Saturday, September 29, 2007

Don't take my word for it

A review of our Midpoint show.

Don't know how long the link will be active, so here's the text:

Industrial Jazz Group -- This thirteen-piece band from Los Angeles, CA, was the highlight of MPMF Day One. Before their set, members of the band drove up Cincinnati's Main Street in a minivan playing songs. Once I walked into the tent were they were performing I was instantly drawn in to the band's entertaining atmosphere. The Industrial Jazz Group consisted of a drummer, a bass player, nine horn players (3 trumpets, 2 soprano saxophones, 1 alto saxophone, 1 tenor saxophone, 1 baritone saxophone, and 1 trombone), a female singer, and a keyboardists who doubled as conductor. The energy level of the band will remain unmatched. The singer spent much of her time dancing through and with the audience. The horn section wore unique headgear - which included a Skeletor mask, a crab hat, a fish hat, and a hot dog hat - and had some choreographed swaying and directional moves. The charts they played were dynamic and fluid. If they toured the country playing for high school students, every student would want to join the school's jazz band. They could save the entire country's educational music program and revive the art of jazz performance. This band exemplifies what a jazz ensemble should be!

Thanks, TWSIS!

More to come...

* * * * *

[UPDATE: Now that Midpoint is over (it ended yesterday), the same good people at The Wheel's Still in Spin have gone so far as to label us the "best band" at this year's festival. That's some kind of coup, I think. Yeowza!]

Friday, September 28, 2007

All the way, baby

Josh Sinton tipped me off to the above phrase when he noticed it on a Waffle House menu a few hours ago (i.e., at some slightly less insane hour of the morning). It seemed apt for some reason.

I'm still in brevity mode, but I'm also stuck in an airport without much to do for a few hours. So I might as well check in with some kinda prattle on the Ohio tour, right?

The hazy, happy synopsis: the show in Columbus was cool, but only moderately so. The show at Midpoint, on the other hand, was fun as all get-out. In fact, I am relieved to report that Midpoint managed to redeem what I had feared was turning into an otherwise mediocre trip. Somehow, despite the lack of sleep, the cramped traveling conditions, the fact that we made very little bread, the general surreality of Ohio, the high percentage of subs, and the presence of new / untested tunes in the set, the group managed to call up a downright ecstatic energy once we took the stage at Jardin. And the audience responded in kind. (We were actually performing in a tent, which was kind of fitting, because the whole vibe turned sort of tent-meeting-ish. But without the religious component.)

I'm fucking relieved. And I'm fucking lucky (don't think I don't know it).

I'll have more to say / post after I can sleep for a day or two.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Road pix

Here's us in Columbus last night...

The details will have to come later. Midpoint awaits.

(Okay, here's one detail. If you look carefully in pic no. 2, you will see that Skeletor has joined the band.)

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Still pondering the thread over here, I came across this. Doesn't sound to me like they're making fun, despite all the cues to the contrary ("flak-toom, flak-toom, bsssh"? A Foundations quote?!).

Somehow The Bobs (for my money, one of the best acapella groups in history) manage to serve up the whole enchilada of musical expression: love, comedy, drama, social commentary, musical sophistication, etc. They do bitchen covers like this, but they also write and perform their own stuff (which is usually fantastic). And critics and fans seem to love them for it.

Why can't a (probably much better-known) jazz group can't get the same kind of break?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Myself am hell

This came to me through an IJG google alert last week. I don't know what it was that made me actually look at it, but when I did I found it described what for me would be a miserable existence:

I never really became very steeped in music. I grew up on the classic rock my parents listened to, but never had an extensive CD collection nor did I listen to much more than the radio in my car and at work. A few years ago, I became disenchanted with what I was listening to, so I basically started surrounding myself with Christian rock and, tiring of that, eventually silence. I don't refuse to listen to music; usually I just don't even think to put any music on.

What weirds me out more than the de-music-ification itself is that, because of it, the dude becomes more convinced of his right to judge music:

It was only in the last year or so that I have come across these articles and speeches suggesting the spiritual dimension of music. I think the lack of music surrounding me made it easier for me to be objective when critically looking at the music I used to listen to.

Of course you know where this is going. That's right, we're back in Jesus-land (and thus a very narrow definition of "spiritual"). Do a little cursory scrolling and you will soon learn that the "ROOT OF MORAL DECAY TRACED TO HIDDEN EFFECTS OF ROCK AND HEAVY-METAL MUSIC."

