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Unsung Soul: Iconic but obscure tracks by (mostly) famous singers

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, an episode that celebrates extraordinary vocal performances in one of our most influential and significant musical styles: American Soul. Joined by our resident vocal expert, we listen to a playlist of fantastic—but relatively obscure--recordings by mostly famous soul singers, with a couple of lesser-known artists included, too. This episode's playlist covers recordings from 1964-1976, and also captures the pivotal moment when more traditional, blues- and gospel-tinged Soul transmogrified into Funk (that most essential of styles). 

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Aretha Franklin - You’ll Lose A Good Thing (1964)
  2. Otis Redding - I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now) (1965)
  3. O. V. Wright - Motherless Child (1965)
  4. Wilson Pickett - Ninety-Nine and One-Half (Won’t Do) (1966)
  5. Betty Harris - What’d I Do Wrong (1969)
  6. Nina Simone - To Love Somebody (1969)
  7. Lee Dorsey - Yes We Can (Pt. 1) (1970)
  8. Al Green - Love and Happiness (1972)
  9. Labi Siffre - I Got The.. (1975)
  10. Bootsy Collins - I’d Rather Be With You (1976)

Organized Chaos: the art & craft of metalcore

The niche sub-genre of metalcore has quietly built a dedicated fanbase over the past 20 years. With a sound world that is complex, dense and industrial in nature, it’s often kind of impenetrable or off-putting to those who aren’t fans—but there is much worth listening to. In this episode, we listen to The Dillinger Escape Plan, whose distinctive music—replete with complex polyrhythms and dissonance—pushed metal and hardcore to a greater level of sophistication. The progression of songs in our playlist illustrates the wide range of influences and techniques that the band incorporated and developed, and serves as a great introduction to this style.

Playlist for this episode (all tracks except #7 by The Dillinger Escape Plan)

  1. Calculating Infinity - 43% Burnt (1999)
  2. Irony is a Dead Scene - When Good Dogs Do Bad Things (2002)
  3. Miss Machine - Setting Fire to Sleeping Giants (2004)
  4. Ire Works - Black Bubblegum (2007)
  5. Ire Works - When Acting as a Wave (2007)
  6. One of Us Is the Killer - Nothing's Funny (2013)
  7. Michael Gordon - Yo Shakespeare (1992) 

The Digitization of Music: Platform Wars

In this episode we check out a couple of new releases by Watsky and Weezer, and then we survey the explosion of digital music platforms over the last two decades, outlining significant events starting with the advent of Napster in 1999 and culminating in our current streaming media landscape, noting the tectonic cultural impacts we’ve experienced along the way. It all started in the late 1980s, when Karlheinz Brandenburg created the technology that enables the conversion of analog audio signal to digital information, the mp3 file format. This launched a 3-way race to capitalize on this new technology, among established music industry corporations, Silicon Valley startups, and regular folks in their bedrooms at home.

Starting in 1999, Napster enabled large-scale file sharing by using peer-to-peer software as a connective tissue between disparate individuals and musical communities, and though it was litigated out of existence within two years, Limewire and Kazaa had already emerged to take its place. Pandora merged the internet with terrestrial radio and turned playlist curation into a data science project starting in 2001, the same year that the iPod and the iTunes Store conquered the titans of a century-old industry. Listeners quickly came to expect their music libraries to fit in their pockets.

Youtube (2005), Spotify (2006), and SoundCloud (2007) have since emerged to serve the content of those libraries, and now multiple platforms exist to either sell access to a comprehensive collection of recordings; or to empower creators with the tools they need to publish, distribute, and market their own work. ByteDance (2012) represents a growing tide of listeners and creators from China, while Tidal (2014) is a cautionary of tale of musicians fighting to take back control of their recordings.

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Watsky - Welcome to the Family & Mean Ass Drunk
  2. Weezer - Can’t Knock the Hustle
  3. Combustible Edison - The Millionaire’s Holiday (1999, Sub Pop record, first label to release MP3 format albums)
  4. Metallica - I Disappear (2000, pre-release leak on Napster)
  5. Madonna - Music (2000, pre-release leak on Napster)
  6. Feist - 1234 (2001, primary music for iPod release ad campaign)
  7. Coppe’ - I Lick My Brain in Silence (2005, first music video posted on Youtube)
  8. Radiohead - 15 Step (2007, first major release as pay-what-you-want download)
  9. Gucci Gang - Lil Pump (2017, first major hit released through Soundcloud)
  10. Kanye West - Waves (2016, released as Tidal-only exclusive)

Continual Reinvention of an Old-Fashioned Machine: Hearing the 20th century through the piano

For a lot of reasons, music and music-making proliferated and diversified in many, many directions, throughout the 20th century. Not just because of ideas (i.e., Modernism) and tools (so many new technologies), but the convergence of culture, technology and mass communication enabled a creative crucible that’s unprecedented in human history. Unfortunately, this makes any comprehensive musical exploration of the past 100 years daunting for many, and challenging to the tastes and expectations of most.

In this episode, we hope to distill an amazing century of musical thought and practice into a comprehensible summary, by using a consistent, unchanging frame of reference: the piano. The piano is an instrument that existed in its present form prior to the 20th century, and remains essentially unchanged from that version through today. We hope that this familiar and constant tool for musical creation and expression will help elucidate the amazing variety of ideas and inventiveness of composers from the past century, up to and including our own decade.

Tracks & excerpts:

  1. Johannes Brahms - Six Pieces, Op. 118 (1893) - No. 2, Intermezzo in A Major 
  2. Claude Debussy - Images, Set 1 (1905) - I. Reflets dans l'eau & III. Mouvement
  3. Alban Berg - Piano Sonata, Op. 1 (1909)
  4. Charles Ives - Piano Sonata No. 2 "Concord, Mass., 1840-1860" (1915) - III. The Alcotts
  5. George Antheil - Jazz Sonata (1922)
  6. Bela Bartók - Out of Doors (1926) - With Drums and Pipes & Musettes
  7. George Gershwin - Three Preludes (1926) - Prelude 1 & Prelude 2
  8. Aaron Copland - Piano Variations (1930)
  9. John Cage - Metamorphosis (1938) - I. & IV.
  10. Olivier Messiaen - Vingt regards sur l'Enfant-Jésus (1944) -
    II. Regard de l’étoile & XV. Le baiser de l'Enfant-Jésus
  11. György Ligeti - Musica ricercata (1953) -
    I. Sostenuto - Misurato - Prestissimo & II. Mesto, rigido e cerimoniale
  12. Karlheinz Stockhausen - Klavierstück IX (1961)
  13. Morton Feldman - Piano Piece (1964)
  14. George Crumb - Makrokosmos, Volume I (1972) - 
        No. 1, Cancer. Primeval Sounds & No. 11, Gemini. Dream Images
  15. John Adams - China Gates (1977)
  16. John Corigliano - Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985)
  17. Philip Glass - Wichita Vortex Sutra (1988)
  18. Thomas Adès - Darknesse Visible (1992)
  19. John Adams - American Berserk (2001)
  20. Unsuk Chin - Piano Etudes (2003) - No. 5, Toccata
  21. Mason Bates - White Lies for Lomax (2007)
  22. Missy Mazzoli - A Map of Laughter (2015)

Additional links:


Best Music of 2018 & Other Interesting Things

Well, 2018 was maybe not the greatest year in human history, broadly speaking, but it sure was musically interesting. In this episode, we discuss a handful of the most thoughtful “best music of 2018” lists, and then listen to a few of the recordings shared by those lists, ones that are particularly outstanding and engaging (and that we haven’t already recently discussed).

