Delia Derbyshire (1937-2001)

Delia Derbyshire at work at the BBC in the 1960s. Some of this involved arranging (if not composing) music for Doctor Who. (Photo: BBC)

The publication date of this weblog post marks the twentieth anniversary of the death of Coventry born, bred and blitzed, Delia Ann Derbyshire (1937-05-05 – 2001-07-03) is most famously remembered as the arranger of the theme and incidental music for Doctor Who, based on a score by Ron Grainer (1922 – 1981), while working for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Of course, she should have been recognized as a co-composer, at the very least.

The most important source for information about Delia Derbyshire is Breege Brannen’s Thesis in Computer Music at the University of Dublin, submitted in 2008. Reading about her life leads to a greater understanding of how women have been suppressed, right up to the current day.

To appreciate her work, one of the most important documents is a video showing how she created works.

Aurora: A tidbit

Aurora Aksnes (1996-06-15 – )

One Track: Running with the Wolves (2015).

One Quotation: “I don’t think I was born to be an entertainer, I used to really be afraid of playing live on-stage. Obviously it’s terrifying! But now I look forward to it every time. I’ve learned not focus on myself, cause it’s not about me. Now I only think about giving everyone the best experience. A magic moment.”

One Comment: Aurora was chosen as a singer-songwriter in an attempt to focus on women musicians, composers and songwriters under age fifty. On the date of publication, she has finally reached twenty-five years old. Running with Wolves was released in 2015, when she was eighteen. Wikipedia describes Aurora as having an eclectic musical style that is a composite of eight genres: art pop, Nordic-folk, synth-pop, electropop, electro-folk, indie pop, dark pop and avant-garde pop. I appreciate the fact that she in-sources costumes and makeup to her sisters.

Pauline Oliveros: A tidbit

Pauline Oliveros in the studio at the San Francisco Tape Music Center, in 1966, at a Buchia-100 series modular synthesizer. Photo: David Bernstein, from Mills College Center for Contemporary Music archive.

(American, 1932-05-30 – 2016-11-24 )

One track: The difference between hearing and listening.

One quotation: Deep listening is a term invented by Oliveros. It involves “an aesthetic based upon principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. This aesthetic is designed to inspire both trained and untrained performers to practice the art of listening and responding to environmental conditions in solo and ensemble situations”. She presented some of her ideas on the difference between hearing and listening at a Ted Talk in Indianapolis, 2015-11-12.

One Comment: Pauline Oliveros became world-famous in Port Townsend, Washington, because of her 1988 descent into the Dan Harpole underground cistern and the resulting recording. Deep listening is more than a pun. It incorporates principles of improvisation, electronic music, ritual, teaching and meditation. It inspires everyone to listen to the environment.

Yet Another Comment: In 1966, Pauline Oliveros had been working with tape delay techniques in the San Francisco area, where she lived. That summer, she went to Toronto to study circuit-making with Hugh Le Caine for two months, and while working there she suddenly found that she had access to some of the most innovative and sophisticated electronic sound processing and recording equipment available anywhere. That summer she completed ten tape compositions and six ultrasonic tape studies.

Hugh Le Caine (1914 – 1977)

Hugh Le Caine, with his analogue synthesizer, the Electronic Sackbut.

Hugh Le Caine (1914-05-27 – 1977-07-03) was a Canadian physicist, composer, inventor and instrument builder. This weblog post asserts his claim as an inventor of the synthesizer, the Sackbut, in 1945.

Before continuing, there are two predecessors who do not quite meet the bar in terms of inventing the synthesizer. Thadius Cahill (1867 – 1934) is credited by Thom Holmes in Electronic and experimental music: pioneers in technology and composition (2002) p. 42 – 49, with inventing the term synthesizer in 1896. He did not build or design one. Instead, he constructed three telharmoniums, the first electromechanical musical instruments. These were essentially electric organs, operated by an organist/ performer sitting at a keyboard with 153 keys. The Mark I weighed 7 tonnes = megagrams (Mg), to be politically correct. The Mark II and Mark III each weighed 210 Mg. Invented and patented in 1896, before the advent of vacuum tubes, these used tone wheels and additive synthesis to generate musical sounds as electrical signals. These signals were amplified by dynamos before being sent to horn speakers. Cahill used the term synthesizer to describe these dynamos. When operating, a telharmonium consumed 671 kW of power.

The second, non-inventor of a synthesizer is Homer Dudley (1896 – 1980) who in 1939, working at Bell Labs, invented the Vocoder (a portmanteau of voice and encoder), a method/ machine that electronically reproduced speech, so that it could be transmitted over distances through telephone lines, providing greater clarity, but compressed to use less transmission bandwidth. Key features included envelope control and amplification using voltage control components.

