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Faster, ping pong balls! Ping! Ping!
November 12, 2011 10:15 PM   Subscribe

So maybe you've caught some recent iPhone commercials and wondered, "Is that Philip Glass? Surely Glass wouldn't do an Apple commercial, would he?" Well, not yet (although he did appear at the Manhattan Apple Store a while back). That piece you hear in the commercials, which sounds a lot like Truman Sleeps, but faster and tinklier, is by Keith Keniff. But if you want to hear Truman Sleeps covered a little faster and and a lot tinklier, you have to go to Carlo Castellano, a guy with a studio, a glockenspiel, and lots and lots of ping pong balls.
posted by maudlin (34 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
Keith's a super-nice guy and releases stuff on the same label as my wife and I. Nice to see his name here.
posted by sleepy pete at 10:24 PM on November 12, 2011


Steve Jobs Christof: A brilliant visionary in glasses and a turtleneck who combines cutting-edge technology with an auteur's sensibility to create an idyllic walled garden whose reality distortion field both monetizes his cash cow and zealously guards him from the pain and imperfection of the outside world -- no matter how much he might wish to stage a jailbreak.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:30 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Philip Glass + ping pong ball music = made my night. Let us celebrate with former Boston Bruin Marco Sturm's ping pong face.
posted by mannequito at 10:32 PM on November 12, 2011


Senor Castellano seems to be suffering from a desperate mallet deficit.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 10:52 PM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As one who has also, fairly often, shamelessly modified a chord from minor to major at the end of a progression, I approve of Keith Keniff's iphone piece.

I mean, really, find your nearest piano and play the following:

Dm, Bb, Am, A

Everyone will say you're ripping off Phillip Glass, too. But it's still a great progression.
posted by chimaera at 11:25 PM on November 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


F major, not A minor.
posted by speicus at 11:58 PM on November 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think I will start a band called Phillip Glass (two Ls) that performs slightly modified Philip Glass (one L) chord progressions.

PROFIT
posted by speicus at 12:02 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Definitely a First World Problem, but let me just say I have an irrationally strong hatred for commercials that use a barely-different version of a preexisting song because they're too cheap to license the real one.

I've actually spent time thinking about the people who do this for a living. What does it feel like to be that guy whose job it is to create barely-different covers of songs for commericals? Do they suffer from periodic existential crises, or is it just a job to them? Which possibility is worse?

PS: the Carlo Castellano version is actually really well done.
PPS: The Truman Show is still a terrible movie.
posted by dephlogisticated at 12:04 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for the interesting music.
posted by Chorian at 12:30 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"What does it feel like to be that guy whose job it is to create barely-different covers of songs for commericals?"

Everything's stolen from somewhere.
posted by Praxis at 1:02 AM on November 13, 2011


Definitely a First World Problem, but let me just say I have an irrationally strong hatred for commercials that use a barely-different version of a preexisting song because they're too cheap to license the real one.

They may not be too cheap; the artist may simply refuse to license to particular companies, or in general.

There's something delicious, of course, about a company that's suing competitors for making products that they allege look too much like their own then turning around and creating off-by-one clones of someone else's music for their ad campaigns, though.
posted by rodgerd at 1:04 AM on November 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


"Everything's stolen from somewhere."

Hey! That was my line. Comment thief!
posted by greenhornet at 1:14 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting - I thought the music in that iPhone 4S commercial was from Amelie.
posted by pinky at 2:05 AM on November 13, 2011


I actually use Keith's stuff as scratch all the time and he's quite the great composer as well. If you need slow, minimalist piano with great texture you can't do much better than the stuff he recorded under the name Goldmund.
posted by fungible at 4:02 AM on November 13, 2011


AFAK Philip Glass doesn't write this style of music anymore. He never wanted to be pegged/identified as a minimalist composer. It is said that his later stage works is objectively more complex, and subjectively more interesting.
posted by polymodus at 4:11 AM on November 13, 2011


The other way you know the commercials aren't scored by Glass is that they modulate too quickly. It sounds too cheerful as opposed to, say, transcendental.
posted by polymodus at 4:14 AM on November 13, 2011


Thanks for the Keith Keniff Link - excellent discovery!

