Music

*Schubert’s Winter Journey*

by on January 28, 2015 at 3:53 pm in Books, History, Music | Permalink

The author is Ian Bostridge and the subtitle is Anatomy of an Obsession, and of course it focuses on Die Winterreise.  This is the first book published this year to make it into my 2015 “best of the year list.”  Here is one good review of the book.

Drive-thru metal is really a thing, or at least this L.A.-based band is trying to make it a thing. Mac Sabbath (yes, that’s really their band name) is a foursome of rockers who dress up as McDonald’s characters and perform covers of Black Sabbath songs. And they even change up the lyrics so they’re burger-themed.

On stage, they dress as Ronald McDonald, Grimace, the Hamburglar, and Mayor McCheese (with tusks and sans the top hat).

According to Mac Sabbath’s Facebook page, they’re not a joke band to sell t-shirts. They describe their shows as “Ronald Osbourne and the whole gang in full regalia playing all their hits like ‘Sweet Beef’ and ‘Chicken for the Slaves’ in a multi-media show with video, theatrics, audience participation and sing alongs.”

There is more here, including videos, via Robert Lawson.

Favorite popular music of 2014

by on December 30, 2014 at 2:50 am in Music | Permalink

By now I’ve bought and heard most of the top CDs recommended by sources such as Pitchfork and Spin, and overall I find them to be a well executed but fairly uninspired group of recordings.  (Best of all, try the Ben Southwood music aggregator.)  What I really enjoyed this year was:

1. Aphex Twin, Syro.  Especially impressive after such a long hiatus because his later recordings were not always first-rate.

2. D’Angelo and the Vanguard, Black Messiah.  Self-recommending.

3. Calypso Craze, 1956-57 and Beyond.  From the Bear label, this is by an order of magnitude the best Calypso compilation ever.  Seven CDs, and you don’t need to buy any more Calypso again.  You’ll also learn how much influence Calypso has had on subsequent popular music, including Chuck Berry (“Havana Moon“), Harry Nilsson, and a good deal of rap, among others.

Run the Jewels 2 and St. Vincent I might pick as runners-up.

I’ll listen to some Swans in the year to come.

Highest earning musicians of 2014

by on December 14, 2014 at 4:08 am in Music | Permalink

1. Dr Dre ($620m)

2. Beyoncé ($115m)

3. The Eagles ($100m)

4. Bon Jovi ($82m)

5. Bruce Springsteen ($81m)

6. Justin Bieber ($80m)

7. One Direction ($75m)

8. Paul McCartney ($71m)

9. Calvin Harris ($66m)

10. Toby Keith ($65m)

11. Taylor Swift ($64m)

There is more here.  Dre did so well from selling a music company, and it is the largest single year windfall in music history, or so we are told.

Since its adolescence more than four decades ago, the New York Philharmonic’s home at Lincoln Center has been known as Avery Fisher Hall. Now, as the orchestra prepares for a major renovation expected to cost more than $500 million, the Fisher family has agreed to relinquish the name, so the Philharmonic and Lincoln Center can lure a large donor with the promise of rechristening the building.

…Lincoln Center is essentially paying the family $15 million for permission to drop the name and has included several other inducements, like a promise to feature prominent tributes to Avery Fisher in the lobby of the renovated concert hall.

While the ability to raise money through naming opportunities has become a staple tool for arts organizations, perhaps no event speaks louder to its utility as a fund-raising mechanism than Lincoln Center’s willingness to pay a veteran donor to step away so it can court a new benefactor in his stead.

The full story is here.

Fanfare meta-list for classical CDs

by on November 2, 2014 at 2:35 am in Music, The Arts | Permalink

Loyal MR readers will know that late fall I survey the yearly “Want Lists” of Fanfare music reviewers.  If you don’t already know, Fanfare is the world’s premiere journal for classical music reviews.  My meta-list is simply those recordings which are mentioned as best of the year by more than one polled Fanfare critic.  This year the winning discs with multiple nominations are:

1. Busoni, late piano works, Marc-Andre Hamelin

2. Prokoviev piano concerti, by Jean-Effiam Bavouzet and  Gianandrea Noseda.

4. Sylvia Berry, Haydn piano sonatas.

5. Manfred Honeck, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Richard Strauss tone poems.

Another meta-list would be discs which I recommend and which a Fanfare critic also recommends, that would include:

Gillian Weir playing Messiaen organ works.

Bach, Brandenburg Concerti, Freiburger Barockorchester.

Gerald Finley and Julius Drake, Winterreise, Schubert.

Igor Levit, Beethoven late piano sonatas.

I would give all a very high recommendation, with this second meta-list being better than the first meta-list.

Other “best of the year” lists will be coming later this month.   Here are earlier posts on what I’ve been listening to.  Here are earlier Fanfare meta-lists.

It is time for Taylor Swift to drop the mic and take a bow because she has just accomplished the unthinkable. Swift hit number one on the Canadian iTunes chart this week with eight seconds of pure static.

