The Police Give Back…Everything!

In Thursday’s USA Today’s Life section (August 6th, 2008), the article Police will bring on the night one last time caught my eye, and not just because I think that Sting’s Bring On The Night is one of the great live albums ever produced. Reporting revenues of $141M for the past year and a total of more than $346M worldwide is pretty eye-catching, too. But beyond the sheer economics of their tour, Stewart Copeland gives us a most astonishing insight. He said

We’re proud of this enormous monster we’ve created. But it owns us. The music doesn’t even belong to us anymore; it belongs to the people into whose lives it’s woven.


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The Music Lesson

The Music Lesson (2006 Cover)

Last week Lyle Estill was scheduled to give a reading at Quail Ridge Books and I was asked to introduce him.  After his reading, which was excellent, and the questions, which were semi-interesting, he set himself to signing books for the 30+ people who came to hear him that evening.  And, being in one of the best real, local bookstores, I set myself to browsing.  I wandered over to the Music section, and was stunned to see that one of my favorite bass players, Victor Wooten, had written a book called The Music Lesson.  I cracked it to a random page, read the passage that said

“Sharing is on e of the most important tools needed for personal growth,” he once told me, also stating that many people never come to understand that point.  He said that many of us try to hoard our knowledge in order to stay ahead of everyone else.  I understood that completely because I used to use the same method.


I had a trip to Oregon coming up, and I realized that with this book, I could be spending time with my man Victor.  Do you want to know what it was like?

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small is possible: reconstructing local music

small is possible book coverI just read Lyle Estill’s manifesto small is possible, an account of how he and others in Pittsboro, North Carolina (population 2,500) discovered how to feed, fuel, heal, and govern itself as a community.

First off, the writing is simply first-rate. Lyle writes with humor, but also with a very keen eye to the forces and effects that operate on multiple levels. But unlike Alexis de Tocqueville or Michael Pollan or Malcolm Gladwell, he is not merely an observer, but a passionate actor as well. And because Lyle practices the teaching “be the change you want to see in the world,” he has learned to farm, write software, weld steel, wire buildings, extend credit, teach classes, pull permits, and make peace with hunters.

Not all these many careers have been successful: he tried and failed yoga. And he tells this story of how, at the peak of the Internet Boom, he had the opportunity to Make It Big and utterly failed to comprehend the potential, as he explains:

“When Scott came to me to explain the future, I yawned. We would sit around after hours with core employees and argue about the coming of the net.

One night, our sales manager, Skip, said “Travel. Let’s take travel. How do you buy your tickets right now?”

I thought of Lisa, the preacher’s wife turned travel agent, who matched up the itineraries of Tami and Lyle [who would later marry] like a marriage counselor scheduling appointments, and I answered Skip’s question honestly:

“The other night I came out of my bathroom and found my travel agent at the kitchen table cutting up a lime on the cutting board. She had let herself in, and had brought over a ox of Corona beer.

“I sat down, grabbed a beer, and she told me that tonight we were going to get clear on whether or not Tami and I were going to Belize or Jordan. Tami came home late from work, grabbed a beer and settled into the conversation.

“Are you telling me that one day I will replace that with a computer screen?”

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Power, Passion, and Beauty

Last month I had the opportunity to read Power, Passion, and Beauty, the story of the Mahavishu Orchestra, published by AbstractLogix. As many of you can imagine, I’m a huge fan of John McLaughlin, and as a fan, the book did not disappoint. Meticulously researched the book’s organizing structure of a timeline lets history tell the story without the author getting in the way. And what a history it was…

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House Concerts and 21st Century Touring

Last year Chip and Dan Heath wrote Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, and since them I have had a new appreaciation for sticky ideas and the market or strategic position they create. This morning I came across the gem featured in my blog post title, house concerts and 21st century touring.

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The Rest is Noise (excerpt of first chapter)

I had a chance to read Part I of The Rest is Noise, and I am happy to report that the book has more than fulfilled the breathless promises made on the back cover. It is astounding. The New York Times has a lengthy excerpt of the first chapter. I don’t know about you, but when I read this text in the actual book it brought tears to my eyes. Several times. Does it have the same effect on others?

The rest is noise…

The Rest is Noise (cover)

I read a fair number of books, though not nearly as many as Amy. And many times when I discuss these books with others, they say “can you send me your reading list?” Well, I’m going to start a new category on this blog, which is books and it will be used whenever I reference a book that’s relevant in some way to the experiment that is this studio project.

I visited our local bookstore this morning (talk about a business that’s almost as bad as the studio business) and saw The Rest Is Noise and had to pick it up. First, because the topic “listening to the twentieth century” is of great interest to me. Second, because the cover art is fantastic, and third because the inside jacket cover presented to me the very insight that has inspired me to create The Miraverse inside of Manifold Recording. Namely, while paintings by Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollack sell for hundreds of millions of dollars, the equally influential music of the twentieth century struggles against the presumption that music is a dying art.

I have not yet read page one of the book, but here is what I’ll be attending to: I believe that we are presently (in 2008) discovering that consumerism is the true dead end. Not only does it kill the authentic self, but it’s destroying the earth as a habitat for humans as well. The fixed media form of art is particularly conducive to high valuation because it is unique and excludable. The diffusive form of music, which must be shared to be experienced, and which notably does not exist except when performed, presents a much greater challenge. All sorts of changes in copyright laws and other statutes to make music more like a painting have largely failed to create the ever-appreciating values we have seen in the world of paintings.

I believe that the problem with music as an industry is that we’ve tried to make it too much like a fixed medium, and records and CDs have only made this confusion the mainstream assumption. We need to return to music as a performance art, and we need to recognize the value and authenticity of experience. What is it worth to hear the greatest players playing the greatest music in the greatest halls or rooms? No, I’m not talking about Billy Joel and Sir Elton John playing piano at 125dB in a hockey rink. I’m talking about environments that fulfill music’s highest technical and artistic aspirations. This was the explicit goal of the design of the Music Room. (And to make it sustainable, we made it a carbon neutral recording studio.

I look forward to seeing how Ross’s narrative validates or challenges my own. Perhaps he’ll find an excuse to come to Pittsboro NC and hear for himself what a 21st century environment does for twentieth century music.

Nutcracker Nation

‘Tis the season, and like so many cities in America, the Nutcracker is playing to full houses here in Raleigh. I used to hate it when my parents would take me to the ballet, usually because my mother or somebody she knew was playing in the symphony and she was unwilling to leave me at home to watch something better on TV. But over the years my appreciation for music developed, and though my 10 year old self would never ever have believed it, I now enjoy listening to classical music and I find the ballet to be one of the most stimulating musical experiences to be found anywhere. What happened?

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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!