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April 29th, 2010

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Finally, a table of contents to all four blogs

October 19th, 2006

Hey folks, I finally have a table of contents to all four of my blogs: Social software; Cultural Commentaries; Film; and Music. If you’re like me, you probably don’t navigate blogs by archive postings; so here’s to one of the most basic navigation inventions ever, the TOC.

Roger Waters at Shoreline sans David Gilmour on guitar

October 18th, 2006

Here’s a verbatim exchange between a couple friends of mine, named Kylen and Pete, on the merits and demerits of the guitarist on tour with Roger Waters at the moment, who performed at Shoreline Amphitheatre here recently covering Pink Floyd tunes (including Dark Side of the Moon, in its entirety). We all know that David Gilmour is a legend in his own right, as a guitarist and as (my preferred) representative of the post-Floyd era Pink Floyd. Standing in for Dave would make most guitarists go pasty in the face; not a fair job, really.

I, who was not at the Shoreline show for reasons pertaining to ticket unavailability and a habitual tendency to procrastinate in purchase of said tickets, to any performance, generally, do feel that I missed an opportunity!

(I do have tix to see Aussie Floyd at the Paramount next week. Lessons learned)…

Here’s their email exchange, in chronological order.

Pete writes:

It’s apples to oranges on roger versus dave this year, but I’ve never heard
pink floyd rock quite like last night. Although, the guitar solos did kinda
suck(that dude looked too much like every replacement guitarist ever hired
by a once rocking band), I’m now a roger believer. He’s doing 62 dates next
year. If you missed this round, don’t miss the next one. Whether or not you
take Aussie Floyd into your heart or not.

PS – I’d have paid the thirty bucks to see Sheep and leave right after
that. But I stayed for the fun stuff all the same.


Kylen writes:

Dude, I guess I’m not a guitarist. (I’m not.)

(And that dude DID look like the cheesiest Steve Vai-lookin, old skool Jim
Satriani-clone Guitar-Player dude ever…)

BUT I thought he frikken NAILED the solos!!!! I’ve also heard those things
10 hundred million gazillion times and I thought he was the friggen mark.
It was uncanny except I know enough guitarists who’ve also practiced those
solos AND he BETTER nail em if he’s playing with Mr. Waters.

But yeah, wasn’t Sheep amazing???

I’m going down on the record as saying it was the best concert I’ve ever
seen. It was everything concerts should or could be.

plus I met Peter Coyote in the beer line.
…and everyone ya meet…



Pete writes:

Kylen “you ignorant slut”.

First of all, the Steve Vai fiddle player played a telecaster for all the
solos. And it appeared to be well post-CBS buyout model. Anyone, who’s
anyone, knows that although Telecasters in the hands of say a Daniel Ash,
sound like a forest of trees singing Mozart, they don’t hold the tone or
shape of note to save their lipstick pickups. Where, it’s cousin,
Stratocaster, can hold a bottom end better than Freddie Mercury at the
Men’s Room on four bags of meth.

Suffice to say, the lead spots, however note for note perfect they almost
were, barely made the shoreline collective nuts lift off the seams of their
BVDs. And the Waters’ back up band made it known that they too could hear
more jangle than dangle, when they had “old crickety balding dude” double
the critical solos on a Les Paul (Gold Top – looked nice). While filling
out the thud of strings you want to feel in your sternum when David G would
peel his piece off the floor of the Pink F drone, they, for the most part,
ended up sounding like a bad Eagles reunion tour doing the grand opening of
a head shop in Racine, Wisconsin.

(PS-Kylen, sorry about the ignorant slut comment, but it really worked for
the piece)

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Being in Time: Sufjan Stevens and waves of time

October 12th, 2006

Virginia Woolf, in The Waves, captures the miracles of childhood by allowing her characters to speak in the unformed language of children still experiencing the world without the words and tools by which to name and measure it. The characters grow up, and riding successive waves of time, find their voices, their phrases, their eddies and habits… Personalities emerge, each a series of waves rippling out from a central point, people as time, on an ocean of time, each meeting another as waves of disturbance… Sufjan Stevens played like that last night, at Zellerbach Hall in Berkekley (give em the axe.. where? in the neck, in the neck…) in a show that captured the dynamics of a music that tells stories of childhood with nostalgia and some amount of fragility at the same time. Backed by the Pacific Mozart Ensemble, strings, horns, an over-sized drum kit, guitar, banjo, piano and harmonium, his songs I suspect rose higher and louder than is usual for one of his shows. But when it came down, and the instruments took a pause, his voice came up to fill the gap, and you truly could have heard a pin dropping most of the time.
I don’t know this artist, so I have some catching up to do. But I was blown away. Songs that went like musical numbers; songs that carried childhood and which preserved childhood somehow in the singing and playing of them. Strange songs, theatrical songs, songs that seemed to animate and come to life as if Hayao Miyazaki were at work on one of his animated masterpieces. Songs completely lacking in aggression but filled with rising sound — as if adding voices might drown out the singer’s uncertainty.

