Archive for the ‘controversy’ Category

Liveblogging! “ITDE” 2/19/11

February 19, 2011

Following my disappointment at coming into the station to find insulting flyers about me, I decided to hold an “It’s Too Damn Early” support drive, asking listeners to call in. I am pleased to say that I had a number of lovely conversations with fine human beings, all of whom were similarly disheartened to hear about the poor start to my day. I also took the time to make a “remix” flyer, which I posted next to the original, for all to see. I’m not sure if they’ll be taken down later or not, so here they are. Be sure to click them to view full size! Update: Some station members believe that sharing the flyers is the equivalent of “giving the place a black eye,” and have requested that if I continue sharing the flyers, it might be best if it’s “by request.” If you feel like you need to see them, just e-mail me.

Enjoy your playlist!

Eyes Like Saucers — Owl Creek Bridge (from “Parmalee, Tribute To a Dog,” on Ikuisuus/Ruralfaune
Charlamagne Palestine — A Sweet Quasimodo Between Black Vampire Butterflies (from album of the same name, on Cold Blue Music)
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — The Sun Don’t Wait (from “I’ll Meet You Halfway Out In The Middle Of It All,” on Edgetone Records)
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — War Is Terror, Terror Is War
Thollem McDonas, Rick Rivera — I’m No Different From You Now
Eyes Like Saucers — Sea Song (from “Still Living In The Desert, And Mostly In My Own Head,” on Last Visible Dog)
Eyes Like Saucers — Delusion of Reference
Eyes Like Saucers — Still Living In the Desert (And Mostly In My Own Head)
Eyes Like Saucers — I Want To Believe
Conure — Amsterdam and 81st, A Reverie (from “Strings, Locations,” on Edgetone)
Conure — Feedback Location String
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra I (from “Gravity of Shadows,” on Greydisc)
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra II
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra III
Kevin Kastning, Siegfried — Umbra IV
The Stumps — The Black Wood, pts. 1-3 (from “The Black Wood,” on LVD)


October 21, 2010

I’ve got a lot of cool stuff coming up this weekend, so here’s your guide:

1) New broadcasts of “It’s Too Damn Early” and “Sounds Like Radio.” In case you’ve been living under a rock, “It’s Too Damn Early” airs Saturday mornings on WDBX-FM from 4-6:30 a.m. “Sounds Like Radio airs twice a week Sundays on WSIU-FM, from 3-5 a.m., and from 10 p.m. to midnight. Both episodes are going to be amazing.

2) I’m hosting a soundwalk of the SIUC campus. If you’re interested, meet outside the Student Center on the North end at 10:30 a.m. this Saturday. The soundwalk is free, and takes about an hour.

3) I’m performing in Nashville, as part of the Circuit Benders’ Ball. I’ll be employing “Lawrence Welk’s Secret Shame” for this show, which I have recently re-modified to include even more champagne secrets. The Circuit Benders’ Ball will feature performances by Tim Kaiser, Thriftstore Boratorium, CMKT4, Ben Marcantel, and others. There are also instrument-building workshops, visual art, and video projections. This is an all-ages event with tickets starting at $15 for general admittance, $30 including both workshops. For other ticketing information and a complete list of performers and workshops, visit Theatre Intangible.

4) I’ve got a new release out! “Free Air” is a CDR documentation featuring sound installations I originally created for multi-speaker through-home environments. Each copy comes with a sealed unicorn woodblock print, and is part of a limited and numbered edition of 10. These will be available first at the Circuit Benders’ Ball.

Sarkozy– go fuck yourself!

July 28, 2010

Looks like Sarkozy is trying to out-Nazi Arizona with his latest round of bullshit. What a shitbag!

“Once I had a great family / The Black Legion murdered them / Now come, all the world’s Rom /For the Romani road has opened / The time’s arrived to arise / We shall stand up as one”

I just can’t let this go– yes, I’m obsessive.

March 11, 2010

Okay, so I mentioned in my earlier blog post that the cover photo used on today’s Flipside music insert for the The Southern was somewhat strange, resembling something like broadcasting in Hell. Then I tracked down what I figured was the original source photo– but now things aren’t so clear! I’ve done some searching, and found that this particular photo has gotten more than a little use around the net, so I’m wondering… where did it come from originally? Who created it? Why are so many people claiming a copyright on this image? What about the ethics or legality involved in its use?

Here’s what I’ve found:

First off, this is the photo used on the cover of the Flipside. That’s my big head obscuring the photo in question, of a mic and headphones, most likely emanating a terrible feedback which is blasting from the speaker array in the background. Hence, the yellow “flames.” When you’re through checking these photos out, click it and go read the interview!

Then I found this version, in green:

Browsing through Flikr, I found many users claiming copyright on this image. Here’s the same image, “copyrighted” at the accounts of merthylo, richepstein, gusroman1985, and israely13 . It seems that someone is lying.

I also found some other versions of the photo. Here it is in black and white, taken from the Revolution Studio website in St. Croix:

And here it is without the added blur, against the same speaker backdrop, minus the soundwave “flames”. I found this on the Flickr account of user Niko_warning.

And finally, here’s the same microphone and headphone photo, minus all other elements. Could this be the original? I found it on the Flickr account of user azie2010.

And let’s not forget the crowning glory of this microphone and headphones extravaganza– a frakkin’ mural, no shit. Flickr user Surat Lozowick says this mural is located in Prescott, Arizona near an Auto Glass store:

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had a microphone and headphones overload. Clearly, there’s some ethical issues with so many people representing this image as their own work, not to mention the obvious failure of attribution occurring. What are your thoughts?

WDBX History, pt. 8

December 19, 2009

Put your hands together for the “Not Edgy, Not Controversia,l Not Corporate, Not Played Anywhere But On My Show, Super-Popular Rock Tunes Hour,” yay! Ironically, searching for “a fresh variety of music” brings up 15,300 hits… Be sure to click the note, and make it big.

