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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Gene Simmons: we don't have a clue

The Gearslutz.com hosts 35,000 producers, musicians, audio engineering professionals, and aspirants who talk about everything from high end gear (aka the expensive stuff) to low end theory (studio bling on a shoestring) to politics and serious social issues (as seen from the mix position). I believe that experience is the best teacher, and my own experiences have been greatly informed by the conversations and arguments I’ve read and contributed to on many of the Gearslutz.com forums.

This past week, one of the hotest posts in recent memory was started by this post containing this quote from Gene Simmons (KISS frontman and Entertainment Weekly’s Crackpot of the Year — Male.

[Simmons:] The record industry doesn’t have a f—ing clue how to make money. It’s only their fault for letting foxes get into the henhouse and then wondering why there’s no eggs or chickens. Every little college kid, every freshly-scrubbed little kid’s face should have been sued off the face of the earth. They should have taken their houses and cars and nipped it right there in the beginning. Those kids are putting 100,000 to a million people out of work. How can you pick on them? They’ve got freckles. That’s a crook. He may as well be wearing a bandit’s mask.

Doesn’t affect me. But imagine being a new band with dreams of getting on stage and putting out your own record. Forget it.

[BILLBOARD:] BUT SOME ARTISTS LIKE RADIOHEAD AND TRENT REZNOR ARE TRYING TO FIND A NEW BUSINESS MODEL

[Simmons:] That doesn’t count. You can’t pick on one person as an exception. And that’s not a business model that works. I open a store and say “Come on in and pay whatever you want.” Are you on f—ing crack? Do you really believe that’s a business model that works?

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Chamber Music Returns

In the What’s Up? section of this week’s News and Observer, correspondent Roy C. Dicks wrote a wonderful review-cum-article about a renaissance of chamber music in the Triangle Area. He begins by observing the extent to which chamber music has strayed from its roots:

Nowadays, chamber music concerts are typically performed in large public venues, such as Raleigh’s Fletcher Opera Theater, Duke’s Reynolds Theater and UNC’s Memorial Hall. There, string quartets, piano trios and wind ensembles play to several hundred to a thousand people, with the musicians on a raised stage, separated from the audience.

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Tom Dowd & The Language of Music

Earlier this year I attended SPARKCON 2007, a conference set to “ignite the creative hub of the South.” I joined two days of “ideaSPARK” sessions, including one that covered my favorite topic—combining open source and music. I made many great connections and gained more than a few truly profound insights about how to make my studio plans better.

One of the folks I met there was Frank Konhaus, and he introduced me to the movie that gives this blog its title: Tom Dowd & The Language of Music. I immedately ordered it from Amazon.com and then promptly left for a 15-day trip to Asia, but the DVD was on my doorstep—and dry because of the drought—when I returned.

After watching the video, I can only imagine that everybody wants somebody like Tom Dowd in their studio, using their technical knowledge, musical knowledge, profound humility and wonderful optimism helping to make the best possible records. I certainly do! But more importantly, I believe that the environment we are trying to create will nurture new Tom Dowds, not box them in or shut them down.

I heartily recommend to any and all that this video demonstrates the viability of collaboration between artist, engineer, and producer. And I will start to build a library of quotes from that video that talk to the specifics of the successes Tom helped achieve for his artists, his label, and all of us, the music-loving community.

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.

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!