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July 15th, 2018

Searching For Chopin’s Prelude in E Minor
Thing about classical music is there is so much of it out there on LPs that never seems to have been migrated to digital and I can’t find it on either Apple or Amazon music. This is particularly true of orchestral transcriptions of piano music. Since that’s a…let’s call it a “cover” like the rock kids do…of some original piece that the composer never intended to be orchestrated, there is no “standard” version of it and everyone does it a little differently.
 
Case in point: There’s a really evocative Chopin piece…his Prelude in E Minor, that I first heard on an album of “covers” of classical film music. This one was a cover of music played in Five Easy Pieces. So…a cover of a cover. I fell in love with it instantly, but then I went to get a copy of the original version and discovered it’s a solo piano piece, and the version I heard was so breathtaking, with the piano and string orchestra basically doing a call and response to each other, I just could not get into the original solo piano version. I still can’t.
 
But the version I heard on that LP, is the only version like it. I just looked around online for it and I can’t find it in any other form but the LP. And the other orchestral versions of it I just reviewed are, IMO horribly over melodramatic. That piece is a very emotionally strong piece, it dives deep into a solitary place inside of you, but it needs its original simplicity to be that. Transcribing it for orchestra is a delicate maneuver. Too many heavy hands have taken it on and ruined it. Though I’ll allow that Stokowski’s full orchestra transcription is very good for a dramatic interpretation. He’s like…the exception to everything in classical music.
 
So…just now I played the version I have on LP, it is still in very good shape, and I’ve been meaning to get updated LP to digital software because I have a Shostakovich symphony I’ve also been meaning to transfer over…so…
by Bruce | Link | React!

September 8th, 2016

Discovering Shostakovitch

I was 17, and me and mom were in her car fleeing westward to California and the half of my family tree I’d never seen, and never known. I won’t go into the details of the family tensions at that moment, just that they were huge and mom was making a heroic effort to keep them away from me. She felt it was time for me to get to know my father. And in truth, she still loved him very much. All I knew was I was born in California, and it had called to me my entire life. I ached to be there. Now, hopefully I would finally walk its ground and see the people who were the other half of my bloodline.

I’d had my driver’s license by then. I was driving, mom was resting in the front seat beside me, it was night and we were on the interstate driving through Ohio, into the darkness beyond the headlights, driving to whatever was ahead. I had the radio on. In those days the radio was all you had to keep you company on the highway. The radio stations faded in and then faded out as the miles passed. I had a classical music station tuned in. This began playing.

Somehow, it just captured my emotional state just then. It was as if the composer wrote it just for me, just for that moment, driving from one world I knew, into an unknown one. Fleeing the relentless iron grip of one, but into what?

As soon as I could I began searching for this music. All I heard from the radio was “…Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra…” Eventually I learned the name of the composer. He was a Russian…Dmitri Shostakovitch. And it was his first symphony, as performed by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. I later learned he composed it when he himself was a teenager. I have always imagined listening to it, that this was his statement on coming of age, and finding himself in a country where the artist’s only duty was to the State. Somehow, raised in a rigidly authoritarian faith that was nothing like the state imposed atheism of the Soviets, and yet everything like it, I could relate. The Man was a soul sucking bastard whichever side of the iron curtain you were on.

This is intense, amazing music. It aches. It burns. It is sarcastic, ironic, broken hearted and proud and defiant. Shostakovitch became my musical companion through the rest of my adolescence and young adulthood. He went on to compose 15 symphonies, all of them masterpieces of 20th century music. And his music never lost that bitter, ironic, defiant bite. His 8th symphony, composed during the siege of Leningrad is the most perfect expression of the soul crushing inhumanity of war I have ever listened to. (Get the version by Kyril Kondrashin and the Moscow Philharmonic.) Later, I discovered Vaughan-Williams and Rachmaninoff. They speak to my heart in a different, more settled and romantic way. But some days I dig into my collection of Shostakovitch because nobody expresses this feeling of bitter, laughing resolve better, and especially the piece he composed while a teenager, in Joseph Stalin’s Russia.

Note: only the Russian conductors seem to really understand Shostakovitch, and especially this piece.

 

dmitri_shostakovich-sm

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Discovering Shostakovitch

December 19th, 2013

The Atheist And Christmas Music

I’m sitting at my desk listening to Christmas music.  Specifically, to my Pandora app on my iPhone. Pandora has a “Peaceful Holidays” channel and I love it.  The music lifts me, soothes my soul, brings back old and very pleasant memories of Christmases past.  Back in the day I would set the family manger scene under the Christmas tree.  I was the good Baptist boy.  Nowadays if I bother with the tree (the holidays aren’t the best of times for us single people) I use my manger figures to make a little middle ages town. (Funny isn’t it, how the people of Jesus’ day all dressed like people from middle ages Europe.) But even if I don’t put out the decorations, I have Christmas music playing softly on the stereo. I inherited all mom’s LPs, and treasure the Christmas ones especially. So how does the atheist I’ve become in my old age listen to this essentially religious music and still enjoy it so very much?  See…there’s a thing about music: it’s not about the lyrics.  Let me reach back into my blog archives, and tell you a story…

It is 1981, and I am a longhaired twenty-something out for a hike along the trails around Sugerloaf Mountain near Comus, Maryland. I am alone, with one of the new Sony Walkmans as my only company. I am well into my Bruckner phase, and in the Walkman is a cassette I’d recorded the previous day with his Symphony 8 and the Te Deum. Some say that title was a tad redundant for a Bruckner piece…that everything he ever wrote could have easily been subtitled, as he had in the dedication to his ninth symphony, To My Beloved God…

It is September, my birth month, and the air is clear and crisp as it only gets in the Washington D.C. suburbs during the beginning of spring and fall. The sky is a deep cobalt blue, flecked here and there with threads of high cirrus clouds. I walk lightly with a branch I found at the trail head like a staff, my hiking boots clomping over a narrow trail that winds through the woods, around and up the mountain to a little park on it’s summit. As I walk a pair of headphones fill my world with wonderful, evocative, richly textured symphonic classical music. I am in love with my Walkman. It lets me fill my world with music, yet bother no one else. Years later, I would rediscover that love in a little white iPod.

