Balilla Pratella: Musica Futurista

foto-gruppo

Disenchanted with Opera-dominated Italy, Italian composer Balilla Pratella took a different approach to composing and performance. In 1910 he joined the futurist movement and wrote ‘The Manifesto of Futurist Musicians ‘. Pratella’s manifesto was both unconventional and controversial at the time promoting:

  • Young musicians to keep away from institutions and to study music independently
  • Focusing on new music in preference to the old
  • Composing and performing freely without the involvement of academics or critics

Balilla’s approach is brilliantly summed up in the following quote from the first page of the manifesto that made a big impression on me after discovering it as a young music student:

“I appeal to the young, to those who are thirsty for the new, the actual, the lively. They follow me, faithful and fearless, along the roads of the future, gloriously preceded by my, by our, intrepid brothers, the Futurist poets and painters, beautiful with violence, daring with rebellion and luminous with the animation of genius”.

Balilla Pratella, 1910 

Pratella’s original manifesto available to read in full here and a summary/commentary on the manifesto of futurist musicians here

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Outrageous and Ambitious – A Review of The Mars Volta

Listen to this whilst reading?

The Mars Volta have recently become one of my favourite bands. They are a band that are seemingly impossible to like on first listen though. Something you might experience in the next 30 seconds or so if you’re listening to the track playing up top.

After dismissing them myself after first listen two or three years ago, I was led back in their direction via a track called  ‘Cygnus….Vismund Cygnus’ via YouTube.  ‘Cygnus..’ is a thirteen minute rock epic with some of the most ambitious guitar and drum work you’ll hear this side of being a fan of the Volta. Complex, full of energy and accompanied with cryptic lyrics and artwork.

‘Cygnus..’ led me to dig deeper into the Volta’s work starting with the Deloused in the Comatorium, Frances the mute, Amputechture and the Bedlam in Goliath albums as well as related work with Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the lead guitarist and main creative force behind the band. 

cedricomar

Cedric & Omar – The Mars Volta

Considering the music styles they run through, the Mars Volta’s sound is tricky to put into words in a way that can do the band justice. There could be two ways of explaining the Mars Volta’s style to new listeners though:

Outrageous

If the Mars Volta were a drink at a bar they’d probably be a pint of tequila topped with Tabasco sauce laced with magic mushrooms. Some of the bands musical ideas and lyrics are outrageous.

Sample lyrics from ‘Cygnus..’ “My nails peel back / when the taxidermist ruined / goose stepped the freckling impatience / all the brittle tombs”

!!!

Cedric often makes his lyrics up on the spot to be fair and aside from the lyrics, the Mars Volta can certainly make for torturous listening. Long, loud, dissonant improvisation and lengthy ambient noise sections. This is all part of their sound though and sandwiched between moments of brilliance, sends you on a surreal pain and pleasure rollercoaster.

 

Dark Rollercoaster

Listening to the MarsVolta is a Rollercoaster

Ambitious

Another way to describe the Mars Volta has to be ambitious. I have yet to come across a band with as much pure ambition as the Mars Volta in terms of song writing and experimentation.

Frantic, free-jazz guitar solos that scale the whole neck of the guitar, impossible rhythm changes that sound like they’ve been written on another planet and 10+ minute songs that dash through a maze of sections with the tightness of a band who sound like they’ve been together for a lifetime. The Deloused in the Comatorium album is testament to this, often regarded as some of the band’s finest experimentation and after many listens is now up there as of one my favourite albums of all time.

Another massive part of the Mars Volta’s sound alongside the improvisation and experimentation is the unresolving dissonance. A unique part of the band’s sound and a part of their style I now love. Unresolving dissonance is pretty rare in most music and is incredibly tension-building. You’ll hear a lot of it in film soundtracks to create scenes of fear, danger and the like.

