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?

Posted by jeff at 01:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by jeff at 02:34 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBack

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).

Posted by jeff at 02:17 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBack

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?

Posted by jeff at 09:55 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBack