Saturday, October 31, 2009

BBC: The Golden Age of Infinite Music

BBC news

The golden age of infinite music

By John Harris

Not long ago, if you wanted music, you had to save up your pocket money, take a trip to the local record shop and lovingly leaf through its racks.

Now, it's almost all free, instant and infinite. And our relationship with music has changed forever.

We all know what the alleged future of music will look like. The record industry will be reduced to a smouldering ruin, the album replaced by endless individual songs and music rendered pretty much worthless by the fact that it's universally free.

Empty record shops will be overrun with weeds and old CDs will be used as coasters. Your Madonnas, U2s and Coldplays will prosper, but for anyone further down the hierarchy, the idea of making much of a living will be a non-starter.

That's the accepted wisdom, at least. Some of it will probably prove to be true.

But that grisly picture ignores subtler and more fascinating changes in our relationship with music that people have barely begun to understand.

Now, just to make this clear from the off: I'm nearly 40. Having recently moved house and consigned my CD collection to cardboard boxes, I've been surprised to find that I don't miss it at all.

I use the free version of the music streaming application Spotify almost every day - and I now understand that it represents a genuine revolution in music consumption (and makes iTunes look pathetically old-fashioned).

Should the music industry finally get its act together and insist on some kind of subscription model, I'll pay for the same kind of service. But I wouldn't imagine that will alter my new listening habits.

All that said, my musical mindset is still rooted in an increasingly far-off past, where to be a true fan of a band took real dedication, access to obscure information - and, frankly, money.

I've just poured the music-related contents of my brain into a book, and I would imagine that 30-ish year's worth of knowledge about everyone from Funkadelic to The Smiths has probably cost me a five-figure sum, a stupid amount spent on music publications, and endless embarrassed moments spent trying to have a conversation with those arrogant blokes who tend to work in record shops.

Last weekend, by contrast, I had a long chat about music with the 16-year-old son of a friend, and my mind boggled.

At virtually no cost, in precious little time and with zero embarrassment, he had become an expert on all kinds of artists, from English singer-songwriters like Nick Drake and John Martyn to such American indie-rock titans as Pavement and Dinosaur Jr.

Though only a sixth-former, he seemingly knew as much about most of these people as any music writer.

Like any rock-oriented youth, his appetite for music is endless, and so is the opportunity - whether illegally or not - to indulge it. He is a paid-up fan of bands it took me until I was 30 to even discover - and at this rate, by the time he hits his 20s, he'll have reached the true musical outer limits.

What does all this tell us? Clearly, for anyone raised in the old world, the modern way of music consumption has all kinds of unforeseen benefits.

A good example: though I've always heard plenty of talk about the utter awfulness of such infamous albums as Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music (a double album of guitar feedback and white noise) or Deep Purple's Concerto For Group And Orchestra (don't ask), I can now listen to them for nothing, and have an opinion of my own.

“ As one of my music press colleagues use to say, there's no longer any past - just an endless present ”

They're both terrible, incidentally, but that isn't the point. What really matters is the fact that I can so easily tune in - and what that says about a new world of completely risk-free listening.

Most importantly, as the great digital revolution rolls on, bands are no longer having to compete for people's money. Instead, they're jockeying for our time. And the field is huge, crossing not just genres, but eras.

Who do you want to investigate today: TV On The Radio or Crosby, Stills and Nash? Do you fancy losing yourself in the brilliant first album by Florence And The Machine, or deriving no end of entertainment from how awful The Rolling Stones got in the 1980s? Little Richard or La Roux? White Lies or Black Sabbath?

As one of my music press colleagues use to say, there's no longer any past - just an endless present.

For musicians, it's self-evident that there are all kinds of new openings for their music, but even if they break through, much less concerted attention will be paid to it.

They may get an audience, but it will be very easily distracted. After all, endlessly playing the same album so as to extract your "money's worth" is behaviour that will soon seem like something from the dark ages.

Woe betide the act that decides to make the kind of record that tends to be charitably described as a "grower" - something that may account for, say, the scant interest paid to the last U2 album.

Certainly, as a record company MD told me a couple of weeks ago, stuffing your albums with mere filler is no longer a sensible option.

