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Stuart Sims
Two anti-maestro conductors making cool podcasts and blogging about interesting things.
Interests: things and stuff.
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The topic of this podcast episode really stretches the "loose" part of our 'loose filter' concept, since we don't talk much about music. We do talk about something really important, though, something that is unprecedented in human history, involves a fascinating and frightening confluence of cultural behavior and technology, and is happening all around us--and to each one of us!--but that very few people have noticed and discussed: the weaponization of hyperreality. To help us understand and explore this topic smartly, most of the episode features a conversation with Keith Nainby, whose academic specialty is human communication, and who is a terrifically lively guest whose insights still have our heads spinning. Since this topic can seem pretty esoteric at first, I wrote a post that serves as introduction to this topic, but it's not necessary to enjoy our conversation about this timely and important topic. Playlist for the interstitial music and clips in this episode: George Carlin on language Ratatat - Imperials Tool - Lateralus Brother Ali - Uncle Sam Goddaman Stephen Colbert - The Colbert Show inaugural episode, Oct. 17, 2005 Eyedea & Abilities - Powdered Water Too Red Hot Chili Peppers - Throw Away Your Television The Beatles - Tomorrow Never Knows Igor Stravinsky - Symphonies of Wind Instruments St. Vincent - Marrow Gil Scott-Heron - The Revolution Will Not Be Televised Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2017 at Loose Filter Media
I. Introduction Neil Postman is, in my estimation, one of the most important writers whose work needs to be more actively read, studied, and taught than it is currently. While his work is not obscure, and has had some influence, I open this short essay by asserting its significance because Postman has articulated and explained the fundamental necessity of deconstructing, understanding, and moderating the influence and effects of our media on ourselves (and by extension our culture, our collective behavior and decisions) better and more accessibly than any other writer I've found. Also, for me, through much of his work as a whole Postman implicitly draws out the evolution of a primary thesis of communication studies--the medium is the message--into our growth and experience of hyperreality (which is vastly accelerated by the internet). I think that this process has continued, and that--because our experience of hyperreality is so pervasive and so convincing--we are now actively trying to make reality match our own subjective notions of what it should be, and the phenomenon of Donald Trump as PEOTUS is as clear an example of this large-scale reification of hyperreality as I've seen. Look: I know that those previous two sentences are maybe not the clearest I've ever written, and that this can seem dense and obscure and not really worth thinking about too much. But, and I urge you to find me persuasive on this, it really is important and actually not too complicated, if you can stay in a conceptual... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
Christmas can be tough. Though often considered "the most wonderful time of the year," the holiday season brings significant challenges for many, who are far from loved ones, or have recently lost a loved one, and it can be pretty rough--and sometimes being close to family can actually be the rough part. Whatever the reason, when the holiday season is trying, it doesn't help that the music surrounding us is often just terrible. Not merely 'not great.' Terrible. I'm talking "Last Christmas," "Wonderful Christmastime," terrible. But despair not, in this sea of awful music, pumped into the air incessantly around us for another couple of weeks, there are a few shining beacons: Christmas music that is actually a pleasant experience, maybe even uplifting or joyful, that has the potential to get you into the holiday spirit in the best and most genuine ways. Here is some not merely palatable, but truly enjoyable Christmas music, to help brighten up your holiday season: Sufjan Stevens has released two epic sets of music for the holidays: 'Songs for Christmas' and 'Silver & Gold', both of which are terrific. They're an eclectic mixture of somber, haunting carols and bizarre, upbeat reinterpretations of old classics that makes for an exciting musical journey that will have you crying and laughing in the span of a few minutes. Both sets are quite long, with over two hours of music each. (The best part about that is that you can pick and choose your favorite tracks to create... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
This post doesn't really have a coherent theme, other than "here is some cool stuff I've had bookmarked to share for a bit, and am finally getting around to sharing." I'm hoping it will be a nice tonic to, well, you know, current reality. Four things for your enjoyment: from Vox.com, the video Rapping Deconstructed: the Best Rhymers of All Time. Based on the work of Martin Connor (whose website Rap Analysis is well worth close reading), this short video encapsulates how the technique of rap and rappers grew from its origin to its most gifted and skilled practitioners, and really clearly illustrates how they do what they do. It's a great medley of many of rap's best artists for those who may already know; and a fun primer for those unfamiliar with this musical style and practice: Of the many things I will miss about President Obama is his intuitive understanding and celebration of the importance of creative, cultural work as absolutely essential (one of the many, many displays of his emotional and spiritual intelligence). He and the First Lady held events and participated in creative culture often, and one of my personal favorite ways they did so was by personally curating and sharing playlists. Through Spotify, the President released several summer playlists over the past couple of years, which are really superb (free to listen, but Spotify login required): from 2015, Day and Night playlists (track lists here) from 2016, Day and Night playlists (track lists here) Michelle... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
