24 June 2011

More music watching

I have gotten hooked on reality-contest type shows. (These are not a new thing of course; think of Ted Mack's Amateur Hour.) I can't work up any interest in the Weight Loss Journey of Designers on Survivor Island. Yecch. Plenty of the shows, though, are the closest you can get to classic old variety programs anymore and a great way to discover new music. There are pages and pages to write about these shows, but today I just want to share one particular performance with you.

Streetcorner Symphony got second place in the past season of The Sing-Off, a contest of a capella groups. They were my favorite by far and I liked everything they did, but their version of "Fix You" is just magic. It sticks with me. (Members of the other groups join them at the end.)

And just because I love you all so much, here's another one:

Tangential note: If they ever completely don't need hand-held mikes anymore, will singers resort to holding wooden dummies? How will they ever learn what to do with their hands? I am so tired of watching hands and mikes instead of singers' faces. And you kids stay off my lawn!

22 June 2011

Gaga for Go-Go

I've been busy, which is no excuse for not writing about music, because I've been listening to a lot of it while I work. Bad me.

Truth is, I was listening to something I really love and wanted to write about it, but I made the mistake of trying to find the perfect video and get all the historic background to lay on you. Someday, I'll write the complete book of go-go, but today I'll just give the short version.

In the 1970s, a new style of music became popular in Washington, DC. (Chocolate City, baby.) Chuck Brown developed the style by mixing Latin rhythms, funk, and call and response rapping. This music is called go-go because Brown's band plays fewer longer songs, with no breaks in between. They start playing and go go to the end of the show. Even if you have never heard go-go yourself, there's a good chance that the musicians you do listen to have been influenced by it. Or sampled it.

Here's a sample from Chuck Brown. Sorry that you don't get to have the full live experience.

This is from EU (Experience Unlimited). It's a more locally-authentic version of the song that Spike Lee used in School Daze.

Get your butt in motion!

18 June 2011

Link rot isn't new

Link rot makes a blogger scream. (Maybe someday I'll record a link rot scream and post a link.) Just a few posts before this one, I've got a link to a video that's been reset to private. Videos disappear, even whole sites like imeem and Google Video disappear. Aieee!

Link rot isn't new, though.

Get a cinephile started on lost films; pack a lunch. It is estimated that more than half the silent films made have had all their copies lost. Some are just plain lost, some are known to have burnt in archive fires (early film stock was particularly flammable.) Likewise, a big chunk of the early talkies have been lost. Some films have been partly lost: some scenes, the soundtrack, the film stock but not the soundtrack, one eye of a 3D film, etc. Some films have been lost, but we have photographs taken during production. More recent films have had all the known copies deteriorate past use. Some films have even had all their copies just plain discarded because no one thought they were worth keeping. How would you feel if you were trying to write about a particular significant director whose early films had been lost? Aieee!

Television is even worse. Early productions were broadcast live, so there is no record unless someone made kinescopes (filmed the screen); the kinescopes are then subject to the same archiving problems as any other film. Many other early programs that were filmed or taped have had all their copies lost because no one thought of keeping them. The BBC is notorious for deliberately re-using tapes in the early 60s. Whovians (hardcore Doctor Who fans) are verklempt that so much of the early series has been lost and devote a lot of effort to recovering and assembling bits and pieces from soundtracks, fragments, and production photos that have survived. (Bless Australia, which kept copies of many tapes that the Beeb sent them for their local broadcasts.) Aieee!

No one much expects live performances from before sound recording and film were invented, but even relatively recent scripts and dance scripts have been lost, some from major and significant productions. Aieee!

Much of ancient literature and has been lost over time, of course, but historians are tormented by later works that refer to earlier works, even giving tantalizing extracts (true early links). The Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder, the De Architectura by Vitruvius, and the Prose Edda of Snorre Sturlusson are well known examples of this kind of compilation. Libraries and collections burn up (down?). Fanatics burn books. Books are printed on paper that contains acid. Authors insist that their papers be destroyed when they die. One way or another, copy by copy, the work is lost. (And artworks only ever have one copy.) Even quite recent work has been completely lost except in the echoes of links. Aieee!

Online works are quite vulnerable to loss. Links to extant material become obsolete as service providers come and go, as content owners fail to pay their service bills, as sites are reorganized. Having many copies, easy in the virtual world, makes digital work more resilient against loss, but that is balance by the relative fragility of each copy compared to documents on paper or parchment. What will we all do when YouTube and Wikipedia go poof? Aieee!

I like to imagine (really fantasize) that some future historian will be interested in my blog, so I would end up being a minor Pliny the Elder of music. That's very unlikely, but my links will certainly rot. If I do make my own copies of the photo, video and audio recordings I use here, the links to those will rot and the copies themselves will get lost eventually. My own work is deservedly ephemeral, but consider how much of our current culture exists only online and how much is being lost month by month. Rotten links are the tantalizing fragments that will give future historians and fans so much to agonize over.

Dear hypothetical future readers: I'm sorry. I don't know what to do to overcome this; no one does. Remember us all kindly for what we do manage to preserve and forgive us for what we can't.

17 June 2011

"Hiatus" sounds so much better than "collapse"

Wow. Two years. Damn, where did the time go? My life got sucked into a whirlpool and I've just gotten my head back above the water, and that's enough about that.

Now I just have to think of something clever and important to write. Snort. Yeah, right, ok, whatever.

My music collection is a mess. My iTunes library is still on my old laptop, which got commandeered by the young'uns and is now giving the death-rattle of a dying fan. The music files are on my new small wonderful portable external HD, so that's safe. I hate to go through the hard labor of getting a new library set up and I'm using a shared computer anyway, so I've been stalling. That means no syncing and no proper last.fm scrobbling. I've been badly broke, but whatever newer music I've bought is on my work PC where I use winamp.

I have been using the Pandora/last.fm mashup Pandora.FM a lot, though. (Check out my Pandora profile!) Pandora still troubles me because it wants to play me more of the same music I already like. I wish it had a "play someone else's station at random" button. I can't be the only person who likes to be challenged or to find new music.

What's next for Amber, aside from untangling my music? I think I can find a thing or two to say about Youtube, so-called reality TV and the loss of good old variety shows, the demise of imeem, Pandora, Second Life, and earbuds. Maybe I'll even be able to work up some entertaining rants. We'll see.