So, yes, the record industry may yet have to comprehensively reinvent itself, or implode. Sooner or later, given that the need to read reviews before deciding what to listen to is fading fast, I rather fear that even music journalists may be rendered irrelevant.

But for now, this is a truly golden age - the era of the teenage expert, albums that will soon have to be full of finely-honed hits and the completely infinite online jukebox.

Even if the music business manages to somehow crack down on illicit downloading and claws back a few quid via annual subscriptions in return for that self-same endless supply of music, the same essential rules will apply. Really: what's not to like?

John Harris is the author of Hail! Hail! Rock'n'Roll, published by Sphere.

Halloween History from HuffPo

Read full story at HuffPo

The History Of Halloween Plus 5 Things You Didn't Know About The Holiday!

Huffington Post | Katla McGlynn
First Posted: 10-30-09 11:01 AM | Updated: 10-30-09 11:42 AM

Americans love Halloween. We as a country spend over $5 billion a year celebrating it. But where did the holiday come from? And how did traditions like asking strangers for food and dressing up as ghosts develop?

Halloween has its roots in Samhain (pronounced sow-in), an ancient harvest festival held at the end of the Celtic year. The festival marked the end of summer and the beginning of the dark wintertime. It was believed the spirits of the dead returned on this eve to damage crops and play tricks on the living. It was also believed that the Celtic priests, or Druids, were able to make predictions about the future, which they did during large bonfire celebrations where they wore animal skins and sacrificed crops and animals to the spirits.

In early A.D., Romans came to the Celtic territories of modern day England, Scotland and Northern France, and were the first people to influence the celebration of Samhain. They brought their own holidays: Feralia, the Roman day to honor the dead in late October, as well as another holiday to honor Pomona, the Roman goddess of fruit and trees. It is possible that this Roman influence is the reason apples are given out and bobbed for on Halloween.

By 800 A.D., Christianity spread to the Celtic Territories and brought with it another holiday, "All Saints Day." Pope Boniface IV, the designator of All Saints Day, was likely trying to replace Samhain with a similar but holier holiday meant to honor saints and martyrs. Later on, All Saints Day was renamed "All Hallows" and thus the day of Samhain (Oct. 31st) began to be called "All Hallows Eve," and eventually shortened to "Hallowe'en."

All of the holidays that were melded together to create our modern version of Halloween involved dressing up in one way or another. The celebrators of Samhain wore animal skins at their bonfire celebrations and those that observed "All Saints Day" often dressed as saints or angels. Later on men in Scotland would impersonate the dead on the day, explaining the ghoulish tradition we still observe.

During the mid 1800's, Irish and English immigrants flooded the United States and brought Halloween with them. From these immigrants we received the Halloween traditions we recognize today, however skewed they are now. For instance, the first trick-or-treaters were far from today's smiling children with commercialized costumes. They lived in Medieval England, and practiced "souling," in which poor people would beg for sweet breads, in return for praying for the families' souls. Later, the immigrants who brought Halloween to America would develop their own version of trick-or-treating, but it didn't become popular here until the 1930s.

Read the full story (including the five things) at:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Wynton Marsalis Interview with CNN

From CNN (click HERE for full story)

Marsalis: Racism and greed put blues at the back of the bus
October 24, 2009 7:14 a.m. EDT

CNN: You have a DVD out called "Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis Play the Music of Ray Charles." That's jazz, country and R&B. What do those styles have in common?

WYNTON MARSALIS: The blues. It runs through all American music. Somebody bending the note. The other is the two-beat groove. It's in New Orleans music, it's in jazz, it's in country music, it's in gospel.

The other is the down-home sensibility that's sophisticated. That's why Louis Armstrong could play with Jimmy Rogers. Ray Charles is actually the embodiment. He and Willie Nelson came 'round in young manhood at a time in the late '40s early 1950s when all of the American music, root music, was all combined. It became segregated in the mid- to late-'50s.