In this episode, we look at bands that were signed to major labels despite being unconventional, abrasive, or just plain weird. We explore conditions in the industry that led to these bands getting signed, along with the virtues of being weird. The really amazingly cool playlist for this episode is: Captain Beefheart - Diddy Wah Diddy Captain Beefheart - Moonlight on Vermont Frank Zappa - Montana Frank Zappa - Don't Eat The Yellow Snow Talking Heads - I Zimbra Talking Heads - Once in a Lifetime Devo - Jocko Homo Devo - Smart Patrol/Mr. DNA Butthole Surfers - Concubine Butthole Surfers - Pepper They Might Be Giants - Istanbul Mr. Bungle - Quote Unquote (Travolta) The Flaming Lips - Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots Tom Waits - Singapore Continue reading
Posted Sep 22, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
This guy plays with himself, and it's pretty great: Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
In this episode of the podcast, we talk about how we think about music: the concepts that inform musical work, the different ways that people listen to and think about listening to music, and how we use metaphor to describe the ineffable. We even wander into some discussion about how those ideas influence our tastes and what we enjoy. Playlist after the fold.... Playlist for "How We Think About Music": LCD Soundsystem, "Get Innocuous!" Bon Iver, "Wash." Harry Nilsson, "One" Battles, "Tonto" Steve Reich, Music for 18 Musicians, "Section V" Marvin Gaye, "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" John Coltrane, "A Love Supreme, Pt. 1: Acknowledgement" Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
No, seriously: Alarm Will Sound has recorded an acoustic performance of the Beatles' (in)famous track "Revolution 9" (a peculiar example of musique concrète). And it is FANTASTIC. Like, really seriously the best thing I've heard in a while. It's kind of rehabilitating my opinion of the original track, actually. Give it a listen: Their new album is available for pre-order here. You should get it. AWS is one of my favorite musical ensembles of any kind. Their audacious and bold originality never fails to delight. Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
Produced under the umbrella of Loose Filter Media, we are very proud to introduce Lisette & the Loudmouths, and their new EP Old, New, Borrowed, Blue. You can listen to and download it here. Enjoy! Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
Yes. Yes it does: Source: 'Get Lucky' cover played on bassoon and theremin by jeffbsn on Rumble Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2016 at Loose Filter Media
Buster Keaton footage cleverly edited with the brilliant and satisfying Fearful Symmetries, by John Adams--it works so well: Video is by Jérôme Bosc (parts 2 & 3 after the jump). If you're curious at all about my calling Buster Keaton an American Master, you must watch Tony Zhou's episode "Buster Keaton - The Art of the Gag" from his amazing Every Frame a Painting series. Part 2: Part 3: Continue reading
Posted Dec 18, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
This is fantastic: i put “All I Want for Christmas is You” through a MIDI converter, and then back through an mp3 converter the result is this garbage Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
This week's pick is "Doin' It Right" by Daft Punk. I am not so disillusioned to think you haven't heard of Daft Punk. From "One More Time" to "Get Lucky", Daft Punk is the kind of group that it's hard to avoid, even if you wanted to. Most of their overwhelming popularity stems from their sense of mystery: the two Frenchmen wear robotic looking helmets to hide their faces, they rarely perform live, and they release music very sporadically. (They also collaborate with big names, past and present, and they have a merch line that would make any electro-hipster drool.) Beyond all this, they make exceptionally great music. This is all well known--what you may not know are some of the other amazing tracks on their albums that did not become one of their beloved singles. "Doin' It Right" is one of the last tracks on their latest album, Random Access Memories, and is an incredible auditory experience: One of the best things about "Doin' It Right" is the production. Granted, Daft Punk always have very high quality production, but this song in particular is a perfect example of their abilities: there is simultaneously tons of space and incredibly rich textures (not an easy thing to accomplish), and while relatively simple in content (a lot gets repeated), the subtleties of timbre, texture, and space create a surprisingly engaging musical atmosphere. (The spaciousness in the production especially reminds me a lot of "Royals", by Lorde.) The infectiously catchy melody sung by... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
This is the first episode of a three-part series we've been recording about the history of punk music. A musical style often derided for its simplicity and unpolished nature, punk is actually quite seminal and important, and for part one we look at one of the earliest punk albums, The Velvet Underground & Nico, and consider the music, what ideas informed it, what impact it had, and so on--the usual stuff. What we found was surprising to me personally (I've mostly regarded punk as something akin to day-old garbage: not quite stinky and gross, but not desirable at all, either), and has really changed my estimation of this music and social movement. It's a fun exploration of a musical style you may not have considered very seriously before, but should. Playlist after the fold.... The playlist for this episode is all tracks from The Velvet Underground's first album, The Velvet Underground & Nico (1967): Venus in Furs I'm Waiting for the Man European Son There She Goes Again Sunday Morning I'll Be Your Mirror Heroin (outro) Sweet Jane (from Loaded) Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
