Category Archives: music

The mid-life crisis officially starts NOW.

So I appear to have bought a bass guitar. This is an unexpected development for the year. I wasn’t planning on it at all, although I’d started to have favourable feelings about the idea of trying to learn bass guitar a little while ago after I discovered that I preferred following basslines to lead guitar on Rock Band et al. It was a thought that clearly lingered with me.

And now I’ve gone past 40, and seen the only Olympics I’m ever likely to see in my country, I think my mid-life crisis has started and forced me to buy it. I have planned for said crisis, I’ve thought through the possible routes:

  • Affair – costly, too much organisation
  • Leather trousers – stumpy legs
  • Ponytail – not with my hair. I’m holding back the Hulk Hogan haircut for late 50s
  • Motorbike – costly, I’ll kill myself, q.v. leather trousers
  • Tattoo – this was the one I was planning on doing, I have a design in mind, have done for ages. Think I can handle the pain, all good. Just don’t seem to have got round to it yet

So my brain and my credit card skipped through the plan and went with bass guitar instead. The actual persuading factor was the release of a new game, Rocksmith. It’s the same sort of logic as Rockband, except you have to use an actual guitar or bass, and it’s designed more as guitar tutor through gaming. Exactly the sort of thing I can get behind. Although I’m going to try and do non-game learning and practice too. It arrives tomorrow, and I can’t wait to start.

Bowie on the Internet

Today Jack Schofield tweeted an old article from the Guardian in 1999, Tomorrow’s Rock ‘n’ Roll , where David Bowie talks to Emma Brockes about his recently-discovered love for the internet. It’s a fascinating document of the time for me, a few months before I started working “in the internet” (for want of a better description) and at a point where I was starting to create my own sites more, and think deeper about what could be done online. I think it’s worth looking a little closer at a few lines from the interview, as there are some interesting insights into how Bowie saw things developing at the time.

Something that is very familiar to me is that he started to learn more about the internet when he created his own site, bowieart.com . Just like the early home computer gamers like myself learnt about programming from trying or succeeding in creating our own games, and from inputting code ourselves, I and many others learnt a lot from creating our own sites. There is a bit of a disconnect now with services like Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter et al where the creation of content is almost completely separate from the code underneath it. Such a disconnect of course brings them to a much wider audience, but often at the expense of a deeper knowledge of how things work. However when when he talks of “The communication between me and my Web audience has become more intimate than its ever been”, it really sounds a lot like the positive side of the experiences many creators have had with Twitter. Twitter isn’t the invention here, it’s simply that I think it’s made that communication even easier, and open to many more than ever.

What really caught my attention was his understanding then of how the internet could affect music. He talks of how he “would like to see record companies changing their delivery systems so that they could send MP3s (an instant free download) straight to the record stores via an ISDN cable. The stores could then burn the CD for them on site. It would reduce the packaging costs and they would make a fortune out of it”. It’s easy to have a bit of a giggle at this, but I think he actually got it in the main. The point to him I think was that the MP3s were already approaching instant, and also that in some ways, they were valueless, 1s and 0s. As he understood it, the difficulty and the aim for the record companies instead was to find a way of making these “free” files have a value, add packaging, add value. It almost seems weird to him that they could charge for the download alone.

Where he’s absolutely spot on is the remix culture of the web. I’d never really thought of him as part of it, but his personas and reinventions clearly were remix culture, and even his music at times, which he freely admits in the article. And he just gets the issues that came with that and with the increased ability to just steal content

But on the issue of straightforward piracy, I tend to go with the flow. I am not indifferent to it, but I look on it as a lost cause. The way our society constantly breaks down parameters has led to the disintegration of intellectual property. Whether thats a good thing or a bad thing is to an extent irrelevant, without a doubt things in the future are going to be different.

