Archive for the 'Music' Category

RIP: James Brown (1933 – 2006)

Monday, December 25th, 2006

James Brown died early this morning.

Passing of a legend. Beyond his own music, James Brown’s work has influenced or initiated a good sized chunk of modern popular music. Many hip hop or rap anthems contain samples of Brown’s work (or works derived from his work), copy his rhythms, or are created by descendants from his bands.

Brown was one of the hardest working men in show business. He would actually lose several pounds of weight during a performance. And a perfectionist, too. Like Zappa and Waters, Brown demanded absolute perfection from his band, which led to several line up changes throughout the years.

Unlike Zappa and Waters, James Brown was composing funk anthems. Funk is notorious for its loose and sloppy feel, but Brown demanded an absolutely perfectly sloppy performances. This led to a number of lineup changes and some of those that spun out of Brown’s band went on to form incredibly influential musical power houses.

Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley, and Maceo Parker– all core members of Parliament / Funkadelic– came out of James Brown’s band. And you could definitely hear it in their music.

Instead of reading about the man, go listen to his music. My favorite James Brown comes from the when the JBs included the P-Funk folks. Funk Power 1970: A Brand New Thang is an awesome set of some in your face classic brown funk. James Brown Christmas or Funky Christmas are both excellent collections of tunes, if you want to put some funk in your Christmas.

The mothership has landed to take brother James away. No doubt he entered with his head held high and his foot hitting the deck on the ONE.

I caught some of the Atlanta JB celebration today on CNN. Wow! Talk about all star funktacular! Amazing send-off. I hope that a full length recording becomes available.

Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra

Wednesday, April 5th, 2006

I recently picked up Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra’s album entitled Liberation Afro Beat, Vol. 1.

Wow. The mothership has landed! This is an album full of tight, funky, jams with “world beat” overtones. (Really, “world beat” just means “rhythms and melodies not familiar to the typical western listener’s ear”).

The entire album is one long funky jam. I’m a long time fan of Parliament, Funkadelic, Deep Banana Blackout, and other Funk Masters.

This album is quickly diving into the heavy rotation list. I am definitely going to have to go and figure out which of Fela Kuti’s albums to pick up.

The only mediocre moment is the last song; more protest with the music taking back stage, but even it has its moment of supreme down stroke.

Update: I picked up Fela Kuti’s Two Sides of Fela: Jazz and Dance. More excellent stuff. Awesome Jazz riffs w/a quite a touch of the funk.

iTunes Music Store MAJOR bug fixed!

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Ever since the iTunes Music Store was launched, it was impossible to search for the band The The. This was the most horrible egregiously nasty bug, like, evar!

Seriously, it was a really annoying bug in that The The is a truly awesome band and, as it turns out, the iTumes Music Store actually has a good selection of their content.

This has been fixed. You can now search for The The.

Woot!

Of much lesser importance, the whole search engine has been vastly improved. Many ambiguously non-ambiquous hits are no longer ambiguous. That is, the search engine does a much better job of mapping what you typed with what you really meant.

b-52s/b52s/b fifty-twos, for example.

Or devo / de-vo / d e v o.

Or even nusratfetah alikhan, which really should be Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. And iTunes correctly figured that out.

This is going to make those late night iTunes Music Store Shopping Adventures (What? I bought music at 3am on Friday evening?) all that much more dangerous….

RIP: Ali Farka Touré 1939-2006

Tuesday, March 7th, 2006

Ali Farka Touré has passed away. A sad loss.

I have listened to Ali Farka Touré’s music for years. He was an incredible guitarist from Africa and blended traditional tribal rhythms and melodies with modern themes and technologies.

He was also one to often experiment with styles well foreign to his native Africa.

In particular, I frequently return to Ali Farka Touré & Ry Cooder’s Talking Timbuktu album. Absolutely sublime blend of Cooder’s American Roots with Touré’s African Blues. It earned Ali his first Grammy in 1995.

Awesome stuff. Ali Farka Touré will be missed, but his legacy shall live on!

Update: This morning, I picked up Ali Farka Touré and Toumani Diabate’s In the Heart of the Moon. Another awesome album. All instrumental guitar and keyboard work with some nice rhythms. Also earned Ali his second Grammy.

Atlanta: Branding & Web Stupidity

Tuesday, November 15th, 2005

First, let me just say that I happen to really like Atlanta. I have visited the city a few times and enjoyed every minute of it and am looking forward to returning.

Ok, now, with that out of the way.

What the hell is up with the utter crap new theme song that Atlanta tax payers paid for? You will eventually be able to download it from BrandAtlanta.com. Yup, there is an Atlanta brand. They seemed to have broken their store implementation. It assumes that cookies are disabled on first visit and claims you have to have cookies enabled “for security reasons”. Huh? (To their credit, the company that built the site is extremely responsive — I received a personal response to my bug report within an hour of sending the initial message).

In short, it is a throwaway hip-hop track with bad vocals. No melody. Nothing to remember. Generic enough that they managed to produce a symphonic and a blues version to reach a larger audience. I like good hip hop. This is not good hip hop.

Where the music makes you drop to your knees

Yeah. If I were a citizen of ATL, I’d be dropping to my knees in despair of the notion that people are going to associate Atlanta with this craptastic music.