Unfortunately, there are a pair of inventors who do have a prior claim to what some experts consider the first true synthesizer, that appeared at the end of the 1920s. French Edouard E. Coupleaux (or Coupleux) and Joseph A. Givelet demonstrated an Automatically Operating Musical Instrument of the Electric Oscillation Type at the 1929 Paris Exposition. It used four vacuum-tube oscillators to control pitch, then from that output varied the amplitude and introduced further filtering to vary its timbre. The instrument incorporated a paper-tape reader with a pneumatic tracker bar like a player piano. Holes punched in specific rows of the tape varied the instrument’s parameters, allowing the sequencing and articulation of predetermined notes and audio control.

Coupleaux and Givelet built and installed organs that generated sound from hundreds of vacuum tubes in French churches (and radio stations) during the 1930s. Yet, their synthesizer disappeared. One wonders if the potential offered by their 1929 musical instrument, was in some way beyond their comprehension. Personally, I think not. It was undoubtedly, the dismal economic outlook of the 1930s that forced them to concentrate on the most profitable options available.

Hugh Le Caine was a physicist who, after helping develop early radar systems during World War II. When the war ended, he turned his attention to electronic music devices. Le Caine invented an early voltage-controlled synthesizer nearly 20 years before Robert Moog and Donald Buchla. As an academic his work was published in engineering journals. In 1954 he was working at Canada’s National Research Center on inventing and developing electronic music technology. His technology equipped electronic music studios at the University of Toronto (from 1959), the Centre for Electronic Music in Jerusalem (in 1962) and McGill University in Montreal (from 1964).

One criticism of Le Caine was that his inventions were always in a state of flux. There was no cut-of date, at which a particular design was fixed, so that it could be built as a production model. Instead, there was always just another adjustment that needed to be made.

Electronic Sackbut (1945–73)

Le Caine began working on the Electronic Sackbut synthesizer in 1945. As this was a time when major advances were being made in electronics, the Sackbut continuously improved until it was completed in 1971. It was monophonic, but conceived with enough synthesizing flexibility to serve as the starting point of musical thinking. When it was finally launched commercially, it met with little success, because other synthesizers were much more visible.

The Sackbut used voltage control to trigger and modify sounds, a keyboard – with spring-mounted/ pressure sensitive keys, for pitch control, Sideways movement of a key resulted in a gliding of toward the next higher or lower key. Waveform and timbre could be modified using a touch-sensitive pad for the left hand with individual finger controllers. Minimal dexterity was needed to control the instrument. The thumb had two pads. One controlled the overtone balance in a note, while the other controlled frequency. The index finger rested on a movable circular pad. Pressing it changed the waveform and timbre of the sound. Touch-sensitive controls for other sound parameters. The other three fingers each had their own pressure pad that could modify the periodicity of the waveform.

Touch-Sensitive Organ (1952–57)

Le Caine recognized the advantage of a pressure-sensitive keyboard for an electronic organ, and invented a keyboard whose output volume varied in proportion to key pressure. This technology was made into a prototype, and patented. The patent was acquired by the Baldwin Organ Company in 1955. A mass-produced commercial model neve apperared. The touch-sensitive organ was used as an audio source for Le Caine’s tape compositions, such as Ninety-Nine Generators (1957).

“Multi-Track” or Special Purpose Tape Recorder (1955–67)

This was a tape recorder capable of recording and mixing multiple individual tracks. It did not record sound using multiple tape heads on a single reel of tape but synchronized playback on six individual tape reels. The resulting sound was mixed down into asingle track. Each of the six tapes was fitted with variable speed controller, a touch-sensitive, 36-key keyboard. Many composers were especially enthusiastic about this, because it provided control over speed transposition, unavailable using other technologies. Its effectiveness was demonstrated on Dripsody (1955), the sound of dripping water transposed to different speeds. The device was refined over the years, ending with a compact, solid-state version in 1967.

Oscillator Banks (1959–61) and Spectrogram (1959)

Le Caine built several versions of a device for controlling and experimenting with multiple audio oscillators. A touch-sensitive key triggered the individual oscillators, that could play sine, pulse and sawtooth waves. Versions were built with 12, 16, 24 and 108 oscillators. The oscillator bank could be programmed using an optical reader, the Spectrogram. It allowed graphical input of program instructions using a paper roll scanned by an array of 100 photocells.

Serial Sound Generator (1966–70)

Regarded as the forerunner of analogue sequencers, this device used hardwired switches to program a series of tones and effects. It was an analogue computer for programming musical sequences, giving the composer control over pitch, duration, timbre and sound repetition. It used a voltage-controlled oscillator as its sound source.

Sonde (1968)

The Sonde was designed to control multiple sine wave generators. The 200 signals were controlled by 200 slide controls. Transistor circuits reduced space requirements. Despite this, the Sonde was about 1 200 mm high and 600 mm wide

Polyphone Synthesizer (1970)

While the rest of the world was enthralled with Moog monophonic synths, Le Caine ventured into powerful polyphonic, analogue synthesizers. This voltage-controlled instrument was built for the McGill University Electronic Music Studio. Once again, the Polyphone had touch-sensitive keys and individual pitch and waveform controls for each key. There were 37 keys, each with their own dedicated oscillator.

