May 13th, 2013
Paul Ford on How Bing Crosby and the Nazis Helped to Create Silicon Valley:
The nineteen-forties Bing Crosby hit "White Christmas" is a key part of the national emotional regression that occurs every Christmas. Between Christmases, Crosby is most often remembered as a sometimes-brutal father, thanks to a memoir by his son Gary. Less remarked upon is Crosby's role as a popularizer of jazz, first with Paul Whiteman's orchestra, and later as a collaborator with, disciple to, and champion of Louis Armstrong. Hardly remarked upon at all is that Crosby, by accident, is a grandfather to the computer hard drive and an angel investor in one of the firms that created Silicon Valley. [...]
Ford mentions one other technical innovation in broadcasting that Crosby allegedly inspired, but you'll have to read the article to the end to find out about that one. It's worth it.
April 29th, 2013
Nitsu Abebe has written a thoughtful piece on The Amanda Palmer Problem. By which he means not so much the various issues some people have with Palmer's own actions but the wider problem of how artists seeking support from fans can bring down such vitriol upon themselves online:
I think there's a lesson to be learned from Palmer, and it's not the falling-into-the-crowd lesson she offers. Yes, she's correct: The web offers an opportunity to fall into the open arms of fans, in ways that weren't available before. Here's the catch: The web also makes it near-impossible to fall into the arms of just one's fans. Each time you dive into the crowd, some portion of the audience before you consists of observers with no interest in catching you. And you are still asking them to, because another thing the web has done is erode the ability to put something into the world that is directed only at interested parties.
This sort of furore is only going to get bigger and noisier as the example of the The Veronica Mars Movie Project is followed by the likes of Zach Braff and more and more recognisable names show up on the front page of Kickstarter and Indiegogo.
[Via Waxy.org links]
March 5th, 2013
It turns out that combining Nine Inch Nails and Carly Rae Jepsen gives a really strange result.
I honestly can't make my mind up whether this is epic or embarrassing, or possibly just a little from Column A and a little from Column B.
February 10th, 2013
Why My Bloody Valentine's 'mbv' Has Come Too Late To Stop The End Of The World:
Thanks Kevin. Thanks a fucking bunch for taking 22 years to make a record that could have saved the world. All you had to do was make a bunch of songs that sound like being hit on the head with a shovel after doing poppers while listening to a melancholy whale sighing. But you couldn't be bothered and now we're all going to die in planet wide nuclear annihilation.
[Via The Null Device]
January 27th, 2013
A tribute to the ZX Spectrum and the albums of Kate Bush:
(In fairness, I should note that the copy above is at 50% of the size of the original, which serves to mask some of the rough edges. Follow the link to see the album covers in all their pixillated, colour-clashing glory.)
Nice work. It's surprising how nicely some of them turned out.
The Sensual World and 50 Words for Snow benefit from being essentially black and white images in the first place, so the dithering doesn't fall foul of the limitations of the Spectrum's graphics display, but some of the more colourful later albums like Aerial and Director's Cut look pretty damned fine all things considered. The run of albums from Lionheart to Hounds of Love is another matter entirely…
One last thought: we should all be eternally grateful that the creator of these tribute images didn't accompany them with reproductions of Kate's music created using a Spectrum's sound chip.
December 6th, 2012
Visualizing 50 years of The Rolling Stones on tour.
It's hard to imagine anyone matching the scale and longevity of their career as a live act. Is Jay-Z still going to be embarking on massive world tours 30 years from now? Will Muse? Take That? Metallica? The Pet Shop Boys?
[Via Flowing Data]
November 2nd, 2012
They Might Be Giants' Fingertips meets Star Wars…
… and Buffy…
So, so good.
October 15th, 2012
Jarvis Cocker, reviewing The John Lennon Letters, gets to the crux of the matter:
I am so the target-audience for this book that it hurts – but something feels wrong.
Britpop (I can scarcely believe that I typed that word of my own free will) perhaps comes in useful for once at this point. People of my generation felt this obscure pang – this feeling that we'd somehow missed out on something amazing. So we tried to make it happen again – but exactly the same. You cannot do a karaoke version of a social revolution (good fun trying though). What changed in the interim? Why was Br**pop doomed to failure? Too many factors to go into here, but one was: too much information. Too much reverence. Wearing the same clothes and taking the same drugs will not make us into Beatles. It will make us fat and ill. And books like this (along with many others, I admit) are what make that mistake possible. The Beatles didn't know they were the Beatles. The Beatles didn't have a plan or a blueprint to follow.
October 9th, 2012
Former BBC Senior Broadcast Journalist Alan Connor, on making a radio programme about John Cage's 4'33" and encountering problems clearing the broadcast rights for the performances he wanted to include:
A lesser journalist might have bypassed some rights or recorded his or her own performance on a smartphone and used that to provide the wordless, note-less soundtrack for the slideshow. Nobody would know. Actually, that may not be true in the case of Frank Zappa's 4'33". I'm sure there are hardcore Zappa fans who would detect in a moment that the room tone was unlike that of any studio Zappa had ever used. But it wasn't the zappaphile's conscience that made me do the right thing. It was my own.