I reach the top of the mountain. The little park is empty. It is just me and Bruckner. I plop myself down on a rocky ledge that faces south toward the Shenandoah valley. It is a lovely view. In the distant haze I see the northern end of the Shenandoah mountains reach toward the horizon, and go over it in a procession of gently curved peaks. Several turkey vultures are in the sky below me, circling idly on a random updraft. Through the rolling hills of the Maryland Piedmont the Potomac river glistens in the late afternoon sunlight. A ribbon of smoke floats eastward from the smokestack at the Monocacy river power plant.

I take it all in, and Bruckner’s deeply spiritual music seems to make the very air around me sing. Life is good. It is awesome.

The music ends, and I take off the headphones. There are people behind me.

I turn to find that my quiet spot has been invaded by a crowd of picnickers. I figure them for a church group, since the boys still have their Sundaywear on, and their hair slicked down. Only somewhat more disturbing than the fact that a crowd of people were able to get behind me while I was listening to the music, is this kindly older lady sitting only a few feet from me: she is looking straight at me with that expression that at 27 I’ve come to know and love…

Incoming proselytize!

She smiles a sincerely transparent smile at me, and says, “That must be very nice music you’re listening to. What is it?”

I am dressed in cutoffs and a Hudson Bay Outfitters t-shirt. My hair is about as long as it gets, almost halfway down my back. I have my blue bandanna tied around my head, 70s fashion with the ends of the knot trailing down just behind my left ear. I am in my golden earring and lambda necklace stage of outedness. My friends tell me I have this perpetually bewildered look on my face when talking to strangers, and I know a hook when I hear it, but I look her in the eyes and answer her question seriously. “The Te Deum, by Anton Bruckner, Zubin Mehta and the Vienna Philharmonic.”

Her eyes glaze over. We stare at each other for about a second. Then the kindly smile reappears and she says to me in all seriousness, “That’s very nice, but I think on the Sabbath we should listen to music that praises God…don’t you?”

That does it… I get up, nearly dropping the walkman, and start walking back to the trail. Behind me I hear the woman say, “Where are you going?”

“Into town to buy some.” I reply, walking faster.

I’d seen the lyrics to that Bruckner piece once on an album back cover and they disappointed me, Christian though I still identified at the time. And I think it was then that I resolved never to read the lyrics of classical music pieces that I discovered and loved.  I still try to avoid it. Michael Nesmith once said on one of his album covers that the lyrics were only the logical part, that the meaning was the music itself.

I am not an atheist because I have a grudge against religion, I’m an athiest simply because I discovered I’d reached a point where belief had stopped making sense to me.  But many things I learned and experienced in church I still hold close to the heart.  I still find myself humming some of the old hymns while doing chores.  And Christianity has produced wonderful, deeply spiritual music. When it’s done from that place of love and awe, all art, even the darkest, speaks a universal language, deep, soulful, and spiritual.  It is a place where we can recognize one another, and our common humanity.

If the lyrics add something to the music for you, then fine. If not, then never mind the damn lyrics. They’re just the logical part, for those of us who have trouble sometimes, seeing the heart.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Atheist And Christmas Music

September 2nd, 2009

The Music Industrial Complex…Screwing Artists And Their Fans Since The Invention Of The Phonograph…

Next time you hear an RIAA spokesdroid bellyaching that music piracy is taking money out of the pockets of artists…laugh in their face…

Rapper behind ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ gets Warner Music to pay for Ph.D

Twenty-five years after the first queen of hip-hop was stiffed on her royalty checks, Dr. Roxanne Shante boasts an Ivy League Ph.D. – financed by a forgotten clause in her first record deal. 

After two albums, Shante said, she was disillusioned by the sleazy music industry and swindled by her record company. The teen mother, living in the Queensbridge Houses, recalled how her life was shattered.

"Everybody was cheating with the contracts, stealing and telling lies," she said. "And to find out that I was just a commodity was heartbreaking."

As it turned out…the record company tossed in a clause in her contract where they basically agreed to finance her college education, probably figuring (according to the article) that a teenage mom living in the projects would never make any use of it.  Even so, she had to drag it out of them kicking and screaming.  She found an ally in the dean at Marymount Manhattan College, who let her attend classes for free while pursuing the money.  The record company (Warner Music) agreed to pay up when she threatened to go public with her story. 

The company declined to comment for this story.

Doesn’t look so good to be throwing lawsuits around on the grounds that piracy steals money from the same artists you’re busy screwing over, does it?

Music brings sweetness to life and people will gladly pay for it.  But nobody likes being gouged, and especially when they know full well that the artists they love are being screwed over too.  The contempt you see among some younger (and older) folk for the Music Labels is merely a mirror of the contempt they fully understand the labels regard them and the artists with.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  My own wish is that the technology eventually makes it so easy for the artists and their listeners to cut the labels, at least the big greedy ones, out of the transaction altogether, that nobody can remember what the hell they were ever good for in the first place and they just go the way of the dinosaurs.  Hell, they’re already fossilized. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Music Industrial Complex…Screwing Artists And Their Fans Since The Invention Of The Phonograph…

August 5th, 2009

Those Lovely Little Songs That Cut You To Ribbons Inside

I was flipping channels before bedtime the other day and came across one of those Time/Life CD collection ads.  This one was for classic love songs from the 60s and 70s.  I saw a few titles and heard a few tunes that struck my interest and so I jotted them down and began looking for them on iTunes and Amazon.  Joe Cocker’s You Are So Beautiful…  I Just Fall In Love Again by The Carpenters…  That kind of thing.  What the Germans would call schlager if it was played over there.  Schmaltzy, sentimental, florid, some would say maudlin tunes.  Perhaps it’s a sign of aging that I get into that more.  On the other hand, I got into it a lot actually when I was a kid, though I wasn’t really big on the romance thing at the time.  But sentimental, evocative melodies always got to me and I had to buy them, even if I wasn’t really paying attention to the lyrics…

…which was probably because none of that spoke to gay kids back then.  Gay was a horrible, dirty, vile perversion and gay men were dangerous sexual psychopaths and I knew I wasn’t any of that.  Just that this whole dating thing was nothing I wanted to have anything to do with.  Except…except…there was this beautiful guy in my high school I just couldn’t take my eyes off…

The joke is that even in a more accepting time, I would have probably had the same empty love life I had then.  And…now.  It wasn’t all just that I was gay.  I was…well…one of those ugly duckling types.  And from the other side of the tracks at that.  Low income kid…living with his divorced mom…  Clothes don’t quite fit right…and the styles are ten years old.  Awkward.  Shy.  Thin and geeky.  Book-wormish.  That was me.  Some small creative talent you could tell was just waiting to blossom…if only someone would pay attention to him.  But that never happened.

