I had a chance to watch the holographically generated performance by Michael Jackson at the recent Billboard Music Awards, and if you haven't seen it already and have any interest in such technology (or even just music and dancing), it's worth a watch:
Of course producers and special effects experts have been resurrecting and recreating performers, celebrities, actors and historical figures for some time now, so having the technology to make a deceased musician perform a new song live on stage is perhaps an expected (albeit impressive) next step in that process.
Still, I wonder if we'll reach a point soon where it might be helpful to have performers declare what advanced tools and technology are being employed to produce a given entertainment experience. Just as we label some of our food as having come about through one production process or another, maybe we will want or need an "ORGANIC" label for our live shows that meet some appropriate standard.
I took a quick trip to Asheville, North Carolina this past weekend to visit some friends and wander around the area. It's one of my favorite parts of the country, having spent a fair amount of time there as a kid, with my grandparents when they lived in Swannanoa and attending a summer camp for several years in Black Mountain.
On Friday night I had the opportunity to see The Punch Brothers with Chris Thile in concert at Earlham College. As with many of the artists that Earlham brings to town, I hadn't heard of them when I came in, but when I left I was craving more of their work. The event was billed as a mix of "bluegrass, gospel and klezmer," but that hardly does justice to the talent, complexity and variety the group brought to the packed auditorium. Mandolin player and group convener Chris Thile evoked David Gray, Jeff Buckley and Dave Matthews in his vocal range, honest lyrics and child-like wonder as he danced around the stage - he made it hard not to smile and dance in my seat, and several audience members were moved to call out in praise throughout the show. It was quite an experience, and based on the quality of the performance I saw and the group's full tour schedule, it looks like they're really going places.
When you hang around with Jim Hair, you sometimes find yourself thrust into the middle of interesting artistic and cultural experiences you hadn't planned on. That happened today, when he suggested I be an interview subject in a news segment produced by NewsLink Indiana out of Muncie about the forthcoming party to celebrate the new Hoagy Carmichael mural that's gone up in downtown Richmond. And so I was, and you can see the resulting video and news story on the NewsLink Indiana website. The piece is apparently just a promo for a longer news piece they'll produce on Saturday, so my sound bite is notably short and unsubstantial. But at least they didn't include the part where the interviewer cleverly asked me how much I know about Hoagy Carmichael, and I had very little to say in response (I think she was on to me), but that also means they left out my brilliant musings on the harm of homogenous community landscapes and the importance of creating vibrant destinations with this kind of cultural and artistic work. Sigh.
You can view other coverage of the mural: Palladium-Item article, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, and so on. Congratulations to all of the people who worked hard to make the mural happen, and certainly to Jim for bringing everyone to the table, er, canvas.
If you grew up in the 1980s, it was hard to miss the dark and brooding song "In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins. I remember brooding to its tune myself at times, and of course the part where the drums come in was a pivotal moment for those who played along with our own "air instruments."
That's probably why I can't stop laughing at this:
Confession: one of my great pleasures/sicknesses when distracted is playing the game of reframing or rewording song lyrics and titles to be more thematically accurate, pseudo-politically correct, and/or appropriate for use in a scientific research paper.
My Girl by The Temptations becomes: The One Who is My Significant Other, and Also Female
I Believe I Can Fly by R. Kelly becomes: I Have a Sense That I Am Capable of Sub-Orbital Flight Without the Use of an Aircraft
Oops, I Did It Again by Britney Spears becomes: I Am Struck That I Appear to Have Made the Same Error I Previously Made
I Wish It Would Rain Down by Phil Collins becomes: It is My Earnest Hope That We Will Experience Significant Precipitation in the Near Future
In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel becomes: I Perceive Something Noteworthy About Your Corneas
And so on. It's especially fun if you sing them to the original tune.
Does anyone else play this game? Or am I, as Gnarls Barkley should have called it in his hit song, Perpetually Experiencing Difficulty With My Understanding of Reality?
Doug, Scott, Brandon and I were all sharing a room at Chicago's Drake hotel while on a weekend school field trip early on in high school. I was having a miserable time for various teen-agey angst reasons I won't go into, and I was tired of being cooped up in our room watching JFK (that is one long movie!). At the same time, I was quite fearful that our chaperones would make good on their threat to send us home early if we were caught even so much as peeking into the hallways after our prescribed curfew, so I remained stationary.
