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From Musique Concrète to Plunderphonics: Recorded Sound as Source Material

 This episode of the podcast highlights our ongoing creative fascination with the ability to capture and manipulate sound. As always with human creative work, curiosity and experimentation started as soon as the tools became available: in April 1948, the first commercially available audio tape recorder, the Ampex Model 200, hit the market. Before the end of that year, composers were using it to create recordings that they would cut, splice and edit together in all sorts of interesting and weird ways, to create new pieces of 'sculpted music,' recordings called musique concrète.

As the available tools grew in number and sophistication, this general practice--of altering, editing, adding to music after it has been recorded--grew and multiplied, too. In our journey here, we quickly move from the conceptual to the popular, so you'll listen to the practice jump from experimental composition to the recording studio and audio production, its evolution into remixing and the internet, and arrive at a still-evolving practice aptly described as plunderphonics.  

The playlist is really pretty wild for this one (even for us), so to really expand your musical frames-of-reference, be sure to follow up through the links below (or wherever you get your music that you listen to) and explore this peculiar and extraordinary soundscape further. 

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Pierre Schaeffer - Étude aux chemins de fer (1948)
  2. Pierre Schaeffer & Pierre Henry - Symphonie Pour un Homme Seul (1949-50)
  3. György Ligeti - Artikulation (1958)
  4. The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows (1966)
  5. The Beach Boys - Good Vibrations (Stereo Backing Track, 1966)
  6. Pink Floyd - Money (1973)
  7. Björk - Cvalda (2000)
  8. Brian Eno & David Byrne - Mea Culpa (1981)
  9. The Justified Ancients of Mu Mu (The JAMS) - Whitney Joins the JAMs (1987)
  10. John Oswald - Dab (1989)
  11. The Evolution Control Committee - Whipped Cream Mixes: Rebel Without A Pause (1994)
  12. Danger Mouse - 99 Problems (2004)
  13. Girl Talk - Triple Double (2010)
  14.  Neil Cicierega - Bustin (2015)
  15. YITT - I Really Like A Hole (2015)
  16. DJ Earworm - United States of Pop 2015 (50 Shades of Pop) (2015)
  17. SirFluffy Productions - JayZ vs. The Verve: Brush Your Bittersweet Shoulders Off (2016)

Hyperreality has been weaponized (and we better pay attention)

The topic of this podcast episode really stretches the "loose" part of our 'loose filter' concept, since we don't talk much about music. We do talk about something really important, though, something that is unprecedented in human history, involves a fascinating and frightening confluence of cultural behavior and technology, and is happening all around us--and to each one of us!--but that very few people have noticed and discussed: the weaponization of hyperreality.

To help us understand and explore this topic smartly, most of the episode features a conversation with Keith Nainby, whose academic specialty is human communication, and who is a terrifically lively guest whose insights still have our heads spinning.  Since this topic can seem pretty esoteric at first, I wrote a post that serves as introduction to this topic, but it's not necessary to enjoy our conversation about this timely and important topic.



Playlist for the interstitial music and clips in this episode:

Continue reading "Hyperreality has been weaponized (and we better pay attention)" »


Music for an Uncertain Time

In difficult times, it's important to focus on what is truly important and meaningful and real for you--in your life, family and friends, work, spiritual or religious practice, and so on. Negative emotions like fear, anxiety, and anger are primal, powerful, and capture our imagination and attention with unpredictable effects--especially when they are caused by events beyond our personal control or influence. 

While not political, this episode is offered in response to an obvious, pervasive mood of shock and uncertainty following the recent U.S. election.  Attentive listening, to music that really rewards the effort, provides experiences that are cathartic, calming, energizing, mournful, and more. Here, the music we recommend and discuss offers some comfort, brief escape, and opportunities to focus on what's most important, right here, right now.