Geez Louise: I thought that nonsense died in the eighties.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The problem with cats... that they typically aren't too fond of dogs. Even if you happen to all share the same house.

In my experience, I've found that cats especially don't like any overly-playful, outsized variety of dog.

When one comes into view, panicked tree-climbing often ensues.

Don't worry, he made it back down just fine, but only after five hours (or so) had elapsed.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jazz: The Music of Un-enjoyment

The improvising-guitarist-who-will-not-be-named had a post last week detailing some of the most horrific gigs he/she/it had ever experienced. Call it coincidence, but fellow blogger Peter Breslin had a similar post that went up at about the same time.

They are both fantastic, funny, agonizing, and all-too-familiar reads. Highly recommended.

I for one hope the jazz blogosphere picks up on this meme in the same way that it picked up on the Bad Plus questionnaire last year. Whether or not that happens, here's a brief list of my own favorite shit gigs (I'm sure if I thought about it I could dig up more). I'm going to skip over the question of my own playing, which I think is always pretty second-rate anyway, and focus mostly on logistical and conceptual problems. And just plain bad luck.

Names have not been changed, because none of the people involved were innocent.

1. Bar band hell.

For a very brief time in the late eighties, I played keyboards in this band. Do I really have to say more? God love 'em, they did what they did really well -- but what they did was not my cup of tea, and I'm not exactly sure how I got roped into playing with them. Every gig sucked, but during one show in particular I actually had the nerve (and the lack of professionalism) to get so pissed that (for the first and hopefully last time in my career) I walked off the stage in the middle of a song -- the band was veering that far from anything that I could recognize as musical interest or integrity.

2. How does this thing work again?

During the first incarnation of the band that would eventually become The Evelyn Situation (circa the early nineties), I started dividing my onstage time between piano and acoustic guitar. Though I had always been a capable amateur guitarist -- with an emphasis on the "amateur" -- by the time I did my first guitar-heavy gig, I still didn't even realize that the strings can sometimes break. (What do you want? I was a pianist, and as such was used to my instrument remaining more or less intact for the duration of a performance.) Imagine my astonishment when, during the course of some maudlin tune or other, a string simply snapped. Duh. I had never changed my strings before. I literally sat there staring at the instrument for a while, more or less at a loss as to what to do next.

3. You want me to wear what?

After I got my jazz mojo together in the late nineties, I joined a "trad jazz" outfit with the unfortunate moniker of Casey Jones and the Engineers. We dressed like, uh, engineers (red bandanas, overalls -- do I have to paint you a freakin' picture?!). Our drummer (who was also the band's manager, and who was also the leader's boyfriend -- so many bad ideas coming together in one place) had a sense of time that could only be described as, uh, recalcitrant.(Wait -- you want the beat to be where? Fuck you! I'm gonna put it over here.) Once the novelty of getting to play "jazz" publicly with a group wore off, every gig pretty much sucked (aesthetically, interpersonally, fiscally...).

4. Unnecessary roughness.

There have only been two times when I have consciously been in the immediate proximity of a firearm because of a gig (both were IJG gigs -- one occurred in Rochester, and one in San Francisco).

Still, neither of those incidents was a violent as a show I did with my favorite of the groups-I-have-played-with-that-were-not-my-own: The Nourishment. The time: near-Halloween, 2000. The place: the California Institute for Abnormalarts (aka CIA). The scene: lead singer Jason Polland was in his cross-dressing phase, and apparently this bothered an inebriated audience member so much that fisticuffs ensued. During the middle of a song. I can't remember for sure, but I think broken bottles were involved. I know poor Jason ended up on his back at one point.

Jason Polland channeling his inner punk rock girl.

Everything happened so fast that none of us on the stage were sure that this wasn't part of the act (things were always a little edgy with this group). And since Jason quickly went back to singing, we finished the set anyway.

It was only afterward that we learned that the confrontation was genuine. Thankfully no one got hurt.

Yes, that's me next to the violin-playing gorilla. I can't explain the bull's eye on his crotch -- something in the camera, I guess.

5. The gig that never was.

Funny that the "worst gig" was one that actually never had a chance to occur. During the IJG's first tour of the east coast (June 2005), we were scheduled to perform at CBGB -- this was the actually the first of the east coast gigs I had booked for what turned out to be a five day tour.

