Open Mic Night at Barnstable

I teach at a private school, Barnstable Academy, that has many talented students and on Feb 9, 2016 we had an Open Mic Night - the genius brain-child of Izzy Berman - '17. Those in attendance got a chance to catch another look at how great they really are. Below are links to some of their performances.

Alex
Alexis
Cole and Izzy
Corina - Piano
Corina - Vocals
Dani & Co.
Gabby
Jade
Jamie
Lauren
Mrs. Bennett
Mr. Houghton
Nick & Izzy
Parker, Val, Nico & Remy
Peter

 

Write It Down!

Most of the material that I've created using my DAW of choice (Reason) has been 'composed' by ear. I either play or program the parts using my various input devices (keyboards, guitars, microphones, etc...) All of these parts are assembled one by one, layering and intertwining each one into what is hopefully an aesthetically pleasing whole. Basically, I have been composing and performing at the same time. 

Recently, I've taken on the notion of composing on the written page prior to letting loose on my equipment. I've designed score paper with 12 staves in MSPublisher and each time I start a project I print out 5 or so sheets and use just my ear (as much as possible) to come up with the parts. 

I find that this way of doing things does take more time but there are benefits, here's some of them:

  1. The 'zen' of composing by ear puts me in a state where I come up with ideas that I wouldn't have otherwise.
  2. I find that the flow of the music I come up with is more 'agile' - that sections can change from one to another more adroitly.
  3. By analyzing the relationship of the parts, I can come up with more intriguing interplay between them.
  4. I come up with a more polished product quicker, that doesn't require as much editing in-session.

I still think there's a place for spontaneous generation of parts - there are ideas that can only come from that way of doing things, but revisiting the process of using standard notation for all of the parts is an arrow that I will keep in my quiver for the foreseeable future.

Here's a couple examples of some tunes that I wrote by writing them out.

Stop Trying To Be Original!

One of my goals is to append my income with the writing of commercial music that would be purchased for use in other folks projects. Currently I use Pond5 and AudioJungle.net as a venue for exposure. So far I've made some money, but not as much as I'd like.

Steal.jpg

When I've been writing this music, I've pretty much just made what came out of my shallow subconscious, fine tuned it and uploaded it. I gave no note to what the current trends were.

Now I'm changing my 'tune' and I've given a shot at copping various aspects of the tunes that are selling well. Hell, the Beatles did it, why can't I? As Picasso said, "Good artists borrow, great artists steal." I'm not sure what I'll be doing, borrowing or stealing, but I will give other's work more credence than I have before.

Hello, FaceBook!

For the last three years or so, I've been off Facebook. I thought is was getting a bit weird with some folks friending me that I thought I hadn't approved.

Well, that's all in the past (I hope) and I jumped back into the fray so that I could play Trivia Crack with my kids.

Since then, I've started posting when I've added to this and my sister site: SingleParentChef.com.

We'll see how it goes. I'm hoping it won't be as weird as it was three years back. It appears as if FB, has improved their privacy controls, etc. And it was good connecting with some friends from way back. Soooo, I'll keep y'all posted on how it goes.

Cheers and Happy New Year!

Well, Well, Well...

In my last post, I had said that it was imperative that I work on music at least 30 minutes a day. Well, as soon as I said that, I let the Imperial Entanglements take over, accompanied with a sense of hopelessness. So, instead of working at least 30 minutes a day, I didn't work on music at all for many days at a time.

This anti-productive behavior is very peculiar and it is not the first time that this has happened in my life. In fact, I'd say that it happens a great deal. You may have found yourself in a similar situation with diets or New Years resolutions.

What can be done to counter this behavior? If I was a drill sergeant, I'd simply say: "Stop staring at your navel, recruit, and get your ass in the trenches!!!". If I was a psychotherapist I'd say "What was it for you that you chose to not abide your commitments?" and if it was my father, he'd say: "This above all, to thine one self be true."