It wasn't even my training: there had been nothing on the Safeguarding Trust course that covered the appropriate attribution of recordings of nothing happening. But in order to demonstrate that each version of 4'33" is unique, the package had to be exactly what it said. So out went the version chosen by Radio 3 regular Ian McMillan for his Desert Island Discs in which Hungarian percussion instruments were not being played, sadly unclearable in the time available.
[Via currybet dot net]
September 16th, 2012
Rob Weychert was hoping to use the Rdio streaming music service to broaden his musical horizons. The result wasn't what he'd expected:
[Last fall...] I was convinced to give Rdio a chance after a friend showed me how he used it as a try-before-you-buy service. As a discovery mechanism to augment my personal collection, the prospect of a subscription service was suddenly intriguing. At any given time, there is a ton of music, new and old, that I'd like to properly investigate before committing to a purchase. For ten bucks a month, Rdio would give me unlimited access to a lot of that music, all in one place. I decided to give it a whirl.
Moments after signing up, I dove in head first, and in the months that followed, I wolfed down music at an unprecedented rate, dutifully working my way through a mental checklist of veteran bands who had long needed my attention as well an avalanche of new releases. [...]
At one level, what Weychert found wasn't a surprise: he listened to a lot more music, but with so much to explore he listened to a lot of material just once and didn't ever return to albums to get to know them well enough to decide to buy them. It'd be the same if he'd inherited umpteen boxes of CDs from a friend with good musical taste. Presented with so much material to listen to, you'd always be tempted to find out how great the next thing might be instead of stopping and concentrating on the contents of the first pile you grabbed. With a finite amount of waking hours to devote to listening to music, something has to give.
It'll be interesting to read a further report a year on to see whether Weychert can find a strategy for avoiding the temptation to keep on pressing the Next Track button on his infinite jukebox.
September 9th, 2012
September 5th, 2012
David Hepworth would like to see a proper David Bowie exhibition:
I'd like to see his childhood bedroom recreated, displays of Bromley town centre through the years, old school books, cheap guitars, bassdrum pedals, a chronology of his haircuts, marked-up tape boxes, old contracts, personal letters, sketches, false starts, crossings-out, studio logs, mixing consoles, bits of kit, clipping from FAB 208, preposterous film scripts, storyboards for videos, things thrown on stage by fans and, most of all, a royalty statement for Tin Machine.
August 31st, 2012
The Osmonds 1974 – Fiddler On The Roof Medley.
You know, Fiddler On the Roof used to be my favourite film musical. Now, I don't know if I'll be able to watch it again without getting flashbacks of this … performance.
August 30th, 2012
Last.fm are trying to figure out what mood you're in based on various characteristics of the music you listen to:
As a first taster we've put together a visualization of your musical mood over the past 120 days, based on automatically computed machine tags for the tracks which you've scrobbled during that time. While individual tags are still far from perfectly accurate, we think that when taken together over all your listening week by week they still paint an interesting picture – one that stands a chance of reflecting real changes in your musical life.
My results over the last 120 days suggest that I was at my saddest over most of July. I can't say that I remember being noticeably less happy than I was before and since then, but that probably doesn't prove much. I may simply have failed to notice that I was sad.
One last point. If it was Facebook doing this, wouldn't we think it a bit creepy for them to be trying to figure out our moods? Is it OK for Last.fm to do this because people who use their service tend to like having their music habit dissected, summarised and analysed anyway?
August 20th, 2012
Ms. Attribution has all sorts of fun melding history and pop culture:
Sun Tzu (544-496 BCE)
Or possibly Warrant Officer Ellen Ripley. I'm always getting them mixed up.
August 14th, 2012
August 10th, 2012
What I learned on the internet today: iTunes on a Mac lets you filter songs by star rating by typing asterisks into the search field.
August 9th, 2012
Rumour has it that the Olympics closing ceremony might include a bit of a treat:
Full details about the line-up for the musical extravaganza that will bring the London Games to an end are being kept a closely-guarded secret, but some acts have confirmed they are playing and there are strong rumours about others.
Fans of Bush had their hopes raised when a new 2012 remix of her classic song Running Up That Hill appeared on the Amazon website with a release date of this Sunday, the day of the closing ceremony.
The listing was later removed and there has been no official confirmation that reclusive 54-year-old British singer-songwriter, who has not toured since 1979, will perform.
Kim Gavin, the artistic director of the closing ceremony, has said that it will be an "elegant mash-up" of British music from Elgar to Adele, with much-loved songs arranged in a symphonic structure, rather than a conventional concert. [...]
You have to admit, it does sound like the sort of show that might tempt her on stage.
[Via The Awl]