Hugh Le Caine retired from the National Research Council, in 1974. During his career, he had produced 15 electronic instruments, and composed a number of electronic music studies. His retirement did not last long. His other interest, motorcycles driven at high speeds, claimed him as an accident victim in 1976. He died of injuries suffered, in 1977 in Ottawa, Ontario.

For additional information about Hugh Le Caine one can read Wikipedia, or visit the Le Caine website.

World Goth Day #13

Ronan Harris aka VNV Nation, walking the streets in, When is the Future? (2018).

To celebrate Goth Day #13 (2021-05-22), this webblog post is focusing on Goth music. Goth Day #14 (2022-05-22) will focus on Goth fashion.

Note: It is proposed that content for future Goth Days be co-ordinated by an elite group of readers of this weblog to be referred to informally as the coven. Anyone interested in participating is asked to send an email to brock@mclellan.no using the subject heading Coven. The term coven was introduced into English in The Witch-Cult in Western Europe: A Study in Anthropology (1921) by Margaret Murray (1863 – 1963), who used it to describe a meeting of witches, that required precisely 13 of them to be present.

In preparation, music was sampled to create a top of the Goths list. The list is totally fake. No actual Goths were consulted. Rather, goth music was searched for on YouTube. While a few Gothish songs were randomly selected, and arbitrarily placed on the list almost in the order in which they were heard, a weakness was soon detected. All of the musicians were male. To rectify this, a new search was made using female goth music as a search phrase. Unfortunately, the result was almost as bad. The results typically showed male bands with a female vocalist. The most feminine band, Xmal Deutschland, had three women out of five musicians. Despite this imperfection, the results from the two searches were used to find the music. The order represents my personal preferences at the time of selection, with VNV Nation at the top, and K.U.K.L at the bottom. From the list one will discover that Hamburg, is the capital of Gothland.

10. K.U.K.L., Anna. This post-punk band from Reykjavík, Iceland, existed from 1983 – 1986. Björk Guðmundsdóttir (1965 – ) is its best known band member. Other members included Einar Örn Benediktsson, aka Einar Ørn (1962 – , trumpet, vocals), Einar Arnaldur Melax (keyboards), Birgir Mogensen (bass), Sigtryggur Baldursson aka Trix (1962 – , drums) and Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson aka God Krist (1954 – , guitar). The track is from the Album, The Eye (1984). The video was made by Islandic director Óskar Jónasson (1963 – ), although comments suggest that the music accompanying the video, originally differed from that on the album.

9. Semblant, What Lies Ahead. This Goth metal band is from Curitiba, Brazil. The track’s music and lyrics were attributed to Juliano Ribeiro. The band consists of Mizuho Lin (vocals), Sergio Mazul (vocals), J Augusto (keyboards), João Vitor (bass), Sol Perez (guitar), Juliano Ribeiro (guitar), Welyntom Sikora aka Thor (drums). The track appears on the album, Lunar Manifesto (2014), that was produced/ gngineered by Adair Daufembach in São Paulo.

8. Katra, One Wish Away. This symphonic metal band from Tampere, Finland was founded by vocalist Katra Solopuro (1984 – ) in 2006. It is augmented with musicians from other bands in related genres. This track originally appeared on the album, Out of the Ashes (2010), released by the Austrian label, Napalm Records.

7. Sirenia, Voyage Voyage. This heavy metal band from Stavanger, Norway consists of Morten Veland (1977 – ) from Stavanger, and Emmanuelle Zoldan (1977 – ) from Aix-en-Provence, France. It appears on their tenth studio album Riddles, Ruins & Revelations (2021), released 2021-02-12.

6. Mono Inc., Children of the Dark. This gothic rock band is from Hamburg, Germany. It has existed since 2000. Karl Fornia (guitar and backing vocals) and Martin Engler (originally drummer, but lead vocalist since 2007) have been with the band since its start. Manuel Antoni joined the band in 2003 (bass and backing vocals), while Katha Mia (drummer) joined in 2007,

5. Clan of Xymox, Brave New World. Originally formed in Amsterdam, Netherlands, this darkwave band originally consisted of three songwriters Ronny Moorings (1961 – , guitar, keyboards, bass), Anka Wolbert (1963 – , vocals, guitar, bass guitar, keyboard, programming) and Pieter Nooten (1961 – , analog synth, keyboards). Now, only Moorings remains, but with additional musicians. This track was released 2021-05-07. It was reissued 2021-04-23.

4. Project Pitchfork, Rain. This dark wave/ electronic rock band is also from Hamburg, Germany. Members are Peter Spilles (composition, lyrics, vocals, 1989–present), Dirk Scheuber (keyboards, 1989–present), Jürgen Jansen (keyboards, 1996–present) and Achim Färber (drums, 1999–present).