Carl Perkins had a hit in 1955 -- "Blue Suede Shoes." It was on the R&B charts, it was on the country charts, it was No. 1 on the rock and roll charts. [It was] basically the same music, so there was an intersection point. It's like in cuisine, that would be like fried chicken and red beans and rice, it would be like potato salad and barbecued ribs. Someone in Texas not going to eat barbecued ribs?

CNN: What led to the compartmentalization of these kinds of music, that came from the same roots?

MARSALIS: Money and racism. I don't know which one came first.

CNN: Why was blues not regarded as something of value in this country?

MARSALIS: It came from who we didn't like. That's what it was -- it wasn't that we couldn't see it. Who it came from, we did not like them.

CNN: So do you include African-Americans in that? So black people didn't appreciate it?

MARSALIS: They didn't appreciate it. They don't now. That's part of the whole kind of self-hatred that comes from that type of slavery that the black American still labors under. That racism was heavy.

The legacy of it -- it wasn't just 50 years. It was seven generations, and if a generation is 33 years, ... seven or eight [generations]. That's a long time. And to recover from it has proven to be very difficult.

CNN: So is that what's going on with rap?

MARSALIS: No question. Rap is the repetition of the minstrel show.

But it's not going to go away, it was too many people. If it had been 100,000 people, it can go away. ... But it can't be millions of people and their descendants. [Slavery] was a very powerful and successful system. And it went on for a long time.

In the aftermath of slavery ... there was a retrenching, and [it turned into] the type of racism that was experienced by people who came to the North.

That consciousness has begun to shift, in the last 30 years. And that's 20 or 30 years of just thawing and shifting that's attached to 330 years [of slavery], and the thought you can get up and you will be better ... that's just asinine, it's absurd.

CNN: But didn't the blues come from this, being marginalized?

MARSALIS: The blues was like a solution to that, an antidote to it. But the blues is not only Afro-American music.

CNN: So, you've written that it's not just African, it's American. What about America gave rise to the blues?

MARSALIS: It is America. It's that combination, those tensions, the east-west tensions, the kind of tension of being a slave in the land of freedom, and the land of freedom itself, the Western mind, the concept of soloing across time, the call-and-response of democracy, direct call and response, the kind of optimism that is American in nature, is in the blues.

There are elements in it that are African and there are elements of the American take on Europeanism. It's integrated, it's like a person whose DNA is integrated. You start to try to figure it out -- but you can't. That's how the blues is, that's why it fits with everything, country-western, bluegrass -- everybody's playing the same music.

CNN: You write that jazz leaves room for individual creativity, but you have to listen and allow the other musicians to participate equally. So what's the lesson for the nation?

MARSALIS: We have to have an overall cultural objective, which we don't have. ... We then fight under the flag of a position, the left or the right, black or white, old or young. It's very simplistic. We don't know our cultural history, we don't know we are together, and because we don't know we are together we can't act in that way. And that's the main thing our music, and the history of our music, can teach us as a nation.

The one concept that has to be at the heart of the American experiment is integrity. The integrity of the process is very important. If you come up on the bandstand you have to be at least trying to swing. If you don't really want to swing or play with the musicians, there's nothing they can do, because you have the freedom to destroy it.

CNN: Your father set an example. It sounds like you got a lot of your ideas about integrity from him.

MARSALIS: Yes, he sure did. From him. He wasn't segregated about any music, he didn't care, you could play pop music, funk, he'd say "right, great man." He was a jazz musician. He wasn't uptight and always railing about somebody. What he did was very clear, and what he thought about being a man, he didn't look at a boy like that.

I remember he sat in with our funk band one time. ... We'd go to his gig, there'd be six people. We'd go to our gig, there'd be thousands of people, dancing having a good time. We were playing a dance at a high school, he didn't know any of the music, but he played all of the music we had.

We were laughing, we said, my daddy didn't know any of the music and he didn't know any of the tunes but he was playing better than us.

CNN: When you were playing in a funk band in high school, did you look at your jazz musician dad as old school?

MARSALIS: No, no, never, I never suffered from that misconception, because he was so much hipper than the people I was around. Philosophically, he knew more than we did. I'd bring people to see him. He never tried to act like a child, like a kid. I never thought I knew more than him, he was on the case.