…and now, the truth

April 1, 2009

First off, April Fools! My previous post about the Performing Musicians Licensing Act was a bit of a joke on my part…

…But only a bit.

The sad thing is that a lot of it is actually true, and I’m not kidding this time around. Chicago really does have a stupid plan to force all promoters to carry ridiculous amounts of insurance AND apply for a license in their new, non-publicly-released ordinance. How this plays out will truly have a major effect on the Windy City. You can read about how to fight for your right to party here.

As for licensing American musicians, I made it up. As much as dumbasses like Illinois Rep. John Shimkus would probably love to see all underground art and expression forcibly removed from the face of the Earth, he’s too busy making ludicrous statements about global warming to care. That works out okay for American musicians…

…but if you’re Serbian, you’re fucked. The Serbian government has actually PASSED a musicians’ licensing act, which actually DOES have a jurored performance and musician’s exam. For the low cost of about 150 euros, Serbians can apply for a musicians’ license allowing them freedom to perform their music– music approved of by Serbian officials, of course! You can find more information about the Serbian music license at Terror Noise Audio, as well as at the following translated webpages here and here.

Oppose the Performing Musicians Licensing Act!

March 31, 2009

This is going to be a little off topic since most of my visitors are not from the Chicagoland area, but I will write this anyway, as this local issue is turning into a collapsing house of cards that may yet threaten us all.

Last year, the Chicago City Council’s Music Commission, chaired by Ald. Eugene Schulter (47th), drafted the so-called “event promoters ordinance” last spring with almost no input from the music community, rapidly moving it toward a vote before the full council in May. But aldermen tabled the controversial law at that time after an unprecedented outcry from the local music world.

Last year, council members vowed to work with the music community to “fine-tune” the law before a final vote.

Sources close to the procedure say that a retooled version of the law has now been ready since mid-February, and that the license committee is gearing up for a vote on Mar. 11 prior to sending the legislation back to the full council for what the committee hopes will be quick passage. Once again, however, the law is not being made available for public scrutiny, and no public hearings are scheduled to seek input from musicians, music lovers and indie concert promoters.

The good news is that public opposition to the proposed ordinance has grown more vocal and organized since the last vote, and could present a formidable player in killing the bill. The bad news is that the Commission already has an end-run around Chicago citizens in the works– a proposal to create a Performing Musicians Licensing Act. If you think about it, you’ll begin to see the ruthless logic at work:

The original bill, created in reaction to the terrible E2 Nightclub incident, in which 21 people were trampled to death, contained the following language:

“No person shall engage in the business of event promoter without first having obtained an event promoter license under this chapter.” AND “Each applicant for a license under this chapter shall furnish a certificate of insurance, evidencing commercial general liability insurance, with limits of not less than $300,000.00 per occurrence for bodily injury and property damage arising in any way from the issuance of the license.”

In short, promoting music would get a whole hell of a lot more expensive, prohibitively so for underground venues and organizers. Want to have a house show? Forget it! But lawmakers forgot that promoters are also the ones who usually have the money– deep pocket promoters might be able to keep this one off the books. But where to turn next?


That’s right, they’re going after the musicians now. If they couldn’t get promoters in line, they’re just going to take away their product, or at least make it difficult for anyone but the biggest bands and artists to play. Given the political shakeup post-Blagojevich, there have been a lot of Illinois politicians taking new offices lately– one of which helped draft the original Commission ordinance, but now finds himself out of his State-level seat and nearer to the ear of another well-known Chicago politician– President Obama.

Under the PMLA, all “performing” musicians (and are there any other kind?!) will be required to apply for a performing license which requests the following information, in addition to an EXAM and a jurored performance:

“(1) the applicant’s full name, residence address, business address, business
e-mail address, business telephone number and cell phone number;

(2) the name, residence address and residence telephone number of allcontrolling persons other than the applicant, if any;
(3) proof that the applicant and all controlling persons are at least 21 years of age;
(4)A statement as to whether, within the last 5 years, the applicant and each
controlling person has had a performer’s license or any other equivalent
license or permit, regardless of nomenclature or characterization, revoked or
suspended in any jurisdiction and if so, the details surrounding each such
suspension or revocation;
(5) A statement as to whether, within the last five years, the applicant and each
controlling person has been either convicted, in custody, under parole or under
any other non-custodial supervision resulting from a conviction in a court of any
jurisdiction for the commission of a felony of any kind, or of a criminal offense of
whatever degree involving theft, fraud, perjury or dishonesty and if so, the details
surrounding each such conviction;
(6) A statement as to whether, within the last five years, the applicant and each
controlling person has been convicted or found liable of knowingly making a false
statement of material fact or a knowing and material misrepresentation or
omission on or in connection with any license application submitted under this
chapter and if so, the details surrounding each such conviction or finding of
(7) The date of birth and social security number of each natural person named in the
license application;
(8) The license fee, as required by section 4-157-060;
(9) Fingerprints, as required by section 4-157-090;
(10) Proof of insurance, as required by section 4-157-100;
(11) An indemnification agreement, as required by section 4-157-110; and
(12) Any other information that the director may require.

Gotta love that last one– what else could they want? A fucking semen sample? But seriously, this is some bullshit. No more musicians under the age of 21? As much as I’d love to see Miley Cyrus out of a job, what about all the kids coming up in garage bands, or playing in their first couple years of college? Obviously, music students aren’t exactly touring musicians, but this still seems way out of line with reality.

A law like this opens way more issues than I’m prepared to deal with in this post– who gets the licensing fees, and where do they go? What about hobbyist musicians? Who appoints the jurored panels, and what will be considered “music”? I don’t want to get ahead of things, but I’m thinking of a sort of USA vs. Dunifer approach myself– claim that I don’t make music, only noise. Thus, the board will not have a licensing category for me– and I should be able to press on. What do you think?