All of these help, I guess, but what occurs to me is that I was more in love with the idea of being upset than actually accomplishing something. The little twang of angst that hits the pit of my stomach can be very exciting at times and gives an energetic pay-off to which I've become somewhat addicted.

How do I turn this around?

  1. Acknowledge that this is what I'm doing. (psychotherapist)
  2. Recommit to my true desire to be a successful musician. (father)
  3. And get to work! (drill sergeant)

Ok, now that I've just done that in my blog, I've also done it in real life, hence, I'm going to work on music.

Later!

Imperial Entanglements

As you may have figured out from my previous postings, I don't make enough money with my music to support myself. Actually, I don't make enough money to afford a friggin' Red Bull for that matter!

I make my bread and butter as a High School teacher. I find it hard to believe, but I've been doing that for almost 23 years. The positive aspects of teaching are many:

1) if you like teaching, which I do, interacting with the students keeps you young. 
2) You get two months off in the middle of Summer - this is the time when I get most of my songs finished.
3) Having teachers as your day-to-day colleagues is always fun and inspirational. Teachers are a special breed of person and having them 'in the trenches' with you is a constant shot in the arm.

Now, with regard to getting my music life productive, here's were teaching can be a hassle:

1) It's not just a 9 to 5 job. After school, there's so much work to be done that I find myself having to cancel my planned music sessions at least 2-3 days a week. Not only are there papers to grade, plans to make (every class is like a mini-television show, that needs preparation and daily tweaking.) But I am also the IT director of the school and have large projects from time to time that eat into my musical life.

Why Yooooooooou!!!

These issues, and more, are what I call "Imperial Entanglements" that inhibit my quest for musical expression. And here's what I've noticed - If I don't get to the studio for days at a time I get grumpy. It will sneak up on me, I'll think that I just had a bad day or someone cut me off in traffic, but as the time away from my muse gets longer and longer, even a squirrel farting across the street will set me off.

This tells me two things:

1) in order to be truly happy, I need to work on music daily.
2) in order for the people around me to not suffer my grump-fests, I need to work on music daily.

So, that's what I've been trying my best to do - work on music even for a mere 30 minutes every day. And the weekends are when I cook large, note-laden stews which will help sustain me during my snacking on the weekdays. (see my blog on cooking  singleparentchef.com.)

Okay, now go pursue you're passion kids and let those squirrels fart as much as they want!

I'm Afraid, Mommy!

As an 'owner of instruments' for several decades now, I have realized that although I love to write music and record it, I am somewhat loath to monetize it. In other words, I'm not inclined to put myself out there in a way that would get me involved in the music industry.

In fact, this web site is an attempt to circumnavigate the whole 'sell your soul' aspect of what I perceive the music industry to be. As you might be able to tell, it's not doing me much good at this point. I am happy with the responses I've received from those that like my music, but the numbers are low. And if my goal is to drum up momentum and notoriety, my traffic is paltry and ineffectual.

So what does this boil down to? I believe, if I'm to be totally honest with myself, it is that I'm afraid. Yes, mother, I am afraid. What am I afraid of? Let's go down the list:

  1. I'm afraid of people telling me that my music sucks
  2. I'm afraid of not knowing what to do if I do get some positive traction
  3. I'm afraid of not being able to 'deliver the goods' once, and if, there's a desire on the part of others to hear more of my music. And lastly,
  4. I'm afraid of success

That last item is probably the biggest one. If I were to succeed, even on a small level, I'm afraid of what that might open up for me. You see, it's very comfortable to sit in my room, recording one tune after the other. I happily vacillate between thinking that I am the baby boomer's answer to new music and that I am an old fart that has no future. All of this is just chasing my tail - wearing a deeper rut in my studio floor as time passes away. Never the less, this is what I'm comfortable with and hence, am inclined to stay here.

There is, though, a very strong impulse to get past this and it is that impulse that I declare to be the guiding force in my future endeavors with music.

So, it is with a commitment to future success that I declare myself 'off the pot' as it were and actively seeking better and more effective means for getting the word out about my music. 

In other words, I'm going to make money with my music, dammit!

