Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Story of the O'Jays' "For the Love of Money"

Nice little story from 1999 in the archive of Mix magazine.

Classic Tracks: The O'-Jay's "For the Love of Money"

Apr 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Blair Jackson

The meatiest part:

"For the Love of Money" was another socially conscious Gamble and Huff tune tailor-made for the O'Jays' powerfully gritty vocal style. It was recorded in the fall of 1973 at Sigma. Typically, Gamble and Huff's productions were done in three or four separate sessions, days or weeks apart. At the first session, Tarsia would record the basics on what was often a ten- or 11-piece group: "It was a mass of people to do rhythm," Tarsia says. "On a typical Gamble and Huff record, if you count doubling, we would have 54 to 60 people-that's almost a symphony orchestra.

"We might cut four tracks in a day; or we might cut just one and then recut it the next day if we didn't like it," he continues. "So rhythm was one day. Kenny and Huff would take the finished roughs of the tracks and listen to them over and over again and then work out the backgrounds and vocal parts. Then the next thing to be recorded was voices, when enough songs were assembled. With the O'Jays, they'd usually be around only for that; they'd do their parts and leave. If there was any kind of sweetening-like putting on another guitar part or a solo part-that would be done next. Strings and horns were a day, and then the mix was a day."

By 1973, Tarsia had put in a 32-input Electrodyne console, and he was recording to 16-track Scully (the studio went 24-track the following year). "It was a primitive board," he says. "It had one echo send and a three-setting equalizer. But we used to use outboard EQ-we had some API equalizers in the rack and a couple of Orban parametrics." The studio had a 40x6x12 live chamber, as well as EMT reverbs.

Effects were usually kept to a minimum, but "For the Love of Money" is notable in part because it did have some interesting audio trickery on it. The relentlessly funky bass line by jazzer Anthony Jackson (who even received a co-writer's credit for his contribution) is curiously altered, and then there's the distinctive background vocal wash-the famous, ghostly refrain of "Money, money, money" blowing through the song like an ill wind. The song proffers the notion that money is the root of all evil, and sonically the effects on the track do sound sinister.

Tarsia credits another Philadelphian, Todd Rundgren, for getting him into experimenting more with effects. "Back when Todd was doing The Nazz, he came in here with an engineer from the West Coast and they had all sorts of interesting ideas. I was basically a one-man studio so I spent a lot of time on this. They proceeded to do things like take a guitar amp, plug it into a Leslie cabinet from a Hammond organ and turn the input up with nothing plugged in, so it made noise. They double-miked the rotating horn in the tone cabinet to produce a stereo swishing sound. Then they were flanging part of another song. They were creating all these psychedelic effects and it was totally fascinating to me.

"And I absorb like a sponge, so lo and behold a jazz player [Anthony Jackson] comes to Philly and he's working with Gamble and Huff and he has a wah-wah pedal on his bass. Now the way Kenny used to work is he'd hand out chord charts to the musicians and Huff would sit at the piano and they would literally run down the song 20 or 30 times, and the musicians would start to gel together. Norman Harris would play a little guitar line, or Vince Montana would do something on the vibes, and they would weed and cultivate the arrangement. And after a couple of hours, they'd be ready to cut a track. On 'For the Love of Money,' I remember Kenny was sitting down on a stool in the middle of the studio, Huff was at the piano, and they were running down the song. I had just gotten an Eventide automatic phaser, and I heard that bass line and I plugged the phaser into [that and] the drum tracks and I thought, 'I better play this safe because Kenny might not like it.' I recorded them twice-once as I normally would and once phased. And when Kenny came into the control room he loved it. The other new toys I had just gotten were Kepex noise gates. We used that on the vibes-Kenny didn't like the vibes on the record and wanted to dump them. I decided to try to get something out of the the vibes by employing a Kepex gate, which was triggered by the snare drum and gated the vibes, adding tone to the snare."