“Vietnam” flyer controversy, pt.3

January 25, 2009

The ongoing, unthinking controversy concerning the now-infamous “Vietnam” flyer continued to rage today, reaching a greater percentage of the public than analysts had previously thought possible. In what pundits are calling “a classic example of the media watchdog asleep at the gates,” the New York Times mistakenly selected the late-night blog ramblings of community radio volunteer DaveX as serious commentary on Vietnam. As early as today, WordPress statistics show an influx of visitors to the New York Times website have followed the link– unwittingly introducing themselves to the world of underground music, severed cow head photography, and John Cage fanfic.

It is not yet known at this time how much of the global population will be exposed to STARTLING MONIKER, but it has been suggested that anonymous Carbondale citizens are making every effort to contain the leak.

“We’ve asked him to crawl back to his cave, where he belongs,” said Carter Frederick from besides his hobo campfire. “I could give two shits about a hack radio show in the middle of the night.”

Another resident, who asked reporters to remain nameless, told reporters he was jealous of the enjoyment his pets took from listening to DaveX’s broadcasts.

“I told him to take his art to a local shelter,” he said, wiping tears from his eyes. “He should change the title to ‘Music Only Dogs Can Hear’.”

For now, DaveX is content to let the controversy run its course. “It’s ironic,” he said. “Those who want most for me to just disappear seem to do the greatest job of promoting everything I do!”



“Vietnam” flyer controversy, pt. 2

January 25, 2009

Remember my “Vietnam” flyer that created a tiff around WDBX? It was getting more page views than my blog, so I took it down out of jealousy– but seriously, it was the flyer that refused to die, and my Negativland-lovin’ heart couldn’t let something this absurd go to waste without a decent response.

But first, here’s the terrible flyer that started it all. I can’t remember who sent me this art, as I receive a good number of promotional mailers filled with all sorts of odd enclosed items.

I know, it’s awful. You can see where the devil himself put colored Sharpie markers in my hand to brighten things up and encode my foul message at the bottom. And the graphic depiction of violence! It truly brings home the reality of war, and the terror of conflict. Then again, I’ve seen worse on Tom & Jerry cartoons.

I already told you about the inital response to this, but here’s a snapshot of the final commentary. I think it’s an interesting text-portrait of the diversity of opinion around the station. Be sure to view it full-size.


But as I mentioned, I wanted to whip up a response. I’ve always believed that silly nonsense should be fought with equally silly nonsense. It puts such arguments in their rightful place, and can be fairly humorous besides. Here’s my final comment on the subject, a parody of the famous Alfred Eisenstaedt photo taken on V-Day. I’m not sure if Malty looks like a willing participant, though!


Copyright = 5 years?

July 23, 2008

Andrew Dubber, New Music Strategies blogger, has a lot of folks riled up about copyright— including me. I’d be remiss if I didn’t send some readers his way; the conversation has been fantastically interesting. His idea? Make copyright an opt-in process, with a 5-year timeout, followed by the option to renew. Dubber hopes the renewal process will lead to a greater percentage of works entering the public domain… I just think its going to result in another enormous bureaucratic clusterfuck mis-managing artists’ rights.

I found this hanging outside WDBX. Either the tree lost its pants, or someone lynched a member of Dokken.

I found this hanging outside WDBX. Either the tree lost its pants, or someone lynched a member of Dokken.

In truth, I’m still not exactly certain where I stand with copyright. It seems to me that copyright and art don’t really go together all that well anyway– art and commerce ultimately have very different goals. If I was a businessman, I could definitely understand the value in hoarding everything of any possible use forever. As an artist, I’ve often given things away for free, or at least encouraged their dissemination. Can these be reconciled?

The fear underlying most copyright decisions (or so it seems to me) is that if a big-name artist’s work wasn’t protected, it could be sold out from under their noses by unscrupulous businessmen, de-valuing their work by making it more freely and cheaply available. But hey, isn’t this already happening? As I type this, a quick torrent search reveals more than one Radiohead discography available right now. One has 33 separate albums, in lossless format, and even features scans of some booklets and liner notes!

Yet Radiohead carries on. I’ve yet to see Johnny Greenwood flipping burgers.

Granted, they might have made a lot of their money before such widespread filesharing came into practice. What about newer artists? Honestly, I have no idea. In some ways, I’m just sort of waiting to see how it plays out. My hope is that the ubiquitous availability of any sort of information, at any time, will de-value ownership itself. I know that I have downloaded songs just to avoid the walk downstairs to retrieve the actual record. I’ve downloaded albums I already own to more easily make a copy for my daughter– the de-valuation of ownership is underway.

About yesterday’s broadcast…

March 31, 2008

For those of you who heard it, I apologize. WDBX manager Brian has been pushing us to adopt some aspects of the approaching format change at our station, with the idea being that the shift from a more free-form station to the “JackFM” programming in August won’t be too sudden for listeners. For now, we’re just basically supposed to keep off the mic as much as possible, and air selections from the “A” playlist at the top and bottom of each hour. At the mid-hour, we can play cuts from the “B” pile, and for every half hour past two hours (like my show, which is two-and-a-half hours) we’re allowed to work in any material we wish. So basically, I’ve got shit like the frakkin’ Eagles sucking up 7 minutes with “Hotel California,” and then I get hit with George Thorogood’s 8-minute craptastic “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” at the 15-minute mark!

I felt like I was gonna lose it, even though I’ve been trying to be cool about this. I know Brian is trying to do the right thing, and that the Jack stuff is still a few months off, but I’d rather just go out playing stuff I like than easing listeners into a puddle of vanilla bullshit.