Sitenote: hardly any of his music is to be found on iTunes.
posted by homodigitalis at 4:55 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Situations like this are why Forensic Musicology is a thing.
posted by Guy Smiley at 5:11 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


the artist may simply refuse to license to particular companies

I thought in the USA you could license a song to use whether or not the copyright holder wanted to license it to you? Don't pop stars end up with their songs being played by politicians of which they do not approve?
posted by alasdair at 6:29 AM on November 13, 2011


You still need permission from the rightsholder. In most cases it's granted by rote but many artists put conditions on who can use their music.

Pop stars don't necessarily control their own catalogs, though. So you have high-profile cases where "Revolution" is used by Nike in a commercial despite the wishes of the surviving Beatles because Michael Jackson had previously bought the rights at auction.
posted by ardgedee at 7:06 AM on November 13, 2011


Even with ping pong balls, the Glass piece doesn't sound cheerful. Apple's music choices, and I say this as an Apple fan, are a little less srs bzns than most of the Glass I'm (admittedly superficially) familiar with. That's not ragging on Apple, just saying that I tend to expect their musical choices for their ads to be light, which the piece they used is and the Glass is not.

(I had forgotten that Glass wrote part of the score for that film. It was a class production.)
posted by immlass at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2011


You still need permission from the rightsholder

Oh, am I confusing radio broadcast usage with more general and television advertising usage? How did Rush Limbaugh get rights to My City Was Gone?
posted by alasdair at 7:32 AM on November 13, 2011


Yeah, as immlass said, Glass really doesn't do "cheerful". If you play with the Glass Engine (Java required -- sorry!), you can manipulate degrees of JOY, SORROW, INTENSITY, DENSITY, and VELOCITY to find a piece with those characteristics. When I ask the Engine for maximum JOY, I get pieces like Closing from Mishima (YouTube). The same settings with max INTENSITY yields Anthem Part 3 from Powaqqatsi (YouTube). If I max out JOY and minimize SORROW, one result is Trial 2 / Prison from Einstein on the Beach (YouTube). And November 25: The Last Day from Mishima registers as one of the pieces that maximizes both JOY and SORROW (YouTube).

I didn't post this to accuse Keniff of being a musical thief. While this piece and some others by him use chord progressions and arpeggios many of us have pegged as typical Glass, he's a prolific composer in his own right with a lot of pieces that don't sound Glassian at all.

I had to go back and forth between the pieces to confirm to myself that while there was a resemblance, we're not talking ripoff. But it is interesting to note that on the Keniff excerpt on Soundcloud, you can hear woodwinds come in around 16 seconds in what seems to be a typical Glass pattern, but there are no woodwinds in Truman Sleeps. So packrat minds like mine (and many people here) are going to be even more convinced of the resemblance because of the evocation of a separate motif in Glass' work.
posted by maudlin at 7:46 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I've actually spent time thinking about the people who do this for a living. What does it feel like to be that guy whose job it is to create barely-different covers of songs for commericals? Do they suffer from periodic existential crises, or is it just a job to them? Which possibility is worse?

I'm going to go with "just a job".

I have been unemployed in recent years, "Eating this week" has a much higher priority than worrying about the ethicality of making similar-but-just-legally-different-enough-to-avoid-lawsuits bit of music for a commercial.

As a graphic designer working for a corporation, I am often asked to copy something my boss saw in a magazine at the grocery store. I do it because it's my job. I do it because I remember what it's like to be out of work and worrying about how I'll pay the bills this month, or exactly how much money I have left before my Visa is maxed out.

