Covers and the Transformative Power of Art

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Today it was announced that Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize in literature.  Last weekend, Taylor Mac performed A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, in which he sang his version of Dylan’s A Hard Rain A-Gonna Fall, a response to the Stonewall Riots and their place in American history and culture.  Next week, Wayne Krantz will be performing his own covers of iconic songs at The Miraverse, hybridizing their pop-culture DNA with his own angular, progressive jazz.

In my book, the greatness of Dylan’s genius is not that it stands alone, but that it supports the work of other geniuses, such as Taylor Mac and Wayne Krantz.  Their ability to take the familiar and make us experience it completely new ways gives us insights, hopes, and confidence that we, too, can take our familiar selves and change the goddamn world.  That’s not only an exciting message, but it’s an empowering and transformative experience!

If you live anywhere in the RTP area, you can see what this all means for yourself by purchasing tickets for the event we are recording Oct 19th at 7pm at the studio from this eventbrite tickets link for the Wayne Krantz Undercover Pop Tour.  AbstractLogix (Wayne’s label) is running a special for their customers, so hit them up if you want their very special discount.

You can’t touch this… Continue reading “Covers and the Transformative Power of Art”

The Miraverse: A Salon for the 21st Century

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Preparing the environment at The Miraverse

We are proud and fortunate to have created the inspiring space that is Manifold Recording.  But we always envisioned achieving something more than what we can do for artists, engineers, and producers.  We believe that there is a larger public sphere that is curious, excited, and even ravenous for new ideas, new experiences, new musical performances and productions.  We wanted to also create a space in which a newly-engaged public could bring new energy, new interests, and new resources to create a healthier, more vibrant, more sustainable future for music and musicians.

One thing I have learned as a former Trustee of a model Montessori school is the importance of the prepared environment. Characteristics of the prepared environment include: beauty, order, reality, simplicity and accessibility[1].  It may have required the genius of Maria Montessori to explain why these are crucial to child development (compared with, say, efficiency, authority, policy, technology, and convenience), but as adults, it is obvious to most of us that such environments are conducive to our own development, too!  Like fertile ground ready to bring forth an abundant harvest of whatever may be planted, prepared environments known as Salons helped bring about The Enlightenment by injecting academic discussion and debate into a newly formed public sphere (that was also a by-product of the Salon experience).  Adam Smith and Benjamin Franklin presented and refined their ideas at salons, “inventing” large parts of modern capitalism and modern democracy in the process.

But commerce and politics were not the exclusive subjects of salons–they were but two of myriad subjects that excited those who participated.  Frédéric Chopin and Franz Liszt were proof of that.  Chopin, in fact, preferred the environment of the salon to public performances. Continue reading “The Miraverse: A Salon for the 21st Century”

Renaissance Weekend speech texts

As we have in the past, our family participated in Renaissance Weekend in Charleston, South Carolina.  It is a wonderful opportunity to share ideas we’ve been developing and to learn from many, many people whose perspectives are truly global.  This year I was invited to share some remarks as part of the closing plenary, titled “If these were my final remarks”.  It is both a privilege to be giving the opportunity to have the last word, but it is also a challenge: of all the things that I could say, what should I say (and therefore what must I not say)?  To help me with my choice, I wrote down my two favorite themes, read them out, and decided, based on votes from a few trusted friends and my own instincts, which to deliver to the audience and which to share after-the-fact.  Here are the two texts.  Please feel free to comment on which text you prefer, or any other thoughts they elicit from you.

Continue reading “Renaissance Weekend speech texts”

The importance of art education

Last week the church I attend highlighted The Arena Culture, an editorial by David Brooks which considers a new book All Things Shining.  David Brooks writes:

For the past hundred years or so, we have lived in a secular age. That does not mean that people aren’t religious. It means there is no shared set of values we all absorb as preconscious assumptions. In our world, individuals have to find or create their own meaning.

This, Dreyfus and Kelly argue, has led to a pervasive sadness. Individuals are usually not capable of creating their own lives from the ground up. So modern life is marked by frequent feelings of indecision and anxiety. People often lack the foundations upon which to make the most important choices.

Brooks puts his finger on a very important subject—the relationships between truth, meaning, and reality—but when he wields his rhetorical hammer, it is his logical fingers, rather than the target, he manages to strike.  As a parent, as a church-goer, and as a board member of a Montessori school, I have been on my own little journey of self-discovery, and I have had a chance to re-evaluate many of the truths I thought I had settled the first time I made my way to self and adulthood. Continue reading “The importance of art education”

Glee? Not for me…

Last month after the buzz reached a fever pitch, I finally sat down to watch an episode of Glee.  I have not watched it since, but I have been thinking about why not.  I came across this blog posting, which begins:

The fictional high school chorus at the center of Fox’s Glee has a huge problem — nearly a million dollars in potential legal liability. For a show that regularly tackles thorny issues like teen pregnancy and alcohol abuse, it’s surprising that a million dollars worth of lawbreaking would go unmentioned. But it does, and week after week, those zany Glee kids rack up the potential to pay higher and higher fines.

Indeed.

I’ve watched enough television to know that sometimes a deliberate distortion of reality is part of a show’s appeal.  The Office clearly (and hilariously) offends virtually every HR law on the books, but we’re in on the joke no matter how straight the actors play it.  In its day, Ally McBeal did the same thing with courtroom antics.  On the opposite side of humor, the TV drama 24 created a “hero” who could always be relied upon to use torture as an excuse to continue to protect a regime that condoned such illegal and reprehensible actions.  I never watched 24, but from all the advertising and imagery that surrounded that show, it was pretty clear they knew and the audience knew that the show was stepping over all sorts of legal, ethical, and moral lines, and that was quintessential to the drama.  Glee appears to be entirely tone-deaf when it comes to the subject of copyright:

In one recent episode, the AV Club helps cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester film a near-exact copy of Madonna’s Vogue music video (the real-life fine for copying Madonna’s original? up to $150,000). Just a few episodes later, a video of Sue dancing to Olivia Newton-John’s 1981 hit Physical is posted online (damages for recording the entirety of Physical on Sue’s camcorder: up to $300,000). And let’s not forget the glee club’s many mash-ups — songs created by mixing together two other musical pieces. Each mash-up is a “preparation of a derivative work” of the original two songs’ compositions – an action for which there is no compulsory license available, meaning (in plain English) that if the Glee kids were a real group of teenagers, they could not feasibly ask for — or hope to get — the copyright permissions they would need to make their songs, and their actions, legal under copyright law. Punishment for making each mash-up? Up to another $150,000 — times two.

[…]

It’s hard to imagine glee club coach Will Schuester giving his students a tough speech on how they can’t do mash-ups anymore because of copyright law (but if he did, it might make people rethink the law). Instead, copyright violations are rewarded in Glee — after Sue’s Physical video goes viral, Olivia Newton-John contacts Sue so they can film a new, improved video together.

If Glee decides to bring copyright into its storyline, and treat it as intelligently and as sensitively as it attempts to treat other social issues, then perhaps I’ll watch.  Until then, no Glee for me.