CBGB cancelled less than a week before we were scheduled to play. The email from the booking agent, “dee pop” (if that really was his / her name), had the subject heading “please read - cbgb's gig cancelled,” and went exactly like this:

I'm truly sorry to have to tell you this but the show next wednesday has been cancelled. this is sudden to me and there is nothing i can to do to change it. i am truly sorry for the inconvienence this may cause you guys. dee pop

My first response was even briefer than that:

Hey Dee:
Huh? Why?

Then I thought some more and sent off another email:

Do you have any recommendations for a venue nearby that we might be able to play at on such short notice?

Then the ire started to kick in. Email number three from me:

Also, is the club prepared to do something to compensate all of the people who might unwittingly trek across town (or in from NJ) to see us? This show has been fairly heavily promoted, and there's no way I’m going to be able to get the word out about the cancellation at this late date.

I'm not trying to be a jerk or anything, I know this is not your fault, but the situation is completely ridiculous.

Dee didn’t really respond to any of these questions when he / she wrote back:

club decision and truly out of my hands.

My reply to this cold comfort:

But it doesn't make sense. Again, I know the situation is out of your hands, so I'm not blaming you, but you’re my only contact with the venue. There’s got to be some reason. Is the club closing? Are they hosting a private party in that room? Are they afraid the show wouldn’t cover their expenses?

I probably wouldn’t be as pissed if we weren’t coming in from out of town (pretty fucking far out of town) and I hadn't put so much time into promoting the show. And I'm really concerned about potential fans who are going to take this out on us, assuming it is somehow our fault.

I sent that off, and then, just because I couldn’t shut up, I added:

At the very least, how about if I send you some flyers that the club can give to anyone who shows up to see us? The flyers could offer a discount on our Bloomfield, NJ show two days later.

I would appreciate it.

This whole exchange took place on Thursday, the 9th of June. Dee did take me up on my flyers offer, and attempted to find us an alternate venue (or so he / she claimed), but in the end I never heard more from him / her.

Needless to say I hardly got any sleep that evening. A good amount of promotional energy had gone into getting the word out about the CBGB show, and to have that simply evaporate because of the arbitrary decision of some asshole without a name (note that no one actually claimed responsibility for the cancellation, and no reason was ever given) was irritating, to say the least.

As it turned out the day was saved by Beth, who hooked us up with the guys in (the amazing) Jerseyband, who were in turn kind enough to allow us to join them on their bill at the (now-defunct) C-Note the same evening we would've played CB's. So all was not lost. But for about 48 hours there I was in hell.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A most peculiar paradox

Busy week.

At the top of my radar, of course, have been the various tasks that go along with readying the group for our last trip of 07: a two-day excursion to Ohio (specifically, Columbus and Cincinnati) that comes up at the end of September. Might as well reveal the personnel up front (note that we are picking up more and more NY players, and as such are becoming more and more of a truly "bi-coastal" group -- cool). The trumpets and the rhythm section will be exactly as they were for the Netherlands: Phil Rodriguez, Andre Canniere, Dan Rosenboom, Dan Schnelle, Oliver Newell, Jill Knapp, and yours truly. Other veterans (of the Netherlands tour and other recent trips) will be scattered throughout the group in key positions: Evan Francis on alto, Gavin Templeton on soprano sax, Josh Sinton on bari, Dan Pratt on tenor, and James Hirschfeld on bone. We'll also be picking up a few brand new people: Josh Rutner (an associate of Hirschfeld's, so he must be good) on soprano sax, and Brian Casey on bone (Brian is a composer, and one of the leaders of Honk, Wail, & Moan, the big band we'll be sharing a bill with in Columbus -- more about that in a moment). With any luck, we'll also have another Ohio sub (TBA) on the second tenor book.

Of course we'll be missing some of the old fogeys -- Zick, Tiner, Schenck, Wright, Walsh, etc. -- but that's the nature of this particular beast. I'm pretty confident that each new incarnation of the group has something special to offer -- for whatever reason, we've had good luck lately finding the "right people" for the job.

