Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Klingon Opera

From the encyclopedia Brittanica blog comes an entry about an actual Klingon opera, though I really question what they built their opera upon. I think if Worf would have heard this he would have taken a bat'leth to the composer's gut.

Looking at this clip, the Klingons really deserve something better or, as the blog author notes, today is a good day to die.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Michael Manring Solo Bass: "Selene"

Michael Manring plays a custom Zon bass like noone else. This amazing solo piece shows part of his technique:

Historical Star Wars Art

A great collection of sci-fi art and the original references is located HERE.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

U2's "Walk On" From a Tribute to Heroes Concert

Springsteen's "My City of Ruins" on The Tribute to Heroes Telethon

On this contentious anniversary of 9/11, I thought I would post this. This is the opening song of the A Tribute to Heroes concert, a benefit concert for the victims of 9/11 that took place on 9-21-01. Truthfully, I don't think I have ever been so proud to be a musician as when I saw this. It's a nice song, but in the context of that performance it was, well...everything, at least everything it needed to be. Sometimes you really do need a voice and a song.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Classic Parkour Film Scene

Back in 2004 parkour hit mainstream entertainment in this fantastic low-tech chase scene from Banlieue 13 featuring the king of parkour David Belle:

And a parkour fail bonus from Failbog/Funny or Die:

Bacteria in brass instruments

on man, this is disgusting. And if you have ever been around a lot of brass players, you know that wherever they play, they slow condensation and saliva onto the floor via their spit valves. Keep that in mind when you read this:

Think Music Heals? Trombone Player Begs To Differ

by Diane Orson
September 8, 2010 from WNPR

Each day, thousands of music students head to band practice with their trumpets, trombones and saxophones. But they may want to pay a bit more attention to the way they clean out their instruments when rehearsal is over. One musician in Connecticut learned the hard way about the dangers of not cleaning his horn — after he developed a condition that's being called "trombone players' lung."

Scott Bean spends hours each day performing, practicing and teaching the trombone. But for years, Bean struggled with health problems that made it hard to play his instrument.

"I coughed. I had a horrible deep barking cough — especially when I played trombone. I had a sore throat, lost 60 pounds at a time, had a low-grade fever," he says. "It was a huge hindrance."

The Stuff Inside

Doctors thought Bean had asthma, but none of the usual therapies worked. After 15 years, Bean went on vacation for the first time without his trombone — and felt better. He began to wonder if the instrument could be making him sick.

A doctor at the University of Connecticut took a culture from inside his horn.

"Then he calls me up and says, 'Scott, we know what's in your trombone,'" Bean says.

It was a mold called fusarium, says Mark Metersky, a professor at the University of Connecticut Medical School's division of pulmonary and critical care.

"He also grew a type of bacteria called a mycobacterium, sort of a cousin of tuberculosis," Metersky says.

This stuff inside the trombone was causing an allergic reaction, which led to hypersensitivity pneumonitis, a severe inflammation of the lungs. Microscopic organisms were breaking off and getting into Bean's lungs each time he inhaled.

Bean admits brass players are often lax about cleaning their horns.

"You talk about cleaning out your instrument, and they laugh and make some funny remark about it," he says. "I never cleaned out my trombone — maybe once every other year. We never clean it out."

Not Alone

Mold and bacteria could grow in any brass instrument. And for most players, it wouldn't matter much, except maybe aesthetically. But for a subset of people who react to these organisms, it's no joke. Metersky set out to see how common a problem it was. He asked several professional musicians if he could culture the insides of their trombones and trumpets for a pilot study.

"Things plopped out," Metersky says. "It was disgusting. Imagine the worst thing you've found in your refrigerator in food that you've left for a few months, and that was coming out of these instruments."

Metersky stopped testing after 10 instruments, because they all were contaminated....

Doctors have known about this disease for a while, but Cecile Rose, a hypersensitivity pneumonitis expert at National Jewish Health in Colorado, says no one has ever thought to connect it to musical instruments.....
Read and hear the entire story HERE.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Cartoon classic: David Byrne runs into Paul Simon

Classic world music zinger of a comic.
David Byrne and Paul Simon as modern-day Stanley and Livingston (armed with microphones and recorders rather than rifles), searching the world for hip and exotic inspiration:

By Drew Friedman from Spy Magazine, date unknown.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Infamous Early 1990s Music Industry Rant by Steve Albini

Hosted by Negativland here. Here's a sample:

Whenever I talk to a band who are about to sign with a major label, I always end up thinking of them in a particular context. I imagine a trench, about four feet wide and five feet deep, maybe sixty yards long, filled with runny, decaying shit. I imagine these people, some of them good friends, some of them barely acquaintances, at one end of this trench. I also imagine a faceless industry lackey at the other end holding a fountain pen and a contract waiting to be signed. Nobody can see what's printed on the contract. It's too far away, and besides, the shit stench is making everybody's eyes water. The lackey shouts to everybody that the first one to swim the trench gets to sign the contract. Everybody dives in the trench and they struggle furiously to get to the other end. Two people arrive simultaneously and begin wrestling furiously, clawing each other and dunking each other under the shit. Eventually, one of them capitulates, and there's only one contestant left. He reaches for the pen, but the Lackey says "Actually, I think you need a little more development. Swim again, please. Backstroke". And he does of course.