We also briefly consider some paradigm-shift-type happenings in creative culture: the potential impact of new works entering the public domain for the first time since 1998, and the first Kennedy Center Honors award to a collaborative work rather than an individual artist.

Use the links below to follow your musical curiosity!  

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Robyn - Missing U from Honey
  2. Kasey Musgraves - Butterflies, Space Cowboy, and High Horse from Golden Hour
  3. Rosalía - MALAMENTE (Cap.1: Augurio) and DI MI NOMBRE (Cap.8: Éxtasis) from EL MAL QUERER
  4. Tierra Whack - Hookers and Hungry Hippo from Whack World
  5. Pusha T - The Games We Play from Daytona
  6. Royal Liverpool National Orchestra - On the Waterfront Suite, II. Adagio from Bernstein: On the Waterfront
  7. Yo Yo Ma - Unaccompanied Cello Suite #1, BWV 1007 - I. Prélude and Unaccompanied Cello Suite #6, BWV 1012 - III. Courante from Six Evolutions - Bach: Cello Suites
  8. Wet Ink - Auditory Scene Analysis, Pt. 1 from Wet Ink:20
  9. Janelle Monáe - Make Me Feel from Dirty Computer

Original Versions of Famous Tracks

A funny thing happens sometimes in music, where the original version of a song as recorded by the artist(s) who wrote it, is not the most popular or well-known version. In fact, if a cover or remake of a song is successful enough, the original version is supplanted in popular imagination.

In this episode, we give a listen to eight terrific songs, each in two versions: the famous one and the original one, and the contrasts within each pair are sometimes striking. We also discuss some recent musical finds you’ll enjoy, from all over the world.

Playlist for this episode:

  1. LP - Lost On You [Live Session] 
  2. Rei - Cocoa
  3. Jeanine De Bique - “Rejoice Greatly” from Messiah
  4. Toni Basil - Hey Mickey
  5. Racey - Kitty
  6. Cyndi Lauper - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  7. Robert Hazard - Girls Just Wanna Have Fun
  8. Soft Cell - Tainted Love
  9. Gloria Jones - Tainted Love
  10. Joan Jett & the Blackhearts - I Love Rock ’n’ Roll
  11. The Arrows - I Love Rock ’n’ Roll
  12. Bananarama - Venus
  13. Shocking Blue - Venus
  14. Quiet Riot - Cum on Feel the Noize
  15. Slade - Cum on Feel the Noize
  16. Beyonce - If I Were A Boy
  17. BC Jean - If I Were A Boy
  18. Santana - Black Magic Woman
  19. Fleetwood Mac - Black Magic Woman

Does awareness of musical structure change a listener’s experience?

In this episode, we explore an interesting question: does awareness of structure and process in music have any impact on the experience of listening to that music?

Given that music occurs in time, the ways that we choose to organize and develop musical ideas are critically important for musicians, but may not be apparent to a listener. Here we take several examples from widely different kinds of music with some before-and-after listening, so that you may explore the answer to our title’s question.

Playlist for this episode:

  1. "Dear Theodosia," from Hamilton - Lin-Manuel Miranda and Leslie Odom, Jr.
  2. I Believe I'll Dust My Broom - Robert Johnson
  3. Hound Dog - Big Mama Thornton
  4. Mercy - Duffy
  5. Cherokee - Clifford Brown and the Max Roach Quartet
  6. Fugue in G Minor, BWV 578 ("Little") - J.S. Bach
  7. It's Gonna Rain, Pt. 1 - Steve Reich
  8. Piano Phase - Steve Reich
  9. Symphony No. 9 in D Minor, Op. 125 (IV) - Ludwig van Beethoven
  10. Symphony No. 2 "Resurrection Symphony" (III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung) - Gustav Mahler
  11. Sinfonia (III. In ruhig fliessender Bewegung) - Luciano Berio

The Glory of Outsider Music

On this episode of the podcast, we take a look at Outsider Music, recordings by iconoclastic and unique creative voices whose naive craft channels passionate music-making. Using Songs in the Key of Z: the Curious Universe of Outsider Music by Irwin Chusid as starting point, this episode features some of the most unexpected and distinct music you'll ever hear. 

