Sheet music
December 28, 2023

The best articles of 2023

Music writer Ted Gioia has made a selection of the best online articles and essays published in 2023, including ones on music topics. Goia, among others, recommends “I Started Playing My Sax Outdoors. Then the Fans Came” by Harvey Dickson from the New York Times, “The Origins of Creativity” by Louis Menand from The New Yorker, as well as “How Alice Cooper Cleaned Up and Became a Pop Star All Over Again” by Dave Everley from the Louder Sound.

Music writer Ted Gioia recalls singer-songwriter Nick Drake who would have turned 75 today. "Drake is now more than a music star, almost an emblematic figure. And I say with some sorrow, but with complete conviction, that his life and times remind me of so many people nowadays who have been cast adrift in our society—suffering in ways spookily reminiscent of what he experienced fifty years ago."

"When I first studied philosophy, the course began with Socrates—he was the originator of Western rationalist thinking, or so I was told. You can draw a direct line from him to analytic logic and the codification of a scientific worldview. But where did Socrates get the idea of philosophizing? Strange to say, he got it from music" - music writer Ted Gioia argues in his new book 'Music to Raise the Dead'.

GreenHouse Fest
April 24, 2023

How to reach carbon neutral festivals?

The season of summer festivals is fast approaching with all the great music, and the pollution it produces, Consequence spoke with a number of experts in the festival and environmental fields looking into the possibilities of carbon neutral activities and solutions:

A host city with a large and interested population - reduces the need for distant travel

Public transit options - the most effective travel option

Access to a clean-energy municipal grid - avoiding big diesel generators

Camping can help reduce electricity usage and transportation emissions from commuters

Cutting out meat and other animal products

Plentiful water refill stations are also a must, to stave off dehydration and the use of disposable bottles

Rethinking festival hours - a festival that runs from 11:00 am to sundown could do away with lighting entirely

Music writer Ted Gioia remembers one essential bit of advice saxophonist Jimmy Giuffre gave him on organizational theory. "He explained that musicians played better when they were happier. Now that was a word I’d never heard in organizational theory class. Giuffre continued to spell it out for me—surprised that I couldn’t figure this out for myself. Didn’t I know that people are always happier when they were with their friends? So group productivity is an easy problem to solve. In other words, if my three best buddies played bongos, kazoo, and bagpipe, that should be my group."

Understanding a mockingbird
April 19, 2023

Soundfly: Why do birds (actually) sing?

Online music school Soundfly shares an interesting article about birds' singing and why they do it. Soundfly is looking for reasons for the beautiful bird habit, such as trying to draw attention, communicating, avoiding troubles, or just having pure fun.

The MusicMan
April 19, 2023

How musicians were the first heroes?

Music writer Ted Gioia shares a news section from his new book 'Music to Raise the Dead' about musicians being the first heroes, and songs as their superpower. He based his theory on ancient texts from Mahābhārata, the Bible, and others. How did it come to this? "Songs tap into a power that transcends representation... For many individuals, music is their only pathway into ecstatic mindstates. And even for the adept who has mastered the journey, the song is often the most important thing brought back from the trip—or, in many cases, music served as the engine that propelled it forward in the first place."

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Greenday
April 19, 2023

The 50 best stoner albums

4/20 - the international counterculture holiday based on the celebration and consumption of cannabis - is coming, so Consequence marijuana lovers have put together "an essential list of the 50 Best Stoner Albums from the worlds of pop, hip-hop, electronic, rock, and heavy metal". The list starts with Black Sabbath's 'Master of Reality', and finishes with Tame Impala's 'Lonerism'.

The music writer and romance expert is trying to understand and/or explain why do young people see jazz as romantic: "Romance has been rationalized in our lives, much like a factory process. All the unnecessary steps get bypassed. And from a purely pragmatic point of view, swiping through profiles on a phone app seems far more efficient than a slow, ritualized process of courtship and romantic bonding... There’s a death of enchantment in our culture—that’s the best term I can come up with for this phenomenon... In this situation, jazz starts to play an unusual role. It gets associated with the last generation that did romantic body-contact dancing on a regular basis. It’s perceived as the soundtrack for the ritualized apparatus of courtship. Just hearing it magically summons a nostalgic longing for a more romantic age".

Bandcamp's Brad Sanders wrote an essay about growing up in sports, replacing them with music, learning to love running, and, with a little help from the post-metal band Russian Circles, how the two tightly connect. "I log all my runs in the Strava app, and in the description field for each run, I always include what I listened to while I was out on the road. It’s a formal way to acknowledge what Russian Circles taught me years ago, that the music that feeds my soul and the movement that feeds my body can–and indeed must–peaceably coexist."

