Thursday, September 22, 2005

More time wasting options

So, in the course of installing Windows XP on my machine, I needed to download Quick Time, which now comes bundled with ITunes. Wow, now I can see the excitement.

Current listening: "Just Because" / Ashley MacIssac / Pride (new)

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Nate Harrison on the Amen Break

I know Pete's already posted on this, but I wanted to second his excitement about Nate Harrison's audio installation (Winter 2004, Quick Time .MOV file) of the "Amen Break." It's really quite an interesting piece on recent music history, specifically on how technology can influence new genres of music. In this case, sampling + turntables = hip-hop. Or in the case of this "break beat," the Amen break + sampling (in the UK) would be seminal in the development of hardcore techno, jungle, and Drum & Bass (also known as D&B).

Harrison talked about the Winstons' "Amen Brother" (1969), and its subsequent sampling by DJs in the United States and Great Britain. Some examples he gave were:
1) the New York Duo "Third Base"
2) NWA "Straight out of Compton"
3) Mantronics "King of the Beats"

On the rights side of Harrison's exposition, he revealed that Richard Spencer, a founding member of the Winstons (and a Ph.D. in political science), holds the copyright for "Amen Brother." Has he asserted his rights? A whole musical subculture has seemed to be built on the virtual abandonment of copyright of one song. Who knows what other sort of art could be developed if copyright holders were more lax?!

Harrison says it best:
Perhaps like many during hip-hop's early years, didn't see or sample-based music as having any potential beyond a limited underground appeal. During the 80s when DJs plundered old jazz and R&B records looking for samples, hip hop in particular and electronic music in general were not the pop phenomena and money makers we know them as today. There seemed to be a brief few sort of glory years back then when the novelty of sampling and the rate at which it was being employed as a new technique grew faster than the rate at which any sort of copyright bureaucracy could maintain the law. Older bits of sampling were appropriated perhaps under the assumption of their being able to be freely used in the spirit of a pledge to new forms. In other words, sampling was not seen as merely rehashing past sounds, but as an attempt to make new more something old--an artistic strategy as time-honored as creative expression itself.

Harrison even brought up a preservation issue. "Dub plates"--instananeous vinyl recordings (acetate test pressings or "one-offs")--were created quickly to be played by DJs. These acoustic recordings would last up to 50 plays, much less than a commercially-pressed disc would take. Hopefully some libraries and archives realize the value of these releases and will begin to acquire and preserve these unique cultural documents.

All in all, not a bad ride for 6 seconds of music.

While I wouldn't call hip-hop (or jungle) a musical genre I enjoy for recreation, it remains a significant cultural force influencing art, media, and culture. One of the projects I wish to pursue in the future is documenting and analyzing NPR's reporting on rap and hip-hop music and how they define these genres through reporting, interviews, and selective music samples.

Monday, September 19, 2005

We be celebratin' Talk Like a Pirate Day (ARRRR)

Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day! ARRRRRR....

To be seein' this blog in Pirate Talk, click here. If ye dare.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Radio on the Internet

I began to listen to public radio in high school, when I began to become serious about my musical training. I appreciated Erie's local public radio station (WQLN-FM), and its classical music programming. I never saw the programming as simply entertainment; radio was also for discovery, contemplation, and examination. Listening led me to classical works and composers that I had never heard of before. It even guided my choice of interpretations of certain works that I played or sang. In college I began to appreciate traditional musical forms and the performers who brought them to life. And this was because of a local public radio station (WKSU-FM) and Jim Blum's weekend folk music program). I have always sought out my local public radio station as the first place to look for this kind of programming. When I came to work for a public radio station, I became an advocate for the voices on the air. I had many "driveway moments" right at my desk at work.

Now the station that I worked for no longer features the music that birthed my radio listening habits. (Thankfully Mary Cliff still has her Saturday evening folk show, Traditions.) That is how I came to be pulled into the modern world of Internet radio, along with specific program streams. It's not just them--I have developed many musical interests, and I like to explore new music in various genres. And it's not fair to expect one radio station to be all things to all people--and the ones that try are not satisfying anybody, in my opinion.

I think one of the values of mediated programming (at least outside of commerical radio) is that you are often pulled out of your comfort zone and have the opportunity to experience sounds, music, and stories that you might never have discovered on your own. And I believe there is value in professionals crafting these experiences believe.