One of the songs I caught a hint of on that Time/Life ad was a song I’d heard fragments of all though my adolescence but somehow never bothered with…probably because the singer was a woman singing about her girlhood and I was decidedly not interested in girls back then.  But on a lark I went and downloaded it along with the others I’d noted from the ad.  It was sung by a lady named Janis Ian, who has a beautiful voice.  The song was At 17

To those of us who know the pain
Of Valentines that never came,
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball.
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
And dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me.
We all play the game and when we dare
To cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say, come dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me
At seventeen.

I’m sitting here typing this…and I can’t stop crying…

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (1)

August 4th, 2009

The Music Industrial Complex…Still Digging Its Way To The Bottom…

Two headlines crossed my screen the other day…one concerning yet another grotesque MAFRIAA file sharing judgment.  The other, this little tidbit from SlashDot…

The Music Industry’s Crisis Writ Large 

The NY Times has an opinion piece that makes starkly clear the financial decline of the music industry. It’s accompanied by an infographic that cleverly renders the drop-off. The latest culprit accelerating the undoing of the music business is free, legal online music streaming.

"Since music sales peaked in 1999, the value of those sales, after adjusting for inflation, has dropped by more than half. At that rate, the industry could be decimated before Madonna’s 60th birthday. … 13- to 17-year-olds acquired 19 percent less music in 2008 than they did in 2007. CD sales among these teenagers were down 26 percent and digital purchases were down 13 percent. … [T]he percentage of 14- to 18-year-olds who regularly share files dropped by nearly a third from December 2007 to January 2009. On the other hand, two-thirds of those teens now listen to streaming music ‘regularly’ and nearly a third listen to it every day."

The moron who wrote that Time’s piece, seems to agree with the Music Industrial Complex that the internet is killing the business.  Starting off with how the speed at which the industry is falling apart is "utterly breathtaking", he proceeds, as in the quote above, to blame this new fangled thing called streaming music.

First, piracy punched a big hole in it. Now music streaming — music available on demand over the Internet, free and legal — is poised to seal the deal.

Okay…when I was a kid, streaming music was called RADIO.  And we listened to it constantly.  For…free.  Yes it had advertising…but back then it wasn’t the constant barrage of screaming in your face ads that broadcast radio is now. And then, as now, RADIO doesn’t pay per song royalties (at least not here in the U.S.).  They pay a flat licensing fee to the big music royalty groups, that’s based on a sampling survey of their programming.  Internet streaming radio on the other hand, has to pay Per Song Served.  So…yes Mr. New York Times…kids are listening to steaming music for free.  That doesn’t mean the Music Industrial Complex isn’t getting any money from it.  In fact, they’re getting more Per Song then then get from broadcast radio.

When I was a kid back in the late 60s and early 70s, we listened to tons of music for free…on the RADIO.  And what was more, if you had a good tape recorder and a good radio, you could tape the music you were listening to and play it back later, as often as you liked.  But back then there was an incentive not to.  You could actually buy the songs you really liked for a price most of us kids could afford.  This New York Times jackass seems to want everyone to forget that…

This is part of a much broader shift in media consumption by young people. They’re moving from an acquisition model to an access model.

Even if they choose to buy the music, the industry has handicapped its ability to capitalize on that purchase by allowing all songs to be bought individually, apart from their albums. This once seemed like a blessing. Now it looks more like a curse.

In previous forms, you had to take the bad with the good. You may have only wanted two or three songs, but you had to buy the whole 8-track, cassette or CD to get them. So in a sense, these bad songs help finance the good ones. The resulting revenue provided a cushion for the artists and record companies to take chances and make mistakes. Single song downloads helped to kill that.

Previous Forms.  Previous Forms.  Previous Forms. 

Ahem…

 

This is a shot I took of myself (before the haircut…) with my 45rpm collection for a post last year.  These are Singles.  Well…doubles if you counted the B side that nobody ever listened to.  That was what you bought back then when you were a kid in the 1960s into the early 70s.  Yes…even during the days of the 8 track tapes.   Music stores back then usually had a whole wall devoted to the 45 rpm singles, and they were all the top forty tunes, plus a lot of also-rans that sold enough to keep them on the shelves.  Singles didn’t kill the music business back then.  They brought tons of money into it.  That was how teenagers bought music back then.  Because that was what we could afford.  Teenagers you see, have no money.

Those 8 track tape machines, an early attempt at letting car owners play their own tunes while they drove, were for…car owners.  And they were an expensive add-on.  And so were the tapes, which often jammed after getting warped while baking inside a car.  Kids…that same age group that Mr. New York Times is bellyaching aren’t buying enough albums anymore…didn’t buy 8 track tapes, and only bought an album if it was a particularly favorite group and you had the money.  So the Beatles for example, sold tons of albums.  But super star bands like the Beatles were the exception.  Until the mid 70s, most top-40 hits were singles and they were all available as 45rpm singles.

But the Music Industrial Complex wanted more.  So they decided kill the single, to force listeners to buy albums.  And in the late 70s it worked pretty much.  We boomer children were getting older, had jobs, had money, and albums then weren’t extravagantly expensive compared to singles.  You could buy a Led Zepplin album for about 5 to 8 bucks depending on where you shopped.  Singles by then were selling for around a buck twenty-five, so if an album was mostly good to listen to, it made more sense to buy the album instead.  But soon, many of the top-forty hits couldn’t be found on singles.  That was a decision the music companies made, and…surprise, surprise…kids started taping songs and passing them around instead of buying. Music sharing didn’t start with the Internet and this generation of teenagers didn’t invent it.

