uh... namely... John Adams, John Adams, John Adams and uh... another gentleman.... John Adams!
Jokes aside, recent performances in NYC gave 3 composers the majority of performances, and almost all are dead. Ives, Copland and Adams. Over and over and over... Ives, Copland and Adams. Frankly, I'm sick of the lot. There has to be something better out there!
February 09, 2004
Tower Records Files for Bankrupcy
Tower Records, one of the few stores here in NYC that would take contemporary CD's on consignment, has filed for Chapter 11. According to the company, "Digital downloading and file copying crimped sales and led to rising losses."
Another victim in the P2P wars, and one that was friendly at one point, to the eccentric musician/collector. Even worse for the scene is the fact that now, only people with computers will have access to musics beyond corporate approved mediocrity.
February 07, 2004
The Artists' Artists Network - A Thought Project in Homebrew Curation
Recently, while attempting to support another site, I espoused an idea I'd been working on last year to create a networked graph derived from a web walk of independent online artists and their lists of 'favorite other artists.'
The project initially started with some spiders I was toying with which were designed to collate the listings that online artists through MP3.COM made to link other favorite MP3.COM artists.
My idea is simple, walk these networks and slowly build a graph with genre and popularity pointers, possibly in 3D through VRML or Flash, abstracting the preferences of one artist for another until one could spot, by surfing this graph, interesting artists recommended by other interesting artists.
Another idea I'll put out in the aether to help the ongoing task of separating the tasty wheat from the wretched chafe!
Support Independent Music Through TuneRecycler and Pepsi Ad Subversion
With the Tune Recycler, you can send us your unwanted iTunes bottlecap codes and we'll use them to support independent music. Easy for you, and good for musicians.
Although the independent musicians supported through this project will undoubtedly not be the eccentrics espoused by beepSNORT readers, the sheer subversive act of moving indie music up the iTunes charts by way of PepsInc $$$ is interesting. This group also houses many other interesting anti-RIAA actions.
February 06, 2004
Online Music Aggregation of Deep-Linking MP3s
In the process of working out some ideas at another site (don't ask) I realized that one of the big missing pieces left from the net online independent music scene that MP3.COM filled (actually created) is the concept of the user-created Station
The Station was an M3U file, a list of links which could be viewed as a web page, with associated graphics or listened to as a continuous stream or individual streams or downloaded.
The beauty of the Station idea was that it encouraged thousands of folks to be creative in mixing together, curating and promoting music through this user-defined act of aggregation.
Many fantastic stations come to mind from the MP3.COM era, from Steve Layton's Music Now Worldwide to hundreds of others. They let the user discover new artists quickly by skipping through hundreds of similar artists.
How could we re-create the station idea today? Easily, a little PhP and some MySQL could do it. We need a way to allow users to collect deeply-linked MP3 URL's, and then extract the song, artist, information from the MP3's or have them be user-enterred in some way. Would be great to have a uniform M3U station system or API someday...
January 07, 2004
Teo Macero Interview
This is a great interview which I have read many, many times. It was given in 1997 and Teo touches upon many of the topics and concepts that are touched upon here. Plus, he also talks about Miles, Ellington, Varese Stockhausen, the state of electronic music,these kids of today and various other sundry items:
January 04, 2004
Quotes of the Day
The composer is the only one of the creators today who is denied direct access with the public. When his work is done, he is thrust aside and the interpreter enters, not to try to understand but, impertinently, to judge it. Not finding in it any trace of the conventions to which he is accustomed, he banishes it from his programmes, denouncing it as incoherent and unintelligible
It is true that, in response to public demand, our official organisations occasionally place on their programmes a new work, surrounded by established names, but such a work is carefully choosen from the most timid and anaemic of contemporary production, leaving absolutely unheard the composer who represents the true spirit of our time
It's just recently that I've tried to become even more aware of this other side-the life side of music. I feel I'm just beginning again...music is a reflection of the universe, like having life in miniature. You just take a situation in your life or an emotion you know and put it into music.
They hurt you at home and they hit you in school
They hate you if you're clever and they despise a fool
Till you're so fucking crazy you can't follow their rules
Keep you doped with religion and sex and tv
And you think you're so clever and classless and free
But you're still fucking peasants as far as I can see
He is probably the first composer to list a specailized knowledge of acoustical sciences and electronic instrumental technique among his educational credits as a composer, rather than the diploma in piano or cello which composers used to boast in the past.
-Liner notes from CBS Odyssey release of Stockhausen's Nr.5 Zeitmasse for Five Woodwinds-
Found Item # 1
* The Best For Less: Records give you top quality for less money than any other recorded form.
* They Allow Selectivity of Tracks: With records it's easy to pick out the songs you want to play, or to play again a particular song or side, All you have to do is lift the tone arm and place it where you want it. You can't do this easily with anything but a phonograph record.
* They're The Top Quality in Sound: Long-playing phonograph records look the same now as when they were introduced in 1948, but there's a world of difference. Countless refinements and developments have been made to perfect the long-playing record's techincal excellence and insure the best sound reproduction and quality available in recorded form.
