Playing with a laptop, DJ, and using live looping, Jon Sass plays music like I've never heard before and makes the tuba cooler than it ever ought to be:
Playing with a laptop, DJ, and using live looping, Jon Sass plays music like I've never heard before and makes the tuba cooler than it ever ought to be:
Peter sent this link with a suggestion to post and, as usual, he's right--this is a great piece from the Savvy Musician called "The Most Viable Instrumentation." Cutler's point is simple, that many concert music ensembles make the mistake of identifying and marketing themselves almost solely based on instrumentation:
Unless the demand for your traditional ensemble far outpaces supply (highly unlikely), or your wild configuration is fascinating and newsworthy in itself...don’t build a marketing plan around your instrument(s) alone. Much of the time, you may even want to de-emphasize this element. Focus instead on the unique talents of players, unusual programming, and other creative aspects of the show. Sell your story. Sell your message. Sell your theme. Sell your charm.
What's shocking about this advice is how revolutionary it sounds in our current state of concert music ossification. Regular readers of the LF Project know how heartily we endorse this perspective, and not just concerning marketing or presentation--for too long, musicians have allowed a priori sorts of ideas like standard instrumentation guide the artistic process in some very fundamental ways, causing many to make unexamined assumptions that place real, major constraints on their music-making.
For instance, we often start with assumptions and questions like:
Poet Patrick Gillespie makes an impassioned argument ("Let Poetry Die") against institutional benevolence sustaining poetry, and his comments and insights hold true to a great degree for concert music as well. He perceptively notes that the audience for great art is actually part of great art:
Monroe’s stance excluded the general public from the evolution of art, but as Walt Whitman wrote, great poetry isn’t possible without a great audience, and if the audience is excluded from the development of a given art form, then it will no longer reflect the audience’s own innate greatness. And that is precisely what has happened. The general public no longer turns to contemporary poetry because it ceases to find itself, its greatness, reflected in that poetry. The general public has been excluded.
He comes to a fairly strong conclusion along the way:
The best thing that could happen to poetry is to drive it out of the universities with burning pitch forks. Starve the lavish grants. Strangle them all in a barrel of water. Cast them out. The current culture, in which poetry is written for and supported by poets has created a kind of state-sanctioned poetry that resists innovation. When and if poetry is ever made to answer to the broader public, then we may begin to see some great poetry again – the greatness that is the collaboration between audience and artist.
While I think that great music has certainly been composed in the past 60 years, I also believe we have lost much because of a commitment to narrow, self-reinforced artistic perspectives that in many ways disrespect the audience. And how long has it been since American concert music could credibly be described as a "collaboration between audience and artist"? Ever? Gillespie's whole essay is here.
A new iPhone app that turns your voice into instruments in real time and allows multi-track layering. Pretty cool music recreation app, and some interesting implications for music education spring to mind--especially at just $3 (available here). A demonstration:
In a recent NewMusicBox post composer Alex Shapiro reminds us why net neutrality is such a vital issue, and why it is of particular importance to musicians who share and sell self-created content - scores, recordings, video - online as a means of making a living and advancing careers. Here's the crux of it.
[O]ur ability to share our creations around the world lies in our access to the necessary portal. This is why net neutrality - the term for an open internet that is not owned,controlled, or censored by any corporation - is crucial to artists.
A very readable summary of some very interesting new research:
If there were a surefire way to improve your brain, would you try it? Judging by the abundance of products, programs and pills that claim to offer “cognitive enhancement,” many people are lining up for just such quick brain fixes. Recent research offers a possibility with much better, science-based support: that focused training in any of the arts—such as music, dance or theater—strengthens the brain’s attention system, which in turn can improve cognition more generally.
Michael Posner and Brenda Patoine, authors of the study, are finding clear causal links between arts training and increased cognitive ability!
Jonah Lehrer (my absolute favorite science journalist, and one of my favorite writers about anything, really) comments and elaborates on the importance of arts education:
That's why the research cited above is so important: it helps us appreciate the "soft" skills that we tend to neglect.But I think that even this clinical evaluation of arts education misses an important benefit: self-expression. I shudder to think that second graders, at least in most schools, are never taught the value of putting their mind on the page. They are drilled in spelling, phonetics and arithmetic (the NCLB school day must be so tedious), and yet nobody ever shows them how to take their thoughts and feelings and translate them into a paragraph or a painting. We assume that creativity will take care of itself, that the imagination doesn't need to be nurtured. But that's false. Creativity, like every cognitive skill, takes practice; expressing oneself well is never easy.