A glitch in the Canadian version of iTunes released a track called “Track 3,” that looked like it could be a new track from her upcoming album 1989 but was actually just white noise. Nevertheless, the song soared to the top, beating out her new songs that are actually new music, including “Shake It Off,” “Welcome to New York” and “Out of the Woods.”

Haters might hate, but once a singer scores a chart-topping hit comprised solely of white noise, it’s hard to deny she’s an unstoppable musical force.

There is more here, via the excellent Mark Thorson.

Michela Giorcelli and Petra Moser have a new paper, the abstract is this:

This paper exploits variation in the adoption of copyright laws within Italy – as a result of Napoleon’s military campaign – to examine the effects of copyrights on creativity. To measure variation in the quantity and quality of creative output, we have collected detailed data on 2,598 operas that premiered across eight states within Italy between 1770 and 1900. These data indicate that the adoption of copyrights led to a significant increase in the number of new operas premiered per state and year. Moreover, we find that the number of high-quality operas also increased – measured both by their contemporary popularity and by the longevity of operas. By comparison, evidence for a significant effect of copyright extensions is substantially more limited. Data on composers’ places of birth indicate that the adoption of copyrights triggered a shift in patterns of composers’ migration, and helped attract a large number of new composers to states that offered copyrights.

For the pointer I thank the excellent Kevin Lewis.

Peer-to-peer file sharing of movies, television shows, music, books and other files over the Internet has grown rapidly worldwide as an alternative approach for people to get the digital content they want — often illicitly. But, unlike the users of Amazon, Netflix and other commercial providers, little is known about users of peer-to-peer (P2P) systems because data is lacking.

Now, armed with an unprecedented amount of data on users of BitTorrent, a popular file-sharing system, a Northwestern University research team has discovered two interesting behavior patterns: most BitTorrent users are content specialists — sharing music but not movies, for example; and users in countries with similar economies tend to download similar types of content — those living in poorer countries such as Lithuania and Spain, for example, download primarily large files, such as movies.

“Looking into this world of Internet traffic, we see a close interaction between computing systems and our everyday lives,” said Luís A. Nunes Amaral, a senior author of the study. “People in a given country display preferences for certain content — content that might not be readily available because of an authoritarian government or inferior communication infrastructure. This study can provide a great deal of insight into how things are working in a country.”

Amaral, a professor of chemical and biological engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and Fabián E. Bustamante, professor of electrical engineering and computer science, also at McCormick, co-led the interdisciplinary research team with colleagues from Universitat Rovira i Virgili in Spain.

Their study, published this week by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences…reports BitTorrent users in countries with a small gross domestic product (GDP) per capita were more likely to share large files, such as high-definition movies, than users in countries with a large GDP per capita, where small files such as music were shared.

Also, more than 50 percent of users’ downloaded content fell into their top two downloaded content types, putting them in the content specialist, not generalist, category.

The full article is here, the paper and data are here, and for the pointer I thank Charles Klingman.  Can you explain the rich-poor, music vs. movies difference using economic theory?

1. Popular music: The Everly Brothers, I recommend this song.  There is also Loretta Lynn and Dwight Yoakum and Merle Travis, I like this video.  In jazz there is Lionel Hampton.

2. Visual artist: Edgar Tolson, that image is not fully safe for work.  John James Audobon worked in the state quite a bit.

3. Movie, set in: Goldfinger, though of course immobilizing that stock would not affect the world price of gold very much.  And keep in mind the nominal price of gold was pegged back then under Bretton Woods — should we really have expected a lot of goods and services deflation, just because some nutcase set off a bomb?  I don’t think so.

4. Monk: Thomas Merton.  He was an excellent writer, as a monk I cannot judge.

5. Author: Hmm…I don’t really like either Robert Penn Warren or Hunter S. Thompson.  So Thomas Merton wins a second category, try The Seven Storey Mountain.

6. NBA player: The incandescent Rex Chapman, recently arrested for shoplifting.  I liked Pervis Ellison too, believe it or not.

7. Movie director: I believe John Carpenter grew up there, he has several excellent films, including The Thing, Starman, Dark Star, and Escape from New York.  I don’t actually enjoy the D.W. Griffith movies.

8. Poet and impresario: Muhammad Ali.

For some inexplicable reason Victor Mature was one of my father’s favorite actors.  There is also Johnny Depp and George Clooney.  Economist Milton Kafoglis passed away not long ago.  How about the Kentucky Colonels?

The bottom line: If I had better taste in fiction, this list would be strong across the board.  I’m in Louisville for the day.

DJs are now making mistakes on purpose

by on September 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm in Music, Web/Tech | Permalink

Graham writes:

DJs all over the world are now deliberately making mistakes during their mixes to prove to fans and critics that they are in fact real DJs.

The latest craze, known as miss-mixing, is proving very popular amongst digital DJs as a way of highlighting that they are actually manually mixing tracks rather than using the sync button.