I'm not sure what to expect from this trip, however. The "pivot gig" is the Midpoint Music Festival in Cincinnati (September 27), which is pretty much a wild card at this point. I mean, I have a sense that it's a relatively large event, but I don't know how it stacks up next to some of the other, better-known indie music festivals (like SXSW or CMJ). One interesting factoid is that Midpoint has something of a "purist" vibe -- they generally eschew nationally-known, "signed" acts (boy, I would have loved to see some of those rejection letters). On the one hand, that's exciting. On the other (let's face it), that could really suck.

But we're going anyway. Chalk it up to my ongoing effort to straddle the chasm between two audiences. To review: on one side, we have the music wonks (also sometimes known as "jazz fans"), who have the finely-tuned ears, the historical knowledge, and the listening breadth to actually be able to make whatever "sense" can be made out of our music. On the other are the "just plain folks" (also sometimes known as the "popular music fans"), who I continually hope might listen to us for the same reasons they would listen to any of the other stuff with which they fill their iPods -- for entertainment, for some sort of emotional connection, for sonic wallpaper at a party, for the things about music that defy linguistic parsing (which, alas, might turn out to be pretty much everything).

In my more idealistic moments, I even hope to encourage these two groups (which I have vastly oversimplified in the preceding descriptions, by the way) to try out each others' listening habits. Just for fun, I guess.

Anyway, Midpoint will be the first time the current version of the group -- you know, the version that emerged once we "found our voice" or whatever -- will do its thing in the context of a large, essentially indie rock event. (Note that I am using the term "indie rock" in the broadest possible sense here. Also note that, as I have mentioned before, we did play SXSW back in 2002, but that seems like centuries ago now, because not only did we have an entirely different rhythm section, but we were a much smaller, much more obviously "jazz-like" band. The current group is a whole different animal. Or vegetable. Or whatever.)

A quick glance at the Midpoint lineup suggests that we are going to be very much in the minority in terms of our stylistic affiliations. Out of (approximately) 230 or so acts, we are among 3 that have been classified as "jazz." Not that we're really jazz, of course... well, I dunno, maybe we are. Anyway, that's some statistic, eh? A little more than 1% of the festival lineup. And, because I have no control over how these things are scheduled, it turns out that all three of the Midpoint "jazz acts" are booked into the same club on the same evening. Thank heavens (perhaps) that the "headliner" at the club that night is a jam band with a seemingly big following -- otherwise who knows if we'd even get a turnout.

The bottom line is that while Midpoint is a great opportunity and I'm glad we're doing it, things could either go really badly (if all the indie rock kids live up to the negative stereotype by refusing to even visit the jazz ghetto) or really well (if we draw attention and interest precisely because we are so very unlike everyone else on the schedule). So there is perhaps a little bit more of a gamble here than even I'm used to.

Ah well. Of course I've been doing the promo thing via the usual media channels (it's the same shit in every city). But I'm thinking that since the words "music festival" in this case are basically code for "indie rock festival," we'll have to do some serious guerilla marketing that afternoon when we hit town. Maybe we can walk through the city "in character" or something. Or perform a stripped-down version of our set on a local street corner. Or dispense hookers and blow.

(Uh, did I really just write that?).

* * * * *

Incidentally, our "warmup gig" (September 26) seems more and more promising -- a triple bill in Columbus with the aforementioned Honk, Wail & Moan and a southern-fried blues-inflected small-tet called The Free Beer 'n' Chicken Coalition (not to be confused with Tiner's former-group-with-a-similarly-hilarious-name, Big Red Peaches Coalition). And speaking of Tiner, the experience of putting this particular trip together sort of reminded me of a point he has been very good at making (with respect to underrated Bakersfield): the idea that lesser-known, under-the-radar towns can have solid scenes too, cuz (gasp) not all the good music in the world is happening in New York or LA. (A similar theme informs this piece on the music scene in Cincy.)

Big thanks to bassist Steve Perakis and keyboardist Linda Dachtyl (both members of HWM, and very busy players on the Columbus scene) for their enthusiasm and help in setting up the Columbus show.

* * * * *

Among the "various tasks" referred to above: I finally finished four new IJG tunes, which with any luck will provide the foundation for a whole new show that I hope to develop over the next year. These will be the first compositions I've introduced to the group in a while, actually -- the last batch ("Howl," "PDX LIX LAX," "Big Ass Truck," and a tune we have since dropped b/c it required an operatic soprano ("You're in Love with My Mother")) initially appeared during our west coast tour of August 2006.