You really began to see that the greed of the music companies would eventually kill them with the advent of the Compact Disk.  Initially their expense was related to the newness of the technology, and its superiority over the vinyl record.  But the price never came down and it’s still outrageously high.  I remember one day shopping at Tower Records, and seeing a set of new releases of James Bond movie scores (I am a film music buff…).  I picked up a few, thinking that my old vinyl LPs were getting a little worn and it would be nice to have fresh, all digital copies.  I picked up a copy of Dr. No….From Russia With LoveGoldFingerThunderballLive And Let Die…  I had five CDs in hand and was about to walk to the cashier when I realized I was holding, and $22 a pop which was the price then, over one-hundred dollars of CDs in my hands…and there were only five of them.  So I put them back. 

Eventually I bought them second-hand for a lot less.  I was a grown adult then, with a job that let me afford to buy CDs at the grossly inflated price the Music Industrial Complex was charging for them, and I still balked.  $110…plus tax…for just five albums?  I just couldn’t justify it.  What the hell did the music companies think teenagers were going to do when faced with that decision?  Let me see…  Er…make copies?

The Music Industrial Complex profits from album sales in the 70s, and CD sales in the 90s were driven by the shear size of the baby boomer population.  We liked our rock bands.  We had jobs in the late 70s, and vinyl LPs were affordable, so the disappearance of the 45rpm single didn’t bother us too much.  In the 90s we were buying our old favorite albums all over again in CDs and we had careers by then and we could afford it.  But teenagers have no money.

If your business model is based on the impulse buying habits of teenagers, you need to make your product affordable to them.  And convenient enough that the impulse to buy won’t flip over to the impulse to…well…borrow a friend’s copy and copy it.  You can lecture them all you want about stealing, but when you can’t afford to buy music you copy it and that’s what a teenager is going to do.  Ask me how I know.  I still have those hours of music tapes I made off the radio.  The nice thing about taping music off the radio I discovered back in the early 70s, was you could skip over the commercials.

 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on The Music Industrial Complex…Still Digging Its Way To The Bottom…

March 27th, 2009

Well Your Tune Has Certainly Changed…

Vis Slashdot…  Google has been busy lately taking down all music related content from YouTube’s UK viewers.  This is in response to the content organization, PRS For Music’s royalty demands.  Google won’t pay the rates they’ve set for online music, and is simply taking down any music contant that PRS has rights to.  So PRS is happy, right?

Wrong

pregnantfridge writes "In the ongoing conflict between PRS for Music and YouTube over the takedown of all music related content in the UK, PRS for Music have created a new site, fairplayforcreators.com, exposing the views of the music writers impacted by the YouTube decision. I am not certain if these views have been editorially compromised, but by reading a few pages, it’s clear to me that Music writers represented by PRS for Music are largely clueless about what the Internet and YouTube means to the music industry. Kind of explains why the music industry is in such a decline — and also why so much litigation takes place on the music writers’ behalf."

Here’s what PRS has to say about the tiff between it and Google, from it’s website…

Fair Play for Creators is an online forum set up by PRS for Music so that creators everywhere can publicly demonstrate their concern over the way their work is treated by online businesses.

Fair Play for Creators was established after Internet-giant, Google, made the decision to remove some music content from YouTube.

Google’s decision was made because it didn’t want to pay the going rate for music, to the creators of that music, when it’s used on YouTube.

Music creators rely on receiving royalties whenever and wherever their work is used. Royalties are vital in nurturing creative music talent. They make sure music creators are rewarded for their creativity in the same way any other person would be in their work.

Fair Play for Creators believes that fans should have access to the music they love, and that the work of music creators should be paid for by the online businesses who benefit from its use.

So…I guess they see some value in their music being played on YouTube after all.  That wouldn’t happen to be because sites like YouTube bring more new music to the attention of listeners these days…particularly Young listeners…then all the radio stations in the world combined would it…?

Never mind that some musicians actively despise PRS…I’ll get to that in a minute.  There was a nugget of insight in the Slashdot comments that illuminated something I’d been puzzled by, ever since the music industrial complex went on the warpath against the Internet.  Why the hell are they so bent on killing Internet Radio…???

I put it down to their fear of piracy.  I put it down to greed.  But there’s another aspect to this here that proves Heinlein was right when he said never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by stupidity.  See it here, in Pete Waterman’s pathetic whining that he isn’t being paid every time one of his magnificent works is played on YouTube…

YouTube is not alone in the online hall of shame where the worthy notion of greater consumer choice is used as a cloak to disguise the fact that copyright infringement happens on a grand scale.

I co-wrote ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, which Rick Astley performed in the eighties, and which must have been played more than 100 million times on YouTube – owner Google. My PRS for Music income in the year ended September 2008 was £11.

Music videos and music generally is at the very heart of User Generated Content sites. It is the hard work and creative endeavour of songwriters and musicians everywhere that has been the bedrock upon which many of these websites have been built, creating along the way huge value for their owners. As well as arguing with them over royalty rates, we should be fighting them to get proper recognition for the part we’ve played in building their businesses.

Pete Waterman, songwriter – 24 March 2009

Now, never mind that a lot of people think they’re owed compensation for having to listen to this song every time they’re Rick-Rolled.  Look at it.  Just look at it.  Waterman really thinks that a single play on YouTube is the same as a single play on radio, for which he gets a PRS royalty.  One Slashdot commenter put’s it in perspective…

Just to put this in perspective, if the song had been played 100m times on UK National Radio, he’d have been paid GBP2-5bn instead of GBP11. *That’s* how much Google are underpaying compared to market rate.

If he doesn’t want Google playing his music without paying him, then that’s fine: he’s got what he wants. Google are not playing his music. What’s his beef?