He wasn’t the first person to say these things by any stretch, but it is interesting to see someone in retrospect who mainly got it, as say opposed to a Metallica, or almost every record company. All of whom had to pretty much be dragged kicking and screaming into the next century (again, as he predicts they’d have to be)

Framework for a New Musik Version 0.1

1. Musik

Digital. No point in plain natural instruments, their time is done. They’re a bit of a luxury too, an unnecessary expense. All you need is a computer. Garageband. Audacity. Linux. Mac. Whatever works, whatever you have. If you do have an instrument, and you really do want to use it, then fair enough, but in the New Musik it is now a mere input device, on a par with the keyboard. Use it sure. Then record it, get it in, fuck with it.

What does it sound like? Output. An end result. This diagram explains it:

Old music & Input & Samples > Computer > GitHub & SoundCloud > New Musik

Nice and simple. Any questions? No? We’ll move on.

2. What do I do with it

Save the separate elements of a track into the New Musik GitHub repository. This is important. It means the New Musik can be built, shared and developed quickly and easily.

Save the finished track onto SoundCloud. Done. Tell people about it. Use the hashtag #NewMusik . That shows you’re part of it.

3. How do I make money from it?

You don’t, yet. Don’t worry, this is the case for music through the ages. By putting it into GitHub, it is now open source, under the GPL V2 license (CHECK THIS). Read up on that. It’s important. The idea is that New Musik will simply begat New Musik. If you’re good at it, you’ll figure out how to make money from it, or someone else will for you. If you’re not good at it, at least you took part, you can say that proudly. If you’re inbetween good and not good, you might contribute something useful to the New Musik, help shape what it is, and be very proud of that. Your contribution will be recorded in your commits, there for music historians to see, rather than debate over. However you’ll get little or no money for that contribution. To quote David Byrne: “Same as it ever was”.

1.1. Musik (slight return)

So you do have a question? What does it sound like, really? Basically not like music does now. It might sound a little like what it has previously to how it sounds now, but not very much.

4. Politics

Bit of a pain really. Sure, this isn’t a distinctly capitalist plan. However music almost always ends up about money to some extent, if it’s a bit good. And I don’t like to be exclusionary. So the New Musik has no politics at its core at all. It is just a methodology you can apply. Be left. Be right. Try not to be a twat though.

5. Fashion

Not really my strong point. Proper hats would be nice.

6. Versioning

Back to the GitHub bit. Versioning is handy for creativity, see the before, branch off in different directions, still have all the pieces you started with. Even New Musik itself is versioned. This is 0.1. It can and will change. So should you.

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Attack

I used to have the video single of Attack by Bomb The Bass on VHS years ago, and lost it in the mists of time. I was very sad about this, it was what got me into skate videos and the like. Finally a few days ago I found this on youtube (I will admit to an issue of middle age that meant I couldn’t remember what it was called, which didn’t help with my quest). Watch and enjoy.

Simon Cowell – Do More Evil

It’s always good to try and get yourself into someone else’s mindset. Try and see the world from their point of view. So today I was wondering What Would Simon Cowell Do? See, he took a little dent this Christmas, what with the Rage Against The Machine campaign. X-Factor stuff still earned him a pretty penny, but the public will have seen it as a small defeat for him, after so much success. Obviously next year, there will another attempt to do the same, it may even be a bigger defeat.

What to do? One could lick one’s wounds, take a pragmatic approach, be slightly more subtle. Just pick a better song than an insipid Christmas-ish one like they’ve done the last few years, that might work.

However I suggest a different approach. Balls out, pure unbridled evil, make a load of money, and essentially stick it in the face of the RATM protesters. Release every performance on X-Factor on iTunes the following day. I suspect it could potentially sell enough for him to have 12 consecutive number 1s, up to and including Christmas. He could take up all of the top ten in a week. I think it’s a horrific idea. However Cowell never went broke underestimating the desire of certain broad swathes of the public to buy any old tosh. Look at Robson and Jerome. They actually broke sales records.

Just imagine, rather than a world where RATM gets a surprise number 1, the British public has a load of half-arsed performances clogging up the charts for months. That would teach them.