3. Xmal Deutchland, Mondlich. Xmal Deutschland was formed in 1980 in Hamburg, Germany. Mondlich is the first track on the band’s second album, Tocsin (1984). The musicians on this video are: Anja Huwe (vocals), Manuela Rickers (guitar), Fiona Sangster (keyboards), Wolfgang Ellerbrock (bass) and Peter Bellendir (drums). The band disbanded in 1990.

2. AnsoticcA, I’m Alive. This video was made by Roax Films, that takes its name from Ronald Mattes & Alexander Max Braune, of Berlin, Germany. The symphonic metal band, AnsoticcA, is from Tilberg, Netherlands. It was formed in 2008 by guitarist Adrian Delborg, with Carie Van Heden (Vocals), Vincent LaBoor (Guitars), Jay Zee (Bass), Maarten De Vries (Keyboards) and Zack Rabart (Drums). Their debut album, Rise (2010), was released by Rockfeld Records.

1. VNV Nation, When is the Future? Noire (2018) is the tenth studio album by the Irish alternative electronic band, which consists of Ronan Harris (1967 – ) who provides the songwriting, production, lyrics, vocals and programming of the synths. In 1988, Harris moved from Dublin, Ireland to London, England where he worked for Q8 Petroleum in his day job, and as a journalist and webmaster for the dark-electro magazine, Side-Line, as a sideline. VNV Nation started in 1990. Later that year Harris moved to Toronto, Canada. He moved to Hamburg, Germany in 1994. VNV = Victory Not Vengeance, Its motto: One should strive to achieve, not sit in bitter regret.

Bonus #1. Imperial Age, Turn the Sun Off! Imperial Age is a symphonic metal band from Moscow, Russia, It was founded in 2012 by Alexander Osipov = Aor (tenor/ composer) and Jane Odintsova = Corn (mezzo-soprano/ composer/ keyboards). This video is part of a 180-minute online concert from locked-down Moscow and achieved ground-breaking success with 38,000 people streaming the live concert from all 7 continents, including Antarctica, on 2020-04-25. In addition to Osipov and Odintsova, other musicians on the video include: Anna Moiseeva = Kiara (soprano), Max Talion (drums), Pavel Maryashin = Vredes (guitar), and Dmitry Safronov = Belf (bass, vocals).

Bonus #2. Kerrang is providing a list of 16 Gothic albums. It notes that: Gothic music has a tendency to lean towards the dramatic and artistic, often with a literary or poetic bent. There’s a romance to it, even when it’s dealing with dark and melancholy themes.

Content for this weblog post was first written and saved as a draft on 2021-04-03, then promptly forgotten about, until 2021-05-16, when a calendar entry reminded me of the upcoming Goth day. About a week before this, a new weblog post on construction materials had been written and scheduled for 2021-05-22. At the time, I wondered how this date was available, when there are over 50 weblog posts already written that are awaiting scheduling, in addition to the over 50 weblog posts written and scheduled weeks and months into the future. The reason was that I had already reserved for this date for a Goth day post. The construction post was subsequently unscheduled, which gives me time to research the topic even better.

One fun aspect of making collections of videos during these Covid times, is experiencing how the same sub-culture in different countries, can create divergent musical artefacts. On 2021-05-17, after this weblog post was written, a new video appeared on my YouTube feed by Imperial Age. It appears as a bonus, for those who cannot get enough Goth videos. On 2021-05-21, a link to the Kerrang article appeared in a search, and was added to this weblog post as a second bonus item. Two additional weblog posts on music related topics are scheduled on 2021-05-27 and 2021-05-30, respectively.

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Bebe Rexha: A Tidbit

Bebe Rexha’s album Better Mistakes will be released 2021-05-07.

One Track: Sacrifice.

One Quotation: “The whole album is based off of actual insecurity. My mental health, self-love, me sabotaging everything in my life, am I good enough for this relationship? […] It was really just taking the real-life stuff that I’m going through, which is really important for me to write about. There’s still guitar, but there’s a lot of hip-hop in it, but it’s still pop. And there are some really pop records. It’s not really dance music, but you can bop to it. But when you listen to it, it’s really a body of work. And we worked really hard sonically to make sure that everything leads into one another, and it sounds like body of work instead of just having a playlist.”

Comments:

This is not the regular, monthly tidbit about a woman composer/ songwriter/ musician, but an extra. The Bebe Rexha (1989- ) track/ video may not appeal to everyone, as musical tastes are highly individual. I have only known about Bebe since 2021-04-16 at 06:00, when I opened a link to the video track, sent to me by a young reader (under 40). He was probably too polite to say it, but I suspect that he was reacting to the fact, that the average age of the people in this series so far is over 70 years, giving an mean birth year of 1951.