The downside: No Internet radio in cars yet. Until then I'll just have to take a selection of CDs when I go out. (I don't have an I-Pod or satellite radio, maybe someday).

I've started a section for Online Audio Streams. It's small, because it's only the ones I regularly listen to. I'm not including specific programs or stations of which I only listen to a small percentage of their programming. If you want to suggest a stream, I'll take a listen and let you know. I'll talk about why I've selected the ones that are listed on the right another day.

Current listening: "Wade in the Water" sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock (on Traditions with Mary Cliff, WETA-FM)

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Poem for the weekend

Here's a poem I wrote when I was a graduate student at American University. I was experimenting with verse-chorus form. It's also my tribute to the letter F. Try to hear it as a tribal chant.


Fundamental is far from fair
Frequently fundamental frays at the fringe
Freudian forgers follow frothy flowers

Full-mouthed fullbacks running out of sight
Fundamental fungi freaky with delight
Frown on the noise of the distant night

Fantastic voyages forge county fairs
Frappucinos and fagoli are often fundamental
To forage them frequently is infractible

Full-mouthed fullbacks running out of night
Fundamental fungi freaking from insight
Frown on the noise with no delight

Can feeding feeble frogs be fundamental?
Felonious fellows entertain false fancies
of feeding falcons when frogs are fasting

Full-mouthed fullbacks running in delight
Fundamental fungi cannot see the light and
Frown on the fur of the gopher trite

Families finger and flitter
At film festivals their attention is flighty
Fondly folk are forewarned

Full-mouthed fullbacks leaping in a rite
Fundamental fungi ready to indict
Frown from the glare of the halogen light

Funeral directors fracture furniture
Frosty beverages freeze and flake
Fundamental is far from fair

Full-blooded fullbacks running with a kite
Stand and stare at the stars so bright
And frolic in the music of the distant night

Current listening: "Traditions with Mary Cliff," WETA-FM 90.9, Washington DC, 8-1 Saturday evenings.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

New York, New York--a hell of a town!

I got back late last night from a short trip up to New York. It's been about eight years since I visited New York City, which is very sad considering I lived in the DC area for five of those years. Sometimes I feel I'm getting more adventurous as I get older.

Tuesday night, some friends and I went to CBGB, the punk club I blogged about which faces eviction. It's where acts like the Ramones and Blondie got their start. We actually got there to late to see the show. D'OH! At least I got this spiffy t-shirt, and I can say that I've been there. Hopefully I'll get a second chance--sign the petition!

Here's the front and back of the shirt I got (note: I am obviously not the young man pictured in this photo.

I had some awesome pizza at Grimaldi's in Brooklyn Heights. It was originally called Patsy's and is located under the Brooklyn Bridge. Delicious pie--I highly recommend it! (And so does ZAGAT)

On Wednesday my friends and I headed into Manhattan to see something on Broadway. Because I had a 5:30 bus, we caught a revue instead of a full show. It's one that I've been wanting to see for years. It's called Forbidden Broadway--and I just about busted a gut laughing. For those of you not familiar with it, FB is a revue which skewers current and historic Broadway shows. Four singers and a pianist lambasted all the current shows very adeptly. Their current show is called "Special Victims Unit" and details the assassination of good theatre in New York, including parodies of Wicked ("Defying Chenoweth"), Hairspray, Doubt, Sweet Charity (zinged Christina Applegate but good!), Chitty-Chitty Bang Bang, Lennon, Avenue Q (and all the puppet shows), among others. One of the funniest acts was an actor impersonating Harvey Fierstein (who is starring as Tevye in the current revival of Fiddler on the Roof), but dressed up in his Hairspray drag as Edna. [NOTE: real drag. Look here for a review of the album in the coming months].

Here's a good analogy, as I see it: what Capitol Steps is to Washington, Forbidden Broadway is to New York.

I caught my bus at Penn Station on time, and made it back to DC at about quarter to 10. All and all a nice diversion, while I wait for my job to start. New York is a city that generally overwhelms me, but there's so much stuff there I want to do. IU was a great experience, but it's really good to be back on the East Coast again.

Poetry on an blog about audio?

Yes, I used to write poetry. I started in high school, and completed two volumes by the time I was a senior at Wooster. I'm not saying it's great. But I've come across it while cleaning up my computer files, so I thought I might add one of these from time to time to show that I'm not all about MARC fields and ISO standards. Someday I'll get around to writing more, perhaps in all my free time. (yuck, yuck, yuck)

Here's a poem that I submitted to a couple of years ago. [You can still find it there by searching for my name]. It's one of my favorites, because of the sounds your mouth has to make in order to speak it properly (at a pretty good clip for effect). Enjoy...

