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  • feedwordpress 08:01:50 on 2018/08/01 Permalink
    Tags: , Delia Derbyshire, , , , music, , Radiophonics Workshop,   

    “I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes, and electronics set up, singing or speaking and using machines”*… 

     

    radiophonics

     

    In 1957, just before the broadcast of a radio show called Private Dreams and Public Nightmares, a warning was sent to BBC engineers. “Don’t attempt to alter anything that sounds strange,” it said. “It’s meant to sound that way.” The BBC was also worried about the public. Donald McWhinnie, the programme’s maker, made an explanatory statement, ending with the cheerful signoff: “One thought does occur – would it not be more illuminating to play the whole thing backwards?”

    Radiophonic sound was now in the public domain. A year later, to the bewilderment of many, the BBC dedicated a whole workshop to this avant-garde stuff, even giving it a home in an old ice rink: Maida Vale Studios. Years later, the Queen, shaking hands with the Workshop’s creator, Desmond Briscoe, would confirm its universal success with the words: “Ah yes, Doctor Who.”**

    But what is radiophonic sound – and why did it need a workshop? Radiophonics owes everything to the invention of the tape recorder. Once you could capture sound, using a workable material, you could play with it: slow it down until it thundered, feed it back on itself until it shrieked and echoed, or simply slice bits out. However extreme these experiments became, there was always something eerily familiar to the ear, because they were made from real objects or events…

    The story of the BBC’s storied Radiophonics Workshop: “Now for a lampshade solo: how the Radiophonic Workshop built the future of sound.”

    * Jim Morrison in a 1969 interview, when asked about the future of music

    ** For the story of the remarkable Delia Derbyshire [left in the photo above], who arranged and performed (on an oscilloscope) Ron Grainger’s composition for the theme of Doctor Who, see here and here.  And not that you need reminding, hear the original Doctor Who theme here.

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    As we appreciate audio, we might recall that it was on this date in 1981, with the words “Ladies and Gentlemen, rock and roll,” that MTV premiered.  The first video featured on the new cable channel was The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star.”  Indeed.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:01 on 2018/07/22 Permalink
    Tags: , , Introducing...The Beatles, music, , recording studio, studio,   

    “If you had a sign above every studio door saying ‘This Studio is a Musical Instrument’ it would make such a different approach to recording”*… 

     

    Sun-Studios-web-optimised-740

    At 706 Union Avenue, Memphis, Tennessee, you’ll find a reconstruction of the legendary Sun Records studio (home to Howlin’ Wolf, BB King Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison, Carl Perkins and Johnny Cash, anog others) complete with a recording studio where the likes of U2 and John Mellencamp have recorded. Photo: Paul McGuinness

     

    When The Beatles were photographed in August 1969, striding over a zebra crossing in St John’s Wood, London, for the cover shot of their album Abbey Road  they were celebrating a building that had played an essential part in helping them take the music world by storm – and, in the process, turned Abbey Road into one of the most famous recording studios in the world.

    The names of iconic recording studios – Sun, Muscle Shoals, Motown, Electric Lady, Trident, Sunset – have become almost as famous as the musicians who have created masterpieces at these venues.

    Important recording studios are more than just bricks, mortar and audio equipment to musicians. The Rolling Stones named a song in honour of the Chess Records Studio and Sonic Youth acknowledged New York’s Echo Canyon Studios by naming their 12th studio album, Murray Street, in tribute to a site that had played a key role in their success…

    A history of the recording and a celebration of some of music’s storied studios: “Sound Matters: A History Of Legendary Recording Studios.”

    * Brian Eno

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    As we hum along, we might recall that this date in 1963 was the “official” release date of Introducing… The Beatles, the Fab Four’s first U.S. album.  But confusion at Vee-Jay, the album’s label, delayed the actual release until January 10 of the following year…  one week before Capitol’s Meet the Beatles!.  The latter album, however, entered the U.S. album chart one week before the former. And so, while Meet The Beatles! peaked at No. 1 for eleven consecutive weeks, Introducing…The Beatles stalled at No. 2 where it remained nine consecutive weeks.

