Monthly Archives: December 2012

Why Hollywood?

1893 World's 1st Movie Studio in West Orange New Jersey

1893 World’s 1st Movie Studio in West Orange New Jersey

Did you know that the original home of American motion pictures was New York?  Yessir, it was there that Thomas Edison and his “kinetoscope,” one of the first motion picture cameras, brought about the rise of many a film studio in and around NYC.  I guess that’s not too surprising, especially since New York is still a big part of mass media today, with many TV shows and pretty much all news networks being broadcast from there.

However, there was, and is a problem with New York when it comes to the art of creating films.  New York, by and large, looks like New York, meaning that it is hard to shoot a movie set in the desert anywhere in New York.  Then there is the whole weather thing, meaning that New York has a definite four seasons, which can hamper how many months films can be made.  Oh, and many a film maker took issue with Thomas Edison’s Motion Pictures Patent Company’s strict rules in film making there too.

So, the fast growing film industry started looking for places with fairer, year round, climate, and one place that they looked was Florida.  The spot that was chosen there was Hobe Sound; which was going to be renamed Picture City, and that could’ve very well been the place where all of our celebrities live, and movies are made, if it weren’t for one tiny little thing.  That tiny little thing is once again the weather, and it isn’t Florida’s notorious humidity, it was a hurricane in 1928 that put the kabosh on the creation of Picture City.

Then someone got the bright idea to look west at the still relatively new state of California (CA became a state in 1850).  Particularly southern California, where the weather almost never changes from warm and sunny, to more warm and sunny.  Film makers set their sights on Los Angeles.  Why LA over San Diego?  Well, that is a very good question, however I think geography had an awful lot to do with it.  To put it a better way, I think it was LA’s proximity to various different types of geography that made it the wise, and dare I say perfect, choice for the home of making feature films in America; as the 1927 Paramount Studios location map below illustrates:

1928 Paramount Map

Few places, if any, in this country, or any other country, can offer such a diverse amount of scenery in which to set television shows and films, without having to physically relocate to a whole other state, or country.  Just a few examples:  Little House on the Prairie – was set in Minnesota, and filmed in SoCal.  Dukes of Hazard – was set in Hazard County Georgia, and filmed in SoCal.  Matlock – set in Atlanta Georgia, filmed in SoCal.  Seinfeld – set in NYC, filmed in a studio in SoCal; and those are just a few.  There are countless television shows and movies set elsewhere, but are filmed in LALA land.

Introducing Robert Glasper!

If you’ve heard of Robert Glasper then you are probably familiar with his gospel/hip hop flavor in modern jazz and his abstract and virtuosic reinventions of early jazz standards and popular R&B hits. Though, if you haven’t been introduced to him, I decided to give you an example of his music that I feel can touch any person despite their musical taste. As of recent, he has become the new voice of, not just jazz, but modern music, in general, for young aspiring musicians. He has shown that advanced improvised music can still make people dance and can still make your heart rise with emotionalism. In an age of emphasis on commercialism, gimmicks, consumerism, and immature examples of sexual aesthetic true musical performance is what can bring us forward towards a feeling of urgency and importance in our ideals.

 

In the words of Dr. Cornel West, “music is in no way just a mode of amusement and entertainment; it’s an integral part of my way of life, my mode of being in the world. Music, we need when language fails us, but we cannot remain silent.”

Science Confirms – Pop Music all Sounds the Same

christmas-music-sucks

I have never really been a fan of Pop music.  That isn’t to say that there has never been Pop songs that I  liked. Quite the contrary, there have been several Pop songs that I have found catchy, and enjoyable; but not nearly enough for me to go running out and buy the single, or album.  Why?  Well, at the risk of sounding completely snobish here, I find a lot to be desired in the artistic merits of most, if not all, Pop music.  Again, this isn’t to say that if one were to browse through my music library that every little piece of music there are bastions of high-brow musical masters.  Trust me there are plenty of low-brow clunkers in there.  I guess the simplest way to put my views on Pop music is that I don’t really find any real or great difference between one Pop song or another.  In short, Pop songs all, basically, sound the same to me.

Is it because I am just too old now, and thus a “square,” who just doesn’t get it?  Well, while I am old enough to be the father to many a Bieber “belieber,” and the Bieb’s himself; the fact that I have never, ever, bought, or asked my parents to buy, any Pop album, cassette, CD, MP3, or any other musical format, at any stage of my life, should debunk that belief.

