Archive for the “Recordings” Category

Toub: darfur pogrommenJust when you thought we’ve been musically laying low… There’s a brand-new online-only CD release by fellow S21 regular and composer David Toub, realized by yours truly (Steve Layton, for those of you who don’t read the bottom post tag). It just became available on iTunes (US, also now or very soon in UK/Europe, Australia and Japan) on my little NiwoSound label; expect its appearance on eMusic as well very soon. The CD is in the “electronic” genre at both places, but purely as a matter of expediting the release; if it’s not classical I don’t know what is!

David’s darfur pogrommen, composed only a few months ago, is another expansive minimalist essay; its single continuous movement clocks in at 47 minutes. There’s no real attempt at programmatic writing; rather — like many of David’s other pieces — the title is a marker of a moment, that can call up whatever associations the listener might have in relation to it.

The piece is for open instrumentation. David’s own first recorded version used synthy string sounds, but I decided to give it a kind of “old school” treatment: a Reich-Glass hybrid with a vibraphone and electric organ taking the two primary parts, and electric piano and two more organs adding secondary voices. It trades a little lushness, but finds a bright, hard and uncompromising edge.

The biggest influence is still “classic” 60s-70s Glass, but David has his own way with how figures intuitively expand and contract, the harmonies involved, and his preference for alternating and pulsing notes. But later in the piece there’s a spot that to my ears definitely pays tribute to Morton Feldman as well. Surprising and beautiful!

Though there are many clearly defined sections in the piece, like so much of David’s work there’s just no way to get the whole flow with separate tracks. So if you want it, it’s all or nothing. (You can preview 30 seconds of the beginning on iTunes, but it’s a laughably hopeless indicator of what unfolds…)

Anyone wishing to burn the download to disc can also download and print this PDF file, which gives you the entire cover art and inner notes. More musically, you can freely download the PDF of the entire score from David himself.

Oh yeah: play it LOUD.

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Growing up in a podunk, nil-culture, border-ish town in Washington State, half of my classical education came by way of drifty, static-filled, late-night AM listening to the CBC. Not only work by Stravinsky, Boulez, and Xenakis, but a whole raft of amazingly strong Canadian composers: R. Murray Schafer, John Rea, Claude Vivier and the like. Many of these recordings were CBC productions, and were something that gave me an early admiration of our northern neighbor’s commitment to the arts.

But now comes word that the CBC may be essentially shuttering its recording production; what little may remain will likely be committed to the more “relevant” world of pop. Happening just in the wake of the Grammy win of violinist James Ehnes and the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra under Bramwell Tovey, of their disc of concertos by Walton, Korngold and Barber, it all seems especially ironic and bitter.

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Last.fm is a social-network/music site out of London, whose visitors play a huge part in creating their vast database on musicians, their recordings, their popularity, and music of related interest. Users contribute by providing hard information, photos, opinions, and even “tags” that end up linking like-to-like across the spectrum. But many also download a bit of software as well, that keeps track of what they listen to on their computer. This information is used to build a profile of a listener’s likes, and lets Last.fm steer them towards other new music they’re likely to enjoy. If you’re a musician with recordings out there in the world, chances are good there’s already a page at Last.fm with your name on it. (If that’s you on the page, you can create an artist account and “claim” it, adding pics, bio, info, even music to the page. There were three different pages on even little ol’ me! — that I discovered, corralled and am tidying up).

But the big news these past days is that Last.fm has worked out a deal with all the Big-4 music labels (EMI, Sony BMG, Universal and Warner) and numerous independents, that makes it possible to go to the site, simply type in a name, a “tag” or genre, and just start listening to complete tracks by that composer, performer or musician. You can listen by individual artist or album, or you can listen to a varied “radio” stream of music in the same genre. In the current beta version, you can listen to any track freely three times; after that (or before, if you were already feeling spendy) you can purchase the MP3s to download and keep. Even completely independent artists can sign on, upload and sell their music there, being paid directly by Last.fm.

How it all plays out… who knows? But artist or listener, just head on over and give it a test-drive.

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And you thought the only ones who needed to worry were the illegal file-sharers? After reading this article, think again:

in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer.

The industry’s lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are “unauthorized copies” of copyrighted recordings.

“I couldn’t believe it when I read that,” says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. “The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation.”

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