    Coincidentally, it was on this same day (July 22, 1963) that The Beatles began their first U.K. tour (with Gerry and the Pacemakers) at the Odeon Cinema in Weston-Super-Mare.

    introducing_the_beatles source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:48 on 2018/07/17 Permalink
    Tags: 80s, , , Moon Unit, music, , , Valley Girl, Zappa   

    “In a lot of places, of course, the ’80s had never really come to an end”*… 

     

     

    frankie-goes-to-hollywood

    Frankie Goes to Hollywood: You have woken up under your high school gym teacher.

     

    Simple Minds: You have tasted a scented pen.

    Mike and the Mechanics: You have thrown a Rolodex at a raccoon or skunk.

    Peter Gabriel: You know what Fimo tastes like.

    Roxette: You have injured yourself with a Q-Tip.

    Madonna: Your bedroom smells like Midori.

    Tommy Tutone: You have attempted to use a Polaroid picture as an ID.

    Eurythmics: You have lost a mood ring in a hot tub.

    The Smiths: You have read aloud to a hamster, ferret, or turtle.

    Def Leppard: You have used a package of lunch meat as a pillow.

    Psychedelic Furs: You have worn sunglasses through an entire tooth cleaning…

    Consult a (very complete) list to find out “what your favorite 80s band says about you.”

    * Nick Harkaway, Tigerman

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    As we revisit yesteryear, we might recall that it was on this date in 1082 that “Valley Girl” by Frank Zappa and his then 14-year old daughter Moon Unit, entered the Billboard Pop chart at #75. It peaked at #32 in August.  Written by the dad and daughter and performed by Moon Unit, and intended as a parody, the single popularized the Valley Girl stereotype nationwide; following the song’s release, there was a significant increase in “Valspeak” slang usage, whether ironically spoken or not (not the least of which was the film, Valley Girl).  Indeed, Zappa later sardonically observed that, despite his rich body of work, he was likeliest to be remembered as a novelty artist for “Valley Girl” and “Don’t Eat the Yellow Snow.”

    220px-Frank_Zappa_Valley_Girl_single

     

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:55 on 2018/07/14 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , music, , The Twist,   

    “One cannot conceive anything so strange and so implausible that it has not already been said by one philosopher or another”*… 

     

    philosophy

    There comes a moment in every philosophy student’s life, perhaps when struggling through a logic set or trying to parse some impenetrable Derrida essay, that the inevitable question comes up: What’s the point? A new philosophy paper, published in the June 2018 edition of the Journal of Practical Ethics, argues that there isn’t one.

    At least, there’s not a singular coherent point that the field is working towards. Whereas history is clearly focused on understanding our past and biology is devoted to explaining living organisms, there’s some confusion as to philosophy’s purpose. There are clear themes of course, such as the meaning of life, and what constitutes reality. But the subject is huge and sprawling, encompassing questions about metaphysics, epistemology, language, and ethics, among others. Is the point of philosophy to unravel the nature of the universe, or how we know what we know, or the role of language, or answer some other great question?…

    Find out why (and whether it matters) at “What’s the point of philosophy? A new philosophy paper says there isn’t one.

    * René Descartes

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    As we wax philosophical, we might recall that it was on this date in 1961 that Billboard Magazine reported that the teenage dance craze, The Twist, was being picked up by the adult crowd in Philadelphia.

    twist source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:52 on 2018/06/25 Permalink
    Tags: , ETA Hoffmann, , , , mass hysteria, music, Offenbach,   

    “We find that whole communities suddenly fix their minds upon one object and go mad in its pursuit; that millions of people become simultaneously impressed with one delusion, and run after it”… 

     

    42161447614_4686c7beb7_z

    The human body is a miraculous piece of machinery. Try as they might, scientists can’t always seem to understand its power — and susceptibility — to the strangest situations throughout history. What happens when a meteorite causes a mental health calamity? Or a laughing epidemic? From ye old French dancing fits [evoked above], to an entire village of ‘sleeping beauties’, the lesson we’ve learned from the majority of these epidemics is this: viruses are terrifying, but the mind is the most dangerous thing of all…

    A curious (and captivating) collection of collective compulsion: “The Unexplained Dancing Plague & Other Epidemics of Yore.”

