Some time ago I posted a few articles on LinkedIn groups asking for people's feedback to the question - what's the perfect soundtrack to a rainy day? As I type, I can hear rain falling on the tin roof of the sunroom outside my studio door. It's an awesome and relaxing sound. Public access isn't available to most of the LinkedIn posts which provided feedback to this question, so I'll list the feedback I received here. I must preface this by saying that these are the opinions of people who shared their thoughts with me. I am in turn sharing this with you, appreciating that music is very much about personal experience and taste. I would not wish to filter this list to exclude something you may also enjoy when the rain is falling around you. So, in no particular order, here we go - 10 songs to listen to on a rainy day:
1. Sketches of Spain
- Miles Davis2. The Fountain soundtrack - Clint Mansell3. Beneath An Evening Sky -
Ralph Towner, Slava Grigoryan, Wolfgang Muthspiel4. Summertime
- George Gershwin5. Pink Moon - Nick Drake6. Rainy Nights In Georgia
- Brook Benton
- Mike Oldfield9. It Feels Like Rain - Aaron Neville (composed by John Hiatt)10. Cumulus Rising
- Alex De GrassiEnjoy.
15 year old Korean girl, Park Ji Min
, singing a cover of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep"
on the Korean talent show KPop Star.
This is a talented young singer who did a great cover of the track. However I have a simple question: Would we be as impressed by this performance if she was singing an original song?
Here in Australia I've seen this footage countless times this week and there are blogs all over the web mentioning the video. The media are certainly captivated by what she has done. But let's just be reminded that this is a very loyal performance of a song we have all heard before. Are we impressed by how like-sounding she is to Adele's original? Impressed by the young age? A combination of both?
I have written before of the way people listen to commercial radio and popular music
- as it is generally easy, non-challenging and most of all familiar.
A greater level of talent would be required to not just nail a vocal performance, but to have actually composed the song. Again, I'm not discrediting this girl's performance. I am simply lamenting my belief that if she did compose an original song and perform it to the same level of expertise, we would probably never hear of it.
The sad, beautiful truth is that so much of the world's great original music will never find its audience
This past week has seen countless mentions of the
Recently I read about the launch of Google's new music-discovery service, Magnifier
. While currently invitation-only and in beta, the plan is that the site will feature videos of live performances, interviews with artists as well as free music downloads. A Google Music account is required to access the songs.
With so many online services enabling the discovery of new music - such as Pandora
, The Hype Machine
and many more - this update from Google beckons the question whether we as listeners really need another option.
Part of the joy of discovering music is the way
in which it is discovered. Hearing it in a friend's car or home. At a party, or before a movie starts. In a cafe, in a bar. In a written review somewhere. The circumstances are literally endless. Music is everywhere and so too is our ability to discover it.
Choosing to create an account with an online service takes away part of the joy of organic music discovery
Listen all the time. Not just when you're logged in.
If you're using social media such as Twitter or Facebook, or have ever been sent a YouTube clip of some band or performance you just have to check out, you'll know what I mean: it's not always "the right time" to listen to something new. Maybe you were out and didn't have a decent set of headphones on you at the time. Maybe you were at work and couldn't fain looking busy while you were listening to a new clip. Maybe you
just don't have the time to give a new track the attention it deserves at the time it comes to your attention. So much new music I discover is found while online. An email, a tweet, a YouTube clip, a link to a website. It's not often I become aware of a new artist or performance via radio, TV or press. For this reason, I've become a real fan of using Instapaper to save these links, emails, websites etc to a single spot that I can come back to later when I have more time. Instapaper is a very simple to install, simple to use, and free means of "bookmarking" the bits and pieces you come across online, saving them to a neat spot to check out later. In the words of the developer on his FAQs page:"I appreciate great writing, but I’ve become frustrated with the quick-consumption nature of many devoted blog readers... popular blogs are now full of useless “list posts” with no substance or value... well-written content is out there, and we do have opportunities every day to read it — just not when we’re in information-skimming, speed-overload mode...The times we find information aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Instapaper helps you bridge that gap."Tweaking the intention slightly, from consumption of written articles to attention to undiscovered music, I find Instapaper equally compelling. To paraphrase the above,
I appreciate great music, but I’ve become frustrated with the fast-food style nature of many artists and listeners. Commercial radio and other popular channels are full of hear today gone today artists bringing little of substance to the listener. Well composed music is out there and we do have opportunities every day to listen — just not when we’re in information-skimming, speed-overload mode...