I'll keep you posted as to how this goes and what I've done that does and doesn't work. Not only as a way of keeping myself accountable,but also as a guide for others on this trail.

For now, I'll see you later and keep on keeping on!

Ciao!

I Am What I Am...

Ooh, Olive!

Ooh, Olive!

First off, I'd like to thank all of my loyal readers for taking the time to read what I have to say - please know that it means a great deal to me.

Alrighty, now on to this week's topic - "I am what I am!". This quote was made famous by the cartoon character Popeye. I'd heard it many times and just took it as something he said. Well, lately this saying has developed a deeper meaning as I continue to pursue my creative muse.

For most of my 'adult' career, both as a writer of music and person in the world, I had troubled myself with the notion of doing what I think others would like me to do. This would go so far as influencing my opinion of music I would write, food that I cooked and how I would spend my time. It was pervasive!

To a certain extent, that is not a bad thing - one should concern themselves with the wants and desires of others, but if it becomes the dominant influence on one's behavior, then you can lose track of who you are and what you truly want.

I could go into a deep analysis of why I am this way - the impact of having two highly dysfunctional parents, being an only child with no sibling with whom to confide...etc... it's a very interesting story, perhaps, but the main thing is that I AM this way!

So, how does this play into my musical creativity? For one thing, I have always thought that in order to be successful with my music that I at least attempt to write music in a currently popular genre. Even if it was 'old school' it would be a hipster kind of thing. Well, I've come to the conclusion, to quote Bill Murray: "It just doesn't matter!" My music sounds the way it sounds, like it or hate it, take it or leave it - it is what it is and I am what I am! So there! Nya, nya! ;)

Also, if I fall prey to the "what do other's think?" way of thinking, then my appraisal of my work is subject to what others think, instead of keying into whether or not I'm expressing what's in my heart and mind.

Overall, the idea is that one should be true to oneself and be sure to share what you've done with others. All the rest - success, financial independence, super-model wives (yes, plural, I'm going to move to Utah :D) will all fall into place as you take the world by storm!!! I WILL CONQUER YOU ALL!!!

apparently, I've got other issues - for another time then?

 

Cheers!

 

How Do I Reach You?

Da dat dat dat daaaa daaaa!

Da dat dat dat daaaa daaaa!

At this point in time, I have the feeling that I'm writing to the Internet Ghosts - that few, if no one is reading these posts. That's okay, I'm not feeling sorry for myself, I'm just a bit perplexed. You see, I'm not really sure how to get the word out about my site and hence, am stuck writing these posts to the wind.

Now, you may think this is rather silly writing posts to no one, asking for advice, and you're probably right. But in the off-chance that anyone is reading this, and has some expertise in the area of creating a presence on the web, I'd greatly appreciate your input.

Now that that's out of my system, I'd like to report that I'm still using the Pomodoro Technique to keep me on my toes and productive. I've developed a way of organizing my day that I call "The Hours" where I divi up my day into hour blocks made of two Pomodoros each (25 min on, 5 min break) and it seems to be working. I've ramped up the intensity this week and I'll be interested to see how well I keep on track.

One of the crucial parts of staying on task is being able to say 'no', not only to others but to myself. Distractions will come along the way and I've found that putting them aside for another time difficult. So if I find that I'm off-course, I'll make a choice as to whether or not the distraction warrants my immediate time or if it can be put off. If it's a pressing issue, then I simple resign myself to loosing that particular Pomodoro that day. I don't try to make it up some other day because that will start a domino effect of sacrificing other Pomodoros for the one that was missed. I simply trust that my plans are going to take care of themselves and that all my committed bases get touched in good time.

Does any of that make sense? If so, please send a self addressed, stamped elephant to the Jim Keltner Phan Club, PO BOX AF778DC25, Gossamer Colony, Planet Mars.


Ta!

I'm Here And Glad To Report...

Ripeness!

Ripeness!

