Saturday, June 4, 2016

Friday Miscellanea

Well that didn't work! Because I know how you guys eagerly await the Friday miscellanea, I tried to schedule it to be posted automatically Friday morning at 8am. But nada! Don't know what I did wrong. If anyone knows about pre-scheduling posts in blogger, just weigh in. I couldn't post it normally because I was 40,000 ft over the Atlantic for most of Friday. Anyway, here you go, slightly late.

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It's all about the "skin orgasm" according to this article: "Here's why some people get 'skin orgasms' from listening to music." And here's hoping that this tendency to turn every human experience into some kind of sexual one doesn't get any more specific. This is the most interesting bit:
While previous research had connected Openness to Experience with frisson, most researchers had concluded that listeners were experiencing frisson as a result of a deeply emotional reaction they were having to the music.
In contrast, the results of our study show that it’s the cognitive components of 'Openness to Experience' – such as making mental predictions about how the music is going to unfold or engaging in musical imagery (a way of processing music that combines listening with daydreaming) – that are associated with frisson to a greater degree than the emotional components.
These findings, recently published in the journal Psychology of Music, indicate that those who intellectually immerse themselves in music (rather than just letting it flow over them) might experience frisson more often and more intensely than others.
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Most Canadians are, as you are probably well-aware, mild-mannered to a fault. But there are those few that you don't want to mess with. Like the ones that landed at Juno Beach in WWII. Yes, in the D-Day landings the Americans got two beaches (and apparently all the movies), the British got two beaches and the Canadians, with a fraction of the population, got one beach. But the story of the week is the Canadian Ambassador to Ireland, Kevin Vickers, who took care of his own security at a ceremony commemorating the soldiers who died in the Easter Rebellion of 1916. This is how he handled an annoying protestor:


The protestor got off easy as Ambassador Vickers in his previous job as Sergeant-at-Arms of the House of Commons shot and killed Ottawa gunman Michael Zehaf-Bibeau who stormed Parliament Hill in 2014. In other news, the Ambassador is being recalled to Canada so he can clean up the drug war in Vancouver and do something about the real estate bubble...

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Further to last week's item about the digital musical universe is this piece in the New York Review of Books: "All the Songs Are Now Yours." A sample:
You can listen to bluegrass radio from Antarctica, or reggae from Saint-Tropez. Or instantly find every jazz standards program in the world and choose among them. I just looked up every version of “These Foolish Things” and listened to them in random order, comparing renditions by Rod Stewart, Brian Ferry, and Thelonious Monk. I could record a version myself on ukulele and zither and upload it: it would exist proudly beside Billie Holiday’s and Chet Baker’s.
That seems harmless enough as no-one is likely to listen to the author's cover. But this is a bit more troubling:
The brutal winnowing of the past, selecting perhaps two dozen pop songs a year, a few albums—this vast oversimplification, this canceling of all that the culture deems tangential or unimportant—is now itself a thing of the past. Kids growing up in this environment are having a genuinely new human experience: nothing in the past is lost, which means temporal sequence itself—where the newest things are closest and most vivid, while the oldest things dwell in the dark backward and abysm of time—gets lost. Everything exists on one plane, so it is harder than before to know exactly where we stand in time.
Is Ben Ratliff, the reviewer, really both dismissing history and sacralizing it in the same paragraph? What is he trying to say, apart from, over and over, yes, now just about every piece of music or "song" is available to be listened to? Actually I don't think either he or the author of the book he is reviewing is saying very much. I'm more interested in whether something is worth listening to.

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Artificial Intelligence turns its attention to audio mastering with predictable results as told in this item: "SoundCloud’s free “auto-mastering” audio tool is more of an auto-turd."

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I offer this link, thanks to a commentator, largely because it contains the most beautiful, left-handed semi-disdainful comment on Philip Glass ever: "soft-core experimental classical music to recommend to people who blurt out they like Philip Glass": "All-night trance at the Louvre."