"Music moves, and can be understood just by listening. But a conventional musical score stands still, and can be understood only after years of training. The Music Animation Machine bridges this gap, with a score that moves -- and can be understood just by watching."
The British music site Dilettante is hosting a Virtual Composer-In-Residence competition.
The aim, they say, is to redefine the composer-in-residence for the digital age. He or she will win a modest prize of £1000, and a year-long residency on the website, allowing them to engage with web-site members through a Composer’s Corner blog, a podcast series, online forums, and masterclasses. It will culminate in 2010 a live event with a performance of a new work.
You can read the article from which the above quote is excerpted here, and hear music and interviews from the three finalists here. While the Virtual-Composer-in-Residence is a cool idea, especially the interactive elements of the residency, as Stuart and I continued to peruse Dilettante it became clear that the site, despite its revolutionary claims, still exists squarely within the framework of the "classical music world," as evinced by the preponderance of content generated by the marketing departments of large, traditional institutions like orchestras, artist management firms, and record labels (Lorin Maazel's "blog" for example).
Greetings everyone! It's great to be here and I look forward to regular contributions to the greatness that is the Loose Filter Project. Much thanks to Stu and Dustin for the invitation. Feel free to reach me via twitter (millerasbill) or via email.
In starting a new position at Texas Tech University, I've been seeking ways to engage my students in a more significant and meaningful way. Rehearsals go by too quickly and there often isn't time or means to delve deeply into the music itself: compositional techniques employed, critical thinking about the piece itself or the wide ranging musicological connections of a composer or specific piece, etc. These aspects of the music aren't merely academic--understanding these aspects is fundamental for the future performers and educators I'm helping to train.
Though it's not a new documentary, The Merchants of Cool is now available in its entirety, FREE, online from PBS. Resonating well beyond the initial Frontline reportage, PBS has built a terrific site around the ideas and issues presented in the doc--from PBS:
They spend their days sifting through reams of market research data. They conduct endless surveys and focus groups. They comb the streets, the schools, and the malls, hot on the trail of the "next big thing" that will snare the attention of their prey--a market segment worth an estimated $150 billion a year.
They are the merchants of cool: creators and sellers of popular culture who have made teenagers the hottest consumer demographic in America. But are they simply reflecting teen desires or have they begun to manufacture those desires in a bid to secure this lucrative market? And have they gone too far in their attempts to reach the hearts--and wallets--of America's youth?
The Loose Filter Project's newest endeavor is up, please check it out: joe's last (re)mix. Featuring the groundbreaking work for band, joe's last mix by Tanner Menard, you can download a FREE score (and parts!), recordings, participate in a remix composition contest, and find out more about this terrific piece. Details on the contest here, and the main page is here.
A VideoSong is a new Medium with two rules:
1. What you see is what you hear (no lip-syncing for instruments or voice).
2. If you hear it, at some point you see it (no hidden sounds).
Here is their absolutely fantastic version of "Single Ladies":
(one more after the break)
2D BOY, makers of the excellent game World of Goo, decided--after seeing ridiculously high rates of piracy of their game--to let customers decide how much they would pay for it instead of fixing a price. One week later they had made $100,000--a year after the game's release.Even more interesting, they published the results of this experiment on their blog, with a complete summary of the data here. This follows on the heels of Radiohead's wildly successful similar experiment in 2007 with their album In Rainbows, a practice informally known as tip jar music.
The success of these experiments bodes well for a future where artists can share their work freely and still make a living at it.
From 1997, a terrific interview with the brilliant Richard Crawford, musicologist extraordinaire. Though the questions are often loaded with the kind of bias we deplore here at LF, it's always enlightening to hear Crawford discuss his ideas about music in the United States.
I am particularly enamored of his conceptualization of American music-making as happening in three spheres: the classical, which seeks transcendence; the popular, which seeks accessibility in the present day; and the traditional (or folk), which seeks continuity, a maintenance of tradition. And of course, the undeniable conclusion: "For me, it's been the popular sphere and its need to appeal to a present-day audience that has defined the center of American musical life."
Regardless of whether that thought comforts or terrifies you, he is among our most cogent and lucid scholars of American music. His significant work is America's Musical Life: A History, of course highly recommended.
This wonderful, timeless short essay by Will Durant is an important reminder of perspective in our lives, What is Wisdom?
A short, clear conversation with Caltech physicist Sean M. Carroll, about what he thinks the forward flow of time implies about the nature of the universe. A sample:
Our experience of time depends upon the growth of entropy. You can't imagine a person looking around and saying, "Time is flowing in the wrong direction," because your sense of time is due to entropy increasing. . . . This feeling that we're moving through time has to do with the fact that as we live, we feed on entropy. . . . Time exists without entropy, but entropy is what gives time its special character.