Am I alone in my thinking?  Probably not; and as it turns out science has now confirmed my suspicion/belief that all Pop songs not only sound the same, but they are getting louder too.

According to an article from Reuters; researchers in Spain used what is known as the Million Song Dataset, which breaks down the audio and lyrical content of songs into data that can be put through analysis, to study Pop songs from 1955 through 2010.  The results?  Well, it does appear, after countless algorithmic analysis, that Pop songs have become louder and more musically bland “… in terms of chords, melodies, and types of sounds used.”

So, there you have it.  It is now a scientific fact that Pop music does, in fact, all sound the same . . .

Click here to read more about this.

Bioacoustics: Recording the Wild

What is an acoustic ecologist? Well, if the video didn’t explain it clearly enough, they are sound recording technologists that take raw recordings of wilderness “soundscapes.” The use for such recordings spans from scientific analysis to educational and public appreciation of the places they record. As Tim mentioned in the last post, pure natural soundscapes (unaffected by some sort of technological ambience) are becoming far more rare in the modern age; and this may be one of the most important things that acoustic ecologists can tell us.

The “biophony,” as leading bioacoustician, Bernie Krause, puts it, is the natural orchestra that can be heard when we truly listen in a natural environment. It is the same music that has been heard since the very beginning of life on this planet, and thus, transcends our very pompous view of history. It is much more in tune with the universal idea of power in the present moment. Often, I speak of connectivity in music and art and this is another way it can be explored. Once, my high school history teacher, trying to instill a realist philosophy in his students, challenged the class to present evidence of how we are actually all equal. The obvious and most liberating answer to such a question is in our relationship to our natural surroundings. While darwinism is synonymous with truth for those concerned with materialism, the soundscape reminds us that although competition is a reality in nature, everything sits in its own range, working with all other facets of life to create a harmony of death and birth. Often, those involved in soundscape recording have philosophies or outlooks that suggest spiritual underpinnings (aside from sectarian notions of religion or nationality) and it is no wonder why.

 

If a Tree Falls in the Forest…

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Yeah, we’ve all heard the age old riddle, “If a tree falls in the forest and no one’s around to hear it; does it make a sound?”  Well, apparently here in America there is some one around nearly everywhere.  What I mean by that is that according to the below story there is virtually nowhere left in America that isn’t affected by the ambient sounds provided by us humans:

I can kind of attest to a part of this.  I spent much of the summer of 2011 hiking and camping in the mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; and even alone on the top of a mountain I was greeted by the distinct sounds of modern human origins, those being the sounds of passenger jet airplanes flying over head.  Please don’t take this as a complaint about humanity, because I am, after all, a part of humanity; rather it is just a matter that it is getting harder and harder to get away from it all – sort to speak.

I Need More! The Age of the Ipod

Before I had an Ipod, I looked at my small plastic mp3 player with disdain. It barely held 100 songs, and I found myself listening through it a couple times a day, coming to hate the songs that I had once wanted with me at all times. I pictured getting a sleek curved fashion statement where a vast library of all my music could sit nestled in my pocket for whenever I wanted to dive into its expanse and explore an array of new colors; a world of worlds. It may be just my tendency to romanticize things. Though, I would bet that for many musicians the Ipod has presented itself as a seemingly priceless tool to liberate the music lover from lugging around a textbook sized folder of CDs for their cumbersome walkman. Once I had acquired my Ipod it became exactly what I had dreamed; I made sure to fill it with albums rather than single songs, still loyal to the concept of listening to all of an artists pieces rather than just the one that got advertised most. I remember listening to one of my friends brag about the amount of music she carried on her ipod, in the car. So, as it came to me to choose the next song, I imagined that I would come across hours of exotic music that I hadn’t heard of before. Instead, to my disappointment and humor, I found a seemingly endless list of pop artists with only their recent hit song as their place holder in an abyss of trendiness. Needless to say, this was the height of my self righteousness concerning Ipod use. 2 years later I sat on a train to Boston angrily flying through my vast list of albums looking for the perfect song to play, unable to settle into any piece of music, changing rapidly between artists before a single song was completed. “Screw me, this is ridiculous,” I thought. Later that week I sat in front of a professor as he lectured our class on the modern ipod trend and that he didn’t listen to music unless he was sitting down to do exactly that: listen. I was stunned because as I thought about how much I actually sat down to “listen” and appreciate a piece of music I realized that this was something that I almost never did. Moreover, I had pushed myself into a way of listening that didn’t allow me to finish a single song; I was officially experiencing “music ADD.” The solution: carry only about 2 albums on my Ipod at all times. I’m forced to give my attention to one artist at a time and wouldn’t you know, it’s a liberating feeling.