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I wrote about the SWAT team raid on the Gibson guitar factory a long time ago, but I'm still steamed about it--and I don't even play a Gibson. This is the kind of thing that no government anywhere should be allowed to get away with: "Lumber Union Protectionists Incited SWAT Raid On My Factory, Says Gibson Guitar CEO" Here is quote to remind you what went on:
“What is happening?” asks Gibson Guitar CEO Henry Juszkiewicz when he arrives at his Nashville factory to question the officers. “We can’t tell you.” “What are you talking about, you can’t tell me, you can’t just come in and …” “We have a warrant!” Well, lemme see the warrant.” “We can’t show that to you because it’s sealed.”
While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.
You should read the whole article, but here is part of the analysis:
Federal criminal law is not bound by the accepted rules of common law. Congress, the courts, and prosecutors can criminalize everyday conduct without having to prove that the accused intended to violate a known legal duty. That intent used to be fundamental to the mens rea required for criminal liability. It no longer is, and this is a direct result of the mushrooming administrative state in which we live. The convoluted content of many laws implemented through regulation aren’t even clear until after there’s a guilty plea or conviction, essentially giving prosecutors a blank check. Throw unchecked prosecutorial discretion into the mix and you have a recipe for legal nightmares straight out of Kafka.
People complain about the legal system in Mexico, but this kind of thing does not happen. I would never take my guitar anywhere near the US because of the insane laws about the materials that go into musical instruments. A sealed warrant that you are not allowed to see? Give me a f***ing break.

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Oh thank goodness: "Seniors silence the music in their favourite store." Slipped Disc has the story:
A spokesman from Pipedown said: “Millions of customers will be delighted by this news. So will thousands, probably tens of thousands, of people working in M&S who have had to tolerate non-stop music not of their choice all day for years.”
However John Munroe, a senior external events advisor at the British Retail Consortium, which represents retailers in the UK, said most shops taking the decision to cut music were doing so for “cost purposes” as the cost of providing music is increasing.  
He added that older customers with impaired hearing and dementia may prefer shopping in outlets where there is no background music.
Or customers of any age who are sick and tired of being subjected to the latest eruption from Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lady Gaga or Miley Cyrus when they are just trying to buy a pair of socks.

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Answering a question we have asked a few times, how well financially did some famous composers do. Stephen Pritchard writes here. Fascinating list! The interesting thing is that the big earner seems to be, of all people, Claude Debussy.

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That makes it easy to choose our musical envoi for today. This is Debussy's lovely piece of orchestral music, the Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune. This is Leonard Bernstein and the Boston Symphony:


7 comments:

Marc Puckett said...

I might borrow the Ratliff when I see it on the new books shelf at the public library but Chiasson! gosh... I'm sorry, but if I ever stumble across his poetry I'll probably pick myself up and keep on walking, based on the nonsense in that review.

For the great majority of people, there will continue to be a fairly limited range of music that they listen to (based on education, the milieu they live in, their personal 'taste'), no matter that 70 (but I stopped counting after 20...) versions of Ballad of Billie Joe are out there waiting at every second of the day to be listened to-- lots of people stop liking to be surprised in their lives, as hard as that is for some of us to comprehend.

Marc Puckett said...

You'll probably be glad to know that I refrained from including a long, long (longer than this) paragraph about the likelihood that Psychology of Music is basically a vanity press for those seeking tenure and/or publication. If they don't let me see the sample sizes &c upfront, I don't any longer pay any attention; I shouldn't need to pay $36 to know that they 'experimented with' e.g. twenty people in two classes at one university. I don't have much confidence in the distinctions made by folks who insist that 'daydreaming' is an 'intellectual immersion in music' and substantively different than 'letting the music flow over one', although perhaps I'm not paying sufficient attention-- wouldn't be the first time.

I do find it amusing, however, that there is /frisson at Reddit. :-)

Bryan Townsend said...

Marc, that was a nice mini rant about psych research into music!

Marc Puckett said...

Was glad to see that you and The Music Salon are in The Big List of Classical Music Blogs (had never seen it before this minute), under the 'Independents' rubric. You should be listed in 'Composers', too, but perhaps it is one or the other so far as their organisation scheme goes.

Bryan Townsend said...

I had completely forgotten about that list. I suspect that most of those blogs have very little traffic. I think the Music Salon is also linked to by Cambridge University as a reference for musical analysis.

Marc Puckett said...

Allan Kozinn on the Kaptainis/National Post Maometto II review fiasco, in case you haven't seen it: [http://classicalvoiceamerica.org/2016/06/09/canadian-tempest-debating-critics-role-in-our-time/].

Bryan Townsend said...

Thanks very much for the link!