Doug, unfortunately, became the target of my antsy-ness. He had fallen asleep in one of the beds, and as 2 AM rolled around, I suggested to Brandon and Scott that we play a prank on the poor boy. All clocks were set to appear as 6:50 AM, the alarm clock was set for 10 minutes later (our prescribed time to start getting ready to go), the rest of us got into bed, the lights were turned off. Continue reading "Doug, it's time to get up"→
When I first discovered David Gray, it was by encountering his song Please Forgive Me, which was quite impressive, stunning maybe, to me as a song in its own right. But when I got the full album it was on, White Ladder, I realized that it was part of a package deal that achieved so much more as a nuanced whole than any of its parts did alone. This was striking to me, as so few albums these days carry a lot of obvious interconnection of their songs, at least in a way that isn't only obvious if you read every lyric and the "behind the music" bio of the artist. Gray's songs seemed to talk to one another, answering questions that the others had asked, flowing back and forth around recurring themes that the words and the melodies created together. It was as much of a "listening experience" as I'd had with any music in a while, and he was consistent in that sense when I saw him perform at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia (right before he was "big" in the US...friends tell me he had a great following elsewhere well before that). Fortunately for me, Gray's newest album, Life in Slow Motion, is another experience filled with great inter-song integrity and a striking sound that seems to reveal a new layer each time I listen. Continue reading "David Gray's Life in Slow Motion"→
I'd like to sing the praises of artist Vienna Teng. Not only is her music outstanding (more on that in a moment), but her story is quite interesting as well, at least to me. Teng studied Computer Science at Stanford University, and then worked as a software engineer at Cisco Systems in San Francisco. As a fellow geek, I have to admire that part alone. But then Teng quit her tech job to prepare for the independent release of her debut album, Waking Hour, which is a really wonderful mix of striking lyrics, piano ballads, and Teng's clear, beautiful voice. Think Tori Amos without the drama and screeching. The track "Soon Love Soon" is my current favorite, but as I keep exploring the album, I'm always finding new kinds of musical beauty. Since the release of WH, she's been on Letterman, CNN, NPR, and toured with Shawn Colvin, and seems to have quite a growing fan base. Whether or not you appreciate the tech-head-turned-singer story that might inspire geeks everywhere, consider checking out Teng's work (available for download through the iTunes Music Store).
I should preface these thoughts by saying that I believe the current uproar over Napster, copyright issues, the music industry, and information theory is producing a public debate that is very healthy for our government, culture, and nation. It is forcing us to look in new ways at how we treat information, data, privacy, personal transactions, art, and money on a personal and public level. It is forcing several large and powerful corporate and government entities to think hard about their place in the digital age.
That being said, I think it might be best if the debate ended with the voluntary end of Napster, instead of the involuntary end of Napster "as we know it."
Outrageous, you say? They should fight to the death, you say? Well, let's think about it. When this whole conflict started, the Napster folks took the hard and fast position that they were providing a legitimate service that was not in any way defrauding the music industry. I'm not sure how their personal/internal corporate view has changed since then, but the current course of events would suggest that Napster is making every attempt to find the best way to handicap their service in a way that satisfies the music industry. This is the result of the seemingly immutable decision of the justice system that Napster's original operating model is illegal.
If you follow that course to its natural conclusion, it means that the current conflict will not end until either Napster operates in a manner that is pleasing to the music industry and/or the government, or Napster does not operate at all.
As a matter of pride and principle, I think Napster should head off either ending and call it a day. By continuing to participate in the current conflict, Napster publicly acknowledges, however reluctantly, that it is in the wrong and that the music industry and government are somehow in the right -- OR, it acknowledges that its more important to Napster's keepers to exist as a prisoner of these entities than it is to assert the right to exist freely or not exist at all.
However, if Napster were to close its proverbial doors, it would be its own unique way of admirably saying "we choose not to exist in a manner that is subject to the corrupt whims of a malicious industry". Yes, it would be a loss for Napster users, and yes, it would be a loss for a practical, working example of the power of the Internet. But it would NOT be a loss for the cause of freedom of information; quite the opposite.
Some things change our lives so significantly that they deserve better than to be trampled out of existence by the changing face of subtle bureaucratic oppression.