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Archive for April, 2010

In case you are not up on your country’s news, last week Arizona signed into law the nation’s toughest bill on illegal immigration. Its aim is to identify, prosecute and deport illegal immigrants by making the failure to carry immigration documents a crime and giving the police broad power to detain anyone suspected of being in the country illegally (read more here). As politicans and citizens weigh in on this issue, a few musicians have also engaged themselves in the debate, as well as formulating the proper means of political dissent.

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Video: Man vs. Machine

Mornin’ Playtonics,

Yesterday I shared with you all an exhibition where the human body is transformed into an instrument. Today I am interested in strangely robotic music phenomenon. Pat Metheny, the jazz guitar great, recently released Orchestrion, an album that can hardly be called a solo work. According the Metheny’s website:

“Orchestrionics” is the term that I am using to describe a method of developing ensemble-oriented music using acoustic and acoustoelectric musical instruments that are mechanically controlled in a variety of ways, using solenoids and pneumatics. With a guitar, pen or keyboard I am able to create a detailed compositional environment or a spontaneously developed improvisation, with the pieces on this particular recording leaning toward the compositional side of the spectrum. On top of these layers of acoustic sound, I add my conventional electric guitar playing as an improvised component.

In the above video Metheny shows the device used to create the music, though he goes into little depth about how it works. Regardless, it is pretty mind-blowing stuff.

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Merry Monday Playtonics!

Let’s kick off the week right and bring back the long dormant column “Is This Music?” According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, philosophy of music is the study of fundamental questions about the nature of music and our experience of it. In keeping with these questions, “Is This Music?” aims to present thought-provoking expeditions into sound and ask, “Is this music?” Playtonic Dialogues is all about sparking discourse so please make a case for why X piece is or is not music. Without further ado…

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New York possesses the rare ability to introduce and establish new music. In the country’s largest media market, the collective hype around a band can generate tremendous interest and crowds. However, with support inevitably come expectations. And, on Thursday night, as Harlem played the early show at the Mercury Lounge, the weight of expectations seemed to press heavily on the young band.
 
Harlem is a three-piece rock band comprising vocalist/guitarist/drummer Michael Coomers, vocalist/guitarist/drummer Curtis O’Mara and bassist Jose Boyer. The group originated in Tuscon, AZ though they relocated to Austin, TX in 2008. Their debut album, Free Drugs ; -), established Harlem’s budding credibility, and recently they built upon their previous work with the sophomore album, Hippies.
 
However, while Harlem’s sound is marked by a fast and loose style along with a lo-fi garage rock sound, their performance failed to meet even these inherently erratic standards. It was clear from Coomers frequent slurred and self-deprecating stage banter that Free Drugs ;- ) represents more than just an album concept for the band. As a result, the set list took on the following form: Coomers yells out a song the band should play, the band mistimes the beginning of the song, and once the song begins, it speeds up or slows down at the intoxicated whim of Coomers. Clearly this was an off day for Harlem as indicated by quotes like, “I’ve got to go to sleep or something,” “we’ll go home egos smashed,” and the often repeated admission, “I don’t fucking care.” Yet, during their abbreviated set which featured “Be Your Baby,” “Someday Soon,” and “Gay Human Bones,” from Hippies, it was precisely when they gave up careful consideration to their errors that the band sounded most together. Unfortunately, these moments were scarce, and when the crowd unexpectedly called for an encore, Coomers greatest admission of defeat came as he replied, “After that travesty of a show?” Well, after that travesty of a show, it seems Harlem should concentrate on the qualities that created their hype, rather than shamelessly attending to their publicity.

Additional pictures from the show after the jump:

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Mornin’ Playtonics,

Did you see Ke$ha on SNL over the weekend? It was a train wreck. I mean, I love hearing “Tik Tok” in da club as much as the next person, however it’s clear that the studio product doesn’t make a smooth transition when performed live. Regardless, if you marvel at the song’s lyric choices, you should watch the above video of Paul Muldoon, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and professor at Princeton University, analyzing the deeper meaning of this seminal poet.

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Afternoon Playtonics,

Welcome back to the work week aka the daily grind aka the paper chase. Today, a fitting post for a Monday slid across the Legal Affairs Desk and onto the general news stack. Over at TechDirt, I read a thought provoking article titled “What If More Money Makes People Less Inclined To Create?Essentially, the article questions the principle behind copyright laws, “that by making sure there is enough financial remuneration, people will be more interested in creating more great content.” Rather, “What the research shows, instead, is that the great wellspring of creativity is intrinsic motivation–that is, I do my best work for personal rewards (out of love or intellectual fulfillment) and not external motivation (money).” I guess mo’ money doesn’t necessarily lead to mo’ good music.

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Last weekend, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth gave a “Dissertation on White Noise” for kids between ages 8 and 12 at Partners & Spade’s so-called Avant Garde Preschool. The video above shows some of cacophony created during the “lecture.”

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