If you whistle a tune often enough to a starling, the bird will not only sing it back to you, it will improvise its response and create something new. On May 27, 1784, Mozart whistled a 17 note phrase to a starling in a Viennese shop and to his delight it spat the tune right back — but not without taking some liberties first. So he bought it and brought it home. That bird lived with him for the three most productive years of his life, during which he completed more than 60 compositions, including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The piano concerto as we still understand it was built in those rooms. The “Jupiter” Symphony began and Figaro ended. Melodies that two centuries of humans have since whistled could have first been volleyed between a genius and his pet bird.
The Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara died on Wednesday at the age of 87. He wrote eight symphonies, nine operas, 12 instrumental concertos, plus a wide variety of orchestral, chamber, instrumental, choral and vocal works. [more inside]
On July 28, 1916, Cecil Sharp and Maude Karpeles collected their first folk songs from residents of the southern Appalachians, along the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. These songs, along with songs collected by Olive Dame Campbell (who had given Sharp the idea the previous year), were published in 1917 in English Folk Songs from the Southern Appalachians, now one of the major reference works of American folk music. [more inside]
In the midst of today's choas and confusion, I bring you an uniting cultural landmark - What's Happening Season Two Episode 16 featuring the Doobie Brothers. For the uninitianted- What's Happening, a TV show inspired by Cooley High. And the Doobie Brothers a band from California, that staretd out playing biker country rock who via personell changes morphed into a blue eyed soul outfit, whose lead vocalist had a solo hit that provided the basis for a hip-hop classic. In any event, the episode is a great late 70's period piece.
As streaming has gone mainstream, these curators, many of whom began their professional lives as bloggers and DJs, have amassed unusual influence. Their work, as a rule, is uncredited — the better for services designed to feel like magic — but their reach is increasingly unavoidable. Spotify says 50% of its more than 100 million users globally are listening to its human-curated playlists (not counting those in the popular, algorithmically personalized “Discover Weekly”), which cumulatively generate more than a billion plays per week. According to an industry estimate, 1 out of every 5 plays across all streaming services today happens inside of a playlist. And that number, fueled by prolific experts, is growing steadily. [slBuzzfeed]
An interview with Jeff Louviere and Vanessa Brown, otherwise known as Louviere + Vanessa who created the album Resonantia which includes unique visualizations made by photographing water vibrating at the frequencies of musical notes. There is a twelve frame animation that can be viewed by placing the included praxinoscope mirror on the album to reflect images etched in the vinyl. [more inside]
"Tristan Perich’s Noise Patterns comes in a clear jewel case, but it isn’t a CD. It’s a small, matte-black circuit board. Powered by a watch battery, it produces a series of musical compositions built from the on/off operations on the minuscule chip at the center of the device, the same sort of chip you might find in a microwave oven." It's a 1-bit noise-techno album, painstakingly constructed from assembly language instructions that work directly with the binary data of the processor itself. Oh, and every single byte is used. Marc Weidenbaum sits down for a lengthy, detailed interview with Tristan to discuss what Noise Patterns is, and how it was made. (You can order through Physical Editions or Bleep, where there are a few clips to listen to.)
Waltzing Matilda is the bush ballad that introduced elements of Australian slang to generations of Americans. Instantly recognizable but less familiar is Waltjim Bat Matilda a version by Darwin-based Indigenous singer Ali Mills. She’s singing in Kriol, which is spoken by more people than any other language exclusive to Australia and is based on the highly endangered Gurindji. Waltjim Bad Matilda is also the name of Mills’ first solo album after performing many years with the Mills Sisters.
Not a modern remix of an 80s song. Remixes from the early days of extended mixes, back in the 80s. Like Phil Collins - Take Me Home (Extended 12" Mix). When remixes were made up of elements from the original song, not a DJ remix. Like Yes - Owner Of A Lonely Heart (12" Extended Version). Back when remixes were a bit clunky but imaginative, like Madonna - Lucky Star (US Remix). [more inside]
First Lady Michelle Obama joins James Corden for a drive around the White House grounds. [more inside]
In June of 1979, a song called "Ready 'N Steady" appeared on Billboard's "Bubbling Under" chart and persisted there for three weeks, struggling up to number 102 before vanishing into a legendary obscurity. For the next 37 years, music historians were unable to find any other evidence of the song's existence—no recordings, no memories of airplay, no band or label information. This month, the mystery of the "phantom record" was finally solved: "Ready 'N Steady" exists, and you can listen to it here. [more inside]
Michael Friedman is engaged in an unusual form of journalism. The composer, who has worked on shows including “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play,” is travelling the country talking to voters about what’s on their minds in this election, and then turning his interview transcripts into original songs. “The New Yorker Radio Hour” has been documenting his work. In California, Friedman spoke with a network-news producer whose jaded feelings about political coverage was shocked by Donald Trump’s hijacking of politics for entertainmentPresidential Campaigns Are Like Wildfires...
from The State of The Union Songbook
Henry Rollins reports that Alan Vega, vocalist for legendary proto-punk band Suicide, has died.