As for the effect on the voices, after the O'Jays had left the background vocal session, "I took the tape, put it on the machine backwards and recorded echo on different tracks in reverse so the echo precedes the vocal. It's reverse echo," Tarsia says. "I was printing effects, but to the extent that I was covering my ass and had it with and without effects. The vocals were already down, so the backward echo was on another track and I would add that at will. And in the case of the drums, I doubled up. The other effects-the Kepex stuff, the echo on the bass-happened in the mixing. When we mixed it we went for broke. [On the opening of the track] Kenny reached up, grabbed the echo pot and turned it on the bass and then turned it off. At the time I hated it, but today I love it."

Read the entire post HERE.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sustainable Eco-Friendly Surfboards

For as wonderful a sport surfing is, and how surfers are devoted to the sea, their surfboards are very unfriendly to the environment. Well, here comes a eco-friendly surfboard:

Surfer magazine

Moss Research Announces “Industry-First” Sustainable Surfboards
Eco-Flex™ Technologies Gain Sustainability Endorsement
By SURFER/ Posted on January 25, 2011

SOLANA BEACH, CA Master surfboard shaper Jake Moss, 15 year manufacturer of Moss Research Surfboards announces the availability of a new collection of surfboards, which define the industry standard in meeting sustainability criteria relating to human, environmental, economic, and social impacts.

Up until now, Surfboard making has arguably been one of the least “eco-friendly” crafts around. The traditional surfboard manufacturing process is toxic and emits gases known to be hazardous to shapers; the process depletes the ozone layer, and contributes to global warming. Previously, alternatives have not resulted in performance improvements for surfers. “The few people making ‘green’ boards have run in to two problems; the performance is never as good as a conventional surfboard, and they haven’t been able to demonstrate them as eco-friendly,” says Jake Moss. “Our Eco-boards, refined over the past 4 years, are better to surf than conventional boards. And we’ve worked hard to establish that our construction processes and materials are, in fact, more environmentally friendly.”

The customizable line of Moss Research boards utilizes “Eco-Flex” technology, which gets its name from a construction process using plant fibers, a 100% recycled core and an ultra strong and elastic plant-based, non-VOC (volatile organic compound) resin.

According to Moss, “The performance surfboard never had a sustainable beginning.” In the late 1950’s the lightweight surfboard, using a polyurethane core reinforced with fiberglass and polyester resin was introduced. It was a performance breakthrough, however, at a time where there were few surfers and little consideration to the waste streams produced. To date, a majority of boards are still made of the same materials, toxic and non-recyclable plastics, containing diisocyanates (MDI, TDI) and VOCs.

Now, with a world surfing population of over 10 million, with each surfer owning an average of 3 boards, there are over 30 million surfboards in use. These boards will eventually become garbage, with no way to down-cycle the resources. “Plastic recycling has never been a ‘closed loop’, with over 30% of all plastics having the potential to end up in the ocean, in the North Pacific Gyre. That’s a horrific version of the future that no surfer wants to help create”, Moss says.
Read the whole story in Surfer Magazine.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Study on Female Adaptations to Prevent Rape

This is a fascinating write-up on a study about how the female body and female behavior has evolved to counteract the threat of rape:

Darwin's Rape Whistle
Have women evolved to protect themselves from sexual assault?
By Jesse Bering
Posted Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011, at 6:36 PM ET

Women, gather round, read carefully, because this gay man—who once, long ago, feigned sexual interest in your bodies—is about to shine a spotlight on some hidden truths about your natural design. It's by no means a perfect system, but evolution has endowed you with some extraordinary, almost preternatural abilities to prevent your own sexual assault. And these abilities are especially pronounced when you're ovulating.