The times we find new music aren’t always ideal for consuming it. Don't let inconvenience stop your discovery of new music.
A few years back I read Daniel Levitin's "This Is Your Brain On Music" and have recently turned the last pages of his follow-up "The World In Six Songs". Both are excellent, deep but easily digestible books balancing science and personal experience to provide insight into how humans and music have evolved.
Towards the end of "Six Songs", Levitin mentions several tracks which have had a resounding impact on him. I will not revisit each here, rather encourage anyone interested enough to read the book to absorb his thoughts in context. However, I do need to confess prior to this I had never heard the music of one artist he mentioned - Alex De Grassi.
I'm sure some readers of this post will be amazed by this, as I have since given myself a quick education and learned that De Grassi is a Grammy nominated artist who has been recording since 1978. Crikey, how did I miss that...?
I recently listened to his 1998 album The Water Garden, which fortunately for me was perfectly accompanied by rainy weather as I drove earlier this week. A perfect combination.
If you, like I, had not yet heard Alex De Grassi, I recommend doing so.
Especially if it's raining...
Last weekend the world saw the Eurovision 2011 final. Overall, I found the artists this year entertaining, but I didn't really connect with any of the performances.
Some people may find the idea of connecting with any Eurovision performance laughable, but this year's event got me thinking back to something very memorable from a few years ago.
In 2009 I was in love when I saw Iceland's Jóhanna Guðrún Jónsdóttir
. At the age of 19 she performed an incredibly strong song with confidence, power and a stand-out level of emotion. She was pitch-perfect, nailed the dynamics and just owned the arena. The stage backdrop and visual effects were tasteful, appropriate and relevant. And of course she looked gorgeous. It's astounding she didn't win.
The purpose of this post is simply to share my impression of how much I enjoyed that performance. Eurovision is often treated as comical fodder in the Western world. There are of course some great artists who perform on that world stage - though many, such as Jóhanna, don't seem to achieve recognition worthy of their talent despite such massive but fleeting exposure.
If you find a connection with a performance on any scale, spread the word. Let the artist know. Let others know. There are many undiscovered gems the world over.
I got up this morning to find two updates via Twitter which at first I saw as unrelated. On further thought, I believe they are closely linked...The first was a great post titled "The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We're All Going To Miss Almost Everything"
. I strongly recommend reading the original article in full - it is a fascinating and thought-provoking read. In very brief summary, the article comments on the reality that we will never come close to scratching the surface of taking in all that has been created before us. Even with the most dedicated effort, no one will ever have time in their life to read even a fraction of all the books which have
been written, see all the films which have been made, hear all the music which has been composed.
As the article's title states, the sad, beautiful truth is that almost everything which has been created, even before we each grace the planet ourselves, we will never have the ability to take in.A big realisation. And the second post? An update from Mashable titled "Metal Band Teases New Drummer on Facebook To Create Buzz, Score Fans"
. This article refers to the steps taken recently by progressive metal band Dream Theater to create a "buzz" around the pending announcement of their new drummer, following the departure of Mike Portnoy (something I discussed back in September 2010
). Since Portnoy's announcement to leave the band, they have become more engaged in social media through the creation and active updating of personal band member Twitter accounts and an increased Facebook presence.
In this latest move, the band's record label Roadrunner Records
has encouraged fans to connect with the Dream Theater Facebook page
and provide their email address, to receive updates on the announcement of the new drummer. A 3 minute video teaser is provided as a reward for signing up. How did I see these two articles as related?
It all comes back to what I see as a the most asked question of all musicians - how can my music cut through all the noise out there and find a listening audience? Virtually every band now has a Twitter account, Facebook page and website to promote their music. Just like every other band competing to be heard. The sad, beautiful truth is that so much of the world's great music will never find its audience. Unfortunately I don't conclude this article with the silver bullet, the solution to making the connection with a keen listener base. If I could, I would probably be sitting at my musical keyboard right now rather than the one that allows me to type these words!Personally, I will continue to create, continue to connect and keep expressing myself. If what I'm doing connects with you, brilliant! Enjoy.
Recently I had the radio on in the car - a relatively rare occurrence given my documented feelings on how monotonous today's fast food music is
- and it occurred to me... there seems to be a real lack of back-announcing these days i.e. announcing what song was just played and who the artist was. Perhaps this is because many radio stations now have their recently-played tracks listed online. This could be a great service, but not at the expense of letting the listener know what they just heard. Maybe the "average listener" doesn't care - but I doubt this.More and more I find frustration in the baby steps taken in the evolution of commercial radio playlists.