The mp3 player is just a tool, but it can be dangerous. With the rise of the itunes empire came the rise of the “hit culture:” a generation of hipsters with easy access to all of the world’s music but who would only download single songs from only the most popular artists or chic underground groups. The accessibility of the mp3 didn’t result in a more musically deep or literate culture but a dilution of musical interest. Although more artists are explored, a lesser amount of songs are consumed per artist. And more pseudo music aficionados pop up as they brag about their endless library of single track plastic face sensations. The serious ones suffer as their want for new music increases but their attention span dwindles in the self creation of their own musical attention deficit disorder. Does it paint a gloomy picture? Damn-straight. But this is just human nature at its most comical. It’s a trend that has to be laughed at because if you take it too seriously then you’ve probably missed the point, but it should still be recognized and taken for what it is: an ignorant behavior. The problem is not the Ipod or mp3s but the behavior that swarms around them. Essentially, its a less destructive form of greed or gluttony, but its always up to the individual to realize the folly and decide whether to fix it or not.

The affect of the mp3 on the music industry could be a years worth of posts, but for now lets just say that its been fun watching all the music business students squirm and squawk over the fall of the big labels. As for me, I’ve been enjoying a single album for the past couple weeks.

 

 

thanks for reading.

The Folk and Art (Wagner)

“this vital force is—The Folk (das Volk).— Who is then the Folk?—It is absolutely necessary that, before proceeding further, we should agree upon the answer to this weightiest of questions. “The Folk,” was from of old the inclusive term for all the units which made up the total of a commonality. The “Folk” is the epitome of all those men who feel a common and collective Want (“gemeinschaftliche Noth”). To it belong, then, all of those who recognize their individual want as a collective want, or find it based thereon; ergo, all those who can hope for the stilling of their want in nothing but the stilling of a common want, and therefore spend their whole life’s strength upon the stilling of their thus acknowledged common want. For only that want which urges to the uttermost, is genuine Want; but this Want alone is the force of true Need (“Bedürfniss“); but a common and collective need is the only true Need; but only he who feels within him a true Need, has a right to its assuagement; but only the assuagement of a genuine Need is Necessity; and it is the Folk alone that acts according to Necessity’s behests, and therefore irresistibly, victoriously, and right as none besides. In common, too, shall we close the last link in the bond of holy Necessity; and the brother-kiss that seals this bond, will be the mutual Art-work of the Future.”

-Wagner. (The art-work of the future)

 

One of Wagner’s most lasting and famous philosophies is that of “the folk.” In his inspired writings on it’s importance are feelings of solidarity, brotherhood, and transcendence. Wagner’s use of the term “Want” should not be misunderstood, however. While one may initially attribute this term to what Wagner calls “the luxury,” or the enemy of necessity, it is important that its connection to true necessity be explored. In Wagner’s case, the concept of Want refers to the artistic yearning of the whole. In other words, it is the emotional urge of the spirit of the people. It arises, not from personal insatiable gluttony or greed, but from the commonality that is shared by men. It is the common Want that births the individual’s Need. For the “art-work of the future” is that ever advancing discipline which serves as the arm that is extended from individual to individual in our embrace of each other. “The Folk” is the community which art is continuously drawn from and poured into for the sustainability of Want and Need.

In the end, the question is that of sincerity, and it will continue to be a theme in future posts. For most, sincerity is what establishes the ideal notion of artistic expression. For example, Tim asked in a previous post, “is today’s music meant more to be entertainment than it is meant be artistic?” The answer is obviously multifaceted and requires much more detail to correctly explore, though, when dealing with the question of sincerity the focus is inherently purpose. The classification of “art” is inclusive of multiple people (the creator and observers) and is by that very nature an inclusive and binding undertaking. One must consider the purpose of the creator in the construction of the piece. In addition, the view of the observer is also equally important. Thus, one may see that with so many involved in the dissemination of art/entertainment, it becomes the property of many. It is the property of “the folk.” Though, if it is for the purpose of purely monetary gain and economic betterment, then it is of “luxury,” that which is insatiable and, thus, torturous to ones expressive nature.

