52 years ago today, the joint NASA mission of Gemini 6A and Gemini 7 marked a milestone: the first time that two orbiting objects successfully rendezvoused with one another in space. The Gemini 6 command pilot and Mercury Seven astronaut Wally Schirra (and onboard computers) brought the capsule within 1 foot of Gemini 7 and the two spaceships stayed in close orbit for four-and-a-half hours. Shortly after their separation, they gleefully marked another milestone: the first song transmitted from space. [more inside]
The Roots' Black Thought unleashes a blistering freestyle on Funkmaster Flex's show on Hot 97 (NSFW language) for 10 minutes straight, doing everything from flipping words to talking about his position on late night television, to referencing a multitude of rappers from Rakim, the D.O.C., Kanye and Dr. Dre, to Kendrick Lamar, to talking about his mother and his upbringing and the current crop of rappers.
Music and politics have a long history and in 2017, a new chapter in their fraught and complicated relationship burst open (related, previously) .... It was a strong year for guitar rock, the best of it coming from relatively younger bands dominated by women (related).... 2017 was also a year when much beloved artists abandoned the sounds their fans first fell in love with to try something new.... There was so much more that happened in 2017 .... but let's try to wrap our heads around some of it, or at least take some time to read year-end lists, or skip the words and listen to the music. [more inside]
Orgonite are a Middle Eastern Rave group from Tel Aviv with lyrics in Hebrew, Russian, English and Arabic: Habibi Yaeni, HAMSA, Adibass, Kayfuyem (feat. Arsen Petrosov) [more inside]
Pat DiNizio, lead singer and songwriter of the Smithereens, has passed away at the age of 62. [more inside]
Grace Spelman is obsessed with ultra-specific playlists. [All non-YouTube links are to Spotify] [more inside]
Two Manchester greats have teamed up to make a album about homelessness. The Guardian has its excellent first track (The Priest) and a background article that's well worth reading.
"[Songs from the Edges] is a playlist of this week's top 100 or so fan discoveries from the 1500+ microgenres I help track at Spotify. Some of the styles you will know, some you won't. Some you won't like. Some may make you lunge towards the Skip button after 4 seconds. But see if you can keep yourself from hitting it quite yet. That song may sound weird, but there's a group of people somewhere for whom it's the most exciting thing happening right now. Maybe they have a point. " [more inside]
The Year in Protest Music 2017 -- A list of 20 urgent tracks that spoke truth to power this year. Pitchfork has had a few other lists of protest songs in the past few years: We Shall Overcomb: Music as Protest at the Women’s March (Jan. 25, 2017) and 15 Ways to Protest Trump by Buying New Music (Jan. 20, 2017), and earlier with Protest Soul: Music for Healing a Broken World (Dec. 14, 2016), Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now (Sept. 15, 2016), and The Sounds of Black Lives Matter (Oct. 17, 2016). Handy song links listed below. [more inside]
Tuned Up in the Spirit: Lined out hymnody with the Old Regular Baptists "the oldest English-language religious-music oral tradition in North America, a tradition with roots stretching back to parish churches in England in the early 1600s and perhaps further still. Some people find it a strange sound. One researcher who went hunting for descriptions of lined-out singing from turn-of-the-century travelers in Appalachia told me that a few words kept popping up: mournful, wailing, confusion."
Irish uileann pipes have been recognised as an important and unique cultural heritage symbol by UNESCO. But not many people know that there is a long tradition of uilleann pipe playing among Irish Travellers. [more inside]
Always On is a 50-hour Youtube livestream of electronic music and beats featuring female, nonbinary, and transgender performers from 17 countries, sponsored by Moogfest. The NYTimes has more on Moogfest in May, the livestream, and celebrating these amazing artists. (Stream started at 12PM EST, so should run until 2 PM EST on Dec. 8.)
Dissect is a musical podcast "created by Cole Cuchna, "one person, working in his spare time, in a garage in Sacramento." It is also a moving and illuminating deep look into the music and genius of Kanye West, via a deep dive into his album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Even if - Especially if you are a music fan who has found Kanye to be insufferable and unpleasant, it is worth your attention, because there is a good chance that the experience will be relevatory, and you might find yourself encountering some surprising moments of grace (at 26:20). [more inside]
Spin the globe and it will start playing live radio wherever you stop. You can also click on a specific place. Libyana 100.1 FM is playing some bangers! Radio Thailand 97 has some good chillout music. Catavento Radio (Brazil) got my hips shaking. There are hundreds (thousands?) of stations. If you get static, just be patient, it will likely snap to the nearest station.