Not that I have been willfully avoiding the question of new material. It's just that, with this band, changes to the show require logistical as well as aesthetic inspiration. In other words, while we benefit from a certain off-the-cuff approach, and while we make extensive use of improvisation (as a means to an end, anyway), at the core we are still a chart-based big band. So before I can introduce new tunes, I have to consider whether it is even practically possible to do so (in terms of necessary prep time, overall difficulty, etc.). Also important is the question of whether upcoming gigs will be occurring in new locations or contexts, and thus likely to draw new audiences, for whom material that we consider "old" is actually completely fresh. (It can sometimes feel unfair to retire a given tune before it has had enough of an "airing.")

On the other hand, if improvisation really is "composition without the benefit of an eraser," then composition is probably improvisation without the benefit of an audience. Which may be why I chomp at the bit to get my stuff out into the world, and why a year is an eternity for me in terms of this issue. In a way, the pieces don't really exist until they have come to life (or death) on a stage.

I dunno, maybe I write too much music. If so, it is not, I assure you, because I have an inflated sense of my own compositional worth. It's more a feeling of urgency that accompanies my daily existence, like somehow if I don't get some writing done before I turn in for the night, it's like I forgot to brush my teeth or something. (I know from years spent in the trenches teaching freshman comp that the problem of writer's block is where you place your anxiety. The writers who get blocked tend to worry about the value of a piece before it even exists. In my case, I try to save that anxiety until afterward, when it doesn't really matter anymore. So I don't get blocked much.)

Honestly, I seem to work best from a contradictory mindset. On the one hand, I have to believe that composition (at least the way I do it) is important enough to be worth a ridiculous amount of my time and energy. But I also have to tell myself that it's a completely frivolous (or at most purely entertaining) enterprise. Otherwise I would be focusing on something other than how the music actually feels and sounds (the notion of "importance," after all, derives from a social context -- and while social context is of course relevant, I wonder if that's where music-as-a-phenomenon really lives, at a deep level). Psyching myself into a sense of happy worthlessness also has the added benefit of encouraging me to take artistic risks, enabling me to casually shrug when something doesn't work, and (when that's the case) giving me the lack of sense to immediately move on to another compositional project with the same gusto.

Basically, I try to treat the whole business as if it is simultaneously the most and the least important thing I could be doing. (Which is not to say that it is actually either.)

We'll see how it goes this time around.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Bloodsucking fiends

I couldn't stand the Buffy the Vampire Slayer series when it was on the air. I have a high tolerance for snark, yet Buffy's superabundance of too-cool-for-school dialogue wore thin for me awfully quick. Or mayhap the problem was in the production values. I tend to like my horror and sci-fi old-school, all George Pal and shit.

My wife, of course, remains a big fan, and I'm sure this is yet another area in which she will ultimately be revealed to have much better taste than me.

Until then, I will at least validate her current interest in the comic series spawned by the success of the TV show. It's actually kinda good.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

While supplies last

Bulk fossils, baby.

Uninterested in bones? How about books? (By the foot, that is.)

Too easy

Avenue Q? I dunno, I dunno.

Sure, I'll admit, I'm curious.

I think the concept caught my attention. But browsing through the YouTube stacks has so far yielded very little of value.

Maybe it's the music -- like the lesser songs of Tom Lehrer, some seemingly funny set-ups and lyrics are drained of their oomph by warmed-over Broadway-with-a-vengeance melodies.

Or maybe it's a feeling of under-development. Like too many Saturday Night Live sketches, the thing never seems to get beyond its premise. (So the premise is all you really need to know, and the actual performance becomes kind of irrelevant.)

Is anyone ever going to write an interesting musical again? Should they?

Monday, September 10, 2007

An old influence...

...that still rings true in many ways.

(After all, I too am "from deepest New Jersey.")

Alas, I tend to err on the dorky side of things. Even when it comes to pop.

One at a time (part 2)

An Oregon woman is suing the RIAA:

A disabled single mother from Beaverton has filed a federal lawsuit against the Recording Industry Association of America, claiming that she is the victim of abusive legal tactics, threats and illegal spying as part of an overzealous campaign to crack down on music pirating.

The recording industry sued Tanya J. Andersen, 44, in 2005, accusing her of violating copyright laws by illegally downloading music onto her computer. Andersen claims in a suit she filed last week in U.S. District Court in Oregon that the recording industry refused to drop its case after its own expert supported her claims of innocence.