The Sound and the Fury is Music to My Ears

video_supercar_exhaust_notes_from_brazilWho here likes cars?  I don’t mean you simply like the convenience that the car brings to modern life – running to the store for some milk, back and forth to work/school, and what not.  I mean that you really, really like cars.  You’re a petrolhead, or gearhead, or whatever other made up word that applies to a person who is perhaps a little nutty about automobiles.  Those are the people that I am talking about.

While I am no where near as big of a car nut as I was when I was younger, I am still a more than a fan of the car, than the average runaround person.  When I was a kid my bedroom walls were covered with car posters.  There was the six foot long poster of a black 1985 Lamborghini Countach, another six foot poster of the Vector W2 Twin Turbo, a poster of the Sbarro Challenge, a poster of the short lived Porsche CART racing car, the Batmobile from the Michael Keeton film, another smaller poster of a 1974 Countach (the first year of that storied model’s 16 year existence), a 427 Cobra, and those are just the ones I can remember.  And I still have my collection of 1:18 scale diecast cars, which include the 1984 Ferrari F40, several Corvettes, a 427 Cobra, a 1964 Ford GT40, I think you get my point, I don’t just like cars, I like fast, and beautiful cars.

So, what does all of this have to do with sound?  Well, a lot of people don’t realize that the exhaust notes of many a sporty car are actually tuned to sound good; and some cars, like the current Jaguar XK, have special ducting to channel some of that sweet engine sound into the cabin of the car – because the sound deadening has gotten so good in modern cars as to almost completely block the engine noise; which kind of defeats some of the point of owning a sports car.  In fact, the new BMW M5’s sound deadening is so good, that BMW’s engineers actually use a digital recording of the engine that plays through the car’s stereo system, in order to provide the aural sensations that many a petrol/gearhead love to hear when the are driving their cars a little harder than a mundane people mover.

If you are person who sees the car as simply a means to move you and yours from point A to point B, then none of this makes any sense to you.  If however, you get a little sparkle in your eyes when you see the sculpted lines of a performance oriented car, perhaps with a little tinge of lust, then you know exactly what I am talking about.

So, for all of you car nuts out there, below is a list of some cars that, to me, have terrific engine notes (click each photo to be taken to a video of that car’s engine notes):

lead-2011-aston-martin-v12-vantage     2013-lamborghini-aventado-51_600x0w    ferrari_458_italia_03

2013-Boss-Mustang-Laguna-Seca      2010-porsche-911-gt31

C63 AMG      00-noble-m600-opt

Musing About Music, Art and Entertainment

The-Thinker-Monkey-by-Banksy-560x375

Okay, so a couple nights ago the movie “Almost Famous” came on, and while I have seen this movie several times before, and the fact that there really was nothing else on, I decided to watch it again.  It should really come as no surprise to many who have taken the to stop by here at Noise Made Me Do It, that I really like this movie; because it covers the era of Rock and Roll that I am a big fan of – the late 1960’s, early 1970’s (Classic Rock as it is known by most).  As such, the soundtrack for “Almost Famous” has a lot of classic hits on it, from the likes of Elton John, and one of my all time favorites, Led Zeppelin, as well as many others.

For those who may not be familiar with this movie, it is about a teenage boy who gets the opportunity to write an article for Rolling Stone magazine.  He chooses to cover, and interview a band called Still Water, which is struggling to gain popularity, he ends up going on tour with the band, and learns life lessons along the way.  I know my purposefully brief synopsis really doesn’t do the movie justice. but my intent isn’t really meant to give a movie review here.  Instead I got to thinking about a common theme that runs through that movie, which is the struggle between artistic integrity, and being successful.

Many of us probably have friends who are, or were fans of a certain band, or artist, and then when that band makes it “big,” then that friend writes that band or artist off as a sell-out.  I have one of those friends, who loved Smashing Pumpkins, and then “Siamese  Dream” happened, which brought Smashing Pumpkins to popular attention, and as far as my friend was concerned, Smashing Pumpkins had sold-out.  Hell, Moby was even accused by some in the music industry for being a sell-out with the release of his 1999 album “Play,” and then licensing every song on it to film, television, and advertising.

So, what is the goal of a musician?  Is it creative art; or is it fortune and fame?

I ask that question because in the movie “Almost Famous” the enigmatic guitarist of Still Water tells the young aspiring music journalist, that the music is everything.  However in the biography of The Doors, “No One Here Gets Out Alive,” there is a recount by keyboardist Ray Manzarek when he hears some of Jim Morrison’s lyrics, and says, “let’s form and band and make a million dollars.”