Although it can certainly take other forms, rape will be defined throughout this article as the use of force, or threat of force, to achieve penile-vaginal penetration of a woman without her consent. Whether or not human males evolved to rape women is, to put it mildly, a controversial topic. The flames were fanned especially with the publication, about a decade ago, of Randy Thornhill and Craig Palmer's A Natural History of Rape, which presented evidence of what appear to be biological adaptations in human males (as well as males of many other species) specialized for forcibly coercing females into copulation. They argued that rape is an adaptive behavior in certain contexts; for example, when consensual partners are unavailable. There is some evidence that convicted rapists are physically unattractive, at least as judged by women on the basis of their mug shots. And spousal rape is most likely to occur when the husband finds out (or suspects) his wife has been unfaithful, suggesting that he is attempting to supplant another man's seed. (In fact, the distinctive, mushroom-capped shape of the human penis is designed to perform the specialized function of removing competitors' sperm, which indicates an ancestral history of females having sex with multiple males within a 24-hr period.) Furthermore, UCLA psychologist Neil Malamuth and his colleagues found that one-third of men admit that they would engage in some type of sexual coercion if they could be assured they would suffer no negative consequences, and many report having related masturbatory fantasies.

Thornhill and Palmer, Malamuth, and the many other investigators studying rape through an evolutionary lens, take great pains to point out that "adaptive" does not mean "justifiable," but rather only mechanistically viable. Yet dilettante followers may still be inclined to detect a misogyny in these investigations that simply is not there. As University of Michigan psychologist William McKibbin and his colleagues write in a 2008 piece for the Review of General Psychology, "No sensible person would argue that a scientist researching the causes of cancer is thereby justifying or promoting cancer. Yet some people argue that investigating rape from an evolutionary perspective justifies or legitimizes rape."

The unfortunate demonization of this brand of inquiry is rooted in the fallacy of biological determinism (according to which men are programmed by their genes to rape and have no free will to do otherwise) and the naturalistic fallacy (that because rape is natural it must be acceptable). These are resoundingly false assumptions that reveal a profound ignorance of evolutionary biology. Yet the purpose of the remaining article is not to belabor that tired ideological dispute, but to look at things from the female genetic point of view. We've heard the argument that men may have evolved to sexually assault women. Have women evolved to protect themselves from men?

While it's debatable that a rape module lurks in the male brain, there is absolutely no question that rape is a distressingly common occurrence in our species. One study from 1992 found that about 13 percent of American women are raped; the real number is almost certainly higher since so many sexual assaults go unreported. And aside from its self-evident harms, there is no question that rape seriously impairs a woman's reproductive interests. To say that rape pregnancies are costly to a woman's genetic success would be an enormous understatement. Not only do such conceptions completely undermine the female's mate selection—and so the quality of her offsprings' genes—but rapists are unlikely to stick around and help raise children, putting such children at a significant disadvantage. In short, it's a catastrophic mess from the vantage point of the mother's genes.

Given the enormity of this adaptive problem for ancestral women, it is plausible that human females would have evolved a set of counter-adaptations to protect them from being raped, and that these anti-rape adaptations would be activated, specifically, during the woman's most fertile period, the periovulatory phase of her reproductive cycle. So with the foregoing theoretical sketch in mind, I now present to you an up-to-date list of four empirically validated "phase dependent female rape-avoidance mechanisms:"

1. When threatened by sexual assault, ovulating women display a measurable increase in physical strength. In 2002, SUNY-Albany psychologists Sandra Petralia and Gordon Gallup had 192 female undergraduate students read a story about either a female character being stalked by a suspicious male stranger in a parking lot (ending with: "As she inserts the key into her car door she feels his cold hand on her shoulder …") or a similar story in which the female character is surrounded by happy people on a warm summer's day (ending with: "She starts her car, adjusts the stereo, and as she pulls out of the parking lot those nearby can hear her music blasting"). The researchers measured the handgrip strength of each participant before and after she read the story, and compared the scores. Petralia and Gallup also knew from the results of a urine-based ovulation test kit where in their reproductive cycles each participant was, so the researchers could differentiate among women in the menstrual, follicular, ovulatory, and luteal phases. A fifth group consisted of those women who were on contraceptives at the time of the study. The results were unambiguous: Only the ovulating women who read the sexual assault scenario exhibited an increase in handgrip strength. Ovulating women who read the control passage and nonovulatory women who read the sexual assault material grasped with the same intensity as before.