    * Charles Mackay, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds

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    As we muse on madness, we might spare a thought for Ernst Theodor Amadeus (“E.T.A.”) Hoffmann; he died on this date in 1822.  A key figure in the German Romantic period, Hoffmann was an author of fantasy and horror– a phantasist and proto-surrealist– a jurist, composer, music critic, draftsman and caricaturist.  While some of his compositions survive in the canon, he is probably better remembered for his stories: they form the basis of Jacques Offenbach’s opera The Tales of Hoffmann, in which Hoffmann appears (heavily fictionalized) as the hero. He is also the author of the novella The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, on which the famous ballet The Nutcracker is based.  The ballet Coppélia is based on two other stories that Hoffmann wrote, while Schumann’s Kreisleriana is based on Hoffmann’s character Johannes Kreisler.

    Hoffmann also influenced 19th century musical opinion through his music criticism. His reviews of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67 (1808) and other important works set new literary standards for writing about music, and encouraged later writers to consider music as “the most Romantic of all the arts.”

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:37 on 2018/06/04 Permalink
    Tags: , Capitol Records, , , Lou Naidorf, Michael Bierut, music, Raymond Loewy, recording industry,   

    “Successful design is not the achievement of perfection but the minimization and accommodation of imperfection”*… 

     

    click here for larger version

    From legendary designer Raymond Loewy [see here], a chart published in 1934 that shows the evolution in design of items such as cars, telephones, stemware, railcars, clocks, and women’s apparel. Loewy was known was “The Father of Streamlining” and these drawings very much reflect his design style. (via @michaelbierut)

    Explore at: “Raymond Loewy’s 1934 chart of the evolution in design.”

    Then check out MacRae Linton’s conversion of Loewy’s chart into a proper timeline.

    * Henry Petroski

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    As we contemplate craft, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that music industry insiders Johnny MercerBuddy DeSylva, and Glenn E. Wallichs founded Capitol Records.  By 1946, Capitol had sold 42 million records by artists including (Peggy Lee, Nat King Cole, and Kay Starr) and was established as one of the “Big Six” record labels.

    In 1955, Capitol became a subsidiary of British label EMI and began construction on a new headquarters building designed by Lou Naidorf.  Known as “the House the Nat Built” (as Nat King Cole was the label’s steady sales leader), it was the first circular office building in the world.

    Capitol, which had an output deal with its UK parent, built on their early 60s success with the Beach Boys by acquiring the Beatles record rights in the U.S. (though they passed on other EMI acts like the Dave Clark Five, Gerry & the Pacemakers, the Hollies, the Swinging Blue Jeans, The Yardbirds, and Manfred Mann).

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:30 on 2018/05/07 Permalink
    Tags: Brahms, , , music, , polyphonic music, polyphony, Tchaikovsky,   

    “The only truth is music”*… 

     

    The earliest known practical example of polyphonic music – a piece of choral music written for more than one part – has been found in a British Library manuscript in London.

    The inscription is believed to date back to the start of the 10th century and is the setting of a short chant dedicated to Boniface, patron Saint of Germany. It is the earliest practical example of a piece of polyphonic music – the term given to music that combines more than one independent melody – ever discovered.

    Written using an early form of notation that predates the invention of the stave, it was inked into the space at the end of a manuscript of the Life of Bishop Maternianus of Reims.

    The piece was discovered by Giovanni Varelli, a PhD student from St John’s College, University of Cambridge, while he was working on an internship at the British Library. He discovered the manuscript by chance, and was struck by the unusual form of the notation. Varelli specialises in early musical notation, and realised that it consisted of two vocal parts, each complementing the other.

    Polyphony defined most European music up until the 20th century, but it is not clear exactly when it emerged. Treatises which lay out the theoretical basis for music with two independent vocal parts survive from the early Middle Ages, but until now the earliest known examples of a practical piece written specifically for more than one voice came from a collection known as The Winchester Troper, which dates back to the year 1000.

    Varelli’s research suggests that the author of the newly-found piece – a short “antiphon” with a second voice providing a vocal accompaniment – was writing around the year 900.

    As well as its age, the piece is also significant because it deviates from the convention laid out in treatises at the time. This suggests that even at this embryonic stage, composers were experimenting with form and breaking the rules of polyphony almost at the same time as they were being written…

    More background at “Earliest known piece of polyphonic music discovered.”