The track was released as a single on 2021-03-05, with the video being released a day later. The album in the quotation refers to Better Mistakes, which will be released 2021-05-07, the date of publication for this weblog post. This is undoubtedly the first time in my life that I am ahead of the release curve. More recently, I have been up to twenty or more years behind.

Bebe is from Blete = Bletë (in Albanian) meaning bee. She was born in New York, but is of Albanian heritage.

Music For the People

Photo: Tallie Roinson/ Unsplash

Let’s compare the names of the musicians we currently listen to. Here are some of the recent names on my list: Approaching Nirvana (USA), Frode Fjellheim (Norway), Front 242 (Belgium), Front Line Assembly (Canada), The KLF (England), Lebanon Hanover (Germany & England), Madis (Poland), Melodicka Bros (Italy), Molchat Doma (Belarus), PettyRock (Thailand), Rockmina (Romania), Spetsnaz (Sweden), Violet Orlandi (Brazil), VNV Nation (Ireland), Zahara (South Africa) and Zodiac (Latvia).

If you have any noteworthy alternative musicians that you enjoy, please comment on them.

Mainstream media does not offer much choice in music. It is no longer music for the people. Almost everything is commercial, provided by a music industry, where each company has a vested interest in promoting its particular – to use their word – artists. Why not musicians? While this situation have been the case since mid-twentieth century, the situation today is compounded by corporate consolidation. Rick Beato (1962 – ) refers to this decrease in availability as the Y2k Curse. He attributes this to the American Telecommunications Act of 1996, that consolidated American media. In 1983, 90% of American media was owned by 50 companies. By 2011, this had been reduced to 6 companies. This significantly reduced the number of music gatekeepers. These consolidated their playlists, so that the American public (and beyond) were exposed to a narrower band of musical products.

To avoid music gatekeepers and consolidated playlists, one could use online services that have developed since the start of the millennium. This weblogger has experienced Bandcamp, Chosic, Discogs, Jamendo, Last.fm, MySpace, SoundCloud and Spotify but to varying degrees and in different time periods. He has not experienced WiMP or Tidal directly, and has no intention to do so, but comments on them as well.

Discogs is the oldest, but smallest social networking platform discussed in this weblog post. Discogs (short for discographies) is a website and crowdsourced database of information about audio recordings. Located in Portland, Oregon, it was started in 2000. Its initial goal was to become the largest online database in the electronic music genre. Currently, rock music is the dominant genre. According to Wikipedia as of 2019-08-28 “Discogs contained over 11.6 million releases, by over 6 million artists, across over 1.3 million labels, contributed from over 456,000 contributor user accounts”. In addition to its main database, there were six specialty databases, all of which have closed down except Vinylhub, which provided information on record stores, and has been integrated into the main database. The others were Filmogs, Gearogs, Bookogs, Comicogs and Posterogs, which provided marketplaces for products associated with the database name. Discogs data is contributed by registered users. For people with a special interest in music, either as producers or consumers, this is an important information source.

Audioscrobbler was started by Richard Jones as a computer science project in 2002. He defined the term scrobbling as the finding, processing, and distribution of information involving people, music and other data. Audioscrobbler was a music recommender system that used plugins, and an application program interface (API) to keep track of songs its users played on a registered computer. This allowed charting and collaborative filtering.

Last.fm was also founded in 2002, by German and Austrian enthusiasts, as an an Internet radio station and music community site, using similar music profiles to generate dynamic playlists. In 2003, Audioscrobbler and Last.fm started to merge, by co-locating their offices in Whitechapel, London. Later, Last.fm was fully integrated with Audioscrobbler profiles, so that input could come through an Audioscrobbler plugin or a Last.fm station. The two organizations were fully merged on 2003-08-09.

Started in 2003, MySpace, is an American social networking site with a focus on music. It was, from 2005 to 2008, the largest in the world, reaching more than 100 million users per month. MySpace served as an inexpensive distribution hub for Black musical artists. Yet, in many respects MySpace was second-rate. Users experienced their products and features as slow and bug prone, often due to testing issues. Gradually, users drifted away from MySpace to other platforms such as Facebook. On 2019-03-18, Ars Technica revealed that MySpace in 2015 had botched server migration. This resulted in a permanent loss of over 50 million songs and 12 years’ of user content. In 2019-04, the Internet Archive recovered 490 000 MP3s or 1.3 TB. The songs, uploaded between 2008 and 2010, are known as the MySpace Dragon Hoard.

Spotify AB, the Swedish audio streaming service was started in 2003. It offers about 60 million recordings/ tracks for consumers to choose from. Listeners can either listen for free, and be subjected to advertisements, or pay a monthly fee, to avoid these. There are about 345 million monthly active users, including 155 million paying subscribers. Users can create, edit and share playlists. Currently, there are about 3 billion playlists available. Unbelievably, this amounts to 8.7 playlists per active user.