This is exactly the sort of case that those in the "copyright consensus" -- the portfolio of corporate interests who since the advent of the "digital age" have been busily pushing for more and more egregious copyright laws -- assume they will never have to face.

And with good reason. What kind of personal threshold must one have crossed (or have been pushed over) in order to be willing to take on one of these behemoths? One only has to notice that when things flow in the other direction -- e.g., when an individual or a small company (such as an indie label, or a community orchestra) is sued by a multinational corporation like Disney -- it almost doesn’t matter whether the “little guy” has a good legal case. In fact, it almost doesn’t matter what the law actually says. The only “known” in such a situation is the guarantee of exorbitant legal fees. The actual outcome is up for grabs, thanks to an erratic judiciary and the new, untested quality of the laws (some of which, it should be noted, are fairly ambiguously worded).

The worst case scenario involves financial ruin (legal fees plus tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines) and the possibility of jail time. No wonder nobody wants to be the guinea pig.

Until now, anyway. What can I say? The lady has a lot of guts, and I wish her the best.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Early Jay Ward

I stumbled on this by working backwards from a set of Rocky and Bullwinkle cartoons, which I recently picked up in DVD form.

As a kid, I never liked the goofy moose (if you must know). As an adult I'm finding him completely hilarious, and kind of fascinating. (My wife, in her wisdom, has always been a fan. Thandie seems to be following suit.)

The things you discover when you have a kid. It's incredible, really.

One at a time

Yes! Score one for the public domain.

For a sense of what is at stake here, I quote from the opinion:

Each plaintiff in this case relies on artistic works in the public domain for his or her livelihood. Lawrence Golan, for example, performs and teaches works by foreign composers including Dmitri Shostakovich and Igor Stravinsky. Before the CTEA [Sonny Bono's law extending the term of copyright, sometimes also referred to as the "Mickey Mouse Protection Act"], plaintiffs anticipated that certain works would soon outlive copyright protection and enter the public domain. The CTEA delayed this moment by 20 years. Prior to the URAA [the Uraguay Round Agreements Act, another egregious update to copyright law -- which in this case was being used to pull works out of the public domain], each plaintiff utilized or performed works by foreign artists in the public domain, such as Sergei Prokofiev’s renowned “Peter and the Wolf.” Since the passage of the URAA, plaintiffs must pay higher performance fees and sheet music rentals as well as other royalties. In many cases, these costs are prohibitive.

The primary gain here (at least for those who are interested in copyright sanity) was to set up a potential challenge to the URAA. As far as I can tell the CTEA comes out pretty much unscathed, but the URAA must now pass First Amendment scrutiny upon review.

I know there are bigger political issues out there, of course -- I doubt any of the presidential candidates are going to be making stump speeches about copyright any time soon. But I happen to think it's a big fucking deal that there are people trying to stop media conglomerates from executing what James Boyle calls a "second enclosure movement" -- an enclosure, that is, of the "intangible commons of the mind."

Other reasons you should give a shit:

The love of our little Johann Sebastian for music was uncommonly great even at this tender age. In a short time he had fully mastered all the pieces his brother [Joseph Cristoph] had voluntarily given him to learn. But his brother possessed a book of clavier pieces by the most famous masters of the day—Froberger, Kerl, Pachelbel—and this, despite all his pleading and for who knows what reason, was denied him. His zeal to improve himself thereupon gave him the idea of practicing the following innocent deceit. This book was kept in a cabinet whose doors consisted only of grillwork. Now, with his little hands he could reach through the grillwork and roll the book up (for it had only a paper cover); accordingly, he would fetch the book out at night, when everyone had gone to bed and, since he was not even possessed of a light, copy it by moonlight. In six months’ time he had these musical spoils in his own hands. Secretly and with extraordinary eagerness he was trying to put it to use, when his brother, to his great dismay, found out about it, and without mercy took away from him the copy he had made with such pains. We may gain a good idea of our little Sebastian’s sorrow over this loss by imagining a miser whose ship, sailing for Peru, has foundered with its cargo of a hundred thousand thaler. He did not recover the book until after the death of his brother.

As you may have surmised, the subject of that anecdote is one JS Bach (from an obituary, as quoted in Christoph Wolff's bio). Sounds to me like he was engaging in a primitive version of what we would now call P2P. (And Joseph Christoph sounds an awful lot like the RIAA.) Heavens to Mergatroy!

