Thursday, January 30, 2014

Music + Picture+ Words

A single Picture is worth a thousand Word's. The same can be said visa versa. And while Music has the power to convey the meanings held within both pictures and words, by combining all three one experiences the force of three streams of data entreating the brain simultaneously. It is undeniable that today's multimedia of Motion Pictures as a story telling technology is captivating in ways each of its component parts cannot accomplish separately. The link below provides an earlier version of Movie technology using the "Video Jukebox" . For the Baby Boomers out there seeking historical time travel allow the memories and emotions to uncoil... 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Repetition in Music: What a drag?

Seems like the nature of some media requires more than a single statement for its meaning to be communicated and fully appreciated. At least in the re-creative ones like musical performance the playing action itself is finite in time, a song lasts 5-10 minutes a concert 60 minutes and is over. Thus the musical experience is only present to the listener while the notes sound. That experience is resurrected only by playing the music all over again--from the beginning. This is unlike the visual arts for example wherein a painting can hang on a wall indefinitely after the first creative act is done. Which BTW is precisely the contribution provided with the invention of the camera. Here one could for the first time freeze in time a scene to be viewed subsequently independent of time of day, lighting, indoors or outdoors, weather, or the presence or absence of viewers at that scene. The experience of music on the other hand is not consumed in a fixed moment but rather occurs over a period of time and when the music is not recorded, enjoyment of sound is hardly dulled but rather enhanced with frequent live performances. This feature unique to music has many examples: 1,255 local performances of Tchaikowski's Nutcraker Ballet by third horn player Brian McCarty (see article below); solo pianist Eric Shifrin presiding in the Fairmont Hotel's Laurel Court for seven years (just laid off), or violinist David Reffkin playing Salon Music throughout the 1980's with his trio in what was then the St Francis Hotel's Compass Rose Room.

How is this different from any other form of mechanized labor say for example working a 'stamping machine' in an athletic shoe factory? Might want to ask the laborers involved about their state of mind at the end of a work shift. While Siddhartha famously said "one can never stand in the same river twice" with music the mental state required provides an opportunity for infinite variety of attention and expression. That's why we pay top dollar for favorite performers who bring a unique interpretation to the very same material. Can't say that about the machine operator or even a traditional Disc Jockey. And this is true for performances of  'carved in stone' classical manuscripts as well as Jazz improvisations using chord charts. "Play it Again Sam" each time can take us on an entirely different journey.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is what you see what you get?

As musicians we are trained differently than other people. Our uniqueness is to make quite detailed distinctions with our ear. This informs our own experience of the world with meaning. And it's brought to us through what is our dominant sense organ: the ear. Turns out however that what we think we hear, its significance and the interpretations we give to it, are often quite distorted by another sense organ: the eye.

The article below explains this phenomenon in more detail. Take just one impression, that of age. In this area many of us musicians might relate to what I'm talking about. However inaccurate, fact is older looking musicians appear to be less capable of fine music making in the market place. As a music booking agent I notice this happening all the time. Add to that, preconceptions about gender. An example of both age and gender is that many dance band leaders today are acutely aware of finding a front singer who is both young and female in order to appeal to a younger demographic making wedding plans. And, key to my comments here is how what we see can actually color what we hear.

As recently as 1980 there were only a few female members of the Munich Philharmonic least of all one who passed the 'blind' trombone audition and turned out to be a woman. Similarly until just a few decades ago the London Philharmonic had no Japanese until one stunned the audition jury with his soulful playing (of Western Music) from 'behind the screen'. While these cases eventually had to be adjudicated in a court of law, sensory displacement is still a problem even today. I often see some performers of my own instrument, the cello, and have to wonder how on earth can they produce the beautiful tone I am hearing while seated in that playing posture which is "all wrong". Glen Gould with his low piano bench is another case in point.

Before you protest, read this short essay: "Listening with Your Eyes: The Lessons of Blink by Malcom Gladwell.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Requests for New Year's Eve Entertainment can be challenging. Thats because clients often want to differentiate the experience from what they had the year before or from what everyone else is doing.  Even if they succeed in settling on a unique theme, to then complement that with music often becomes an additional hurdle. Foreign Cinema Restaurant in San Francisco presented these exact conditions this year. Here their very innovative chef Gayle Pirie, no stranger to creating the unexpected palette, chose a Hawaiian theme in winter! Of course she wanted music 'from the islands', all acoustic, of small size and strolling or at least portable no less. The combination of an experienced music agent coupled with flexible and seasoned performers delivered the winning formula. Repeated texts received throughout the evening from the chef herself indicated a thumbs up. 

Good reason not to change the music agent too along with next years event theme!