A Follow tab lets users follow friends to see what they are listening to. A Discover tab provides users with new releases, music, reviews and concert recommendations based on listening history. Tracks can be added to a Collection section of the app as well as to specific user-generated playlists.

Of particular interest was Spotify’s 2017 acquisition of Niland, a French artificial intelligence (AI) technology company, started in 2013. It offers high performance music search & recommendation engines, accessible by an API that allows music catalog owners and music providers (such as Spotify) to build intelligent music applications. Spotify has used this to improve user personalisation and recommendation features. As with many other aspects of AI, its internal workings are undoubtedly non-trivial and opaque. This means that users face uncertainty as to why specific recommendations are made.

Jamendo is a Luxembourg-based music website that has been a subsidiary of Belgian company Audio Valley and Independent Management Entity (IME) since 2019. It started as a music platform using Creative Commons licenses. From 2015-10, Jamendo described itself as a free streaming service for personal use. In addition it provides opportunities for artists to earn money through its licensing services to commercial clients.

Another similar site is the Berlin, Germany based SoundCloud, that was also started in Sweden in 2007. It has 175 million monthly users worldwide. In particular, it is noted for influencing the music industry through artists who have used the service to launch/ advance careers.

Bandcamp is yet another Internet-based music company, founded 2008-09-16 in Oakland, California by Ethan Diamond, Shawn Grunberger, Joe Holt and Neal Tucker. Artists/ labels upload music for free, set prices, but with an option for consumers to pay more. They can also sell merchandise. Music can be streamed once for free. Purchasers can download music or stream it unlimited times, if they retain their purchase voucher. There are options to purchase music for a gift, view lyrics, and save individual songs/ albums to a wish list. Bandcamp initially takes a 15% cut of sales along with payment processing fees. This drops to 10% after an artist’s sales surpass $5,000. Downloads are available in various formats, including CD and vinyl physical media.

Aspiro was founded in 1998 by Swedes Jörgen Adolfsson, Christer Månsson and Klas Hallqvist, who had working together at Europolitan, a Swedish mobile phone operator. When Adolfsson and Månsson moved to Oslo, to work for Telenor Mobil they realized that changes in the Wireless Application Protocol could have significant implications for mobile communications. They contacted Hallqvist, who had remained in Sweden at Europolitan, and founded Aspiro. Between 2000 and 2008, Aspiro acquired 13 communications related companies. In 2009 they developed their a music streaming service that became their core business.

WiMP was a music streaming service developed by Aspiro AS and the Norwegian music store chain Platekompaniet AS and was first launched in Norway 2010-02. It was available on mobiles, tablets, network players and computers and provided a music library of some 25 million tracks. As WiMP expanded into new countries, local editors were engaged to present the local and international music, in-app magazines and some music videos. Last.fm was integrated into it. On 2015-01-30 it was announced that Aspiro had been acquired by Project Panther Bidco Ltd, a company controlled by Shawn Corey Carter (1969 – ), better known by his stage name Jay-Z.

In 2014, Tidal emerged from WiMP as a subscription-based music, podcast and video streaming service that combines lossless audio and high-definition music videos with exclusive content and special features on music. While the company claims to be owned by a number of high profile artists seeking to be independent of the commercial recorded music industry, it is still controlled by Shawn Corey Carter. In a digital forensics report, Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Center for Cyber and Information Security concludes: “We have through advanced statistical analysis determined that there has in fact been a manipulation of the data at particular times. The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.” These are Beyoncé’s (1981 – ) Lemonade (2016) and Kanye West’s (1977 – ) The Life of Pablo (2016). Jem Aswad, writing in Variety, presented information from the Norwegian business newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv, that claimed that: “listener numbers on Tidal have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.” Note that Beyoncé is married to Tidal’s majority owner, Shawn Corey Carter. Tidal denies this manipulation.

It has been difficult to find out much about Chosic. It offers Arabic and English as site languages, and provides a number of tools that aid in the discovery of new music. One of these is a playlist generator. Their Facebook page refers to itself as All Chosen Music, which indicates that there is some degree of censorship. Their site motto is, Listening is a Skill.

Anouk: A tidbit

One Track: Nobody’s Wife (1997)

One Quotation: “These days adoption is a hot thing / You can get a child for nearly nothing / You take them home to a nanny / Buy off you’re guilt with toys and candy”

One Comment: Anouk Teeuwe was born 1975-04-08 in The Hague, Netherlands. Nobody’s Wife was written by Anouk, Satindra Kalpoe and Bart van Veen. The song was especially popular in the Netherlands and the Nordic countries, but was less successful elsewhere. It reached a peak position of #1 in Iceland, #2 in the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden, #5 in Flanders, #6 in Denmark, #9 in Finland. With respect to the track as well as the quotation, Anouk has been married (2004) and divorced (2008) once, and given birth to six children, between 2002 and 2016.

