Amazing Stories in and of Themselves
By Jason Gross
- Eric Asimov: "Wine on the Tracks" (New York Times blog, May 18, 2006)
Terrible title but the idea of Dylan supporting a pair of wines named after his songs and albums is not unreasonable. Unlike Victoria's Secret, you can be reasonably sure that he's used this product, and in both cases this might just be a way to get
his name out there since only print media seems to care about him anymore. As one of the commentators noted, "That wine is okay for
Dylan I thought. A pity, that I can't hear him on radio..."
- David Bauder: "'American Idol' Crushes Grammys in Ratings" (AP, February 9, 2006)
The title pretty much says it all and you get the idea of the cultural import here: "Nearly twice as many people--28.3 million--watched American Idol than watched the Grammy Awards--15.1 million--when the two music programs went head-to-head in prime time..." Not that Grammy organizers should feel too ashamed--Idol kicked the Olympics' butt in the ratings too. Also see Michael Schneider's "Can't Stop the Music" (Variety, February 26, 2006).
- Brooks Broliek: "Redstone Hits FCC Indecency Rules" (Hollywood Report, October 17, 2006)
Though his company is one of the mega-media companies pressuring the FCC to loosen its rules about how huge media companies can get, my hat's off to Viacom/CBS boss Sumner Redstone for telling the same FCC what a bunch of cultural fascists they really are. In this story, he lets 'em have it with both barrels. "If the public is not happy with a particular program, then they won't watch it, and it will go off air. Government censorship--and by this I mean imposing any kind of burden or penalty on those who publish protected speech--circumvents this process... Give the government the tools to punish those it doesn't like or silence what it doesn't want to hear, and you undermine democracy. Give people the tools to choose what they see and hear, and you enhance democracy." Granted that part of this grumbling comes from the increased fines that the Congress/Prez just signed into law, but the sentiment's still the right one.
- Mark Brown: "Discs Slip" (Rocky Mountain News, February 4, 2006)
The idea that not everyone has a computer and iTunes is "supported by a study released this week by The Associated Press and Rolling Stone, which found that more than half of music listeners still buy CDs from specialty CD stores, while the other half buy at places like Best Buy and Wal-Mart. And FM radio continues to be the way fans of all ages find new music."
- Andrew Druckenbrod: "For the Birds: Ensemble Gives Concert for National Aviary Residents, Guests" (Post-Gazette, January 9, 2006)
Don't laugh. It's not like we're the only species that recognizes or appreciates music. And while a bird audience might be less (or more?) respectful than us humans, neither species will be able to afford the concert ticket prices anyway.
- Jonathan Duff: "White Noise" (BBC, January 5, 2006)
How good are we going to feel about our chic little iPods when we realize that years of overuse have made us deaf?
- Colin Eatock: "Conductor Straddles Two Podiums" (Globe and Mail, November 2006)
Conductor Kurt Masur fought for the Nazis, became a rising star in communist East Germany, led the country to calm during its transition to democracy and was thought to be a shoo-in for its political leadership. And yet he shrugs off his political connections. After all, he did lead the New York Philharmonic and London Philharmonic after the Berlin Wall came down. "I decided that I was not so bad a musician that I should (need to) go into politics."
- Marc Fisher: "FM Stations Try To Talk Themselves Out of Trouble" (Washington Post, January 8, 2006)
A good article about the decline and fall of rock radio in the States, but what's especially interesting is this tidbit as to why we hear so few crossover hits nowadays. "Radio is one of the most segregated places in popular culture... in a micro-niched world, advertisers want to buy a specific demographic group. A station that appeals across ethnic boundaries doesn't seem to have much staying power..."
- Owen Gibson: "Fifty-quid Bloke Gives Way to MP3 woman" (Guardian, May 15, 2006)
Surprise--it turns out that at least in this UK poll, women are more likely to download music than men are and make up half of the music mag readership. What will that mean for the lad mags?
- Kyle Gustafson: "DCist Interview: John Vanderslice" (DCist, May 1, 2006)
Though he's quick to point out "this is all anecdotal, I can't back any of it up," the indie maven sounds like he's ahead of the music biz curve. "People right now, hard core music people that pay attention, they're online. The big national glossies just don't have that kind of impact anymore... the way people find out about us and find out things about us, it's all bloggers. It's all online 'zines... I can look at where people are coming from and who's searching what, and what method they are using to get to my site. After that I was like, "Fuck paying a publicist to work your record, lets just e-mail all the bloggers and send them a record or some MP3s.""
