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A scrapbook of stuff I'm reading / looking at / listening to / thinking about...



Posts tagged "music"

Jul 29, 2014
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Anything you promote, there’s a game that you either play or you don’t play. I decided very early on that I was very ambitious and I wanted to play.

Jul 22, 2014
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Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

This was great. I picked it up because of Mark’s review.

mlarson:


  I read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far. Like Wilson, I never cared that much for Céline Dion’s music, and hadn’t tried to care, but I came away with a new appreciation for where she came from and some of her shrewd business moves. But it’s not just about the music and industry angle, the good stuff is how he uses Dion as the pivot to talk about taste, and all the baggage that informs our opinions.
  
  
    Much of this book is about reasonable people carting around cultural assumptions that make them assholes to millions of strangers.
  


There are tons of great quotes from the book, many of which Mark already pulled out. I particularly liked this one—


  Punk, metal, even social-justice rock like U2 or Rage Against the Machine, with their emphatic slogans or individuality and independence, are as much “inspirational” as Céline’s music is, but for different subcultural groups. They are just as one-sided and unsubtle.


—which reminded me of the Neil Young vs. Billy Joel section of Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music.

It’s a really fun read. I kept misplacing it around the house and asking my wife, “Have you seen my Celine Dion book?” Which was pretty hilarious. Recommended.

BTW: there’s a new edition of the book that includes essays from other writers on the topic of taste.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Carl Wilson, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste

This was great. I picked it up because of Mark’s review.

mlarson:

I read Carl Wilson’s Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste, and it’s probably my favorite book of the year so far. Like Wilson, I never cared that much for Céline Dion’s music, and hadn’t tried to care, but I came away with a new appreciation for where she came from and some of her shrewd business moves. But it’s not just about the music and industry angle, the good stuff is how he uses Dion as the pivot to talk about taste, and all the baggage that informs our opinions.

Much of this book is about reasonable people carting around cultural assumptions that make them assholes to millions of strangers.

There are tons of great quotes from the book, many of which Mark already pulled out. I particularly liked this one—

Punk, metal, even social-justice rock like U2 or Rage Against the Machine, with their emphatic slogans or individuality and independence, are as much “inspirational” as Céline’s music is, but for different subcultural groups. They are just as one-sided and unsubtle.

—which reminded me of the Neil Young vs. Billy Joel section of Faking It: The Quest for Authenticity in Popular Music.

It’s a really fun read. I kept misplacing it around the house and asking my wife, “Have you seen my Celine Dion book?” Which was pretty hilarious. Recommended.

BTW: there’s a new edition of the book that includes essays from other writers on the topic of taste.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Jul 21, 2014
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Jul 15, 2014
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EH!? NO! NO! NO! It is not much to compose 12 or 13 cantatas in one year because if you think about it Bach, for example, used to compose one cantata a week. He had to compose the music in time for it to be performed in church on Sunday so if you just consider Bach, you will see that I’m practically unemployed!

Jul 12, 2014
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johnporcellino:

cretin-family:

Tommy Ramone photographed by Ian Dickson

Rock on.

Filed under: The Ramones

johnporcellino:

cretin-family:

Tommy Ramone photographed by Ian Dickson

Rock on.

Filed under: The Ramones

Jul 06, 2014
Permalink

Chilly Gonzales teaches what he knows

The great Chilly Gonzales (“the musical genius!”) has a new book of sheet music out called Re-Introduction Etudes, which is a book of 24 pieces designed to give people with limited piano training (who gave up for whatever reason) a “re-introduction” to music theory and playing.

Here’s a video of Gonzales explaining left-hand technique:

And here’s a series he’s doing called “Pop Music Masterclass,” where he takes pop songs and explains the musical theory behind them. Here’s one for Lykke Li’s “No Rest For The Wicked”:

And here’s one for Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”:

Really brilliant ideas, and perfect examples of what I talked about in the “Teach What You Know” chapter of my book, Show Your Work!

Filed under: Chilly Gonzales

(Source: thinkprocessnotproduct)

Jun 29, 2014
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RIP Bobby Womack

We went to see Bobby in 2012 at the Arena Theatre in Houston, Texas. My wife Meg was six months pregnant with our son Owen and we were some of the only white people in the place and it was just great. He’d already had his cancer scare, and I knew if I wanted to see him live, this was probably going to be one of my only chances. Unfortunately, I was right.