* They'll Give You Hours of Continuous and Uninterrupted Listening Pleasure: Just stack them up on your automatic changer and relax.
* They're Attractive, Informative, and Easy to Store: Record albums are never out of place. Because of aesthetic appeal of the jacket design, they're beautifully at home in any living room or library. They've also got important information on the backs-about the artists, about the performances or about the program. And because they're flat and not bulky, you can store hundreds in a minimum of space and still see every title.
* If It's in Recorded Form, You Know It'll Be Available on Records: Everything's on long-playing recoreds these days...your favorite artists, shows, comedy, movie sound tracks, concerts, drama, documented history, educational material...you name it. This is not so with any other kind of recording.
* They Make a Great Gift: Everybody you know loves music. And practically everyone owns a phonograph. Records are a gift that says a lot to the person you're giving them to. And they keep on remembering.
AND REMEMEBER....IT ALWAYS HAPPENS FIRST ON RECORDS.
-A Columbia Records inner record sleeve@1965-1969-
December 27, 2003
blue - Csound and Cmask Front End
I've been playing with blue - Steven Yi's Java front end to Csound. I'm finding it to be a very inspiring solution to the tedious work flow typical of Csound composition with scripts, that of the compile, render, listen, compile, render, listen cycle.
blue lets the composer establish an object-oriented vision of her scripts in such a way that Cmask can be used (or any script, python or rhino) in a smaller way, allowing for parts of scripts to be isolated in a manner more conducive to musical/textural thinking. blue is essentially a pre-compiler for Csound .csd files.
It was only after attending a 2 hour presentation by Steven Yi at NYU, and seeing how he uses his system to control complexity that I realized just how useful it could be. A particularly interesting scripting facility that Yi has written for himself though a Jython scripting system was a way of encapsulating an orchestral performance paradigm. He can pass to this system, after the appropriate 'inits' one note, which will then be rendered by a virtual ensemble with tiny onset diffs and intonation diffs, producing a marvelous facsimile of the chorussing effect that orchestral ensembles achieve.
More about blue later as I discover how it can effect my computer music workflow.
November 28, 2003
The Bloodlessness of Intellectual Composition in an Ultra-Violent Age
As ridiculously pretentious as it may seem, yesterday I was looking for a title to my new piano piece, in an essay by Artaud, "Toute L'ecriture" I believe it was, and came across the phrase, the bloodlessness of the intellectual. We'd just been listening to Xenakis, Jonchaies, and I began thinking, why is it that after the early 20th century pieces, and a few Xenakis pieces, that contemporary music in general is so lacking in energy, barbarism, passion?
How can we listen to Le Sacre and think that's the end of any road? How can we listen to Jonchaies and not be startled at its elegant simplicty and horrific violence? Why are there no intellectuals doing super-violent electronic music, which of course is capable of incredible noise ranges? In age of ultra-violent terrorists, continuous war, pop music that is louder and louder have the intellectuals become mere reactionaries in their pursuit of ultra-refined music? Why are there no composers today producing hard-slamming complex and intense music worthy of our desparate nervousness?
I'm sure a few of you will say to yourselves, he's equating repetitive barbarism with passion simplistically. I've considered that, and I just can't bring to mind, any truly gigantic violent moments in recent music. Maxwell-Davies? typically meanders, Lutoslawski, his symphonies and Chains often merely meander without truly producing the musical orgasm I'm considering. Messiaen? The staticity of his time prevents the drama from occuring which is necessary for the big moments and Turangalila was 60 years ago! ;-)
There are a few moments in Notations where the violence is there, but in a 1 minute piece! What am I forgetting? Are we that musically impotent today?
Are we just incapable of dreaming? Controlled by academic fashions?
What happened to our ooooooomph?
November 26, 2003
SoundRaider - The Continuous Harddrive Remixer
Although a few years old, SoundRaider is a tool for exploring what everything audio on on your hard drive sounds like at the same time - SoundRaider. The software constantly scans and remixes your sound collection, creating a continuous audio flood of bizarre and pointless sonic ruminations.
Many beepSNORT readers have been purported to leave it running constantly!
November 24, 2003
Formant Synthesis for Replicating Great Singers
Software that purports to simulate arbitrary singer's voices - even dead singers - with new material is discussed in the New York Times - Could I Get That Song in Elvis, Please? Of course this is most likely based on Dodge's work with Caruso, (an amazing piece btw, I've heard it in concert).
How does copyright law effect the formants of well known celebrity voices? Do singers have to perform at all anymore once their talent has been recognized commercially? Is the selling of formants themselves the next frontier in mass market artist branding?
The software has huge faults, but the way it's being marketed is itself intriguing.
November 23, 2003
Will Your Next Composition Be a Hit?
A group in Spain, Polyphonic HMI claims that through analysis they have done, (FFT's?) they have created a tool which can rate the 'hitability' of your song. Remarkably, they claim to have predicted several recent hits, that were unlike recent radio-airplay regulars, i.e. specifically, Norah Jones.
Maybe we should re-program the system to determine how we might fare in this year's ICMC. You may already be a winner!