Well, well, well, in my last posting I stated that I was going to employ the Pomodoro technique to my work ethic and that I'd report back to tell you how it worked out. I'm glad to say that it was a productive effort. I was able to create a large volume of music in a relatively small period of time and I got better and more efficient at translating what was in my head over to my hard drive.

In addition to my productive Pomodoroing, I decided to take a break from posting on my two web sites, this one and Singleparentchef.com. The summer is a time for relaxation and retooling and that's exactly what I did. Now that the calendar has turned and the temperatures are getting lower and lower, I'm back at the keyboard.

So let me tell you what the Pomodoro method did for me.

1) It focused me - I had my timer set on my iPhone and it kept ticking away as I was working. Although I didn't have the ticking sound on while working on music (that would have made my drumming very confused), it's presence with it's impending 'ding' mere minutes away, kept me on task in a way that regular work would not have.

Just go outside for 30 minutes!!!

Just go outside for 30 minutes!!!

2) It kept me healthy - one of the pitfalls of working in the studio is that you sit and then you sit some more. This behavior is not healthy, hence the trend toward standing desks, even standing desks with treadmills! With the Pomodoro method, you are required to get up every 25 minutes and take a break for 5 and then 15 for every 4th Pomodoro. Simply getting up and stretching made a huge difference in the condition of my bedraggled back.

3) It engendered creativity - sometimes when I am creating music, I tend to get stuck thinking about whether or not something is 'right'. As my Dad called it: "navel staring". With the synthetic pressure of the Pomodoro, I found I just 'went with it' - let my subconscious speak. The results were, for  me, amazing! Things came to the fore that would have otherwise been dismissed had I allowed myself to think about it too much.

4) I got more done - the 5 minute breaks were meant to take a break from the current work, that doesn't mean you can't stretch and then make a call to the bank or schedule a meeting or answer an email during that time. I found that the time I usually took to do menial tasks around the house was reduced when fitting them into my Pomodoro schedule.

I know that there are more benefits to this method than what I've mentioned, but suffice it to say that it was so beneficial, that I have continued to use it as part of my daily routine. In fact I'm writing the post within one Pomodoro at this very moment! Oops, done early...hey! I can review my work now, just like the Pomodoro method suggests!

DING!

Summertime, and the Living Is...

This is a tomato. Many timers in Italy are in the shape of this fruit, hence the name of the technique.

This is a tomato. Many timers in Italy are in the shape of this fruit, hence the name of the technique.

For those of you who don't know, I support myself by teaching High School. That means that I get the Summers off! It also means that for two months out of the year I become a creative-type - making music, drawing (yes, I draw), making videos and generally doing what I would prefer to be doing all the time.

I mention this because my intention this year is to be more creative and productive than I've ever been before and I plan on accomplishing this by using the Pomodoro Technique.

This technique was developed by an Italian student, Francesco Cirillo in the late 1980s. The basic idea is to break up your work into 25 minute sessions punctuated with 5 & 15 minute breaks. One would work intensely, completely focused on the task at hand and then stop right at the end of the 25 minute span. Usually, you would complete three Pomodoros (that's what each session is called) with 5 minute breaks following and then finish the fourth one with a fifteen minute break.

There are many good things about this technique. One is that if I'm working at my computer for many Pomodoros, the break allows me to stretch and relieve my body of the stresses of sitting for prolonged periods of time. Another is that the breaks allow me to do little fiddly bits around the house or at work that only take a little time. Even though this isn't really resting, it is a diversion and allows me to return to my Pomodoros refreshed.

I have used this technique on and off throughout the last few years but this is the first time that I'm committing to a disciplined regimen on a daily basis. I'll keep you all posted on how it's working out. I'm hopeful that it will bear some wonderful fruit. 

Attachments...

I'm going to change gears a bit in this posting, and talk about the creative process. Although this will be about writing music, I believe that artists other than musicians will find what I have to say applicable.