With profound sadness and a stillness that only news like this can bring, we regret to inform you that the great artist and creative force, Alan Vega has passed away. Alan passed peacefully in his sleep last night, July 16. He was 78 years of age[more inside]
"We live in the Genius age, where every line of text and every bit of information is now annotated, searchable and definable. The digitization of music has served as a mass cataloging project for anyone interested in dissecting a track down to its molecular makeup. Supernumerary sounds on records, no matter how seemingly insignificant, can usually be traced to its source." - Who Was the Baby on Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?”
Culture, not biology, decides the difference between music and noise. “Consonance seems like such a simple phenomenon, and in Western music there’s strong supposition that it’s biological... But this study suggests culture is more important than many people acknowledge.” Study originally published in Nature.
I'll mount the air on swallow's wings, to find my dearest dear. And if I lose my labour and cannot find him there, I quickly will become a fish to search the roaring sea; I love my love because I know my lover he loves me.
Using just the saxophone, violin, and their voices--and with no looping--saxophonist Colin Stetson and violinist Sarah Neufeld create incredibly layered and engrossing aural landscapes on their 2015 album Never were the way she was. Their video for "The rest of us", directed by Dan Huiting, is cinematic in its own right, but it's the driving gallop of the music that will stick with you. [more inside]
Bury It, the latest track from CHVRCHES, featuring Hayley Williams and with an outstanding video by comics artist Jamie McKelvie.
In the 1990s, a group of Australian misfits who made anti-rave music [NSFW audio, present elsewhere, too], influenced by their local Newcastle industrial heritage and the international sounds of gabber. In 1994, they bashed out some tunes and pulled together enough money to make 102 hand-stamped records, officially starting Bloody Fist Records. The label gained recognition world-wide, but abruptly closed shop in 2004, and a decade later Bloody Fist was celebrated in Newcastle with Fistography, an exhibit to the history and legacy of the label. If you missed any of this the first time around, you can stream and buy much of the label's catalog on their Bandcamp page. [more inside]
Ma’agalim, a bitter-sweet music video by the Israeli band Jane Bordeaux [Youtube]
(N.B.: first link includes sketches and models.)
(N.B.: first link includes sketches and models.)
Devil Is Fine is the second album by Zeal and Ardor, a.k.a. Birdmask, a.k.a. Manuel Gagneux. For a taste of its "spiritual black metal blues," have a loud listen to "Blood In The River." The vocals are so gritty and authentic that he was accused of using unattributed samples from Smithsonian field recordings. [more inside]
[Soda_Jerk vs The Avalanches] Jerry Seinfeld, Daria, Jay and Silent Bob and many more rub on-screen shoulders in The Was, an eye-and-ear-catching 14 minute collage short. The visual remix splices together scenes and characters from 129 different films and TV shows, and is made by NYC-via-Sydney art collective, Soda_Jerk. Fittingly, the short appears to be soundtracked by audio sampling maestros, The Avalanches, using tracks from The Avalanches' recently-released album Wildflower and alternative mixes. [more inside]
David Lee Roth's No Holds Bar-B-Que, long only available in bootleg form was released on Roth's youtube channel recently. Featuring surreal covers, low rent effects work, Benny Hill-esque skits, and Japanese sword arts. Dive in and get a taste.
Making a Robot Dance to Music Using Chaotic Itinerancy in a Network of FitzHugh-Nagumo Neurons "We propose a technique to make a robot execute free and solitary dance movements on music, in a manner which simulates the dynamic alternations between synchronisation and autonomy typicallyobserved in human behaviour."
While OK Go's progression from treadmill to unicycle to zero-gravity has broken all kinds of ground in ambitious, creative, music video, the new video for LA band AJJ's Goodbye, Oh Goodbye takes the form to entirely new places. Planned and choreographed over the course of six months, and shot in a single take in an LA warehouse, the video centers around a judicious use of... well, it's best left unspoiled. (Here's a making-of video, for the curious.)