November 22, 2003
Electronic Music Search Site Launched
A site attempting to collate all manner of electronic musicians and resources has been launched by the programmer behind ElectronicScene, Sonic Wallpaper. I would urge experimentalists from the academic and independent communities to add links to themselves. Should prove to be a good resource for all manner of independent electronic musicians.
Japanese Flutist Robot Created
The amazing progress of Japanese robotic science continues with the creation of a flute-playing robot. No need for physical-modelling synthesis now! Because it is MIDI-controlled, any keyboard can direct the robotics performance. The emulation of embouchure and breath pressure control are especially interesting.
October 29, 2003
SEAMUS Call for submissions
Apologies for posting this on short notice...
SEAMUS (Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States) is accepting submissions for its national conference, to be held March 25-27, 2004 at San Diego State University, San Diego, CA. Deadline for submissions is November 1st.
The application process is entirely online; it's quick and easy.
Go to http://seamus.lsu.edu and follow the links to the Conference submission application and guidelines.
September 28, 2003
Magnatune Starts a Creative Commons Online Music Business
Magnatune has started a business of curated online music distribution utilizing the 'some rights reserved' licensing plan in the Creative Commons model.
They seem to be specializing, at the moment, in classical and electronic artists. Artists are encouraged to upload MP3's or send CD's.
From their web site:
We call it "try before you buy." It's the shareware model applied to music.
Listen to hundreds of MP3'd albums from our artists. Or try our genre-based radio stations.
If you like what you hear, buy our music online for as little as $5 an album or license our music for commercial use.
Artists get a full 50% of the purchase price. And unlike most record labels, our artists keep their rights to their music.
Founded by musicians, for musicians.
No major label connections.
We are not evil.
September 11, 2003
CMask as a Tool for Generating Sonic Detail
As I posted two articles ago, I've been looking into how to make electronic music more compelling. One of my suspicions, about problems in this regard, has been that the general simplicity of textures typically employed in the realization of an electronic piece and the artificial nature of the performance contributes heavily to a dullness in the sonic appeal of electronic music.
To this end, I've been looking back into CMask a general purpose Csound event generator. Because the CMask syntax is a simple notelist, I've been thinking it should be trivial to generate MIDI files or instructions for other languages with CMask output. nGen and Score11 (available from the Eastman Computer Music Center) are two other systems I'm looking at.
My idea is to take traditionally composed melodies and render them with mass groupings of notes, say 10 or 20 MIDI instruments playing the same melody but using micro-permutations to generate sonic detail.
September 10, 2003
Glut of Composers Responsible for New Music Glass Ceiling?
As I noted in a previous article I've been thinking about Kyle Gann's assertion that there are no longer any middle-tier composers, only wannabes and the top dogs. With 60,000 active composers in the world, 25-40 thousand in the US alone, its no wonder that composers are feeling as if it is just impossible these days to have a viable career in new music.
Although it is apparent, with the drastically reduced state and federal funding in the US that less money for commissions is being handed down, what is also obvious is the increased featuring of non-US composers. In NYC, we see regular promotion of Asian, Eastern European and Eastern Russian composers almost to the point of wondering if US composers are being considered as unworthy of performance.
There is of course the common platitude that 'you must leave your home country to make it in the arts' but where could a US composer go? There is nowhere to go for a career where, even with keeping a 9-6 job, ones music could be regularly performed and discussed.
I believe it's not just a problem of promotion or the general alienation of audeinces, but an essential tenet of the new art world. Beyond croneyism, beyond careerism, we now have a few islands of success which are incapable of harboring new citizenry. What is the solution? Competing for scraps by thousands of composers is hopeless and debilitating. Creation of your own scene, is costly, both timewise and financially.
Micro-communities of new music listeners on the intenet? Possibly, but it is unproven and is itself problematic regarding issues of promotion and the maintenance of authorship identification.
September 09, 2003
Quantity of Detail in Realization as a Deterrent to Electronic Music Acceptance
I"ve been thinking about why many classical music lovers have a problem with the basic textures and sounds of electronic music. Obviously there are huge changes in how the music is produced, resulting in potential perceptual enigma, such as the lack of personality in the performance itself.
But I recently remembered an editorial in Computer Music Journal where the writer (sorry can't remember the reference) was theorizing that more synthesizers, much more, and a doubling or tripling of the textures would produce an effect that would be more compelling to more listeners.
In other words, most electronic music relies upon a 'chamber music' performance space while removing the most exciting part of chamber music performance, the individual musicality of the small ensemble.
Its possible that with larger virtual ensembles, some of the well known problems in electronic music, the lack of personality in the offset characteristics and the overuse of hard attacks because of this problem might be obviated. I'll be writing more about this as I begin exploring generative methods that might be able to simulate these massed virtual performers.