Anyways, some of the DJs have put together an online petition; and even though it’s been made perfectly clear to us that the deal with SparkNet is solid, I’d appreciate all of you signing. At the very least, it’s a list of people SparkNet knows won’t be listening to this nonsense come August.

Liveblogging! Commentary for “ITDE” 3/22/08

March 22, 2008

UPDATE: My slackin’ ass finally got this broadcast uploaded as a single mp3 file. Holy Church of the Subgenius, Batman! As always, support your favorite artists and labels with actual cash money– just because I got it free doesn’t mean you can, haha.

Co-hosting this morning’s broadcast with me is my daughter, DJ Mo. I started off with Frank Rothkamm’s amazing new release, “Just 3 Organs,” a hypernumerally-obsessed series of mind-bending compositions frightening not only for their mathematical bent, but the strikingly natural way Rothkamm approaches this sort of layering.

I’ve now moved on to Vanessa Rossetto’s album “Misafridal,” on her Music Appreciation imprint. I’m playing the track “Eohippus,” which I’m dedicating to The Digital Cuttlefish, and his wonderful poem about last night’s ultra-ironic flap over PZ Myers being expelled from “Expelled.”

“So this little movie trip is
Like a Trojan Eohippus
That delivered Richard Dawkins deep within the fortress walls”
(full poem here)

How about some Arcane Device? This track is part of the first Zelphabet compilation, being a remix of original and unreleased David Lee Myers recordings made from 1987 to 1993.

I’m taking the hour from 5 to 6 a.m. to play from Annea Lockwood’s superlative 3-disc treasure “A Sound Map of the Danube.” This is already among my most highly-regarded works, and I’m sure that many of you will enjoy it as well. This is a perfect example of needing to hear something in its original, lossless format. I’m afraid radio will not totally render the incredible sound quality of these discs. And hey– my new headphones are paying off big time with these recordings!!

I thought I’d play this live recording of the KBD Sonic Cooperative, from their recent release on Eh? Records, “Four Plus One.” In a show filled with longer cuts, who will mind one more? Besides, I’m always happy to put more no-input mixer into the aether!

I’ll have this show available as a download a little later on today, providing my program didn’t crap out on me. If you’re lucky, I’ll upload last week’s broadcast too! It’s a killer set, so don’t miss it.

Frank Rothkamm — Sleepy Bullet
Frank Rothkamm — Encounter With Remarkable Trees
Frank Rothkamm — Younger Critics 0f New York
Vanessa Rossetto — Eohippus
Arcane Device — Seventeen Ambiguous Figures
Squid Fist —
Kirmann_ — Liza
Annea Lockwood — A Sound Map of the Danube; Bregquelle to Immendingen
Annea Lockwood — A Sound Map of the Danube; Fridingen to Ulm
Annea Lockwood — A Sound Map of the Danube; Lauingen to Weltenburg
Annea Lockwood — A Sound Map of the Danube; Inzell to Badesee
Annea Lockwood — A Sound Map of the Danube; Orth to Haslau
The KBD Sonic Cooperative — Live at The Bohemian National Home, Detroit 11/8/07

MediaDefender Remixes: Chopped & Screwed!

September 20, 2007

As many savvy filesharers are now aware, about 700 megabytes of anti-piracy goon squad Media Defender’s internal e-mails were leaked a few days back. No doubt this is a serious blow to the company; whose tactics included flooding meta-sites with fake torrents, hosting honeypot distro sites, and generally muddying the waters around p2p.

That the music biz employs such cretins should be no surprise– the industry has a long and well-documented history of criminal involvement, underhanded methodology, and questionable ethics– everything from payola scams to keeping artists too doped up to read a contract has been tried at one time or another.

So while all this new news is in many ways old news, there’s still the occasional pearl to be found among the half-digested roughage. Yes, contained within 700 megabytes of MediaDefender’s anxious lists of IP addresses used to spoof 12-year-olds secretively downloading Akon tracks while mom is in the other room, are the TOP SEKRUT PLANZ for creating “chopped and screwed” remixes of popular mp3s for use as decoy bait.

DJ Screw is rolling over in his grave right now.

Anyhow, here’s how they intended to do it. Nevermind that this would sound nothing like any chopped and screwed music ever created. MediaDefender are innovators in the field, enough playa hatin’.

“Hi Randy, after some internal discussion, here’s our preliminary list.

1) Intermittent glitching (“mech, intermit”) done in a way that’s more random sounding vs periodic.
2) Bit-resample, such that there is audible artifacting (sounds like a bad mp3 encode).
3) shifting channels (sounds like a speaker cut out). Again, the goal should be to sound somewhat random.
4) Laugh-track, at a respectable volume level.
5) Saw-tooth volume, so long as the volume goes to (or close to) zero, so that the track can’t be fixed by an inverse saw increase.
6) Beep, at a high volume

In the future, you might do experiments with static noise overlays (sounds like faulty recording equipment), voice over (public domain audio), and overlapping songs.

You probably don’t want to apply any effect for the first 30-60 seconds, so the user thinks they got a good track. We should take some care to ensure that when there is intermittent effects they happen in the same places so that it’s not possible to take the good portions of one version and splice them with the good portions of another version to get a complete (and perfect) third version.”

I like the last part, where they actually suppose that someone might try downloading multiple track versions, and piece them together to make a complete unaltered track. Let’s be honest here– does ANYONE do this? By the time your average Britney Spears fan can find multiple versions of the latest single at Mininova, isn’t that album already pirated all to hell? Someone willing to go to this effort is surely at the very bottom of a gigantic pyramid of listeners. It makes no sense whatsoever to target these people, unless you’re simply trying to milk the business for as long as possible.