The going rate is whatever rate can be negotiated between the producer and the consumer. Google, as the consumer, has said ‘if that’s the rate, fine, we don’t need the product.’ Astley (and people like him) have to decide whether they want their music to reach an internet audience or not. If they don’t, that’s fine – Google not playing it works for them. But what they can’t reasonably do is complain that Google refuse to buy their product. If the supermarket in your high street tries to sell you chocolates at more than what you think they’re worth, you don’t buy them – no-one needs chocolate. If the PRS tries to sell Google music at more than Google thinks it’s worth, Google doesn’t buy it. So – where’s the beef?

Furthermore, your computation is wrong. When a tune is played in BBC Radio 1 or Radio 2, it’s heard by about 6 million people. When a tune is played on YouTube, it’s typically heard by one person. So 100 million plays on YouTube is not equivalent to 100 million plays on Radio 2, it’s equivalent to seventeen plays on Radio 2. Not seventeen million, seventeen.

So the equivalent payment is not £2-5Bn, it’s £340. Which is a lot more than £11, I’d agree – but is that because Google are offering too little, or because radio is paying too much?

Emphasis mine.  Here is why the corporate music industry is trying to squeeze the life out of Internet radio…they really believe that YouTube serving a song to a single user is the same as a radio station playing it once and they want the same kind of compensation the radio station gives them, Every Time an Internet site sends a song down a connection.  No…wait…Even More money then the radio station would have to pay .

(Best Syndication News) One of the coolest ideas in the radio business may die soon, not because of lack of listeners, but because fees charged by the music industry. The problem is that Internet Radio stations may soon charged more per song than their satellite or conventional radio counterparts.

A decision back in March 2007 by the by the U.S. Copyright Royalty Board and SoundExchange (the money collector for the RIAA) that doubled the rates for music played on the Internet could kill the industry. Pardora.com, one of the market leaders, may shut down soon if the payment structure is not changed. Their royalty fees are expected to hit $17 million this year alone, and as we all know, internet advertising is in its infancy.

The decision to charge Internet radio more could backfire on the music industry. To battle music pirates, some have advised the same price structure or rates less than their traditional media counterparts.

In a recent interview with the Washington Post, Pandora founder Tim Westergren, laid out his case. The is a potential "last stand for webcasting" before royalty fee increases begin to take hold, Westergren said.

The prices are expected to go from 8/100 of a cent per song per listener to 19/100 of a cent per song per listener by 2010, according to the Post report. Like the early days of Amazon, Pandora is losing money right now hoping to hold on to a market spot when the industry matures.

Emphasis mine. Thankfully they came to a deal before Pandora had to pull the plug.  But this made a lot of listeners absolutely livid when this story broke, and their ire wasn’t at Pandora for not paying the musicians enough.  Everyone could see this for the absolutely mind bogglingly self destructive greed that it was.  I have personally bought more new music off Pandora (which makes it really easy to buy the tunes you are listening to via Amazon or iTunes) in one month then I bought in the previous five years.  And that’s largely because the music industrial complex has utterly destroyed broadcast radio.  I just don’t listen to it anymore.  And if I’m not listening, I’m not buying.

Let me tell you about YouTube.  I watched a charming little video someone had put together…a train cab ride through the English countryside, time sped and slowed, set to the perfect background music.  Whatever music this user had set their video to, it was lovely and when I was finished watching I fired off a message asking them what it was.  It was a piece from Moby called "Inside".  I looked it up on Amazon and there it was.  It’s on my iPod and I’m listening to it as I type this.  Are you reading this PRS…I bought a fucking copy of something I heard on YouTube the other day.  And that’s not the first time either.  I have maybe a dozen or so songs on my iPod now that I first heard on YouTube.

Morons.

The short sighted greed here is staggering, but the complete ignorance of how the Internet works isn’t.  These are mostly folks of my own generation, and older, running these corporate junk music operations now, and we are a generation that grew up listening to music on static-y car radios, pocket transistor radios, and scratchy vinyl records.  Most of my generational peers, according to a recent Pew Institute study, have very little to do with personal computers in their private lives. Individuals like me…technology nerds (I built my first radio when I was 9), are the exception not the rule.  To most of my generational peers, the Internet is a bunch of tubes.  They don’t get it.  They never will. 

They really think that one play over the radio has the same value as one play on YouTube.  Well…and they’re greedy bastards.  One thing you need to know is that for all their posturing, they don’t really give a rat’s ass about musicians.  This from another Slashdot commenter…

As a musician myself, I was compelled to comment there. They won’t put it up though.

I take the opposite view. I have one album up for sale on iTunes and Amazon and another being uploaded right now – http://tinyurl.com/cdx44l [tinyurl.com] I don’t actually want to be represented by the PRS, but I have no choice. There is no opt out. You will collect royalties on my behalf whether or not I want you to. If I wish my music to be available free for streaming on Internet radio, you will not let me. So who’s worse, Google for throwing the baby out with the bathwater, or the PRS for extortion?

This was followed up by…

You can opt out of collecting your royalties from the PRS. You can’t stop the PRS collecting from the broadcaster.

Say I want to perform a set of my music in a pub, no covers, just stuff I wrote. The pub has to have a PRS performance license and has to pay the PRS for my performance even if I’m not registered with them.

It’s extortion, and as usual it’s the artists who get screwed – the number of places to play is dropping for the small local artist as landlords stop paying the PRS tax.

So if one of these days you find yourself wondering what happened to all the live music you used to hear…thank the record industry.

by Bruce | Link | React! (3)

August 19th, 2008

Day Side / Night Side

Do you have a composer who speak to you?  Not some trendy pop band…but a pure music classical composer, whose music seems to define you in a way none other does?

I have two.  When I was a teen, I discovered Shostakovitch.   Mom and I were driving alone to California, defying her family to visit dad’s side.  I remember it clearly…we were driving through Pennsylvania west on I-70 after having dropped grandma at her brother’s house.  It caused a family uproar, but we were both determined.  That night, I was driving and she was nodding off in the passenger’s side.  We were going to California.  I had the radio on to some random classical station, and driving down that empty highway I heard music that just said it all to me at that point in my life.  I was alienated, confused and utterly alone it seemed.  And here was this amazing symphony that just said it all. 

