Leon Vynehall – ‘Movements (Chapter III)’

‘Movements (Chapter III)’ is another hazy, monumental track from electronic artist Leon Vynehall. Full of shadows and beautiful stillshots, the video is also a gem on its own.

The album Nothing Is Still drops June 15.

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The illusion of a sole genius

midsection of man holding hands over white background

Upon winning the MacArthur Fellow award for creating unconvential, immersive opera experiences, Yuval Sharon didn’t feel like he was a ‘genius’ in any sense of the word.

The fellowship is also known as “the genius grant” although the organization steers clear of using the term in its to describe MacArthur Fellows ““because it connotes a singular characteristic of intellectual prowess.” Yuval Sharon felt the same way.

In his LA Review op-ed, he elaborates:

The Foundation probably takes pains to say this because so many people find something deeply uncomfortable about the concept of “genius” — its exclusionary implications and air of elitism; a Romanticism that seems out of step with contemporary (let alone everyday) life; the affirmation of canonical standards set by … who exactly? Any person mature enough to strive for self-awareness finds the moniker embarrassing, and only an unstable narcissist could ever self-apply the title without shame.

Perhaps there are only a few true geniuses: Leonardo Da Vinci, Einstein, and most recently, Steve Jobs. The author Walter Isaacson has written biographies on all three.

But no genius is truly original, as Brian Eno alludes to. A genius is merely part of what he calls a ‘scenius,’ a community of fellow artists who share similiar interests and collaborate, helping prop up the most notable. Says Yuval:

Moments, ideas, a single poem in a collection — a work of genius, no matter how individually wrought — is never the product of a single individual. We should stop thinking of genius as an attribute and instead start to think of it as a condition, a circumstance.

Genius is social and participatory

This notion of a sole genius reduces the collective nature of people. The world participates in the process of creation no matter how one artist tries to individuate their craft. Yuval sums it up nicely:

I spent part of the day reading about the other Fellows in my class and found myself feeling so inspired by their dedication and accomplishments in fields far removed from my own. The world seemed bigger. This may be where the “genius” moniker is still useful: by calling out examples of how and where the endlessly searching attendant spirit still visits the world. Because anyone, anywhere, can participate in it.

The Record Play app identifies songs based on album artwork

We’re all familiar with Shazam identifying songs by audio. But what about Shazaming cover art?

App experimenter Patrick Weaver created the Record Player app to help match up cover art with music on Spotify. He posted the beta on Glitch.

This is a Rube Goldberg Machine of the Google Cloud Vision API and the Spotify API. After logging into Spotify, upload an image. The image will be sent to the Google Vision API, which will guess what it is. The app will then search Spotify using Google’s guess, and give you the first result to play.combined the Google

Watch how it works below:

From hand to sleeve: What does it mean to value an intangible object?

From hand to sleeve, vinyl, sweden, records
Photo by Wells Baum

The tangible items feel like they have more cash value than the invisible digital bits. The sheer abundance of internet items not only shrink their value, they curb our attention. Whether it’s a feed of Instagram images, tweets, or new music playlists, there is simply too many things to pay attention to and not enough time to consume them.

Even though vinyl today is mass produced to meet the growing demands of nostalgic record collectors and millenial hipsters, the magic of vinyl is in its transactional and physical experience. You paid for it and now you have to store it somewhere.

The great thing about record sleeves is that they can also serve as wall art. They’re like real-life square Instagram hanging in your hallway or in your bedroom that also demonstrates your taste.

From hand to sleeve: What does it mean to value an intangible object?

But the awe of tangibility is not restricted just to records. It’s all formats. CDs still create the same return on a relationship with its consumer, at least in Japan. The reason Japan’s CD industry is still thriving is that Japanese fans love to show direct support of their artists; they want to ensure their money talks.

Yet even something as ubiquitous as a coke can create a visceral experience. Access is egalitarian. Said Andy Warhol in his 1975 book, The Philosophy of Andy Warhol.

What’s great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it, the bum knows it, and you know it.

It is still possible to tame abundancy and simulate ownership in a virtual environment. Shopping on the music store Bandcamp recreates a record-store experience. Writes music editor Ben Ratliff for the New York Times:

the online music site known for its equitable treatment of artists, and one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time. From it, you can stream music to the extent each artist allows, or buy songs at a price set by the artist — which is sometimes “pay what you wish” — or order physical products from the site. The artist gets 85 percent. Always, the artist gets to know who’s buying, without a third party in the way.

Bandcamp is a mashup of both virtual and physical worlds. Buying and selling Bitcoin feels the same way. What gives a bitcoin value is an assumed relationship between buyer and seller, not to mention the scarcity layered on top of it. There are only 21 million Bitcoins that can be mined. Bitcoin and the emerging interest in blockchain exemplify the shift toward the value on bits and bytes and not just hard goods.

