Sunday, January 30, 2011
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
On Tuesday January 25 at 9 p.m. ET, President Obama will deliver his 2011 State of the Union Address, which will be streamed live on YouTube on http://youtube.com/askobama . This year, you can do more than just watch the speech: you can also submit your questions for the President for an exclusive YouTube Interview that will take place just two days later, on January 27.
maybe not from Portugal...
Yesterday, as sometimes happens, I suddenly wanted – no, needed – to listen to Ricardo Villalobos's track Waiworinao. But how? It's not on my iPod, so digging out the Alcachofa album would have taken ages (my house is full of music, none of it organised). So, I did the obvious – I searched for it on YouTube.
I mention this because I don't want you to think I am unreasonably precious about music. I listen to it while I work, while I'm running, as I read the paper, and I'm happy to play my music through crappy computer speakers, on the TV or via a DVD player. I might listen to an individual song, a random selection of tunes, a full album: whatever.
Consequently, I find Classic Album Sundays – a London club, covered by the BBC today, where people gather to listen to vintage albums in their entirety – just a little bit uptight, a little bit Luddite. Sitting with a group of thirtysomethings, listening to classic 70s albums (on vinyl of course), great as they may be, is not my idea of fun. You can just imagine the conversation in the bar afterwards: about how that grimes music and the dubstepping is all young people are interested in nowadays. With their Facebooks. And their MP3 machines.
Yet Classic Album Sundays makes one important point. Not about the sacred format of the album, but about the way we increasingly treat music as a disposable lifestyle accessory. When organiser Colleen Murphy talks about making people turn their phones off, shut the door and give these "works of art" some "heavy listening", she is surely on to something.
We are all busy people and, as music fans, we now have unlimited musical distraction at the end of a broadband connection. We have increasingly little time to listen to a reserve of recorded sound that is growing exponentially every day. I find this can easily lead to drive-by enjoyment, a kind of panicked attempt to absorb as much music as possible – but without truly engaging with it. This is not the way to navigate your way through what Murphy believes to be profound art.
You might have read Patrick Kingsley's hymn to slow reading in the Guardian last year. I'm not sure what effect it has had on my reading habits, but it made me make a conscious effort to listen to music properly. That is, sit there, do nothing, listen – and play things that might not strike you as brilliant, but which are clearly interesting, more than once. It's unfashionable to say so, but sometimes good music is hard work and you have to steep yourself in it before it begins to make sense.
You get through a lot less music that way, but since when was it about quantity? I would rather take the time to appreciate Marcel Dettmann's Dettmann – an initially forbidding monolithic chunk of dub-techno – than rattle my way through numerous cosily familiar minimal techno tracks that I could enjoy in the same time.
I realise you need a cut-off point. The KLF used to rail against the album format as a self-fulfilling con. People would invest heavily in albums and would train themselves to like them. I can believe that, too. Years ago, I worked in a record shop where we were forced to play the top 10 on a loop. Listen to Simply Red's Life often enough and eventually you even begin to pick out favourite tracks (Fairground, of course).
So how are you listening to music in 2011? Do you still see the album as superior to the single? Can you multi-task and take all you can from a song while cooking, cleaning or writing a blog? Or is time to sit down, turn off the laptop and engage in some serious Slow Listening?
Doc Video: www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12209143
Music lovers gather for uninterrupted album appreciation at Colleen Murphy's club
A growing number of music-lovers unhappy about the way album tracks are enjoyed in a pick-and-mix fashion have decided to take action.
The rules are strict. No talking. No texting. You must listen to every song on the album.
Classic Album Sundays treat our best-loved records like great symphonies and are being set up in London, Scotland and Wales.
Groups of music fans sit in front of a vinyl turntable, with the best speakers they can afford, dim the lights and listen to a classic album all the way through.
This monthly club in north London is run by Colleen Murphy and for her it is a strike against "'download culture", the sense that music has just become an endless compilation of random songs used as background noise.
"Everyone, stop multi-tasking, sit down, open your ears and do some heavy listening."
The set album this month was Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. We sat in silence even as David Bowie's record was turned over to side two.
The seats were soft, someone had lit some incense. Some people closed their eyes, others nodded in rhythmic appreciation. There was a sense of being collectively submerged in Bowie's music.
"You're not even allowed to use the bathroom here, it's too noisy," says Ms Murphy.
Kate Bush's The Hounds of Love was a previous choice, and a popular one amongst the regulars. Most had heard bits of the record but few could remember sitting through it all the way through.
It is a topic that has been making the papers. Pink Floyd went to court to try to protect the integrity of albums such as Dark Side of the Moon. For music critics such as Neil McCormick of the Daily Telegraph they were totally justified.
"These are works of art at their greatest level. You can pick up a Dickens book and read a little bit of it and get some pleasure but you will not get the same pleasure as you would picking it up and reading it from beginning to end."
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
RE-RITE, the Philharmonia Orchestra's Digital Residency, breaks down the barrier between the audience and the concert platform. RE-RITE is not about sitting in silence while musicians perform on a distant stage. This ground-breaking audio-visual installation lets you experience what it's like to be in the midst of an orchestra playing live - hearing, seeing, and feeling the power of the performance from the musicians' perspective. You can even join in if you like.
The project is an immersive/interactive installation featuring a film of the Philharmonia Orchestra playing Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. Filmed on 29 separate cameras with microphones in each section of the orchestra, larger-than-life video projections and sound throughout the installation allow you to watch a particular group of instruments and hear what they hear. Special features include conductor and player commentary and a percussion room where an instructional video shows you how to play along. You can also 'sit' in the horn section and even have a go at conducting. RE-RITE lets you be the orchestra.