CNN: What are the components of jazz?

MARSALIS: The main three components are the blues, improvisation -- which is some kind of element that people are trying to make it up -- and swing, which means even though they're making up music, they're trying to make it up together. It feels great, like you're having a great conversation with somebody. Sometimes you get in a good coordinated groove, and it just continues to happen.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Cover of the Month: Palmplamoose's cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies"

Viral popular for good reasons:

And here's the Original Beyoncé version:

And for all the parents out there, here is the also viral "Single Ladies Devastation":

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Carl Sagan "A Glorious Dawn"

Autotuning some of Sagan's great lines:

HuffPo: Music Stars Demand Records On Bush Administration's Use Of Music For Torture


Sam Stein | HuffPost Reporting

Music Stars Demand Records On Bush Administration's Use Of Music For Torture

First Posted: 10-21-09 11:59 PM | Updated: 10-22-09 12:35 AM

A group of prominent musicians are joining a campaign to close Guantanamo Bay and demanding the release of records about what music was used during the potential torture of detainees there and at other facilities.

Some of the more famous names in the music industry are formally lending their prestige to an effort being led by retired generals, progressive groups and a former member of Congress to shut GITMO down. The list includes Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Jackson Browne, Rise Against, Rosanne Cash, Billy Bragg and the Roots, all of whom are joining the broader National Campaign to Close Guantanamo which was launched earlier in the week.

Hoping to cast further light on the potential illegalities that took place at the detention facility, the group is also working to obtain records about why and how music was used (under laws authorized by the Bush administration) to effectively torture suspected terrorists. The musicians have officially endorsed a Freedom of Information Act request for the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to music utilized during interrogations. At least two members of the coalition, Reznor and Morello, have had their music linked to interrogations.

"Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured -- from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts -- playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the eardrums," said Morello, in a statement provided by the NCCG. "Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney's idea of America, but it's not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me -- we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now."

The National Security Archives will be officially filing the FOIA request on behalf of the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo (NCCG).

The FOIA request comes on the heels of a renewed effort on behalf of the NCCG and others to compel Congress to complete GITMO's closure. The group launched a national ad campaign earlier in the week, in which it argued that the continued operation of the detention facility was undermining America's reputation in the world community and Congress' standing as a legislative body.


The FOIA, which is officially being distributed on Thursday, will be sent to the Department of Defense, the Department of the Army, the U.S. Southern Command, U.S. Central Command, U.S. Joint Forces Command, U.S. Army Special Forces Command, DOA Criminal Investigative Task Force, Defense Intelligence Agency, Federal Communications Commission, FBI, CIA, and the Department of Justice.

It requests "all documents, including but not limited to intelligence reports, briefings, transcripts, talking points, meeting minutes, memoranda, cables, audio/visual recordings and emails produced by the Central Intelligence Agency concerning the use of loud music as a technique to interrogate detainees at U.S.-operated prison facilities at Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan during 2002-the present."

The use of jarring music during the interrogation of suspected terrorists has been reported in many works documenting the authorization of torture during the Bush administration. At least 20 declassified documents currently exist that reference the use of "loud" music to "create futility" in uncooperative detainees. Among the artists whose music is believed to have been used include Metallica, Britney Spears, the Drowning Pool, Eminem, Bruce Springsteen and the Bee Gees.

Not all of these bands and musicians signed on to the NCCG FOIA. But others, whose music was not reportedly used, did so out of philosophical objections.

"We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice," read a statement from REM, "to now learn that some of our friends' music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It's anti-American, period."

Added the hip-hop band The Roots: "When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo, shackling and beating people -- we were angry. Just as we wouldn't be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn't allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantanamo down."

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Defaced Currency Artwork

Abe Lincoln as a ninja turtle is probably my fav. Check them out.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Congolese Sapeur Fashion photographed by Hector Mediavilla

I'm going full Congo for the moment. Check out this posting of Congolese fashionistas known as sapeurs, with wonderful photographs by Hector Mediavilla HERE.

Congolese Painter Monsengwo Kejwamfi Moke

A great little feature story on Congolese painter Monsengwo Kejwamfi Moke available HERE.