August 17, 2003
Boulez Returning to Electronics to Support Microtonal Composition?From rec.music.classical.contemporary, Jorge Franganillo writes:
In the latest number of Scherzo (http://www.scherzo.es) there is a 6-page interview with Pierre Boulez. In the little conversation one can read about his composition projects, he says that he's going back to electronics to work with microintervals and he assures that he's now writing Anthèmes 3, a work for violin and orchestra (longer than Anthèmes 2), comissioned by Anne-Sophie Mutter, which will be premiered in 2006 to celebrate Paul Sacher's centennary. Boulez expects to have this work finished in 2005. (Should we believe him??) Quite surprisingly, not a word about his Notations for orchestra!
August 15, 2003
MIT's Eigenradio - The Future of Radio?
If you missed this interesting post-modernist experiment, you might want to check it out before it dissipates:
From the site:
All those stations, playing all that music, all the time! There's at least 40 different songs being played every week on most radio stations! Who has enough time in the day to listen to them all? That's why we've set up banks of computers to do the listening for us. They know what you really want to hear. They're trading variety for variance.
Eigenradio plays only the most important frequencies, only the beats with the highest entropy. If you took a bunch of music and asked it, "Music, what are you, really?" you'd hear Eigenradio singing back at you. When you're tuned in to Eigenradio, you always know that you're hearing the latest, rawest, most statistically separable thing you can possibly put in your ear.
What's interesting to me is HOW interesting this joke software is to others.
Explains a lot about what our culture has become.
Remakes of remakes of remakes.
Commentaries upon commentaries upon commentaries.
We don't need new things. Just old things mangled into coolness.
It is the shock of the new keeps our culture alive, vital and annoying. As to arguments that nothing is new... You can granularize anything into constituent elements and accuse those elements of not being new. The gestalt, or the effect on the listener is what CAN be new.
We have a lazy culture now. A culture infected by corporate agendae. A culture infected by the symbolic oppression of corporate financial agendae.
Only the artists can save it! Go forth and propagate newness all ye who are able!!!
On with the show...
August 12, 2003
Composition Today and The Remix as Graphical Score
I've been thinking about a new approach to my music in general that will allow me to continue to be a part of the classical world, even as I continue to primarily create within the electronic world.
Basically, I'm saying I've been screwed for the last time! Stuck in the classical music world at the mercy of performers that promise performances and then screw up the piece or don't record it. Commissioned by performers who never play the piece, odd ensembles that will never get played; 2-4 months on one piece that never gets played. It's a nightmare as we all see the classical music world imploding. I was supposed to have performances in Cyprus (and a recording) a Canadian tour, an Australian performance, an Amsterdam performance and two NYC premieres this year and only the Australian premiere has happened. Money, politics, all have caused this year to be one of the worst when it should have been one of my best!!
So, I had an idea this weekend, actually I've been working towards this idea (with the Road Trip pieces actually) and that is to begin writing pieces for 2 pianos soley. No more 3 months on a piece for nose flute, accordion and marimba that may get premiered, but not recorded or ever performed again.
Once the 2 piano version is done, I'll 'remix' these pieces with extra textures, morphings, beats and effects and create a score of that remix and suggestions of other possible scores. The piece then will exist in audible form, have a score that could be performed in a classical concert and simultaneously have an amazing JH electronic realization. If an orchestra decides to commission me, all I have to do is orchestrate one of these pieces. All the big names of the past have done this, Debussy used to always write first for 2 piano and then orchestrate.
I'm sure a lot of you have noticed how my recent electronic music is really minimal, usually devoid of much melody and that's generally because I'm not writing 'music' I'm laying down textures. I want to get back to writing real pieces, with introductions and climaxes and counterpoint and then rendering them into electronic form.
One concern I have about electronic music in general is that it is absolutely the most fragile art ever created. It's just 1's and 0's. If for some reason CD players were to cease production cuz of format changes, etc... the music will be unplayable. CD's can disappear, go off the market and bam... no record of the music.
So, by having an output that is simulatenously, a PDF score, a printed score, an electronic realization a MIDI file for others to use in 'remixing' and even large chunks of the piece to encourage remixing, I think I can develop a new approach to musical creation that will allow me to showcase my compositional talents and my electronic talents. And by notating the remix, at least informally, I can provide an electronic 'score' indicating where the glitches are to occur, etc... but allowing the remix artist to glitch that section at will.
In a sense, this is akin to the classical cadenza when composers would let performers write 3 minute sections in the middle of their pieces, using the melodic material that had already happened to show off. Mozart piano concerto cadenzas by Beethoven are amazing.
Could this type of notation might be a cool way for composers to constrain remixes? Could be a form of graphical notation, like Cage has done even... even just graphics that could be used for album covers or promo.
August 06, 2003
Music Modified by Audience Brainwave Controllers
Received this via email - haven't had time to investigate.
REGEN3 / Regenerative Brainwave Music: ElectroBrainFunk
at DECONISM Gallery, 330 Dundas St. West, Toronto
(across the street from the Art Gallery of Ontario), tickets available at the door. Friday August 15th, 9pm
What if music responded to your mind?
REGEN3 will present the latest developments in EEG brainwave music research, by presenting an ensemble comprised of Toronto jazz musicians playing music which is driven and altered by the brainwaves of the audience. Audience members can become part of an advanced mass EEG system which uses audience brainwaves to control both the music and lighting environment: a truly 'smart' building. Join us and see what happens when the mood of the environment is "regenerated" by the collective consciousness of the attendees.