Playlist for this episode: 

  1. John Luther Adams - Become Ocean
  2. John Adams - Harmonielehre: Pt. III: Meister Eckhardt and Quackie
  3. Steve Reich - Music for 18 Musicians
  4. Philip Glass - Prophecies
  5. Olivier Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time: Praise to the Eternity of Jesus
  6. Bob Dylan - Forever Young
  7. John Corigliano - No. 7, Postlude. Forever Young
  8. Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
  9. Johann Sebastian Bach - Partita for Violin Solo No. 2 in D Minor: Ciaccona

Hangout: Bon Iver, Internet Creators Guild, Virtual Reality, ARQ, and the Origin of Computer Music

On this hangout episode we have an eclectic conversation about the relationships between new technology and the creation and distribution of artistic works. Topics include the newly formed Internet Creators Guild that seeks to educate professionals and amateurs alike on the potentials of internet content creation, the very first recording of music generated by a computer in 1951, the future of virtual reality content, and the experience of watching a new movie released through Netflix. 

  1. Bon Iver - 22 (OVER S∞∞N)
  2. Internet Creators Guild
  3. Jon Favreau working with virtual reality
  4. Philip Glass - Koyaanisqatsi
  5. First recording of computer-generated music
  6. ARQ

The History of Punk, Pt. 2: The Stooges to The Clash

In part two of our three-part series, we examine the development of punk through the 1970s as it transforms from a small collective of like-minded artists into a worldwide cultural phenomenon. First, we look at Iggy Pop and the Stooges' influence on the sound and attitude of punk music. This leads to the New York CBGB scene with Patti Smith, Television, and The Ramones. Finally we see how this style crossed over to England with The Sex Pistols and The Clash.

Throughout the episode we explore the musical characteristics and philosophies that formed these bands. The creation of punk as it is commonly known today was heavily influenced by the work done by these six bands. 

  1. The Stooges - I Wanna Be Your Dog
  2. The Stooges - We Will Fall
  3. Patti Smith - Gloria
  4. Television - Marquee Moon
  5. Television - See No Evil
  6. The Ramones - Blitzkrieg Bop
  7. The Sex Pistols - Holidays In the Sun
  8. The Clash - London Calling

Hangout: Radiohead, Clipping, Stranger Things, Streets of Rage, and More

In a new, ongoing format, this episode of the podcast is a Loose Filter Hangout. We’ll mix this up with our longer-form, special topic episodes, with the Hangouts featuring discussion of the random, fascinating stuff that makes it through our loose filters.

This time, we talk about Radiohead, Beyonce, Kevin Garrett, clipping, Stranger Things, Streets of Rage II, Pixelh8, and Twenty One Pilots. You'll find something new to love, guaranteed.

  1. Radiohead - Decks Dark
  2. Beyonce - Pray You Catch Me
  3. Kevin Garrett - Coloring
  4. clipping. - Work Work
  5. Kyle Dixon & Michael Stein - Stranger Things
  6. clipping. - All Black
  7. Yuzo Koshiro - Streets of Rage II
  8. Pixelh8 - Super Fantatstic Turbo Magical 2 Player Love Game Adventure Called Happiness
  9. Twenty One Pilots - Lane Boy

The History of Punk, Pt. 1: The Velvet Underground & Nico

This is the first episode of a three-part series we've been recording about the history of punk music. A musical style often derided for its simplicity and unpolished nature, punk is actually quite seminal and important, and for part one we look at one of the earliest punk albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and consider the music, what ideas informed it, what impact it had, and so on--the usual stuff. What we found was surprising to me personally (I've mostly regarded punk as something akin to day-old garbage: not quite stinky and gross, but not desirable at all, either), and has really changed my estimation of this music and social movement. It's a fun exploration of a musical style you may not have considered very seriously before, but should. 

Playlist after the fold....

Continue reading "The History of Punk, Pt. 1: The Velvet Underground & Nico" »


Sufjan, Brahms & Synthpop

We wanted to challenge ourselves to try and connect three random musical choices, so we raided Dave's recent listening list on his phone and came up with music from Sufjan Stevens, Johannes Brahms, and 80s synthpop, which are definitely a challenge to connect. But as we listened, we discovered some exciting things these random choices have in common, and a little bit about what makes interesting music, well, interesting--no matter the specific kinds of sounds it's made of.  