Record sleeves persist because we give physical objects extra value. But the virtual sleeves on an all-access catalog to Spotify library can feel similar. It’s amazing how real things feel when you pay for them 😉

If you’re interested in more reads about vinyl, check out the below:


“Musician, artist, thinker” Brian Eno talks Bitcoin, how ‘simplicity can produce complexity’, and more…

"Musician, artist, thinker" Brian Eno talks Bitcoin, creativity, and more...
Image via © Gabby Laurent/FT

The Financial Times sat down with “musician, artist, thinker” Brian Eno in the studio of his Notting Hill home. Here are my favorite snippets from the interview:

On the transactional value between art and bitcoin:

It is not so different from bitcoin. Art is the ultimate cryptocurrency. What the art world is doing is engineering the consensual value of something, very quickly. It only needs two people, a buyer and a seller.

On fusing music and art vocations:

I had this real struggle inside me, on whether to do music or art. I worried about it a lot. And then one day, I decided I didn’t have to do one or the other, I could do both. I glimpsed the possibility of making each one more like the other, a sort of fusing together.

On ‘how simplicity can produce complexity’:

When I first came up with the idea of utilitarian music, it was very, very unpopular. It meant muzak. It was music reduced, stripped of its fundamental cultural importance. And that was my biggest hurdle. Artists were supposed to want people’s 100 per cent attention.” What interested him instead was, “what was the least that I could do with music; how much could I leave out? What if I made music that was just like an atmosphere?

He criticizes pop musicians for being too close-minded, using the metaphor of a light bulb: “nobody looks at the bloody bulb. And that is what has been happening in music. We’ve been looking at the bulb.”

Eno illustrates the complexity from simplicity theory on paper by drawing out what it isn’t. He draw a pyramid and inserts lines from top to bottom:

This is God, or the Pope, or the orchestra conductor. And information flows this way only. There is no feedback, other than something dramatic like a revolution.

The symphony: it is inspired by the divine; it enters the composer’s head; he writes it down and passes it to the conductor, and then the leaders of the orchestra, then the section principals, and then down to the rank and file. There is this idea that the music is already in existence, in the mind of God or the composer, and it is our purpose to realise it.

Now, as a working musician, I know it doesn’t happen like that. I have seen a lot of music come into existence. It is a mess. It is a lot of complex things bouncing off each other, until suddenly something beautiful and intricate exists. It wasn’t in anybody’s mind. Nobody had conceived it up to that point.

“Musician, artist, thinker” Brian Eno talks Bitcoin, creativity, and more…
Image via © Gabby Laurent/FT

On the left’s provincialism and the urge to speak out against the rise of nationalistic tribes:

“But now there is engagement with politics. I have so many American friends, they were so apolitical. Politics was something you never admitted to doing, like masturbation. But that has changed now. We all thought these [Trump and Brexit supporters] were this little bubble of weirdos. But we discovered that we were the ones in the little bubble.”

If you’re interested in more Brian Eno reads, peep the below:

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London

3 new vinyls p/mo based on your music tastes 💕, Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London
3 new vinyls p/mo based on your music tastes 💕

Alex Bartsch spent the last ten years photographing the original locations of some of his favorite UK reggae vinyl covers from 1967 to 1987. Holding each sleeve up to arm’s length, he meshes the past and present of London’s surroundings.

While Googling came handy, what he found in his research was that most of the shoots took place outside the record label offices themselves. He told Huck Magazine:

“It often starts with the information on the record sleeve but many of them don’t offer much to go on. I have learned through doing this project that a good place to start is the area where the label was based. Sometimes it was just outside the door of the record label.”

Some of the artists included in his book Covers: Retracing Reggae Record Sleeves in London include Bob Marley & The Wailers, Alton Ellis, Peter Tosh, Delroy Wilson, and more.

Snag a copy on One Love Books here or on Amazon UK.

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London, peter tosh

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

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Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London

Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London


Western record hunters race to the past

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1960s London record store
Photographer Alex Bartsch retraces reggae record sleeves in London
Your records should be uniquely, YOU

Reader in Music and Media at the University of Gloucestershire and author of PJ Harvey and Music Video Performance Abigail Gardner, writes an interesting take in Quartz on the recent trend of collecting and reissuing African music.

Are Western crate diggers the new colonists?

John Peel liked the freshness of The Bhundu Boys, they were contemporary. He didn’t live long enough to experience this recent race to the past in music, this tracking down of the undocumented curiosity, this search for music that sounds old but is new, this new colonialism. If he were alive now, he’d be playing Ata Kak’s new songs and moving things forward.

Tyler, the Creator ‘A throwaway song’ on “Okra”

A few weeks late to this but…

Just ran across the new Tyler, the Creator track in Benji B’s radio show.

Apparently, the new tune “OKRA” is a ‘throwaway song’ per the video’s YouTube page. Yet, it’s one of the best tracks I’ve heard this year. And the music video is equally delicious as the juicy bass and spit-filled rhymes.