All this aside, I’m a little disappointed I’ll never get to hear these remixes. They would surely have been more interesting than the older RIAA efforts. I’m sure my ears would have burned a little at hearing the flaccid and underdeveloped creative efforts of these corporate types, but they might have been interesting to keep in a sort of aural bell jar as sideshow curiosities– fit only to frighten the kiddies.

Update: If anyone wants to remix a song of their choice using these techniques, I’ll host it here. If two or more want to remix tracks in this fashion, we can have a contest, with a prize and everything. No fair sending two tracks from different e-mails, either. Upload your track to MediaFire, YouSendit, etc… and send me a message. –DaveX

Update #2: Here’s MY version of a Media Defender-style “chopped and screwed” track, using each of the approved remix techniques. I have used the new Britney Spears single, “Gimmie More” as the basis for this remix; I believe this falls completely within Fair Use. The remix also contains a sample from an open source-licensed audio book of Lawrence Lessig’s “Free Culture,” read by A.K.M. Adam.

Update #3: A few people have had difficulty with the download. Here is another link to try. Sorry for the trouble! (Ironically, this remix keeps getting taken down by the same people who encouraged such remixes as a way to discourage downloads. Way to go, assholes!)

Strangest phrase to send your child to school with…

September 5, 2007

It’s a bit off-topic, but I thought I’d share… the strangest phrase to send your child off to school with:

This morning, I was having a conversation with my daughter (DJ Mo, remember?) while waiting for her school bus to arrive. She was describing a basic science experiment her class was performing– putting a plant in food-colored water to see how it travels up the stem. I mentioned to her how this process of experimentation was at the heart of science, and how that differed from religious “thinking,” which simply poses ideas and accepts them on faith.

The conversation progressed into a riff on science, with a lot of “what-ifs” being thrown around. My daughter told me that one idea she thought was especially interesting was to use a “machine” of some sort to put kids in, that could read their DNA and tell you what they’d be like when they grew up. I explained that while no such machine existed, that there are a number of things that could be examined to determine some of a child’s future, such as their eating habits and parent’s health.

Now, I’m pretty sure she was more interested in whether or not her brother’s hair was going to change from his rather unlikely blond to fit the rest of the family than the more questionable uses such a machine might pose, but I decided to talk with her a little about this anyhow.

I explained that some people had previously used the concepts of genetics to push for laws that would only allow “perfect” people to be bred, and to disallow others from having children. I explained that while genetics research could yield many interesting and useful results, that it was sometimes hard for some to draw an ethical line at where to stop– thus leading to the idea of eugenics. I cautioned her with the old sci-fi saw that in a world of eugenics, there might not be room for imperfect folks like us.

It’s heady stuff for 7:00 in the morning, and she was naturally a little upset to see some of the possible ramifications of her machine. As the bus pulled up, the driver opened the door. I called out after her, forgetting I was in full earshot of the driver:

“Have a great day at school, Mo! Don’t worry about eugenics!”

John Cage, a charlatan?! (pt. 2)

August 30, 2007

Although most folks over at the IHM forum seem to think I’m beating a dead horse, I haven’t been able to let this discussion with Sound & Fury drop. Besides, this is my blog, and I’m going to write it as I see fit.

All stubbornness aside, the discussion has been an interesting one; and you have to take me on my word that if interesting ideas weren’t being exchanged that I would have ducked out long ago. Rather than degenerating into a some sort of “nuh-uh, yes huh” sissy-fighting, my ongoing challenge of Sound & Fury’s dogmatic assertions has resulted in a flurry of explanations, retreats, and mental gymnastics.

In short, he has defined himself into a corner.

It’s been over 50 years now since John Cage wrote Bacchanale, but apparently, his ideas are still provocative today. Even though I have lost much hope of making any sort of addition to Sound & Fury’s understanding of music, I have greatly appreciated having this experience– it’s been like a fast-forward tour through Cage’s conceptual world, with Sound & Fury as my unwitting Norgay.

So where did we leave off?

Ah! Following the last entry, S&F wrote me an e-mail, in which he explained that he was impressed by my desire to learn more about classical music. He also mentioned that he was surprised I was not already knowledgeable about the subject, due to the fact that I was reading Sound & Fury. I suppose that’s a somewhat fair assumption, but it does make me wonder where he thinks new classical music fans come from!

S&F also offered his assistance in the matter, beginning with a lesson on his phrase “purely musical ideas”:

“…that’s not only NOT a “lightweight phrase,” but one which goes directly to the very heart of ALL genuine music, even simplistic stuff such as pop, or C&W, or rock. In classical music, purely musical ideas are, of course, absolutely essential and central.

So, what’s a purely musical idea? Listen, for instance, to any four- or eight-bar opening of, say, the opening movement of a Mozart symphony. That’s a purely musical idea – that is, a coherent idea expressed in the language of music that neither refers to nor requires anything extra-musical to convey its sense – an idea that’s then developed, expanded, transformed, joined or opposed by other purely musical ideas, etc., etc., all in myriad ways during the progress of the movement until, by movement’s end, all taken together have coalesced to produce one grand purely musical idea; a gestalt; that is, a whole greater than the sum of its parts — in the case of a transcendent genius such as Mozart, infinitely greater.

In short, purely musical ideas are genuine music’s very lifeblood; its sine qua non — literally.”

Later, I posted some of my thoughts about this lesson at the forum, and also sent a copy to S&F:

“We all know that Cage used “devices” (if you’ll roll with the term) to produce some of his works– overlaying a star chart on a musical staff, for instance… Knowing how Cage produced a work is integral in many instances to understanding the work at all.