I later learned that it was Shostakovitch’s first symphony, composed when he was just sixteen.  It was amazing how well it said it all.  All though the rest of my adolescence  I devoured his music.  His symphonic music.  It touched me in a place no others did. 

Later, as I grew older, I discovered the music of Ralph Vaughan-Williams.  His music touched another side of me…a side that was tender and wounded, and struggling to assert itself in my consciousness.  The side that believed in the beautify of life.  The side that believes that’s all that really matters.

We probably all have that struggle in ourselves.  One side dark, lonely and alienated…the other hopeful and believing.  Sometimes we find music that speaks to them.  Shostakovitch speaks to that dark lonely alienated side of me…the side that knows that Sturgeon was right…that ninety percent of everything is bullshit.  The side that knows that the bullshit often wins.  Vaughan-Williams speaks to my other side.  The side that knows that doesn’t matter.

Shostakovich 10.

Ralph Vaughan-Williams 3.

These are me.  The Shostakovitch piece is only good for the first three movements.  That last movement is silly…giddy…a bit hysterical if you ask me.  It’s too giddy…like he’s faking himself out.  But the first three movements are pure gold.  The Vaughan-Williams piece is pure gold all the way though…especially the last movement.  The obo concerto on that album is beautiful too.  But the symphony is gold.  Pure gold.  These are me.  These links are to the performances of each that are, in my opinion, correct.  They’re Amazon MP3s if you care to download them and listen.  They’re not expensive and I think worth every penny.  Beautiful music, each in its own way.  These are me.

Oh…and here’s Shostakovitch 1, in case you’re interested.  This one’s pretty close to what I heard that night long ago, which was performed by the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra.  I don’t recall who was conducting…but the Russians seem to get this one better then anyone else does…

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Day Side / Night Side

August 7th, 2008

Oh Grow Up…

Thanks to the Internet, YouTube, Amazon and iTunes, my iPod’s "TV Theme" playlist is starting to hold a bunch of kidhood memories…

The Cisco Kid – Ending
The Outer Limits – Ending (First Season)
Burke’s Law
Twilight Zone – Ending (Herrmann)
Cimarron Strip
The Green Hornet
Route 66 – Ending
Mysterious Universe
I Spy
The Avengers – 1968
Lassie – Ending (1966)
Ranger Hal
Captain Kangaroo
Courageous Cat

And much more…

I was able to snag a copy of the Green Hornet theme with Al Hirt’s fantastic trumpet playing, and without the hokey voiceover, off of some fan’s web site.  Same for the really nice copy of the end music to Route 66.  I got the end music to Lassie off of YouTube, where I was pleased to see other fans were just as taken by its simple and beautiful sentimentality as I was long ago.  From YouTube I also got the end title music for The Cisco Kid.  It was music that promised a kid way more adventure then TV back then could deliver unfortunately.  It’s amazing looking back on it, how low budget TV was in those days, and yet how good some of the music was.  When I was a kid I’d try to record some of this stuff and always had to contend with the local TV station blaring something over the music as it played.  It was frustrating.  Now I’m finding tons of this music on YouTube.  Amazingly, I’m also finding clips from the local morning and afternoon kid’s shows I used to watch once upon a time.

I found clips from Ranger Hal and set about trying to locate the happy-go-lucky title music they used for that show.  I figured it was some easy listening song and I was right.  Some YouTube poster identified it for me as an old Mitch Miller song, Whistle Stop.  It wasn’t available on Amazon or iTunes but Googling around I found an mp3 of it on another fan site and I’ve been grooving to it for the past couple of days, letting it take me back to a time when life stretched out in front of me wide open and so very very large.

The clip Mysterious Universe, was used as background music to The Space Explorers, which I used to watch raptly on Ranger Hal’s show.  Long after Ranger Hal went off the air, and The Space Explorers faded into distant memory, I would hear that music whenever I looked up at the stars.  I found out a couple years ago that it’s actually from a library of canned music and not available for sale anywhere.  How I got my copy I am not at liberty to say, and I made a promise not to pass it around, but I will be forever in that person’s debt.

I would pay serious money for a copy of the background music they used in the Courageous Cat cartoon series.  It was composed by Johnny Holiday and it’s serious 1950s detective show jazz…the kind of thing you’d more likely expect to hear on a show like Peter Gunn or 77 Sunset Strip then a kid’s cartoon.  Holiday and his orchestra were Smoking when they recorded that music!  Why he didn’t do more stuff like that I’ll never know.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Oh Grow Up…

May 6th, 2008

Pissing On Edward R. Murrow’s Grave…(continued)

Via Brad DeLong…

EzraKlein Archive | The American Prospect: Nothing is misspelled, and the grammar all seems in order, but something seems wrong with an article headlined "Dueling Appeals On Taxes From Obama, Clinton" that never explains what the dueling tax appeals are

Emphasis mine.  This is the fucking Washington Post he’s talking about there, not People Magazine.  This one sentence sums up what is completely fucked up about American journalism better then any I’ve seen to date. 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Pissing On Edward R. Murrow’s Grave…(continued)

March 13th, 2008

Piracy Is Not Your Problem. Greed Is. Yours.

Via Fark.Com…  The 20 Biggest Record Company Screw-Ups Of All Time

From turning down the Beatles to stomping Napster – the most ill-advised, foolhardy and downright idiotic decisions ever made by The Man.

I particularly liked this one, because I lived through it, and it was when I began to hate the record companies…

#19 The industry kills the single—and begins its own slow demise
In the early ’80s, the music industry began to phase out vinyl singles in favor of cassettes and later, CDs. Then, since it costs the same to manufacture a CD single as a full album, they ditched the format almost altogether. But they forgot that singles were how fans got into the music-buying habit before they had enough money to spend on albums. The end result? Kids who expect music for free. “Greed to force consumers to buy an album [resulted] in the loss of an entire generation of record consumers,” says Billboard charts expert Joel Whitburn. “People who could only afford to buy their favorite hit of the week were told it wasn’t available as a single. Instead, they stopped going to record shops and turned their attention to illegally downloading songs.”
Unintended consequence The Eagles still top the album charts.