My favorite thing discovered on the internet research rabbithole is how Cyndi Lauper is widely-regarded by Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer enthusiasts as one of the finest straight-up performers on the obscure instrument.Says @JMMcDermott. Proof: True Colors, Time after Time, Fearless.
In 1989, CCM artist Michael W. Smith was at the peak of his career, achieving minor mainstream success while being one of the biggest Contemporary Christian artists of the time. He released an excellent, orchestra+choir, Steamroller-influenced, rather introspective-feeling album of original holiday music titled simply Christmas. The opening track is Overture/O Come All Ye Faithful. [more inside]
Sound Designer Jeans rose to prominence with his "uncomfortably meaty" rendition of Mr. Sandman. Since then he has gone on to destroy Mr. Sandman in just about enough ways to make a whole album, including an unsettling one, one that bridges the divide between cute and horrifying, an even more unsettling one, a wavy one, an existentialist hellscape, and the version that you hear on a slow train through the afterlife when you die in your sleep. If you're not into increasingly disturbing renditions of Mr. Sandman, let Jeans take you uptown. Or to the town of Ween. Or to Flavortown.
Chapelier Fou (fr.wiki; Mad Hatter via auto-translation) is the stage name of Louis Warynski, a multi-instrumentalist who composes complex pieces on violin, mandolin, harp and various electronic pieces and synthesizers, as you can see in this live clip of "Darling, Darling, Darling" as a solo piece in 2009, and for some proper madness, an augmented live video, featuring more artists accompanying Warynski and delightfully weird, surreal animations. You can find more videos from his YouTube channel, and most of his discography (Discogs) on Bandcamp.
"I have a mind to bury them whole,” Mavis Staples sings on her new album, If All I Was Was Black (YT playlist). It is not a very Mavis-like thing to hear the perpetually upbeat gospel legend sing. But after a lifetime devoted to fighting injustice through her music, such is the singer’s recent mood toward a renewed wave of bigotry and racial violence. Mavis Staples has had it. [more inside]
The National's music video for Dark Side of the Gym, choreographed and directed by Justin Peck, and performed by Justin Peck and Patricia Delgado (SLYT). As Marina Harss puts it in the New Yorker, "the whole video is essentially an extended pas de deux, highly technical but low-key, intimate, and a little sexy." [more inside]
Rarely can a film’s video game adaptation say it improved upon the film from which it drew inspiration, but the 1989 Game Boy version of Robocop, Paul Verhoeven’s ultra-violent genre classic, has at least one thing on its source material: An unforgettable theme song. [more inside]
Alma Deutscher, born 2005 in England, is a composer, violinist and pianist. She began playing the piano when she was two years old and the violin when she was three. Soon afterwards she started improvising simple melodies on the piano. Her attempts at composition began at age four, when she began writing an opera about a pirate called Don Alonzo. There followed various compositions for violin, piano, viola and voice, as well as works for chamber ensembles that were commissioned by music festivals in England and Switzerland. [more inside]
Well they do all 16 dances - So you're stumped on your next song. Here's a tried and true method to overcome that writers block! [more inside]
“I was struck by an emotion so powerful and raw that I had a hard time identifying it at first: grief. I sood there in that ecstatic crowd and mourned. I mourned all of us dumb kids. I mourned our graying hair and slackening bodies. I mourned some unnameable forgotten truth I used to know. I mourned Harold. I'd thought I was there for nostalgia; turns out I was there for an opportunity to grieve that I didn't know I'd needed”Young and Dumb Inside (SLNewYorker), a comic by Emily Flake about an adolescence spent in an underground music scene, and the mid-life nostalgia of the former kids to whom music meant everything.