I'm becoming more and more fascinated by graphical, software-based music composition tools. A well-known, simple example is ToneMatrix, a pentatonic step sequencer (if you've never played with this before, you're welcome). If you find that one interesting, give these a try (flash plug-in required, sorry): Online Sequencer: straight-forward, most resembles traditional organization of musical ideas. Drumbot: a bunch of cool tools: several drum sequencers, chord charts for discovery and composition, practice tools, and more. Otomata: a generative musical sequencer. Seaquence: my personal favorite, Seaquence adopts a biological metaphor, allowing you to create and combine musical 'lifeforms' that will then interact, resulting in unpredictably evolving compositions. Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
From Ted Gioia at the Daily Beast is a great article detailing what the continually faltering and failing music industry can learn from what TV, as an industry, is doing right. His framing makes a powerful point: not only is TV thriving by selling content via a profitable subscription model, as an industry it is taking a product that was long given away free and convincing people to pay for it. Read it here: Five Lessons the Faltering Music Industry Could Learn From TV. (Gioia's writing about music is always interesting, btw.) Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
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The tumblr Composers Doing Normal Shit features photographs of exactly what you'd expect. I love things like this because, hey, amusement, but also because it's an important and interesting exercise to humanize those whose accomplishments we really admire, who seem much larger than life. It reminds us that they are just people, too, and that their lives were filled with mundanity, just like ours, and that those accomplishments were mostly because of diligent, focused and consistent work, not magical art-making powers. My favorite at the moment is probably Dmitri Shostakovich playing cards with his kids: Continue reading
Posted Nov 23, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
The video below is a fun, fast-motion tour of the most popular songs in the United States each year, from 1900 to 2009. It's only eleven minutes, so obviously you only hear a snippet of each song, but it's really interesting to hear our national taste evolve (note that the list is most popular, not most important or influential--the methodology for arriving at each choice is quite detailed, though any choices prior to 1950 are at best educated guesses). The list of top songs for each year is here if you'd like to follow along as you listen. It includes links for each entry, leading to further information about each artist's recording history and lists of the top 100 songs for each year. It's quite a trip: Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
We wanted to challenge ourselves to try and connect three random musical choices, so we raided Dave's recent listening list on his phone and came up with music from Sufjan Stevens, Johannes Brahms, and 80s synthpop, which are definitely a challenge to connect. But as we listened, we discovered some exciting things these random choices have in common, and a little bit about what makes interesting music, well, interesting--no matter the specific kinds of sounds it's made of. Our very random playlist for this episode includes: Sufjan Stevens, "Fourth of July" Stevens, "John My Beloved" Stevens, "Age of Adz" Johannes Brahms, Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98 - I. Allegro non troppo Brahms, Symphony No. 4 - IV. Allegro energico e passionato Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, "Enola Gay" OMD, "Sealand" (outro) Depeche Mode, "Enjoy the Silence" Continue reading
Posted Nov 20, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
Cage and Feldman, that is (sorry if the title misdirected any of you). The recording below is over four hours of conversation--open, familiar, unguarded--between friends John Cage and Morton Feldman. For the rest of us, it is a very rare opportunity to listen in on extended conversations between two of the 20th century's most important and incisive musical minds. Recorded between July 1966 and January 1967, they talk about ideas, art, music, people, philosophy, and so much more. If you like real, thoughtful, informed conversation, then this will be a delight. Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
The longer I teach music to college students, the more vexed I am by the gulf between much research in the field of music education, and how it is actually practiced in schools. In the U.S., music education in public schools by and large continues to be structured and practiced on the venerable model of large ensemble performance, usually in band, choir, and/or orchestra programs. I personally am a product of such programs, and have taught and worked in those modes and models for 20 years now. There is much to recommend them. But as I continue to work in this field, I find it more and more preposterous how unchanging and unaffected by contemporary cultural practices the large ensemble, performance-based models of music education are. I mean, I can walk into almost any high school music room or university music building, and find curricula, models, modes of creation and performance, even values that are essentially identical to what I experienced 25 years ago. But consider how vastly musical culture has changed in those 25 years! What I experienced and learned as a student was culturally distant at the time; now it is absurdly so. This matters to me both philosophically and practically. Philosophically, I hold as a primary value that a creative artist of any kind should be substantially engaged in the time and place in which they actually are: artists are the ones among us who very adeptly express what is like to be alive in a particular... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