Sounds like an act of desperation. Honestly, I have no idea of the state of Atlanta’s economy. I think Flint, Michigan tried something similar after the car companies fled town. Didn’t go so well.

Silly. I can’t stand it when the bloody marketeers take something good and try to water it down to make it “more appealing” to a “broader market”. Same reason it is nearly impossible to find a jalapeño with any spice on the East coast.

Theremin

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005
Theremin

The image on the right is a close up of the mount point at which the pitch antenna attaches to a Moog Etherwave Theremin Standard musical instrument.

I gave said instrument to my wife for her birthday. It is quite the amazingly cool bit of electronics. Not only is it one of the oldest electronic instrument designs, but it is the only electronic instrument played without touching the instrument.

(Or so they claim — that isn’t really true. I played with a video harp at CMU that was played without touching. But it was about 2 orders of magnitude more complex and not nearly such a package of silvery-black coolness.)

Theremin

On the left is a picture of my wife playing the Theremin for the first time. Roger clearly digs the Theremin, too. He has discovered that if you sneak up on it, it’ll make some very weird low pitched “I see you!” noises. She is considering offering herself up as Theremin soloist for the Saratoga Community Band. Still a lot to learn about the instrument, but she is one of those rare people that can learn any instrument given a few weeks of practice.

Theremin

I took a series of photos of the Theremin. It is quite the interesting piece of engineering. Elegantly looped volume control antenna and solidly straight pitch antenna.

The manual is thorough beyond the call of duty. Not only providing excellent setup instructions, but also providing you with hints as to how to “turbocharge” your Theremin. The main board has an edge connector through which a number of hack points are provided.

As well, the board has a slew of different tunable parameters (through potentiometers). This is both for the purposes of hack-a-bility and because the instrument’s tuning can be vastly altered by construction of the case, down to and including the type of paint and/or stain used on the wood.

Analog is cool.

RIAA (Almost) Grasps The Obvious

Saturday, August 27th, 2005

The RIAA has finally figured out that recordable media is a much bigger tool in the industry of music piracy than P2P.

Well, DUH!.

Every bit as much as the RIAA’s members have a long history of taking talentless artists and turning a huge profit through the art of “creative marketing”, every statement released by the RIAA in regards to piracy is more “creative marketing” with the goal of preserving a failing business model.

Spinning the clock back to a post I wrote 3 years (and two weblogging engines ago), I said:

Until I see any evidence that the RIAA/MPAA actually cares about real acts of theft of their materials that happens every day on the street corners of major cities around the country– as well as through mail order and online– I cannot take anything they say regarding piracy through downloads even remotely serious.

Read the rest of this entry »

The ambitions are…

Sunday, July 31st, 2005

no one here has goals like get a job, get married, have kids
the ambitions are wake up, breathe, keep breathing
no desire to get rich, become famous, move out
the ambitions are wake up, breathe, keep breathing

The Golden Palominos’Dead Inside is now available in the music store. Maybe it has been for a while and I simply just noticed it.

This is the most intense album out of my 2,500 or so album collection. Dark. Visual. Vicious. Beautiful.

When I’m in a particularly black mood, this is the album I listen to at a top volume at 3am with all the lights turned off.

Bill Laswell produces and contributes the bass line to an incredible band of musicians. Nicole Blackman provides biting vocal narratives on top of the mesmerizing beats.

Tasty Live Recordings

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

OK — so now that you have a better-than-totally-tedious workflow for downloading and integrating live music into iTunes, how about some decent shows to download?

What follows are a random set of show I have found most enjoyable. For me, it isn’t just the band, but the recording quality has to be really good, too. I only grab soundboards or really high rated audience recordings unless the show is just so stunningly unique that I have to have it.

First, start at the Live Music Archive. Amazing resource.
Read the rest of this entry »

Importing Live Recordings into iTunes.

Sunday, July 24th, 2005

I have long downloaded live music from ETree and other sources of live recordings. I pretty much stick to soundboard quality recordings, though I’m perfectly happy listening to a good quality audience recording of an excellent performance.

I use Xact to decompress the shorten/FLAC recordings to WAV which are subsequently compressed using the Apple Lossless Encoder within iTunes.

The most painful part of the whole process was applying the metadata to the tracks. The album/artist information could be bulk applied, but individual tracks required copy/pasting the track name and remembering to update the track N of M count (or else the tracks would be alphabetized and restoring the order was terribly annoying).

Nothing a bit of AppleScript can’t fix. I wrote a little script that automates the process (there are two scripts in the zip — Enumerate Tracks does the trick).

The workflow is something like:

  • Import WAV files into iTunes and select all imported tracks
  • Apply universal metadata — band name, venue, year, # of discs, genre, etc…
  • Select tracks on first disc
  • Copy all the track names from the info file or the web site listing the tracks
  • Run Enumerate Tracks
  • Each show is an album, for all intents and purposes. I have chosen a consistent naming scheme such that I can easily type one string to search for all live recordings, all live recordings in a particular year, etc… Basically, each album is titled Live; YYYY-MM-DD; Venue; City; State (or some variation of city/state for international shows).

    If all goes well, Enumerate Tracks will apply the “track N of M tracks” metadata and the track names. Careful of those line endings!