2. Ovulating women overestimate strange males' probability of being rapists. Add this one to a growing list of adaptive cognitive biases—evolved psychological distortions that orient people toward strategic decision-making. These findings come from a 2007 report by Christine Garver-Apgar and her colleagues. "When the costs of being sexually victimized are highest," reason these investigators, "women should shift their perceptions to decrease false negative errors at the expense of making more false positive errors. Thus, we predicted that women perceive men as more sexually coercive at fertile points of their cycle than at non-fertile points." The researchers showed 169 normally ovulating women videotaped interviews with various men and asked them to rate the men on several dimensions, including their tendencies toward sexual aggression, kindness, or faithfulness. The more fertile the woman was at the time of her judging, the more likely she was to describe the men as "sexually coercive." Ovulating women didn't see these men as being less kind, faithful, or likely to commit—only more inclined to rape them.

3. ......

Read the entire article HERE.

Also, in a follow up, the author responds to his critics.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

For the Brain, Music, Sex, and Food Shares Pleasure Centers


NEW YORK— Whether it's the Beatles or Beethoven, people like music for the same
reason they like eating or having sex: It makes the brain release a chemical that gives
pleasure, a new study says. The brain substance is involved both in anticipating a particularly thrilling musical moment and in feeling the rush from it, researchers found.

Previous work had already suggested a role for dopamine, a substance brain cells release to communicate with each other. But the new work, which scanned people's brains as they listened to music, shows it happening directly. While dopamine normally helps us feel the pleasure of eating or having sex, it also helps produce euphoria from illegal drugs. It's active in particular circuits of the brain.

The tie to dopamine helps explain why music is so widely popular across cultures, Robert Zatorre and Valorie Salimpoor of McGill University in Montreal write in an article posted online Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience.

The study used only instrumental music, showing that voices aren't necessary to
produce the dopamine response, Salimpoor said. It will take further work to study how
voices might contribute to the pleasure effect, she said.

The researchers described brain-scanning experiments with eight volunteers who were
chosen because they reliably felt chills from particular moments in some favorite pieces of music. That characteristic let the experimenters study how the brain handles
both anticipation and arrival of a musical rush. Results suggested that people who enjoy music but don't feel chills are also experiencing dopamine's effects, Zatorre said.

I couldn't find the journal article; check out the story HERE.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

T-N Coates on the Racism in Kanye West's Latest Album

The Atlantic

On White She-Devils
Ta-Nehisi Coates
Jan 3 2011, 5:45 PM ET 121

I like the beats on Kanye West's new album. I love the inversion of that famous line about Malcolm X--"That's too much power for one man to have." I think he's an improved MC. But I'm a little amazed that no one's disturbed by "Champagne wishes/30 white bitches" as a hook. I'm more amazed at his empty employment of white women as objects. I'm less amazed, but pretty depressed, that colorism is back--"Rolling with some light-skin chicks and some Kelly Rowlands," is little more than "you're pretty for a dark-skin girl" in this postracial era.

All told, the album strikes me as incredibly, almost casually, racist. On some level, I wonder what would have become of John Mayer, had he cut a video with dead black women strewn about and invoked black women throughout his lyrics in the manner Kanye does. But moralism misses the point here. The problem isn't simply racism or sexism, but boring racism, boring sexism that hearkens back to the black power macho of Amiri Baraka and Eldridge Cleaver at their worst. It's the work of a failed provocateur boorishly brandishing his ancient affects. The obvious defense is that this is an exploration of West's psyche, of his fantasy. But actually it isn't. This is an aggressively external album obsessed with dismissing haters, slut-shaming women (black and white), and ultimately, not with Kanye or his fantasy, but with what you will surely say about his fantasy.

Read the full posts HERE, and as always, check out the comments at his blog.