REGEN3 will be performed by Bryden Baird (trumpet), James Fung (keyboard) Dave Gouveia (drums), Sandy Mamane (bass) and Corey Manders (sax)
August 02, 2003
New Instruments - Where the Action Is?
A gentleman in Colorado has created the largest timpani ever, 70 inches, and he's been commissioning and performing pieces with it at the Aspen New Music Festival.
This brings to mind, the experimental instrument group that IRCAM was supposedly setup for. What has happened to the creation of new acoustic instruments? One would think with the resources for physical modelling that all types of new acoustic instruments would be under way. But it seems that the experimental instrument scene is still ghettoized. One constantly interesting resource in this realm is Experimental Music Instruments Magazine. EMI Magazine has a few CD's that are extremely interesting, if not purely for the sampling potential, hint hint...
GRAVIKORD, WHIRLIES AND PYROPHONES, and ORBITONES, SPOON HARPS & BELLOWPHONES are both recommended.
Perhaps what is needed is just an instrument like this to get people thinking, why can't we have a bass flute that doesn't require lungs of steel?
July 27, 2003
Soulseek and Contemporary Music
It has come to my attention, ;-) that there is a ton of contemporary music, including MP3's by most of the composers we talk about here, available through the Soulseek P2P system. I don't want to get into the ethics of this process, which are controversial, however, I do think that as a way to sample new music, this could possibly be one of the most important new music promotional processes underway today.
Because Soulseek allows the P2P file sharer to browse other shared files, one can easily find other recordings by similar artits. I've seen PDF's of Ligeti's etudes, complete Stockhausen Licht recordings, Messiaen, Sciarrino, Xenakis, and others.
I'm not going to argue about the economic consequences of this process, so folks who might get upset about this, flame away. But I find it encouraging that there are literally hundreds of 20 somethings out there finding out about, and digging Ligeti, et al, because of this network.
As far as I'm concerned, the biggest problem facing new music is the lack of ears, without that arguing about the lack of sales is meaningless.
Just a pointer... http://www.slsk.org - for the software.
June 18, 2003
Stylistic Conventions Which Thwart Cross-Pollination
I've been thinking about assumptions, fashions, and expectations which prevent the academic and popular experimental community from collaborating or furthering each other's work. Here's a few quick concepts I plan to explore in the next few days.
1. The Beat
Academic electronic music avoids it now. It was possibly more fashionable while minimalism was briefly in vogue, but the post-minimalists seem to have little sway in academic electronic music now. The spectralists are in the vanguard (yes it's true it's just another name for Boulezianism) and new complexity (yes it's true it is just 70's complexity re-hashed) and the beat has taken leave.
Popular experimentalism seems to require a beat? Why? We're exploring, we're not necessarily dancing. What's with the obsession that even the most exploratory electronic music groups like Autechre have with a beat? Is it fear of losing audience share? Is it a fear of succumbing to accusations of 'intellectualism?'. I believe it's a little of both.
Academics say if tonality is used in a modal or simple way, than its popular music, i.e. junk. You find very little music with white notes these days at an ICMC concert. Why is that? Is it purely fashion? Is the C Major scale that played out?
Popular experimentalists require white note adherence, or at least simple scales. It's true we find noise, but when a melody asserts itself it is uniformly white note based. Why is that? Again, is it a fear of being accused of intellectualism? How is music exploratory if it has to have a beat and must contain only white note melodies?
What is especially interesting is that both parties, the academics and the the popular electronic experimentalists will deny these assumptions, even as they practice them. Why is this? Fashion has unspoken rules, obviously, but must fashion prevent cross-pollination? Is fashion constrained by the arbiters of taste in each community to the point of incomprehensibility?
June 17, 2003
All Tomorrow’s Parties 3.0 CD Released
All Tomorrow’s Parties 3.0 :: V/A (Autechre Curated) CD is reviewed:
Review. Noticeably, Curtis Roads, Bernard Parmegiani performances are not on the cd. Is this a result of omission for sales purposes? I can't imagine many artists not allowing for their performances to go to disk.
June 11, 2003
Who Invents the Inventors?
I started this before Jeff posted his June 4th article, but it seems a nice follow-up.
For as long as I’ve been in this field, I’ve worked with, read about, and listened to musicians who all considered themselves to be ‘experimental’ in their musical approach. The number of said approaches is varied to a man, and it gets me to thinking: why use such a vague, universally applicable word for something that’s so personal and intimate? To that end, what is it that not only leads a composer to the conclusion that they belong under this umbrella, but drives them to compose in the first place?Continue reading "Who Invents the Inventors?"
June 06, 2003
The Fertile Land of New Sounds Revisited
OK, a few more fertile areas for exploration that I'm interested in, at least:
1. Physical Modelling Strangeness
Physical modelling synthesizer processes can be sources of incredibly bizarre timbres. Whether its the mis-shapen steel drum that morphs into a sitar-like blues harp or the distorted guitars that being to overblow like trombones, there are seemingly infinite new sound sources in the mis-use of physical models.
