Special for Easter, here’s a rarely seen document from the bowels of the New York No Wave scene: Ecstatic Stigmatic directed by Teenage Jesus and the Jerks member Gordon Stevenson and starring his wife Mirielle Cervenka (older sister of Exene). Both of whom would be dead within 2 years of the film’s completion, he of AIDS and she of a hit and run driver in Los Angeles. Also appearing is DNA’s Arto Lindsay. Despite the home made proto-goth silliness this is actually pretty relentlessly creepy and the music is fantastic. Definitely worth at least one viewing and/or skimming. Extra huge thanks to our own Marc Campbell for hunting down the best possible version, cleaning it up and uploading for your viewing displeasure. Probably NSFW.
Max Matthews was a visionary genius who helped pioneer the use of computers as musical instruments. Mathews died on 21 April 2011 in San Francisco, California of complications from pneumonia. He was 84.
In the late 1950s Max Mathews created MUSIC, the first widely used music synthesis program while working in the Acoustic Research Group at Bell Telephone Laboratories. Over the next forty years at Bell Labs and then at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University, Mathews advanced and refined digital computer music synthesis.”
Matthews created the Radio Baton which is featured in the video below. His enthusiasm for his invention and love for the music he creates with it is inspiring. The video was shot in 2010 when Matthews was 83 years old. A marvelous human being.
A Radio Baton is an electronic instrument with two baton controllers and a receiving base called the antenna. In the end of each baton is a small radio transmitter. As the batons are moved over the receiving base, four antennas in the base are able to determine the batons’ location in three-dimensional space. The movement of the batons through space are converted into instructions determining how the music is to be synthesized.
The Radio Baton Conductor Model uses the model of an orchestra conductor controlling the musical tempo, dynamics and expression of the piece. The Conductor program puts the pitches and the durations of the notes in a score that the computer reads as a sequence of beats in the computer memory. The conductor can move the batons around with his two hands, controlling six variables, and assign these variables to whatever functions in the music are important at any instant of the music.
When asked if the radio baton was a successful instrument, Mathews answered, “I suspect actually it was too successful. It may have made music too easy to play. But my vision there, and the vision I think I got from John Chowning was that everyone could have his own orchestra and could interpret music according to his particular feelings about it. And that this might be a much more satisfying way than simply sitting and listening to a recording or simply listening to a concert in a concert hall.”
In the video, Matthews performs pieces by by Bach, Chopin, Beethoven and Appleton, demonstrating the artfulness of electronics.
Matthews once said that “a violin always sounds like a violin, but a computer is unlimited in terms of timbre it can make, so it can enrich music.” His mission was to learn, as he put it, “what the human brain and ear thinks is beautiful. What do we love about music? What about the acoustic sounds, rhythms and harmony do we love? When we find that out it will be easy to make music with a computer.” Enjoy Max Matthews making some music with a computer:
Bluegrass singer and social activist Hazel Dickens has died at the age of 75.
Hazel Dickens made a difference. Born into a family of miners in Mercer County, West Virginia, Dickens was a fierce defender and advocate of the rights of women, miners, the poor and the oppressed. The songs she sang came up out of her own experience living in coal mining communities and later, when she moved to Baltimore and Washington,D.C., struggling to survive in urban environments that were strange and forbidding to a young woman raised in the mountain hollows of Appalachia.
Ms. Dickens grew up in dire poverty in West Virginia’s coal country and developed a raw, keening style of singing that was filled with the pain of her hardscrabble youth. She supported herself in day jobs for many years before she was heard on the soundtrack of the 1976 Oscar-winning documentary about coal mining, ”Harlan County, U.S.A.”
Her uncompromising songs about coal mining, such as “Black Lung” and “They Can’t Keep Us Down,” became anthems, and she was among the first to sing of the plight of women trying to get by in the working-class world. She was a key influence on such later singing stars as Emmylou Harris, Allison Krauss and the Judds.”
Dickens was the first woman to receive the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Merit Award.
This is an excerpt from the documentary Hazel Dickens: It’s Hard to Tell the Singer from the Song directed by Mimi Pickering. The songs in the clip are the powerful and moving “Mannington Mines” and “They’ll Never Keep Us Down.”
Fans of modern indie rock might recognise the name Seb Thompson. Apart from being an incredible drummer and a production powerhouse, he is a founder member of Trans Am and also drums for Ian Svenonious’ excellent Weird War. He now has a new solo project called Publicist that does away with rock stylings and goes straight for the disco jugular.
Publicist is essentially a one man band, that features electronics programmed by Thompson, vocodered vocals, and live drumming. Though still a pretty new concern with only a couple of singles under the belt (including “Momma” featuring vocals from Svenonious, and last year’s Keep It Off The Record 12”) even at this early stage it looks and sounds great. This shouldn’t be a surprise to Trans Am or Weird War fans, as it’s obvious from those groups how talented Thompson is. For me it’s great to see him directly expressing the electronic dance elements audible in Trans Am.
There’s not much info floating about on Publicist so far, but you can see and hear more at his MySpace (*spit*). Publicist is making a live appearance tonight at Brooklyn’s Zebulon, and for an idea of how fun that will be watch this live clip:
Patti Smith plays dress-up for a pirate-inspired photo shoot by Annie Liebovitz in the London studio where the latest Johnny Depp pirate movie is being filmed for Disney. The shoot took place last September.
In the video, Patti makes the connection between rock and rollers and pirates and manages to look like both.
Morrissey gave a very rare interview to John Wilson on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row yesterday, to promote the release of The Very Best Of Morrissey, on April 25th in the UK and May 3rd the US.
In the interview, Morrissey discussed the forthcoming album, the legacy of The Smiths, his work as a song-writer, his thoughts on British Prime Minster, David Cameron‘s disclosure that he was a “major Smiths fan”, and also had time to mention his, as yet, unpublished autobiography, which he has just finished writing and would like to see published as a Penguin Classic.
I don’t know the exact provenance of these positively gorgeous stock film clips of the nearly-mythical Sunset Strip area in our beloved city that have been popping up in the last day or two via the Vintage Los Angeles FB group and Youtuber dantanasgirl. What an incredible treat, though. The building on the right in the first clip that bears the words Come to the Party would shortly become the Whisky a Go Go and further down the road Largo would become The Roxy. Certainly two of the more significant and beloved locations for my musical up-bringing! My Grandparent’s house was mere blocks from here, so these images really tweak some early childhood memories as well. Oh, internet….
Iggy, Scott Asheton, Mike Watt, James Williamson and a fucking orchestra play “I Wanna Be Your Dog” in tribute to Ron Asheton at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor on April 19.
The sound is shit but the camera is so thrust into the meat and bone of Iggy’s performance that the end result is exhilirating and the bad sound actually starts to sound perfect. Distortion transcended.
I just thought I’d put up a few under-viewed clips of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark performing on Top Of The Pops in the early 80s—why the hell not? I know we have a few fans lurking out there amongst the readers (and writers) and these could do with a few more views. I have a confession to make though—OMD pretty much passed me by until very recently. I dunno why that is to be honest. Maybe it’s the glut of other early synth bands from the same period whose back catalogs I was more urgent to check out. Maybe it’s my vague hazy childhood memories of the band being that they were not particularly cool. Maybe it’s the connections I can see now between OMD and the haunted Ariel Pink/John Maus sound casting the band in a new light. Whatever. I don’t wanna question it too much. I just wanna enjoy:
OMD - “Souvenir” (live on TOTP)
OMD - “Messages” (live on TOTP)
After the jump “Genetic Engineering”, “Joan Of Arc” and “Maid Of Orleans”