Monday, March 31, 2008

Oh what sounds!

Here are some miscellaneous musings on some musics I've been listening to.

First up, the main project. I'm one (eighteen minute) track away from completing Mood Processor, which was me and Kyle. There were two main varieties of MP, Mood Processor proper which was Kyle on acoustic guitar and me on tenor sax, and The Electric Mood Processor which was fun with the four-track and whatever/whomever we could get our hands on. In either instance we played what we called "Plook Grok," so you can see that my love of made up genres goes back a ways. The one definitive statement I can make about MP is "We sure did get the good drugs back then." Yowza.

I also just recently finished Thelonious Monk, which I really took my time with. I've always been a big Monk fan and it was nice to spend some time with that particular crazy man. I think the biggest surprise for me was the solo piano stuff. Listening to that I got a sense of the entire history of Jazz. It swings, it's often based on popular tunes, and yet it's deconstructed, dissonant, and somehow entirely listenable. At one point during January I went into a Starbucks and they were playing a Monk track and I thought how odd it is that this music, which is really quite challenging if you really listen to it, is being used as background music for my corporate coffee experience. What's next? Ives at Dunkin' Donuts? Messiaen at Petco? (extra nerd points for anyone who can identify the logic in those two examples)

And now, to work my way through commenting on some choice-based listening, yet going about it chronologically in terms of the technology.

You spin me 'round like a rekkid baby
For the first time in years I have a) easy access to my vinyl collection, and b) a turntable in my office. Let the Easy Listening begin!! A huge portion of my records came from thrift stores at a time when I was very interested in lounge music. And I have to say, I will freely admit to actually liking 50's and 60's Easy Listening. Enoch Light, Bert Kaempfert, Dick Hyman, Jackie Gleason... Oh yeah, bring it on. I also seem to have a sizable collection of Moog albums such as Switched on Country and Everything you ever wanted to hear on Moog but were afraid to ask. And I've been listening to a fair amount of quote good unquote albums/artists such as Joe Jackson, Eric Dolphy, Wayne Horvitz, the afore mentioned Monk, and (right now) Joni Mitchell.

I meant it when I said I got "all kinds" a' tapes
It's back to the Soccer-Mom-Mobile for me for a bit, which means (oh the horror!!) cassettes. Among these terrifying little plastic creatures we find my collection of Rhode Island death metal bands from the early nineties. So far I've listened to two of the five such tapes I have. It made me realize why I roll my eyes and get immediately bored with current hardcore/metal type bands. 'Cuz this shit was boring over fifteen years ago, and hasn't progressed much since then. Does that make me a grumpy old man? I don't care if it does.

Totally 'pod-dular!
As mentioned in the previous post, I've recently "gotten" some things. Some of this has been music I used to have/listen to (R.E.M., Led Zeppelin, etc..) but some of it has been filling in gaps in my knowledge. For example today I listened to the Genesis album Trespass for the first time....ever. As I did I realized that I was/am only familiar with Selling England by the pound and The lamb lies down on Broadway for Gabriel-era Genesis. Likewise, I've had a renewed interest in Pink Floyd and only really know Dark Side and the Wall. So sad. And I've discovered that it's a bad idea to listen to "sing-along" albums (i.e. albums that I like to sing along to) on my iPod as I end up looking like a crazy person as I walk along mouthing the words and/or mumbling them and/or straight-up signing them. (although I use the term signing loosely) Oh well, maybe I am just one of "those people."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Honor among thieves

I've been thinking a lot about the download issue. To start on the personal level, I would like to sell CDs to people. However, is it better to let people simply have the music for free (such that they are actually listening to it) and to then make money in some other way? At my upcoming shows I will be trying out the "Pay-what-you-think" approach to selling the new disc. (On a side note, the new disc, Medicinal Reverb, is going to be the only one available.) And while the idea of earning some cash from CDs is very appealing, ultimately I think it would be better to have more listeners.

Another thing that got me on this issue was reading The Cult of the Amateur by Andrew Keen. It's been quite some time that I've enjoyed reading a book based on the fact that I totally disagreed with the majority of what the author had to say. Throughout much of the book he comes across sounding like "We can't let the serfs have too much of anything, they don't know what's good for them! We need mainstream media to tell us what is right and good!" You know that anyone who uses the terms "cultural gatekeepers" and "Fox News Group" in even the same paragraph is an asshole. (oops, it looks like I just did ;-) And when it come to downloading, he takes the hardline "It's stealing" approach. But sometimes the more important question, at least to me, is from whom?

To illustrate: I've recently managed to, um shall we say "obtain," some music. Specifically, Brahms, Stockhausen, and Led Zeppelin. To work backwards, I did at one time years ago legally own the entire Led Zeppelin catalogue, so they've gotten my money. Additionally, the approximately $150 not spent probably means a hell of a lot more to me than the couple bucks of that that would trickle down to Robert Plant. Among the Stockhausen, I got a copy of a recently released version of Stimmung. This disc I will buy soon because a) I want the liner notes, and b) it will help support the performers. Had I not had the opportunity to hear this work before purchasing, I might have put my money elsewhere. And lastly we come to the Brahms.