2. Physical Modelled Noise Production
In Perry Cook's recent book Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications, which by the way includes an audio CD and tons of C++ source code, he introduces plenty of models for producing natural sounds such as glass breaking, walking on snow, other chaotic and complex sounds we live with. Using these models in music should provide a rich source of very complex percussion sounds and noise textures.
Author: Perry Cook
Title: Real Sound Synthesis for Interactive Applications
Publisher: AK Peters Ltd.
Year: 2002 ISBN: 1-56881-168-3
Price: $39 250 pages
June 05, 2003
Electronic Experimentation Today - Fertile Territories Ahead?
After my post from yesterday, I've been thinking of areas that could be fertile for exploration.
1. Irrational tunings.
Jean-Claude Risset, in the notes to his piece, Inharmonique, called irrational tunings the 'future of music.' What is an irrational tuning? It's any tuning system that utilizes pratials that are inharmonic, i.e., not in the harmonic series. Typical musical usages involve close mappings between the tuning and the timbre. For example, recent (and not so recent) studies of Indonesian musics has found that the 'nodes' of tuning systems utilized by their metallic instruments closely map the resonating nodes of the timbres of the instruments. Many composers have written pieces attempting to use FM sounds with irrational tunings, my piece, Jardin des Merveilles, a tuning was found after the FM timbre was chosen. William Sethares has explored this musical technique and written a book about it, Tuning Timbre Spectrum Scale.
2. Very large grain 'granular' resynthesis
Popular software ReCycle and many samplers allow for the creation of very large grain size chopping sounds which can be reconsituted into the original sound. Many composers today in the popular genre IDM, utilize this technique, but I don't feel that the experimentation is complete. I wrote a few entries ago about SquarePusher's utilization of this technique within the popular song form framework and how the chopping created new textural expectations that were fulfilled within an entirely different chopped textural area. It's not just beats that can be chopped up in this manner, vocal passages, improvisations, etc. could be. To create musical expectations within this paradigm, and not just deconstruct and reconstruct arbitrarily as a gesture could be a worthy area of exploration.
June 04, 2003
Is Experimental Music Today Really Experimental?
I've been thinking about what it means to call your music 'experimental' and it seems that in 2003, the experiments have all been performed.
Is music that morphs sound experimental? Morphing timbres has been used in many pieces, Lansky, Risset, et al, and even used in popular Hollywood films (Willow in the tent scene).
Is microtonal music experimental? After Partch and Haba, et al, it would seem that microtonal music is old hat. We can come up with new scales and explore them, but isn't that what composition is about? Would employing new software devices to explore these realms be considered experimental in 2003?
Is the use of noise experimental? Since the work of Varese, the use of noise has become fairly well-trodden territory. It would seem to be if an entire genre of music has developed around a musical technique than it is no longer experimental - Noise music .
Is the use of stochastics or randomizing procedures experimental? Since Cage and Xenakis explored this territory so thoroughly in the last century I find it hard that it could be considered such.
Is the use of computers to write music or to search for patterns or to generate passages or timbres experimental? Again, very well-explored territory.
Is ths use of computer-generated speech or vocal timbres experimental? Again, with Lansky's work and the use of speech synthesis embedded in most PC's (although not utilized well by software) I can't see how artificial vocalisms can be considered experimental.
Good composers, IMO, look for unexplored combinations of timbral, textural and melodic elements. That is the nature of the search for newness that all good artists indulge in. Is it possible that there will be no more experimental music?
And while I indulge in these thoughts, is it possible that without experimentalism there is no more avant-garde? Leonard Meyer predicted that in the near future, a dead end would be reached in experimentalism and that musical styles would freeze, in the same manner that Egyptian art had become frozen.
One can certainly imagine amazing new musics produced from combining the many diverse elements we have at our disposal today. One brilliant innovation in compositional technique and new musical fashions emerge. But these new fashions, IMO, cannot claim to be the new order of music; the new avant-garde if they are merely mixing known elements. They are just today's music, fresh and lively. One of the great reasons to keep up with the electronic scene. If new musical styles are going to develop, experimental or not, it will be here in the world of electronica.
Am I missing something? Is there some new realm that experimentalists are exploring that I've left out? Does being avant-garde not imply experimenting?
June 02, 2003
Listing of Experimental Electronic Music Streams Updated Weekly
Found a great list of audio ad extremem in a recent posting on rec.music.classical.contemporary - WEEKLY CONTEMPORARY CULTURE - proven stereo streams most without US entertainment INDUSTRY domination. It is a listing of great audio streams online playing contemporary classical, electronic and experimental musics from around the world. The coolest thing is that it rates the stream, updates its validity weekly and has some commentaries on its subject matter.