This was such a brain dead marketing decision that when I saw them start doing it I didn’t believe it.  Suddenly the singles racks started getting smaller and smaller and you never saw anything new in them.  Worse, now if you wanted a single you had to buy it on cassette, which wouldn’t have been so bad except the quality of pre-recorded cassettes was dismal.  And I saw all this happening and thought, Oh no…they Can’t be serious…  But…they were.

Imagine the soda companies deciding to get rid of all their vending machines and making you buy a six pack every time you wanted a Coke or Pepsi.  Now further imagine that instead of six packs of Coca-Cola, say, they made you buy a six pack of five drinks you didn’t really like all that much, just to get the Coke you really wanted.  You think their sales would go up?  No…they’d go straight into the gutter.  And there they’d stay, because an entire generation of kids would grow up drinking something else besides soda, and when they got older and got jobs and could afford the six packs, they still wouldn’t buy them, even if the soda companies started offering them as singles again.

When I was a kid I lived on a small allowance, and then a series of minimum wage jobs.  This was back when the minimum wage was like $1.75.  Yes…I flipped burgers.  Lots of them.  I also delivered tons of those advertising fliers that you hate finding on your door knob when you get home from work.  And I bought lots of singles.  Buying the 45 rpm version of a song I really liked was a no-brainer, even if I had very little money that week.

I still have them too… 

That’s two "Disc-Go" carrying cases full of 45s, and some nice Beatles tunes there on the kitchen table that, alas, you can’t legally get online.  The one I’ve got in my hand is Revolution (that’s my camera’s electronic shutter release in the other hand).  The pre-Apple, Capital Records one is Eleanor Rigby, which I actually bought for the A side tune Yellow Submarine.   Eleanor seems to get more play these days for some reason.  Actually, my all time favorite cover of that song is the one Ray Charles did, and I can’t get a digital copy of that one either, though I was able to find a YouTube post of Ray singing it in concert and it’s very close. 

Happily, most of my favorite old 45s are out there for me on iTunes or Amazon.  It was discovering that I could get nice clean digital copies of many of my scratched up old favorites that got me into the market for digital music to start with.  Prior to that I’d just been ripping from my existing CD collection.  The night I discovered I could buy new copies of my old 45s I think I blew like about 40 bucks on iTunes.  They make it so easy.  If I could legally get digital copies of these Beatles tunes they’d all be on my iPod right now.  Supposedly that’s going to happen soon.

The record companies should be kissing Steve Jobs’ ass.  I have bought more music in the past year then I’ve bought in the previous decade and two things they’ve tried hard to kill are responsible for that: digital music downloads and Satellite Radio.  Now, via a friend, I’ve discovered the Internet Radio service Pandora and it is just amazing.  On Pandora I can specify an artist or a song I really like and the web site will serve me up a steady stream of music that is like that.  I could listen for hours.  I have several Pandora channels set up already for my favorite swing music, rock, light jazz, New Age and classical.  And if I hear something I like, there’s a ready link I can click to get it from either iTunes or Amazon.  I always check Amazon first because their downloads are all DRM free MP3s.

If the record companies don’t manage to kill Internet Radio, I’ll have another stream of music I can enjoy to listen too, and hear something new, or something old, that I might want to suddenly buy.  And as long as I can easily buy the single online for under a buck, I probably will.  Like, right then and there.  Immediately.  Do they really want to stop me from doing that?  Apparently…

 

by Bruce | Link | React! (2)

October 3rd, 2007

Schmidt Symphony 4

Not sure why, but this evening I walked the neighborhood with Franz Schmidt’s symphony #4 playing on my iPod, and ached for the missing people in my life.   And for loneliness I suppose.  Schmidt is said to have composed the piece after his daughter died suddenly.  I’ve never heard music that expresses that wounded pit inside, that shock of…not grief exactly…but loss, like the first two movements of that symphony.  It’s brutal.  Until lately the Zuban Mehta rendering of it, with the Vienna Philharmonic was my favored version, but I’ve not been able to locate a digital version.  I got a digital version today conducted by Franz Wesler-Möst, with the London Philharmonic that is just as powerful. 

This work is one of three dark symphonies in my library, but the other two are dark in a different way.  One is Shostakovich’s 8th, which is said to have been composed by Shostakovich, in part while in Stalingrad during the Nazi siege of the city.  The other is Vaughan-Williams’ 6th, composed during and immediately after WWII.  The Shostakovich piece is a brutal representation of war, that opens with a brooding creeping darkness which builds to a  harrowing climax, punctuated by moments of bellicose militarism, then fades into more brooding.  A giddy fascist goose stepping scherzo follows, and then the set piece of the entire symphony: a relentless rushing sweep of war across the land, like an insane machine crushing everything in its path.  Then the symphony fades into a bottomless sense of grief, punctuated by this little light-hearted dancing tune that almost seems like a giddy madness.  It ends in desolation.  The Vaughan-Williams piece opens with a whirlwind and then settles into a bellicose, dancing, almost jazzy contempt, like a fascist thug skipping gleefully across the landscape, and then the whirlwind returns and fades, and for a moment, for one brief moment, the music breaks like a last fading beam of beautiful sunlight into an achingly heartfelt and lovely melody, that rises majestically…and then breaks apart into a brooding brutal dread, then into another giddy bellicose whirlwind, and then into a barren pit of loss that lasts the rest of the symphony.  But the darkness in these two pieces is of a world that is collapsing around you as you watch.  The Schmidt piece is a personal, private loss of the soul.  The wound is internal, devastating, and yet the world around you goes on.

Why I got into the Schmidt piece this evening I’m not sure, other then going through several bins of old family photo albums recently (I was trying to track down a photo of my paternal great-grandmother who the family says was native American…but I am still unable to prove that conclusively…) brought back to me for a little while, all the people in my life I’ve loved, who are gone now…and perhaps too, the boy I once was, and thoughts of the life he could have had, had he lived in a different time. 