    [TotH to @pickover]

    * Jack Kerouac

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    As we hum along, we might send melodic birthday greetings to two descendants of the author of the piece above:

    Johannes Brahms, the pianist and composer who was a stalwart of the Romantic Period, was born on his date in 1833.

     source

    And Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Brahms’ Russian Romantic counterpart– the first Russian composer to make an international impression–  was born on this date in 1840.

     source

     

     
  • feedwordpress 08:01:03 on 2018/05/02 Permalink
    Tags: Dance Rally 4 Peace, , music, , rhythm and blues, , The #PurpleSyllabus, , University of Minnesota   

    “I like to open people’s eyes”*… 

     

    The #PurpleSyllabus presents essential topics, readings, and multimedia related to Prince. Prince’s impact and influence spreads across nearly all aspects of society and culture. This syllabus presents works written by scholars and journalists across diverse topics. Our hope is that this syllabus will serve as a resource for teachers and curriculum designers looking to infuse their classrooms and courses with Prince content.

    Created by Prince fans affiliated with the University of Minnesota Libraries in conjunction with the Prince From Minneapolis Symposium

    Dive deep at “The #PurpleSyllabus.”

    * Prince

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    As we acclaim The Artist, we might recall that it was on this date in 2015 that Prince staged a Dance Rally 4 Peace at Paisley Park to pay tribute to Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old African-American who died in police custody after his arrest in Baltimore, and to show support for the activists protesting his death.  With his backup band 3RDEYEGIRL, Prince performed a 41-minute concert including his protest song “Baltimore,” which was inspired by Gray’s death.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:43 on 2018/04/30 Permalink
    Tags: Bird, , , Jay McShann, , Jem Finer, , , music, slow,   

    “For fast acting relief, try slowing down”*… 

     

    Jem Finer’s initial calculations for his Longplayer project

    From the newsletter of the Long Now Foundation

    Time is evoked in music in countless ways. In the first article in this series, we explored some of the long-term themes in Brian Eno’s work and traced that influence to his involvement with the 10,000-Year Clock. Through generative music — a compositional technique that uses a small set of rules to generate many unique outcomes — Eno created expansive compositions theoretically capable of lasting over extremely long periods of time. This is precisely the logic behind the 10,000-Year Clock’s Chime Generator.

    Questions arise, however, when the extreme potential duration of combinatorially-generated music is taken as a challenge. How does one actually perform a piece that is 1,000 years long? Let’s explore two attempts to answer this question…

    John Cage, Jem Finer, and playing music as slowly and for as long as possible: “This is How You Perform a Piece of Music 1,000 Years Long.”

    * Lily Tomlin

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    As we take the long view, we might recall that it was on this date in 1941, at Decca Studios, that Charlie Parker made his first commercial recording.  A member of  the Jay McShann Group, he played on “Hootie Blues” and “Swingmatism.”  He went on, of course, to become known for his virtuosity on the sax and for his gift as a composer; he earned the nickname “Bird” as he became a father of bebop.

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  • feedwordpress 08:01:03 on 2018/04/29 Permalink
    Tags: artists, David Bowie, , , Mick Ronson, music, , Spiders from Mars, superstitions, ,   

    “Superstition is the poetry of life”*… 

     

    Charles Dickens
    Slept Facing North

    Charles Dickens (1812–1870) carried a navigational compass with him at all times and always faced north while he slept—a practice he believed improved his creativity and writing.

    Nine other personal peculiarities at “Ten Superstitions of Writers and Artists.”

    * Johann Wolfgang Goethe

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    As we knock on wood, we might spare a thought for Michael “Mick” Ronson; he died on this date in 1993.  A guitarist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, arranger, and producer, he is best remembered as the foil to David Bowie in his breakout years, the leader of the Spiders from Mars.  But Ronson also served as arranger and occasional producer on Bowie’s work.  He went on to a successful career as a session musician recording with the like of Ian Hunter, John Mellencamp, Elton John, and Morrissey, and as a sideman in touring bands with Van Morrison and Bob Dylan (Ronson was the anchor of the Rolling Thunder Revue band).  He wrote and recored successful solo albums, and produced albums for acts including Ellen Foley, Roger McGuinn, Morrissey, and many others.

    Ziggy and the Spider

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