 Our very random playlist for this episode includes:

  1. Sufjan Stevens, "Fourth of July"
  2. Stevens, "John My Beloved"
  3. Stevens, "Age of Adz"
  4. Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 - I. Allegro non troppo
  5. Brahms, Symphony No. 4 - IV. Allegro energico e passionato
  6. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "Enola Gay"
  7. OMD, "Sealand"
  8. (outro) Depeche Mode, "Enjoy the Silence"

Back from Hiatus Ramble

Finally, a new episode of the podcast! We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, including the joys of large-scale collaborative music-making, the human determination to make music despite severe material challenges, presidential playlists and how authenticity and accessibility have become expectations in our culture, learning to appreciate finite runs of great creative work (and the rise of the auteur), and a little about contemporary music journalism.

It's a fun, wide-ranging ramble, with some great music sprinkled in. Enjoy!

 

(playlist & references after the jump)

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How Technology Shapes Musical Thought

Music technology influences musical creativity in fundamental ways, and in this episode we talk about how the tools and concepts of musical practice are entwined with the expressive and creative ideas being crafted.

We wander into some interesting and unexpected areas, too, as we consider how technology influences musical values, tastes, and institutional models. This episode offers a lot of food for thought, and will hopefully stimulate your music listening.

 

(Playlist after the jump....)

Continue reading "How Technology Shapes Musical Thought" »


The Story of SMiLE, the American Sgt. Pepper

In a lively conversation we tell the story of SMiLE, the legendary unreleased magnum opus by Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks with the Beach Boys, and consider its musical scope and ambition. We also talk about the missed cultural impact of this work going so long unreleased, and, since all of the recorded material was finally released in 2011, what impact it could still have going forward.

It's a fun trip through the work of one of America's most significant recording artists, and what may be the Great American Album.

 


The Maximum Impact of Minimalism

In this epic episode, we examine how the avant-garde movement of musical minimalism was translated into the popular music sphere surprisingly quickly, and how it came to be significantly influential throughout musical culture over the past half century. Short version: it's EVERYWHERE. Long version: podcast episode full of fantastic examples that illustrate this remarkable story.

 

(Playlist after the jump....)

Continue reading "The Maximum Impact of Minimalism" »


Jonathan Newman talks about his symphony

This episode is a conversation with composer Jonathan Newman, about his Symphony No. 1 "My Hands Are A City."  We also discuss his inspiration from Beat culture, composing symphonies in general, and more. It's an interesting peek into a brilliant piece of music from a keen creative mind.

If you enjoy the episode, you can listen to the recording of the symphony we made while Jonathan was visiting a few years ago, and watch videos of that performance as well as some fun outreach we added to the mix. (Teaser: some very conservative listeners were enthusiastically in love with JN and his symphony by the time we were done.) 


Music in the Middle

In this episode, we take a look at music in the middle, that is, music that authentically and substantially bridges disparate musical styles, or combines unrelated sound worlds, or borrows ideas from one mode of musical creation and applies them to another. Examples are many and varied, and I have a strong suspicion lots of listeners will find something new and interesting to listen to.

Examples for this episode, with links to acquire them should your interest be piqued (and it should be, because these were some fun examples):


Exploring Timbre

We cover a lot of ground in this episode about timbre, the character or quality of musical sound and the human voice: what it is, how it's produced and manipulated, and what effect that has on us human beings--in short, what it means

The conversation starts with a general discussion and then focuses on the human voice and electronic synthesis, each of which demonstrates basic and essential aspects of timbre. It's a fascinating look at something we are all geniuses at using, understanding, and responding to, but don't often consider closely or carefully. 

We use some really cool musical excerpts as interstitials, each of which illustrates some aspect of the discussion and are listed below. And don't forget, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud.

 

The music excerpts--which were all awesome, right?--and links to acquire them:


Inspire, Imitate, Steal: the spectrum of musical copying

In this episode we talk about musical inspiration, imitation, and theft: what's the difference? how does it happen and what does it sound like? is it good, bad, or both?

Using the "Blurred Lines" controversy as a starting point, we listen to a wide range of examples that show some of the differences among inspiration, imitation, and copying, and discuss how all three are often integral in a culturally collaborative creative medium like music.