Sometimes in all the sheen and polish of most popular music, it's easy to lose track of the craft and musicianship of the performers. Australian music publication FasterLouder had a post a while back spotlighting 20 really terrific vocal performances from famous recordings, and I had a great time listening through their choices. A few of my favorites are: Eminem, "Lose Yourself" - Mathers' sense of pulse and flow are so strong, he doesn't even need a beat for this track to be compelling listening: The Ronettes, "Baby, I Love You" - this one is great, especially the choruses, and it makes me resent Phil Spector's 'Wall of Sound,' because why would you cover up all that dazzling vocal work? The Beach Boys, "Wouldn't It Be Nice" - because duh: There is more interesting listening in that post, but also much more on Youtube. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
Back when I was first in grad school, studying conducting, we would sit around and nerd out to audio and video of different performances by various conductors. It's fun (if you're into that kind of thing), you learn a lot, and you really stimulate your own gestural imagination by analyzing exactly how really effective conductors are able to have the impact they can have. Our favorite at the time, and someone who remains a true titan in field of conducting, was Carlos Kleiber. A virtuosic conductor, Kleiber married technical precision with a graceful, elastic expressiveness that--when paired with a finely detailed rehearsal process--allowed him to lead large ensembles in truly passionate, spontaneous performances. Video and audio recordings of his performances are few, but recordings of his rehearsals are even fewer. Below is video of Kleiber leading a rehearsal of Die Fledermaus overture, in 1970. The whole rehearsal is very entertaining and well worth watching, but the clip below starts a few minutes in so that I can point out a few specific things about his work. First, watch this video, which starts at about 6:45, until around the 10:00 mark: In that clip, Kleiber first seeks to change the way the violins play the melody by using poetic and detailed gesture, imagery, and descriptions of mood. Importantly, as he is verbally describing the way he wants the melody to be played, he is simultaneously expressing what he wants to hear gesturally, showing the kinds of movement he will shortly use... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
Finally, a new episode of the podcast! We cover a lot of ground in this conversation, including the joys of large-scale collaborative music-making, the human determination to make music despite severe material challenges, presidential playlists and how authenticity and accessibility have become expectations in our culture, learning to appreciate finite runs of great creative work (and the rise of the auteur), and a little about contemporary music journalism. It's a fun, wide-ranging ramble, with some great music sprinkled in. Enjoy! (playlist & references after the jump) Items discussed and excerpted in this episode: Foo Fighters Rockin 1000 Official Video, "Learn to Fly" BONUS UPDATE: FF recently played a concert in Cesena (as promised)! Videos from that joyous event continue to be posted online, but a great roundup is here. Gaspar Nali, "Abale Inu" Excerpt from field recordings of the Banjo Bands of Malawi, captured by cultural anthropologist Moya A. Malamusi The President's summer playlists; text listing here Nicholas Cook, Music: A Very Short Introduction LCD Soundsystem, Dance Yrself Clean Outro: Kurt Weill, Little Threepenny Music - Tango-Ballad; Atlantic Sinfonietta, Andrew Schenck Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2015 at Loose Filter Media
I am continually fascinated by the lush and nearly endless variety of styles and idioms in popular music, which attract devoted, attentive listeners to greater and lesser degrees. While I stand by my assertion that "genre" is mostly a fiction invented by those seeking to better commodify music and identify and target demographic groups (as amply demonstrated, I think, in this podcast episode--short version, it's mostly a continuum and spectrum within broad stylistic practices), there are common aesthetic or other features to be found within even the most nit-picky sub-sub-sub-genre distinctions. A really great user post on reddit recently hipped me to the sub-genre and culture of Shoegaze (sub- to alternative rock, so technically a sub-sub-genre of rock, I guess). It's hard to write about music well, and the author of this post vividly describes what traits make up the sound world of this kind of music, and provides an in-depth timeline of its evolution with listening examples, lists sub-sub-(sub-)genre practices with specific albums/artists that typify them, and for good measure adds links for further reading. It's a great post and a wonderful demonstration of one of the things that I most love about the internet, and one of its most disruptive aspects: people sharing their passions and knowledge freely, simply so others may also enjoy what they have found valuable and rewarding. Seriously, check it out. Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2015 at Loose Filter Media