This is an algorithmically-generated non-analytical map of the musical genre-space. Genres and artists are positioned by code and data, adjusted for legibility, but the underlying vectors are less interesting than the juxtapositions and clusters that they produce, so the axes have been deliberately left unlabeled and uncalibrated. You are invited to imagine your own qualities and magnitudes that the geometry might be expressing.
That’s where a piece such as “The Unfortunates” comes in. Written by a team of five, including Ramiz Monsef, who first came to Ashland to act in Rauch’s hip-hop-inflected 2010 production of “Hamlet,” it’s inspired primarily by the American folk song “St. James Infirmary Blues” and its 18th-century English antecedent “The Unfortunate Rake.”
The reissue market, more than the market for new music, tests what it means to be a fan and consumer of music when music itself has declining value — look hard enough, and almost any album one might want exists online, either legally and cheap, or illegally and free.
Given that, a traditional reissue campaign — cramming together previously available material in bulk, and selling it at a premium to die-hards — seems conceptually dead in the water. A logical response to that is to unearth previously unheard material and sell that, but Get On Down takes a different approach.
“We’re trying to make that emotional connection,” said Matt Welch, one of the label’s owners, in his office at the warehouse. Music, he insists, still has real worth — just maybe not the same kind it’s always had. “The energy, the connection associated to that music, that imagery has such a value that can be projected onto myriad different things,” he continued. “And it’s all still coming from this thing that’s supposedly losing value. We see it as the value’s still there, it just has to be applied to something different.”
What that’s meant is a series of totemic items that begin with a classic hip-hop album, but turn into full souvenir/fetish item experiences, made either for Get On Down or in partnership with another label. For MF Doom’s “Operation: Doomsday,” there was a lunchbox with trading cards. For Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…,” there was a piano lacquer box atop which rested a copy of the album on cassette, colloquially known as the Purple Tape. Nas and Ghostface Killah received gold-disc treatment, and the Pharcyde got an elaborate record box including 7-inch singles from its first album. For Ol’ Dirty Bastard, there was a wallet; for the Fat Boys, a pizza box.
“Me and you know it as a music box set,” Mr. Welch said. “A 20-year-old kid sees it as a life style thing.”
Quora user Andrew Stein asks: Musicians: How do you deal with playing songs that have very monotonous parts? I’m going to use James Brown’s Sex Machine as an example. Don’t get me wrong, I love the song. However, the rhythm guitar seems to be nothing but 2 chords played over and over and over with no variation (except for the bridge). What is it like to have to play songs like that? Even if you like the song, do you dread it, or do you just have fun as long as you are playing music? If you are bored, how do you deal with it? Does your mind wander while you play, or do you have to concentrate? This is actually quite a profound question. It gets to the heart of the major conflict playing out in western music right now between linearity and circularity.
Reel 2 Real: Sound at the Pitt Rivers Museum is a digitization project that is taking the archival field recordings of the Pitt Rivers Museum (Oxford University’s museum of ethnography and anthropology), digitizing them, and placing them online with Soundcloud.
At their best, urban areas can harbor an astonishing variety of bird species, with parks both large and small providing critical habitat for migratory birds (think New York’s Central Park and all the birds that pass through it). But urban areas can also be quite noisy, and birds aren’t always keen on noise. In fact, it could be driving down bird diversity in urban areas, as new research published in Global Change Biology shows.
It seems that our noise doesn’t just bother us (or even kill us, slowly), it can really bother birds as well—particularly species whose songs are composed of low frequency sounds. Looking at birds in Edmonton, scientists working at the University of Alberta found that even in places where there was suitable habitat—they examined more than 110 sites throughout the city, and seven common songbird species—“species richness and abundance of three of the seven species were reduced” in places where there was too much noise.
Report co-author Dr. Darren Proppe told BBC News, “This potential could be down to the fact that those lower frequencies [in their songs] could be overlapped by the dominant frequencies of road noise, which also tend to be fairly low, resulting in a masking of communication between birds.” It’s possible, Proppe added, that songs used in selecting mates are becoming obscured or altered by the human noise and birds aren’t coming together like they would otherwise.
Today, the 11th of March, is the one hundredth anniversary of “The Art of Noises,” the seminal letter written by Italian Futurist painter Luigi Russolo. That letter became a manifesto for what was then a radical document, suggesting a new approach to sound and music. In it, Russolo cautioned that “the art of noises must not be limited to a mere imitative reproduction.”
The Futurists’ efforts were tragically followed by not one but two world wars, making some of their lust for violence take on a different meaning. For instance, from the 1913 letter:
1 2 3 4 5 seconds the siege canons gut the silence by a chord Tamtoumb! Immediately echoes, echoes, echoes, all echoes-quick! take-it-crumble it-spread it-infinite distance to hell. In the center, center of these flattened TAMTOUMBS-width 50 square kilometers-leap 2 3 6 8 splinters-fisticuffs-headrammings-rapid fire batteries Violence, ferocity, regularity, pendulum game, fatality this grave bass apparent slowness-scan the strange madmen very young-very mad mad mad-very agitated altos of the battle Fury anguish breathless ears My ears open nasals! beware!
But in 2013, no performance can possibly cause a riot – it’s hard, indeed, to get any angry reaction. And that makes some of Russolo’s ideas seem provocative in a way that need not turn to violence. These excerpts seem prescient, predicting the creative demands of the digital age – not only for experimental music, but perhaps any music that makes use of modern technology.
I love that point about how it’s hard even to get an angry reaction — that seems right.