Other reviews:
Sufjan Stevens inspires with sweet symphonies
Sufjan Stevens at Zellerbach Hall 10/11

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Syd Barrett, rest in peace

July 13th, 2006


Wined and dined, oh it seemed just like a dream!
Girl was so kind.
kind of love I’d never seen
only last summer, it’s not so long ago…
just last summer, now musk winds blow…

Wined and dined, oh it seemed just like a dream!
Girl was so kind.
kind of love I’d never seen

Wined and dined, oh it seemed just like a dream!
Girl was so kind.
kind of love I’d never seen

Chalk underfoot, life I should prove
dancing in heat, our love and you…

Wined and dined, oh it seemed just like a dream!
Girl was so kind.
kind of love I’d never seen

- Syd Barrett

Ringtones are not illogical

May 8th, 2006

I heard it said that OnHollywood last week that ringtones are illlogical. I wish I could remember who it was, but the point the speaker (!) was making was that it’s illlogical to listen to music in a format as short and unlistenable as a ring tone. Heard that way, of course it’s illogical. But the logical fallacy is misplaced here. It’s illogical to think of a ringtone as a song. (I’m tempted to quote John Cleese in Fawlty Towers screaming “That’s not the fire alarm. It’s the burglar alarm… Listen! It’s a semi-tone higher!) A ring is a signal. It’s “content” is secondary to its function (which is to indicate an incoming call). So it doesn’t matter what it “sounds like.” Resemblance is nowhere in its job description. What matters is that it ring, and ring audibly. Supertramp, now that’s a logical song.

Creative Commons, and Music in the Age of Its Digital Reproduction

April 13th, 2006

Bob Ostertag last night at a Creative Commons event at Shine made an interesting reference to Walter Benjamin’s Work of Art in the Age of Its Mechanical Reproduction. His point was that in the age of digital media consumption, we have moved beyond the distinction between original and copy, a distinction near and dear to critics of mass re-production. Beyond the distinctions between copies, even (!). I think it’s clear that electronic consumables, downloads in particular, offer no “original/copy” paradigm. An in fact what would the original be, of, say an Indie band’s studio session? There’s no “original performance,” as long as there are 4 guys, pedals, amps, and a mixing board in the mix. Overdubs have been in use since Jimmy Page and gang punched out Led Zeppelin I during a 24 hour session that was the maximum studio time they could afford.
What’s changed, I think, is the notion of ownership that has normally gone hand in glove with consumption. The intangible nature of downloadable files does make them seem less permanent, present, and durable. We dont really think of owning them so much as the computer or iPod on which they reside. The files themselves can come and go. In fact we’re comfortable losing the thing itself as long as we have an “alias” that points to it. Delicious and music…
If we consume music, use music, by having access to it and not by pulling a record off the shelf, a record that only I can play and that I cannot play if I have loaned it to a friend… if in other words music is becoming information, and our consumption of it involves finding and playing, then the value of music will indeed come under serious threat. Because we relate to information as knowledge, not as object. If it’s possible that we relate to music as something we know, and if playing music does not require holding it in one’s hands, a transformation of enormous significance is under way. Music companies will be able to make money only at the gate, charging for admission to the musical event, as if music were an ongoing performance and we can either be within earshot (paid) or not…
As if we were dialing all the way back to the days before recordings were possible, when concerts were live an live only. And indeed, some distinctions made by the DRM involve the consumer’s ability to play, fast forward and rewind: streaming music is far cheaper than controllable music. Music is consumed over time; it takes time to listen to music, to experience music. The industry can withold control over the playback, then, and charge for that. Again, a sign that we have drifted far away from the ownership paradigm. And when music goes the way of social networking, and is enjoyed by listeners tuned in to hear their dj friends and compatriots? We’ll give the control over to the producer, shelve the remote, and hand over our ears. What will we be willing to pay for then? Perhaps the friend’s right to dj/broadcast–more than the music…
There is one more thing about music, a quality that we’re all willing to pay for. Memory. Music accrues memory with each playing. Each time we listen to a track, we are hearing and recalling at the same time. That’s why we experience music we know as a recognition, a recognition of the tune/sound itself and of our attachment to it also. There’s money in the memory bank.

