Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day Weekend Playlist

I’ve never posted playlists to my blog before, but there’s no reason in the world why I shouldn’t. I love sharing my musical discoveries/obsessions with others, so here goes. Please feel free to add your own in the Comments section.

Alice Coltrane, Journey In Satchidananda
Alice Coltrane, Sita Ram
The Beatles, Tomorrow Never Knows
Brian Eno & David Byrne, Qu'ran
Cassandra Wilson, Solomon Sang
David Sylvian, Taking the Veil
Derek Trucks, Sahib Teri Bandi-Maki Madni
Don Cherry, Brown Rice
Harriet Tubman, IllOvercomeSpirit
Helmut Franz & Norddeutschen Rundfunks Chor Hamburg, Lux Aeterna (1966)
Henry Kaiser, Blue Eternity
Jack DeJohnette's Directions, Flying Spirits
Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra, Guru Brahma
Jai Uttal & The Pagan Love Orchestra, Jaya Jagadambe (She Who Tears Apart Thought)
Joan Osborne, One of Us
John Coltrane, Spiritual
Joni Mitchell, Hejira
Katia & Marielle Labeque, Messiaen:Visions De L'Amen/1: Amen De La Creation
King Crimson, Matte Kudasai
Liberty Ellman, Borealis
M-Base Collective, Cycle Of Change
Me'Shell Ndegeocello, The Way
Nine Inch Nails, Pilgrimage
P'taah, There's a Light Inside Your Mind
Peter Gabriel & Kate Bush, Mercy Street
Robert Fripp, Easter Sunday
Santana, Waves Within
Severed Heads, A Million Angels
Talking Heads, Take Me to the River
XTC, Dear God

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weird Concert Dynamics

This is my first post in what I imagine will be a series on the dynamics between performers and their audiences. I’ve never posted on audience-performer dynamics before, and I really don’t know whether the things I’ve observed have been representative of larger trends, whether they’ve gotten better or worse (however one defines the terms), or whether they’re reflections of my own changing feelings about concert attendance.

I went to a free Battles concert tonight in Central Park. Battles, for those as yet unexposed to their music, is a band that deals in repetitions of minimalist patterns and overlays of same. At Stage Right was a guitarist who doubled on keyboards, often playing the two at once. In the center was another guitarist who also doubled on electric bass. At Stage Left was another guitarist who doubled on keyboards and sometimes on electric bass. In the middle was the drummer, who played very simple patterns with slight permutations over time, a sort of Steve Reich interpretation of disco, rock and funk drumming, if you will.

The music I found simultaneously intriguing and infuriating—the former because the gradual accent shifts and compulsive repetition combined cleverness with a sort of clinical obsessiveness, which together piqued my curiosity; the latter because clinical, repetitive obsessiveness has a really short shelf life for me as a listener, and because the impersonality implied by the repetitiveness I find kind of scary and repulsive.

Perhaps my reactions were not unique, because I observed something at the end of the show that I’d never seen before. The band finished its set and walked off the stage. The crowd gave them some applause, but certainly not an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response. Then someone appeared backstage (to far stage right) and began prompting the audience for signs of enthusiasm so as to induce the members of the band to return to the stage for an encore. The audience was malleable enough and responded on cue.

So here’s the first question: Have you ever been to a concert during which the audience had to be prompted to provide a rationale (in the form of demonstrable enthusiasm) for a band’s return to the stage for an encore?

I realize that everyone (me included) is dead tired of those tired “things were so much better back in the sixties” arguments. I don’t intend to add my blog posts to the pile, certainly. But having been to a lot of concerts from 1969 to present, I don’t recall ever before observing efforts to convince audiences to demonstrate that they like the artists as a condition for an encore. We went to concerts because we wanted to see our favorite acts—a shocking concept, I know. No one had to tell us to clap and cheer—we did those things because we admired fervently the artists whose concerts we attended. Was the audience reaction (or lack of same)tonight due to the alienating reductionism and obsessive repetitiveness of the music? Or are audiences just less engaged in general with the music they see performed live? Have we become the pod people depicted in Invasion of the Body Snatchers? Inquiring minds want to know...

Please feel free to add your observations in the Comments section below.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Hoax e-mail Campaign Targets Obama Tax Policies

An e-mail is spreading around claiming falsely that Barack Obama will raise a bunch of different taxes substantially. This, of course, is a standard charge leveled by the GOP against Democrats every election.

To get an accurate picture of Obama’s tax plans, see the Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy blog.

Another honest analysis, by the Tax Policy Center of The Urban Institute and Brookings Institution is here.

Lastly, debunks the e-mail’s claims in detail.

Steve Benen noted today that the McCain campaign is —ahem—incentivizing e-mail spamming by its acolytes in an effort to add some kind of spark to his campaign. I imagine these comments come from independent actors—even the increasingly sleazy McCain campaign probably wouldn’t want to be directly associated with charges as outrageously cheap as these—but certainly the McCain campaign’s efforts to encourage trolls add fuel to this kind of fire.

By the way, the e-mail ends by saying “[a]ccording to Nancy Pelosi we also need to increase Social Security payroll deductions FICA so illegals dont [sic] have to pay but can take it back home with them and retire in luxury.” The gratuitous shot at immigrants I suppose is the cherry on top of this rich Sundae of dishonesty. That alone should be a glaring clue to uninformed recipients that the e-mail is bogus.

The version I read claimed to be from one Sharon M. Valois, apparently an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island, which credential I suppose is intended to give the claims an air of authority.

Do your country and planet a favor—spread the links above as widely as you can.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

What is Reality?

First there was the McCain ad comparing Barack Obama to Paris Hilton and Brittany Spears. In addition, the McCain campaign mocked Obama for his suggestion that people inflate their car tires to the recommended pressure.

Then Obama responded with a deft application of humor.

Now Paris Hilton has responded as well. And the funny thing is that she makes more sense than McCain. She's funnier, too (although that's setting the bar pretty low, I admit).

What a strange campaign this is...