Instinctively, listeners want ‘wrong-sounding’ notes to resolve / to be followed by a familiar or ‘normal’ note and by going against this, the Mars Volta prove how much energy unresolving dissonance can create when it’s used well. Your waiting for Omar’s guitar line to resolve. It doesn’t and the offending note is played again. And again and then the music moves quickly into a new section and the pain & pleasure rollercoaster that is listening to the Mars Volta takes another turn. All this dissonance is torturous and compelling and pretty mind-bending at times too but this is just another hallmark of a weird and definitely-wonderful band.

amputechture full artwork

Amputechture Album Artwork

For many people, the Mars Volta will certainly need more than just one listen. Probably several. They can be a very difficult band to appreciate at first however the more you listen the closer you can get to enjoying some quite incredible music.

Apologies if you were looking for an unbiased view here but the Mars Volta for all their outrageousness and ambition emerge as a band to love.

Here’s what other fans of the Mars Volta are saying too:

I find this song to be on the same level as Tetragrammaton. F*ck, everything they do is f*cking amazing, whenever I listen to them it’s like, “What is life?”.

Pasted from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpJ73JmT9HA&feature=autoplay&list=PL43360B22F57C477D&playnext=3>

I genuinely think the Mars Volta are better than hard drugs, sex and life. Combined. Times eighteen.

Pasted from <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rpJ73JmT9HA&feature=autoplay&list=PL43360B22F57C477D&playnext=3

This album definitely takes some patience and some getting used to, but isn’t that true of all your favorite albums?

Pasted from <http://www.amazon.com/De-Loused-Comatorium-Mars-Volta/dp/B00009V7T2/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1353791542&sr=8-2&keywords=The+Mars+Volta>

(the album) Amputechture has won me over, proving that once again Mars Volta are probably the one band on Earth who are most successful at challenging both themselves and the listener. These guys take the term “progressive” seriously.

Pasted from <http://www.amazon.com/Amputechture-Mars-Volta/dp/B000GPI1BO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1353793572&sr=8-6&keywords=the+mars+volta>

Omar’s playing really shines here – truly original, knotty, torturous

Pasted from <http://www.amazon.com/Amputechture-Mars-Volta/dp/B000GPI1BO/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1353793572&sr=8-6&keywords=the+mars+volta>

“In a nutshell, you don’t know what to expect from the Mars Volta in any given song. They can draw you in with a simple riff or quiet melody, before launching into a screaming, frenetic jumble of Latin-prog-psychedelica-acid-jazz. It’s dizzying; the instrumentation is as wild and abstract as their dark, bizarre songwriting. Their lyrics are a bit reminiscent of Burroughs, and deliver a visceral punch even if they don’t make sense.” – Anon

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Seagerash?feature=mhee

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Predicting the Future of Music: How right were they?

In 2005 Kusek & Leonhard predicted how the future of music would develop in ‘The Future of Music: Manifesto for the Digital Music Revolution’. 7 years later, lets look at how accurate their predictions were.

“Imagine where music flows around us, like electricity, a utility”

Still in the days where buying CDs were the norm, Kusek & Leonhard predicted that one day we could listen to music like we receive our water or electricity; an unlimited stream of music available to us wirelessly in exchange for a yearly fee. No CDs. No physical product. No ownership.

As the amount we pay for electricity in the UK depends on how much we use, this idea of music-streaming, available to us 24/7 is better understood in the same way as our TV license works; pay it for the year and watch (listen to) as much as you’d like.

“Advertising making it free”

Kusek & Leonhard discussed how such a music service could work in a different way too, linking it with advertising to make the service free for the user. This idea was borrowed from how American TV works. American TV is free to watch but adverts are displayed to the viewer between programmes.

Quote:

“Could it be that a few years down the road I will be able to listen to music on a digital network if I also accept some advertising?”

The two methods outlined above can be seen as today’s Spotify, the 24/7 streaming service.

1. Spotify Unlimited – the unlimited stream of music for a Monthly fee – the utility/ TV license inspired idea.

2. Spotify Free – the unlimited stream of music for Free but Ads are displayed – the advertising inspired idea

“Mobile”

Another one of Kusek & Leonhard’s main predictions was how a music streaming service like Spotify would come alive on a mobile-basis too:

“There is no doubt that, due to the nature of people’s music consumption habits, mobility is the major driver behind the latest developments. Clearly the future of music belongs to truly mobile products and services: anything, anytime, anywhere.”