Attachments...things that we've created that we have fallen in love with. In and of themselves, to us, the creator, they are beautiful, sublime, transcendent and destined to be enjoyed by others for years to come.  Unfortunately, many times these little 'gems' don't fit well into the original scheme of what we're working on. They stand out like a man in tuxedo at a pool party, they are as useful as a sledgehammer when you're folding a beautifully intricate origami figure. Yet we try our hardest to force these "consummate expressions of our inner selves" into songs or compositions often to the detriment of the larger piece.

What are we to do with these beautifully useless nuggets of musical gold? The answer is: LET THEM GO! Yes, discard them and go back to the drawing board. Put your 'phrase for all time' back on the shelf for use another time and find something that works. The form, structure and nuance of a piece is dependent upon how the parts work together. And you've got to keep that in the front of your brain when working on a song or composition. What is your intention, your seed of thought that brought your song into being? Are the trappings of your creation in line with that kernel of thought? If not, you've got to let it go, as much as it pains you, you've got to drop it.! Now put it down I said!!!

If you've never done this before, it may seem completely against your intuition to discard something on which you've worked so hard. Once you've done it, though, you'll begin to see with greater clarity what your song or piece is all about.

Give this a try but remember to always save those nuggets in some form. Very often they're just another song or composition waiting to bloom at another time.

Album's Out! Now Here's Its Hidden Message...

This is actually a picture of my parents taken just before senior prom by my grandfather Davis (note the cool Granny Smith sunglasses in my mom's hands). The negative apparently had degraded over time and when I scanned it some 60 years after it had been taken, this was the resultant image. Interesting, yes?

This is actually a picture of my parents taken just before senior prom by my grandfather Davis (note the cool Granny Smith sunglasses in my mom's hands). The negative apparently had degraded over time and when I scanned it some 60 years after it had been taken, this was the resultant image. Interesting, yes?

A long time in the works, my album of original music, Mish Mosh Pit is finally out in the world. At this point in time, having worked on it for so long, I have no idea if it's any good or not so I leave it up to you to contribute your thoughts.

That being said, I'd like to express some ideas about my work and what this album could mean to others. As of this posting I am 56 years old and all of my adult life have hoped to be a successful songwriter/recording artist. My early years with recording music were spent working on other artist's projects - some more successful than others. Never the less, I never really gave my own work a real shot. Then I got married and had three beautiful kids, and spent my time doing the best I could in partnership with my wife to raise them (BTW, I think they're coming out magnificently!) Now that they're slowly but surely becoming independent,  I'm finally finding more and more time to work consistently on my music. Hence, this album.

The notion here is that although I'm rather old by some folk's estimation, I am by no means done with life or my dreams. I may drop dead tomorrow, but I'll not go down without making a go of what inspires me and keeps my heart beating. And if you ask me, that's what the message is behind this album. 

So, if you are "old and in the way" (good album, btw) and still hold onto dreams of expressing yourself in ways that the world has yet to know about, PURSUE IT! It means that there's a part of you that is asking to come out and both your physical and mental health are completely dependent upon you expressing yourself. Putting your work into the world makes all the difference and in part, that's what this album is about.

Streaming For The Loss?

Our future???

Our future???

In last week's posting I expressed my excitement about many of the new features in today's streaming services. In addition, I posited that streaming was here to stay.

Because of this and the fact that I too, am an artist, I feel the need to weigh in on the opposite side of the streaming camp. The idea here is that artists, at least successful ones, make their living at least partially, by selling their music online and unfortunately, streaming could effectively remove this source of income.

To give you an idea how little income is generated by streaming, I'll tell you how this has worked (or not) for yours truly. I do this mainly to inform you accurately and first hand with regards to how these music distribution systems work. Although my numbers are paltry, they are never the less indicative of what kind of deals established artist are up against.

With that out of the way, here goes. I wrote a song that got more than one million hits on YouTube. t was called "Pylo The Pylon" and I decided early on to post it on iTunes and Spotify. A recent look at my 'earnings' found the following: for every song sold on iTunes (in the US, GB and AU pay  a bit more) I got $0.70 (seventy cents), for streaming on Spotify: $0.0066 (that's sixty six thousandths of a dollar) and iTunes streaming I received $0.0025 (even less than Spotify.)