- Otis Hart: "Bah Hummer: Bands Spurn SUV Cash" (The News & Observer, February 22, 2006)
While collecting a paycheck for getting your song in a commercial isn't unusual for a band nowadays, there are limits. Many indie groups courted by hipster ad firms say no to gas-guzzling cars.
- Charolette Higgins: "Bach in Demand: Listeners Hail Radio 3 Festival a Huge Success" (BBC, January 5, 2006)
Just like Ludwig Van did last year, Johannes scored millions of web hits, proving again that as the article notes, classical ain't dead and that free is still a good price to get people hooked on music. Not that the majors are going to learn that anytime too soon.
- Dave Hoekstra: "Getting Sly Stone On Stage Ain't Easy" (Chicago Sun-Times, February 13, 2006)
The story of Sly's Grammy cameo and how it's not really that odd when you consider Sly's strange, sad past.
- Kathryn Hone: "Scratch and Sniff: The Opera" (Times Online, November 17, 2006)
What's amazing isn't that the sense of smell is being used in a performance, it's that it isn't used otherwise. With all the hyped up technology of the Net, it still only engages two of our five senses. Isn't that sad?
- Randy Kennedy: "Giving the Artists a Voice in Preserving Their Work" (New York Times, July 29, 2006)
The difficulty of preserving works of art comes to a head when Dario Robleto insists that part of one of his works must be fashioned from James Brown's Sex Machine album. The curator frets about going on E-Bay to seek out this prime piece of funk (now going for $25-$50 but the price will surely rise after this).
- Ruchir Kumar: "PMC makes eunuchs adopt Gandhigiri to collect tax" (Hindustan Times, November 7, 2006)
Since they're being sent out with musicians, it might not be a bad idea--it'll certainly get people's attention. Wonder if the I.R.S. has similar plans...
- Jeff Leeds and Sharon Waxman: "That's What Friends In High Places Are For" (New York Times, July 8, 2006)
It's nice to know that if you wind up in a Middle Eastern jail on drug charges that you can have Lionel Ritchie and a conservative U.S. Senator put in a good word to get you out. Of course, it doesn't hurt if you happen to be a famous producer who shares a lawyer with a senator. A runner-up in this believe-it-or-not category is Ritchie's April 15th Libyan concert to mark the 20th anniversary of a U.S. raid there.
- Lawrence Lessig: "OK, So I'm Wrong" (LL Blog, December 8, 2006)
Not only does the wise prof of copyright matters own up to goofing on term extensions but he's queasy about having artists come back from the dead just to sign petitions about this. Don't ghosts have rights too?
- Alexia Loundras: "DIY music: the acts that are taking control" (Independent, May 23, 2006)
"The computer is now the greatest punk rock instrument," says (Hard Hi-Fi's Richard) Archer, "you can record your music, mix it, master it, do your art work, host your website, distribute your record, and with MySpace, get your music heard by thousands."
- Charles M. Madigan: "Calling Forth the Ghosts of Journalism's Past" (Chicago Tribune, October 3, 2006)
Dedicated to all writers of all stripes who think that there were good ol' days somewhere in the imaginary past.
- Andrew Osborn: "'Genghis Khan: the Opera' Rocks Mongolian Capital" (Independent, May 31, 2006)
He and his army slaughtered an estimated 40 million people but he also united many tribes and today is seen in his native country as a local boy who made good and thus, worthy of his own rock opera. Couldn't be much worse than most of the jukebox musicals in the West.
- Amy Phillips: "Weed Makes You Listen To Indie Rock" (Pitchfork, October 30, 2006)
Now you know why Modest Mouse gives you the munchies.
- John Plunkett: "London Freesheet Mistakes Diddy for Doherty" (Media Guardian, September 7, 2006)
It's a shame that they can't get their music stars straight. The sad thing is that Doherty's gotten more attention than Diddy lately, even if it's been bad press.
- Pierre Ruhe: "Where psychology meets music: Classical Plays a Role" (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, August 15, 2006)
Among other fun facts about classical music, the straight dope about what your doctor is listening to while cutting you open for surgery. "The tiled acoustics of the operating room forbids music with too wide a dynamic range--the quiet parts are inaudible, the loud parts unbearable--so big romantic symphonies, opera and choral music are off-limits... Baroque orchestral music and a spectrum of piano music, from Bach to Prokofiev, usually gets the call."
- Bret Saunders: "Jazz legend Tyner looks forward but can't escape his historic past" (Detroit News, January 22, 2006)
Former Coltrane pianist McCoy Tyner doesn't have a copy of one of the most celebrated jazz archive releases in years or maybe all time (and which he was involved in) and didn't even know about a reissue box of his work coming out soon. "Maybe I'll get a few royalties," he muses.
