Monthly Archives: September 2012
In keeping with this week’s dubstep theme, I chose a song from one of the most well-known dubstep artists. Skrillex made it into the lime light this year with five Grammy nominations and took home the titles of Best Dance Recording and Best Dance/Electronica Album. This song is the title track from his most recent album Bangarang. You can see why Skrillex swept the dance categories because his music makes you want to move.
You know that a song or a genre or an artist has hit the mainstream if you suddenly see it in a TV ad. This ad below for the Microsoft Surface tablet uses a song from the latest genre craze: dubstep.
Originating in the U.K., dubstep was the ultimate genre pushing experiment at the time. It gets its name from combining two genres: dub and 2-step garage. Now more than 10 years later, dubstep has come out of the dark garages and into clubs all around the world.
It’s one of those genres that you really have to hear to understand. Dubstep songs have few vocals and are made with electronic mixing. Some like to describe it as “womp” music, due to the use of an effects pedal that makes it sounds like you’re stuck in some sort of cyber tunnel with endless echoes and vibration.
But if you’re looking for the best description of dubstep, or anything really, just ask the kids. Labeled as “alien” and “robot” music with their own interpretations of the sound, these kids manage to sum up dubstep in six minutes. Check out the video below.
I find it quite canny that one girl says that dubstep “sounds like the last name of a British person,” considering its origins. Another kid also says quite confidently, “everybody dubsteps.”
Turns out he’s right. On a quick stroll through YouTube.com (which if I just type in the single letter d, dubstep is the second choice to pop up) I found everything from violin dubstep to Taylor Swift’s announcement of dubstep on her new album Red. Check out other people who dubstep in the videos below.
And if you’re still not feeling quite connected to dubstep, you may relate more to the feelings expressed in this video.
|Buffalo Pass in Steamboat Springs – Sept 2012
Photo Credit: Brian Ferguson/Steamboat Pilot
Steamboat Springs is bright gold with all of the aspen trees turning colors. Cold nights and little wind have preserved these colors for more than a week. But every day more and more leaves cover the trails and paths and soon the trees will be naked for winter.
To accompany the beautiful fall colors I chose an equally beautiful song that also brings the fall season to mind.
Eva Cassidy – “Fields of Gold”
Not only do the lyrics “fields of gold” describe the colors of changing leaves, but the music itself contributes to the overall autumn feeling. The slow tempo and mournful lyrics give the song a reflective tone. So often the changing of the seasons acts as a metaphor for changes in our lives. Fall and spring seem to be times of reflection and re-evaluation for many, and this song certainly embodies that feeling.
The Atlanta Symphony locks out its musicians.
The Indianapolis Symphony cancels its first two weeks of performances.
The Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra have both proposed pay cuts for musicians.
|Strings Festival Orchestra|
It’s startling that all of these well-known orchestras are running into financial trouble all at the same time. At first glance, it may appear that the problem is due to the recent recession. But the CEO of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra admits to having financial deficits for nearly a decade. The Philadelphia Orchestra declared bankruptcy last year, which requires more than just a few years of financial troubles. Although the fall of 2012 is surging with failing orchestra headlines, it’s not really the current economy that’s the problem. It’s 10 years earlier.
Ten years ago, at the height of the dotcom boom, orchestras were slow to latch on to new technology. While for-profit businesses moved to take advantage of social media outlets and develop user-friendly websites, many arts organizations were reluctant to enter the online world, claiming that it would be too confusing for their patrons and that orchestra goers weren’t interested in arts organizations online.
Yet 10 years later, we see the effects of this poor planning manifesting itself in huge budget deficits. All those people who couldn’t get information on a website or buy tickets online took their business elsewhere, which certainly contributed to the problem orchestras face now.
Of course the easiest way to alleviate budget problems is to cut the biggest line item. In this case, that is musician salaries. Musicians have protested the pay cuts and gone on lengthy strikes, claiming that lower wages would devalue the arts. However, if changes to the structure cannot be made, musicians will have more to worry about than a pay cut.
If orchestras cannot solve their financial troubles, musicians may be in jeopardy of losing their entire career. Looking at the long term situation, musicians should be working with orchestra management instead of against it to resolve the budget crisis. Musicians and arts administration staff have the same vested interest in presenting quality arts performances and therefore should work together to keep arts and culture a viable economic factor.
