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April 2015
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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....)

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Why Kraftwerk are still the world's most influential band

From the Guardian, a great piece on the huge (and ongoing) influence of the German electronica band Kraftwerk. As we discussed in the recent podcast episode on the hugely pervasive influence of musical minimalism, Kraftwerk are an important band, but surprisingly many people aren't aware of their extensive influence

The Guardian piece, and Kraftwerk's upcoming appearances at the Tate Modern, will help to increase recognition and enjoyment of their terrific music and legacy.


The Genius of Synecdoche, New York

The always incisive Your Movie Sucks is posting an in-depth look at Charlie Kaufman's movie Synecdoche, New York. This film, for me, packed more emotional wallop than any I've seen, and does it just beautifully and symbolically and allegorically and subtly and confusingly and.....well, you get my point.

I think it a sublime and very meaningful film, as did the inimitable Roger Ebert:

This is a film with the richness of great fiction [...] it's not that you have to return to understand it. It's that you have to return to realize how fine it really is. The surface may daunt you. The depths enfold you. The whole reveals itself, and then you may return to it like a talisman.

He continues:

Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.

In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree.

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Thank you, B. B. King

Well, B. B. King has died. All I can say is, thank you for a truly lifelong gift of music shared with the world joyously. Of all the fantastic performances I could feature, I think the best, and one of the most meaningful to King himself, is from his 1974 concert in Africa:

 


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.