(As always, you can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes or Soundcloud!)

  


Is Challenging Music Worth the Effort?

This episode examines why challenging music is often worth the effort. We discuss the different kinds of listening experiences that idiosyncratic music--sometimes complex, sometimes simple--can offer, and delve into the sound worlds of three very remarkable pieces of music:

  


From Sound to Signal to Sound

We live in a world absolutely saturated with technologically mediated sound. Whether by recording or amplification or transmission and broadcast, for over 150 years now sound has been captured by technology. This episode looks at how, exactly, that happens, in a casual conversation about how sounds--especially musical sounds--are literally produced, how they are turned into signal and information, and how they are turned back into sound.

It's an enlightening look into processes that we all use, depend upon, and enjoy every day.

 

Interstitial music clips for this episode:


Stylistic Transformation: How Blues evolved into Funk

How does one musical style or idiom become something else? What does it sound like when musical ideas are actively in collaboration within a culture? 

In this episode we take a look at American blues music, and how it evolved through the 20th century from folk blues all the way to a seminal new style, funk. The conversation also touches on the emergence and development of recorded music, along with social issues that are part of the story, too.

 


Flashback: Interview with composer John Mackey (2005)

This episode of the podcast is a repost of our very first episode, from way back in 2005! The site was brand new and composer John Mackey was just about to become one of the most performed composers around. He was kind enough to sit down and talk about his origins as a composer, his creative process, musical enthusiasms, and much more. It's a fun conversation, and a terrific snapshot of a composer on the verge of tremendous professional success.

(Seriously, John has written some wonderful music since then. Go and listen to some of it!)


Enjoying Musical Hooks

A lively podcast episode about musical hooks--what they are, why they work--that ranges far and wide. My favorite moment is when Dustin juxtaposes "Sexyback" with Ligeti, to great effect. It's a perfect example of the connections a loose filter helps you make.

  


The Loose Filter 10-Year (!) Rejuvenation

Surprisingly, the Loose Filter Project will soon have been online for TEN YEARS, which is, like, 147 in internet years. To celebrate our tenth anniversary, we've given the site an overdue redesign and the content new focus:

    • Monthly, look for a longer podcast on topics based around a set of creative works or ideas--for instance, the upcoming episodes on recontextualization, or the importance of perception of form. Don't worry: though the content will remain substantial, the tone will always be accessible and irreverent.
    • In between those, we will post shorter, 'intermezzo' episodes. These will feature discussion of a specific artist or work or performance, or a ramble about a particular idea.
    • Archives of all audio programs are available on our Soundcloud page
  • Along with the site's new look, content has been modified a bit (you may notice the shorter category list in the sidebar, for instance).  This is mainly to help us, so that we can stay better focused with the content we both create and curate for you.
  • As always, comments, questions, or thoughts you'd like to share are most welcome, and should be sent here.

Ives and a new, American music

This podcast features Charles Ives, the iconoclastic American musical pioneer who blazed a third way between the seemingly conflicting worlds of popular and concert music. First in a series exploring a reframing of American concert music--an idea central to the Loose Filter Project--this episode features a close look at Ives' fantastic early work Country Band March, emphasizing his compositional craft and his free embrace and use of vernacular music.

 


Brahms & Steve Thomas

This podcast is a personal look at the composer and his music by pianist and professor Stephen R. Thomas, including excerpts and a performance from the Op. 118 (No.4). His commentary is lively and engaging, and the examples, where he deconstructs some of the music to illustrate specific elements of Brahms' writing and expression, are extremely interesting. A very enjoyable look at this monumental composer---a great quote from our conversation:

"[Brahms] has something which I also admire in Mozart, you know, and that's less is more. Every note is the right note, and that's what makes it great."

 



Conducting & Beethoven

The decisions and role of a conductor are not always obvious to listeners, even avid ones.

In this podcast, we contrast two recordings of Beethoven's epic Symphony No. 5 as a point of departure to talk about the kinds of decisions conductors have to make, and some of what their role is. Good stuff, featuring two remarkable recent recordings of the Beethoven.