Where I differ from him is in understanding how this is different from the compositions of someone like Mozart. I think he and Cage are on a continuum together, where Mozart’s machinations are simply more transparent because they are less unique. We transparently accept, at least in the Western world, that a minor chord is representing something sad– but the machinations of this situation is revealed when we examine the use of the minor chord elsewhere, where it may commonly be thought of as a signifier of positive events. I’m sure an ethnomusicologist could provide greater detail as to what part of the world this occurs in…

The point is that if this foreign person was listening to Mozart, and Mozart was making some sad section of a song, the foreigner would have to be made aware that in Mozart’s work, minor chords signify something negative and not positive. Because of this, I cannot see how he can purport this “pure musical idea” to exist. If anything, it puts him squarely facing the very Cage-ian idea that random sounds are music– and I doubt very much he would agree with this.”

As I should have expected, S&F completely disagreed. What was most interesting, though, was that I could now see his total emphasis on the effects the music produced as the sole qualification into his definition. I reproduce it here, complete with asterisks and bold type:

“I wrote about purely musical ideas; *purely* — as in solely, entirely, completely. And that concept has nothing whatsoever to do with “devices” like “star charts” or other such rubbish.  Nor has it anything to do with “behind the scenes work,” as you put it. Behind-the-scenes work doesn’t count no matter what form it takes, or how long or assiduously it was engaged in, or how much it cost the artist in blood, sweat, and tears.  The *only* thing that counts  is what the behind-the-scenes work *produced*.  In the case of Mozart, some of the greatest music ever written.  In the case of Cage, no music at all. Merely noise. The concept I was talking about has to do exclusively with precisely what I’ve already stated it has to do with, and with nothing else.”

Yikes! Bold = anger. Still, I have a readership to think about it, so I struggled on. Besides, “merely noise” is such tasty bait!

“If it’s not the “behind the scenes” stuff that matters, but PURELY the ability of the composition’s performance to elicit idea/emotion/thought/narrative, etc.,  then it would seem a simple matter of proving that Cage has done this with his music in order to render it AS music by your definition.

Surely, you do not ask that Cage’s work render these emotions/narratives/ideas in EVERY listener, though– we must allow that some listeners are unable to perceive art in any meaningful way, be it Cage or Mozart. As I have often been moved by Cage’s work in the same way as I have been moved by say… Debussy, then it seems Cage has created music after all– at least per your terms.”

And then, my coup-de-grace:

“I would also like to submit– and please do not think I am merely being clever– that NOISE may be the greatest example of music ever; as it completely lacks intent, machinations, design, and artifice. If a noise can move the listener, surely it is the pinnacle of music!”

Like a rattlesnake, though, the head simply would not die. Ignoring my championing of noise completely, S&F wrote:

“A purely musical idea is ‘a coherent idea expressed in the language of music that neither refers to nor requires anything extra-musical to convey its sense.’

See now where you screwed up?  A purely musical idea requires expression in ‘the language of music’ — i.e., a language that employs melody, harmony, counterpoint, and rhythm as *fundamental* elements of its grammar and syntax. Ergo, Cage’s “compositions” can NEVER be or become music except in the most figurative or metaphorical sense of the term.

But I see you’ve suckered me into talking about the charlatan again. Basta! Genug!”

Genug” seems to mean “enough,” and I’m just guessing that “basta” is a slick way around actually calling someone a bastard. Probably not the sort of thing you want to try in a men’s room, but in the blogging world, folks use what they’ve got. Anyways, I don’t trust someone who curses in a foreign language, unless they’ve run out of native words first.

But seriously, I didn’t know anyone still seriously held such an antiquated view of music. Read it again– it’s like stepping into a time machine! Investigate microsound efforts sometime; they show us that what we think of as a “note” is really a rhythmic event. Slow it down and see! Music is “sounding” and “silence,” whether it is Mozart or Cage. As always, the world of the avant-garde is leading listeners to these truths. You just have to be willing to listen to get the message.

John Cage, a charlatan!?

August 28, 2007

Yesterday, I finally decided to register at the “i hate music” forums. Blame it on the combination of a Sachiko M thread and the fact that there are very few people I can talk to about such music locally. I’m also hoping that some of the better writers might take a look at my reviews– it’s no secret that I’d appreciate some constructive criticism in regards to my music writing.

Having been primed by the interesting discussions going on at “ihm,” I was in a receptive mood to click on a link in the comments section at Pharyngula that described a blog with the topic of “matters musical and high-cultural.” It turns out I should have paid more attention to that term “high-cultural”…

John Cage, on the game show

Anyhow, the link took me to the blog “Sounds & Fury,” where a New Yorker writes aptly and passionately about “classical” music, opera, and the myriad of fascinating events surrounding these works.

Admittedly, I have much to learn about so-called “classical” music. Like many areas of sound, it is daunting in its own way; full of new artists, terms, and unfamiliar history that takes some time to work into before the pieces begin to fit. Jazz used to be much the same way for me– a perplexing, amorphous mess filled with endless liner notes detailing the contributions of faceless names and mysterious places.

Despite my rather ridiculous start, (my first jazz purchase being John Coltrane’s “Meditations,” of all things!) I dug in, struggled through those liner notes, listened to the recordings until they started making sense, and picked up book after book to absorb the history and ideas driving the music. Unsurprisingly, it worked. Ten years later, I’m comfortable discussing and listening to jazz music– and while I still have a lot to learn and hear, I’m no longer bewildered while browsing the bins at a good record store.

Eventually, I’ll feel the same way about “classical” music. That’s why I read sites like Sounds & Fury; I want to dig into these accumulations of knowledge and make the pieces begin to fit together. That’s why I was particularly surprised to find that Sounds & Fury is written by a closed-minded caveman.

Go check out the Sounds & Fury main page, and see what you notice– yes, that’s it… up in the top right corner: “A Very Brief Thought On New Music.” I can’t believe I didn’t see it right away, but it went unnoticed while I browsed the archives. Then I saw it. “Hooray!”; I thought. “This guy writes about new music too!”