This means that if I was to make the same amount as one sale of the song on iTunes I'd have to stream 106 songs on Spotify and 280 songs on iTunes. This is just to make a freaking seventy cents!!!

Ah, the heady days of piracy! Arrrrrrrr!

Ah, the heady days of piracy! Arrrrrrrr!

Obviously, the true bread and butter for musicians, at least with sales online is with selling songs, not streaming them. This, unfortunately, is not where things are headed. Instead, more and more of us are using streaming services to hear our music. This, in effect, is robbing the artists just as profoundly if not more so than those dreaded pirates from Napster (us, in other words) back in 1999. The only difference now is the ones doing the stealing are the record executives! "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" - rings true, yes?

The reason this is happening is that the streaming services are striking a deal with the big record companies. Services like BeatsMusic, Rdio, et al are paying a regular huge sum of money to be able to stream their catalog. This money goes straight into the pockets of the record companies and none of it goes to the artists. Instead, the artists get their paltry micro-cents per stream and if they're lucky, they'll get a sale of an actual song here an there. Unfortunately, it appears that those sales are going down every year.

There have been attempts to try to take the interest of the listener back to the land of 'owning' their music. For instance, many of us appreciate the better quality that comes from owning the CD. We've also been disappointed too many times; finding our favorite artist taken off a streaming service. Hence, we purchase the CD's so that we can assure their availability.

Our Intrepid hero!

Our Intrepid hero!

In addition, Neil Young is attempting to activate our interest in listening to FLAC versions of our music. FLAC is a lossless (no loss in quality) format for music. The Pono Player espouses the ability to reproduce music with a clarity and depth of impact that normal digital players can't. Right now, or should I say, in October when the Pono music store is supposed to go up, you'll be able to buy the player for $400 and albums for between $15 and $25. This could get some people to pursue buying music again. Two things seem to be in its way: 1) the cost and 2) there is already talk of FLAC streaming coming to the masses. (sigh)

So, my friends, for now the plight of the recording musician that doesn't tour (that's a whole other kettle of fish) is that of poverty, I'm afraid. I can't argue with the listeners that would rather pay $10 a month to be able to hear whatever they want. Hell, I do the same thing. But we, as artists and listeners have to think about the long view. If this keeps up, there will be fewer and fewer really good home-grown artists. There will be the mainstream dreck that too many folks enjoy and then there will be cottage-artists that create good music but are limited by the amount of time and effort they can apply to their art. You need those 10,000 hours, baby!

To my mind the beauty of what the digital age brought about was the democratization of the music industry. Unfortunately, the very same technologies that made all of us available to the world could very well thrust us back into anonymity.

 

Streaming For The Win?

Streaming services like Rdio, Beats, Spotify, etc... are things that I've played with since their inception. I remember listening to Rhapsody in the early 2000's and thinking that this was a great thing. I used it not only to enjoy music that I already knew, but I also used it as a way of exploring new artists. Unfortunately for Rhapsody, their referral system was so out of whack that I would go to Amazon, look up artists that I knew and check on the referrals of other users. Another win for humans over algorithms; at least at that time.

The logic behind referral systems has become much better. Pandora was the first to actually work for me. Many bookmarks that I made while listening would end up in my Amazon cart. The only shortcoming with Pandora was that it's library is somewhat limited so after a while you ended up hearing the same stuff over and over for a particular station. Also, when expanding the scope of a particular station, you as the user, had to know other artists that were in or near the same ballpark in order to branch out in some kind of cohesive manner.

I remember trying to expand a station I made with Pat Metheny by adding Sly and the Family Stone to the station. My thinking was, what a wonderful mixture of styles could be arrived at if one was to mix those two artists together. Unfortunately, Pandora's system was only able to give me either music like Pat Metheny or like Sly - no happy hybrid of styles. THAT was what I was hoping for and WAS NOT what I got.