Andrei Cerbu’s Garage

At The Smokin’ Dudes Records inside Adrei Cerbu’s garage, Strada Aurora 21, Iași, 700474 Romania. Clockwise from left to right, videographer Teodor Cusnir, public relations specialist Bader Maria, audio engineer and guitarist Andrei Cerbu and videographer Robert Ciubotaru. Here is how they describe themselves. “The Smokin’ Dudes is a group of talented young people, which besides the fact that they are passionate about music, they want to bring to the attention of the public also other talented young people. So they formed their own recording and filming studio, where they work passionately with young artists willing to show their talent.” Photo: The Smokin’ Dudes.

Yes, Andrei Cerbu will be presented as a solution, but first the problem …

For many years, I listened to modern classical music, with Henryk Górecki (1933 – 2010) being a favourite, along with Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872 – 1958). Most of this was purchased as Naxos CDs, at monthly intervals. My last CD was purchased in 2008. As I approached 60, something strange happened. I reduced my listening to classical music and started listening to other genres. This included a renewed interest in electronic music and synthesizers, exemplified by Brian Eno (1948 – ), Here Come the Warm Jets (1973). More surprisingly, I started listening to industrial music and its offshoot electronic body music (EBM), electronic dance music (EDM) as well as some more metallic and harder rock.

One of the difficulties with rock/ metal is that so many of the musicians/ artists/ performers promote values that are an antithesis to mine. Thus, I have no interest in financially supporting groups promoting drugs and/ or violence, such as Guns N’ Roses. Even the name of their debut album, Appetite for Destruction (1987), is an antithesis to my belief system.

Copyright

Some of the earliest music to which I am attracted was released in the 1960s but more of it came from the 1970s, or later. Take the United Kingdom, where Eno originates. Under their 1988 Copyright Act, copyright in a sound recording expires after 50 years. However, on 2013-11-01, the UK copyright on sound recordings, not yet in the public domain, was extended from 50 to 70 years. Somewhat simplified, this means that recordings made in 1962 or earlier are in the public domain. Those made in 1963 will first come into the public domain on 2034-01-01. Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets, released in 1973, will not enter the public domain on 2024-01-01 as Eno could have expect when he made the track, but on 2044-01-01. A similar situation applies in other jurisdictions, including member states of the European Union.

Note: Further details about copyright law, are provided in the last paragraph of this weblog post, after The Smokin’ Dudes Records logo.

Canada extended its copyright for recorded music to 70 years on 2015-06-23. Ottawa law professor Michael Geist criticised the copyright term extension in a weblog post: “Experience elsewhere suggests that the extension is a windfall for record companies, with little benefit to artists or the public. In fact, many countries that have implemented the extension have been forced to do so through trade or political agreements, while signalling their opposition along the way. Canada will extend term without any public discussion or consultation, yet other studies have found that retroactive extension does not lead to increased creation and that the optimal term length should enable performers and record labels to recoup their investment, not extend into near-unlimited terms to the detriment of the public. For Canadian consumers, the extension could cost millions of dollars as works that were scheduled to come into the public domain will now remain locked down for decades.”

Solutions

With twenty years of windfall profits to look forward to, the music industry has little or no incentive to invest in younger musicians. What should younger musicians do?

Andrei Cerbu (2002 – ) has found a solution to this challenge. Despite his young age, he has been a guitarist since he was seven, coming third in a Romanian national music competition at the age of eleven. Now, he has a website that promotes young, Romanian musicians. His garage at Strada Aurora 21, in Iasi, Romania functions as a recording studio, featuring The Smokin’ Dudes Records, The Smokin’ Dudes TV, two bands: Andrei Cerbu and the Rockin’ Groove, and The Iron Cross, as well as several soloists. Music is freely available, but he also provides many ways for people to support him, and other musicians, financially. These include merchandise sales, and donations through Patreon and PayPal. His YouTube channel has over 400 tracks, that are freely available for everyone to enjoy.

I sent a link to a cover of Deep Purple’s Highway Star (1972) by Cerbu’s band, The Iron Cross, to my young (under 40) nephew. He replied, “I’m not familiar with the original, but I don’t think it could be better than this version.”

Copyright details. In the United Kingdom there were relevant copyright acts in 1911, 1956 and 1988. According to this last iteration, copyright in a sound recording expires after 50 years.either (a) 50 years after the recording is made, or (b) if the recording is published during that period then 50 years from the publication, or (c) if during the initial 50 years the recording is played in public or communicated to the public then 50 years from that communication or playing to the public, provided the author of the broadcast is an European economic area (EEA) citizen. Copyright is supposed to balance the rights of creators with the rights of users/ consumers. Thus, creators are given a monopoly to profit from their recording for a specified period of time. Under this arrangement, all of the music made in Britain in the 1960s would be freely available as of 2021-01-01. As stated previously, above, on 2013-11-01, the UK copyright on sound recordings, not yet in the public domain, was extended from 50 to 70 years. This means that only recordings made in 1962 or earlier are currently in the public domain. Those made in 1963 will first come into the public domain on 2034-01-01; those made in 1973, on 2044-01-01.