Devices that are always on, updated in real time, suggesting new music to the user and being able to share music with friends – this is today’s Spotify premium and the third part of the jigsaw with Kusek & Leonhard’s predictions for today’s Spotify.

Spotify’s 3 models as of August 2012: 

I could have explained this earlier, Kusek & Leonhard are established members of Berklee College of Music in California and have strong interests in the future of music and the business from their professions. Reading through the book, even seven years ahead, there is a remarkable confidence behind their ideas and a great no-nonsense analysis of the music business at the time.

Predicting the exact ideas that make up all three versions of today’s Spotify in 2005 is a fair feat especially back in the day where £13.99 CDs were still centre stage.

Linking to this, one of the biggest things I noticed reading through the book is the amount of great deja-vu moments it gives you if you’re familiar with the present day reincarnations of Kusek & Leonhards ideas – particularly Spotify, Netflix, Xbox live and several, several more. It’s the level of detail they go into that makes you flick to the back page just to double-check the publication date.

Although I could tell you a lot of the other stuff they got right too, a single blog post on this great book cannot do it justice.

Get it yourself here:

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Future-Music-Manifesto-Revolution/dp/0876390599

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Seagerash?feature=mhee

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Why eBay Sucks

Just a few:

~ In the feedback section it lets people view your purchases. Privacy infringement? Would your bank make all your purchases visible to anyone on the internet?

~ Doesn’t allow you to edit the original description for an item after bids have been made – a change that could be really useful to both the bidder and the seller e.g. if the info is no longer correct

~ The reluctance of working with phone numbers between buyers and sellers – a phonecall gets a problem fixed faster than email ever could

~ Feedback Updates are slowww – A need to refresh the page three times for Ebay to realise you’ve left feedback or changed the status of a listing

~ Repetitive message notifications that don’t go away once you’ve read them – annoying!

~ Life insurance banner adverts. Ugh. Missed opportunity – ad us something cool and relevant to what we’re searching Ebay for

~ The subliminal image of this guy. No matter what you’re doing you know in the corner of your eye he’s there

Who is he and want does he want from us?

eBay could be leaner, quicker and better.

~ Better privacy concerns

~ More flexibility with editing listings

~ Faster systems – feedback, eBay messages and other notifications that update in real time

~ Quicker and better ways in connecting buyer and seller than just eBay messages

~ Less clutter and less useless ads

Is eBay still small and smart enough to look at itself in a critical way to get better or is it now too big, bureaucratic and set to be outbidded by new kids on the block?

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

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Can we learn anything from the Digitech Whammy?

Recently I bought a Digitech whammy, a guitar effects pedal from a good friend.

It’s the best thing I’ve bought in a while.

The whammy is a fairly well known pedal in the guitar world but I thought it would be interesting to talk about it with a non-musical audience in mind. As a product, there are some pretty good ideas to take from it.

The Digitech Whammy

The whammy was a pioneer in what an effects pedal could do and what an electric guitar could sound like when it was first introduced in 1989.  Whilst the ‘Harmoniser’ and ‘Detune’ settings of the pedal created doubled-up and altered guitar sounds in similar ways to other pedals, the real selling point of the whammy came from its unique whammy effects.

Going Up!

One of these settings, the plus-two octaves, creates ear-catching, high pitch screams introduced on records by Tom morello, Jack white and other guitarists. Because of its popularity and high-pitched ability to cut through a mix the plus-two octaves is one of the most recognised whammy settings.

Hear it in action below:

As if transforming a deep male voice into a female opera singer and back again through the rocking of the pedal, the plus two octaves sound is  unique and extreme

Coming down…

Another remarkable setting the whammy holds is the divebomb. Where the plus-two goes up, the divebomb setting goes down. A mighty six octaves down.

Having played with it a fair bit, the divebomb is great for fading in and out guitar parts in completely different ways and by combining effects such as delay and chorus you can conjure up huge underwater and bottom of the ocean sounds. The effect dramatically changes the original guitar sound and it is genuinely like nothing I’ve ever heard before from an effects pedal.

Digitech say this setting simulates a guitar’s whammy bar being pushed all the way through the solid body of the electric guitar and out of the other side.

Impossible with a normal guitar and amplifier, the fact that many settings on the whammy make the impossible possible could explain why this particular effects pedal has had such an impact.