(Of course, I keep posting these interesting science tidbits because I've found that being a musician makes me curious about the world and everything in it. I hope you enjoy them.)
Another excellent TED talk, this one on nurturing creativity:
Elizabeth Gilbert muses on the impossible things we expect from artists and geniuses -- and shares the radical idea that, instead of the rare person "being" a genius, all of us "have" a genius. It's a funny, personal and surprisingly moving talk.
The Institute of Musical Perception is the online home of Marianne Ploger and Keith Hill's work in musical perception. Both are extremely brilliant musicians, and I can attest first-hand to the transformative nature of Marianne's teaching, having studied with her for two years.
I recommend just reading through the site when you have time, but definitely read their main essay The Craft of Musical Communication. As they say about the essay:
As you read the two sections of our essay make sure you read them in order from the first to the last. Each section builds on and depends on the one previous. It is jam packed with ideas that may be challenging to wade through, but we can assure you, you won't find the effort unrewarded.
From Anne Midgette, an excellent article in today's Washington Post:
Once upon a time, young conservatory musicians wanted to grow up to play as soloists with major orchestras. Today, many of them are forming bands instead.
The ensembles of the new alt-classical world are poised somewhere within the Venn-diagram intersection of traditional classical music and contemporary culture. It's hard to define exactly what kind of music they play.
Of course, this is the kind of thing that the Loose Filter Project is all about, and it's exciting to see more and more musical artists forging their own creative paths. My only complaint is the term "alt-classical." Aside from sounding stupid, it's industry, genre-based nomenclature, and so I reject it etymologically as well.
I think it's just the new face of concert music, it in many ways is orthogonal to the industry of "classical music," and thus isn't some kind of alternative sub-genre. It's a whole new thing, because what ensembles like those discussed in the article are doing isn't just changing the mode of presentation of the music, or even just combining highly eclectic programming with new modes; they are changing the music itself, because of cross-pollination, fusion, improvisation, and the like.
This is the new face of concert music.
(hat tip to Miller for the link!)
Perceptive (as usual) comment from Greg Sandow, on how embracing new technologies and means of reaching audiences will also change the culture of arts institutions:
That's how, increasingly, we decide on purchases, by reading user reviews of products we're considering. And that, says the Times, is how students are deciding where to go to college.
What does this mean for classical music?
It means that you can't use new technologies -- or at least not use them to their full potential -- without embracing the new culture.
An excellent message for creative workers:
There are lots of people who wanted to do one thing but then got "practical" and did something else first. The idea was that they'd be successful and sock away money doing the practical thing, and after that they could go back to the thing they loved. Bronson was sure that, among the hundreds of people that he interviewed, someone would actually have been successful with this strategy. It sounds so reasonable, after all.
But he encountered exactly zero people who pulled it off. Everyone who tried got sucked into the "practical" career and were never able to extract themselves from it. Too comfortable, too many expectations from friends and family, too easy just to keep doing what you're doing.
The Los Angeles Philharmonic is really capitalizing on the arrival of their new music director, Gustavo Dudamel. They'll be webcasting his inaugural concert and you can play Bravo Gustavo, the conducting game--even on your iPhone! Remaking the orchestra for the 21st century, hope everyone else is taking notes.
Six questions for Oliver Sacks about music and the brain. Best bit:
Be sure to check his latest, Musicophilia, if you haven't already. (That's an Amazon link that also has a few good short videos with Sacks, talking about--you guessed it--music and the brain.)
If we've said once we've said it a thousand times. By changing elements of the traditional concert experience you change audience expectations by letting them know - even before the music's started - that their preconceived notions don't apply. When audiences are freed from their expectations and preconceived notions they are freed to experience the music in a deeper way. In this 2008 blog post Hilary Hahn accurately describes this from an artist's point of view, and articulates why the term 'crossover' really doesn't apply. Here's a quote.
OK, this is kind of a lame post, only a link to this single NY Times article, which is about the stone age flutes that have been excavated and reconstructed from sites in Germany. BUT, the flutes are at least 35,000 years old, and were found near sculpture as well.
Think about that--human beings (and possibly Neanderthals, this was from an approximately 10,000-year period of co-existence), while living in caves and hunting daily for food, not only took the time to carve flutes, but had to figure out how to make a flute in the first place. That's no mean feat, and to me demonstrates that making music, having music in your life, is something very basic and intrinsic to human beings. I also imagine that with a fire or two going, the acoustics and lights in those caves got pretty cool at night.