June 01, 2003
Synthesizing Carnatic Music With the Computer
Very interesting article about creating Carnatic (Southern Indian) music via the computer. From the author M. Subramanian:
This article describes the present situation in synthesizing Carnatic Music with the computer, the problems and possible solutions
The full article can be found at http://carnatic2000.tripod.com/compmus.htm
Birthday Broadcast for Terry Riley & Harry Partch
When: 24 June 2003
Where: WKCR FM NY 89.9 or in Real Audio and MP3 Format worldwide www.wkcr.org
The New Music Department at WKCR is celebrating the birthdays of both Partch and Riley with a 24 hour straight broadcast of their music. The show will focus on the entire career of Partch and up to 1978 for Riley. The reason given for the cutoff date on Riley is due to "relavance & quality" Well I don't believe that but there is only 24 hours to do this and many of Riley's most innovative and groundbreaking works do fall into that time frame. As one who has been an avid listener of WKCR for many years, the various music departments do a great job on these special broadcasts playing not only commercial releases but many private and rare recordings. So if you are a fan or are just curious, mark your calendars and tune in. At this moment, WKCR is finishing up a 5 day Henry Grimes festival (ending tonight at 7:00pm EST) so you still have time to tune in and and listen to that!
Quotes for a SundayOne of the problems my music has had is that it's an abstract music, and people are not being educated to deal with abstract music or abstract thought. The abstract plane involves many levels, the first being self-realization or having some fundamental understanding of what you think about things. Abstract Consciousness is not necessarily relevant to being a great Republican or Democrat.
The concept of the expanded time structure composed of long sustained tones
and the unique tonal palette of those works came to me not by theoretical
deduction, but by inspired intuition.
This new approach to composition and hearing evolved not from my great
appreciation of Anton Webern, but from environmental influences as well:
the sound of the wind; the sounds of crickets & Cicadas, the sounds of
telephone poles & motors; sounds produced by steam escaping such as
my mothers teakettle and to the sounds of whistles and signals from trains;
and resonance's set off by the natural characteristics of particular geographic
areas such s canyons, valleys, lakes, and plains.
May 31, 2003
autechre :: draft 7.30
I like to be reckless at the record store, to forsake my lengthening to-buy lists and pick up things that even I wasn't expecting from time to time. And so I ended up with my first Autechre disc, their latest, Draft 7.30. This was especially a surprise to me as I've never especially cared for the so-called visionaries, despite having listened to the majority of their work in flurry of guilt that I hadn't really given them a fair chance until then. (I did give them a fair chance. I remained unimpressed.)
So here I am listening to the latest Autechre disc for the 4th time through. As expected, it's cold, sterile, and thoroughly uninviting material, but at the same time intriguing in its way. The detached intricacy at work here suggests an uncommon level of precision, the chaotic timing nonetheless indicates rigid underlying mathematics, the edges of which I can only begin to discern. Yes, I'm intrigued. A bit heavy on theory and light on actual execution, perhaps, but at least it has my attention.
May 30, 2003
Quotes for a Friday
'The essential aspect of MIXTUR is, first of all, the transformation of the familiar orchestra sound into a new, magical sound world. It is an unbelievable experience, for example, to see and hear strings bowing a held note and to perceive simultaneously how this note slowly moves away from itself in a glissando, the pulse speeds up and a wonderful timbre spectrum develops. Orchestra musicians are astonished when they hear their played notes being modulated timbrally, melodically, rhythmically, and dynamically."
-Karlheinz Stockhausen from his notes on MIXTUR-
"There is never an end...There is always new sounds to imagine; new feelings to get at. And always, there is the need to keep purifying these feelings and sounds so that we can really see what we've discovered in its pure state."
Academia Embraces Young Experimentalists - A Marketing Ploy?
My first reaction upon hearing of the concert with the London Sinfonietta orchestrating Aphex Twin, SquarePusher and BOC was, what a clever idea to build audiences - and how desparate.
It's obvious to anybody that goes to contemporary music concerts that audience attendance is dwindling, all the while experimental venues, of the electronic sort, are growing, for the moment. The recent Dartmouth call for scores, and the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival seem to be more attempts at building bridges to increase audience share. But is academia really embracing the young experimentalists? Are Aphex Twin songs being mentioned in History of Electronic Music classes? Is there any analysis of Autechre's use of spectral metamorphosis?
Of course there isn't. That cannot happen (at the moment) for academia to assert that it has a legitimate position above the community college courses on MIDI Synthesis. The canon, of academic computer music, which practically nobody recognizes as good music, must be protected. The prestige of the academic electronic music community must be preserved in order to maintain the patina of legitimacy. The academic power structure which enforces the legitimacy of decades of crap computer music can only be maintained by embracing an audience that would appear to provide them with increased market share.
When I see CD's being released with Curits Roads next to Autechre, etc... and mentions in the curricula of academic electronic courses, only then will I believe that a real interest other than stealing market share exists!
Of course when this happens, will the flood gates open as they did in the textual world? Will musical porn be discussed in a post-modern context? Will Cher and Madonna's electronic music be analyzed not only in post-modern history courses, but in electronic music courses because they are popular? Stay tuned!
May 29, 2003
Interview With DJ Spooky and Mathew Shipp
For those interested in true musical cross pollination, you need to read this interview with the founder of Illbient DJ Spooky and the great jazz pianist Matthew Shipp which can be found at http://www.signaltonoisemagazine.org/archives.html# Click on the article called Exchanging Files
Eurocentric Bias for Experimental/Electronic Music??