Thoughts of Bowers Harbor, Michigan (1997)

Mandible audibly is the right noise
It rhymes exquisitely with all boys and toys
Froth-flowing cups of peppermint tea
Does wonders for many; its taste sweetly.
A wall walking round
Will not touch the rough
Of cables and coils
And left-handed slugs
Its bitters and batters
Blow mightily on course
To and fro, starboard and bow
To port and stern, we go.
A Bear bearing all
A wool-wearing Lamb
A face with no Nose
And a scale-covered Snake.
These are my Friends
The twittlings and twattlings
Of a Man to whom time gives no thought
And Rhyme has no end.
NOTE: If anyone has an audio blog, and wants to record this I'd really like to hear it. Send me a link, and make sure you attribute me, and then we're all good.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Friends, CBGB, and more copyright

1) I've added some links to the blogs of some of my IU friends, namely Pete, Sarah, and Bill; and also Jen, a Wooster friend who has a food blog called Rolling in the Dough.

2) The great New York City club CBGB recently got an eviction notice. There's a section on the history of the club. Originally a venue for country, bluegrass, and blues acts, punk became its featured genre.

The legendary punk landmark CBGB has been served with an eviction notice, which was delivered one week after their lease expired. Owner Hilly Kristal, who opened the club in December of 1973, has been ordered to vacate the building by the Bowery Residents’ Committee.

In a statement issued to MTV News, Kristal and the Save CBGB Coalition said: “There is no valid reason why CBGB should leave our present historic location. All we want is the same thing (New York Governor George Pataki, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and 43 City Council members want — that is to sit down with the BRC and negotiate in good faith a new lease that is fair to all parties."

Even after the Save CBGB Coalition offered to accept a significant rent increase, the BRC still plans on finding a new tenant for the space.
UPDATED: There's an online petition to convince the BRC to "urge support of a renewal of CBGBs lease," as well as special benefit shows, and an online Ebay auction to support the club. [See CBGB site for that link].

3) Still slogging through the CLIR/LC report on record label reissues. It surveyed CD reissues of recordings made between 1890 and 1964, analyzing reissues related to genres and time periods. Pretty shocking stuff, more details later.

Here's something from the report you might not have known:

"Federal copyright law states that pre-1972 recordings will be protected by state and common law copyright until the year 2067." 50 states, all different laws, good luck figuring them out!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Why isn't the drummer wearing any shoes?

I finally got the chance to listen to the episode of This American Life [Image Makers 8/5 Episode 294] which profiled a rock band from Michigan called The High Strung. The High Strung played a summer of rock concerts in libraries throughout the state. Why is a rock band playing in a library, one might ask. It was the brainstorm of a "maverick teen librarian." This was an indy band and they got to play in conference rooms, outdoor pavilions, and once at the reference desk.

This episode, interesting for many reasons for me, was particularly engrossing because of what it said about the value of library as place, and the sociological norms we often impose on what's supposed to go on there. I value libraries as one of the last public places that silent and reflective individual thought can still occur, outside of the constant din of Muzak, vehicles, construction, and advertisements. But I also see the value of using the library as a place to promote and share cultural heritage--in music and spoken word, as well as text and images.

The performance of the band created a fine example of cognitive dissonance in the audience. I've probably been conditioned to accept only certain sounds in the library, which now includes the sound of printers, computers, and even cell phones (unfortunately). (Does anyone know if libraries used to have typewriter rooms?). Talking is common in the Information Commons at IU, but not so much in the Main Reference room. Very clearly there are degrees of sound which are acceptable in certain places. So, if a library flauts convention and books a rock band to make very loud noise in their normally-quiet space, what is the library's primary patrons to make of this? Should we build new (potential) audiences at the expense of established ones?

Overall, I saw the band's touring as an intriguing sociology experiment. I think one positive message that can come from these concerts is that people of intellect and critical thinking can come in many different forms. We all have our preferences for how we study and the company that we keep. We might never admit (out loud) that a rock musician doesn't belong in a library, but tacitly that's why it's so shocking not to just hear them play there, but also to see them in a library.

A public library is supposed to serve all sectors of society, from the very young to the elderly. It should also serve a broad strata of ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic groups. Maybe it is time for rock musicians to take back the library.