A great organ, a custom Maven controller, and lyrical intensity drives a crowd wild

December 9th, 2005

I ran across this description of a pipe organ design tonight. It got me wondering about the design challenges of musical instruments. So I looked up a description of Sasha’s custom Maven controller and they’re both included here. It’s not that audio software is today’s pipe organ, but the two have a lot in common: sound production. I like the concept of “lyrical intensity.” It’s one of those words you encounter that sums up the impossibility of translating musical attributes into words.

Great Organ of the Tonhalle, Zürich
From a technical and aesthetic point of view, designing an organ requires more than just amassing data on what was commonly done elsewhere, and attempting to imitate it; it is also necessary to have a definite musical ideal which both respects the past and is receptive to the artistic value of our day. Of course, musical instruments have always evolved in response to new developments and the demands of performers, as well as the different musical languages of the time. With the organ, even at the best of times, this evolution has been the result of interactions (often non-collaborated!) between organ builders and composers.

The essence of the organ is its composite, versatile character and its unlimited capacity for modulation of form and sound. Thus, a musician wishing to design a new organ has the option of choosing from among all the tone colors available during the last three centuries. At such a time, however, the worst attitude to assume, and certainly the most barren, is simply to copy a style that flourished in the past. And yet unfortunately, this approach (which was unknown at any other time in history), has been gaining ground since the beginning of the twentieth century. The overall design process follows two principles: the realization of a particular musical ideal and a strict adherence to the instrument’s surroundings. First of all, it is necessary to listen to and study the hall’s acoustics, and with their characteristics in mind, to conceive a plan for the volume of sound, the harmonic scale (which determines the tone color), and the instrument’s lyrical intensity, was it were. This concept of lyrical intensity could well serve as the fundamental principle for determining the quality of the organ as a whole.

Excerpted from the liner notes of:
Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition
Played by Jean Guillou

Excerpted from a comment by an individual who watched Sasha work his custom Maven controller (a board he had built to interface with Ableton Live, which is dj’ing software).

“One trick that I noticed he used was the cross fader on the Maven quite a lot, but with a twist, he or a Maven programmer set the cross fader so when it was on program B it would reverse the loop playing in Ableton. This drove the crowd wild, essentially a reverse switch like on the new Technics CD players. During a large build ups Sasha would tweek the knobs on the Maven which were programmed to control the effect sends on Ableton that were linked to some kind of delay filter plug in, all the highs were squished and delayed just smaked the crowd over the head.”

And from Sasha himself:
Explaining the benefits of using one interface for both studio and stage, Sasha says, “It basically means that every time you play a record, you’re going to be editing it on the fly. When you want the bassline to drop, it drops. Realizing I could DJ with this and what I could actually do to records, it was the most mind-blowing thing I’ve ever discovered as a DJ. It’s a new way of looking at playing music to people. It changes everything as far as I’m concerned. I’m totally seeing the way forward.”

Video clips of the thing at work

Dead 16 tracks

November 8th, 2005

The Dead have released a cleaned up and stitched-together vault recording of shows performed at the Fillmore in 69. No way I can afford one, seeing as they’re selling on Ebay for $700 (they did a run of 10,000 for $80 each; not enough apparently; there’s still life in the dead…).

What’s cool about these shows is that the Dead were the first to record live on a brand-new 16 track machine. 1969, let’s see, that’s 34 years ago. Better fidelity then than we get today from mp3… Sigh.

Hameed the crazy guy

October 28th, 2005

He’s the c razy guy (who’s actually a really nice guy) onstage at Qool on Minna Wednesdays. There he performs our local equivalent of the Napoleon Dynamite dance, tamed around the edges perhaps, but as singular and unique a maneuvering of body parts (arms especially) as can be executed a foot from a hanging set of turntables.

According to Spesh, “It looks as if Qoöl’s beloved stage dancer Hameed Kahn has made the most of his summer in Montreal this year. Supporting that notion is his appearance in a promotional film for the Montreal Film Festival.”

And here he is:

I want to be the crazy guy when I grow up.