On the occasion that I hear something of interest - a particularly innovative earworm / hook, production technique, or just a rare gem of a song - I would like to know what it was. In addition to online playlists there are also an emerging number of means for the listener to take action themselves to identify a song and artist.
For example, Shazam
was one of the first of several mobile phone apps which enable the listener to input a snippet of the song they are listening to, allowing a service to reference the audio and identify the title and artist of the song. Again, great technology, but there is still a lack of immediacy of having the answer provided without needing to grab your phone, launch an app, wait for a response, trust it's correct...It could be my lack of emotional attachment to the current charting songs, but I remember a time when you knew what
song was number one and which artist performed it.
Now I find the songs are more familiar than I want them to be, though I have no idea what they are called or who's responsible.
For the love of music
A friend called me the other night, apparently during an ad break in X Factor. Hearing this made me think once again how crazy it is that there is no show like this dedicated to showcasing original music talent.
Without much consideration I can think of American Idol, Australian Idol, Pop Idol, Popstars (hey – I was lucky enough to meet Bardot
in a former life…!), America’s Got Talent, Australia’s Got Talent, Britain’s Got Talent, X Factor, So You Think You Can Dance…
All these shows revolve around the idea of watching people showcase their skills as an entertainer. But whose music is being performed? In the early episodes of Idol you might see the odd rare audition in which some brave soul performs something they have composed. But by the time anyone’s in the running to smell a Top 50 place the originals dream seems to go out the window, replaced by something already well digestible by the audience.
And this is where I believe we have a problem. As my friend said to me on the phone the other night, people would not tune in to music they are unfamiliar with. This is a concept which comes up time and time again. Think about the sickeningly high rotation of music on commercial radio. The similar sound between different tracks and different artists. The comfort level found in hearing something familiar is very well summed up in the brilliant documentary “Before The Music Dies
” (strongly recommended to anyone this far through this post who hasn’t seen it).
In summary, people tend to listen to commercial radio because it’s easy, non-challenging and familiar. The moment the playlist strays into unfamiliar territory and away from the established normality, you risk losing listeners.
Hmmm… so what can we make of the popularity of Pandora
, Reverb Nation
, iTunes Genius, and all the many other hundreds of ways of discovering new music? Even in the last week or so we’ve seen the launch of iTunes 10 with Ping
. Surely it can’t all be fueling a need to hear something familiar. Surely there is a desire to hear something fresh.
We have shows to watch people do nothing in a house all day, cook meals, try and find love, learn etiquette, run through ridiculous obstacle courses… Why in the world is there no TV showcase dedicated to finding and supporting original music? Give us something more than Rock Star INXS.
Bergen, Bryggen, Norway
I once had a conversation with a friend about how amazing, yet impossible, it would be to see every photograph you ever appeared in. Not just the ones you were aware of, but even those when you were walking past in the background of someone else’s shot or in some other way completely unaware that you were going to become a part of someone else’s life. Perhaps indefinitely. Though you would never know.
Imagine what you would see. Your life from a different perspective.
Tonight I posted a comment on twitter, saying I was enjoying a beer and listening to Lumsk
. (For those who don’t know – and I imagine this is quite a few – Lumsk are a Norwegian band with an amazing mix of instrumentation creating music which ranges from classical, traditional and even operatic to dark, brooding and heavy. It is intelligent and widely varying music.)
Now keep in mind this band hails from the other side of the planet to Newcastle, Australia. Yet within minutes a local follower replied that he was only listening to this same band last week. This got me thinking. Surely Lumsk is not conscious of having a fan-base so far-reaching. My fellow twitterer just happened to hear them in a small shop in the back streets of Bryggen in Bergen when visiting a few years back. And me? I read about them in an online forum for people learning Norwegian language.
Needless to say neither myself nor my follower had come across the band by any commercial marketing means or radio airplay. It was all just a matter of chance.
Who knows how many other fans there are that they will never know about. In the same way, every night of every week in every town there is someone playing a piece of music that is connecting with someone. But that connection is often never verbalised or expressed. It may be forgotten, or it may lie dormant yet still have a significant impact in the listener’s mind for a very long time.
Imagine a musician or band pulling together in one place all the fans they ever connected with. Even the least successful may manage to fill a stadium.
So – if you like something, make it known. The creators of the music who crafted it from out of nowhere would surely love to hear of it.