When I was younger, I tried debating with my boss about the ethicality of directly copying something. It fell on deaf ears. You do the work or they will get someone else who will. There are 5,000 people lined up outside waiting to take my job if I decide I'm too idealistic to copy the thing my boss wants.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:20 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some comments from first hand experience:

1. Why do you think Philip Glass wouldn't create music for commercials? I remember (early last decade, IFRC) getting a mailing from his agent specifically looking for TV commercial projects for him. Nothing wrong with that -- I'd watch any commercial with music from him (at least once) and he'd get paid handsomely.

2. As for what it feels like to be the "guy who creates barely different versions for commercials..." well, most of the folks I know who do that are very talented musicians who do that as a "day job." And while sometimes it is "copy this as close as you can without us getting in trouble" more often it's that music selection(s) have been used in a rough cut to get everyone on board with the right "feel"of the music in the spot. The track(s) are then used as a guideline for composing original music.

3. Full disclosure: I'm a big fan of Glass's music and have had the privilege of working with him once back in the 1980s. He struck me as a remarkably, nice, normal fellah, even if his haircut was a bit disheveled :-)
posted by Dean358 at 8:28 AM on November 13, 2011


This would deserve a separate post, but in my opinion the best covers of Philip Glass are by Uakti, the Brazilian group which has been making its own instruments out of wood, plastic pipes, glass and rubber balls since 1978.

They covered Satie, Mozart, Ravel.

They worked with Glass on Aguas da Amazonia (Amazon River, or if you want to see what they play, here), Metamorphosis and many more.

Paul Simon worked with them. They performed with Caetano Veloso. They performed with Milton Nascimento on Lagrima do Sul, one of the most beautiful Brazilian songs.

In 2007 a movie (Contato) was recorded at one of their concert, giving a glimpse at all the instruments they actually play.
posted by Laotic at 8:29 AM on November 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Glass can be replaced by an algorithm written in 15 minutes. In the future, when computers become intelligent, he'll be their Bach.

"Oh, it's so beautiful."
"Shut up, you, you ... Siri!"
"Shhhh... here comes The Master."
posted by Twang at 9:03 AM on November 13, 2011


I thought in the USA you could license a song to use whether or not the copyright holder wanted to license it to you?
You can play it on the radio, even internet radio. But you can't use it in an ad or as part of some other media without licensing it
Don't pop stars end up with their songs being played by politicians of which they do not approve?
Not legally.
posted by delmoi at 9:04 AM on November 13, 2011


Torley will show you how to make your own Phillip Glass music.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:21 AM on November 13, 2011


The Truman Show is still a terrible movie.

Lies! Pistols at dawn, sir!
posted by hippybear at 10:39 AM on November 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Don't pop stars end up with their songs being played by politicians of which they do not approve?

Many pop stars who end up with their songs played by politicians of whom they don't approve have been ripped off by politicians who don't give a shit and who ignore cease and desist letters. Michele Bachmann pisses on Elvis's grave every time she uses "The Promised Land" at a campaign appearance, but she used that only after she pissed off musicians who were actually still alive, like Tom Petty and Katrina & The Waves.
posted by blucevalo at 11:26 AM on November 13, 2011


>I have an irrationally strong hatred for commercials that use a barely-different version of a preexisting song because they're too cheap to license the real one.<

It’s sometimes called a sound alike, and you can still be sued if it’s obvious enough that that’s what you’re doing. Really though, most music is so much like other things already that that’s not going to happen. The song that you’re defending probably rips off and sounds just like something else, you just don’t know it.
posted by bongo_x at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2011


The Truman Show is still a terrible movie.


It really, really is not a terrible movie, at all.
posted by gcbv at 11:57 AM on November 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also, I have this;
http://www.audiothing.net/instruments/pong-glockenspiel/

and thought it must be the same guy, and it looks like it is. Good, cheap sounds if you have Kontakt.
posted by bongo_x at 12:08 PM on November 13, 2011


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