I think silence should be the norm; but if we're going to allow music in our libraries, we could do worse than reflecting our patrons' tastes--even challenging them at times. We as librarians have access to information on the best of what's out there, even out of the way, indy acts. Libraries could inspire and promote new talent, many of whom are often alternative voices of the community who might remain unheard without such a venue. The public library (in many communities) often serves many other roles besides book warehouse; it can also be the local coffeehouse, indy film theatre, community center, cybercafe, and even a place for young musicians of all genres to get their start.

At the end of the concert, a four-year old said of the music, "I like the way it vibrated on me."

Friday, September 09, 2005

New report on sound recordings

Here's something I just found that I'll be reading soon...

There's a new report by Tim Brooks put out by the Library of Congress and the Council of Library and Information Resources called Survey of Reissues of U.S. Recordings.

"The purpose of this study was to determine the legal accessibility of sound recordings published in the United States. The survey was designed to quantify the degree to which rights holders of historical sound recordings have made available, either directly or through licensees, past recordings that they control."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Procedure Redux

I went to Local 16, a very cool lounge with a Mediterreanean menu (which I'm dying to try some time), last night to hear the audio stylings of "technicians" Richard Chartier, Mark Williams and Kyle Storm, collectively known as Procedure. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, they describe their sounds as:

Lost and forgotten music, low brow tunes, electronic ambiance, dark covers, b-sides, bloopy unusual-ness, general pretty noise, blatant obviousness, avant garde obscurities, bubblegum oddities, punky this and that, unintentional hits and very intentional misses...and other seemingly unrelated genre crossing nonchalantly sequenced.

I'm not sure their PR does the experience justice. Many of the sounds I heard were quite interesting; the combination of musics at various tempi and timbres to be thought-provoking; and the effect of the low acoustical sound wave forms to be soothing. But it felt very background to me. It was not an evening of music to be heard, but to be drunk to. (btw, the drinks I had were very good). Our technicians provided a very nice background environment for the intermittent conversations my friend and I shared. There were moments when I did pick up on what they were sculpting, as I think it is sometimes known. My friend, Tyler, a very sophisticated listener of alternative popular and rock genres, pointed out to me throughout the evening several musicians and DJs that I should also hear. (Note to Tyler: send a list, as I can't remember many of them now).

I think it is quite a talent to find the right blend of various types of music (controlled by Procedure's Macintosh computer). Perhaps it was the setup at Local 16, or maybe it was the nature of the experience, but I noticed that I have a hard time paying attention to music when there's not a live act playing or I'm in a studio concentrating (with or without headphones). Perhaps I just don't get the point of the experience--I know that many DJs and remix artists craft their own sonic compositions through the experience, but is it the totality of the evening set that is the point, or should we just chill and get into the mood and drink our martinis and veg? Maybe I just have too much German blood in me (along with classical training) to not look at what the music is about. I had a good time, and I thought the DJs provided a eclectic and hypnotic soundscape, in a minimalist type of way. Tuesday's audio event along with the good company left me quite happy for the Metro ride back.

Procedure gives their set lists on their website here. I want to explore more of this music, but more in an environment where the music is more of the point. Or did I just miss it? ;-)

Monday, September 05, 2005

Back in DC and Procedure

OK, it's been a long time while I've posted. I'm settling into being back in the big city. In the last three weeks, I've traveled from Washington to Bloomington to Erie to Bloomington to Erie to Philadelphia to Erie and then back to DC. I have some news about a couple of Louisiana audio archives from other listservs, but there's nothing that probably hasn't already been seen by the people who need to see it. Anyways, be on the lookout for that in the next day or two.

Tomorrow I'm going to an evening of post-punk, experimental, new-wave, obscurities called PROCEDURE. (How's that for
my broadening my musical tastes?) ;-) More on that soon.

"something for everyone... and nothing for some"
TECHNICIANS: Richard Chartier / Mark Williams / Kyle Storm

same old info: a quite laid back evening of lost and forgotten music, low brow tunes, electronic ambiance, dark covers, b-sides, bloopy unusual-ness, general pretty noise, blatant obviousness, avant garde obscurities, bubblegum oddities, punky this and that, unintentional hits and very intentional misses...and other seemingly unrelated genre crossing nonchalantly sequenced.

View the procedure with the avant-somethings and the often unexpecting patients who too have come for their PROCEDURE...