All this reminds me of when I was first told of the Playstation in 1994. My brother-in-law at the time told me that it was going to feature 3D games. My mind immediately jumped to the notion of beautiful environments in full, indiscernible-from-real-life resolution. This, as we all know, was not the case. Even now, with the newest generation of consoles and the best PC gear available, we can still see that we're not there yet. Close though!

So back to the music. Other services like Rdio, Spotify and Beats are getting better and better. I will occasionally switch from one to the next to see how things are going. The idea of adding the social aspect to the systems is a great idea. On Rdio I follow certain folk who have similar tastes to mine. From there I've heard and enjoyed many new artists. I might even say that I've become part hipster at this point. (don't tell anyone!).

Beats has a feature called the Sentence that a lot of people like. In it you can create a sentence that has select-able fill-ins ala a limited version of Mad Libs. Once you've made your sentence, a playlist ensues. The sentence that I'm currently listening to is (bold words are my choices): Im at my computer & feel like recovering by myself to classic rock. My first song was an old Who gem which did help with my current recovery (I had a long, long week, if you know what I mean.) So this is very cool. Along with the curated lists by humans, and I may have found my new landing place for streaming music.

So, what's the point? I guess that what I'm saying is that despite the protests of David Byrne, Pete Townshend and others, streaming music is here to stay. Hopefully it won't completely remove the desire to purchase music or more to the point, remove a source of income for our most valuable resource, artists. But who knows? Maybe, eventually they'll come up with a system so complex that you can have original music created on the spot for your Saturday morning recovery. And maybe someday, machines and computers will be so wonderful and creative that they won't need us. Keep your eyes peeled.

Upon reflection... (food, glorious, food)

foodgfood.jpg

After reading my last, which was my first, entry in this blog, I started thinking that I might have come off as a bit of a snob. It has been 40 some years since music has made any huge changes from what came before. With the exception of rap/hip hop (of which I know next to nothing) and techno and all it's myriad sub genres, music has been staring at its navel with every 'new' wave of up and coming artists. 

Does this mean music is dead? Does this mean there will be no new styles or approaches to music that will influence the mainstream like the Beatles did?

I'm not sure.

What are the reasons for this almost incestuous rehashing of styles? Are artists afraid to take chances? Are artists stuck? Are artists so focused on trying to make a living these days that they sacrifice their inner voice for the sake of sales?

I don't know.

Are listeners so overwhelmed by the huge libraries of artists and styles (still all pretty much derivative) that they don't know where to look? Are they overcome by mass media coming out of their TV's, their cars, their pockets and now their glasses and watches that they choose to regulate their listening to background noise?

Maybe...

I believe the reasons for this wholesale stagnation in the music world can be found in each of the questions I listed above. The music world is so fragmented and the new technology for ingesting and procuring music is changing so quickly that I believe that we're too busy coming to terms with the trappings of how music is presented to us that we don't have the focus or energy to either make or listen to something ground breaking. We might not even know when we've heard it!

Technology is a good thing for the most part but when the delivery method becomes more important than what's being delivered AND the quality of what's being delivered is sacrificed because of these new systems, then I believe that there is a major problem. This has happened with the advent of the MP3, of iTunes and all of the various streaming services like Rdio and Spotify. Just like kids who are brought up on fast food, today's young listeners are brought up on music that is processed and stripped of it's quality, of it's truest nuance for the sake of getting if fast and (sometimes) free.

Artists are now completely lost. They, as listeners, are exposed to so much variety that they aren't sure where they should attach themselves. This can be a good thing. But it does tend to slow down the process of innovation. It's as if you went to a restaurant that used to have only a one page menu and now has a veritable tome from which to choose. I believe that artists are still reading the menu and have yet to place their orders.

Sadly, music for the most part has been regulated to a back seat in the listeners lives. We have Sony to thank for that. With the advent of the Walkman and the personalized portability of music, it very often has become background noise which can be occasionally dipped into while exercising, cleaning, walking, etc... Rarely, myself included, do we take the time to sit down with album artwork in hand (album artwork, what's that?) and listen intently while reading the lyrics to a song. If you mention this to today's children, they would look at you like a dog that just heard a weird noise. Of course, they tend to look at me like that anyway.

