Being a fallen-away Twitterer (I played with it for a short time in the early days, but couldn’t find myself in its truncated format), all I do is follow a few people who seem to have figured out personally-relevant adaptations to the service. One from (or is it retweeted by) Bryan Alexander brought me up short:
The macropocalypse isn’t a tiny, momentary debt (policy) crisis. It’s the unravelling of the global macroeconomy. Just a friendly reminder.
Yup. That’s exactly right. Not that a ‘deal’ between President and Congress could do much more than BandAid the unravelling…
I happened upon the 1988 documentary “Music of the Outsiders” on YouTube. Here’s the first of seven magnificent parts:
I’ve been entangled with re[m]betika since… well, when? I suppose I first heard of the genre as ‘rebetika’ about 30 years or so ago, but my taste for Greek music goes back much further, to the early 1950s when I used to listen to Greek and Armenian music on AM radio. When I was in college in the early 1960s I had a few Greek records, most notably the Folkways “Songs and Dances of Greece” (1953, and a mix of ‘folk’ and urban styles, but without the disreputable rebetika, or the Levantine smyrnaica). I got Gail Holst’s Road to Rembetika (1975) in 1980 or so, and in the early 1980s I bought a lot of vinyl reissues of rebetika 78s, and a mountain of CD reissues once the material started to appear in that format. I also got my hands on the Costas Ferris film “Rembetiko” (1984) Watch this bit for the flavor, and this too:
and I’ve collected books and articles more or less systematically. Being unable to read or understand Greek is the main stumbling block to further development –there’s only so much that translations of lyrics can tell you, especially when their language is nuanced argot. But I have thousands, literally, of MP3s, and there’s a fine array of video on YouTube… and Spotify has tons…
Looking through the New Yorker that arrived today (July 25), I saw an illustration of monster mandolinist Chris Thile and discovered that he’s released a new album Sleep With One Eye Open. I’d just finished reading a Fretboard Journal interview of Chris, done by Dave Grisman, so I was already in Thile-mindspace and it occurred to me to check Spotify… and sure enough, there’s the album. And it’s dynamite, highest-octane bluegrass in duet form (with Michael Daves, guitar). I note that the Amazon MP3 comes with a pdf of the booklet, the first such that I’ve noticed. And some searching turns up the duo’s website, with a YouTube video of an NPR Music Tiny Desk Concert:
I was showing my friend Rob the manifold wonders of Spotify and he started asking questions about searching… something the Librarian should have considered in greater detail than he had heretofore done. I’m not surprised to discover that searches like label:ECM and genre:Acadian are effective. Indeed, there’s a Google Docs spreadsheet of 944 current Spotify ‘genre’ labels (but the categories are pretty arbitrary). Spotify’s own Advanced Search Syntax gives Operators (OR, AND, NOT) and Parameters (album:, genre:, label:, mbid: –the latter being the MusicBrainz ID– and others). I perceive that I’m barely scratching the surface here…
Missing in Spotify (and in direct MP3 purchases) is what we used to call the “liner notes” (etymology? did they line the cardboard LP jackets? or what?), a usually-valuable source of information about an album’s contents. Someday somebody will gather up those texts and/or image files, much as people are now digitizing and releasing old tech mags. I notice that quite a few of the European sources for (perhaps-legal-perhaps-not) .rar files of albums do routinely include scans of accompanying notes. I guess I’m assuming that the mainstream consumers of mostly-pop MP3s are perceived to be not interested in album art or narrative detail. Over the years I’ve learned a lot from liner notes, and I miss them.
I’m continuing to find remarkable depth in Spotify, and wondering if there’s a way to send the audio stream from my desktop to the kitchen Roku (which plays my iTunes library happily enough). In the Windows world, Jamcast seems to be the solution, but I don’t see a Mac analog. Of course I could just plug the iPhone (with its Available Offline content from Spotify) directly into the little Bose unit that the Roku Soundbridge is hooked to…
Time for some musical catchup, as the certainties of the past seem to be shakier and shakier. I want to weave together a recent acquisition set, some thoughts on the prospects of Spotify as a game-changer, and a clutch of partly-formed thoughts on my own archives and prospects.