Shaped by Music

First Aid Kit performing at the Cochella Festival 2018-04-14 (Photo: Raph PH/ Creative Commons by)

Rather than subjecting readers to Derek Parfit’s (1942-2017) Reasons and Persons (1984) or three volumes of On What Matters (2011), one can read a Nautilus article by Alisa Opar, or the following summary, if that is still too long: a human being is not a consistent identity moving through time, but a chain of successive selves, each linked to, but distinct from previous and subsequent ones. Procrastination is a mechanism to postpone a jump into a new state, with its new self identity.

One of the major problems with visiting previous selves, is that one is dependent on memory. Daniel Schacter (1952 – ) asserts in The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers (2001) that “memory’s malfunctions can be divided into seven fundamental transgressions or ‘sins’.” Sins of omission are the result of a failure to recall an idea, fact or event. They involve transience, absent-mindedness and blocking. With sins of commission, there is a form of memory present, but lacking the desired fidelity. These involve misattribution, suggestibility, bias and persistence.

Because of these sins, I cannot revisit my self of, for example, 1962. In terms of musical taste, I suspect it involved The Highwaymen, not the later supergroup, but a Wesleyan University group that came to prominence with their 1961 hit, Michael Row the Boat Ashore. This music was melodic. Conveniently, I try to forget that I also listened to assorted LPs of Scottish music, bought by my father, Edgar McLellan (1906 – 1991), or that I attended ballroom dancing lessons that same year, that featured the forgettable Twist. Unfortunately, I have been unable to morph my memories of the Twist into a more socially acceptable Tango. Since then, and in different ways, I have sought out non-melodious music. This does not mean that music has to be discordant or grating.

First Aid Kit = Johanna (1990 – ) and Klara Söderberg (1993 – ), produce and perform melodic music, with Emmylou (2012) a typical example. In addition to the musical attributes they demonstrate, their stage presence also projects an assortment of conservative Scandinavian values. Fast forward from 2012 to 2021, and one finds a very different pair of sisters in an interview with Alexandra Pollard. It begins with a comment about their Women’s Day (2017-03-08) “three-and-a-half minute cry of pure rage.” It is still far too melodic for my current musical taste, but at least it is political. In both this track and the interview, they tell the world they are no longer conforming, polite girls, but – to use their term – angry, feminist bitches. In both forums, they display their ability to swear. They are doing what people do, inventing new selves.

The First Aid Kit album Who by Fire (2017) is a tribute to Leonard Cohen (1934 – 2016). Commenting on Cohen’s relationship with his Norwegian born muse Marianne Ihlen (1935 – 2016), they began to realised how problematic the ‘muse’ concept is. Being a muse is much like being a housekeeper. They further note that women are generally expected to be role models – princesses and angels, whose jagged edges have been sanded smooth. They, themselves, are expected to be accommodating and nice, even if it comes at the expense of their own comfort.

Unlike the 400 m long container ship Ever Given (completed 2018 – ), First Aid Kit may find it hard to change direction in mid-channel. Listeners have expectations and the music they choose represents part of their current identity. A musician cannot expect their listeners, sometimes known as fans, to shift direction in tact with themselves. However, they may attract new listeners, with different values and expectations.

Greta Thunberg (2003 – ), with her autism diagnosis, may experience less of a need to reinvent herself than the Söderberg sisters. Her diagnosis probably means that she finds it more difficult to hide her current personality behind a veil of politeness. If she decides that she is not going to fly, she is not going to fly. One can argue that sailing across the Atlantic is at least as environmentally damaging as flying across. She will express her truths, as she experiences them.

This weblog post started out very differently. It was initially about Virginia Woolf (1882 – 1941), who died eighty years before the date of publication (1941-03-28). In an article about Woolf and music, Emma Sutton writes: “… [Woolf’s] extraordinary experimental uses of narrative perspective, repetition and variation derive from her close study of particular musical works and specific musical forms. Music provided Woolf (and other modernists including James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and Katherine Mansfield) with a vocabulary to imagine and describe their creative practice and formal innovations. Woolf, for instance, compares her diary writing to a pianist practising their scales. She describes her reading as a process of “tuning up” for her writing ….”

Sutton also states that the creativity of composers has also benefited from the reading of Woolf, and refers specifically to Dominick Argento’s (1927 – 2019) song cycle, From the Diary of Virginia Woolf (1974), Max Richter’s (1966 – ) music for the 2015 ballet Woolf Works, as well as a recent announcement that composer Thea Musgrave (1928 – ) is writing an Orlando inspired opera.

I am still unable to know the frequency at which new selves emerge, or the degree to which music inspires the creation of new selves. While music is influential in my life, technological innovations are even more important, especially miniaturization, but that will have to be a topic for yet another weblog post.