The world of experimental/electronic music is a very insular one. Every note, sound, bleep is a close guarded secret encoded with theoretical prose much deeper than the actual music. I have in my library three excellent books written about the experimental/electronic music matrix:
Talking Music by William Duckworth
Electronic and Experimental Music by Thom Holmes
Experimental Music by Michael Nyman
DJ Krush - The Blackhole - Amazing Darkness
By chance I was listening to Netscape@Radio Abstract Beats and caught an unbelievably powerful work, The Blackhole by an artist I've heard of for years, but never explored that much, DJ Krush. It's from the album - Message at the Depth and contains some of the scariest and most bizarre percussion music I've ever heard.
The blackness and the hyper-active cross-pollination between break beat and hip hop percussion into a practically Xenakis-like hell texture is remarkably effective and memorable without producing an effect of deconstructive chaos. The textures return and coallesce into beautiful structures within the distrubed sonic shapes themselves.
As the shape progresses, an almost classical form emerges, within the spaces without the hyperactive subwoofer pounding. Returns are enhanced and re-shaped without becoming boring. The album, apparently is a set of reflections about 9/11.
Henry Grimes FoundThough this has really nothing to do with electronic music but much to do with experimental music....The great Henry Grimes has been found after being mia for over 30 years. For those who don't know, Henry Grimes was one of the premiere bass players of the 1960's playing with the likes of Albert Ayler, Cecil Taylor, Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, and many others. He was one of the players who helped develop an individual language on the bass for what is known as "free jazz". Since 1970, NOTHING has been heard from him. With that in mind, please find the article below:
Could an Experimental Electronic Pop Genre Exist?
In listening to recent Squarepusher, it has become obvious to me that he is taking a genre and essentially distorting its boundaries in a similar manner as Stravinsky with the Ebony Concerto (or other jazz-influenced works). The song, "My Red Hot Car" is probably one of the most innovative pop songs of the past 100 years. It is constantly re-structuring itself, and creating a genuinely disturbing progress of complex timbral and rhythmic changes which are as innovative as anything being done in academic experimental music now.
Square Pusher - My Red Hot Car - Go Plastic
I plan on writing more about this innovative song and another of Squarepusher's 'Do You Know Squarepusher' in the near future.
May 27, 2003
Another Sign of the Times - Dartmouth Call for Scores
The Dartmouth College Electro-Acoustic Festival call for scores shares the ongoing dismissal of archetype in electronic music with its generious search for any and all types of interesting electronic music. Heaven help us all!
Quoted without permission:
Below is information about a festival that will take place this summer at Dartmouth College. Our intent is to program as broad a range of electro-acoustic music as possible, hopefully discovering new ideas about what EA music might be along the way. Our one restriction is that we are not programming video works, so that the focus remains on the music. But live-performance pieces are fine. And we're especially interested in pieces that are not necessarily "mainstream" EA music - that are provocative, obsessive, weird, beat-oriented, noisy, genuinely experimental, or anything else that might prevent them from consideration at more staid events. Following is a URL from where you can propose works. I hope to hear from some of you.
May 26, 2003
Another Concert Blurring the Boundaries of Academic and Popular
While surfing thru the BBC3 Hear and Now website I stumbled across this discussion of a recent concert of the All Tomorrow's Parties Festival curated by Autechre where Curtis Roads, Bernard Parmegiani, Aphex Twin, Hecker and Pita played in concert - Radio 3 Message Board. More evidence of the increasingly blurred status of academic experimental electronic music. Curtis Roads, for those that aren't familiar with him, is one of the early adoptors/inventors of granular synthesis.
May 25, 2003
Joseph Benzola, Jeff Harrington and Steve Layton have launched a new music blog featuring coverage of the online experimental and electronic music scene. With a focus on works in online distribution, beepSNORT plans to examine and curate the wild world of a genre of music which increasingly face the threat of a glut of artists calling themselves experimental but in actuality not experimenting at all. beepSNORT welcomes guest authors and plans to publish short commentaries from interesting music writers."
Steve Layton Realizes Xenakis' Evryali
Composed for piano in 1973, Xenakis' "Evryali" is a wildly imposing work, yet one that has a kind of directness and even "play". This directness comes from the simple and intuitive forms that lie beneath the barrage of notes, and is what makes the piece immensely engaging, almost "familiar", for both the performer and the listener. While traditional notation might obscure the work's compositional origins, a slightly different representaion of the notes will show the actual framework of purely free graphic inspiration that lies at the heart of the piece. It reveals a piece that was much more "drawn" than "composed" in the traditional sense. Granular (composed of many discrete "bits" or notes) blocks of sound alternate with many equally granular, entangled or branching lines or curves (Xenakis called these "aborescences" or "Medusa's hair"). The visual demands of Xenakis' "drawings", when translated to traditional notation, make for many passages that are strictly impossible for any human pianist. The performance I give here is a "virtual" one, that makes use of digital (midi) technology to realize the work just as written, bypassing the limits of two hands and ten fingers.