(Worth noting that the flute in the article was found a few feet away from this buxom sculpture--looks like sex & music have been connected for a long, long time.)
Maybe America didn't need art and inner miracles. It has so many outer ones. The USA was a big operation, very big. The more it, the less we. So Humboldt behaved like an eccentric and a comic subject. But occasionally there was a break in his eccentricity when he stopped and thought. He tried to think himself clear away from this American world . . .
While recently looking for inspiration while drafting a cover letter I came across an essay I wrote about three years ago for an unsuccessful grad school application. Though perhaps a tad overwrought, I think it articulates the core idea of The Loose Filter Project - using new concert music to help establish a broader cultural context for all concert music. In practice this means playing more new music and altering the concert experience (perhaps Stuart can comment on how all the concert-going experience itself - venue, atmosphere, etc. - affects how we perceive music).
I don't think the YouTube Symphony Orchestra will have an impact on the role of concert music in American culture, or even a substantial impact on the concert music industry. In a nutshell, the novelty of the project was how the orchestra was chosen, but the concert experience that resulted was quite traditional. Yes, there were some nifty visuals, and some new music, but the audience was still expected to sit passively in America's musical temple (while the ushers fought a never-ending battle with those bold enough to take photographs of their loved ones on stage, apparently).
(If you don't know about TED, be sure to check it out here.) This is J. J. Abrams' TED talk from March 2007, "The Mystery Box." A terrific (though kinetic) presentation about the amazing creative tools available to us, and the potential they enable.
My favorite quotes:
Jose Antonio Abreu is the charismatic founder of a youth orchestra system that has transformed thousands of kids' lives in Venezuela. Here he shares his amazing story and unveils a TED Prize wish that could have a big impact in the US and beyond.
"The huge spiritual world that music produces in itself, which also lies within itself, ends up overcoming material poverty. From the minute a child is taught to play a musical instrument, he is no longer poor."
A terrific piece in the New Statesman, an interview with John Adams about his latest opera Doctor Atomic (2005). Adams is as usual extremely perceptive and articulate. He discusses his latest works and a new project, and comments more generally on the state of culture in the United States as he sees it:
I ask him what he feels about becoming a sort of American national treasure - their composer laureate, as it were, perhaps occupying the space that Aaron Copland filled a generation ago. "I would say you have to understand that in America classical music, and in particular, contemporary classical music, means nothing to 99.9 per cent of the population.
"This country treats popular culture as something hallowed. Even intellectuals in the universities believe that popular culture is perhaps the greatest achievement in American life, so to be trying to create works of art that are part of the canon of classical music requires an almost foolish sense of idealism. So when I'm asked what it's like to be famous I can only say that I'm very well known in this zip code here between Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Centre.
The mass of American cultural life, most easily sampled by watching our horrible television, is profoundly middlebrow. One reason the Obama inauguration was so exciting for me was that the last thing a billion people saw before the oath was a violin, a cello, a piano and a clarinet [playing Air and Simple Gifts, by the film composer John Williams]. That would have been unthinkable even in Bill Clinton's time, because there is great value given to anti-intellectualism here. If you run for office you dumb yourself down. We're a country that produces great composers, great novelists and great painters and in many ways still leads the world in culture and achievement (computer science, for instance), but being an American is really an exercise in cognitive dissonance.
An excellent new essay by Cory Doctorow (of Boing Boing of course) is up at Internet Evolution: Media-Morphosis: How the Internet Will Devour, Transform, or Destroy Your Favorite Medium.
Let me start by saying that I like newspapers. And let me say further that, no matter how much I like them, they just might not have a future.
The Internet chews up media and spits them out again. Sometimes they get more robust. Sometimes they get more profitable. Sometimes they die.
It's a scary thought, especially if you're personally attached to an old medium like movies, books, records, or newspapers.
But just because an industry is socially worthy, it doesn't follow that it is commercially viable. Today, besides newspapers, three other media are thrashing over their futures in a networked world, and as with newspapers, the rhetoric is mostly of the nonproductive "But I like it!" and "It's good for society!" variety, with not enough thought given to whether these media are commercially viable in the Internet age.
From the terrific Philosophy Talk by Ken Taylor and John Perry of Stanford University, a very interesting and thought-provoking podcast featuring Peter Kivy: The Philosophy of Music. A description from the site:
Most people enjoy music daily and have strong listening preferences. Music – along with love – is often thought of as a universal language. But what makes a collection of sounds a piece of music as opposed to just noise? Can music teach us anything? And is the value of music objective? This program explores what philosophy has to tell us about music – and vice versa.