The other day Chris and I were in the kitchen, talking before dinner. He mentioned that there was a particular recording of Brahms Piano Concerto no.1 by Leonard Bernstein and Glenn Gould that he wanted to hear. As it happened, that was one of the albums I had "obtained" recently. Now obviously, the work itself is in the public domain, but the performance may still be under copyright. Which made me ask, "What's more important? That I get to hear this, or that some grandchild of Bernstein gets 40 cents from my purchase?" This in turn led to another question, which is why is there no equivalent to the museum or the library for music? Now granted, libraries do tend to have music sections, but they are small and unreliable in terms of stock. I can walk into any library and most likely be able to get a copy of Norbert Weiner's Cybernetics, yet if I want to hear Carl Ruggles' Sun Treader I'm probably not going to be able to get it there. (incidentally, I can't even find a torrent of that work)

And as with all things lately, this leads me back to good ol' Charlie. Ives was very much against copyrighting his material, even flying into a rage when Henry Cowell copyrighted one of Charlie's pieces for him, saying "This music is not to make money but to be known and heard. Why should I interfere with its life by hanging on to some sort of personal legal right in it?" Exactly. I want to hear and know the music. All of it, or at least as much of it as I can absorb in a lifetime. And since there isn't a resource that I can reliably (and legally) simply hear whatever I want, I am forced into a life of crime.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Got a minute?

About a year ago I joined an organization called the Electronic Music Foundation (EMF) I'm still not quite sure what the benefits of being a member are, but it was a one time lifetime fee, so whatever. A couple of months ago I noticed, via their mailing list, a call for entry for sixty-second works. The 60X60 Project by Vox Novus, is a touring concert presenting sixty, one-minute long recorded works by sixty different composers. I thought, "Well shoot, I can do that!" And so today, I did. I sat down around 3pm, launched the Tool as I like to say, and started working. A few hours later I emerged with an almost stereotypical b/3.1 piece. Synthesizers? check.. Pattern sequencer? check.. Dulcimer? check.. Mellotron flutes? check.. Improvisation? check.. I have about two weeks before the disc has to be in the mail, so perhaps I'll make another minute long song or two before then. Or perhaps not.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

God Damn Maria

I spent about nine hours today trying to get the mix right for Good Night Maria to no avail. Tomorrow I'll work on my entry for 60X60, which is a call for sixty second long works.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Directions in Blogging

This year has already been off to an interesting start, but before I delve into that, I have an announcement regarding this blog. This will no longer be just about the listening projects. While I will continue to make the occasional post about that (currently Thelonious Monk, for those who care) this spot on the interdial will be more of a catch-all blog for me. Now, to re-cap the year, and illustrate what has led to this decision.

The year started in NYC. I was there to take a Pro Tools certification course (which I did) and to find a job (which I didn't). So, it was back to RI. This was obviously not an easy decision to make, since I really liked the city and was hoping to stay. I guess I had unrealistic expectations about being certified. Like "Here's your piece of paper and here's your job." More like "Here's your piece of paper and here's your t-shirt."

But, I did learn some things about my craft. I also realized that yes, I do want to live in NYC, and that what I really want to do is just make music all day. (Well, maybe go for a walk in Central Park every so often.)

So here I am, back in the Shitty-by-the-Sea, jobless and broke. What's a bloke to do? Step one is obviously to find some form of employment. Currently I'm looking at a dazzling lack of options. Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can find a job somewhere as a butcher. (I'm actually not kidding.) I have absolutely no experience in this field, but I've been interested in developing a more personal relationship with the food I eat, as well as learning more about animal raising/slaughtering practices and making better choices about the food I subsequently eat. And besides, I really don't want to wait tables ever again. Of course, I'm also looking into RI studios. So far most seem to be run by the one or two people who own them. I have gotten one "Thanks but no thanks" message, and one studio does want me to send them a demo reel. One advantage RI does have for me is that I can better afford to take a low-to-no pay position, provided I am getting some income somewhere.

What does this all add up to and what does it have to do with the alphabet? Well, to answer the second question first, nothing. I just happened to already have this blog. The biggest thing to come out of all of this is I've decided to finally get serious about having a music career. The over-all quality of my music has made such improvements over the last four months and I feel like I can put out a product that is uniquely me while at the same time being something that people might actually want to listen to. I've been working hard on my new album, Medicinal Reverb, and should have it ready within a month, and I have to say, I'm very proud of it. Also, I've been making a renewed effort to get gigs, which has already resulted in two upcoming shows. I've also been thinking a lot about promotion and different things I can do to get my music out there. The new focus of this blog is a result of that thinking. Here I will track the ups and downs of this journey. Who knows, maybe some day you can say "Dude, I've been reading that blog since he only had four readers."