A Niche approach

Brilliant for certain tracks at certain times, the majority of the whammy’s settings are not sounds you want to hear infiltrating the sound of a whole album track by track. A lot of the effects are just too overwhelming for every second.

The fact the whammy demands creativity and a certain level of music theory cuts the whammy’s mass appeal further too.

Naturally though, sounds that are completely different to the status quo are not going to appeal to everyone. The whammy keeps the guitarist looking for something different happy and is the key in unlocking guitar sounds for fans of Rage against the machine, The White stripes, Radiohead and many more artists that have used its sounds over the years.

The whammy isn’t for everyone and every track but serve it up at the right time and you can make something different and more importantly something memorable:

Versatility

Saying this though, the whammy is a mixed bag to be fair and not a one trick pony (like many effects pedals out there) offering different sounds for different times.

 “The whammy was just such a dramatic, extreme effect. That being said, there are very subtle, beautiful things you can do with it. I used it on “Peace on Earth” for this bizarre, atmospheric, almost Chinese-sounding part” The Edge, U2 (Guitar Player, 2001)

Although the whammy is well known for its extreme effects, it can also create mysterious, unusual and subtle sounds through the harmoniser and detune effects which is a strength to the pedal.

The Future?

Being Innovative and being showcased by influential guitarists is likely to have influenced the whammy’s success in big ways. The earliest editions of the pedals are now highly sought after and new waves of influential guitarists such as Matt Bellamy from Muse, Russell Lissack from Bloc party and Dave Knudson from Minus the bear show signs of spreading the sounds of the whammy to newer generations of listeners and musicians.

Despite this, challenges lie ahead and Digitech shouldn’t sit tight. It will be interesting to see how the company responds to opportunities arising from guitar-effects based on computers, a trend set big for the future as well as seeing how the brand new whammy DT is received…

The new whammy DT set for release looks big and ghastly at first glance but it is a natural development from the original whammy shape after consideration with promises of new and unique sets of drop tuning effects. Promotion, publicity and demonstrations of the DT have been low-key and few and far between at the moment but keeping the Ferrari-red colour strong and a development from the winning formula of the whammy should boost its reception if not at first, but over time.

The Digitech whammy is a brilliant, unique piece of gear. It will be exciting to hear the new effects of the DT as well as seeing a digital, software-based version of the whammy for computer production somewhere in the near future.

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Seagerash?feature=mhee

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Skrillex: Musicians that Persevere

Whilst looking at Deadmau5’s online presence for the last post, Skrillex, an emerging dubstep/electro-house producer came to mind. Skrillex’s story is an interesting one, one worth talking about.

After being impressed by a few tracks a friend had introduced me to, I bought tickets to one of his first UK shows at the Brighton Coalition with my flatmates. We had travelled down from London to see the show and ended up having a great night. Skrillex’s music, the reception of the crowd and his stage presence made it feel like he had been producing and DJ’ing for years.

Turns out he hasn’t.

Production is Skrillex’s second real venture in music. His first lies amongst heavy post-hardcore bands, best known for fronting the signed American hardcore band ‘From first to Last’ on vocals. Enjoying rising levels of fame during 2006 and 2007 the band’s plans for progression were ended abruptly. Sonny (Skrillex’s real name) started suffering vocal problems that began to affect performances and eventually became so serious they led to his departure from the band, leaving the band without a singer and leaving sonny in need of complex surgery on his vocal chords.

Its easy to imagine Sonny was hit hard mentally during this stage. “You can’t keep singing. You need surgery”.

As a musician myself, I can guess that this kind of news couldn’t have been taken lightly.

Despite this though, Skrillex, now burning bright as a worldwide producer and DJ demonstrates great perseverance. Accepting his vocal setback and turning it into an opportunity to produce has been an investment he is now seeing a sweet return from; signed to Deadmau5’s record label, huge fanbase and world wide tours in the pipeline all confirm this.

…a situation that may not have materialised if he didn’t suffer the setback of his vocal problems in the beginning.