There is hope on the horizon, though. Many of the technological advances are maturing - finally. Neil Young's Pono music system "Where your soul rediscovers music" asserts that the clarity and purity and fidelity of its technology will bring back the muse of listening.  

As far as this jumble of styles and massive variety of music that's available to today's listeners and artists is concerned, might I invoke another culinary analogy: If you were given a huge list of ingredients from which to make the world's greatest dish, it may take many attempts to come up with THE recipe. I believe that's where we're at currently in the music world. We've been served some tasty appetizers but as of yet, no one has come up with a breakthrough main course. Keep your forks and knives at the ready, though. 

Lastly, I believe that musical artists need to re-examine what's available to them in visual media. Just as the album cover was the delivery method for albums in the 60's, 70's and 80's, we need to discover a new form of visual counterpart to the music that will enhance the focus on and meaning of an artist's music. Music videos for the most part are a distraction. I believe that a more abstract approach will help keep the focus on the music. Where's my holographic desktop projector, dammit!

Well, that's enough of my hot steam blowing for this week. My feeling is that if I can help stir up this huge kettle of music soup so that the good stuff rises to the top, then I've done a good thing!  What do you think?

Allo!

Allo, everybody! I thought I'd give my thinking on various topics in the music world.

This world that I mention is so huge that I am certain that I will not restrict myself to just popular music or just my music or anything else for that matter. Music is a subject, a force of nature, if you will, that occupies my mind most of the time. Whereas, studies have said that men think about sex very 5 seconds or so, well, replace that with music and you'll be describing yours truly. Not that the aforementioned subject doesn't enter my mind quite often too.  As many of my younger friends state: I can multi-task!

Music is something that I hold in extremely high regard. I tend to appreciate artists who feel the same about their creations. It is rarely that I enjoy or even give the time of day to an 'artist' that uses outside trappings such as sex or extreme style to promote their music. This includes the hipster notion of intentionally NOT being mainstream. The downfall of their approach is that this has become so popular that they actually ARE mainstream, hence defeating their original purpose for existence.

No, my loves in the music world are for the most part old-school. And when I say that, I really mean "Old School". Bands like the Beatles, CCR, Steely Dan, Yes, Jethro Tull and more form the basic structure of my musical tastes. Although there are bands from the 80's, 90's and the new century that I like a great deal, the roots of my leanings are based in the late 60's and early to mid 70's. This, of course, makes perfect sense since that is when I was in my tween to teenage years, the time one might say is the truly formative period in a young adult's musical leanings.

Upon reflection, I must say that I am very thankful to have been born at a time when such greats as the Beatles, the Stones, Queen, Pink Floyd and many more had come to be the top of the heap. When I hear others younger than me revel in the 'greatness' of bands such as Dexy Midnight Rangers, Banana-Rama, Flock of Seaguls; I feel sorry for them having been born at a time when their gestational influences were paltry in comparison to the bumper crop of my era. Trust me, I am happy that they have strong loves of music from their period, but I truly feel that they were given short shrift with regard to their impressed exposure.

If I sound like a snob, then so be it. I do believe that time will bear my opinions out and to a great extent already has. Although this does sound like a Yankee fan pulling rank on a St. Louis Cardinal fan. There's no question that the fan of the New York team has many world records to support their stance, this does not mean that proponents of differing views don't have a good point - it's just not AS good.

If I have turned you off already, then I apologize. I encourage you to post your differing comments on my page. I am a fond proponent of a hearty debate made with substantiated points and respectful retorts. What I do not like and what I will not abide is the negative, derisive gainsaying of trolls. Their comments will most assuredly be deleted.

That being said, I hope to hear from you folks who read this. Music is a great topic for discussion, debate and joyful reflection. And I look forward to all of us expressing ourselves in such a way that our appreciation for the greatest art ever created will ever increase.

Cheers!

Rob Houghton