Monday, January 03, 2011

How the Dave Matthews Band Makes a Lot of Money


Concerted Effort
The Dave Matthews Band shows how to make money in the music industry.
By Annie Lowrey
Posted Monday, Jan. 3, 2011, at 4:50 PM ET

As usual, the list of North America's top-grossing music tours of 2010 was heavy on AARP-eligible best-selling rockers: Bon Jovi, Roger Waters of Pink Floyd, the Eagles, and Paul McCartney all figured in the top 10. But tucked among them, taking in $72.9 million, was the Dave Matthews Band, the '90s-era jam-loving college-town rockers known affectionately as DMB (and less affectionately as "the Dave Matthews Bland").

The band is nothing to sneeze at, of course. It has won a Grammy. Six of its seven studio albums have hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts. Still, compared with the other big touring acts of 2010, DMB is a featherweight—"Stay" is no "Livin' on a Prayer." Bon Jovi (who, to be fair, will not be eligible for AARP membership until 2012), Roger Waters, and Paul McCartney have helped sell 130 million, 200 million, and north of 1.3 billion records, respectively. In the course of its two-decade-long career, DMB has moved a more modest 30 million.

But in an industry busy having its foundations rocked, in a matter of speaking, it hardly matters. Analysts and executives have long lamented that the music industry is dying. That is not quite true—it is the record business that is clearly done for, and in its place, touring stands as the top moneymaker for many industry participants. DMB lives to tour, making them not just popular, but very, very profitable.

When I say DMB lives to tour, I do not jest: Every summer for the past two decades, the band has hit the road. In 2010, that meant playing 62 shows in 50 cities to 1,270,477 fans—more than any other artist touring in North America. The group also took trips to Europe and South America, and there was a Dave Matthews and guitarist Tim Reynolds mini-tour. And the year was hardly unusual. Since 1992, Dave Matthews Band in its various iterations has played a whopping 1,692 shows.

So the precipitous decline in record sales in the past decade has hardly hurt DMB's profitability: The band makes the bulk of its money touring anyway. And it makes a lot of money doing it. According to Billboard Boxscore, between 2000 and 2009, DMB sold more tickets to its shows than any other band on the planet, moving a staggering 11,230,696 tickets. (No other band sold more than 10 million tickets in the same time period.) In the aughts, DMB grossed more than $500 million from touring alone.

On top of that, of course, there are profits from merchandise, records, and other revenue streams. As long ago as 1998, DMB reportedly pulled in $200,000 a day in merchandise sales on tour. Plus, DMB has a reported 80,000 fans paying $35 a year for fan-club membership. And it benefits from a large catalog of cheap-to-produce live-show discs and DVDs. "Without any marketing or promotion, Live at Red Rocks debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard 200 chart and was instantly certified platinum," the band itself boasts of a 1998 album. "[It] provided fans with a high quality and reasonably priced alternative to the over-priced, ill produced, and illegal live DMB CDs."

Part of DMB's success undoubtedly comes from managing its tour so well—because gross ticket sales do not always translate into profitability. Lady Gaga, for instance, was also in the Top 10 for ­2010, grossing $51 million in North America, charging legions of fans about $100 a pop. But the shows proved enormously expensive to put on, what with the army of scantily clad backup dancers and dozens of fancy costumes—including a bra that shoots sparks, a feathered bird get-up, and an enormous wearable gyroscope nicknamed "the Orbit." Add in the fountain of fake blood and the price of flying such nonsense around the world, and extravagance cut into the bottom line. The tour actually lost money at first.

In contrast, DMB's tour seems downright humble. There is food. There is merchandise. There are video portions. But mostly, there are just the jams and the fans—and that's how DMB obsessives like it. Indeed, the band cultivates enthusiasts particularly well, a main secret of its success. It keeps ticket prices low in comparison with other big shows, an average of $58.79 compared with, say, $91.56 for arena-rockers Aerosmith. It offers a high proportion of plum tickets to fan-club members and offers them tons of freebies and special deals online. It also plays a stable roster of songs, but jams or improvises at each gig—meaning DMB fans tend to hit up the tour every year, often more than once. Thus, while even the biggest-selling artists front the occasional flopped tour, DMB never does.

read the full post HERE.