- Dr. Lauren Stewart: "Listening Displeasure" (BBC, January 30, 2006)
Being tone deaf is one thing but can you imagine being "amusical"? You're not able to hear any piece of music as a pleasurable experience. Sufferers are tormented when they go to parties and feel obliged to play music against their will when they have guests over.
- Unknown Writer: "Age Ban on Stones Lifted" (BBC, January 7, 2006)
At the combined age of 246, it's nice to see that World's Greatest Band still respects its fellow geriatrics who want to shake it at the Superbowl.
- Unknown Writer: "BBC's Jesus Sings Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now" (New Order Information Service, January 26, 2006)
The Savior's return isn't news so much as his Manchurian proclivities. Must have heard that "Come all ye faithful" line from Black Grape. Also, will Morrissey be jealous of his suffering?
- Unknown Writer: "Cocky West 'I Should Be In the Bible'" (Contact Music, February 9, 2006)
Yea and the Lord said onto his people "Now I ain't sayin' she's a gold digger, but I ain't seen her with no broke..." Note to Kanye: heed James 4:6 ("God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble").
- Unknown Writer: "File-sharing Not Cut by Courts" (BBC, January 19, 2006)
Ladies and gentlemen, let's welcome the next preening, soulless music industry apologist, IFPI chairman John Kennedy (replacing former RIAA head Hilary Rosen in this not-so-coveted role). Mr. Kennedy has such bon mots as "(we're) winning the war but we haven't won the war" (against piracy) and Digital Rights Management (like the ones Sony misused) "helps get music to consumers in new and flexible ways" but is a "sometimes misunderstood element of the digital music business." No truth to the rumors that Mr. Kennedy will also serve as James Frey's publicist or Pentagon spokesman.
- Unknown Writer: "Passengers Complain After Tyler Sings" (UPI, September 3, 2006)
What's worse than snakes on a plane? Apparently, it's Bonnie Tyler, a '70s/'80s hit crooner who traumatized a group of Belgian flyers who are now seeking legal action against her. Tough crowd!
- Unknown Writer: "Red Hot Chili Peppers Not in Trouble with Tom Petty" (Rock Radio, June 29, 2006)
"I seriously doubt that there is any negative intent there. And a lot of rock 'n' roll songs sound alike" says the laconic rocker about a Chili Peppers song that nicks one of his own. How dare he buck the music game again. Doesn't he know that there are thousands of starving copyright lawyers dying to take up cases like this?
- Unknown Writer: "Second Chord Sounds in World's Longest Lasting Concert" (Yahoo News/AP, January 5, 2006)
In honor of John Cage, a 639 year composition. Want to get cryogenically frozen to hear it end in 2639? Don't wait for any cover versions though.
- Unknown Writer: "Sydney Hopes Manilow Will Deter Crime" (Billboard, June 5, 2006)
Couldn't they just pipe Kevin Federline songs into the holding pens or is that considered cruel and unusual? Don't they realize that Manilow songs may drive criminals into recidivism?
- Unknown Writer: "Tube Heeds Metro's Classical Tune" (BBC, February 2006)
I'm always skeptical of these stories because there's usually little hard proof to back up the claims and it totally discounts other factors when noting a drop in crime rates. Could it just be that there's less licensing fees to pay for playing ye olde classical hits?
- Jeevan Vasagar: "Concerto for Laptop? Conductor's Sharp Note Over Airport Security" (Guardian, September 11, 2006)
One of the many side effects of the latest round of foiled terror attacks isn't just that we can't carry liquids on airplanes (or at least more than 4 ounces of them) but also that many musicians, even classical ones, find it harder and harder transport their instruments to international concerts. End result: some concerts are being cancelled because of this. Is it too much to ask that we can have both security and peaceful transportation of instruments? Fortunately, the UK government wised up soon after: see Will Woodward: "Relaxation of plane hand luggage restrictions delights musicians " (Guardian, September 14, 2006)
- Kevin Young "Industry Considers Digital Future" (BBC, November 15, 2006)
...and panics, of course. But a few words of wisdom to go with the malaise. Peter Jenner on why Digital Rights Management (DRM) is fucked: "All it does is penalise the honest." Billy Bragg on owning his own songs: "I don't want to be in a situation where I'm still playing when I'm 70 but you can't get my records, because either they're owned by a label that doesn't exist any more and no-one knows who owns the rights, or there is a label and they're just sitting on them."
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