Here’s an Rdio playlist of 10 of my favorite Womack tracks:

He was a sort of musical Zelig — Sam Cooke was his mentor, the Rolling Stones had their first UK hit with his song, “It’s All Over Now,” he wrote songs for Wilson Pickett and Janis Joplin, and he played guitar (left-handed, backwards and upside down like Hendrix) on everything from Sly’s THERE’S A RIOT GOIN’ ON, to Dusty Springfield’s DUSTY IN MEMPHIS, to Elvis’s “Suspicious Minds.” 

There’s a great timeline of his life with video clips on XL’s website, and here’s a great BBC documentary from 2013 spanning his life and career:

So long, Bobby. Thank you.

Filed under: Bobby Womack

Jun 24, 2014
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Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):


  Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.


The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:




  "If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.


As Questlove explains:


  That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”


He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:


  a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.


And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:


  Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.


I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:


  Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.


On reviews:


  I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.


On sampling and Roland Barthes:


  I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.


On what happened to hip-hop:


  Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good…  [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.


On having a day job:


  The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.


And some good lines:

I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)  
What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.  
Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.  
I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.  
How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward. 
Recommended.

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove

I actually picked this up after I read his Soul Train coffee table book. Good read. Like with the Soul Train book, you’re going to want to keep Rdio or Spotify handy, so you can make a playlist of all the tracks you’ve never heard.

Here’s Dwight Garner (damn, he’s a great reviewer):

Whenever I read a book by a musician, groupie, rock critic, producer, record mogul or roadie, on the end pages I keep a running tally of the songs I’m aching to download when the reading is done. Most times, the longer the list, the better the book… The end pages on my copy [of Mo’ Meta Blues] are crammed with song titles; they resemble the back of a popular girl’s senior yearbook…. I suspect I’m going to be listening to more Stevie Wonder, Curtis Mayfield, Prince, the Isley Brothers, Rufus, Public Enemy and D’Angelo than I have for a long time.

The title of the book is a nod to the Spike Lee movie Mo’ Better Blues, and this scene in particular, which The Roots used for the opening of Things Fall Apart, a debate between Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes on staying true to your artistic vision and giving the audience what they want:

"If we had to depend upon black people to eat, we would starve to death," says Bleek. "I mean, you’ve been out there, you’re on the bandstand, you look out into the audience, what do you see? You see Japanese, you see, you see West Germans, you see, you know, Slabobic, anything except our people—it makes no sense. It incenses me that our own people don’t realize our own heritage, our own culture, this is our music, man." Shadow disagrees. "That’s bullshit…the people don’t come because you grandiose motherfuckers don’t play shit that they like. If you played the shit that they like, then people would come, simple as that." Deciding who is right is part of what makes for a compelling intro.

As Questlove explains:

That problem—how to stay true to our idea of our music and also be appropriately inviting to audiences, how to court audiences without compromising the music we were making—was something that had plagued us since the beginning.”

He talks about finding a “Stupid Human Trick,” or a gimmick, to hook folks:

a band needs something to elevate it above other the fray. The secret weapon was often something we called a Stupid Human Trick, borrowing the idea from David Letterman… what was the wildcard for the rest of the people, the ones who were afflicted with cultural ADD? The Stupid Human Trick was something that would draw them in, an indisputably entertaining novelty.

And at one point Questlove talks about putting out a new record and says, “I wasn’t worried about our audience. They would follow us or they wouldn’t—I was used to losing about half our audience each time and picking up new fans.” That sort of knocked me out, the idea you’d lose 1/2 your fans with each album. “It’s a cliché, maybe, but one that turns out to be true: when you start making stuff for other people, that’s when you lose yourself.”

And finally, comes to some kind of synthesis:

Acrobats love to talk about working without a net like it’s the bravest thing in the world. But the thing about working without a net is that if you fall, you die. It’s better to work with a net, and to know that you can attempt the tricky maneuver without permanent consequences. It’s an answer to the dialogue between Bleek and Shadow in Mo’ Better Blues, or maybe just a third voice in the conversation.

I cut and pasted some more favorite sections below.