"Our music should contain multitudes as well," writes Leesa Cross Smith in an essay about Sturgill Simpson in the Oxford American's 2017 music issue. The annual issue returns to its state-by-state look at some notable music (last year's focus was a departure from that usual format with Visions of the Blues). For 2017, here are the notes on the songs from the 19th Southern Music Issue CD featuring Kentucky. [more inside]
The democracy of sound: is Garageband good for music? Along with open-source recording software like Audacity, which was originally released in 1999, GarageBand has allowed women to freely explore audio recording without being discriminated against. "As a woman, I was used to being undermined and having my creative abilities doubted and my physical allure pitted against me," says Pringle. "I knew I could make something interesting in GarageBand, so I stuck with it and didn't let the haters get me down." [more inside]
The Quirky Voyage of StarTropics [Kotaku] “StarTropics released towards the end of the life of the original Nintendo Entertainment System in 1990, it was developed by Nintendo R&D3, a team that focused on Nintendo’s hardware and peripherals, but also developed Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. You play as young ace pitcher, Mike Jones. Mike’s uncle has been abducted under mysterious circumstances so he has to search the islands to find him. He does this using a submarine controlled by the NAV-COM, a robot with an uncanny resemblance to the Nintendo peripheral, ROB. There are many visual similarities the game has to the Zelda series. Mike has heart containers representing his life bar, needs to make his way through multiple caves, and eventually has to find three mystical items (cubes instead of triangular triforces). But the grid based battle system quickly diverges from Zelda with tricky boss battles, interesting characters, and jumping puzzles that take him to the stars.” [YouTube][1991 Original NES Star Tropics Commercial] [more inside]
1970s teen heartthrob David Cassidy of The Partridge Family dies from liver failure [autoplay video]. One of the Partridge Family hits was "I Think I Love You."
Last weekend, NTS and Sonos presented a full weekend of programming celebrating the David Bowie, broadcasting direct from the new Sonos London store on Seven Dials in Covent Garden. Hosts included Dev Hynes, Iggy Pop, Thurston Moore, Connan Mockasin, Neneh Cherry, and many more. The full archive is here; descriptions of individual shows (as provided by the NTS website), with links to each show, follow. [more inside]
Charlotte Gainsbourg Finds Her Own Voice [The New York Times] “Ms. Gainsbourg engages with her family’s glorious, tangled history as never before. On one level, it’s an album about grief, tinted by the deep loss she felt after the 2013 death of her older half sister, the photographer Kate Barry (whose parents were Ms. Birkin and the film composer John Barry). But it’s also an album about pleasure, full of pulsating disco beats and cool pop choruses that feel like Ms. Gainsbourg’s birthright. Above all, it’s an album that comes directly from her heart.” [more inside]
How mid-2000s emo groomed underage girls and poisoned teen boys (TW). Emo, the alternative/punk offshoot dealing with (male, mostly negative) feelings has had a problem with misogyny for a long time, having dominated the alternative-music culture of the 00s with an exclusively male worldview whose attitude to women, ranging from objectification to contempt, permeated the formative experiences of a generation of music enthusiasts (the writer Jessica Hopper described it as the antithesis of the Riot Grrl experience). And now, it now turns out, that sexually predatory behaviour is endemic in the scene, with musicians and promoters preying on fans, many of them underage.
Into the Perilous Night: An Essay by Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers: I wrote a nearly complete first draft of “What It Means” in one afternoon in my kitchen in Athens, Georgia. As a song, I didn’t know if it was worth a shit. But I had to get those feelings off my chest. The song at least felt honest and real. [more inside]
What The Hell Explains Its Appeal? Of life’s great mysteries, surely among the most impenetrable is how Bat Out of Hell, Meat Loaf’s adolescent wet dream of an album that was released forty years ago today [October 21, 1977], came to be one of the best-selling albums in the history of the record industry, cracking the top five in some rankings, and out-selling nearly all the pillars of the rock canon. - Matt Fogelson [more inside]
How Generative Music Works: A Perspective by Tero Parviainen (Put on headphones, uses mouse/keyboard/touch)
Stephen Malinowski of the Music Animation Machine creates beautiful animated visualizations of classical music, which enable viewers to see repetition, variations on a theme, structure, complexity, and other interesting properties of music. [more inside]
Pianist Nahre Sol improvises Mary Had A Little Lamb in the style of Bach, Rameau, Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Debussy, Shostakovich, Prokofiev, Messiaen, Schoenberg, Glass, Reich, and herself. (SLYT)
If you think about Rock and Pop songs with great strings there's a good chance you're thinking about the work of Paul Buckmaster who died Nov. 7 2017. If you don't know the name you almost certainly know his work. [more inside]
Do you like string quartets? And piano music? How about combining these flavours in the form of a Piano Quintet? If you’re unsure (or haven’t much time), try dipping a small spoon into the bowl with the second movement of Antonin Dvo?ák’s 1881 Piano Quintet. If this kind of thing is already to your taste, or if you have all day & nothing better to do, then see within for a whole lot more... [more inside]