[Edited a tad…] 

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Schmidt Symphony 4

July 8th, 2007

Another Reason To Hate The Music Industrial Complex

Via Fark.Com.  As if you needed one more reason to hate the music industry.  They’re going after coffee shops who have live music

Six months after raising the curtain on their gourmet coffee shop in the beachside Indian Harbour Place shopping center, Laurie and Jim Hall decided to offer live music on Friday and Saturday nights.

The performers, normally duos, mainly covered songs written and made famous by other musicians. There was no cover charge, no pay for the musicians, no limit to how long patrons could sit on a couch with their coffee, playing chess and enjoying the music.

No problem.

Then a few months later, music industry giant ASCAP started calling and sending letters saying East Coast Coffee & Tea was in violation of copyright laws. The fee to continue the music was $400 a year.

"At the time, the shop was losing money, so we had to break it up into payments," said Laurie Hall. But the Halls paid, and the music continued.

Six months later, other music copyright companies began calling the Halls and demanding money. Most days there would be three or four phone calls from each company, Hall said. Finally, unable to afford the fees, she had to call most of her musicians — those who did not play original music — and tell them they would not be allowed to continue performing.

This aggressive — but legal — posture being taken by music licensing companies has the potential to unplug live music in many restaurants, bars and coffee shops in Brevard County.

Doesn’t this sound vaguely familiar?  First they agree to payoff the one guy…and then another guy shows up demanding money…and then another…and then another…

Andrus, the owner of Lou’s Blues, said he has had many run-ins with the copyright companies over the years.

"It started 15 years ago when I had a guy come out to our other place, Cantina dos Amigos, and play Mexican music on his guitar on the patio," Andrus said. "They came after me for money. Are they really sending royalty checks to the songwriter in Mexico?"

Andrus said he pays BMI and ASCAP about $3,000 a year but is ignoring the smaller companies that seek royalties from him.

"There are so many damned companies you don’t know who to pay," he said. "One guy called and said I had to pay him if I played any gospel music at all. It’s really a mess."

And in no way do the songs have to be performed live, or even on the radio, to elicit calls for royalties.

Andrus said a friend of his who owned a restaurant that did not feature music was contacted by a company looking to charge him because it owned the rights to a Hank Williams Jr. song, "Are You Ready for Some Football?" The song preceded every "Monday Night Football" telecast, which the restaurant carried on its televisions.

What next?  A shakedown of street performers who play for tips?  If the music companies had their way you wouldn’t be able to whistle a tune in public without paying them royalties.

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Another Reason To Hate The Music Industrial Complex

April 20th, 2007

Random Ten…

So I pick up my iPod, hit Shuffle Songs…and Today’s Happy Lucky Joy For You Numbers are…

  1. The Hustle – Van McCoy
  2. Molten Gold – Paul Kossoff
  3. Born To Run – Bruce Springsteen
  4. Star Collector – The Monkees
  5. Eastway – Inner & Outer
  6. Saint-Saens Symphony #3 (Organ), 2nd Movement
  7. New Beginning – Stephen Gately
  8. California Dreaming – The Mamas & the Pappas
  9. The Great Gig in the Sky – Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon
  10. Star Dust – Glenn Miller

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Random Ten…

April 15th, 2007

Random 10 – The Lover Speaks

So I hit "Shuffle Songs" on my iPod…  And today’s winning lottery numbers are…

  1. Uriah Is Dead – Alfred Newman, David and Bathsheba
  2. Carefully Taught – Rogers and Hammerstein, South Pacific
  3. On & On – Gil, The Album +4
  4. Sail Along Silv’ry Moon – Billy Vaughn, Instrumental Gold
  5. All Along The Watchtower – The Jimi Hendrex Experience
  6. Last Night, I Didn’t Get To Sleep – The 5th Dimension
  7. Sugar Baby Love – The Rubettes
  8. Belong (Sasha’s Involver Remix) – Spooky
  9. Luke’s Nocturnal Visitor – John Williams, The Empire Strikes Back
  10. Symphony #9, 4th Movement, Andante tranquillo – Ralph Vaughan-Williams

So who else do you know who can hit "shuffle songs" and get Jimi Hendrix playing a Bob Dylan tune right after Billy Vaughn playing something you probably heard the last time you rode an elevator, followed somewhere down the list by a track from Empire Strikes Back?  A Broadway show tune, a techno club mix, a couple of film soundtrack cues and a really really cute long haired rocker child.  And to finish, an ethereal movement from Vaughan-Williams’ most other-worldly symphony, composed when he was in his middle eighties.  Eh?  Eh?  Gay Geek!  Gay Geek!  Gay Geek!

And proud of it.  You should see my video collection. 

And while I’m on the subject of music…  I came across this post in The Stranger Blog…and it was one of those random web surfing moments that really make up for all the time you otherwise waste hopping from this link to that, because it clued me in to a really really good album I would never have otherwise heard off, were it not for the web…

I don’t think a day went by during my sophmore year of highschool (1987) that me and my friend, another big drama-queen, didn’t obsess over the self-titled album by The Lover Speaks.

DSC02857.JPG

This desperately romantic new wave gem was the brainchild of David Freeman, a casual songwriter and erotic poet of the time.

Go read the whole thing.  But beware, this album has been out of print for ages now, and it’s fetching prices of upwards of 150 bucks on the second hand CD market, depending on condition.  You will not find it on iTunes.  But if you follow the links you’ll be led to a place where you can listen to a few cuts from the album.  I’ve been grooving on Every Lover’s Sign for the past several days now.  Aghhh!  It’s such a damn shame we don’t have more from this group then this one, infuriatingly hard to find album.  So I have another reason to be pissed off at the music industry.  Given the technology available, there is no earthly reason anymore to let an album become unavailable for sale to people who want to buy it.  It’s not like they have to keep physically printing them anymore on hot vinyl, or even hot polycarbonate (that’s what they make CDs out of…I’m a geek…I know these things…).  If they don’t want people stealing music, then I have a suggestion.  Fucking sell it to us then!  K?

by Bruce | Link | Comments Off on Random 10 – The Lover Speaks

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