A list of extremes of conventional music notation. "Conventional Western music notation is far more complex and subtle than most people think. In particular, it does not have well-defined borders; it just fades away indefinitely in all directions."
In 1997, Björk interviewed musicians Alasdair Malloy, Mika Vainio, Tommi Grönlund, and Arvo Pärt in a two-part BBC documentary entitled Modern Minimalists - part I | part II
Breakestra is a funk band from Los Angeles. A sampling: Come On Over ft. Afrodyete • Getcho Soul Togetha • Joyful Noise • Cramp Your Style • Lowdown Stank • Family Rap • On-air jam at KCRW [via L.A. Taco Radio]
Tweedy is Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his 18-year-old son Spencer. The father-son duo's debut album Sukierae, released in 2014, features 20 songs written by Jeff Tweedy with Spencer playing drums. Radio National's live music team caught Tweedy's recent Bluesfest sideshow at the Melbourne Recital Centre. [more inside]
If you look at nothing more than album titles, you'll get the impression that the duo of the brothers Andreas and Simone Salvatici, who record and perform as Clorinde, pull in a diverse set of sounds, from The Gardens of Bomarzo, named for the Italian park of stone monsters, to The Poetry of Charles B., with song titles pulled from Bukowski. If that's too vague, "Imagine an orchestral and oriental Efterklang reworking “Selected Ambient Works” by Aphex Twin." [more inside]
Amber Galloway Gallego is an ASL-based music interpreter who has worked with Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Destiny's Child, Paul McCartney, and many more rappers, R&B stars, and rock bands. Her YouTube channel is chock full of music interpretation for deaf audiences. [more inside]
If You Do That, The Robots Win: Glenn McDonald, music critic and creator of Every Noise At Once talks about how algorithmic music recommendation happens:
So now I work at Spotify as a zookeeper for playlist-making robots. Recommendation robots have existed for a while now, but people have mostly used them for shopping. Go find me things I might want to buy. "You bought a snorkel, maybe you'd like to buy these other snorkels?" But what streaming music makes possible, which online music stores did not, is actual programmed music experiences. Instead of trying to sell you more snorkels, these robots can take you out to swim around with the funny-looking fish. And as robots begin to craft your actual listening experience, it is reasonable, and maybe even morally imperative, to ask if a playlist robot can have an authorial voice, and, if so, what it is?[more inside]
What do you get when you give the directors of such music videos as DJ Snake & Lil' Jon's Turn Down for What [previously] or Manchester Orchestra's Simple Math [previously] a movie to direct? You get Swiss Army Man (trailer). And when you have a movie that features the magical, flatulent corpse played by Daniel Radcliffe, how do you promote it online? With a virtual swiss army man (warning: possibly NSFW for optional* full-screen video bikini-clad women and a .. helpful erection) [more inside]
Route One is a 24 hour live broadcast by Icelandic state television RÚV of a drive on the Ring Road, which goes all the way around Iceland. Underneath a procedurally generated 24 hour remix of a new Sigur Rós song called Óveður will be playing. It starts now.
TRONICBOX (twitter) makes 1980s versions of current day pop songs including an absolutely spot on version of Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean."
Performers have had it with your shit: your phone is getting locked up.
Arena-folk rockers Mumford and Sons toured in South Africa earlier this year, where they took two days to record new music. The result is their Johannesburg EP (YT playlist with live and studio tracks), with Senegalese singer and guitarist Baaba Maal (documentary playlist), South African pop trio Beatenberg (playlist of live videos), and the team of Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya with British production/DJ duo Radioclit as The Very Best (their original mixtape). More music from the collaborators inside. [more inside]
The first rule of calling Smash Mouth a one-hit Shrek-coattail-riding wonder is do not call Smash Mouth a one-hit Shrek-coattail-riding wonder. The second rule of calling Smash Mouth a one-hit Shrek-coattail-riding wonderis do not call Smash Mouth a one-hit Shrek-coattail-riding wonder.
The origins of Lynyrd Skynyrd's 'Free Bird' are pretty brief. In this 1970 demo (source), you can hear a short version, with the opening question but no piano intro and extended jam at the end. Though they recorded a long version for their debut album, they also cut a short version for the single. But people want "guitar sagas", such as "Whipping Post," by the Allman Brothers Band,and "Smoke on the Water," by Deep Purple, or maybe it was a silly thing to heckle Florence Henderson and other uncool cats. Decades later, people are still yelling "Freebird!" Sometimes people snap back, like Bill Hicks (NSFW), and sometimes people oblige, like Bob Dylan recently. In case that's not enough, there's (always) more! [more inside]