Kid Pan Alley in North Carolina

My daughter is eight years old, and one of her favorite CDs is the Kid Pan Alley Nashville CD. She knows all the lyrics, all the melodies, and uses it as inspiration for her own flights of poetic fancy. Which is wonderful when you consider the mission statement of Kid Pan Alley: inspiring kids to be creators, not just consumers of popular culture.

I first heard about Kid Pan Alley while listening to an episode of NPR‘s Morning Edition on my local radio station, WUNC. Their motivation and my own seemed so aligned, at least when it came to introducing children to music in a cultural context. I loved the idea of soliciting song and story ideas from the children, and then as much as possible using the material provided by the children to create popular songs. I must admit that despite owning more than 1,000 CDs, at most a handful have that “Nashville Sound”. But I like Kid Pan Alley!

I’m looking into bringing them (back) to North Carolina and doing a CD with a creative commons license. Are you as excited as I am? Are you interested in co-sponsoring their visit? If so, send me an email and/or indicate +1 in your comment on my blog.

An Open Business Plan

What makes more sense: writing down a business plan that is limited to what you know, or writing down a business plan that asks the world answers to questions you don’t know? In my opinion the answer is “Both!”.

There are a bunch of questions about the business of Manifold Recording that I really have the data to answer: how much is the lease? How much can I afford to spend on gear? What should I charge as a daily rate? But there are some other questions that I am too biased to answer: what should be the first 10 projects we attempt? What is going to be the most popular use of the studio space? What is the fastest and surest path to self-sustaining profit? Then it struck me: why not use this blog to attempt to inform answers to these and other questions?  After all, my biggest risk is not whether somebody will steal my ideas, but whether I will be able to execute them at all!

I’ve created a new tag: +1/-1. The idea is based on the email shorthand of +1 for ideas that people support and -1 for ideas they thing are not so great.  If you want to see the questions that are out there, you can search for articles that have this tag, and you can add your +1 or -1 comments as you see fit.  Over time, I hope that this develops into a “wisdom of crowds” that can help me make the right choices in an unknowably large range of possibilities.  We’ll see!

What is the point of music?

Art is never finished, only abandoned.
— Leonardo da Vinci

While I cannot find the definitive source of the above quotation, there is much evidence that da Vinci maintained an ongoing relationship with his art, particularly with the Mona Lisa. What does it teach us that such a genius, such a master, would never consider his work final? And what does it caution when we think of art in finite terms? For example, how much does the music world lose when an album is “finished”?

Continue reading “What is the point of music?”

Putting a value on recorded music

I can’t change the fact that my paintings don’t sell. But the time will come when people will recognize that they are worth more than the value of the paints used in the picture.
— Vincent Van Gogh (Attributed)

There was a time when digital media was not so cheap as to be essentially free.  In 1979 my father brought home a Cromemco Z2D with a 10MB winchester hard disk. I believe that computer cost $10,000, which was quite a lot back then. Three years later I got a summer job writing assembly code for a new Cromemco graphics board, and my goal for the summer was use my employee privileges to purchase a brand-new 50MB SCSI hard disk at cost: $5000. It was in that context that I first heard about the join SONY/Philips project to develop a 700MB CD-ROM for digial audio music.

Continue reading “Putting a value on recorded music”

Food For Thought

Physical construction has not yet begun, but the website is up and ready for business. The plan for this blog is to write and reflect on ideas that don’t have a proper home in the website proper–ideas that expand beyond “what is the one thing you want people to remember about your studio/site/project/etc.” So for ideas more complex than “I NEED TO BOOK TIME AT MANIFOLD RECORDING RIGHT NOW”, this might be a good place to start.

One idea that seems to have no place on a website about music and recording studios is food, specifically, slow food. The slow food movement is the brainchild of Carlo Petrini, a gregarious, optimistic Italian who believes that food should be good (authentic & delicious), clean (healthy to grow and healthy to eat), and fair (to the farmer and to the community). When I consider the lot of the average talented musician, one who struggles to realize their artistic vision in an authentic way, one who worries about the adverse effects that loud music is having on their own health and the health of those who listen to their performances, one who cannot afford to live by the practice of music alone, I wonder: where is the good, the clean, and the fair in music? How can we re-imagine music as Carlo Petrini has re-imagined food?

I won’t answer such a profound question right off the bat–there are too many interesting angles to consider to try to answer even the most basic in this first real post. (Carlo Petrini wrote Slow Food Nation, a 300 page book answering his questions–I hope I can do it in fewer.) But I will leave you with this provocative thought: evolution teaches us that the bones of the mamalian ear evolved from bones of the jaw. Might it therefore be literally true that music is indeed food for the soul? If so then I believe it should be good, clean, and fair!