And then I saw it:

“Of that so-called New Music of which I’ve direct experience, almost all of it not recognized immediately as blatantly and tiresomely derivative tripe requires at some level, and to greater or lesser degree, the active participation of the intellect in order to appreciate or, in some cases, even begin to comprehend. That, to my way of thinking, is the very definition of non-music — more, and much worse, a veritable perverse contradiction of just what it means to be music. In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas, and much of that traceable to the influence of the charlatan John Cage.”

And he goes on:

“Which is not to say such can’t (or shouldn’t) be enjoyed, even relished, at some other level. But at the level of music — that condition to which all art aspires — it fails utterly and abjectly. And that’s principally why, not much time left me for music listening as the human span goes, I’ve little or no time for it. There’s simply too much music — genuine music — I’ve either not yet experienced, or not experienced or understood to the deepest level of which I’m capable, to spend valuable time sussing out the ostensible musical value of such presumptive music which, on initial hearing, I find to be no music at all.”

You know me. I couldn’t let this go unexamined. I love experimental music, and must surely be counted as among the most passionate and enthusiastic of its listeners. I can’t begin to fathom the magnitude of influence Cage’s ideas and works have had on the recordings and performances I so enjoy… To see an otherwise-knowledgeable listener write than he was a charlatan was unthinkable. I fired off an e-mail:

“…the John Cage = charlatan bit compelled me to write, the purpose being to ask you to give any decent reason why you’d say such a thing. He may not be your cup of tea, but damn, the man is definitely a composer. He may be one of the most important composers of the 20th century; I’m amazed any thoughtful person could find otherwise.”

To which I received:

“Oh? And just what, exactly, makes Cage “definitely a composer,” and “one of the most important composers of the 20th century,” other than his influence on those looking for an easy way out of sounding in their compositions like pale and effete copies of those musical giants who preceded them?”

So the guy has some balls, no doubt. Still, I wasn’t letting him off the hook. I asked my question first, and rightly claimed that he should defend his “charlatan” accusation before I’d address my own statements. He replied:

“I’ve already stated my reasoning. It’s contained directly in my statement about the charlatan Cage. To repeat: “In short, anti-music, much of it concerned with sound per se rather than with purely musical ideas….””

That’s it? This was the big defense? Mr. Sounds & Fury says it’s not music, so John Cage isn’t a composer. Well! One wonders what he was doing on the Pharyngula website in the first place– championing that omnipresent creationist “the bible says so” argument?

I wrote back, giving concrete examples of some of Cage’s compositions ranging from the highly-detailed (such as Etudes Borealis) to those allowing for much greater influence of chance (such as HPSCHD, which let players shuffle the score). I also discussed some of the main ideas Cage demonstrated and worked with, to show his enormous importance in 20th century music:

“John Cage gives us the following startling notions about music: 1) That there can be no true silence, only unexamined sound. 2) That the border between “noise” and “music” is far less real than previously imagined, and very well may not exist. 3) That rhythm is the basic structural element of all music, being that duration is the only common element of sound and silence. These are huge ideas, and it is difficult at best to fail to notice the time and effort at understanding them taken since Cage’s introduction of these concepts. While you may disagree with the various aesthetics wrought by their birth, I can hardly see how you could claim John Cage is NOT one of the most important composers of the 20th century. Who indeed would you put in his stead?”

I figured I had this guy hemmed in. I mean, seriously, I can’t take a step into new music without running into one of Cage’s ideas. But I underestimated Sound & Fury’s slipperiness, and apparent ability to self-medicate:

“In his stead? He has no “stead”. He’s a nobody as a composer. A total cipher. As I’ve said: a charlatan.”

I don’t know what I expected from someone who recommends using Internet Explorer for viewing his website! I asked him to back up his statements, or I was using him for blog fodder. Obviously, that’s what happened.

At the heart of S&F’s miniature “defense” is this strange notion that somehow, the sounds that emanate from an easily-recognized musical instrument are “music,” but that other things are “just” sound. Or something like that– frankly, it’s hard to tell what this guy thinks. Tossing around lightweight phrases like “purely music” is simple, but S&F seems to lack the mental effort necessary to catch up with his rampaging chutzpah.

In the closing paragraph of his “Brief Thought on New Music” section, Sounds & Fury poses the question, “Is all this the musical equivalent of what it means to be a Luddite, or, worse, a woodenheaded philistine?”

To which I reply: “Yes, all of the above.”

One bad apple… (AKA, Jumping the gun)

July 13, 2007

Update: The files are back, everything is cool. Mediafire was undergoing some sort of technical issue which had “disabled” access to my account and files. Looks like I jumped the gun. In the interest of not whitewashing history, though, I’ll keep the original post up. It’s still a good read about why I share recordings of all my shows. –DaveX 

A few moments ago, I visited MediaFire to check download stats for my shared broadcasts. I was specifically interested in last week’s show, as I had not yet seen the stats for this file. However, I never got to find out– my account has been removed, and all the files have been deleted.

This really pisses me off, and I’m going to tell you why. (more…)

More filesharing thoughts…

July 5, 2007

Documentary filmmaker Sister Novena writes today to share some personal thoughts about filesharing, the future of the recording industry, and the relevance of music sharing to film. And while Sister Novena’s posts frequently move me to comment, I knew that this latest entry would require my full bloggy attention.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about the recording industry lately. I, like you, have been watching the decline of the major labels and pondering what it means for me. Their situation perplexes me because, at least in the case of music, it all seems so clear-cut and obvious, and I can’t quite figure out why the corporations are having so much trouble coping. I mean, I can — old men with vested interests in the way things have always been are notoriously resistant to change — but it all seems so futile. I can’t understand why they continue to struggle against the inevitable.”