On memory:

Sometimes I only remember things through records. They’re a trigger for me, they’re Pavlov’s bell. Without thinking about the music, I can’t remember the experience. But if I think long enough about a specific album, something else always bubbles up…. I had two kinds of experiences that I mapped to memories: records that were played in the house or on the radio, and Soul Train. Every memory of mine is paired with one of those two things.

On reviews:

I write the reviews for my own records. Almost no one knows this, but when I am making a Roots record, I write the review I think the album will receive and lay out the page just like it’s a Rolling Stone page from when I was ten or eleven. I draw the cover image in miniature and chicken-scratch in a fake byline. It’s the only way I really know how to imagine what I think the record is. And as it turns out, most of the time the record ends up pretty close to what I say it is in the review.

On sampling and Roland Barthes:

I had a friend who tried to explain Roland Barthes to me; not all of it, of course, but that one little principle about how a text is not a unified thing, but a fragmentary or divisible thing, and that the reader is the one who divides it up, arbitrarily. Reading is the act that creates the pieces. I wasn’t totally sure I understood it—I’m still not sure—but it sounded like what was happening with the SK-1. You, as the listener, pick a piece of sound, a snippet of speech, or a drumbeat, and you separate that from everything around it. That’s now a brick that you have in your hand, and you use it to build a new wall.

On what happened to hip-hop:

Something changed when commerce arrived. Good and bad stopped mattering; only effective and ineffective mattered. Whether a record worked on an audience became the standard, rather than whether or not it was any good… [There was] a new era of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous charisma. In “Bad Boy for Life,” P. Diddy rapped, “Don’t worry if I write rhymes / I write checks,” and that became more than just a clever aside, it was his style of hip-hop. Virtuosity disappeared and this other kind of skill—a ringmaster skill, something closer to what you’d find in a corporate manager—emerged.

On having a day job:

The Fallon show is a day job in the best sense. We’re in by noon and gone by seven, and in between we make a show. It’s highly structured, and as a result, the opportunities we have for creativity are really distilled: not reduced at all, but disciplined, forced into existing forms and packages.

And some good lines:

  • I write things because I want to get to the point where I have written things. (Ben Greenman)
  • What a shitty way to go through life, hiding your love for music so that people don’t think the wrong things about you.
  • Switching off perfection switched on the human quality.
  • I feel like my cultural value comes from my role as a bridge. My job is to connect brilliant have-nots to the land of haves.
  • How do you plan a rebirth? I’m not sure you do. You just stand in the darkness until you can’t endure it any longer, and then you move forward until you’re standing in the light.
  • It’s a funny word, persistence. It means not giving up, but it also means just passing on through time.
  • When you live your life through records, the records are a record of your life.™ (Is this really trademarked?)
  • I was an indoor kid with a tendency to fall inward.

Recommended.

Jun 23, 2014
Permalink

Jun 22, 2014
Permalink
Questlove, Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation


  In my house… we weren’t allowed to watch anything on television except Sesame Street and Soul Train…. Soul Train was a sibling, a parent, a babysitter, a friend, a textbook, a newscast, a business school, and a church.


This is a nice coffee table book filled with Questlove’s memories and trivia about the show. Basically, you’re gonna want to read it with YouTube pulled up on your laptop, so you can watch Al Green in 1975, the only time Don Cornelius danced down the line, or Don saying, “That was terrifying” after Public Enemy performed.

Oh, and I really liked Don Cornelius’s rules for the ST dancers:


  Be on time, be tactful, be creative, be funky, be yourself.


Related: the GIFs on this Soul Train Fans tumblr are pretty amazing.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

Questlove, Soul Train: The Music, Dance, and Style of a Generation

In my house… we weren’t allowed to watch anything on television except Sesame Street and Soul Train…. Soul Train was a sibling, a parent, a babysitter, a friend, a textbook, a newscast, a business school, and a church.

This is a nice coffee table book filled with Questlove’s memories and trivia about the show. Basically, you’re gonna want to read it with YouTube pulled up on your laptop, so you can watch Al Green in 1975, the only time Don Cornelius danced down the line, or Don saying, “That was terrifying” after Public Enemy performed.

Oh, and I really liked Don Cornelius’s rules for the ST dancers:

Be on time, be tactful, be creative, be funky, be yourself.

Related: the GIFs on this Soul Train Fans tumblr are pretty amazing.

Filed under: my reading year 2014

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