Yesterday I was in New Haven to visit Cliff Furnald of CDRoots.com, one of my longtime suppliers of obscure CDs. He’s downsizing his personal collection of CDs and vinyl with a sale, and who could resist, since I was in Connecticut for the weekend. I spent more than an hour flipping through stuff and staggered out the door with 16 CDs and 11 LPs, worth listing here:
Trio Mio: Pigeon Folk Pieces (Denmark) Ida Bittova-Kelarova: My Home Is Where I Am (Czech) Polyphonica Tragoudia: Live in Pallas (Greece) Mode Plagal (Greece) Okay Temiz: Karnataka (Turkish-South Indian) YoungHo Shu: Ajaeng Sanzo (Korea –bowed kyaegum [amazed to find THIS on Spotify!]) Erkan Ogur: Gülün Kokusu Vardi (Turkey [amazed to find THIS on Spotify!]) Grece En Chordais: Musique d’Asie Mineure et de Constantinople (Ottoman Diaspora) Les Doigts de l’Homme: 1910 (Gypsy Jazz) Möller, Källman, Ringdal: Vind (Sweden) Ethiopiques: Ethio jazz & musique instrumentale 1969-1974 (Ethiopia) Lakis & Achwach: Pandora’s Box (Neorembetiko und levantische musik) Adrian Legg: Guitars and Other Cathedrals (British guitar) Frankie Armstrong: Ways of Seeing (British folk) Timo Alakotila: Konsertto (Finland) Dick Gaughan: Call It Freedom (Scottish folk)
and a couple of other very recent acquisions on CD: Turkish Freakout 2: Psych-Folk 1970-1978 (Turkey) To What Strange Place: the muisc of the Ottoman-American Diaspora, 1916-1929 (Ottoman Diaspora)
LPs: Birdsongs of the Mesozoic: Faultline The Incredible String Band: The Hangman’s Beautiful Daughter Robin Williamson and his Merry Band: A Glint at the Kindling Martin Simpson: Sad or High-Kicking! Martin Simpson: Grinning in Your Face Richard Thompson: Starring as Henry the Human Fly Richard Thompson: Live (more or less) Richard Thompson: Hand of Kindness The Bestiary of Flanders and Swann Mákvirág: Bekesseg Ioanna Georgakipoulou: I Rembetissa
In short, a familiar eclectic grab-bag, with a few baby hippopotamuses and some unexpected gems. It’s ever-clearer that the CD is almost done as a format –Cliff Furnald says he’s having more and more difficulty getting stuff as labels and distributors disappear and as more and more stuff is distributed in MP3 form in various channels.
Which brings me to Spotify, which I jumped upon when it opened its American service at the end of last week. I’ve opted for the Super service, primarily to explore the integration with the iPhone as a transport medium and play utility. For the trip to Connecticut I created a bunch of local playlists as I explored what Spotify offers, and I was amazed at its depth in some areas that I care about (but are anything but popular), like Ockeghem and Buxtehude. The quality seems excellent to my ears, but I guess I’m really not very choosy when it comes to the compression that goes with MP3 format. Anyway, it seems that I now have vastly more access to music I choose than I did before. What I don’t know yet is how Spotify will broaden my outreach to possible audiences, or (an even bigger question) how I might think differently about Audience given the possibilities now on the horizon. Clearly I can share playlists with other Spotify users, but I realize that what I want to be able to do is provide context for whatever I rediffuse: explanations, background, links to other stuff that might be of interest to putative listeners. But in fact it’s doubtful that there are listeners out there, given that everybody can do what I’m doing: construct the musical background to their own lives according to their interests and comfort levels. Of course media like radio programs are a theoretical possibility, and I just discovered that Cliff Furnald has a weekly program on WPKN, with a couple of years of archives at the site. I also greatly admire what Ian Nagoski is doing with Fonotopia, Dust to Digital, and To What Strange Place:
(Nagoski has 3 cuts on the third CD, narrating his take on “The early record business”, “America’s absorption of Ottoman minorities”, and “Here, I was born…” …and the 3 are absolutely worth the price of the 3-CD set all by themselves).
Anyway, I’m thinking about all of this, its implications and possibilities, as I listen to the new trove of sonic material. The iPhone’s capabilities have tremendously enlarged what I can have plugged into my ears, or into the several amplifiers scattered around the house and barn. I feel even more deeply enmeshed than I already was, and that doesn’t even touch the prospect of building new instruments which is occupying a lot of mental cycles these days. I’m within hours or days of starting on a very long-necked 3-course 6-string creation…