"[Nowadays] It feels like if you have a musical group it must be centered around the vocalist. If we measure the average percent of instrumental content per Billboard number hit between 1940 and 2021, we see demonstrable evidence for not just the decline of the instrumental superstar but the instrumentalist generally, with the sharpest declines beginning in the 1950s and the 1990s" - Chris Dalla Riva points out. He offers an explanation: "I believe it comes down to four factors: improved technology, the 1942 musicians’ strike, WWII, television, and hip-hop."

"Capital punishment may seem an unlikely subject for a hit song. But a few hundred years ago, execution ballads not only circulated in society, but were extremely popular. The music business, as it existed in those days, depended on these bloody songs for profits. Countless examples survive in the form of broadside ballads—popular songs that were printed and sold and performed in public spaces. They were often sold at the execution itself. But they continued to circulate in the following days—serving as a combination of macabre entertainment, moral education, and daily news for people who hadn’t actually been in attendance" - music writer Ted Gioia argues how important and widespread execution songs were until fairly recently.

In a recent post on his Red Hand Files blog, Nick Cave answers a fan's question about breaking down after having lost his father. Deeply compassionate and positive: "We each have our reserves of sorrow that rise to the surface, provoked by one little thing or another, to remind us we are human and that we love and that we are a part of the great human story that flows along the ancient waterways of our collected and historical griefs. This breaking down is not something from which we need to be saved or cured, but rather it is the toss and tumble of life, and the occasional losing of oneself to the sadness of things is an honouring of life itself."

"We are not used to silence. Music has become background noise increasingly" - Jarrod Richey, a music teacher from Luicianna, shares some thoughts on active & passive music listening. "Playing good music in the background... is about as useful as putting a foreign language audiobook on in the background while doing the dishes... Music must move to the foreground of our minds and ears. We must learn to listen actively."

Writings on the wall
March 31, 2023

Ted Gioia: Where did musicology come from?

Derveni papyrus

Music writer Ted Gioia shares an extract from his new book where he's looking for the beginnings of music research: "Musicology originated as the study of magical incantations... From the beginnings of human history magic was embedded in songs. The most powerful magic is always sung or chanted... That was even true for the oldest hunter-gatherer tribes. We know that because the magical images on the cave walls are always located in spots with the best acoustics... The oldest book in Europe, Derveni papyrus... is actually a musicology text... Conductor’s baton was initially a magic wand... And we’ve encountered similar magical underpinnings to music in hundreds of other places, from shamans in Siberia to the lore of Celtic bards".

In the 14th century BC in the ancient Syrian city of Ugarit several tablets were inscribed with cuneiform signs in the hurrian language. Archaeologists unearthed these clay tablets in the 1950s, and they turned out to be the oldest known piece of music ever discovered, a 3,400-year-old cult hymn. Richard Fink points out that this piece of music also confirms a theory that “the 7-note diatonic scale, as well as harmony, existed 3,400 years ago.” Open History reminds about the discovery.

"Today almost every aspect of music-making, from composition to curation, is getting handed off to machines. But 60 years ago, just teaching a computer to sing for 30 seconds was a technological marvel" - music writer Ted Gioia goes to the roots of AI-assembled music. It was  IBM's 7094 computer that was taught how to sing in 1961.

Music writer Jay Papandreas visited a soup west, bumping into "the best record store in the midwest" on the way. In his latest memo, he tries to identify what constitutes the best record store in general - "it’s a function of care. It’s about the selection and knowledge of buyers. It’s about the effort that goes into making a daunting collection feel as inoffensive as a grocery store. It’s about organizing and breaking the mold of the judgmental record store guy trope but still having a higher taste level than any other store. The care for the music, as well as the customer, is what makes a space different from others in the same industry."

Oldies were newbies
March 13, 2023

How not to lose interest in new music as we age

The Conversation offers a few pieces of advice "if you want to train your musical taste to extend beyond the old favourites of youth:

  1. Cultivate different modes of listening including in formal (concerts), focused (solitary), casual (as an accompaniment to other activity) and social settings
  2. Make listening habitual
  3. Be curious about what you’re listening to. You can help your brain form new patterns by knowing something of the story behind the music
  4. Be patient and persistent. Don’t assume because you don’t immediately like an unfamiliar piece that it’s not worth listening to. The more you listen, the better your brain will be at triggering a pleasure response
  5. Find a friend to give you recommendations. There’s a good chance you’ll listen to music suggested to you by someone you like and admire
  6. Keep listening to the music you love, but be willing to revisit long-held beliefs, particularly if you describe your musical taste in the negative (such as 'I hate jazz'); it’s likely these attitudes will stifle your joy
  7. Don’t feel you have to keep up with new music trends. We’ve 1,000 years of music to explore."