Every major label involved in the hunt for new bands now has on staff a high-profile point man, an "A & R" rep who can present a comfortable face to any prospective band. The initials stand for "Artist and Repertoire." because historically, the A & R staff would select artists to record music that they had also selected, out of an available pool of each. This is still the case, though not openly. These guys are universally young [about the same age as the bands being wooed], and nowadays they always have some obvious underground rock credibility flag they can wave.

Lyle Preslar, former guitarist for Minor Threat, is one of them. Terry Tolkin, former NY independent booking agent and assistant manager at Touch and Go is one of them. Al Smith, former soundman at CBGB is one of them. Mike Gitter, former editor of XXX fanzine and contributor to Rip, Kerrang and other lowbrow rags is one of them. Many of the annoying turds who used to staff college radio stations are in their ranks as well. There are several reasons A & R scouts are always young. The explanation usually copped-to is that the scout will be "hip to the current musical "scene." A more important reason is that the bands will intuitively trust someone they think is a peer, and who speaks fondly of the same formative rock and roll experiences. The A & R person is the first person to make contact with the band, and as such is the first person to promise them the moon. Who better to promise them the moon than an idealistic young turk who expects to be calling the shots in a few years, and who has had no previous experience with a big record company. Hell, he's as naive as the band he's duping. When he tells them no one will interfere in their creative process, he probably even believes it. When he sits down with the band for the first time, over a plate of angel hair pasta, he can tell them with all sincerity that when they sign with company X, they're really signing with him and he's on their side. Remember that great gig I saw you at in '85? Didn't we have a blast. By now all rock bands are wise enough to be suspicious of music industry scum. There is a pervasive caricature in popular culture of a portly, middle aged ex-hipster talking a mile-a-minute, using outdated jargon and calling everybody "baby." After meeting "their" A & R guy, the band will say to themselves and everyone else, "He's not like a record company guy at all! He's like one of us." And they will be right. That's one of the reasons he was hired.

These A & R guys are not allowed to write contracts. What they do is present the band with a letter of intent, or "deal memo," which loosely states some terms, and affirms that the band will sign with the label once a contract has been agreed on. The spookiest thing about this harmless sounding little memo, is that it is, for all legal purposes, a binding document. That is, once the band signs it, they are under obligation to conclude a deal with the label. If the label presents them with a contract that the band don't want to sign, all the label has to do is wait. There are a hundred other bands willing to sign the exact same contract, so the label is in a position of strength. These letters never have any terms of expiration, so the band remain bound by the deal memo until a contract is signed, no matter how long that takes. The band cannot sign to another laborer or even put out its own material unless they are released from their agreement, which never happens. Make no mistake about it: once a band has signed a letter of intent, they will either eventually sign a contract that suits the label or they will be destroyed.

Read the full thing, including the dollar breakdown of a sample contract at Negativland.

Parody of Hip Megachurch Productions

Definitely a relative of the earlier movie trailer parody.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Springsteen's Born In the USA (live and acoustic)

It's easy to see in hindsight how Springsteen's post-Vietnam Rust Belt anthem got mistaken for a jingoistic rock tune. Funny how music has a way of doing that (making one misinterpret or overlook the words). I remember seeing Springsteen doing this acoustic version a long time ago on the Charlie Rose Show (PBS). The show was an hour-long interview and then they finished with this,no introducing it, no comment afterword, just the titles (at least that's how I remember it). It was the first time I had seen the acoustic version and I was floored. I recently found the show version on YouTube:

And here is another live acoustic version from a concert. The twelve-string sounds great:

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Afghanistan: Musicians Struggling To Revive Classical Heritage After Taliban

Radio Free Europe

By Country / Afghanistan
Afghanistan: Musicians Struggling To Revive Classical Heritage After Taliban
November 11, 2005

Decades of war and the Taliban's five-year ban on music took their toll on Afghan classical music. Musicians have been trying to resuscitate the art since the end of Taliban rule. But they face serious economic and artistic challenges -- including the threat of possible attack by Taliban fighters if they perform in provincial areas. Through interviews and field recordings, RFE/RL correspondent Ron Synovitz has documented attempts to revive Afghan music since the collapse of the Taliban regime nearly four years ago.

Kabul, 11 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Three warring Afghan militia factions in Wardak Province put their disputes aside long enough in early 2002 to celebrate a feast together in the district of Chak.

Hundreds gathered to hear the first performance there of Afghanistan's national dance, the "Atan-i-Mili," since the Taliban silenced music five years earlier.

But only one elderly musician was found to play a double-sided Afghan drum called a dhol. There were no others to play the complex rhythmical counterpoints of the dance. And there was no one to play the traditional melody on the raspy, flute-like surnai. It was a sparse sound testifying to the state of music in southern Afghanistan immediately after Taliban rule.

Instead, militia fighters fired their AK-47s to the drumbeat in the way Western DJs use old records to perform "scratch" rhythms.

Within two years, after many Afghan musicians returned from lives as refugees in neighboring Pakistan and Iran, the sound of a full group playing the Atan-i-Mili would be common in Afghanistan again.

Life today remains difficult and dangerous for Afghan musicians. An ethnic Turkmen singer named Quarab Nazar was gunned down recently along with six of his backing group after performing at a wedding party in northern Jowzjan Province. Police say the attackers were Taliban fighters. The Taliban also is blamed for other recent attacks against musicians in the south and east of the country.

Still, classical Afghan musicians want to breath life back into their heritage after decades of war and repression.

Read the full story, including photographs and audio clips, HERE.

(h/t Farhad)