Observations:

  • It looks like he uses the VSCO D Series filter at the 1-minute mark
  • The 1:44 mark “may cause seizure”
  • “Chicken Nugget”

Turkish musician Görkem Şen plays his Yaybahar at the sea 🎼

Turkish musician Görkem Şen uses a Yaybahar, an acoustic instrument that combines a hodgepodge of drums, coiled spring, and strings that he plays with a wrapped mallet.

Although the device looks antiquated, the sound is classical electronic. It reminds me of William Orbit’s ‘Adagio for Strings.’ It also pairs well with the beauty of the seaside.

Two birds, one stone. And deep space vibes.

Mezzanine: ‘The album that still sounds like tomorrow’

massive attack mezzanine 20 year anniversary

Music writer Michael A. Gonzales penned a dynamite article celebrating the 20th-anniversary release of Mezzanine from UK band Massive Attack.

Mezzanine is an album best listened to loud, preferably on earphones, to properly hear the layers of weirdness and rhythms, a soulful sound collage that was miles away from the “Parklifes” and “Champagne Supernovas” of their Brit-pop contemporaries Blur and Oasis.

Along with the likes of fellow Bristol-based artists Portishead and Tricky, the band helped usher in an era of trip-hop. The trip-hop genre mashed hip-hop and electronica, adding layers of rock, soul, and dub. Mezzanine was therefore fresh and original, contrary to the DJ sampling on the group’s previous two albums Blue Lines and Protection.

The trip-hop label was bestowed on the group by the Brit journalist Jonathan Taylor to describe the trippy music that was simultaneously street and psychedelic. Trip-hop was a tag that, like jazz, was often rejected by the practitioners, but it fit perfectly.

Mezzanine contained 4 singles, each matched by a dark and intriguing music video (see below). It’s also worth mentioning that one of the three key band members, Robert Del Naja, is rumored to be street artist Banksy.

To celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, the band decided to release the album in DNA format. 920,000 DNA strands make it the second-largest file ever stored in DNA. This is sure to make it forever timeless.

A 20-year-old Nas released Illmatic on this day in 1994

Today marks the 24th anniversary of Illmatic, considered one of the greatest rap albums of all-time. It saw 20-year-old Queens-bred Nas pair up with New York producers DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip, and Large Professor. Below is the promo video introducing the release.


The Streets Disciple

“I never sleep, cause sleep is the cousin of death.” – Nas, “NY State of Mind”

Nas went on to become one of the greatest lyricists. In 2013, Harvard University established the Nasir Jones Hiphop Fellowship to provide scholars with creative opportunities in the arts. In 2017, Nas sat down with Harvard poetry professor Elisa New to discuss his track “It Ain’t Hard to Tell” from the Illmatic album.

Nasty Nas made his recorded debut on Main Source’s Live at the Barbeque album as an 18-year-old. He wrote the verse when he was 16. Check out the live clip below:

A prescription for live gigs could add a decade to your life

Jamming Out The Loud House GIF by Nickelodeon-source.gif
gif via @nickelodeon

Attending a gig every two weeks may add a decade to your life. That’s according to a study done by O2 and behavioral science expert Patrick Egen.

The study reveals that 20 minutes of seeing live music results in a “21% increase in feelings of wellbeing.” This is higher than both yoga and dog-walking which are also known to uplift mood.

 “Our research showcases the profound impact gigs have on feelings of health, happiness and wellbeing – with fortnightly or regular attendance being the key. Combining all of our findings with O2’s research, we arrive at a prescription of a gig a fortnight which could pave the way for almost a decade more years of life.”

Live music as medicine

Unfortunately, listening to tunes by yourself doesn’t have the same effect. The live music experience produces a higher score on happiness in the areas of self-worth, social nature, and stimulation. As a result, venue goers are more productive and have higher self-esteem.

Placebo or prescription, it sounds like music is jam-packed full of healthy vitamins.

MF DOOM x Madlib: Speaking through music

MF DOOM recaps his experience with producer Madlib when they recorded the epic Madvillainy album 14 years ago.

“We spoke through the music. He’ll (Madlib) hear the joint and that’s like my conversation with him. And I’d hear a beat, and that’s like what he was saying to me.”

There are so many gems on the Madvillainy album but if I had to choose one (re: a few):

Music as telepathy. Beats as Madvillainy

How to sustain momentum when we’re already on a roll

 

rick rubin

We all know what it feels like to be on a roll. The enthusiasm synchs up with the effort to produce a feeling of flow. The vibe is right.

But what goes up must come down

Inspiration ebbs. Motivation falters. Humans are inconsistent.

Advises record producer and co-founder of Def Jam Records Rick Rubin:

“When on a roll of any kind, always maintain it as long as possible. Momentum isn’t always easy to conjure.”

The dip is inevitable. To sustain momentum, consider that discipline is the backbone of motivation. Habits push us on the days we don’t feel like working.

Like an improvisational jazz player, we’re always in tune, ready before it’s time.