I think many of us have this romantic view of the late 60’s, early 70’s rock bands were all about the music, like the guitarist in “Almost Famous” says, however in the bio of The Doors, we get an actual recount, and confession from one of that era’s biggest bands, that money was a definite impetus in their endeavors…hmm.

So, which was it, and more importantly, which is it?

Let’s fast forward to the modern era.  Sure there are still bands, and musicians out there where they hold themselves and their music to a bit of a higher standard; however it strikes me that there are so many more who may be talented singers, but are lacking in, shall we say, “originality.”  That is to say they are more performers/entertainers, than they are artists.  Sure they are very talented, but much of their material is written by someone else, and given to them to perform.

Art:  the quality, production, expression, or realm, according to aesthetic principles, of what is beautiful, appealing, or of more than ordinary significance.

Music:  an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through the elements of rhythm, melody, harmony, and color.

Entertainment:  amusement or diversion provided especially by performers.

Take for example the whole Psy, “Gangnam Style” thing.  It is entertaining, it is certainly music, but is it art?  Probably not.  Then I saw the headline, “Is this the next Gangnam?”  You click that link, and unless you are a complete music snob, you see another catchy, and entertaining musical performance called “One Pound Fish,” but again is it art?  Again, I doubt it.  Then there is the recount by Ke$ha, where she says that she was “forced” to sing the song “Die Young.”  Okay, so here we have a VERY popular performer telling us that she is singing something that she didn’t really have anything to do with the creation of; so is she an artist, or an entertainer?  Then there is someone like Justin Bieber, who actually is a talented musician, but I am often left wondering if his popularity is a product of other’s providing him with the “hits,” rather than he creating them himself?  Kind of like, and I know this is going to torque a lot of people off, but kind of like Elvis Presley.  I am an Elvis fan by the way, so save your hate mail.  What do you call someone who has musical talents, and singing abilities, but relies on others to provide them with material?  The fact that they can play an instrument(s) certainly makes them a musician, and the fact that they can sing makes them a singer, and the fact that that people are willing to pay to see or hear them perform makes them entertainers, but are they artists?  Hmm … kind of tricky there, but to me an artist is one who does the creating of their chosen medium.

Ultimately though, beauty is in the eye, and in this case, the ear of the beholder; and life is way too short to be overly critical of every little thing, just because you might think it lacks artistic merit.  Music of all types is, after all, entertainment, which according to the above definition is meant to be amusement, or diversion.  Life would be patently awful without the occasional, and adequate diversion and entertainment.  Still, I do wonder, from time to time, is today’s music meant more to be entertainment, than it is meant to be artistic?  If so, then the smallish music snob in me sighs, and then I hear a catchy tune, that makes me smile, and tap my feet, and that smallish music snob retreats back into its little cave, allowing me that brief moment of entertainment.

Science and Art (Wagner)

“True that the artist does not at first proceed directly; he certainly sets about his work in an arbitrary, selective, and mediating mood. But while he plays the go-between and picks and chooses, the product of his energy is not as yet the Work of Art; nay, his procedure is the rather that of Science, who seeks and probes, and therefore errs in her caprice. Only when his choice is made, when this choice was born from pure Necessity,—when thus the artist has found himself again in the subject of his choice, as perfected Man finds his true self in Nature,—then steps the Art-work into life, then first is it a real thing, a self-conditioned and immediate entity.”

-Richard Wagner (from Artwork of the Future)

 

 

As Wagner finds that man’s error is his separation from nature, thus science becomes the tool of his error; it becomes the objective and scrupulous window with which men observe physical reality. But just as art brings us closer to oneness with the nature of reality so must we have something by which to construct its means. Thus, science becomes simply a tool used to separate or connect.

 

He makes the point that only when his choices are born from “pure necessity” in the creation of art does man find his “true self in Nature.” The curious word in this excerpt is “necessity” as the obvious question would be: what “necessity” is there found in the creation of art as a subjective undertaking? The necessity is that born from creative imagining and the perfection that is seen in the mind after probing, searching and waiting. What he speaks of is a certain unveiling that occurs in the realization of an art form. Instead of literal “creation” there is “revelation.” The choice to follow this vision or the choices of how to realize this revelation and that choice that brought him to this vision are of necessity. The correct use of choice is the expression of man’s spirit in the material world and so it becomes a “self-conditioned and immediate entity.”

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