And how 'bout this recollection by Mr. Zappa (the media is different, but the gist is the same):

By the time I was really into high school [… m]y real social life revolved around records and the band I played with. There wasn’t much work for us then. We’d get a job maybe, every two months at a teen hop, but most of the time, I was back in my room listening to records. It was the records, not TV, which I didn’t watch, that brainwashed me. I’d listen to them over and over again. The ones I couldn’t buy, I’d steal, and the ones I couldn’t steal I’d borrow, but I’d get them somehow. I had about six hundred records—45s—at one time, and I swear I knew the title, group and label of every one. We all used to quiz each other.

That's right, folks. Frank Zappa was a filesharer! (Cue the Dragnet theme.)

Of course we artists have to make a living. But if you fence in the commons of the mind, where are tomorrow's artists (or at least the ones who, say, can't afford a CD habit at $15 a pop) going to go to find out what has come before them?

Well, YouTube, of course!

(That bitchen photo of Lessig c/o Ian White, by the way.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007


In the course of my recent Carla Bley obsession, I came across this old interview in New Music Box. Worth checking out in its entirety, but here are some highlights:

I don't consider myself a jazz musician at all. I'm not spontaneous. I take a lot of time thinking about everything and when I finally get an idea during a solo, the piece is over. So, I'm really slow. I'm not a jazz musician; I wish I were. I'm just writing for them [...]

FRANK J. OTERI: You took the earliest Glenn Branca and Sonic Youth records.

CARLA BLEY: Yup, and Philip Glass. We were his first distributor. We did Laurie Anderson, Gil Scott Heron. Whenever someone had a hit we'd just fire ‘em. We'd say you don't need us anymore. Come on, give the other guys a break.

FRANK J. OTERI: It's kind of like Moe Asch's philosophy of Folkways. Once he had a hit record he'd say, some other label take it off of me please, I'm not interested!

I used to go around to Teo Macero at Columbia, or Nesuhi Ertegun at Atlantic, or Frances Wolf at Blue Note -- I had my presentation together and my tapes together. And they said, look, there's no market for this, we can't do it, very sorry. Finally we had to start it ourselves. We started the Jazz Composers Orchestra and Escalator Over the Hill. We fundraised ourselves: made every penny, put ourselves deep into hock, and made rich people give us money. That's how we did it. After that point I got interested in that and I didn't want to leave the outcome of my life up to anyone else. I though I'd rather be my own director.

The process has been, until this last album, to do a tour and record sometime during the tour. Two thirds of the way through is usually best because it would cost a fortune to go into a New York studio and hire guys—like I just did. So I always did these things either live, or at a studio when we had just a couple days off. There was not much that I could control with planning that. I had the band together so I didn't have to worry about someone not being able to make it, or having to go home early or something. I had those guys. They were in my band. They were in my bus and in my hotel. I got to do whatever I wanted with them for the duration of the tour, so that how I made all my albums.

I listen to NPR a lot. When there is a music show I have to go do something else for a half an hour. I'm really not crazy about listening to music because my head had music in it already. I might listen to a talk show or something, but I don't know if I would want to listen to music on the radio. So I don't blame them for not playing [my stuff].

And, on the subject of her website:

Yeah, we tried to make it hard for everybody because we were so tired of the sales game. Why sell something all the time? Why not give people something they can't have and refuse to sell it to them. Maybe we backed off of that a bit now with all that music for sale in the library. Otherwise, all the lead sheets can be downloaded for free. We didn't want to make money off of it. Strange.

And finally, on composition:

But, if you're stuck and take a long, hot bath, then it just might come to you. And then there's that thing when you're in bed and all of a sudden you can't sleep and you're going over and over that certain thing and you think, "Ah, that might work." The next day it usually doesn't, but in the garden you can keep singing something over and over again and maybe you'll come up with something. The bathtub is good for not only music; the bathtub is good for all sorts of life situations. Like, what should I put on the cover? Or, when should I visit the lawyer? The bathtub is good for everything. I'm a firm believer in not thinking too hard.

Why can't we all get along

I think I first discovered JKSS back in the old days -- nice to see he's still at it (and thriving, in fact).


Now that's enthusiasm.


[Via Kill Ugly Radio, who also brings us news of (what may be) the world's first anti-social networking site.]