It always did sound similar and, as it turns out, the word "saxophone" is etymologically related to the word "sex" - Olivia M. Swarthout points on her Twitter. It all began with proto-Indo-European word "sek" which means "to cut, divide".

Daisy Jones & The Six

An amusing list in Rolling Stone - "It’s a strange but often hugely appealing musical subgenre, and this is our attempt to figure out which are the true best songs of the fake best songs". Plenty of interesting music among the 50 chosen ones, set between ‘Time To Change’ by The Brady Bunch from the 1972 movie 'The Brady Bunch', and ‘That Thing You Do!’ by The Wonders from 'That Thing You Do!' (1996).22

The sound of office
February 28, 2023

QZ: Should a workplace have a soundtrack?

"These days, with devices and surroundings in constant competition for your visual attention, I’m interested in auditory experiences" - experience designer Layne Braunstein in the QZ argues why a future of soundscapes in offices could make us more creative and productive. "Sound has the incredible power to impact mood, increase productivity and creativity, and decrease stress and anxiety. The future of design for workplaces lies in wielding the power of evocative sound—a sense arguably more powerful than visuals and scent."

Easier being sad
February 27, 2023

Matthew Schnipper: The sound of grief

Frank Ocean

A lovely text in The New Yorker about music as consolation: "When Renzo died, Allegra and I decided that we wanted to have another child, to have our family feel like our family. Really what we wanted was for Renzo to not have died, but that wasn’t an option. We were living in our new apartment. Soon we would have a baby girl. Allegra wanted another Italian-sounding name. Cosima, with Coco as a nickname. I liked how it sounded spoken aloud, as lively as Renzo, but softer, close to, say, 'cosmos.' I wondered if we could have another musical middle name. Ocean, I proposed. Cosima Ocean Schnipper. Allegra said that she would think about it".

Drugs and partying specialist Michelle Lhooq is wondering how the eminent psychedelic legalization is going to affect partying in general. She asks three pivotal questions for the emerging era of post-alcohol partying:

"How might the energy of a dancefloor shift if everyone is vibrating on psychedelics?

What new aesthetics emerge from a social space designed for recreational psychedelic use?

Can nightlife be sustainable if its economic model does not revolve around booze?"

Sounds of silence
February 23, 2023

Ted Gioia: How long does pop culture stardom last?

"I’ve long believed that 80 years is a typical span of pop culture fame for superstars. I’m referring to the biggest names—the lesser stars burn out in 80 months or 80 weeks or 80 days. But the top draws retain their fame for the entire lifetime of their youngest fans—and given current life expectancies of the US audience, that can’t be much more than 80 years. We already see the price of Elvis Presley memorabilia starting to drop" - music writer Ted Gioia estimates how long stardom lasts.

February 22, 2023

How to launch a web radio station

Resident Advisor reached out to five web radio stations across the globe - Dublin Digital Radio (ddr.), Rádio Quântica, Oroko in Accra, Skylab in Melbourne and Threads in London - to provide some tips on how to start your own online radio.

Not nothing - it's all
February 22, 2023

Ted Gioia: My lifelong quest for silence

"It may seem strange to hear it from a music writer, but I'm always looking for a quiet moment" - Ted Gioia takes a moment to appreciate silence and differentiate music from noise. "I always crave more quiet moments in my life. But I still love the music. Maybe I love it all the more, for having refreshed the ears with a dose of quiet before returning to that next song".

When the music's over
February 20, 2023

Ted Gioia: Why musicians can't retire?

"The more [musicians] get the acclaim, the more they start needing it. You might think that after all the big paychecks and standing ovations, they would eventually have reached some sense of self-satisfaction that would allow for an easy retirement. But that’s not true. In fact, the opposite is the more typical case. The more the artists are rewarded, the more they still want" - music writer Ted Gioia looks into the possibility of ending a career as a musician. "Sometimes it’s better to walk away when you’re still riding high. I greatly admire performers such as Audrey Hepburn or Shirley Temple, who happily launched second careers doing charitable works and good deeds. They used their fame for something different, something perhaps better. My view is that Madonna would have a much more powerful and positive legacy if she did something like that."

"True suckiness — like true greatness — is a subjective quality" - Rolling Stone goes presenting their selection of horrible albums by otherwise brilliant artists. Plenty of greats are there - Outkast, Bob Dylan, The Clash, R.E.M., The Who, David Bowie, John Lennon, Black Sabbath, Kanye West... "Did we rank them? We sure did. Beginning with least-worst and counting down to the most historic flop."

Music writer Ted Gioia shares a fresh chapter from his new book 'Music to Raise the Dead' - the results of many years of research into the most famous story in the history of the blues, namely guitarist Robert Johnson’s legendary deal with the Devil. Gioia goes deep into history and religious practices, as well as into the meaning of crossroads, and how it all provided an environment for Johnson's experience and music.

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