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Florence Foster Jenkins - Aria, ‘Queen of the Night’ (1944)
  2. Conlon Nancarrow - Study for Player Piano No. 21 (1961)
  3. Elva (Mrs.) Miller - A Hard Day’s Night (1966)
  4. Wild Man Fischer - Merry Go Round (1968)
  5. Legendary Stardust Cowboy - Paralyzed (1968) & Standing in a Trash Can (Thinking About You) (1989)
  6. The Shaggs - Philosophy of the World & My Pal Foot Foot (1969)
  7. Shooby Taylor - Stout Hearted Men (1972)
  8. Luie Luie - El Touchy (1974)
  9. Gary Wilson - 6.4 = Make Out & Loneliness (1977)
  10. Jandek - They Told Me I Was a Fool (1978)
  11. Daniel Johnston - Walking the Cow (1983)
  12. The Frogs - I Don’t Care If U Disrespect Me (Just So You Love Me) (1988)
  13. Wesley Willis - Rock n Roll McDonald’s (1995)
  14. Bingo Gazingo - Up Your Jurassic Park (1997)
  15. Eilert Pilarm - Jailhouse Rock (1998)

The History of Punk, Pt. 3: Rise of the Indie Label

FINALLY, the next (final?) installment of our deep dive into the history of Punk music, its main artists and cultural influence. Part 3 covers the 1980s underground scene, knitting together far-flung regional efforts where bands pioneered a DIY approach that laid the foundation for huge independent rock bands in the 1990s.

"The History of Punk, Part 1: The Velvet Underground & Nico" is available here or here

"The History of Punk, Part 2: The Stooges to the Clash" is available here or here.

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Rise Above - Black Flag
  2. Filler - Minor Threat
  3. Waiting Room - Fugazi
  4. Unsatisfied - Replacements
  5. D’s Car Jam - Minutemen
  6. Something I Learned Today - Hüsker Dü
  7. I Against I - Bad Brains
  8. Schizophrenia - Sonic Youth
  9. Sludgefeast - Dinosaur Jr.
  10. Sweat Loaf - Butthole Surfers
  11. California Über Alles - Dead Kennedys
  12. Touch Me I’m Sick - Mudhoney
  13. Bewitched - Beat Happening
  14. Jaded - Operation Ivy
  15. No Control - Bad Religion
  16. Double Dare Ya - Bikini Kill
  17. Summer Babe - Pavement
  18. New Slang - The Shins
  19. Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels) - Arcade Fire

More Music We Like

This episode does what it says in the title, it’s another hang out where we listen to and talk about music that we really like! Featuring music by Janelle Monaé, The Internet, Michael Jackson, Anderson .Paak, Punch Brothers, and Kamasi Washington.

We hope you discover something that you like!

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Janelle Monaé
  2. The Internet - Come Over
  3. Michael Jackson
  4. Anderson .Paak - 'Til It's Over
  5. Punch Brothers
  6. Kamasi Washington

Music We Like & Happenings in Musical Culture

The Loose Filter Podcast is back, with WEEKLY episodes! This episode is just a fireside chat with Anthony and Stuart, musing about recent happenings in musical culture, like Kendrick Lamar winning the Pulitzer Prize in Music, and the Music Modernization Act. Plus, as always, a few fun digressions. Join us every Wednesday for new episodes!

Playlist for this episode:

  1. Mason Bates - Terrycloth Troposphere
  2. Kendrick Lamar - DNA., HUMBLE., and LOVE.
  3. Galactic - Percussion Interlude

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)

Continue reading "Back from Hiatus Ramble" »

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.

From Blues to Funk

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.