EmcArts, an arts and culture strengthening organization, has found examples of orchestras changing their structure and showing positive results.
The Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra has involved orchestra members in the planning cycle. Including perspectives from both musicians and staff creates a plan that works for both groups. Additionally, when musicians want to take on more orchestra management duties, there is potential to eliminate positions. Hiring one person to do two jobs rather than two people to do two jobs can cut down the budget without decreasing salaries.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is becoming involved in the local community. Yo Yo Ma is reaching out to youth in underserved areas through the Citizen Musician program. If orchestras are seen as a vital part of the community, and not just existing for tourists and the upper-class, the community will again start to value the arts.
While most orchestras now have a website and other online capabilities, they are still significantly behind other businesses. However, The Met not only embraced technology, but took it to the next level. You can now subscribe to a digital broadcast of a concert, either live or after the concert occurs. The Met can now reach an audience that is broader than the population of New York City.
The death of the classical orchestra may not be as near as people think. If orchestras adopt a business mindset and implement innovative ideas and creative solutions, arts and culture will rebound, giving citizens a higher quality of living.
Fridays on the Strings blog are going to take on a new sound. Tune in each Friday for the Song of the Week. It might be the #1 hit of the week, a funny spoof, the latest classical composition, a classic throwback, or anything else that catches my eye.
Here’s one to start us off.
Rebecca Black – “Friday”
This song came out in February of 2011 and to everyone’s surprise was one of those instant hits. It was surprising because if you search for the song, you’ll come up with reviewers calling it “the worst song ever,” “just terrible,” “and hilariously dreadful.” But the song’s awful reviews didn’t stop it from getting 30 million hits during its release month, putting the 13-year-old girl ahead of teen star Justin Bieber on the charts.
While it’s been dubbed the song “people love to hate,” I trend toward the love side. Despite the fact that the song has over 800,000 dislikes on YouTube, it’s impossible to ignore that it follows all the rules when it comes to making a #1 pop hit: it will get stuck in your head and you’ll find yourself looking around to make sure no one noticed that you were singing it to yourself. When I worked at Steamboat in the winter of 2011, my crew habitually watched the video every Friday as we rode up the gondola to work. Since it put all of us in a happy Friday spirit, I thought it would be the perfect way to launch the new Friday Song of the Week blog series. Happy Friday, Friday!
“Architecture is frozen music.” -Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
|William Close Plays the Earth Harp|
This quote sums up musician and inventor William Close’s career. Close has been pushing boundaries with what actually constitutes a musical instrument by turning architecture into instruments and instruments into architecture.
Close’s first major experiment with music and architecture came with the creation of a bridge made of strings. The stringed bridge spanned 1,000 feet across a valley. Vibrations across the strings resonated in the valley below turning the landscape into a giant musical instrument. The instrument later became known as the Earth Harp and has since been constructed in various other architectural masterpieces, including the Coliseum in Rome, the Space Needle in Seattle, the Grand Theatre in Shanghai, and a 9th century castle in Italy.
|Behind the Earth Harp at the Strings Music Pavilion|
After building the Earth Harp, Close explored other unique instruments. His tinkerings led to the invention of over 100 original musical instruments. Below are a few of the instruments I saw first hand this summer.
The Drum Orb is a spherical cage with all kinds of different sized and shaped drums attached to the outside of the cage. The orb is suspended in space and spins while it is being played. The drummers become dancers as they move around the orb.
Synthesized drum pads are sewn into a jacket, creating a musical instrument you can wear. When plugged into an amplifier, the jacket is played by beating on the pads.
The Aquatar is made up of two guitars, attached in the middle by a longer sounding board fitted with strings. The Aquatar gets its name because it has a water-like sound.
|Drum Jacket and Aquatar|
An arc connects two sets of chimes making a musical baton. It can be played either by spinning it in the air above your head or running your fingers through the chimes. I’m not sure if it was the dazzling sight of the chime sword spinning around or the mysteriousness of the chime sound, but this instrument was my favorite.
Since seeing William Close perform this summer, I’ve followed his progress on the hit TV show America’s Got Talent. Howard Stern said, “You, my friend, are doing everything America’s Got Talent is looking for,” and I hope that America agrees. The Finals Performances is tomorrow night, so be sure to tune into NBC to watch all the finalists and cast your vote!
Special thanks to Corey Kopischke for photographing William Close and MASS Ensemble this summer.