My impression here is that the music biz is just too big of a ship to make the turn! Seriously, being a major label head these days has to be like driving the Titanic– all you can do is watch as your enormous contraption rips itself a new one. Think about it, and it makes sense. The industry has thrived for so long on a system of having everything tied together in innumerable ways. Read about Colonel Parker’s abuse of the music industry’s legalities to bind himself to Elvis sometime, or check out the history behind Jimi Hendrix’s contractual hell if you don’t believe me. I mean, this is the business that sued John Fogerty for copyright infringement against himself (alright, technically Fantasy) and WON. Everyone is tied together, and while it’s not as ridiculous as the well-known tale about DJ Alan Freed being given a “co-composer” credit for Chuck Berry’s “Maybellene,” I can’t imagine too much has changed.

“Okay, so nobody’s buying CDs anymore. So what? A CD is worthless — it costs at most a few cents, extra for the packaging, but I don’t pay any more attention to the physical object than I do to any of the other plastic packaging in my day-to-day life. It’s the data on the disc, the music it carries, that has value. If I can buy the data without the disc, then that’s simpler for everyone involved. Personally, I still prefer to have a hard copy, if only because the data-only version is still so often restricted, and that annoys me. But even when I buy a CD, the first thing I do is rip the disc and put the original product away. I have CDs I have never actually listened to directly; they were only the conduit that carried the data onto my hard drive. My computer is the center of my musical universe now; I expect that’s how it is for a lot of people.”

I guess it depends on your relationship to music. Look at the incredible proliferation of CDR labels– every single one of these could easily transition to a netlabel format– but it’s the fetish aspect of having a concrete disc sent all the way from Finland or New Zealand that’s part of the excitement. It’s also a kind of gut reaction against the disappearance of artists from our lives. When the artists we hear are only perceived as disembodied voices emanating from the Wal-Mart ceiling, or as part of a promotional stunt at some distant nightclub with other celebrities, their work ceases to become relevant in many ways. Listeners seek the personal connection between the artist and themselves– so it’s not surprising that people are willing to buy handmade CDRs; often featuring equally handmade artwork, liner notes, photos, or even equipment used in the recording itself.

“The first response whenever I ask that question is always, “well, if it works for music, it’ll work for film.” And maybe in some permutation, it will. But film and music are different species, and the consumer’s relationship to them is radically different. You buy an album because you want to listen to it over and over again, or at least want the option to be able to do so. You listen to it while you drive to work, sitting in your cubicle, while you do dishes, while you jog in circles around the park. You can focus on it, but it can also become a secondary activity. It’s flexible, and it can fill in the empty spaces in your life. Film isn’t like that. Film requires attention; it’s the thing you’re doing, not something to do while you do something else. And apart from seven-year-olds, few people watch a film repeatedly — even the films I’ve seen most often I’ve seen maybe half a dozen times. The vast majority of the time, you watch a film, and then you’re done with it. That’s the end of your relationship.”

Ack! As I’ve said many times, there’s a lot more to music than just moving your ass. On my radio show, I always push listeners towards “active listening,” which is pretty much the opposite of allowing music to become a “secondary activity.” Ideally, I’d prefer listeners have it to be primary to pretty much everything except basic bodily functions, and I’m not including bathroom breaks. Yes, I’m a tyrant.

But seriously, there is a considerable body of music that is worthy of increased consideration, and approaching this music from the same vantage point as simple dance tunes will only result in frustration on the part of the listener. It’s the equivalent of being upset that a well-made documentary isn’t a great popcorn summer flick. If everyone who saw “The Fog of War,” came out grumbling that it wasn’t “Armageddon,” its easy to see that they missed the point– these films are to be used in radically different ways.

I think the worlds of film and music CAN be compared though, provided we use intent as a guideline. Simply put, I see no reason why movies like Armageddon, or albums like Akon’s “Konvicted” should ever be subject to filesharing– they are more of a service than an art, and should be treated as such.

Think about it: who buys a pop album for deep thinking? Who attends a Fantastic Four sequel and is upset at the lack of great film moments? Nobody but the brain-dead, that’s who. Pop music and film survive in the same way that fast food, plumbers, and the car wash survive– they perform a reliable, homogeneous, unsurprising service time and time again. It is their strength to be the same each time we need them– can you imagine the folly of McDonald’s changing their menu each day? The trouble isn’t with the labels and film companies who provide us these options, but with us; we have somehow forgotten that these companies, directors, and entertainers are artists.

If we consider them for a moment as tradesmen, the conundrum of filesharing solves itself. I wouldn’t share Britney Spears any more than I would force a handyman to fix my neighbor’s rooftop along with the price of doing mine. For all her crotch shot stupidity, Spears provides a reliable service– catchy pop dance tunes, tailor-made for pre-teens to bop around to. She’s a freakin’ yeoman, seriously. But an artist? No way.

Art wants to be seen and heard. It needs to be free in ways that are totally opposite than the needs of the tradesman. Tangling it up in the business world was a mistake, but an understandable one in the old world where only the big boys had the ways and means to disseminate your work. Now all that’s changed, and we see the music biz for what it always was– a stop-gap measure for real artists, and an answering service for the entertainers.

Now is the time for us to part ways. Don’t think of it as the death of the music industry, though– just a rebirth, sans the mask of artistry.

Awesome photos– Superman Shield in the Sky!

May 26, 2007

My wife and a friend were coming home from Nashville, following their pilgrimage to see Pirates of the Caribbean 3. With her friend driving, my wife noticed a very interesting cloud formation, and took the following two pictures.

She didn’t show me the photos until this morning, after I got the camera out of the car. I uploaded them myself only a few minutes after seeing them, so I know the main two haven’t been Photoshopped. After putting them on Photobucket, I opened the originals in Photoshop, and cropped them down for easy viewing. Here are the originals, each followed by the close-up cropped version. Be sure to view these in full, they’re rather large. Enjoy! (more…)