Michael Briscoe, also know as DJ Whopper, spoke about miss-mixing with Wunderground, “Flawless mixing is now a thing of the past, especially for any up and coming digital DJs. You just can’t afford to mix without mistakes these days or you’ll be labelled as a ‘sync button DJ.’”

“I learned how to mix on vinyl years ago so naturally I’m pretty tight when it comes to matching beats,” continued the resident DJ. “I swapped to digital format a couple of years ago because it’s convenient, now I spend more time practicing making mistakes than I do practicing actual mixing.”

Of course the software can toss in some mistakes too…good luck.

For the pointer I thank Will Ivy.

…the NFL has reportedly requested its top three choices for the 2015 Super Bowl Halftime Show — Rihanna, Katy Perry, and Coldplay — to pay the league for the privilege of performing at halftime.

There is more here, and here and here.  For the pointers I thank F.E. Guerra-Pujol and Sheel Mohnot.

David H. writes:

Yes, this Forbes list is a miserable failure, but it got me thinking about how to quantify coolness. Good restaurants are valuable, but to be cool, restaurants also need to be affordable and a little off-putting. If I were doing this, I would generate a list of touring bands that rank highly in RYM, knock out the superstars, and then see what US cities they played in the last 4 years. Each band-visit would count as a portion of coolness for that city, and a partial portion for the immediate vicinity. Also, RYM records which cities the bands came from. That should count for a lot. Then I would look for cities with an outsized and lively gay scene. I’m not sure how the causation works – whether a gay scene adds substantial coolness or whether it follows coolness – but the correlation seems pretty clear to me.

Coolness is unstable partly because it’s much more difficult to achieve in expensive cities. San Francisco and Berkeley are sinking in coolness partly for this reason. A truly cool city needs a critical mass of underemployed creative types who will devote a great deal of time to “the scene”, and this is hard to do when you’re paying $6+ for each of your beers. So, the lower the urban rents and general cost of living, the cooler the city, other things being equal.

OK, Forbes was right that proportion of young people living in the city is important. I also think that trends are important, like: Which cities are gaining young people, and which are losing them?

What else?

The link to RYM was added by me.  I would think that a truly cool place cannot be rated as cool by too many other sources.  How about that retirement community in Florida, an incorporated city, ruled largely by contract, where only the elderly live and the visits of grown children are regulated and rationed?  How about the city in America which has the highest birth rate?  Isn’t that kind of cool?  Seriously.  That would put Memphis, Ogden, and Provo in the lead.  What’s so cool about tracking RYM?

What I’ve been listening to

by on August 12, 2014 at 2:03 am in Music | Permalink

Here is what has been sticking with me most so far this year, this list is drawn from full recordings rather than individual songs:

1. Sd Laika, That’s Harakiri, a new sound world, best on vinyl.

2. Calypso: Musical Poetry in the Caribbean 1955-1969, best on vinyl.

3. Shostakovich string quartets, Pacifica Quartet.  The best versions of these ever?  Very Soviet-sounding, muscular in approach, totally bleak.

4. Complete Haydn string quartets, Mosaiques Quartet.  My favorite of all the complete recordings of these.

5. Mala, Mala in Cuba.  Think Buena Vista Social Club for dubstep fans.

6. Deafheaven, Sunbather.  “Black metal for people who don’t like black metal.”  Alternatively, “Serving as an artistic lucid dream of warmth despite the stinging pain of life’s cruel idealism.”

7. Dick Hyman’s Century of Jazz Piano, five CDs, quite familiar music, some of it corny even, nonetheless these remain remarkable pieces and they are impeccably played.  A joy of rediscovery.

Lots more Benjamin Britten, including String Quartet #3, and many versions of Mahler’s Sixth.

Facebook manipulated the emotions of hundreds of thousands of its users, and found that they would pass on happy or sad emotions, it has said. The experiment, for which researchers did not gain specific consent, has provoked criticism from users with privacy and ethical concerns.

For one week in 2012, Facebook skewed nearly 700,000 users’ news feeds to either be happier or sadder than normal. The experiment found that after the experiment was over users’ tended to post positive or negative comments according to the skew that was given to their newsfeed.

The research has provoked distress because of the manipulation involved.

Clearly plenty of ads try to manipulative us with positive emotions, and without telling us.  There are also plenty of sad songs, or for that matter sad movies and sad advertisements, again running an agenda for their own manipulative purposes.  Is the problem with Facebook its market power?  Or is the the sheer and unavoidable transparency of the notion that Facebook is inducing us to pass along similar emotions to our network of contacts, thus making us manipulators too, and in a way which is hard to us to avoid thinking about?  What would Robin Hanson say?

Note by the way that “The effect the study documents is very small, as little as one-tenth of a percent of an observed change.”  How much that eventually dwindles, explodes, or dampens out in the longer run I would say is still not known to us.  My intuition however is that we see a lot of longer-run dampening and also intertemporal substitution of emotions, meaning this is pretty close to a non-event.

The initial link is here.  The underlying study is here.  Other readings on the topic are here.

I hope you’re not too sad about this post [smiley face]!