Skrillex’s story is an interesting one, one that shows the importance of accepting setbacks and finding new ways of doing what you really love to do. I’ll be very surprised if Skrillex doesn’t receive the praise his music and perseverance deserves this year and it’s a credit to him where others may have given up with music.

http://www.skrillex.com

Scary monsters and nice sprites, Skrillex’s headline track from his debut E.P.

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

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Deadmau5: What makes his facebook presence so good?

Listen to this whilst reading?

Like many I’ve been keeping updated with some of the big music artists online through facebook pages for a good while now; Kanye West, Bon Iver, Skream and lots more. Out of all of them though none of them really catch my attention or interest compared to Deadmau5.

The Canadian house DJ, named after a dead mouse found in his computer, is way ahead of his peers when it comes to connecting with his fan base online in my opinion. The question is then, what makes him so much better than the other artists out there?

I’ve been thinking of reasons behind this for a little while now. It used be the day-to-day frequency of his posts. This is no longer setting him aside from the many artists who also now do this. I don’t think it’s in the content of his posts and I don’t think its within the sites and videos he links to either. One reason may be down to the fact that he is very good at reflecting his personality online.

I’m unsure on whether they do or not but it definitely feels like his management doesn’t enforce a strict policy upon Deadmau5 . His facebook posts often feel honest, tongue-in-cheek and free, in the sense he is free to talk about anything. This is a breath of fresh air compared to other artists. Robotic and self-absorbed posts are still pretty common in age where facebook makes it easy to reflect yourself.

Deadmau5 has posted pictures of his apartment, his music studio, crew members, his girlfriend playing xbox, his meals, his personal photography and his tattoos in the past and it keeps you interested. He also posts on the life of his much-loved pet cat, an important sub-character to his page that his fans have began to treat with legendary status. This unintentionally creates a page environment that isn’t always centred around the life of Deadmau5 and Deadmau5 alone, reflecting a definite level of modesty throughout the page, dumbing down music awards, linking to other people’s tracks and showing appreciation to fans.

Meowingtons, Deadmau5’s Cat

A second reason explaining Deadmau5’s facebook success could be the remarkable things. The things that no-one else is doing and offering. The golden stuff.

Deadmau5 is famous for his different ‘mouse heads’ worn on stage.  The imagery is powerful and is entertaining for fans when they go to see him live. Especially the ones that light up and sync with the music!

On November 25th last year Deadmau5 released the dimensions of the ‘mau5head’ on his facebook page for fans to make and wear at his gigs. Very cool.

Another highlight comes from the London Earls court gig cancellation late 2010. Cancelled due to heavy snowfall, instead of fans drowning their sorrows at home, Deadmau5 organised a large-scale snowball fight posting rules, times and the whereabouts near Earls court on his facebook page for his UK fans to attend. The event was a success with Deadmau5 getting involved, encouraging fans to post their own photos of the event online afterwards and creating great word of mouth for him and his music. Have you heard of an artist organising anything like this before? I certainly haven’t.

What’s also interesting is that Deadmau5’s facebook page has not only been for the benefit of fans. During the same UK leg of his 2010 tour, before a gig in Cardiff, Deadmau5 posted a last-minute cry-out to fans as to whether any of them had a spare fire-wire cable he could borrow for his laptop just hours before going on stage. In exchange for free tickets, the gig went ahead from a fan responding to a post on facebook, saving the gig.

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Deadmau5 has created a reputation and it will be interesting to see how his facebook presence will develop in the near future, especially after the release of his latest album and the current limelight surrounding twitter. Online though, Deadmau5 is good at being himself and has a skill for pulling off some really remarkable ideas in comparison to other artists out there. This seems like a powerful combination. All made possible by a laissez-faire management approach to social media in this case, whatever exactly Deadmau5 does do to keep a following behind the scenes, over two and half million fans at the time of writing says a lot.

To see what he’s up to at the moment check out his page at facebook.com/deadmau5

4×4=12, Deadmau5’s latest album released, December 6th 2010

Hope you liked this post and if you get a chance please check out the author’s guitar channel for all things guitars and effects pedals:

http://www.youtube.com/user/Seagerash?feature=mhee

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Hello!

Welcome to my new Blog. Come watch it grow with time-to-time updates on music and marketing from around the world

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